There’s no better time than the present to join the more than 8 million Americans who’re crazy about trail running. Massachusetts in May has the perfect weather (a daytime average of 71 degrees F), and hundreds of scenic routes, from Barker Road Trail to Bay Colony Rail Trail.
Whether you’re an experienced marathoner or a couch potato following doctor’s orders to get active, trail running delivers big rewards. As avid runners ourselves, we at Central Massachusetts Podiatry speak (and write) from experience.
Benefits of trail running
Trail running is good medicine for the body, mind, and soul. Among the reasons, it:
- Is easier on your joints and tendons. The lower impact surfaces of dirt, wood chips, grass, and gravel, versus asphalt, minimize shin splints, arthritis, and other joint issues.
- Builds core, leg, and ankle strength. Rugged surfaces exercise muscles, tendons, and ligaments differently than running on paved streets or a treadmill. Trail running also increases cardiovascular capacity and strengthens your quads, glutes, calves, and core. Additionally, having to navigate rocks and roots puts your balance to the test.
- Offers psychological benefits. You’ll bond with the sights and smells of nature, plus enjoy better air quality and less noise than on city or suburban streets. “Green exercise” reduces stress, restores mental fatigue, and improves mood, according to a study published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine.
- Burns more calories (10% more) than running on a traditional track.
Trail running tips
Now that we’ve convinced you to give trail running a try, here are five tips to ensure your adventure is safe, as well as, fun:
- Research your trail, so you know the terrain and distance you’ll be running
- Watch your step. Stop and enjoy the views but while running keep your eyes on the trail, to avoid tripping over roots, rocks, and critters.
- Bring water, either in hydration packs, a hydration vest, or water bottles (best carried in a waist pack). You should have 6-8 oz for every 20 minutes you run.
- Wear moisture-wicking clothing. Instead of slow-to-dry cotton or wool, you’ll want to stick with shirts, shorts, and socks made of synthetic materials.
- Wear sunscreen of at least a 30 SPF.
- Invest in trail running shoes. They’re thicker, sturdier, and offer better traction and protection than regular running shoes.
How to choose your shoes?
The first step is to decide what type of trail you plan to run. There are three main categories of coinciding shoes. These are:
- Light trail shoes that are made for uniform surfaces. This includes gravel paths and fire roads. Light trail shoes provide moderate protection from the elements, and are lightweight to enable a fast pace.
- Rugged trail shoes are made for running on rougher, varied trails, including those with steep descents, roots, and rocks. These shoes boast sturdy materials and construction, substantial cushioning, and superior traction.
- Off-trail shoes offer all the features of rugged-trail shoes but are even more durable. They’re designed to tackle any surface and all elements, including water.
Make sure to try shoes on with the socks you plan to wear when running, break them in around the house first, then hit the trail.