Trail Running FAQs
We understand that many new members may not have any experience with trail running, so we have compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions.
What are the best types of shoes to wear / can I wear my running shoes?
Yes, you can wear your running shoes, but it is advised to buy a pair of trail running shoes because trail running shoes are designed to:
1) help you get through rocky, wet, and uneven surfaces
2) protect your feet and give you extra traction
Is trail running safe?
Trail running does pose some risks, yet is still safe if done carefully. Trail conditions vary based on the weather, and when a trail is muddy or icy it can be dangerous, so going at a slower pace at those times is advised. Moreover, tripping over roots or rocks is a possibility, so you should try to look five to ten feet ahead at all times. Finally, since trail running is in nature, the risk of certain animals such as snakes or other predators is always there.
Overall, trail running is at relatively low risk, especially when done with caution.
Do I need special trail running gear?
You can easily run in normal running clothes and be fine. Often, trail runners will opt to wear merino wool as opposed to cotton since cotton is slow to dry. Trail runners typically dress in light layers so that they are able to easily take off/add them as needed and so that they aren't too much of a burden to carry around. Some trail runners like bringing a hydration pack so they can have easily accessible water and food, but if your trail run isn't too long this isn't necessary.
If trail running at night, you will want to have a headlamp or flashlight of some sort in order to trail run safely. Although not required, many trail runners like to have a watch on them, either a cheaper one just to time them or a high-end one to help them navigate the course. Finally, some trail runners like to bring waterproof jackets and/or gaiters whenever rain is in the forecast.
What if you are unfamiliar with the course?
The majority of trails are clearly marked with signs or arrows. If you are participating in a trail race, the course will be visibly marked so runners don't get lost. If you are worried about getting lost, a compass and map are always good to bring along to ensure you stay on the path and can make it back if you accidentally venture off the path.
What is a typical pace for trail running?
Switching to trail running is odd for some road runners because they will find that they will slow from an 8:00 mile to a 15:00 mile. However, distance is more important than pace for most trail runners because trail runners will often walk up hills or be slowed down by obstacles such as rock scrambles. Moreover, trail running races are more about enjoying the moment than they are a competitive race, which is another reason that trail runners don't care about pace.
What is the typical trail running season?
Depending on where you live, it is possible to trail run year-round if your climate allows. In New England, trail running season typically goes from late Spring to Fall. In early Spring, trails can still be icy which creates dangerous conditions, especially at higher altitudes.
What are the benefits of trail running?
There are many benefits associated with trail running. For one, trails are often cooler in the summer and have lower levels of pollution. The slower pace and the softer surface means a lower risk of running-related injuries when compared to road running. Trail running works a different group of muscles which, in turn, improves your road running. Finally, you get to make friends and be a part of a great community of trail runners.
How is trail running different from road running in terms of the physical fitness required?
Both types of running require physical endurance, but trail running uses different muscles than road running does. In trail running, there is a lot more side-to-side movement, climbing, and agility required; therefore, lateral muscles are used a lot more, and, depending on the intensity of the climbing, upper body muscles will be used.
What are some general trail running tips?
Slow down and keep your strides short, especially the more uphill that the course is. If a hill becomes really steep, don't be afraid to walk up to it (remember that distance is more important than the pace in trail running).
Keep your gaze on the ground about 10 feet ahead of you in order to know what obstacles lie in your way, and plan ahead what your next steps will be.
Lastly, have a good time! Trail running is all about the adventure!