Trail Running For Beginners: 10 Tips For Best Results


For people who like to run, trail running opens up a whole new world, beyond the common paved surfaces. Although trail running is quite similar to road running, differences do exist in the trailheads. For trail running beginners, these differences can make everything appear more complicated than it should be. If you are thinking of taking this season’s runs off the beaten path, you should find the trail running tips in this article helpful.

10 Tips for Trail Running Beginners

1. Wear the Right Shoes

For trail runners, shoes are generally the most important gear. If the first run will be taking place on a trail featuring mellow gravel, you may be able to get by with the normal road running shoes. However, as soon as you start encountering slippery mud, rocks, and roots, you will start appreciating the importance of donning trail running shoes.

Compared to normal road-running shoes, trail-running shoes are usually beefier and emphasize stability, foot protection, and traction. In the trail-running shoe category, you can find different shoe ideal for everything from the simple, groomed trails to the highly technical and varying terrains.

Trail running beginners can choose from the stripped-down minimalist trail shoes which offer an enhanced feel of your biomechanics and the trail or the maximalist shoes featuring extra cushioning to reduce fatigue on high-mile days and impact on the joints. Both minimalist and maximalist shoes feature better traction than normal road-running shoes.

2. You Need the Right Gear

Unlike camping, trail running will not require a bunch of gear to do it. This is one of the beauties of the activity.

Going for a short trail run is often as simple as putting on a T-shirt, pulling on your favorite shorts, and lacing your shoes before heading out. With that said, some gear considerations could help make the trail run more comfortable and enjoyable, especially if you intend to explore more challenging and higher mileage terrain.


Water is extremely important for all but the shortest trail runs – staying hydrated is crucial. Your water carrying options could include hydration packs, handheld water bottles, hydration vests, or a waist pack featuring water bottles.

For shorter runs, you will probably want to use a small waist pack or a handheld water bottle. For longer runs, you can use a bigger waist pack or a running hydration vest.


The ideal running wear should not be made of cotton; it should be made of moisture-wicking synthetics or merino wool. This goes for the socks too. When trail running in wet or cool weather, a lightweight windbreaker or rain shell should offer a good experience.

On long runs, be sure to dress in layers. This technique should allow you to stay comfortable throughout the day. You may start cold but as you warm up while climbing up a hill, you can shed layers. If you cool off when relaxing, you can put on additional layers.

Breathability is a crucial quality consideration when you are purchasing trail running clothing. Since trail running generates a lot of heat and perspiration, your clothes should not create an impenetrable layer. Lightweight knit fabrics do work well. Shirts featuring zippered necks give you an ideal way to vent.


If you will be running for less than 60 minutes, an energy gel or two should be enough. If you will be on the trail for a couple of hours, consider packing a selection of energy foods, including gels, chews, and bars.


When it comes to watches, numerous options exist. The watch you decide to put on will depend on your preference. For example, you can decide to choose between tactical watches and solar watches.

If you just want to monitor your steps, a regular stopwatch may be ideal. If you want more features, you can invest in a high-end GPS watch featuring the ability to monitor speed, track distance, and to navigate. To maximize the workout effectiveness, you can invest in a watch featuring a heart rate monitor.

Navigation Tools

If the trails are not familiar, invest in navigational tools. These could include a compass, a map, and in some cases, a GPS.


If you intend to run at night, you must have a headlamp. In most instances, the headlamp you use when hiking at night should be ideal. However, if you plan to do a lot of night running, invest in a headlamp featuring a minimum of approximately 200 lumens.

Sun Protection

This includes lip balm, sun-protective clothing, and sunscreen. Be sure to put on the sunscreen correctly before getting on the trail.

First-Aid Kit

The first-aid kit size will depend on the duration and location of the trail run. For runs lasting less than an hour close to civilization, the first-aid kit can be left at home. For trails runs lasting hours and are out on rugged trails, be sure to carry a kit featuring the important first-aid tools, including bandages, antibacterial ointment for minor wounds, etc.

3. Know the Trail Rules

Simply knowing the rules is actually not enough – be sure to follow the rules. Yielding to other trail users (mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians) is one of the major rules.

Generally, downhill runners are supposed to yield to the uphill runners. This is because the effort needed to stop and restart is far much greater for the uphill runners compared to downhill runners. When you are in doubt, being courteous should be an ideal solution.

Stay on marked trails and always focus on running through the puddles, not around them (this can make the trail wider). Avoid littering and use the leave no trace principle.

4. Stay Safe

When heading out to new trails, run with either a dog or your buddies. If this is not possible, consider telling someone where you will be going and the exact trail you will be following. Be sure to carry a cellphone with you – should you get lost or something happens to you, the cellphone can be used to track you.

If you have a smartphone, consider installing a safety application on the device. In addition to everything we have mentioned, always be mindful of everything that is going around you.

5. Ensure Your Eyes Are on the Trail


It is often tempting to gaze around at nature or straight down at the feet. Doing so, however, can lead to tripping and falling. While you could have brought a first aid kit, it is always a great idea to avoid using it.

If you would like to enjoy the sights, walk it out or stop. Otherwise, focus on looking 2 to 4 feet ahead. This will help you create a line of travel or where you will be stepping for your next couple of strides.

6. Slow Down

This is one of the trail running tips that most beginners tend to ignore. Running on trails is generally more demanding compared to running on the roads, especially if it is technical single-track featuring rocks, roots, and other obstacles.

You must avoid comparing your pace – on the trails, your speed will be slower compared to the normal road-running pace. Instead, consider slowing the pace down and developing the trail tempo. Run by your effort level, by the tune of body, and the heart rate.

For newer trails, you may have to walk hills and then run the flats and downhills. There is no shame in this. Build up running up the hills slowly. This will help you prevent both injury and burn out.

7. Trek with Poles

Trekking poles are not just ideal when you are backpacking. If you are wondering why you would need to use trekking poles when trail running, you have to keep in mind that you may come across overly steep mountainous or hilly trails.

Using the trekking poles in these areas will help reduce the tear and wear of your body and boost the hill-climbing strength. Four legs are basically much better compared to only 2 legs.

The poles will help reduce the impact on your hips and knees. As an added advantage, it will help you burn more calories.

8. Build Strength and Balance

One thing that most trail running beginners do not understand is that trail running often requires a lot of body strength and balance. To improve your performance on the trail runs, consider spending some time doing some balance and strength exercises. You should include these exercises in your regimen 2 to 3 times every week.

You can use a wide range of exercises to boost stability and strength in your muscles. Examples of the exercises you can consider trying include single-leg squats, lunges, dips, push-ups, deadlifts, calf raises, etc. Also, you can consider using BOSU or a wobble board to develop the ankle and foot stability and strength.

When getting started with the above exercises, you may find it tough to get the results you are looking for. If this is the case, consider working with someone who is more experienced.

9. Ensure Proper Recovery

This is one of the trail running tips that most trail running beginners learn the hard way. At first, it is often tempting to hit the trails more frequently. While you may think that this will help you improve quickly, this is generally not the case. You need to allow enough time for recovery.

Trail running, especially technical and hilly runs, often tax the runner’s body more than he or she can actually feel. In most instances, when you run long and hard on the roads, you may feel it. However, when you run on the trails, you may not feel it because of the unforgiving terrain.

Be sure to weave in trail runs once every week at first. If you need to run more on the trails every week, progress slowly by adding one more trail run per week every 2 to 3 weeks, depending on how quickly your body recovers.

10. Be One with the Hill

When you are going up the hill, take short and quick steps. Some hills are meant to be walked, especially when they are on more technical trails. If you feel your ego disagreeing with this, calm it down by telling it that a lot of ultra-runners usually walk the hills and then run the flats and downs – it is basically a trail thing and it is 100% okay to walk.

For the gradual downs on groomed trails, be sure to lean into the downhill, open up your strides, and allow the hill to pull you down.

For the technical steep hills or downhills, you must use a stair-stepping motion – move in a similar motion as you would when you are running down a flight of stairs. On a flight of stairs, you would keep the torso tall, letting the legs do all the work. Apply the same technic on the technical and steep trails.

If you need added balance, be sure to use your arms. Keeping the arms a little bit wider should improve the balance on the technical trails featuring roots and rocks. The added balance becomes extremely useful when you have to clear the tree roots and rocks without falling.

Globo Surf Overview

If you have been running on the road for a long time and you are looking for something more exciting, hitting the trails may be a great option. When you hit the trails for the first time, you will end up noticing that the trails are extremely different – the technical trails will feature roots and rocks. Watching where you are going can help you avoid falling and ending up with injuries. While your road-running shoes may offer good performance on the groomed trails, you will need to consider investing in trail-specific shoes if you have to explore the technical routes.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!