Form is slightly different in trail running. With the added toughness trails bring, you can’t simply run like a shuffling metronome. If you do, be prepared to kiss dirt. Trail running demands varied leg speed and stride length, as well as a slightly exaggerated heel lift to your stride to avoid kicking roots and rocks.
As in power hiking, keeping your chest over your knees and knees over toes is vital. Keep your feet UNDER you. Your feet should be active and your stride should be quick. When first learning, slow down your speed on descents and work on footwork. Maintain quick, active feet without going fast.
In technical conditions, read the terrain by scanning ahead 30-40 meters, then directly in front of you again for the snapshot of the next 10-20 feet. Constantly repeat. It will be extremely engaging.
Another stride cue I like to think about when running an especially technical trail is “heel to hamstring.” That movement pattern will keep your heels high and avoid catching a toe. Also, when the terrain is technical or steep, keep your stance slightly wider and be prepared to make small, quick side-to-side movements. For those runners that have played sports like soccer, football, or basketball — think of making mini-jukes and cuts as you descend down the trail. Again, always keep your feet under you and don’t overstride.
With these beginner tips for trail running, you’ll soon be ascending and descending the trail like a pro mountain runner. You too can follow a winding dirt path through the trees over rocks and roots and hop over a log while a deer crosses your path, and the birds sing. My, oh my, the trails are where it’s at. Remember to have fun, take time to check out the wildlife and views, and breathe in the serenity of the trail far from the choking emissions of the concrete jungle. Giddyup!
About the Author
Jeff Browning is a veteran ultra-runner and ultra-endurance coach. At 50 years old, he still likes to rip it up. You can learn more about him, his adventures, and his coaching at GoBroncoBilly.com or Instagram: @GoBroncoBilly