How to Go Downhill In A Wheelchair Without Burning Hands

Mastering Downhill Descents in a Wheelchair: Tips and Tools


Navigating downhill slopes in a wheelchair can be a daunting task. Going downhill can cause the hands to overheat or worse....using the wrong technique can be a quick trip to the pavement! However, with the right techniques and equipment, you can safely and confidently manage them. In this article, we'll explore three essential solutions to make your downhill journey smoother.

Wheelchair Gloves 

Wheelchair gloves are invaluable when it comes to handling downhill descents. These specialized gloves offer a firm grip on the wheelchair's rims, enhancing your control and stability. Also, they protect your hands from abrasions and over-heating. Here's how to use them effectively:

a. Proper Fit: Ensure that your wheelchair gloves fit snugly, providing you with a comfortable and secure grip on the rims. Gloves that slip can come off just when you need them most.

b. Grip Fabric: Some wheelchair gloves have special fabric built into the palms. This ensures a firm grip on the hand rims.

c. Hand Positioning: Your palms should rest firmly on the rims, and your fingers should wrap around them for maximum control.

Wheelchair Rim Covers

Wheelchair rim covers are an often-overlooked but incredibly useful accessory. They not only protect your hands but also provide additional traction on the push rims, especially during downhill descents. Here's how to make the most of them:

a. Proper Installation: Ensure that your rim covers are securely installed on your wheelchair's push rims. They should fit snugly to prevent slippage.

b. Enhanced Traction: Rim covers are designed with surfaces that increase friction between your hands and the rims. This added traction helps you maintain control while descending slopes.

c. Comfort and Protection: Rim covers also offer cushioning and protect your hands from developing calluses or blisters during extended downhill journeys.

Zigzagging Technique

The zigzagging technique is a fundamental skill to master when navigating downhill slopes in a wheelchair. This technique involves maneuvering your wheelchair in a zigzag pattern, which reduces your speed and provides better control. Follow these steps to employ this method effectively:

a. Choose Your Path: Assess the slope and terrain before starting your descent. Identify the safest and smoothest path down the hill.

b. Begin Zigzagging: As you start descending, turn your wheelchair slightly to one side and move diagonally across the slope. After a few meters, switch to the opposite direction, creating a zigzag pattern. Watch this technique in the video below:


c. Controlled Speed: Zigzagging naturally slows down your descent, making it easier to maintain control. Focus on steady, deliberate movements.

d. Stay Alert: Be vigilant for any obstacles or changes in the terrain and adjust your zigzag pattern as needed to navigate safely. Hitting an obstacle with your front caster while going downhill can end in a disastrous catapult to the pavement.


Descending downhill slopes in a wheelchair may seem challenging, but with the right tools and techniques, it becomes a manageable and even enjoyable experience. Wheelchair gloves, wheelchair rim covers, and the zigzagging technique are essential solutions that can significantly improve your downhill mobility.