Quick tips: The best equipment for a successful trail run.
Shoes: If you aren’t running on rough or uneven trails, a road running shoe will probably do. Use a trail shoe when running on more technical, rugged rocky terrain. A good trail shoe will offer more rigidity, support and protection. These features will allow you to run faster and with more control.
Socks: Avoid cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and traps it next to your skin, causing blisters. Polyester, micro fiber, cool-max or a wool are the best fabrics for running socks. These socks wick moisture away from your feet to help keep them dry, helping to prevent blisters.
Many trail runners also prefer a sock that comes up around the ankle bone. Having a higher sock will help keep debris out, helping prevent blisters or sores that arise from rubbing on small pebbles or sticks.
As a general rule of thumb, there should be some stretch in the sock so that it fits snug and won’t bunch or slip on your feet. Some people wear dual-layer socks, or wear two thin socks to help prevent blisters. The thickness of a sock is a personal preference. Trail socks tend to be thicker than most regular running socks. They also can contain a bit of Merino wool because it dries more quickly than other fibers after running through a stream or river.
Shorts: Your favorite running shorts can be used. Stay away from cotton. A good pair of running shorts will have a liner built in and that is usually all you need. However, when shorts are wet, chafing may occur. Lycra compression shorts will move with the leg rather than chafing the leg. Body Glide is an anti-chafing lubricant that does wonders for preventing chafing.
Tops: Wear what is comfortable, but stay away from cotton once again. Modern synthetic fabrics keep you cool in the heat, yet warm when it’s cold and wet. The thickness and style will vary with the conditions and temperature.
Here are some basic tips:
- Light mesh fabrics work very well in the heat.
- Heavier synthetic tops are very good in cold and wet conditions.
- Long-sleeved tops are good when it is cold.
- Long-sleeved lightweight fabrics also protect your from the sun and scratchy vegetation.
For runs that vary in elevation, it’s wise to carry a lightweight jacket with you, or in your pack. Conditions can vary greatly over 1,000 vertical feet and you don’t want to get caught at the top of the mountain with the best views, but nothing to keep warm in to enjoy it.
Layering works best in cold, wet, rainy or windy conditions. Use a base layer, next to the skin. The base layer works best when it has a snug fit. The next layer can be thinner long sleeve shirt(s), or a wind stopper vest, which will trap in body heat. The outer layer can be a windproof, water resistant and/or a breathable jacket so it protects from the wind and rain without trapping in sweat. Layering is nice because if you start to get warm, you can take a piece off, and put it back on later if it starts to get cold again. It makes it easier to regulate your body in colder temperatures.