Oh trail running! What a good time! The fun and freedom of exploring your local or unfamiliar places on your feet, feeling capable to keep going for ages but doesn’t always feel that easy or fun, especially when you’re new to the game and are puzzling with what gear to buy or use! Budget constraints may be a concern, as can over-thinking things. Below we have some tips on what the essentials are, what you do and don’t need, to help you have a better time out there on the trails!
First let’s talk shoes! It may seem like the obvious starting point. When you’re heading off-road, traction, durability and possibly waterproofing come into play. You do not need to find the most expensive pair of race shoes that professional mountain goat “X” is winning 100 milers in and put those on your feet. Shoe technology is really good these days making affordable shoes more than capable of meeting your needs on the trails! Brands like ASICS are known to be good in the value space but have a look around TRY OUT a few pairs to see what is comfortable and speak with a trustworthy friend or shop assistant to get their take on what would be a good fit for your needs. Focus on an outsole that will provide good traction, uppers that will withstand trial running wear and tear, and the kind of support that your foot / stride needs. If you love running in the rain and chasing waterfalls (despite TLC’s warnings) then check out what waterproofed options are out there as well!
Fuelling up well is key to enjoying your time out there trail running, whether it’s a 30min trot or a couple hours in the mountains. The essentials here are starting with a decent store of carbs and fats in your body (eat a good meal a few hours before or something light if you’re tight on time). When it comes to time on the trails, make sure you have sufficient liquid (1l per hour for longer runs is a good rule of thumb) and know where you can top up on the way. An intake of 30-60 grams of carbs per hour is a good place to start (between liquid and solids) but you’ll need to fine tune that for your own performance needs. Eating a little bit every 20-30mns keeps you operating well fuelled and it’s best stick to foods / bars / gels you’re familiar with!
Carrying Your Essentials
If you’re only popping out for 30mns to an hour you may prefer to have nothing on your back (maybe a shirt of sorts) but longer than that and it is worth thinking about how you’re going to carry your food, liquids, keys, phone, first aid, jacket, etc. A lightweight running belt is a good option for short stints that you can pop your phone, keys, a soft flask and maybe some snacks in. Purpose designed running vests are great for longer runs when you’re wanting to take a bit more with you on the trail. They are available in different storage capacities and fits so chat to someone you know who has experience with them and do some trying on and looking around! Local brand Aonijie has great value offerings that will do everything you need but if you want to go fancy, all the big names will have their space-age running vests waiting for your wallet!
Running Jacket / First Aid
While we’re talking about carrying things, let’s have a look at first aid and a jacket. The jacket is obviously for if the weather turns (or starts off a bit questionable) which can really ruin a run or put in in danger if you’re running in an exposed area. You can find lightweight waterproof options that scrunch up nice and small and carry easily. There’s also no need to go for a big name brand here, there will be decent value option around! Some warm gloves and / or a beanie could also be a game changer or life saver in cold conditions.
On the first aid side of things, and this is much more overlooked than it should be, it is a good idea to keep a small kit in a waterproof bag or ziplock with you for your trail runs. Some painkillers, a roll of bandage, antihistamines, a space blanket, a small whistle, and possibly an epipen are small and light to carry and could get you or someone else on the trails out of serious trouble. Be sure to save useful emergency numbers to your phone for easy access if you’re running in potentially exposed areas and let a friend know where you’re heading and how long you expect to be.
With that we’ll wrap up on navigation. Knowing where you’re going on the trails (or having an idea of your surroundings at least because getting lost can be fun!) has a big sway on how much you enjoy your time out in the mountains. If you’re uncertain on a route, the heat maps feature on Strava can help you find some good options and you can then even plot a route and save it to your phone or navigation device. GPS watches are getting better and better but also bigger and bigger price tags! Cell phones are great for navigation but be sure to have the map saved offline and a full battery to start. Note a few exit points incase things get out of hand and you’ll be good to go!
This one can sneak up on you and it’s not a good time. Chafe. If you’re prone to chaffing or starting to push some longer runs, invest in an anti-chaffing cream or gel and use it!
Alright, have good time out there on the trails and enjoy the freedom of exploring on your feet!