Trail running is something that runners can stumble into – sometimes by chance. It can boost morale to run ‘wild’, especially when looking for some relief from road racing. Not to mention, running in nature can be liberating – an escape into big, clean-air, green spaces. But, it can also help to strengthen your road running performance.
Pros and cons of trail running
The challenges of the trail, whether that involves rocky, grassy, or boggy terrain, can feel like a full body work-out. Take running in deep snow or mud – it can feel exhausting! Trail runs can involve high altitudes, obstacles, and undulations, building up muscle strength and endurance. It involves more proprioceptive ability, and that increases neuromuscular efficiency.
There are many benefits to be gained from trail running, including a lower risk of repetitive injuries. But, injuries can occur. The lower limb is the most common area of injury in trail running, normally involving the foot and toe. Ankle sprains can occur due to the uneven running surfaces, but the most common injury is blisters – normally resulting from incorrect footwear.
Tendinopathies can also occur with running on uneven surfaces, as well as with the repetitive stress of long distance running. They can sometimes be precipitated by an ankle sprain. Again, good quality, supportive footwear that is suitable for your running gait is essential for avoiding this injury.
Mixing up road and trail
Profeet’s running ambassador, Pierre Meslet, was a road runner from the age of 12, enjoying 10kms up to marathons. He only discovered the trails 12 years ago when living in Singapore. There he trained for his first trail event, a 55km race involving running up and down an active volcano – Mount Rinjani in Indonesia.
“I made all the mistakes that one can do in that one event.
I got lost, I got cramps, I was dehydrated. I fell down a ravine! It was a shambles, my worst experience!”
But Pierre was determined to learn from his mistakes and master the trail!
Since then, Pierre has taken first place in the Marathon des Sables team event and finished 2nd at the RAT 100km ultra race on the South West Coastal Path. Most recently, he finished 2nd at the Trail de la Côte d’Emeraude in Brittany, France – a 45km trail race along the Emerald Coast with over 1000m of elevation gain.
Pierre believes the strength he has gained from his trail events is transferring to his road accomplishments. Like other athletes, Pierre is integrating trail runs with weekly speed sessions to sharpen up his road performances.
Photo: Pierre Meslet Trail de la Côte d’Emeraude
“It is common to find road runners running off road, often for their recovery runs or when cooling down. Because it’s softer, more gentle on the knees.”
Photo: Pierre Meslet’s Marathon des Sables
Trail footwear that supports you
When starting trail running, the same approach as for choosing road running footwear should be applied for trail shoes. Pierre advises:
Seek advice from a professional who knows about running biomechanics. They’ll analyse your running style in detail, barefoot and with shoes on, on a treadmill equipped with slow motion cameras. Their expertise will be invaluable to you choosing the right footwear.
Profeet has helped me tremendously!”
At Profeet, we can ensure that you have correct supportive trail footwear, for your specific technical terrain needs. For example, when running in cold, or snowy conditions, waterproof trail running shoes, made with Gore-Tex will give added protection.
Also, if needed, custom insoles can be made for you, that can fit snugly in your trail footwear to improve comfort and functionality when you run. You can even leave the Profeet lab equipped with your new shoes and custom insoles together – ready to hit the trails.
“I have custom insoles from Profeet for two reasons. My foot arches are slightly high – so they give extra support on long distances as my feet get tired. The second reason is performance. The foot is set and the heel stays in place, so you get more propulsion and efficiency from the muscle contraction.”
Photo: Pierre Meslet’s custom insoles from Profeet
Also, for preventing blisters, Pierre recommends socks that cushion the heels and toes, specifically with a ‘left’ and ‘right’ foot.