The freedom of trail running is exhilarating, invigorating, and one of the ultimate highs for those who love getting outdoors and experiencing nature. What is trail running? Not confined to the traditional routes of paved streets and sidewalks, trail running is all about you interacting with the rugged terrain mother nature throws your way.

And that’s exactly why trail running requires a greater focus than traditional jogging. If your mind wanders for a minute, that rock, root, or hole will jump out, bite you, and injure you. To help compensate for the uneven terrain, your body will react in different ways, using smaller muscles to stabilize you as you run.

It is critical that you have the proper trail running gear and clothes. Although it requires very little in the way of gear, what you do use should be high quality to help keep you safe and injury-free.

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Best Trail Running Footwear

If your trail running route takes you high into the mountains, across rugged terrain, or an area with potential treacherous weather conditions (such as rain or snow), then you want to choose footwear that can keep your feet protected and ensure you maintain good traction throughout your trek.

The best pair of trail running footwear will provide a combination of performance, comfort, durability, and traction. We’ve mentioned it twice, but traction is a key component because you need it to keep your grip as you navigate unpaved paths and encounter loose rock or even trudge through water hazards.

When it comes to trail running, a good boot/sock combination is like peanut butter and jelly. Look for a pair of socks that fit across your ankle or higher to help protect you from potential injury due to hazards such as poison ivy, thorns, and other debris.

It is critical to keep your feet dry while running, so your socks should be able to wick away sweat and other moisture. Wool is the perfect choice, as it naturally wicks away sweat and keeps your feet cool. 

Best Trail Running Clothes

You hear it often mentioned in the context of outdoor activities and it’s for good reason – layering. Whether you’re camping, hunting, or trail running, outdoor temperatures can fluctuate greatly. A trail run that starts early in the morning may feel cool or downright cold, but an hour later as the sun starts to blaze you’ll be pouring sweat because you’re dressed wrong.

Using layers allows you to easily adapt to changing weather conditions and remain comfortable.

Start off with a moisture-wicking base layer made of synthetic materials. This helps draw away sweat to keep you dry and comfortable. For cooler conditions, add a light jacket on top of the base layer. You may choose to never run in adverse weather conditions, but if you do, look for a jacket that has some level of wind and water resistance.

If it’s summer and the weather is hot, you can rely on just a base layer to help keep you cool. However, for colder conditions, you may also want to invest in a heavier jacket.

For men, training shorts or sweatpants work great, while for women, training shorts and legging-style pants provide comfort and breathability. Another bottom option to consider is shorts or pants with zippered pockets so you can carry necessary items without worrying about them falling out of your pockets and losing them.

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Trail Running Tips and Accessories

Other trail running gear to consider includes a headlamp, hat, sunglasses, and some form of hydration. You can opt for a traditional water bottle which you can carry in one hand as you run. Another option is a backpack-style hydration vest and water bladder. This is ideal for longer runs where you must keep hydrated. 

Preparation is essential before any trail run. Make sure you have water and snacks before you go. Remember to let a friend or family member know where you’ll be running and when so if something happens to you, they have a way to find and help you. 

And most importantly, enjoy your run!