Why Do I Get Sore Glutes After Hiking?

Sore Glutes after Hiking – DOMS Explained

Many hikers complain that they experience sore muscles after a day out in the hills, they specifically mention sore glutes after hiking, and the onset of pain is generally the next day.

So why do we get sore glutes after hiking, and are there ways to prevent it? These questions and more will be answered in the next few short paragraphs, so read on.

More often than not, Hiking, Hill Walking or Rambling is a sedentary, low impact period of exercise. So why do so many hikers experience sore glutes after hiking slowly around a few small valleys and hills? The answer, is that we are experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS.

DOMS is normally experienced after overloading and overworking our muscles, by doing something like a few hours of heavy Deadlifts in the gym consisting of heavily weighted Squats.

All we have been doing on our hike is walking around the hills, stepping over a few rocks and clambering up a bit of shale. Surely that isn’t the equivalent of the Gym Torture we mentioned earlier?

Actually, most people are really surprised when they find out what a tough, all round workout Hiking really is.

What Exactly Is Giving Me Sore Glutes After Hiking?

Why Do My Glutes Get Sore After A Hike?

The Glutes come in 3 main parts and are primarily designed to support our Torso in an upright position. When we are Hiking, and particularly, when we are Hiking Uphill with a Backpack on, we are forced to work the Glutes much more rigorously than we would if we were Running or Walking on a flat surface.

The reason that we get sore glutes after hiking is that the glutes are our biggest muscle group, so working them out strenuously and extending and contracting them to their limits is going to give us a real tough workout, even if it doesn’t feel like much at the time, which it generally doesn’t.

Why Are My Hamstrings Sore After Hiking?

Sore Glutes after Hiking - Massage Them
Massaging Sore Muscles after Hiking

Most people who don’t hike or are new to hiking, grossly underestimate what a good workout hiking is. When you are walking up an incline, no matter how shallow it is, you are going to be stretching and contracting your Hamstrings. When we shift our weight towards to the front foot whilst ascending, we use the Hamstrings to draw our Quadriceps back.

Surprisingly, Hiking puts more strain on the Hamstrings than Running, as Running is a short bouncing movement of the Hamstring whilst Hiking is a long, drawn out, full extension of the entire Hamstring when drawing back the Quads with a planted foot.

Why Are My Calves Sore After Hiking?

Our Calf Muscles are kept in a state of constant loading and unloading throughout the entire Hike. They are put to their limits of lengthening and contracting when we walk uphill and downhill wearing a backpack, and even more so when the surfaces become uneven, and we have to start stretching and lengthening our strides to keep our balance and to remain upright

What Is Eccentric Loading When We Hike?

What exactly is giving me  Sore Glutes after Hiking

Eccentric Loading of our lower limbs, Hamstrings, Glutes and Calves is something we experience very little of in our normal, day to day routine. However, when we are out in the hills enjoying mother nature whilst hiking, we find ourselves constantly Eccentric Loading these lower limb muscles, especially in the downhill segments of the hike. Stepping down when we have a backpack on, on an uneven surface, while trying to stay in balance so that we don’t fall, takes a tremendous amount of muscular effort.

The Science of Eccentric Loading is fairly easy to understand, but rather than go into it in detail, here’s a link to an interesting article “An Overview of Eccentric Muscle Contraction The Aims and Benefits of Negative Work” from Verywellfit.com that explains it in more detail than I could.

Why Is Time Spent Exercising Important?

Something else that we rarely take into account is that when we are Hiking we are Exercising. I know, it sounds basic, but many of us don’t even realise it. Hiking is a far harder exercise than is gets credit for. So, if we accept that Hiking is exercising, we have to take into consideration how long we are exercising for.

I don’t know about you, but when I Hike, I will go for multiple hours, generally I would say on average I hike for about 5 hours. Would I go to the Gym for 5 hours? I doubt it very much. So the amount of time exercising has to be taken into account too when considering why we get sore glutes after hiking.

Why Do Unfamiliar Movements Make Us Sore?

Most people accept that we get DOMS when we have been carrying out Unfamiliar Movements multiple times. I’m sure we can all remember suffering badly with DOMS after trying out a new sport.

We have to remember, that Hiking isn’t just walking. We have added in Carrying a Load, Using Unfamiliar Muscles, Eccentric Contractions and Full Stretches of the Muscles, all of which we don’t do on a normal walk.

Speaking of getting DOMS from Unfamiliar Movements, I remember playing my first ever game of Squash in my 30’s against my older brother (Always a fierce competition), he was an accomplished Squash Player and certainly knew how to have me tearing all over the court, which he knew I would do in my efforts to win.

Not only did he thrash me, but the next day I was in absolute agony, much to his amusement. The reason for my horrendous DOMS, was that not only had I been carrying out Unfamiliar Movements with muscles that I hadn’t used in years, which was a contributing factor, but I was also stretching them to the limits in ways they weren’t used to, in a vain effort to try to win.

What Is The Best Way Of Preventing and Treating Sore Glutes After Hiking?

So, we’ve accepted that we are likely to get sore glutes after hiking until at least it becomes a regular pastime for us. What can we do to alleviate this pain and soreness?

Stay Properly Hydrated

Prevent Sore Glutes after Hiking by staying hydrated

Staying hydrated both during and after a hike is probably the most important factor in reducing and preventing sore glutes after hiking.

When we are hiking, we are sweating, losing precious body salts and water rapidly. The onset of muscle soreness is greatly accelerated when we lack fluids to hydrate our bodies, so keep chugging away on that water bladder and stay relatively pain free.

Keep Eating

It is important that you keep eating, before, during and after a hike. Your body is going to need reserves and replenishment of it’s vital vitamins and minerals as well as the water that we mentioned earlier to prevent us from getting sore glutes after hiking.

I am particularly guilty of not eating enough when I’m hiking. I can go 4-5 hours without realising that I’m even hungry as I drift off into nature and “zone out” when I’m on a hike. Set an alarm if you need to, but if you are trying to avoid sore glutes after hiking, you are going to have to keep eating.

Stay Active

When you finish your hike, don’t just stop and sit still for hours, keep moving and allow the more rapid flow of blood to clean out the muscles you have just been stretching and working so hard.

There are numerous times when I have driven for hours to try out a new hike that someone has recommended, and at the end when I have driven home for hours, after being sat in the same position in the car, I have barely been able to get out due to my stiff and sore muscles after a good, challenging hike.


If it isn’t possible for you to stay active after your hike, then stretching is an alternative. Spending 5-10 minutes stretching off before you get into your car or behind your computer screen will definitely reduce the onset of sore muscles.

Massage, Manipulate and Roll it out

Sore Glutes after Hiking - Roll them out

The simple action of Manipulating, Massaging or Rolling a Ball or Roller along your muscles before and/or after a hike will also reduce sore muscles after hiking. Make no mistake, this can be fairly painful.

The first time I rolled a Hockey Ball up and down my stiff calves I was amazed at how painful it was. But, my calves felt amazing pretty soon after and you would barely know I’d been hiking.

I hope these tips have been useful to you. If you’re new to Hiking, you are likely to get at least mild DOMS even if you use the pointers above, but at least you now know how to prevent sore glutes after hiking, simply hike more!

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