Trail running is one of our most enjoyable pastimes and if you have found your way here then it’s highly likely that you are a fan too! Some people are fairly new to the sport. In fact, searches for trail running in Google recently have increased by 850%. No surprise given the recent spate of lockdowns and people looking for quiet spaces and exercise that they can undertake outside. If you find yourself falling in love with the sport and want to make the most out if it, follow our top trail running tips to ensure that you get maximum enjoyment from your time on the trails.
Top 20 Trail Running Tips
Leave only footprints – Some of you may be reading this and thinking that this is a given. Why would anyone leave anything other than their footprints behind on the trails? Well, sadly it is a fact that there are those that aren’t so considerate. We have often picked up empty gel packets and water bottles out on the trails. Now, not all of the litter we encounter is left behind by runners. Often, it is just inconsiderate people that perhaps don’t have the same understanding or empathy of the countryside.
Take a phone – Falling over, spraining an ankle or getting lost and needing rescuing is no joke but it can be extremely scary if you don’t have any way of communicating with the rest of the world. It’s also very useful to capture those beautiful sunrises or sunsets or a stunning landscape.
Focus on time over distance – Running 10 miles on the trails will take considerably longer than the same distance on the road. If you want to be out for 90 minutes than calculate your average mileage pace off road and adjust your planned mileage as necessary.
Use your arms – When climbing hills, use your arms to help drive you forward. Shorten your stride and let your arms do the work. on the descent, use your arms to counter balance your legs.
Trail Shoes – if you are going to be spending time exploring the trails and feel that it is something you may partake in regularly, invest in a pari of decent trail shoes. From Salomon Speedcross to Hoka Speedgoat, Inov-8 Mudclaw to La Sportiva Bushido II, there are an extensive range of trail running shoes to suit all budgets and types of terrain. Spend a bit of time researching and look for something that can cope with various terrains – mud, rocky paths, grassy trails…
Don’t be precious about your trail shoes – We have already recommended a pair of decent trail shoes to help you get the most out of your trail running however, if you are taking your time over the colour and how they look then we should save you the time and tell you not to bother. A pair of trail shoes, is not a pair of trail shoes until they have been christened in the mud!!!
Be prepared for hills – Beautiful views mean you have to be prepared to climb a few hills. Unless you live on flat moors, most trail running means climbing and descending hills at some point. In fact, many trail runners are more interested in how much elevation they have achieved than how many miles or how fast they have run.
Take food & water – If you’re planning on running anything over a 10k, we really do recommend you take water and fuel. Some people are OK wth gels however, we tend to favour shot blocks for an instant hit. Alternatively, we will take some malt loaf for a snack and instant energy boost. If you are planning on running long then perhaps pack a small picnic. Whether it’s a long training run or an ultra marathon, there are a lots of recommended foods to try over on our blog “Eating During an Ultra Marathon”.
Forget your speed – Steep climbs, tricky descents, uneven fields, bumpy trails, stiles, gates… there are many challenges when trail running which will inevitably slow you down. It’s a good idea to forget the watch. By all means wear one but don’t keep time checking.
Slow down and take it all in – We don’t mean slow the pace, we just mean take a minute to appreciate the beauty around you. Trail running offers some of the most beautiful views, incredible wildlife and opportunities to just stop and catch your breath. for us, it is a chance to forget our troubles and just switch off for a few hours. A Sunday long run, while physically tiring, gives you chance to press the reset button so to speak.
Be prepared to nature wee – If you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Ladies, we mean you too! It’s not just the number ones that you have to worry about. Running long distance, eating as you run, gels etc. can play havoc with your stomach. If you are training for a long race, it’s best to prepared now than discover a weak constitution on the day.
Share the love – There is something quite rewarding about sharing your favourite routes with friends. We have introduced many people to some of our regular trails and we love their reaction. We have a weekly off road group that meets on a Thursday where we take turns to organise the route to introduce one another to new places. The beauty of trail running is that it can be enjoyed alone or shared with friends.
Explore – Some of our best routes have come from a conversation which starts with “I wonder where that goes”. Sometimes we save it for another day and make a plan to check out out next time while others we just go with the flow and follow the path. Joining up the dots and working out where these unknown trails lead is extremely rewarding.
Safety first – This is definitely one of our top trail running tips, perhaps the most important! We have already mentioned taking your phone in case of any incidents but also consider other safety advice. If you are heading out alone tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be. Make sure you are familiar with the trails, leave exploration for when you are with others. don’t go rock climbing or tackling anything too technical without the relevant equipment.
Work on your core – A strong core is essential for trail runners, especially when it comes to tracking steep climbs and tricky descents. Stability and balance will come from having that strength. We recommend a number of exercises and equipment that can be used to improve your core.
Get the map out – An OS map is a great way to discover new routes and trails. Alternatively, with a Strava subscription, you can create routes. There is somewhat of a divide in the camp on this one as one of us prefers Strava and the other prefers handling the OS map. It’s lead to a few ‘words’ when trying to recce routes.
Work on your technical skills – There isn’t a class or a course you have to complete to learn technical trail running skills but there are a few tips that will help you. We cover more on this subject in our article but essentially it’s about balance, taking small strides, looking where you are going, focusing a few steps ahead and having good core strength. like anything, these skills improve and adapt over time as you become a more confident trail runner.
Keep your eyes on the trail – Tree roots, rocks, uneven ground are one thing to keep an eye on but also take stock out the views and what is going on around you. While you should be focused on where your feet are landing, if you are always staring at the ground you may miss wildlife such as deer and buzzards or beautiful landscapes.
Don’t be a fair weather runner – If we only waited for the best days to get out on the trails we wouldn’t spend much time running. We’d also miss out on some truly incredible experiences. Running with the rain beating down on you, the wind in your face and the snow falling, while cold and wet, offers something quite liberating. We’ve also given trying to navigate around puddles and find ourself running right through thanks to decent trail running shoes that drain quickly.
Enjoy – Last but not least you have to ensure that you enjoy the run. Forget pace, weather, how many climbs there are and just enjoy being out and about in beautiful parts of the world. Explore the trails, enjoy with friends, make the most of the peace and escape day to day life for an hour or so.
These are just our top trail running tips. There are probably many more that would take us all day to list. If you have any tips to share just drop them in the comments below. We’d love to hear your top tips.
Disclaimer: Many of our posts may contain affiliate links. We may earn commissions if you shop through the links on this page although we only ever recommend products that we genuinely believe will enhance your trail running experience.