How to Run Trails!

“How to Run Trails!” That’s about as ambitious a post title as you’ll ever see here at iRunFar… but today we share resources from some masters of the sport that we’ve collected over the past few months. While we could throw in our two cents on how to run trails (and likely will), it would be hard to improve on the following expert advice. Note that not all top trail runners agree on the finer points of trail running, so it’s worthwhile to digest more than one take on any subject. Please let us know of any other great resources on how to run trail – this is certainly a work in progress.

How to Run Uphill

  • Trail Running Uphill – Scott Jurek (Video suggesting keeping a neutral pelvis and leaning forward from the ankles – 4:05)
  • Uphill Trail Running – Nancy Hicks (A post suggesting to avoid running on your toes and to find a comfortable cadence)
  • Running Uphill – Karl Meltzer + Scott Mason (Video calling for a faster cadence and reminding that walking is OK- 1:58)

How to Run Downhill

  • Tackling the Downhills – Nikki Kimball (Video suggesting keeping your hips forward and using your arms for balance – 1:15)
  • Running Downhill – Karl Meltzer + Scott Mason (Video reminding you to look ahead for a good line, staying lower to the trail, and conserving momentum – 2:19)

Other Tips and Advice

Did you find any of these links particularly useful, unhelpful, incorrect, or inspiring?

Again, please let us know of any other great resources on how to run trails.

There are 9 comments

  1. AnthonyP

    I immediately came to the post after seeing the title (not that reading iRunFar posts aren't tops on my daily list of things to do anyway). LOL.I've seen the Meltzer/Mason video, but not the others. Thanks for pointing those out.Now you just need to find me a "How to Run Trails at Night!" link !

  2. Trail Goat

    Tony,Glad you liked the post. I'll see what I can do about night trail running info.Colorado Trailrunner,The faster cadence … or at least shorter stride on uphills is great advice for both trails and roads. It's all in the physics of it.

  3. Anonymous

    As resident Zen Master, I see here lots of physical strategies to subdue the moutain through one's control of perceptual-motor processes. However, I do not see many spiritual-mental videos that touch upon strategies to balance one's soul with the soul of the mountain trail. For instance, many runners attempt to conquer mountains, Zen runners let the mountain pull them up in harmony. More posts such as this, please…Anonymous Trail Fool

  4. Trail Goat

    Trail fool,You are indeed correct that the path and the way are already on the mountain for us, we need only let it show itself. However, you should know that the zen way cannot be taught, but only discovered. Who among us can show the way to others when it is not ours to show?Namaste!

  5. RunningMtns

    Great set of links!Here are a few other suggestions:When running downhill for sustained periods of time (as in long races), it is best to decrease your stride length and increase your turnover rate. This gives you better control and reduces the quad-hammering effect of the elliptical muscle contraction that is inevitable when running downhill.On highly technical downhills, it helps to use your abdominal muscles to power occasional lateral moves that may be necessary to deal with trail obstacles and terrain. [This is a STRONG argument for doing core-strengthening exercises.]It isn't just OK to walk long uphills, it is usually faster and more efficient! A strong power hiker (especially with trekking poles) can do a sustained 4.5 miles per hour on the uphill. Very few runners (even elite competitors) can run that fast on a sustained uphill. [Hint, practice power hiking in the off-season.]

  6. Anonymous

    Esteemed Goat,You have wisdom beyond your years. Once I was a master, now I am but a learner. Is it not also the case, since mind and body are one, that the physical methods of assaulting a hill cannot be shown to disciples by means of video, but must be experienced firsthand by neophytes? For truly I say to you, if the mind is centered on placing the ankle at the same angle as a Jurek, or increasing cadence like a Meltzer, then the mind will cloud over like mud, and the lotus flower of self-realization may be lost. Thus absorbed in copying another, the beginner will lose his/her way. Only in the mind of a true beginner are there endless possibilities. Anon Trail F.

  7. Trail Goat

    RunningMtns,Great points! I especially like the point about walking uphills. Two out of the three years I've run Western States, I've walked past competitors running up the canyons (particularly the upper section near Michigan Bluff). I haven't done core work in a decade, but currently am in prep for Marathon des Sable. I'll have to see how strengthening my core helps my technical downhill running. For me, I don't think that the change will be too noticeable, as I had a reasonable amount of core strength FROM technical downhills and trail running. :-)

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