For nature-loving runners, nothing beats the beauty and thrill of trail running. On top of the potentially stunning views, wildlife spotting, and ample fresh air, a running trail also supplies the unique advantage of an all-natural terrain. Bring on the mud and steep hills! Indeed, unlike street running, off-road running is a bit unpredictable and a lot more demanding, which means you’re going to need some special gear to get started.
Here’s our list of essential trail running gear to help keep you safe, focused, and well-paced on your next trail adventure. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to go out and buy a ton of new stuff. If you’re already a runner, you’re probably halfway to a solid stash of trail running essentials. Here’s what you need to get started.
- First Things First: Trail Running Shoes
Arguably the most critical piece of trail running gear for beginners is a pair of trail running shoes. The terrain out on the path is a whole lot different than that of the road or treadmill, and your shoes are your first line of defense. Choose a pair designed specifically for trail running — that is, a pair that can handle mud, unexpected rocks, steep grades, and roots. These purpose-built shoes generally have more grip to keep you sure-footed on uneven terrain, as well as a more rigid, durable construction to help them stay in good shape even after miles of tough runs.
- A Bumping Playlist: A Phone Armband
For a few key reasons we’ll get to in a moment, you don’t want to embark on any trail running journey without your phone. This is where a high-quality phone armband comes into play. Unlike a standard street or gym session, when you go trail running, you’re presumably heading to a relatively remote location. You want to have your phone handy at all times in case you get lost and need guidance or have to call for help. Make sure that when you pick an armband, you read up on the customer reviews to know it really does deliver.
Pro tip: If you’re heading off the grid in hiking areas, a forest, or on remote running or walking trails, download the map area where you plan to run so you can access maps without cell service.
There are a few more important reasons why you want to make an investment in a good running armband. These wearable wonders allow you to access your most encouraging playlists to help push yourself to go the extra mile, no matter how hard the terrain. Whether your idea of a good trail running playlist is pumped-up hip hop or total Zen, it doesn’t matter as long as it gets you moving!
Finally, remember that your phone is fragile, and a trail in the woods or mountains may bring some extra hazards you hadn’t considered. Choose a protective running phone case that shields your expensive device from sweat, dirt, drops, and moisture. And one that won't slip down your arm as you make your way through tough terrain.
- Hydration Station: Bring your water!
There are a couple of considerations when it comes to water and trail running. Often, off-road running puts athletes into the unique position of conquering a distance goal. Unlike the road or treadmill, which go on forever, the trail is a finite path that you’ll feel challenged to complete. On top of that, there's a pretty low chance that you’ll find a drinking fountain deep in the woods. Combined, these factors can mean limited access to H2O, and we all know how risky that can be.
To ensure that you always stay properly hydrated on the trail, even when you’re far off the grid, bring enough water for the distance. If you’re going on a relatively short trail run, a water bottle with a hand strap could be plenty. Longer runs or hotter weather may require a hydration backpack.
- Light Up the Trail: Running Lights
Be sure to add on-the-go lighting to your arsenal of women’s and men’s trail running gear. While it may seem superfluous if you strictly run during the day, an LED safety light will help keep you visible and light the pathway in low-lit conditions. If you find yourself traversing through dark caves and caverns, under sunless canopies of trees or in the midst of a dark rainstorm, you’ll be glad you have a running light to guide the way.
Be Prepared for Anything
Whether you’re looking for men’s or women’s running gear for the trail or hiking, you need to focus on one priority above all else: preparation. Trail running is, at its core, a sport of endurance in the wilderness, so you need to consider all the risks and situations that could come with that. If you’re properly prepared, you can count on a challenging, enjoyable, and safe experience.