Growing up in the flatlands of the Midwest, the idea of trail running was a foreign concept to me. How could a person run through a forest & over mountainous terrain without spraining an ankle? Or better yet, why would you even do this? Since moving to Lake Tahoe, I’ve been introduced to this wondrous sport and it’s blown me away at how fun it is. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it!
Reasons to start trail running
- Less taxing on your joints
- Low cost to start
- Perfect way to get ready for the ski/snowboard season
- Get an opportunity to see scenery you would’ve never experienced
Dirt vs. Asphalt: Which is better for your body?
ITB Syndrome. Shin splints. Knee pain. Do any of these sound familiar to you? For any die-hard road runners out there, you have almost endless routes to choose and can run FAST but there is an opportunity for pain to creep in, especially in the long run – no pun intended.
Just think that every time your foot strikes the ground on such unforgiving surfaces, a vertical force approximately 2.5 times your body-weight is transmitted through your body (Run3d). And when it’s a hard surface like concrete or asphalt, that force makes it even worse. On the flip side, a dirt or gravel path reduces that impact and translates to less wear and tear. Of course, be forewarned that there is a higher likelihood on spraining your ankle or tripping than if you were running on those harder surfaces, but keep your eyes open and pick up your feet and you’ll fare just fine.
Low Cost to Start
Another great reason to get into this sport is that it doesn’t take a ton of equipment. Of course, you can get all high-techy like any activity, but all you really need is a good pair of trail running shoes and a little backpack (since you’re technically off-roading and should have a few supplies on hand.) AND, when it comes your shoe picking, DO NOT focus on how the shoe looks. The squirrels and chipmunks really don’t care about your fashion statement. Focus on how it feels on your foot and remember, these aren’t road shoes so you might want more support and ‘padding’ for the trail experience. Go through EVERY shoe that a store offers to find one that fits the best. Better yet, head to a store that sell shoes specifically for trail running. They’ll help you understand your body mechanics and guide you on what kind of shoe to get.
Best Running Stores in Ski-Towns
Here are the best running stores in ski-towns throughout North America by Competitor Magazine:
Skinny Raven (Anchorage, Alaska)
Shu’s Idaho Running Company (Boise, Idaho)
Runner’s Edge (Missoula, Montana)
Bosque Running (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
For the full list of the top 50 stores throughout North America, go to the Competitor Magazine website found here.
If heading to a store isn’t possible, check out Outdoor Gear Lab for reviews of some of the best trail running shoes out there. Finally, if you’re going to be trail running in terrain that has actual elevation changes, be sure to pick shoes with bigger treads. Think of it like big gnarly truck tires vs. a sports car tread. The truck tire adds more friction on a smooth surface, but it’ll help give you traction when there are rocks, dirt, roots, and other objects on the trail. Besides the shoe itself, here are a few other things to consider bringing with you when out on the trail (and put in your little backpack):
- A bottle of water
- Bear Spray – Check out our Be Bear Aware article for some more tips too
- A camera/cell phone and some ID
Roots, rocks, stumps.. oh my!
We talked last week about cardiovascular endurance (check out the article here if you missed it) and its importance for the upcoming ski and snowboard season. Trail running is a great way to log some cardio time and increase your endurance, but, as an added bonus, if you enjoy glade skiing/snowboarding then trail running provides another advantage – It gives you an opportunity to get-your-eyes-right for the season. What do we mean by this? Well, when you are running in varied terrain, you need to think two or three steps ahead to make sure you don’t trip or fall and determine the line you will run if the terrain is complex. This is the exact same concept you apply when you are heading down a snow-filled slope with trees. So kill two birds at once – cardio/endurance boost and increased eye focus!
See Nature and get out of the Gym
Finally, a lot of people run inside on a treadmill watching TV. Why? Unless you are a gym rat then why not find a trail to run on? Even in the largest cities like Chicago or New York, the parks themselves have trails you can utilize. To me, that sounds a lot more fun and interesting. Also, some trail runners will tell you that your increased concentration and stimulus from being on variable terrain can make you more easily forget the time and miles you are looking to log.
If you are having trouble finding a trail, check out this free app: The Hiking Project
It provides you with the following:
- Trails that are near you
- Difficulty (easy, intermediate, expert)
- The length of that trail
- Elevation gain you can expect
- Where to park