So You Want to be a Trail Runner - Page 2
“Trails are easier on the body, not just because dirt is softer than pavement, but on uneven terrain every step is different, requiring you to use stabilizing muscles in the lower legs and hips,” explains Denver, Colorado-based trail-running coach Adam Feerst. “In a flat road marathon you repeat the same muscle movement and stress the same ligaments over and over.”
To survive rough trails, learn to slow down or walk over especially technical or steep sections, not only to avoid tripping but also to allow muscles to recover and keep you moving efficiently.
Talk to a local running-shop expert about shoes most suitable for local trails, which fit best and offer the right combination of cushioning and stability (see also Trail Runner’s fall and spring shoe reviews, November and May issues). Trail-specific shoes are generally beefier than road models, with knobby treads for better traction on dirt, mud and rock and reinforced uppers. For maximum protection, some models come with waterproof-breathable uppers and durable toe rands.
Trail running attire should match the weather conditions, climate and season. Sunny conditions call for light-colored, moisture-wicking running gear (lighter colors reflect heat while darker colors absorb it).
Essential in cold conditions, layering is the art of staying dry and warm without overheating. Use a three-tiered layering system including base, mid and outer layers designed to draw moisture away from your skin while keeping your warm. As you heat up, remove outer layers, cap, hat, gloves or unzip tops to allow better airflow. On all but the coldest days, one moisture-wicking, windproof layer will suffice for the lower body.
Expect to encounter muddy trail sections, stream crossings and rough ground that can lead to any number of foot ailments. Blisters, caused by friction on the skin, can be a trail runner’s biggest handicap. Either place a blister pad such as Blist-O-Ban or Spenco’s Second Skin on known problem areas before you go or carry spare bandages in your hip pack.
Padded trail running socks cushion your feet and ankle gaiters keep your shoes pebble- and mud-free. If your feet get soaked from crossing streams or bogs, you may be more susceptible to blisters and soggy shoes will feel heavy.