An Introduction to Trail Running

Running in the Alps

Trail running is one of the fastest growing running disciplines in the UK and is a great excuse to get out in the hills allowing you to cover bigger than normal distances and get fit in the process. Trail running allows you to explore the hills in a different way, moving swiftly it brings freedom and endless views, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Running through woods

At its heart, trail running is very simplistic, all you need is a pair of decent shoes, and the motivation to get out and explore. From your local suburban park paths, to the fells of the Lake District or mountains of Scotland and beyond, the options are endless.

Rough ground and increased twists and turns can seem tough at first, but regularly heading off-road will help you cultivate stronger ankles, knees and quads, solid core stability, and a sharper running technique.

If you are sticking to your local park and summer running then your usual road shoes should be fine, but on more technical ground and in wetter conditions you will want to look at a trail specific shoe, perhaps something like the Salomon XA-Pro or La Sportiva Wild Cat.

Lovely Lakeland trails

A trail shoe will have increased traction, to grip in wet and muddy conditions, toe bumpers to protect your toes from rocks and roots and a more durable fabric to help keep mud and water out. A slightly lower heel allows for more ankle flexibility and cushioning is reduced as trail running is much softer than pounding the concrete.

Beyond this your normal running clothing will crossover from town to trail. For longer runs you need to make sure you carry a protective layer in case the weather turns nasty so you may wish to use a small rucksack or hydration pack, maybe something like the CamelBak Octane XCT 3 or Osprey Talon 8. If you are heading to more remote areas its worth carrying a mobile phone, a map (you can always cut it down to just the area you need), compass and whistle and a couple of energy gels.

Running in the Lakes

The UK is full of potential trails, all you need is an OS map, a compass and a little imagination… But if you aren’t ready to head out on your own, then speak to your local running club, most will have at least a few members running off road regularly.

Having to navigate and move over challenging terrain, takes your mind of the running, meaning that runs seem much shorter and more interesting than regular pavement pounding. Trail running is much more about enjoyment than numbers, so don’t focus too heavily on how fast and far you are running, instead focus on where you are and the views surrounding you!

This is all you need to head out and hit the trails, as your new found passion develops you might want to look at entering one of the many trail races that are springing up all over the country! Let us know how you get on and if you have any tips for aspiring trail runners we would love to hear them!

Ridge Running


  • I wish there were more trails by my house. I resort to running on concrete, which isn’t exactly good for the body. Have you ever tried trail running in the winter with fresh snow? That is hard! 🙂

    • I love running in the winter, my favorite time is early January mornings, splashing through half frozen muddy puddles! It’s hard switching from trail running to city running, a change I’ve had to make recently, but I still aim to get out most weeks running in the hills, which makes up for all the concrete pounding!

  • Rob

    Here’s Anton Krupicka on why he runs trails – one of my favourite explorations of its appeal:

    • Thanks for the link, interesting reading!