Where to Run: Trail Running Tips

Hit the ground running and enjoy a change of pace (and scenery) with these trail running benefits and tips.

Imagine running, but with more obstacles such as tree roots, rocks, twists and turns, elevation changes and varied terrain. Trail running allows you to explore nature while getting a challenging workout in.

Trail running benefits go beyond just a change of scenery. A secluded path can help you avoid vehicles and provide a softer surface.

“Changing up my scenery definitely helps me become a better runner by experiencing different terrain,” running enthusiast and DICK’S Sporting Goods Associate Chris Aland says. “It also helps by not falling victim to a mundane running routine.”

Experience the serenity of a wooded area trail while enjoying the shade of the trees above. Or escape the city scenery when jogging on an urban trail. No matter the path you take, try these trail running tips to help keep you navigated.

TRAIL RUNNING BEGINNER

If you’re new to a trail, come prepared. Bring a trail guide, map or compass with you in case you lose phone service and get lost. Running in a group can also be beneficial, especially if the other runners are more familiar with the trail and can take the lead. But if you do decide to go solo, make sure you take the proper precautions.

“Don’t go out too far,” competitive trail runner and DICK’S Sporting Goods Associate Autumn Greba says. “Let people know how long you plan to be gone and where you generally will be.”

Know your limits if you do plan on going alone. Ultimately, don’t do more than you’re ready to. It’s always OK to take it slow when you’re starting to trail run.

IMPORTANT RUNNING GEAR

Gear is truly your best friend on a trail. Make sure you’re equipped with the usual running essentials such as a water bottle and fuel for your run. Greba also suggests having anti-chafing and anti-blister balm since your body motion might be different on a trail than a flatter running surface.

To pick up waste and avoid littering, Greba encourages runners to carry a small bag with them. “When we go out into nature, we are visitors and you should try to leave a trail without leaving a trace,” she says.

Greba also recommends wearing a vest or belt to help carry your belongings. For more ways to store your personal items, check out the Pro Tips guide on four ways to carry your gear on a run.

TIME OF DAY

The best time to go trail running is a matter of preference. Pay attention to when the sun sets. It can get dark quickly under the shade of trees.

“You never know what you’re going to come across in the woods, so having as much visibility as possible is key,” Aland says.

If you’re a trail running beginner, stick with daylight hours so you can be more aware of your surroundings. Greba suggests investing in a trail running headlamp or a chest running light so you can see where you’re going if you’ll be out when natural light is lower.

TRAIL RUNNING SHOES AND ATTIRE

The different obstacles of a trail can lead to a need for separate trail running shoes. You’ll want to think about the following features when making your purchase:

  • Tread: The bottom of your trail running shoe depends on the trail’s surface. You’ll need more traction on a hard, rocky course versus a dirt trail.
  • Toe Bumpers: Some trail shoes have rubber on the front to help protect your toes from roots and rocks.
  • Durability: Trail shoes tend to have more durable materials and fabrics. This can help weatherproof your shoes and prevent frays or rips on sharp rocks or other abrasive surfaces.

Still not sure what type of shoe best suits your run? Learn how to find the right pair with our Pro Tips guide on how to choose a trail running shoe.

Your trail running clothes should be similar to what you’d normally wear to run: breathable and moisture-wicking. Consider layering your running apparel so you can stay comfortable throughout your run. Shed a layer when you’re running uphill or add a layer when the shade cools you down.

Whether you’re a trail running beginner or more experienced, check out this trail running and hiking Pro Tips guide on staying motivated on the trail.