Guide to Getting Dirty on the Trails

July 08, 2016 Posted By: Barbara Mitchell


Trail running’s popularity has been growing and I often field questions about how to get started and I thought I would share them with you.


Firstly let’s get down to why. Trail running, to me, satisfies a deeper connection to the natural world. It feels real and comforting to move through a landscape and experiencing it on a more primal level then I could if I was running in a man-made landscape. Although the challenges are many I find great reward in my pursuit of singletrack and I think you will find the same if you give it chance.


Now that your stoke is high, let’s talk a bit about gear. Although running in general requires very little in terms of equipment, trail running does require a few more items in order to be safe.


Mizuno Wave Hayate trail shoe

SHOES: For the most part you can run in any shoes that you like but a good trail shoe will make your day far more comfortable and enjoyable. Look for a shoe that is sturdy and has at least some form of traction. All the other factors that you use to make a shoe purchase for road apply when shopping. Make sure you get a shoe that fits well because the constant undulations will expose your feet to a much different set of variables and can lead to hotspots and lost toe nails!


CLOTHING: Any of the clothing you are currently using for roads work on trails but be prepared to get them dirty (whites are not generally a good choice). I often like to use older shirts when training because they can often get snagged or caught on the trails.


GEAR: When you start to get more confident on the trails you will require a bit more gear that may mean using a running pack but for the most part you really just need some water. A hand held water bottle works well in my experience plus they often have pouches that can hold your keys and a few gels.


Ok, you have your shoes and your gear, now what? The easiest way to get into the local trail scene is to connect with a local trail running group. You may already know these people as they most likely frequent your road running group. Ask around or poke someone in your social network feeds, it has been my experience that almost all trail runners love having someone new to share the trails with.


Start out on easy trails at first and build from there. Trails come with all kinds of challenges and range from easy rolling walking paths to technical ascents the require scrambling and an iron will. Be patients and allow yourself time to adjust to the new environment.


The biggest thing in the transition from road to trails is the shock at how slow you might feel at first. We often consider pace as the main factor when training for the road but on trails pace is not a good gage as to how things are going. Learning to listen to your body about how hard you are running is one of the great features of training on trails. Take care to focus on your breathing and stay within your comfort zone.


When you are running on more technical trails use a shorter stride. This shorten stride will often feel choppy and weird at first but with practice it will allow you navigate around challenging sections quicker and with less chance of injury.


You will be surprised how much more concentration is required to trail run, this is because you are constantly scanning the ground a few feet ahead of you to find your best line on a trail. As you become more confident and comfortable on your trails you will find that you can start to anticipate what the required needed footfalls will be and you float across the ground with ease.


One of the more fun features of trail running is the chance to run up a mountain or hill. This may require you hike and walk at times. Let me be the first to tell you that everyone, at some point, will walk hills on a trail so don’t get discourage when you have to slow down to a hike to get to high point. As you run more trails you will become stronger and more fit and hills that use to stop you in your tracks and feel like Everest will seem like mole hills.


Use your common sense. When you are out in the wilderness, always take the steps to be safe. Make sure people know where you are, when you are expected back, even if you’re only going for a short run on a trail you have always been, accidents happen. Make sure you have first aid available in your car or in your pack. Bring a map if you’re new to the area or even better go with someone that has knowledge of the trail. You need to take care in your preparation this is as much a part of the run as bring water.


So now that you have all your gear and an understanding of what to expect, it’s time to get out on the trails and see what you have been missing.



Happy Trails!

Keith Iskiw

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