Walking and Hiking After ACL Surgery – 8 months after ACL surgery

It has now been eight months after ACL surgery and my wife and I were able to go on a relatively tough backpacking trip. If you are wanting to be able to hike or camp after acl surgery here are some things I found that really helped me out.

First a little about my progress at the 8 month mark. My knee has continued to cause me very few problems. Strength is returning but I haven’t been great at keeping on top of my exercises! With work being busy it’s been tough but by trying to both get in shape for my hiking trip and keep the dog reasonably exercised I have kept motivated over the last 2 months.

The hiking trip was up to killarny provincial park and the trail was a 78km loop. Because my knee is maybe still not 100% I wasn’t completely confident but here are the things I really focused on to make the hiking trip as enjoyable and safe as possible.

hiking-after-acl-surgery

hiking-after-acl-surgery (Look to the left you can see a deer)

Backpack weight: During my planning this was the biggest focus for me. Any extra pound on my back would cause additional stress on my knee and I really wanted to make sure I minimized it. In the past my bag weight has been in the 30+ pound range as a base pack (before foody and water). With a lot of cutting a new tent our bags averaged 18lbs base pack. With food I kept the weight under 2lb per day per person and the dog carried her own food. In total my backpack load at the start was 45lbs. If you are going to go on a backpacking trip after surgery cut as much weight from your bag as safely possible.

Hiking Poles: I believe the most likely way I would hurt my knee hiking is by coming downhill on uneven surfaces and slipping with the weight on my back twisting my knee. The hiking poles are amazing at being able to stabilize your knee coming downhill. Having two or three points of contact when you are taking big steps on rough ground is a real confidence booster. My wife and I both had 1 pole but on the steeper down hills I would use both to give me a little more balance. If you are going to hike after ACL surgery try hiking with poles to give you some additional balance.

Footwear: Heavy hiking boots constantly pulling on your knee and requiring your ACL to work to stop the forward motion of every heavy step can cause a lot of pain and your knee to swell up like a balloon. After years of wearing really heavy hiking boots I have switched to a solid pair of trail running shoes which both felt great on my feet and knee. Short shoes greatly increase ankle injury likelihood so be aware of the tradeoff – ankle protection vs knee pain.

Hiking With Dog After ACL Surgery

My Full Set Up For Hiking After ACL Surgery

My final tip that I found helped my knee feel great during the hike was swimming in nice cool lakes. Both at lunch and when we got into our campsite swimming just felt amazing on the knee and any small swelling that occurred during the walk would be gone after a nice 15 minute swim.

swimming-after-acl-surgery

swimming-after-acl-surgery

Hope you may have learned something from my experience and you’re recovery is going well!



The Top 5 At Home Exercises
I did that helped get me walking 4 days after surgery

Click Here to see the exercises

Comments

  1. Jon Haver says:

    Thanks to everyone for the positive emails. I appreciate them and am glad to keep sharing my experience both positive and negative.

  2. hi jon. may i asked u something. how long u took to fully bend your knee?

  3. I am 6 months post-surgery and have loved following your progress; I only wish I had found it earlier (found it about three months ago). Question, does your knee feel “normal” yet, or do you still have to stretch it out to get rid of the stiffness? I found adding more strength training really sped up the recovery, more so than stretching and PT. Also, how long did you take ani-inflammatories? Thanks again for all your great information!

  4. Thanks for this… I am 8 weeks post-surgery and chomping at the bit to get active again. Especially backpacking.

  5. Im 8 months out on my recovery and am allowed to start playing basketball. i had my first practice today. while running a sprint i buckled my knee a little when taking a sharp turn to go back down the court the other way. The pain wasnt bad. my knee just buckled in than back into place. i wear the brace like im advised. Did you knee ever do this? do you have any tips on what i should do? anything would be a great help. thanks.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I am still facing the ACL surgery, though the injury happened 10 months ago in May. I was in denial, not diagnosed for a while, and am now working my way through the waiting list. By the way, I have hiked and paddled almost every km of Killarney. Last summer with the torn ACL I backpacked and climbed some of the highest mountains in Colorado, biked down a couple of them, kayaked, etc. I wonder what exactly I will be able to do this summer, beyond walking to the fridge to get more ice. Scary perspective right now.

  7. Awesome for you and your wife to get out!!! I am looking forward to it myself now being only 6 weeks – I still have a bit ways to go.

  8. Salomon trail runners are my favorite:
    http://vimeo.com/23473140

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