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Barefoot Trail Running

     Running on trails is a wonderful experience!  Running trails barefoot is an even better treat.  There’s no greater feeling while running than the connection to nature you feel running barefoot through the forest.  However, running barefoot on trails does require some specific skills.   

     Some people will recommend beginning barefoot running on trails for one of two reasons.  First, the relative “softness” of the terrain is less likely to cause blisters.  However, it is also more likely hide flaws in your form. 

     Second, some will recommend trails because avoiding the rough terrain builds skills quicker.  This is more or less the opposite reason for the first, but still not a good reason to start on trails.  Always having to avoid rough spots will increase the amount of time needed to find your own unique ideal form.  Trail running should be considered an advanced form of barefoot running and should only be attempted after several months of barefoot running (it is first introduced in stage four of the “Lose the Shoes” plan).   

     Running trails requires a few specific skills.  First, a runner MUST be adept at forming a mental map of the terrain in front of them.  Also, they must have developed the strength and skill to “hop” around.  Each foot placement may be a different distance than the last. This results in a very inconsistent gait.  Without proper strengthening, this will quickly fatigue the runner.  It will also increase the likelihood of injury.  Also, the runner should have developed the ability to immediately shift their weight in the event they step on a sharp object.  This is a skill that is developed with experience on trails.  When running on roads, this skill will develop slowly as tiny pebbles and other such debris is inevitable.  Finally, the runner has to develop a gait that will allow them to pick their feet up enough to clear the highest obstacles on the trail.  All of these skills can be developed in a relatively short time.   

     To develop your trail running skills, it is first necessary to develop good form.  Before advancing to this level, you should feel comfortable running several miles pain-free on roads.  Start slowly on trails.  Begin with barefoot trail walking.   Slowly mix in VERY slow running.  As your skills develop, you can increase both pace and distance.  Using this formula, it is entirely possible to adapt to running on any terrain.