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How to Switch From Running Track to Running Trails While Minimizing the Risk of Injury

by | Apr 14, 2023

This article was read 3439 times. Enjoy!

How to Switch From Running Track to Running Trails While Minimizing the Risk of Injury

Mastering the Art of Trail Running

Welcome to the world of trail running! If you’re a seasoned track runner looking to switch to running trails, you’re in for an exciting and rewarding experience. Trail running offers a different set of challenges and rewards compared to running on a track. In this post, I’ll share some tips on how to switch from running track to running trails while minimizing the risk of injury.

Understanding the Differences Between Track Running and Trail Running

The first step to a successful transition from track to trails is to understand the key differences between the two types of running. Trail running requires a different skillset and mindset compared to running on a track. Here are some of the key differences:

  1. Uneven terrain: Unlike tracks, trails have uneven terrain, which requires you to adjust your stride and foot placement constantly.

  2. Varied inclines and declines: Trail running involves hills, which require you to develop different muscles and techniques than those used in track running.

  3. Obstacles: Trails are filled with rocks, roots, and other obstacles that you need to navigate around. This requires increased attention and agility.

  4. Weather: Trail running takes place in natural environments where weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared for rain, mud, and other challenging conditions.

Building a Strong Foundation

Before you hit the trails, it’s important to build a strong foundation. This means gradually increasing your mileage and intensity over time. Here are some tips to help you build a strong foundation:

  1. Start slow: Don’t try to run as far or as fast as you did on the track. Start with shorter runs at a slower pace.

  2. Gradually increase distance: Increase your mileage gradually, adding no more than 10% per week.

  3. Focus on strength training: Trail running requires more strength and stability than track running. Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to build a strong foundation.

  4. Improve your balance: Trail running requires more balance than track running. Incorporate balance exercises into your routine to improve your stability.

Mastering Technique

Technique is everything when it comes to trail running. Here are some tips to help you master the technique:

  1. Shorten your stride: Shortening your stride will help you maintain your balance and avoid tripping on obstacles.

  2. Land softly: Trail running requires a softer landing to avoid injury. Try to land softly on the balls of your feet.

  3. Look ahead: Keep your eyes focused on the trail ahead of you to anticipate obstacles and changes in terrain.

  4. Use your arms: Your arms are your secret weapon in trail running. Use them to maintain your balance and propel yourself forward.

Selecting the Right Gear

Choosing the right gear is essential for trail running. Here are some tips to help you select the right gear:

  1. Trail running shoes: Invest in a good pair of trail running shoes that provide adequate support, stability, and traction. Look for shoes with a durable outsole that can handle rocky terrain.

  2. Appropriate clothing: Dress appropriately for the weather and trail conditions. Wear moisture-wicking clothing that keeps you dry and comfortable.

  3. Hydration: Carry a hydration pack or water bottle with you on the trail. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially on longer runs.

  4. Sun protection: Protect your skin from the sun by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Mind Your Environment

Trail running is a unique experience that takes you through natural environments. It’s important to respect the environment and the other trail users. Here are some tips to help you mind your environment:

  1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to designated trails to minimize your impact on the environment.

  2. Respect wildlife: Give wildlife their space and avoid disturbing them. If you encounter a wild animal, stay calm and back away slowly.

  3. Share the trail: Be courteous to other trail users. Yield to hikers and runners going uphill, and let faster users pass you on the trail.

Cross-Training for Trail Running

Trail running requires more than just running. Here are some cross-training exercises that can help you improve your trail running:

  1. Cycling: Cycling is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness and build leg strength without putting stress on your joints.

  2. Yoga: Yoga can help you improve your balance, flexibility, and core strength.

  3. Hiking: Hiking is a great way to build endurance and strength while enjoying nature.

  4. Strength training: Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to build overall strength and stability.


Switching from track to trail running can be a challenging and rewarding experience. With these tips, you can minimize the risk of injury and enjoy the unique challenges and rewards of trail running. Remember to build a strong foundation, master your technique, choose the right gear, mind your environment, and cross-train to improve your overall fitness. Happy trail running!

Patrick Michel

Endurance Runner – Marketing Strategist

Patrick Michel is a Montreal-based endurance runner specializing in long-distance multi-stage charity ultra runs. For almost two decades, he has inspired many to engage in running, get fit and grow stronger physically and mentally. He has also written many articles about running.