How to Hike with Bad Knees | 12 Proven Ways

So, you got some painful issues with your knees and still looking for ways not to miss the next hiking trip?

Oh well, you seem like a pretty passionate hiker as you want to turn your physical pain into an adventure exploring pleasure.

And, most probably that’s the reason you are searching for ways to know how to hike with bad knees!

Fortunately, this is exactly what this article is all about.

I can relate to your urge and passion for hiking, but at the same time, your health and comfort matters the most.

So, in this article, we will be discussing the most effective technical ways to hike outdoor, even if you have bad knees.

Why Do Our Knees Get Hurt?

why knee hurts

No matter how strong and professional you are, things can go wrong anytime and cause pain on your knees while you are hiking.

When you walk, your knees are basically taking all the loads and pressure of your body, so the more you keep going with a burden on your back, the more it can make you feel the pain.

Not all the time it’s about your knees, sometimes the problem is with the terrains and your hiking location.

However, you can have knee injuries in so many other ways, but having the body pressure while walking a long distance is mostly responsible.

Diagnose the Severity First

diagnose knee first

Before you start packing your things for the next trip, make sure you are fully aware of your knee’s condition.

You need to diagnose the severity of your problem first.

Passion is not something that should be appreciated all the time, especially when it’s hurting you and going to make you suffer in the long run.

Health is wealth and also the source of happiness. It can be affected badly just with a wrong decision.

If there is any serious injury or diseases like cartilage tears, strained ligaments, tendonitis, arthritis, etc. then it’s better to diagnose and take proper medication and rest instead of being in a hurry for hiking.

But, sometimes things are not that serious as they appear to be.

So, if you find yourself in such a condition where motion is better than lying down on the bed for days, then you must take the opportunity.

There are certain situations where hiking might heal your knee problems and make things better for you when you take your passion as your spirit.

So, based on your health condition and off course doctor’s advice, you can enjoy hiking and trekking your desired places if you are allowed.

12 Proven Tips to Hike with Painful Knees

There are certain practical techniques to allow you to have less painful and comfortable trekking when you have bad knees.

But, before you start going deep into these techniques, it’s better to tell you that these are not medical advice from any professional doctor.

Rather, these tips are from professional hikers who went through such situations and applied these techniques which resulted in practical good outputs.

#1. Warm Up Well

Once you get the ‘yes’ sign from your medic to start your hiking journey, the very first thing you should be cautious enough is to warm-up well before you take your first step.

Your body needs to be prepared well and all your muscles, ligaments, and joints must be in a welcoming mode prior to hiking.

If someone has a certain muscle injury and still lifting weights, then imagine what could possibly happen to his body. He might even lose the ability to lift things as a result!

Warming up basically gives you an extra advantage to start your hiking journey fully prepared.

As you will be going through long terrains and hills up and down, your knees must get used to aerobic activities.

So, stretching the body well before hiking is a mandatory task that will prepare your body for outstretched physical endeavors.

Having good exercise increases the blood flow in your muscles including your knees. This way it loosens the joints and your risk of injuries gets minimized.

Overall, a gentle warm-up before hiking is effective enough for long-term endurance, muscle fever, and flexibility.

#2. Lose Extra Weight

According to studies, people with overweight tend to suffer more from knee problems such as osteoarthritis.

So, if you are carrying extra weight in your body, you must take initiative to lose your extra weight to come into the proper shape required for hiking.

Your knee and hips are basically in a more vulnerable position to have injuries as they have to bear most of your body weight.

So, the more your weight is, the more your knees are going to feel the pressure and it’s going to be hard enough to hike with such an overload of weight.

Every time you put a step forward, there is an exertion of 3-6 times the force of your body weight on your knees.

So, if you have 20 pounds of extra weight, it’s going to feel like 60-120 pounds of extra force on your knees.

That’s the reason, you need to make sure you are in shape if you want to hike with your bad knees.

Moreover, when you are going downhill, your knees might feel 3-4 times greater compressive forces compared to level ground walking.

In such a situation, you shouldn’t lock your knees and it’s better to go on a zig-zag motion pattern.

So, eating a healthy diet, doing exercise on a regular basis, and going to the gym if needed might help you to come in shape to go for a comfortable hiking journey without worrying about knee pain.

#3. Wear Appropriate Shoes

You might be wondering, what do shoes have to do with your knee pain? Well, wearing the right hiking shoes gives you comfort while walking.

Appropriate hiking shoes mean wearing comfy well-cushioned ones that can absorb most of your body weight when your shoe heel hits the ground.

A pair of good hiking shoes must have a thicker sole, so that, you don’t lose control on uneven lands. They will give you enough strength to cope up with the harshness of the wild outdoor.

Sometimes, you have to reach a certain peak where the right type of shoes is needed to manage the balance.

They save your ankles from being broken often times as the sole and the fitting allow you to stand on your feet even if the ground is messy and rocky.

Standing on your feet with the right balance and comfort is exactly what makes your knees feel less pressure and thus you enjoy hiking even if you have bad knees.

But when you wear the wrong type of shoes, the weight of your body and the force of gravity directly hit your knees.

So, your knees can’t bear the load for long and you get a painful experience just after a while you started.

Not only for hiking but also for regular outdoor walking, picking up the right shoes is important.

That’s why never compromise with the fitness and comfort of your shoes.

And, when it is about hiking, sturdy material, good traction, and flexibility of your shoes ensure a healthy motion while you walk.

#4. Use Knee Brace

A knee brace is basically a form of a supportive bracelet that is worn around the knee in case someone has a knee injury. Knee braces come in different models and sizes.

To give your knees standing support for hours, they are made of metal, plastic, elastic material, and foam as well.

Moreover, there are knee braces that are specially designed for hiking. Get yourself such braces before you put your step for hiking.

These braces are designed to reduce inflammation and isolate the pain inside. You will find 4 different types of knee braces based on their purposes, select the one that fits your needs.

The best one for people with knee injuries is the one that is functional and rehabilitative. They are washable and reusable after you make them dry thoroughly in between uses.

When you hit the market to buy your desired knee brace, make sure it comes with 3 levels of protection, so that you get enough support to hit the ground.

Doctors recommend knee braces to patients who go through serious injury and they need to wear them until and unless the injury gets healed completely.

So, if you are also a person with a recent knee injury, wear knee braces according to your medic’s prescription. It will increase your hiking fun when there seems no scope.

#5. Carry A Lightweight Backpack

Not only losing your extra pounds but also carrying a lightweight backpack is important too.

Wearing a heavy burden on your back pushes the same force on your knees just like your extra weight does.

That’s why make sure you wear a lightweight backpack that doesn’t feel like a heavy burden on your back.

To make it lightweight, you should pack only the necessary things while going on a journey and you need to buy a backpack that is lightweight itself. Extra pressure on your back can cause serious problems to your hips, spine, and other joints.

According to studies, if you can reduce the extra burden of your pack up to 20 pounds, then your knee pain will be decreased almost by 50%.

So, pack your things wisely and leave your extra necessary stuff for your hiking buddy, at least he can bear the things for you at such a crucial time!

#6. Use Hiking Poles

Many of us think that carrying walking poles while hiking is almost useless. This could be the mindset of people who are beginners in the field of hiking.

Walking poles are especially needed when you have to cross extensive terrains and go through difficult trekking.

According to the sport sciences journal, using walking poles while hiking can reduce the force and compressive pressure by 25 percent.

There’s no alternative other than walking long distances if you want to boost your stamina.

And in order to do that, hiking poles can play a big role as they distribute the weight throughout the whole body other than only on legs.

So, if you have no other choice than to carry a heavy backpack, consider using hiking poles for this very advantage of decent weight distribution across the whole body.

When you go downhill, the force and pressure of your body hit the most right then on your knees. Using hiking poles especially works the best when you have to go downhill.

Moreover, these poles help you to get more support and balance on your knees so that you don’t quit early out of pain.

#7. Choose the Easiest Path Available

I can understand that you are an adventure lover who gets fun when the hiking experience is thrilling and risky enough.

But, that’s not recommended when you have bad knees. Sometimes, people choose rocky, uneven paths just to beat their fear of unknown danger.

Don’t go for it, if you want your knees to support you for long.

Wherever you go hiking, there is always an easy path available compared to difficult terrains.

Because hikers in the past have already made pathways ready for them so that you can enjoy an easy ride as a successor.

Then, why would you take risks to walk through tough pathways that can cause accidents out of nowhere?

Try to find flat trails where you don’t have to work hard to hit the ground. The more your path becomes hard and uneven, the more it puts pressure on your knees.

So, if you want to hike with painful knee conditions, then you have to choose easy pathways. You have to be even careful while choosing your hiking location.

#8. Eat Food with Omega 3 Lubrication

A lot of your knee problems occur due to less lubrication in your knees. So, the things you eat have a big impact on your health.

The more you eat foods with omega 3 lubrication, the more you will find your knees in top shape.

Omega 3 foods like walnuts, salmon, and even olive oil help your joints to be lubricated and offer you less friction while you walk.

The pain usually initiates when the inside lubrication is not enough and your knees engage in frequent friction.

So, eating such foods reduce the chance of such friction and offers you a painless walk.

You need to take care of your health in every way possible including good care of your knees through such foods.

It’s not just about a sudden hike, rather it’s about your lifetime experience of walking, hiking, running, and even jumping with those knees.

So, you need to be careful about your knees and overall body health.

#9. Never Rush

You know it really well, rushing for something is not suitable for you when you have painful knees.

‘Slow and steady wins the race’- you have to follow this rule here if you dream of having a painless hike.

When you are alone while going somewhere, you like to rush, but when you are with a group, it’s slow but steady.

I know that everyone has their own tempo of walking, so do you. Some people have faster ways of walking compared to others and some are a bit slower.

Choose your hiking partners who can cope up with your speed, so that you are not left far behind while having a long walk with them.

You should also avoid jumping for your knee’s sake.

It can directly affect your knees, especially when you are wearing a backpack.

#10. Take Your Ointments with You

It’s true that prevention is better than cure, but sometimes all of your precautions can still go wrong and you might discover your fear turning into reality.

It is always a wise decision to take your ointments with you while you go on a hiking journey. If things get serious, at least they can reduce the pain for that particular moment.

It is pretty obvious that you will take a first aid box with you on your journey, so make those ointments necessary for you to bring with your box.

Whenever you feel the pain stopping you, have some painkilling ointment for that moment and keep continuing if things are not too serious to ignore.

#11. Things to Consider While Going Downhill

There are several necessary steps you need to take while going downhill, so that, you can reduce the chances of accidents and prevent yourself from knee pain.

You will feel a good amount of pressure on your knees when you are going downhill, as gravity creates almost 7-8 times more pressure on your body during this.

So, if you want to deal with this heavy pressure, you need to go slow, so that the pressure doesn’t bother you intensely.

Even professional hikers and people in good shape also get exhausted when they go downhill faster than average.

According to your body comfort, you can understand how much pace would be appropriate for your knee health.

You should also remember that leaning back while going downhill can cause accidents. It basically makes your body lose its balance and thus your risk of falling increases.

So, when you are going downhill, try to avoid leaning back and remain in an upright position balancing the torso on your knees and hips.

To lessen your knee pain, the switchback motion technique from left to right and right to left is exactly what you need to adopt while passing gravelly loose surfaces or steep slopes.

This zigzag motion helps to reduce steepness while walking.

Other than the concerns of walking methods, you need to also care about your hiking boots, they must be comfortable.

#12. Things to Consider While Going Uphill

Based on your hiking terrain, your body weight might put pressure and force on different parts of your body.

Especially when people hike uphill, they have a tendency to rely on their front parts of the body including hip flexors and quadriceps.

The reason behind such a tendency is our excessive habit of sitting.

This sitting gesture makes us overuse our quadriceps and it creates an imbalanced knee and ankle position, causing cartilage pain as a result.

To solve this problem of the wrong dependency on your front muscles, you need to vertically place your shin and knees while going uphill.

If you want to hike with ease for long, you need to divert the pressure on your calve muscles and hamstrings instead of front ones.

You need to learn to put your steps flat so that your toes don’t need to touch the ground.

When you walk keeping your foot almost flat compared to the ground’s surface, your knees are more likely to be saved from having frictions and causing pain as an outcome.

How to Heal Your Knees Faster?

If you don’t go for the root cause treatment of your problem, then temporary comfort might turn into permanent damage sooner or later.

If you are suffering from a knee injury or unknown pain, then it’s better to go through proper treatment before you even think of hiking.

To fasten your recovery from a knee injury, you need to maintain regular exercise and eat a healthy diet according to your doctor.

The more your knee muscles get stretched and released, the more they will be healing faster. In order to do that you can use an acupressure ball or foam roller as your self-massage equipment.

By using these tools, you can massage your calf muscles and feet for a quick recovery. Your quad muscles also remain busy in heavy lifting most of the time.

So, to improve the condition of your quad muscles, you can use a softball of foam and muscle roller tools as well.

Final Words

In the roller coaster of life, safety and adventure go hand in hand. If you prioritize one and neglect the other, then you might lose both of them in the long run.

When it comes to hiking, your body fitness and your passion for exploring the wild must have a balance. And the balance comes with taking proper precautions.

You can hike with bad knees if you are careful enough and follow the above instructions that have been discussed for your wellbeing.

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