Tips To Switch From Road Running to Trail Running

Many runners are taking to the trails, getting fresh air, and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way. Although it is an exciting change of pace and can be a great way to get fit, trail running can pose a few challenges. It can also prove dangerous for those who are not familiar with the terrain.

Running on the trail is a different experience than running on the roads. Road running may have hills and potholes, but trails have constantly changing terrain with roots, rocks, and rodents. You must quickly divert your attention to maintain your momentum and avoid injuries such as falls or rolled ankles. Fallen leaves can obscure the ground below, so this is particularly important in autumn to be aware of.

These are some tips that will help you do better on the trail.

Use shorter strides

  • Quick, agile and light footing
  • You can be more dynamic and adaptable to changing terrain with shorter movements
  • They prevent too much force being absorbed by one leg    

Keep your shoulders straight

  • Don’t slump forward
  • This allows you to expand your lungs and gives more oxygen to your muscles
  • To ensure your shoulders stay loose and relaxed, it may be helpful to roll or squeeze them during the run.

Use your arms to generate momentum and guide

  • Keep your arms and fists relaxed while pumping your arms and fists to generate momentum. You can also use a wider wingspan (elbows up, fists inward), to maintain balance as you run downhill

Keep your eyes open

  • Be sure to keep your eyesight clear at least 10-15 feet ahead of you on the trail in order to be prepared for any changes or obstacles

Speed-hiking is the best option for uphills

  • Slow down and use your leg strength if the terrain is too long or steep.
  • Help push your legs forward with your hands by pushing into your thighs

To go downhills, lean forward and land on your mid-foot

  • This helps you maintain your center of gravity, balance and speed
  • Running downhill can be dangerous if you land on your heels or toes.

You can improve your balance, reaction speed, and proprioception by doing a simple exercise every day. Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth, close your eyes and ensure a slight bend in your stance knee. For 30 seconds, hold this position and then switch sides. Repeat for 2 minutes. Bonus: Your dentist will be pleased to see you again at your next appointment!

You can get physical therapy without the need for a referral if you take a tumble while on the trail or have joint or muscle pains from running. Contact your Doctors of Physical Therapy here at Pro+Kinetix if you have any questions!

Oakland, CA Pain Management Clinic

Dr. Ben Bagge

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults & Athletes Get Back To Workouts and Sports They Enjoy without surgery, stopping activities they love, or relying on pain medicine."
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