Trailrunners are a different breed of people. We claim to like the dirt mud and sticks and we will swear upon death that trail rash and bruises are the best feeling ever. The more scrapes and blood, the better. Yet, if you ask us the next morning, we won’t admit that we feel like old people as we try to do mundane things like blinking. Even blinking hurts after a euphoric trail run.
Nobody wants to truly injure themselves to the point that we can’t run for awhile. We don’t want to be sidelined by one day, much less in a body cast for months. So how do we balance the badges of trail honor without breaking bones or skulls?
1. Trail shoes for trail running
We wear special shoes for gripping. Road shoes are not made for trail traction. That means you might be one of those runners that have a few pairs of shoes in rotation and THAT IS OKAY!. Don’t let your road purists talk you out of your day in the mud and sun, my friend. Trails are where life exists in technicolor. And I don’t mean the little birdies floating by after you knock your head silly. So, start looking for trail shoe reviews. Most trail shoes are going to be stability shoes, however, neutral strike trail shoes are making their way to the pages of Trailrunner magazine.
If you have a neutral on-the-balls-of-your-feet strike on the road, that does NOT mean you will strike the same on trails. Trails with a lot of technical components will change your strike. A flat dirt road will not change your gait much, if at all. You want to make sure you have enough shoe tread to cover some good roots, rocks, sticks, snakes, slag, gravel, etc. Look at the tread. Trail shoes should have some tread marks sticking out everywhere. These things should grip like a sticky frog.
2. Know your limitations
If you have sucky balance, you’re going to love trail running…in a few months. Trails work muscles that road running doesn’t. Hip stabilizing muscles, tiny core/ab muscles, ankle tendons, are just a few of areas that will make themselves knock on the door and invite themselves in for a while. Like with regular running, start slow. Take your time and take in your surroundings. This is for aesthetic purposes and safety purposes. Most trail systems in parks are multi-use. Walkers, runners, and bikers will be on the trail.
3. Work the trails, don’t let them work you.
The beauty of trail running is the variety. You have to keep your eyes ahead and anticipate what’s coming up. The slightest change in terrain warrants a change in gait, speed, and direction, Hidden roots can be the biggest cause for crashes. While scraped hands and knees on an Instagram pic only enhance your badassness (it’s a word. trust me), broken ankles and arms are no fun. You can run with scraped off skin. You can’t run with casts on appendages. Stay focused and keep it slow until you know the terrain or until you finish the run in one piece.
4. Safety always
Nobody wakes up and thinks “I feel like defending myself against an attacker today”. But everybody, men and women, should be PREPARED to do that very thing every day, every run, always. This is not an argument for or against packing heat, but you better pack something. Pepper spray is found everywhere. Keep it close. I always keep it in my hand. Be bold. Look any person coming your way in the eye. Make them aware that you are aware of them. BE BOLD. Unfortunately, we hear stories of runners attacked more than we should. Secluded trail systems are perfect for those with intent to harm or kill.
This is also the time to tell you to put the music away if you are trail running. If you absolutely can not, keep one ear open without an ear bud/headphone. You should be able to hear a biker behind you that you should be yielding to and you should be able to hear nefarious creatures of all leg counts. Let the wind in the trees be your music. Trail running should be fun and addictive!
Happy Trails to you!