Tips & Techniques

F A L L in Love with Trail Running

Megan Sloan 
September 13, 2023


It’s hard to deny that the air has a slight crispness to it now. The days are getting shorter. Leaves are starting to fall. Fall… is that you? And for us runners, this time of year can mimic Christmas Day!

What better way to celebrate the beginning of fall as a runner than to explore the beauty of trail running. Trail running can be intimidating if you’ve never ventured off the road. 

“Do I need certain shoes?”

“I always see people with special backpacks, is that important?”

“Isn’t it super easy to get lost on trails?”

Yes, there are plenty of little nuances that might be different than road running, but I promise you it’ll be worth it and you’ll fall in love! Here are a few tips to get you started (and hopefully hooked!) when it comes to tail running:


  1. Find a buddy. Starting something new can definitely be scary as you venture into the unknown, but finding a friend to take the dive with you makes it less so! If you’re able to join a friend who has run trails before, even better. At the end of the day, trying new things with a friend always creates a fun story to tell!
  2. Invest in a good pair of trail running shoes. There is a difference between road and trail running shoes, and most of the science comes down to the amount of grip the shoe gives you. When running on a trail, you are constantly running on a variety of surfaces (soft, slippery, uneven, etc.) and you need to be wearing shoe that can grip well and keep you upright. They also tend to have a good drainage system in the instance they get water logged (which can and will happen!). 
  3. Think time, not mileage. Running 3 miles on the road might take you about 27 minutes, but running 3 miles on the trails can take much longer depending on the terrain and the elevation. In the beginning, it’s best to focus on the amount of time you run vs the distance you cover. Trust me, your body will thank you!
  4. Watch where you step, every time! Running on the road can be super easy at times. You just hit cruise control and GO! But, on the trails you need to focus on what is underneath your feet at all times. You need to watch out for roots, rocks, big stones, holes in the ground, and many other things. If you take your eyes off the ground for even a moment it’s very easy to tumble! 
  5. Consider a hydration pack. If you plan to run any distance that requires hydration, you may want to consider a hydration pack. If you’re used to using a handheld, this can be a tricky thing to incorporate as a newbie on the trails. If you take a fall with a handheld, how would you catch your fall? This doesn’t have to be a huge expense. You can find many hydration packs on Amazon that are great to get you started!


All of this information is great, right? But where do I run? If you’re local to the Crystal Lake area, I highly recommend visiting Veterans Aces. Located on Walkup Ave, Veterans Acres offers a wide variety of trails for all skills. You can run on the wider track which is great for beginners. And for those looking for a challenge, feel free to enter the single track! But don’t forget to look down. 😉

Meet the Author
Megan has been apart of the Smith Physical Therapy & Running Academy family since March of 2021, taking the title of Director Special Programs, Run Coach, and Running Technique Specialist. Megan has been coaching runners since 2014 and enjoys working with runners of all ages.
You were made to move!