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Trails pose an agility challenge whether you’re a road runner or not. Even if you just nailed that 10km road run, you’re probably less prepared to tackle trails than you think. “Because trail running requires so much attention, it’s more like mountain biking or skiing than running on pavement,” says Stork, an avid outdoorsman.
So when you hit the ground running, imagine that you’re navigating an obstacle course, keeping your mind engaged and present rather than distracted by squirrels playing with their nuts. “Focus on a spot on the horizon where you can still see the undulations of the trail,” he suggests. “And start off at a jogging pace so the little stabilising muscles in your lower extremities can adapt to the unstable surface.” That means taking it slow for your first several outings.
You should also consider investing in trail-specific footwear; the recent minimalist movement has resulted in running-shoe designs that provide little to no protection in the toe region. “Without that protection, one false landing can easily lead to a broken toe or worse,” warns Stork.