The beginners guide to trail running

The Beginners Guide to Trail Running

Now, I’m hardly an expert on this topic, and won’t claim to be. But as someone fairly new to trail running, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt over the past few years.


If you’re starting out on relatively flat and non-technical trails your road shoes will be just fine. Think gravel trails – local friends: Pacific Spirit Park at UBC, Sasamat Lake, and Burnaby Lake are good examples of this. If you’re starting to get into the mountains or more technical terrain with roots or slippery rocks, you’re going to want to invest in some trail shoes. These will help you with grip, and are designed to protect your feet from rocks. Find a Gortex pair if you want them to be waterproof.


If you’re running alone, tell someone where you’re going, which route you’re taking, and what time you expect to be back. This is not a bad idea even if you are running with someone else, especially if you’ll be out of cell service. Some @garminfitness watches have a livetrack feature where you can select up to 50 people to receive an email with a link to track you. (Hint: this is also a handy feature for when you have friends or family who want to follow you at a race). You need to have your phone with you and the Garmin app open for this to work. If you have a Strava premium subscription, their Beacon feature works the same. Some Garmin models also have an incident detection where the device will recognize a fall and send an alert to your emergency contacts with a GPS link to your location – this is a phenomenal feature in my opinion. It has a 5 second countdown so you can cancel out if it goes off accidentally. But if you have a really bad fall and are unconscious, this alert will be sent for you and may save your life.


Forget about it! As mentioned earlier, you’ll be slower than on the road, even on a flatter trail. I struggled personally with this one, feeling like I was ‘too slow’. Don’t worry about your pace, no one else cares. 

👯‍♀️Join a clinic or club

Many running stores have run clinics, and some have trail clinics. Give your local store a call and see if they offer one or can recommend someone who does. You’ll have an experienced leader to share all of their wisdom, and a group of new friends to start your trail running journey with.

🚶🏼‍♀️Walking is okay!

Except we call it power hiking, it sounds cooler that way. Only the super elite are running the entire time. Hike the uphills or the downhills if you need to. You’ll find your rhythm and where you’re most comfortable running and where you need to hike.


Most parks will have a map at the main trailhead to plan out your route, you’ll also find any important information about the trail here. Read the rules, respect the trails, pack out whatever you bring in. Digital options include Trail Forks, Gaia, Fat Maps, All Trails, and more. If you use these to plan a route, make sure to download it to the app so that you can access it without cell service – note, some apps require a subscription to download.

💦 Fuel/hydration

Ensure that you are carrying enough food and water for the amount of time you will be out there, not the distance you plan to cover. This is especially important if you usually use distance to gauge your fuel times when on the road. Trail running is slower than road running, especially if you’ve got some elevation, and you don’t want to be caught without enough fuel on board. A running vest with space to carry water and food is recommended, even if you don’t think you’ll be out very long.

🥳 Have fun!

You’re outside, in nature, and away from the stresses of life. Be present and enjoy it!

Did I miss anything? What’s your best tip for trail running? If you’re new to the trails, let me know if any of these helped you!

Looking to take your running to the next level?

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