All the Tips and Gear You Need for Trail Running

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Want to transition to trail running but not sure how? We share tips and the gear you need to ensure your trail running experiences are fun and safe.

Running is an incredible way to get exercise and work off the stress of your day. Logging miles on a fitness app is a feat that makes every runner feel accomplished.

Some people prefer the ease of a paved road or sidewalk, where you only have to be alert for traffic and the occasional pothole. Others love the relaxation and beauty of running on trails.

If you’ve always hit the roads during your running career and now you’re interested in moving to trails, it’s not an immediate transition. You must do a few things differently to switch from pavement to nature safely.

This guide is full of quick tips to help you decide if trail running will be your next favorite exercise.

Get the Right Trail Gear

Trail running is a run in nature. It requires a little more attention and concentration than blazing through paved roads.

As long as you’re outside and off the beaten path, you’re trail running. But the gear you need depends on the elevation of the geography where you’re running.

Not having the right gear can be dangerous and painful. For instance, you can’t use asphalt athletic sneakers on a bumpy trail.

Some of the best gear to have when you start trail running include:

  • Trail running shoes
  • Shorts or running pants with pockets
  • A hydration pack
  • Trekking poles in elevated areas
  • Lightweight clothes
  • A windbreaker
  • Healthy snacks
  • A compass

Once you have gathered this gear, it’s time to learn the basics of what to do when you’re on the trail.

Learn Trail Etiquette

Chances are, you’re not going to be the only person traversing the local trails. Many will have other runners, hikers, bikers, and possibly even horse riders.

You need to know the rules to follow when you come across other trail users.

Trail etiquette rules are pretty much common sense, but if you don’t know them, you could get hurt or injure someone else.

When you’re running on a trail, follow these guidelines:

Be Alert

A lot of runners use Bluetooth headphones to stay pumped up with music or listen to podcasts. In theory, this is a good idea. But in reality, it keeps you from hearing that warning shout from someone out of control on a bike or a horse behind you.

You don’t notice the little snaps and cracks of an animal sneaking around nearby. It’s not safe to drown out the sounds around you. You need to be alert at all times.

Don’t Go Off the Trail

There’s a trail for a reason. It’s a path that you can travel and feel reasonably safe. If something happens, help can find you easier on the trail. But if you veer off, you’re on your own.

Staying on the trail also helps preserve the nature around you. Leaving the pathway destroys habitats. You probably don’t know the endangered flora and fauna in the area well enough to carefully avoid them. The best way to keep nature the way it should be is to stay on the trail.

Do Not Litter or Damage the Environment

There’s a saying in a lot of natural preserves that goes, “Take nothing but pictures (or memories) and leave nothing but footprints.”

You know that feeling when you’re in a serene environment, and you see a soda can or other trash? Don’t be ‘that person.’ Keep a small trash bag in your pack and store your wrappers and other debris until you can properly dispose of it.

Know the Passing Lanes

In general, the rule for runners is to stay on the right side of the trail. If you must pass, pass on the left. Don’t go off the shoulder to get around someone.

They’re simple but fundamental rules. If you don’t follow them and enjoy the trail frequently, you may be  ‘tattled on’ by other runners. The goal is to keep the trail system safe and clean for everyone.

Know the Trail’s Ins and Outs

If you’ve never run (or walked) a trail before, you might be unpleasantly surprised when you park your car at the entrance and find the exit is miles away.

The trails you have in your area depend on your topography. In general, though, the types of trails are similar everywhere. You’ll find abandoned paths you should avoid and closed trails that are unsafe or are under construction.

Different types of active trails include:

  • Unmaintained or primitive paths that you take at your own risk
  • Social trails that lead from one point to a particular destination, such as a bathroom
  • Boot paths (also called footpaths) that are worn from years of use, and an organization does not maintain them
  • Developed trails with signs and markers (make sure you pay attention to the entrance and exit points

As you get familiar with trail running in different locations, you’ll learn the symbols to read maps and pick your areas.

Choose Your Trail Based on Ability, Not Proximity

Maybe your town has a local trail that you want to use regularly.

Never start a run on a trail you haven’t researched. Some are more difficult than others, and if the terrain is surprisingly challenging, your chance of injury increases.

Use a site like to gauge the reviews and pick a trail based on your ability. Slowly, you can increase the difficulty as you get used to running in nature.

Trail Running Safety

You’re going to trip. You’re going to fall. You’re going to get hurt. It’s all part of the fun and exertion of trail running.

The trick is to learn how to do all of this safely.

You might’ve found yourself laughing at backpackers and other trail runners as they load up their first aid kits. But when you’re in the middle of the woods, it’s much better to be safe than sorry!

You don’t have to make first aid packing complicated, and your pack should not be cumbersome.

When you make up your go-to kit, be sure it is lightweight but has the following items:

  • A headlamp
  • An SOS-triggering satellite phone
  • An emergency whistle
  • A rain poncho
  • An emergency foil blanket
  • Water purification and salt tablets
  • A runner’s first-aid kit
  • Pepper spray, a knife, or another defense weapon

How much weight you carry when you’re running is up to you. With a lightweight backpack, you should be able to add all of these items and keep the total under a few pounds.


Transitioning into trail running is flipping both a physical and mental switch. Going from pavement to an environment ‘in the wild’ means anything can happen.

Your survival skills and your body have to be alert and on point!

But what a rush it is when you blaze through nature instead of sidewalks and roads.

These tips will guide you as you move from the paved road into trail running. If you prepare well ahead, it’s a change you may fall in love with!

Dominique Daniels has five years of Property Management experience working primarily in high-end apartment community living. Her ability to consistently deliver white-glove services to her residents and prospects has propelled her in a successful career that now finds her leading the Tobin Estate Apartments team.

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