Thinking of switching from road to trail. Advice please!

I've only just Graduated and I'm nowhere near the 5k so my plan was to work towards that - increasing speed/time until I achieve the distance and then cut down the time. That was the plan.

However, having done another week of running (32 minutes this time - whoa!) I'm thinking of changing to trail running. Why? I live in a rural area and there's only three roads out of my village - one of which is do dangerous it's not viable. So, to cut to the (steeple?) chase, I'm getting bored running along the same roads all the time. However, with better weather on the way (perhaps) I have many footpaths at my disposal and I wondered whether I'd be better motivated if I started running those instead of sticking to ashphalt.

I've absolutely no experience of trail-running apart from the cross-country running I did as a schoolboy fifty years ago! It looks like it requires more effort, more concentration needed to see where you're going to put your feet and potentially easier to pick up injuries, especially if the going is wet and muddy which it certainly is at the moment. I would also imagine that at most times you would need proper trail shoes for grip so there are quite a few considerations to mull over before I decide to go down that path (see what I dd there :-))

Anyone made the switch or perhaps I can do both? Does that work? All contributions gratefully received!


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12 Replies

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  • First and foremost yes, you will need trail shoes. With loose ground, mud and wet grass you need the extra traction and deeper tread. They don't have to be expensive ones though, as the forces going through your joints on softer ground are significantly reduced.

    I certainly find trail running to be much harder aerobically than running on the road. I think that we all have a higher knee lift on uneven/rough ground which expends more energy.

    You can, of course, do both.

  • Hi there Tractorman, I run mostly trails, same issues as you really, the roadside paths 'run' out (๐Ÿ˜‰), and the traffic etc., is not so pleasant. Trails will certainly strengthen your feet/ankles etc.,.

    Normal running shoes should be fine for most trails, - public footpaths, bridleways and byways. I've recently bought some 'hybrid' shoes (designed by triathletes apparently.....) mainly because I wanted to continue on the trails as long as possible - had to stop about November last year when it got too wet. This year I haven't had to stop at all, although I don't think it's been as wet, so the bridleways haven't got as churned up.

    Trail shoes are harder, not ideal for running too long on road, but a 'hybrid' should take you through both - I wouldnt use these shoes for a road only run.

    It does take a bit of time to build that strength and confidence for off road running, but it's so much better! ๐Ÿ˜„, much nicer things to look at. Try it in the shoes you have first, they should be fine on most trails, just don't expect to go as quick as you do on road - and actually, you're likely to get quicker on road as a result.........๐Ÿ˜„

    Good luck, I hope you enjoy it!


  • Go for it - trail running is fun and challenging (but in a nice way!). It sounds like you have lots of tracks and paths to explore so get out there! Trail shoes are a good idea but don't have to be expensive as long as they have extra grip. Another incentive is that trail running you are likely to get LESS injuries, it is better for the body. I will try and find a link to an article I read the other day..... but others on this forum will be able to explain better than me! All the best, have fun.

  • Trail running largely takes away the worst aspect of road running - that is , our fascination/compulsion/obsession about pace. Trouble is with road running is that all distances are measurable - so if somebody runs say 10K, there then arises the "need" to compare the time taken to run this 10K against either somebody else's time or our own past time. This largely doesn't happen with trail running - and nor does the compulsion to run "without stopping" - I wish I had a Dollar for every time I have read someone say something like " I was so proud of myself - I didn't stop once during the entire run/race" . They don't talk about how doing this caused them to slow down so much that their running gait became a danger to themselves :)

  • I very much recommend running on softer ground as your legs recover from C25K. I used to run almost all the time on "trails" and really enjoyed it. You may find it is a bit muddy right now but that is fun too. I feel trail running gives your legs a real workout but without the hard ground impact.

  • I graduated nearly 5 years ago... this week was the first time I've done a substantial (5K) run on (mostly) tarmac! I have yet to (always a first time) sustain an injury, other than a few bramble scratches. I have however had to dig my shoes out of bogs whilst I hop about in my socks.

    I generally prefer minimalist trail shoes, which really help you feel what you are doing, but have Brooks Cascadia which are a bit beefier for longer runs on hard packed trails. 'Off road' can mean so many different things. The lugs do wear down too fast though if you are much on the road, hence the place for hybrids.

    One thing to bear in mind is that gait analysis does not, apparently, inform the choice of running shoe if you are going for trail shoes.

  • Just do it. I've been running trails since day dot. Little bitty ones admittedly (around the perimeter of our local park/woods). I find pavement running needs just as much concentration because of raised flagstones. Yep, my trail runs are always slower but that's because I work to the same effort (if that makes sense) not the same speed. I didn't even know there was such a thing a shoes especially for trails untill well after I graduated, I guess to some degree it depends on how traily your trails are but I suggest just try it and see.

    Oh, and enjoy. You'll never go back to just roads again.

  • Of course you can! You can do any kind of running you like. I love trail running! I have trail shoes. There are loads to choose from! You will suss out the terrain to better judge what shoe you'll need, eg mud or one for stony, rocky terrain etc etc. For some trails you can get by with your road shoes but if it's proper countryside and fields then it looks like you will have to splash the cash. You don't need to spend a lot though, there are some bargains to be had

    You will love it. The softer ground is harder work but you will use your arms and upper body more. You do have to watch your foot placement so you do concentrate more at times. Tree roots are the devil, as are low branches etc so you do tend to be slower. Better than pounding the pavements and dodging traffic, pushchairs, kids, dogs, etc etc Mind you on some trails you get those too! It's all good though!

  • Hi Googleme! Which version of Cascadia have you got? I have my original 8's but I can't get any more as they are ancient. Do you like your version? I love mine to bits! I use them for walking the dog too (as I need the grip as he pulls for England!) so they have done some serious mileage. Apparently they are good for 1000 miles, which is a lot for a running shoe. They are ok yet but I was checking out the newer ones but dithering. Ta !

  • I do both, but my heart is on the trailsโค! I often run in my road shoes along the country bridleways, paths and fields where I live but they are a decent pair. I also, like Madge50, have a pair of hybrid shoes for when the ground is bad. They basically take you from road to trail pretty comfortably. Bazza is right, in that we are less fixated on pace out on trails and you certainly do have to look where you are going! That said, it is great for improving balance and strength and the softer ground is kinder on your joints! Give it a go, you won't regret it!๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks everyone, what a great response and now I'll HAVE to give it a crack. I think what bothered me is going away from what I know (the C25K format) which has so brilliantly transformed my state of fitness. I run doggedly for approx' 30 mins on the same bit of road, trying to better my times, almost in a mantra, concentrating on breathing, concentrating on pace. It's worked, it was great but I think now it's time to move on in a different direction.

    At my age (60+) I need to be more careful than younger people regarding care of my joints. Ironically, my lack of exercise in the past probably means that they are in pretty good shape but that's how I'd like them to stay and I have to admit, since I started running my morning aches and pains are in a new league but its a good swap (I think) for my aerobic advances, weight loss and general fitness.

    So, now I'm going to find myself a pair of hybrid running shoes - my preferred routes will require starting and finishing on about 1k of tarmac at either end - and give trail running a crack for both my legs and my sanity's sake!

    This really is a good forum and I try to repay all the responses each day by answering at least a couple of posts from others but there are so many! Very encouraging!

  • Let us know how that first trail run goes!โ˜บ

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