Road running is without doubt one of the most popular sports. But most of us who usually run on the road also enjoy taking opportunities to run off-road for a change of surface and scenery.
As said, road running is widely spread and thousands of people line up for road races every year and many more will run on the roads to train. However, off-road running offers great fun because of the change of surface and scenery to a number of runners.
If we’re only heading on to lighter trails, a regular pair of road-running shoes will normally be fine. In fact, lots of them are designed in the knowledge that runners don’t stick rigidly to the pavement. But if you head for something a little bit more demanding, or start putting in more of your miles on the trails, it’s usually worth buying a pair of trail-specific shoes. These have grip tailored to off-road conditions; additionally they have a midsole and upper designed to keep your foot stable and safe when the ground is uneven.
Runners can also benefit from turning to off-road races. Running and training off-road should be a regular part of your marathon programme. The range of off-road events is today greater than ever. The distances in off-road events are often non-standard, which means that you can just focus on racing and not get too hung up on the stopwatch. They are usually more undulating, which gives an excellent opportunity for building endurance, and running downhill is an effective way of building fast, relaxed technique and improving leg speed.
Other events, such as the GRIM Challenge, take getting muddy to new lengths. Fell races take the hills to the extreme and ultra events can provide a unique challenge to those wanting to breakaway from the more mainstream running events.
However, it doesn’t matter what kind of experience you choose, the right footwear is crucial. Fortunately, there is a great array of shoes for fell and off-road running. These shoes are typically lighter than standard trail shoes and usually have a lower-profile midsole to give stability without weight.