How do you run? On a treadmill? Around town? Maybe you don’t run at all! No matter what you’re used to, trail running is a great change to your regular routine. And if you don’t run already, then it’s a great way to boost your cardio while enjoying gorgeous scenery and fresh air.
But trail running is unique to other running and hiking activities and it’s important to be prepared. Luckily, you have Great Lakes Guide to help you out. We are spilling all the beans here to give you the most helpful trail running tips for beginners!
Trail running is like the Goldilocks of traditional running and hiking. You should bring more stuff with you than you would with traditional running, but not as much as you would with traditional hiking. There’s a “just right” middle ground.
These are by far the most important item. When you run on a trail, your feet are constantly hitting the ground at different angles over varied terrain. Because of this, you should invest in trail running shoes with lots of support. Be aware of different terrain — is your trail composed of mostly hard rocks or softer dirt? Is it muddy or dry? Is it smooth or bumpy? This could also help you decide on the perfect pair of trail running shoes.
Of course you need clothes to run! For trail running specifically, you want lightweight, breathable clothing. Try to get synthetic fabrics that are quicker to dry than cotton. Layers are always useful, especially if you’re moving up in elevation, where the air can get chilly. Socks, and extra socks! For trail running, we would suggest you get specific socks made from synthetic fibers that are designed to “wick” off moisture. Also bring something for the rain, like a waterproof jacket or splash pants, just to be extra safe.
Bring an extra set of clothing in case you get too sweaty or something rips. If you drove, you can keep your dry change of clothes in the car; otherwise, you can just keep it in your backpack.
You probably don’t want to have a traditional bottle of water in your hand the entire time you’re running. Instead, go for a handheld water bottle designed for runners. They often have hooks to attach to yourself and padding to avoid chafing on your wrist. Another option is a waist belt that you can easily tuck your water bottle into. For longer runs and to really free up your hands, you can bring a hydration pack or vest, where the water reservoir is integrated into your backpack with a tube that lets you drink without ever taking your pack off. You can also bring sports drinks to help replenish your electrolytes.
You’re going to have to carry your basic essentials — even the basics like your wallet and keys. If a waist belt can fit everything, then great! Otherwise, you should bring a backpack or bag with you. But for trail running, you want to be as unencumbered as possible. A light, minimalist backpack is ideal. You don’t want a backpack that’s bouncing around with every step on the ground. When wearing a backpack, make sure that you have a layer of clothing between your skin and the pack to avoid chafing.
Bring food to refuel throughout your run. You want to be smart in the type of food you bring. Take snacks that are energy-packed and full of protein.
Always put on sunscreen before going outside (yes, even if it’s cloudy). You can also bring other sun protection items, like a hat and sunglasses, if you’d like.
You will probably have your phone, but you should always bring a paper map or take a look at a trail map before you leave, just in case. Many parks have brochures with maps and signs along the trail, if you need to keep track of your route!
You may not need to take a full first aid kit, if you can’t fit it in your bag, but you should absolutely bring a small medical kit in case of emergencies. This kit should contain bandages, disinfectant, pain relievers, tweezers, instant ice pack, and a flashlight.
Gaiters are pieces of fabric that you slide on over your shoe and cover your ankle up onto your shin. These are great for muddy trails, but they also help stop gravel and dirty from getting into your shoes (which can interrupt your run).