Frequently experienced during hiking, knee pain (or gonalgia) can quickly prevent hikers from serenely completing their journey.

If these pains are not of pathological origin (which we advise you to have checked by your general practitioner or specialist!), there are ways to prevent them and fully enjoy your hikes.

What are the known causes of knee pain during hiking?


The lower limb joints, hips, knees, and ankles, are the most solicited during walking. Indeed, these joints allow movement.


In addition to supporting the body's movement, the lower limb joints, especially the knees, bear the body's weight. When walking, impacts multiply this load by 4. If you weigh 60 kilos, that's 240 kilos that your knees will have to bear with each step!

And since it's not uncommon to carry a backpack while hiking, this weight is added to that of your body, with its own inertia (as an "external" weight to your body, it will generate more stress because it is further from your center of gravity).


Knee pain during hiking mostly occurs during descents. The effort exerted by weight-bearing joints on this type of terrain is multiplied by the dynamics and speed of each step. Additionally, to control the speed and balance of the body during descent, the quadriceps and kneecaps act as brakes and undergo very strong tension.

So, these are the main causes of pain, whether on the outer or back of the knee.

How to prevent knee pain while hiking?

Prevention, to avoid their occurrence:

Being well prepared:

Like all athletes, good physical preparation is essential. The hiker mainly uses their lower limbs, and as we saw earlier, the knees are the most solicited joints. Muscular imbalance around these joints leads to dysfunction and instability which, in the long run, can cause pain.

It is therefore essential to perform muscle strengthening exercises, especially for the quadriceps: in the program, nothing too complicated, regular walking sessions at least 6 weeks before your hike, and take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible!

For the latter, make sure to minimize knee flexion during descent. Stretching is also welcome!

Warming up:

Before starting your hike, warm-up is essential. It allows for joint lubrication and increased mobility, as well as an increase in temperature and muscle elasticity.

Stretch your quadriceps by bringing your heel to your buttocks and hold the position for a few seconds.

Walking with hiking poles:

Hiking poles are an excellent aid to your legs. By actively pushing on the poles, you will relieve your legs. The poles will help stabilize you and reduce mechanical strain on your knees. They are also valuable allies in reducing effort during ascents and descents.

Improving your walking technique:

Land your steps with slightly bent legs. This is a bit more challenging musculature-wise, but your knees will thank you as you will prevent them from bearing the full weight of your body.

When descending, also make sure to keep your knees slightly bent. This way, your quadriceps will receive the impact of each step.

When ascending, opt for small steps to avoid increasing knee workload.

Lighten Your Load:

As we have seen, the most important risk factor for knee pain is weight. So, lighten your backpack as much as possible by only taking the essentials.
And if you have a few extra kilos compared to your ideal weight, you are on the right track to lose them during your hiking sessions!

Choose Your Route Wisely:

Avoiding mountain hiking is not the point here! But to protect your knees, steer clear of soft, rugged terrains and scree slopes. Their instability will force you to compensate by strongly engaging your muscles and tendons. Similarly, avoid steep inclines or stairs that will have the same effect.

Stretching After Hiking:

If you followed our advice and managed to complete your hike without any pain, it's not time to celebrate just yet. To prevent any pain from appearing the day after your long walk, make sure to stretch lightly to allow your muscles to regain their initial length and improve your recovery.

How to Relieve Pain When It's Already There?

Despite all your efforts, the pain is there, and you don't want to finish your hike in these conditions. Here are some tips to help relieve your knee and reduce the pain:

  • Repeat the quadriceps stretching exercises, but with less intensity.
  • On downhill sections, try to progress by lightly jogging. This way, your quadriceps remain toned, the knee stays slightly bent, and coordination is optimized. Your body and knees will suffer fewer impacts while jogging.
  • If you have trekking poles (and you should if you've read our prevention tips!), push more firmly than usual so they can contribute more effectively to the effort and braking. This way, your shoulder muscles will partially support your lower limbs.

After hiking, you can still take steps to alleviate knee pain and prevent it from lingering:

  • Stretching once again will be your best ally. Focus on the back and front of your thighs to release tension points, as well as on the quadriceps.
  • Avoid prolonged sitting, especially in the car where your knee will be bent at 90°.
  • Rest! And take this time to rehydrate. Your whole body will benefit.
  • Also, apply an ice pack to your knees. The cold helps reduce pain while decongesting the joint.

You are now ready for a beautiful hike!