How to Get Started with Trail Running

It’s a safe bet that you have seen at least a few people running along the trails you’re hiking along. They come trotting along the trail, making it look easy while wearing a tiny backpack then go bouncing off with a cheery hello.

Have you ever considered becoming one of those people? Honestly, it’s just glorified hiking. The elites are superhuman, but the average ultra runner hikes uphill then runs the downhills + flat sections. Or at least that’s my version of trail running + I’ve even survived a few ultra marathon races doing exactly that.

I guess what I’m saying is…you can be a trail runner.

It’s simple, you don’t need more gear + if you can coordinate a hiking trip you can definitely survive a short trail run. Unlike most sports you don’t need heaps of new gear to get started with trail running. Let’s cover the basic items you may consider necessities when you take on trail running.

Clothes

Depending upon the weather you’re venturing out into, the clothing is variable. In general, you’ll need shorts + a shirt, preferably of the running variety. Wicking material is great with light options for summer running + thicker layers for winter adventures. If you’re a hiker you already have the majority of these clothes, it’s just a matter of doing a different activity in them.

Shoes

You don’t need special trail running shoes, especially for your first few jaunts, if you own a pair of running shoes. Anything you’re already comfortable running in will work just fine on basic trails. Generally speaking, this does not include hiking shoes or boots. Footwear geared specifically toward hiking will be too stiff for running, which will lead to very clunky form + general discomfort.

Eventually you may want to add some trail specific shoes into your life + when that time comes there are quite literally dozens upon dozens of options. You can dig deeper into the technicalities when you get there…first, just go run with what you have.

Hydration Packs

If you’re heading into the wilderness you’ll want to take water with you. Even if you are only planning on a 30 minute adventure I would *strongly* recommend you get yourself a hydration pack to carry along some water [+ snacks!]. TETON Sports offers the TrailRunner 2.0 hydration pack which is great for beginners. It provides room for your hydration bladder, snacks + a few basic trail safety items.

As you decide to venture out further you’ll be able to add more ‘necessities’ to your pack, such as chapstick, bio bags, tissues, back-up snacks, small first aid kit + more.

Trail Etiquette

As a responsible hiker you are already quite versed in responsible trail use, but there are a few things worth mentioning again. Some of these things apply directly to the faster trail users…such as runners.

Uphill always has right of way. Hikers yield to horses, bikers yield to hikers + horses, horses always have right of way. Keep your dog on leash on in your immediate control. Say hello + be friendly with other trail users. Pick up after your dog…+ yourself!

Don’t let micro-trash fall out of your pockets or pack when you’re grabbing snacks or adjusting pockets. This includes things like the little pieces of candy wrappers that come loose when you open a bag. Also, there will come a time when you need to take a bathroom break on the trail…go for it, but do it responsibly! Go off trail, bury your business + pack out any tissues [or socks, on bad days] that you use!


These basic things will get you started out on the trails as a runner. You may hate it, you may fall in love…but at the very least, you’ll know you tried it. This will give you more respect for the runners, or at least a bit of empathy for their sweaty adventures.

About the Author

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Heidi Kumm

Heidi Kumm is a trail runner, world traveler, mountain climber, and all around adventure enthusiast. She is so stoked on adventure that she has made it her career as the owner of Adventure Feet First, a travel company that focuses on getting people outside to explore the world around them. Over the past years Heidi has spent months living abroad, volunteering around the world, living out of a van/car/truck, and finding new ways to explore on foot, by bike, or with a backpack. She has learned the ins and outs of self propelled exploration the hard way, so she's here to help us learn from her mistakes and to help us become more informed on how to make your own mistakes, safely.