Sports Medicine

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 615–629 | Cite as

Biomechanics and Physiology of Uphill and Downhill Running

  • Gianluca Vernillo
  • Marlène Giandolini
  • W. Brent Edwards
  • Jean-Benoît Morin
  • Pierre Samozino
  • Nicolas Horvais
  • Guillaume Y. MilletEmail author
Review Article


Most running studies have considered level running (LR), yet the regulation of locomotor behaviour during uphill (UR) and downhill (DR) running is fundamental to increase our understanding of human locomotion. The purpose of this article was to review the existing literature regarding biomechanical, neuromuscular and physiological adaptations during graded running. Relative to LR, UR is characterized by a higher step frequency, increased internal mechanical work, shorter swing/aerial phase duration, and greater duty factor, while DR is characterized by increased aerial time, reduced step frequency and decreased duty factor. Grade also modifies foot strike patterns, with a progressive adoption of a mid- to fore-foot strike pattern during UR, and rear-foot strike patterns during DR. In UR, lower limb muscles perform a higher net mechanical work compared to LR and DR to increase the body’s potential energy. In DR, energy dissipation is generally prevalent compared to energy generation. The increased demands for work as running incline increases are met by an increase in power output at all joints, particularly the hip. This implies that UR requires greater muscular activity compared to LR and DR. Energy cost of running (C r) linearly increases with positive slope but C r of DR decreases until a minimum slope is reached at −20 %, after which C r increases again. The effects of slope on biomechanics, muscle contraction patterns and physiological responses have important implications for injury prevention and success of athletes engaged in graded running competitions.


Ground Reaction Force Lower Limb Muscle Stride Frequency Level Running Shock Attenuation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Gianluca Vernillo, Marlène Giandolini, W. Brent Edwards, Jean-Benoît Morin, Pierre Samozino, Nicolas Horvais and Guillaume Y. Millet declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gianluca Vernillo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Marlène Giandolini
    • 4
    • 5
  • W. Brent Edwards
    • 1
  • Jean-Benoît Morin
    • 6
  • Pierre Samozino
    • 5
  • Nicolas Horvais
    • 4
    • 5
  • Guillaume Y. Millet
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of KinesiologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Sciences for HealthUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  3. 3.CeRiSM, Research Center for Sport, Mountain and HealthUniversity of VeronaRoveretoItaly
  4. 4.Salomon SAS, Innovation and Sport Science LabAnnecyFrance
  5. 5.Laboratory of Exercise PhysiologyUniversity Savoie Mont BlancLe Bourget-du-LacFrance
  6. 6.Université Côte d’Azur, LAMHESSNiceFrance

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