wikiHow to Improve Your Hiking Technique

Ever wonder why some people seem to be able to hike tirelessly? This article explains how to do just that: hike further, faster, and with greater ease. Look below for more information.


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    Invest in a good pair of hiking boots. Good boots are critical and sometimes expensive. They don't have to be expensive boots (though professionally fitted boots are the best). It is best to know the specific or varied environments in which the hiking will be conducted, this will allow you to select a pair of boots that are appropriate for the conditions. For instance, water resistant features on a boot may be appropriate in areas that experience moderate to low temperatures and heavy rain because they will often lengthen the time during which you can hike with warm, dry feet. Conversely, water resistant boots have little use in a dry climate as they will often prevent your feet from pushing the collected moisture from your feet and socks to the surrounding air. This will result in clammy, and often blistered feet. Boots do have to be comfortable after a period of break-in, durable, and properly fitted. Keep in mind that oftentimes a lightweight, "broken-in out-of-the-box" composite boot may not last as long as a full leather boot that requires time and energy to achieve optimal break-in."
    • Running shoes or sneakers may not provide the support or stability necessary for hiking, but only if you have weak ankles. Once you've built them up sufficiently, hiking in lightweight running or trail shoes has many benefits such as ventilation, less fatigue, and greater dexterity. The "marketing-thought" that our ankles cannot support us in un-even terrain is nonsense, unless your ankles are weak to start, you're carrying a very large load (backpacking),or, on a different note, are hiking somewhere wet (running shoes get very damp).
    • Approach shoes (a cross between hiking boots and climbing shoes) may be adequate.
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    Train. The more fit you are, the more fun any given hike will be. If you're not in shape, start small. Walk around your neighborhood, climb stairs when you have an opportunity, or take shorter hikes at first. Build up from there, choosing longer, more challenging hikes. Other physical activities, such as bicycle riding, stair climbing, and jogging, can also contribute to your overall fitness level. There are many options for training, so read up, and then get out there.
    • Trail hiking is different than neighborhood walks on flat pavement, so make sure it is part of your regimen if you are training to hike.
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    Maintain an even cadence. Cadence is "a recurrent rhythmical series" of steps. Good hikers have good cadence. Their steps happen consistently at the same length and in the same amount of time. For example, good cadence might be stepping (from heel to toe) approximately 2.75 feet (0.8 m) in every step, and taking approximately .80 seconds to take each step - and doing that consistently.
    • To find your cadence, find a hill, preferably paved, with a consistent slope. it does not need to be tremendously steep, but should be at least a couple hundred feet long.
    • With your boots on, hike the hill 2-3 times a day. Focus on one thing: stepping the same length in the same amount of time consistently. This cadence should feel natural. You don't need to take large or fast steps, just natural feeling, consistent steps. You should be able to keep your shoulders straight and back upright, with good posture.
    • Continue hiking this hill focusing on your cadence until you find that natural cadence. When you do, you should be able to settle into that cadence and notice that you climb the hill faster with less effort than when not settling into that cadence. You will notice that you can pass people, that are in relatively that same shape as you, with less effort than they are putting forth.
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    Take your cadence to the trail. Once keeping good cadence is easy on pavement, learn to keep that cadence on the trail. Find a relatively easy trail. (In some areas, these will be designated with a green circle or maybe a blue square, but definitely no black diamonds.) Hike that trail a few times a week, focusing on your cadence. Once you get that down, find a trail with some rocks and ruts in it. Then, choose a trail that changes slope and pitch several times. Then, move to harder and harder trails until you can keep a good cadence on almost any trail.
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    Adjust for steep terrain. When you start ascending steep terrain, it will be much more efficient to take shorter steps. Continue to keep a good rhythm, but cut each stride by one-half to one-third the length of your regular steps. This will decrease the energy it takes to make the ascent.
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    Learn to use a walking stick or trekking poles. Once your cadence has become natural, without these tools, then slowly start using your arm muscles to help you.
    • Get yourself a good walking stick or have a professional help you pick some appropriate trekking poles.
    • Adjust the stick or poles to the correct height for you.
    • Using sticks or poles, swing your arms opposite of your stepping foot; and match your cadence. Eventually, you will take much of the effort of the trail off your feet and into your arms, which would otherwise be doing little else for you.
    • Remember, if using a stick or a pole is messing up your cadence, then it isn't doing you any good.


  • Stay hydrated. Carry water with you at all times and drink small amounts regularly.
  • When climbing hills, push off with your heel rather than your forefoot. This will save energy as well as keep your calves from burning & cramping.
  • Try "Hands on hips". Place your hands on your hips, arms akimbo, like your mom used to do when she was mad, and hike with them in that position. Doing so will help keep your back straight and help you find your cadence.
  • Your cadence will not always be 100% consistent on the trail. The point is to keep good cadence, not perfect cadence, and to be able to do it with as little focus as possible, naturally.
  • Train with your backpacking gear, if you plan to do any backpacking. Start with shorter, less strenuous walks to get used to the extra weight and work up from there.


  • Make sure to let people know before you go hiking in dangerous areas!
  • Be prepared for the worst!

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