Hiking Tips

Why Do You Slip When Hiking?

As you make your way along your trail, you hear a crunch of the ground with each step you take, you have good momentum and then all of a sudden one of your feet slips out from below you. There’s nothing more frustrating when you are trying to enjoy your hike only to have your feet slip. What causes your feet to slip on your hikes?

You slip on your hikes sediment on the trail, the gradient of the terrain, the lack of traction on your shoes, or the placement of your feet.

While it is annoying to have your foot slip occasionally on your hikes, there are a few things you can watch out for and things you can do to stop the slipping. I used to slip and fall on my butt multiple times on my hikes. I would slip both uphill and downhill and would wonder why this kept happening, so I know your pain. Below I will go over what to look out for and to do to prevent slipping on your next hike.

3 Main Causes for Slipping When You Hike

hiker slipping on trail


The main culprit in causing you to slip on your hikes is the terrain of the trail. The first thing to be mindful is the slope or gradient of your trail. The steeper the trail the more likely you will slip. You might have notice you have been slipping more frequently on uphills or downhills. On downhill sections you will be hiking faster due to the momentum your body picks up from going downhill. This increase in pace combined with the slope will cause you to slip much easier.

Another thing to watch out for on the trail is loose gravel. The tiny rocks beneath your shoes act as ball bearings and create a gap between your shoe and the floor. In sandy areas of the trails you will likely slip much more easily. There are also potions of hiking trails where small sand gathers up as it gets kicked down hill after each hikers steps. This small sand and rocks can easily get in your hiking shoes, here’s how you can keep rock out of your shoes. If the hiking area you are visiting previously had bad weather then you could be hiking on slick mud and also have to avoid trail debris that was washed down from other parts of the trail.

Shoe Traction

The next thing to watch out for is the traction of your shoes. If you are hiking in regular shoes or running shoes then you likely do not have proper traction to help you get good grip on the hiking trails. If you do have hiking shoes then you should look at the wear and tear of the traction of your shoes. The average quality hiking shoe will last around 600 to 1,000 miles depending on the type of hiking shoe.

As you hike more the traction on your shoes will wear down and you will likely slip more. If you do not have hiking shoes then the grooves and traction of your shoes won’t be enough to support your feet with each step you take. The changing terrain, trail debris and the gradient will make it tough for your regular shoes to get proper footing. If your hiking boots are hurting your feet, here’s what you can do.

Foot Placement

The third thing that is likely causing you to slip is your foot placement. You can have good hiking shoes with solid traction and a smooth trail, but you can still slip if your foot placement is off. You might be hiking on the balls of your feet or heel dropping and trying to move onto the next step. This quick movement can lead to more slipping as you can be stepping right on loose gravel or small rocks. If you are walking and keeping your feet pointed straight ahead then you can run into a lot of slipping.

To prevent slipping on the trails you can step with your feet diagonal to the trail. This will give you more coverage on the ground and slow your steps down slightly. Hiking diagonally downhill has helped prevent me from slipping. I used to go straight down slopes and would not get enough grip on the ground and continuously slip down the trail. You can shift from right to left as if you are skiing downhill. This helps drive your feet in the ground and slow your momentum enough to get good footing.

3 Ways to Prevent Slipping While Hiking

hiker using trekking poles

Hiking Shoes

The first way you can prevent slipping is by getting hiking shoes with good traction. Not all hiking shoes are made equal as the traction points on the soles of the shoes can differ greatly. Whether you are hiking on slick granite, loose gravel, or dirt trails having a good pair of hiking shoes will make a huge difference. When I started hiking I was using my old beat up black and yellow Nike running shoes. While most running shoes provide great comfort and breathability, they do not offer good traction. Here’s why you running shoes are good for hiking and why they aren’t.

Finding a good pair of hiking shoes that prevent you from slipping and are comfortable can be a challenge. You want a pair of hiking shoes that is breathable so your feet can get enough airflow to stay dry. You also should have a pair of hiking shoes that is durable to stand up to the wear and tear of the trail. After many years of hiking and trying out many brands I finally found a pair that I love to recommend to everyone I know.
Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

Trekking Poles

Once you have a good pair of hiking shoes, the next thing that can really make a huge difference is a good pair of trekking poles. Having trekking poles will provide you with more stability as you make your way on downhills. It will also give you more leverage and relief for steep uphill sections of your hikes. I used to be resistant to bringing trekking poles. but after trying them out on a few backpacking trips they are always packed in my bags.

A good pair of hiking poles is lightweight, durable, and comfortable to hold. Trekking poles can quickly get very expensive with the slimmest models that pack down to smaller than a water bottle, but I have found a very affordable pair of trekking poles that I’ve been able to take on 15+ mile hikes and up more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain with no problem.
Cascade Mountain Tech Lightweight Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Trekking Poles


The last thing you can do is to be mindful of your hiking pace. The faster your pace the more likely you will slip since you are taking more rapid steps in succession. If you watch your pace as you make your way downhill you can limit the amount of times you slip. There have been times where I want to go as fast as possible to get back to the car, but during these times is when I slipped the most. If you have the luxury of time then you can adjust your pace to slow down at certain sections where you notice a lot of loose gravel and rocks.