There’s no doubt about it—running has become more popular than ever over the last decade. Marathons, ultra marathons, mud runs, obstacle course races, zombie runs…if you can run through, on, around or from it, there’s a race out there suited to your pavement-pounding preferences. So with sidewalks and streets becoming increasingly crowded, what’s a nature-loving type of runner to do? Hit the trails.
Trail running is exactly what it sounds like: Running on some sort of unpaved path, whether it’s in the middle of the woods behind your home or through the Grand Canyon. The perks are endless: the relaxing sounds of nature, the sun warming your skin, the vantage point after summiting a steep run. For many runners, trail running is a challenge that works more muscle groups than running on the road (think about all the rocks, twigs and inclines that require you to really navigate a trail), and because feet make impact with a softer surface, it can be easier on joints. For others, the appeal of trail running lies in its simplicity. “The great thing about trail running is that it really doesn’t require much gear,” says Francesco Perri, a trail runner who has completed a long list of competitive trail runs that includes the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Marathon, Corner Canyon 50K and The Pony Express Trail 50 Mile Endurance Race. “You don’t need to drop thousands of dollars to get going.”
That’s not to say you don’t need to prepare. Like with any outdoor sport, planning makes for a successful day out. “When I started trail running, I had a hard time finding new trails,” remembers Brooke Gaynes, a Teva fan and Salt Lake City trail runner. “Although I loved the experience of jumping on a new trail and exploring, sometimes I ended up doing more of a rocky hike than a flowing run.” And because trail running is an endurance sport, you’ll need to plan ahead to ensure you have enough water and snacks to fuel your run, says Perri. “If you’re planning on a 10-mile run with 5000 feet of elevation gain, you’ll want to make sure you have enough food and water,” he says. Knowledge is power, so we chatted with some experienced trail runners to get their tips that all new trail runners may want to keep in mind.
Swap out sneakers for trail shoes.
Lauren DouBrava, who tried out trail running back in 2003 after she tired of running around neighborhoods near her home, says all trail runners should get themselves two things: trail shoes and a running buddy. “Switching to trail shoes made a pretty big difference,” she says. “And trails are less intimidating when you have a partner. I’ve made some of my best friendships through trail running.”
“I get hot really fast when I run, so I always underdress,” explains DouBrava. “My motto: start cold, run warm. Start warm, run hot.” If you can’t stand running in the cold without extra layers, run with a small backpack or hydration pack that you can stash thin shells and fleeces in. Perri agrees, saying that as long as most of your skin is covered in winter, your body will “do the rest to stay warm.”
Listen to your body and refuel when necessary.
“I can’t count how many different times I’ve thrown up on the trail,” says Perri. “There is a very delicate balance when you’re pushing your body to its limit.” Even if you aren’t pursuing long endurance runs like Perri, make sure you are replenishing your hard-working body with salts, calories and water often. “Some runners can survive on nothing but goo and water when they run,” he says. “For others like me, there is a need to eat actual food. I’ve been eating baked potatoes and sweet potatoes lately.”
Know when to hold back.
Perri stresses that trail running is all about trial and error. “Despite the name, trail running is often more about hiking, and generally speaking, the longer the run, the slower you go and the more you hike,” he explains. If you tend to run really hard on the road, try slowing down and enjoying the view as you build up strength, remembering trail running engages different muscles than you might be used to calling on.
Familiarize yourself with new trails.
Gaynes suggests asking around at your local running shop to find ideal trail conditions, at least for your first few runs. “Finding your local trail running community on social media, online, or from a local shop can be a great way to find new trails and new running friends,” she adds. Follow us on Instagram @teva and tag #teva on your trail running photos!