Trail Running 101

Moving from road running to trail running can be a refreshing change for runners who are bored with the regular routine of pavement and sidewalk. However, there are a few things that will change and a few things you should expect.

Different shoes:

Although you love your running shoes you have for the road, they may not be adequate for the trail. Trails have debris, uneven surfaces, slippery surfaces, mud, puddles, and obstacles that can wreck your road shoes. Trail shoes have rock plates (protection from stone bruises and rusty nails), closed mesh (protection from dirt and debris), a thicker rubber outsole (more protection and traction), and stiffer uppers (keeps you straight up and down when on a slant) to protect you from the elements of the trail. Use the 30/70 rule when deciding if it is time to purchase a second pair of shoes. If you plan to run more than 30% of your runs on trails than you need two pairs of shoes. If less than 30% of your runs are to be on the trail, your regular shoes will probably suffice.

The Good Stuff:

Some of the worst parts of running on the road are left behind when you hit the trails.

  • You no longer have to deal with traffic or the fear of being hit by a car.
  • There is a constant change of scenery to keep you preoccupied.
  • The terrain and surface is always changing which is often a welcome challenge.
  • Running on uneven surfaces can burn more calories because your muscles fire twice- once to stabilize the body and once to propel you forward.
  • Running on the trails usually means you are away from the stress and noise of the city. This has a cleansing affect.

The Other Stuff:

Running on the trails can also be very challenging. You will need to consider some things carefully before heading out.

  • Running on the trails often means home isn’t just a mile away. Careful preparation before leaving is essential.
  • Uneven surfaces and high speeds down hills can be an unhappy formula when you are suddenly on the ground. Control your speed on the downhill.
  • Rocks, roots, and water can combine to create a tricky surface to maneuver. Slow down in the tricky spots.
  • Running over the aforementioned obstacles can be a formula for spraining an ankle.
  • Mother nature can strike at any moment. Be prepared with the appropriate clothing, water, and energy to get you back to the trail head safely.
  • When there is a down, there is always an up that follows- and vice versa.

Although there are pros and cons to trail running, the reward for hitting the open sky and clean air is always rewarding. The challenge level often goes up which will mean the reward is larger. Check out your local sporting goods store for maps and information on local trails.

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