Time to Hit The Trails!
Trail Running Gear that Will Keep You Healthy and Sane
By Brian Metzler
First things first: Running not only still matters, but it’s more important than ever as a way to stay fit and perhaps, too, for a sense of daily affirmation about what is still right in this challenging and quickly changing world. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down, but fortunately it hasn’t compromised the ability to go running.
While science and the media are finally aligning to suggest that going for a run is a good way to get exercise, it’s also a great time to go trail running. Running on trails is generally a less stressful, less crowded and more energizing experience. You should still follow social-distancing protocols, keep your mouth and nose covered when passing other people and, for the time being, run trails close to where you live without venturing too deeply into the wild.
Here is some essential gear to maximize your trail running experiences this spring and summer.
Trail Running Shoes
Weight: 10.9 ounces (men’s size 9); 7.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (30mm heel, 24mm forefoot)
Designed to consistently perform on all types of terrain, the Terrex Two BOA features the BOA System for a fast, effortless and precise fit that allows your shoes to feel like an extension of your feet. Simply step into the shoe and turn the BOA dial and it creates a individualized fit that contours the shape of your foot. With a Lightstrike midsole and a Continental sticky rubber outsole, you can dance over roots, rocks, gravel and other obstacles as you run to your heart’s content with the security of near-custom fit.
Weight: 8.7 ounces (men’s size 9); 7.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 0mm (19mm heel, 19mm forefoot)
Do you often run on wet, muddy trails? The toothy, ground-gripping King MT 2 will keep you from slipping in the slop. In addition to aggressive lugs made from super-grippy Vibram MegaGrip outsole rubber, this lightweight model also features smartly placed drainage holes, a responsive dual-density midsole and a tear-resistant, quick-drying upper. As with every Altra model, the King MT 2 was designed with a level (or “zero-drop” platform) and a foot-shaped toe box so the foot can move naturally just as if you were barefoot.
Weight: 10.7 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (22mm heel, 18mm forefoot)
If you’re new to trail running or an infrequent trail runner, you’ll love the road shoe comfort and smoothness of the Peregrine. It has a low-to-the-ground feel and just the right mix of cushioning, traction and protection. It’s ideal for smooth, rolling dirt paths, moderately technical routes with some rocks, roots, gravel and other obstacles and sloppy trails with a lot of mud and moisture. It lacks sufficient protection and girth for long, gnarly, rugged routes, but it is agile enough to handle shorter segments of rocky trails.
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v5
Weight: 11.3 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.4 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (32mm heel, 24mm forefoot)
Whoever says it doesn’t matter what your trail running shoes look like haven’t worn the latest edition of the Fresh Foam Hierro. This shoe is lit, and we’re not just talking about the eye-catching paint-splatter graphics package. With a cushy and stable Fresh Foam X midsole and a grippy, Vibram Megagrip outsole, the reconfigured Hierro can tackle moderate to intense terrain with aplomb thanks to the sturdy but flexible undercarriage and a reinforced upper that helps ensure a locked-down fit. And yes, we love the slick paint job, too.
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
Weight: 10.8 ounces (men’s size 9); 9.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (32mm heel, 28mm forefoot)
Although Hoka radically changed the way trail running shoes were made when it debuted its first maximally cushioned shoes a decade ago, it seems quite logical nowadays to want copious amounts of foam between your feet at the trail surface. The Speedgoat 4 features aggressive, Vibram Megagrip sticky rubber outsole lugs, a more breathable upper and Hoka’s noteworthy rockered (or convex) geometry that creates a rolling sensation in ever stride. And yes, there’s loads of luscious cushioning in the midsole.
Trail Running Accessories
Buff Multifunctional Headwear
I have run every single day for the past 45 days of my COVID-19 quarantine and every single time I’ve worn a Buff around my head to over my mouth and nose to protect myself and those I pass on the trail. Simple, effective and infinitely adaptable, a Buff is a soft, stretchy seamless polyester fabric tube that are available in dozens of different designs. Several other brands make similar moisture-wicking, quick-drying and breathable products like this, but Buff was the first and still the best.
Nathan ExoShot 2.0
For short to medium-length runs, you should consider carrying water with you — especially if you’re in warm or humid conditions — but you should be reasonable about the amount you carry. Water is heavy and carrying a hydration bladder in a pack or a 20-oz. water bottle can be cumbersome. The lightweight, easy-to-carry ExoShot, a 14-oz. soft bottle that tucks into a lightweight carrying sleeve, is the perfect solution for runs up to about 90 minutes.
Ultimate Direction Comfort Belt
Sometimes you need to carry stuff on a trail run — keys, gels, your phone, a gel, etc. — but you don’t want to wear a vest or a cumbersome pack. The Comfort Belt is a low-profile stash bad with four pockets for carrying anything you don’t want to carry in your hands, even a small soft bottle for your hydration needs or a lightweight shell jacket.
Garmin Music 245
We all love to run with music from time to time and this is certainly a good time to tune in and tune out, but carrying your phone can be a real burden. The Garmin Music 245 GPS watch can store or stream your favorite songs and playlists right on your wrist. Sync it with your Bluetooth headphones and you’ve suddenly got the world’s most agile and lightweight jukebox at your fingertips while also being able to track all of your sophisticated running data.
Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Print Crew Socks
Long ago, almost every runner wore white socks. But when trail running started to boom, it became apparent that dark colors did a better job of hiding the ring-around-the-ankle that resulted from running on dirt trails. Smartwool’s PhD Ultra Light dark toned socks are both functional and fashionable, offering comfort, durability, a smooth fit and some fun aesthetic appeal. They’re made from a blend of 46 percent Merino wool, 49 percent bylon, 4 percent elastane and 1 percent polyester, an ideal combination to wick moisture
Brian Metzler quite literally wrote the book on running shoes as the author of the very well-reviewed “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes.” He is a sports journalist who has tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes and has raced every distance from 50 yards to 100 miles. He was the founding editor of Trail Runner and Adventure Sports magazines, senior editor at Running Times, and Editor-in-Chief of Competitor magazine. He has also written for Outside, Runner’s World, Triathlete, Men’s Health, and Men’s Journal.