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How to Improve your Trail Running Technique

When running on the road we have to deal with and repeat the same motion and impact. For trail runners, a good running technique is important. To be a good trail runner, you will need the right technique for uphills, downhills, and technical terrains. You have to adapt to different foot strikes, taking smaller steps and longer strides, also landing on your toes or your heels. Some essential running techniques can help dealing with tougher and more technical terrains. 

Tips for Trail Running Technique

1. Pick up your knees- To lift your knees appropriately on the trail, will save you from rocks, roots, and any other issues on technical terrains. Never drag your feet to make sure you don’t trip. Often, once we start to get tired or depleted of fueling we tend to not lift our knees and have more chances on tripping.

2. Shorten your stride- Keeping your steps short and light over technical terrain will help you react and hop more easily without overstriding. Overstriding can put you in a compromised position, especially if you land on an unstable surface- very frequent. Focusing on smaller strides will protect you from falling and staying upright.

3. Land on your midfoot- Midfoot landing on the trail will maximize balance, help you stay over your center of gravity, help you control your speed, maintain balance, and avoid injuries.

4. Head position- Looking at your feet or beautiful scenery while running, can cause some tripping or falling issues. Keep your head up and shoulders relaxed, this not only helps with the running form but with the breathing as well. Look forward, keep your eyes centered and front and look 3-4 meters ahead to avoid any obstacles.

5. Arms and shoulders- Having an efficient arm swing will help build upward and forward momentum through the entire body, not only relying on your legs. Swing your arms in short and sharp movement when you’re running uphill. Straighten your shoulders and align them with your back, keep your elbows a bit wider for extra balance on the more technical trail.

6. Uphill technique- Gravity is a main opponent when running up a hill, which requires extra work to overcome it. Gravity forces your body to recruit more muscle fibers to conquer it and carry you up.

  • Lean forward on the uphill, keep your body straight from the ankles. This will bring your center of gravity forward.

  • Keep your feet under the body and lean your body towards the incline to improve your drive uphill.

  • Keep a light and quick cadence. The steeper the hill the smaller the steps This will help maintain a good rhythm and prevent from getting overly tired. Big steps on the uphill has more impact and creates more muscle fatigue. Quick and light steps will help avoid strains to the glutes, calves, hamstrings and Achilles tendons.

  • Keep your breathing, arm swing and step in equal motion to your cadence. When running uphill, use your arms to help power you up. Swinging them both forward and back. 

  • It’s ok to walk uphill. It is often important for energy saving, especially in long-distance runs. Power hiking is efficient in trail runs.

7. The downhill technique- Going downhill is not easy, and a lot harder on the body. Running downhill with the wrong running form can cause knee pain or injury, quad impact, ankle sprains. To protect your body, make sure you focus on the proper downhill running form.

  • Pay attention to the downhill course. Look 1-1.5 meters ahead where you're about to step.

  • Don’t overstride. Overstride running downhill will add hard impact when reaching out too much in front. It will send a lot of shock through the muscles and joints. 

  • Embrace the forward down, let yourself loose and don’t use brakes on the impact.

  • Land midfoot. This will reduce the impact on the knees and quads, minimize the braking effect, and help prevent injury. Make sure your feet land under you.

  • Raise your head and widen your elbows lightly to improve the control and balance.

  • Keep your arms moving freely. This will allow to keep your balance by counterbalancing your legs. Move your arms back and forth, but not across the body, this will help support the leg movement.

It is important to keep checking your running form regularly to maintain good trail running techniques to increase your strength, speed and avoid injuries.

Run Well, Train Well, Feel Great!


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