How to start trail running

Are you tempted by the idea of running off-road but unsure how to get started? Whether you’re an experienced road runner or a complete novice, Mud and miles handy tips will help you to get out of the door and onto those trails.

You can start off using your regular road-running kit. On easier trails in good weather you’ll be fine wearing road running shoes. Once you get the bug (it’s pretty likely you will!) and move onto more technical terrain, you’ll need trail shoes with a better grip. Head for your nearest specialist running store for advice, as there are shoes for every kind of track, trail and surface you can think of!

Find a location that has routes marked out already. Many local parks have Run England routes that are on trails and easy to follow, the Forestry Commission have marked routes in many of their popular locations, and if you are lucky enough to live in a run-friendly city like Sheffield, there may be some signed urban trail routes that will make navigation easy.

Look for your local parkrun courses; many of these are off-road and whether you run them as part of the event or on your own at another time, they make great introductory routes.

Pick up a local map, look for the nearest footpath and head out of the door. Sometimes the best runs and routes are found when you just follow your instincts and go!

Walk a new route first to get an idea of whether it will be suitable for you to run. Once you know what it is like, you can go back and run it all, or gradually build up to it. Running the flat sections and walking the hills can be a good starting point.

Choose routes with a softer, more even surface to build your skills and confidence, such as a pine-needle-clad woodland path. Save those steep, rocky hillsides until you have improved your fitness and technique.

Take a friend with you and have fun exploring together. Keep each other motivated and safe, and help each other over those stiles!

Join a club, an organised group or guided run. Whether you go regularly or as a one-off to get you started, you’ll pick up tips from more experienced trail runners, learn new routes, and make some trail-running friends along the way.

Enter a low-key trail event or race. You’ll get lots of support and meet other runners who are new to trail running too. The route will be marked out, so all you need to concentrate on is running.

Don’t forget to take your camera! You’ll see beautiful views, and maybe some wildlife too, so take time to pause and capture your journey for others to see.