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Ready to take your run to the trails? Here are some tips to consider before you do so.

Trail running can be a great way to switch up your exercise routine. It’s also the perfect excuse to enjoy nature while breaking a sweat. It opens you up to new experiences and can be the ideal way to reinvigorate your workout.

Although running is essentially running, there are a few differences you should be aware of before you leave the streets and head for the trails.

Here are 6 tips to get the most out of trail running and to stay safer while you do it:
  1. Wear appropriate shoes. You’ll need different shoes to run trails than you wear when you run on pavement, a track or a treadmill. Trail running shoes provide more foot stability and traction so feet are more protected when you encounter uneven or slippery surfaces. The type of terrain you plan to conquer will help you determine the best type of shoes to wear on your run.
  2. Select the right trail. If you’re just starting out, stick to trails that aren’t too difficult and work your way up to higher difficulty trails when you’re ready. This makes it less likely you’ll get injured. You can find information about trails from your local parks and recreation department, specialty running stores and trail running clubs.
  3. Pay attention to what’s in front of you. One of the beauties of trail running is the opportunity to surround yourself with nature, but don’t let the view distract you from what’s in your path. Looking around rather than directly in front of you may cause you to miss rocks, tree roots, gravel or uneven surfaces that can cause you to fall or twist your ankle. If the view is worth admiring, take a moment to stop and enjoy it before moving on.
  4. Focus on time rather than mileage. Running on the uneven surfaces of trails takes longer than running on flat paved surfaces. You may have elevation to climb, obstacles to avoid and changes in terrain that require you to run at a slower pace. When you set out on a trail run, it’s best to gauge your run by time rather than mileage or you may find yourself tired out before you hit your distance.
  5. Eat and hydrate properly. It’s important to eat and drink before you run, but also bring enough hydration and nutrition with you, depending on the length of your run. If you’re going out for an hour or less, you may not need much more than water, but if you’ll be out for longer or it’s warm outside, you may need electrolyte replacement, energy bars or gels.
  6. Don’t run alone. Although solitude may sound inviting, heading out on a trail run is best done with a running partner. This is especially true if you are new to trail running or have never run a particular trail before. It helps to have someone with you in case you get injured or lost. If you decide to run alone, tell someone about your intended route.

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Date Last Reviewed: April 18, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Andrew Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS

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