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How to Hike With Bad Knees

The weather is starting to cool off, and now's the perfect time to go hiking. Not only will you avoid overheating when trekking it up the mountain, but you may even get to see hints of the leaves changing colors. Don't let bad knees, keep you off the trail. Here are some ideas that could help you and your knees to keep on hiking:

  • Have someone else carry your gear for you. Even though a little pack may not add a ton of extra weight, downward force on your knees can reach eight times the weight applied, so even five extra pounds can add 40 pounds of pressure to your knee joints. Ouch.
  • Get a pair of trekking poles. Two poles can take weight off your knees when climbing up steep terrain, but they're especially helpful for slowing down your steps when going downhill. They can decrease the amount of pressure on your knees and other joints by 25 percent.
  • Make sure your shoes offer exceptional cushioning so your joints aren't jarred with each step. That means hiking boots may not be the best choice, and you may want to wear your running sneaks instead. Adding insoles may also help — opt for a sturdy and rigid style instead of a squishy one.

For more helpful tips


  • You may benefit from wearing one of those tight elastic knee braces that offer compression support to your knees.
  • Avoid moving in a straight line, especially when going downhill. Zigzag your movements to decrease the pressure on your knee joints. You'll also ending taking extra steps, which will lengthen your hike, but will also end up burning more calories. You can also give your knees a break by walking backwards.
  • If your knees are really aching, stop and elevate them. Applying an ice pack can help reduce inflammation and pain (you should keep one in your first-aid kit). If you don't have ice, cold water from a stream or snow will work beautifully. But who wants to start thinking about snow just yet?


Join The Conversation
Soniabonya Soniabonya 8 years
i have bad knees (just bruised my right one last night, oiye!) and love hiking. i usually wear knee braces and my boyfriend carries the bag of water and bars. i carry the camera :) i'll look into my hiking boots and see if switching them out to my sneakers will help even more. thanks Fit!
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
you know, i like the idea of the trekking poles - those are really helpful things if you're going on steep inclines - and that could take a lot of pressure off your knees. i also find that going downhill really is hard on my knees so i can see the benefit of the zig-zag philosophy there. thanks for posting this - i always want to find new things to do and hiking could be one that's really fun for my fiance and myself since we're usually SOO boring on the weekends.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
Whenever we go hiking on our favorite trail, we make our dog carry the water bottles, map, and snacks in a little doggie backpack. She likes to carry it and it's nice to not have to haul stuff around.
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