Beginner’s Guide To Trail Running: Keeping It Fun & Simple

Chamonix - Trail & Kale - Photography by Alastair Dixon

Beginner’s guide to trail running: What do I need to know before I hit the trails?

There’s loads of information on the internet (and our blog!) on trail running – but in this post, the ‘Beginner’s guide to trail running’, we have kept things simple:

We’ve summarised the key things you REALLY need to know before running on trails for the first time.

Once you get hooked, then come back for some more in-depth advice, kit reviews and inspiration 🙂

1. What shoes to wear trail running

Beginner's guide to trail running
Find some good all-round trail shoes.

What you should know now:

Don’t get hung up on shoe choice to start out. Find some good all-round trail shoes. Nothing too extreme (either too minimal or really chunky), just a moderate tread, a moderate drop and some cushioning. Or if, you’re not going anywhere too uneven, muddy or rocky then just wear your normal running shoes to start with.

When you’re hooked and want to know more, read:

2. What clothes to wear trail running

Beginner's guide to trail running
If you’re not going far and the weather is mild, any road running kit will be fine on the trails, too.

What you should know now:


Don’t run out and buy a load of ‘trail running clothes’ straight away, unless you want to and have the cash. We LOVE trail running kit, don’t get me wrong! But when you’re new to it, just wear your normal running clothes. If you aren’t running anywhere with extreme weather/climate or for long periods of time, then you don’t need special clothing.

When you’re hooked and want to know more, read:

Related Post:
The Freedom of Barefoot Running: How-To Guide

3. How to find trails to run on

Beginner's guide to trail running
Marked running trails in Coed y Brenin forest park

What you should know now:

Until you get more experience in terms of how you handle different types of terrain, ascents and weather conditions, I would strongly recommend you choose trails in parks or popular places with well-marked paths, facilities (toilets, rangers, drinking fountains, cafes) or a fun local trail race, rather than heading up the most remote mountain or coast path you can find. This is for safety’s sake, and also as you may not have accumulated all the recommended safety kit and clothing needed to help keep you safe somewhere remote/exposed or technical.

Good examples of places to try are popular hiking paths, country parks and local/city parks. Here are some examples:

When you have gained experience and are confident being more adventurous, local hills/small mountains, coastal paths and low-altitude mountain trails are great options. Read these posts for ideas:

4. What to carry trail running

Beginner's guide to trail running
I’m not carrying much for an easy run around a local state park, but the race vest is a great way to carry your essentials, once you’ve splashed out on one. Otherwise, pockets are fine, too!

As with the clothing, initially, you don’t need to take anything special, assuming you stick to local parks and easy trails as a beginner. I would suggest you carry a phone, tissues (both in plastic bags), some cash, snacks and a bottle of water.

When you’re hooked and want to know more, read:

5. How to run on trails

What you should know now:

  • Don’t look at the time, don’t feel you have to run everything (even the pros hike steep uphills)
  • Take it easy and pick your feet up
  • Look ahead of you to scan for obstacles to help plan your next few steps
  • Focus on maintaining good posture and form, especially when running up and downhill

When you’re hooked and want to know more, read:

Our trail runner interviews series, which is packed with great advice from other trail runners, including pro mountain runners such as Nicky Spinks, Anna Frost and Max King, through to other people who are relatively new (and now hooked) on trail running (have a read of James Scott and Ross Spalding’s interviews as examples).

Also check out our advice section which includes running tips, such as what to eat before, during and after your run.

Happy trails!

Let us know if you have any questions about taking up trail running in the comments below! Also, if you a more experienced runner, please share any other great tips for new trail runners 😉

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