Trail Running Basics

Got Trails?

Welcome to the world of trail running where nature meets the feet. Trail running has become increasingly popular over the years. There are thousands of trails that span the United States and within the Northern California region, trails are plentiful. Folsom Lake State Park Recreation Area is home to many spectacular running trails. The Auburn State Recreation Area and trails are breathtaking in scenery and provide a challenge for both beginners and novices alike.

Folsom State Parks

Auburn State Parks

Benefits of trail running

Trail running provides many benefits. Trail running is a total body workout for both the body and mind. Some of the benefits are strength in your core and back, and upper and lower body flexibility. The mind also is able to strengthen and simply relax because the trails provide a serene environment without the noise and congestion of cars and stoplights. One of the most advantageous benefits of incorporating trail running in to any program is that of lowering the risk of injury. The soft dirt of the trail provides a cushion for the body and joints versus the pounding of the pavement and concrete from road running. Trail running also allows an athlete to add variety in to their program and take a break mentally and physically from monotonous road miles.


Head on in to Fleet Feet Sports Fair Oaks and Roseville and ask their knowledgeable staff on fitting you in to the proper running or trail shoes. A road shoe can be worn on the trail. However, if the trail has a lot of technical and rooty sections (tree trunk roots embedded in the trail or rocks) you may want to consider moving in to a trail shoe which will give even more stability in the foot and ankle area to prevent injury on the trail. Many of the footwear companies make lightweight trail shoes that feel supportive and more stable than a road shoe.


  • Breathable running shorts
  • Pockets in the shorts are also a good idea and added bonus for carrying fuel such   as GU’s/energy gels and bars and other items (key’s, iPOD) on the trail.
  • Singlet, technical t-shirt and sports bra for women.
  • Technical visor or hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Watch
  • Dri-fit Socks or Trail Socks i.e. Balega Trail Socks
  • Fanny pack to carry food


Nutrition is often overlooked when running trails. It’s crucial to eat a snack or light meal that is high in carbohydrates about 30-60 minutes prior to running.

Examples include:

  • Banana
  • Toast and peanut butter
  • Energy bar
  • Yogurt with granola

During the run it is important to take in 100 calories per each 30 minutes of running. Energy gels, such as GU, Clif Shots, Power Gels, Carbboom, provide the necessary fuel to keep your body and energy levels sustained. After 60 minutes of trail running, it is suggested to take in solid foods such as a Clif Bar, Power Bar, Luna Bar for additional calories and wholesome nutrients. Succeed tablets (electrolyte tablets) are also vital to take when out for long distances on the trail.

For trail runs over one hour, it is necessary to eat solid foods such as:

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Energy Bars

Your body needs solid food to help nourish, sustain and provide the energy to keep going. The longer the distance on the trail, the more food you need to ingest.


  • Hand held water bottle or torso back that holds 1-2 bottles. Most hand held bottles can hold 16-20 oz of liquid. For trail runs over one hour, it is recommended to carry two bottles.
  • Camelback is also a good option if you prefer to wear something on your back versus your waist or carry in your hands.
  • Depending on the length of the run will determine how many bottles to carry.
  • Aim to drink about 8-12oz every 15-20 minutes. Increase fluid intake on hot days. However, even on cool and overcast days, it is important to intake and monitor fluids.
  • Try to plan your route by a water fountain to fill up along the trail.
  • For distances over one hour, plan to use sports and electrolyte drinks such as GU20, Nuun, G2 to help replace sodium loss and keep your hydrated.

Trail Tactics

If you’ve never run on trails before, there are some differences to road running. The trail terrain is not an even surface, therefore, running the same stride and rhythm will be difficult. Also, trail terrain can be a lot of rolling hills both up and down and therefore dictate the changes of pace in your run. Most trail runners begin by power walking the uphill’s and running the flats and downhill sections. Remember that your body will be sore and ache in the beginning because you are using new muscles. Also, your overall pace will slow down because of technical terrain and hills. The mindset for trail running is that time on your feet is more important than quickness of pace.

Trail Training

  • Find a group to run with. - Fleet Feet Trail Training Group
  • Run with buddies for safety.
  • Be patient with your training on the trail.
  • Have fun and remember to enjoy the views!

Great Trail websites

Tales of the Trail
Articles written by: Julie Fingar