There's no doubt about it - road runners and trail runners are different breeds!
A lot of this blog will be very much what I have seen in the clinic, observed and experienced myself and I'd love to hear your opinions too so leave a comment below!
There are a few key differences between running on the road / built path and running on the trails so let's dive in.
If you can run 10km on the road, that doesn't necessarily mean you can do 10km on the trail
The training that you need for trail running versus road running is different. Time and time again I have seen runners who want to take on a trail run for the first time and try to run it the same time/speed as they would a road run - it doesn't quite work that way.
Trail runs include changing surfaces, rocks, rivers, grass, undulating ground, hills, descents - all of these things really challenge a runner! It is a different demand or load than running on the roads/paths especially for your ankle and foot. The softer ground of the trails is less jarring on the body but also less stiff for push off so we often see a lot of lower leg/foot injuries here in the clinic because of this!
All runners need strong calves and foot control muscles but trail runners in particular need really good landing control and ankle stability/balance so that they decrease the likelihood of a rolled ankle or angry peroneal muscle!
Your cardiovascular fitness is often different for road vs trail as well because running up a hill is very different to running on the straight!
Strength training for a trail run and road run are different - but you should definitely be doing it regardless!
Strength training for runners is super important - running is essentially a series of single leg hops and single leg squats repeated over and over again. In order to be efficient and prevent injury it makes sense that you need to strengthen the muscles that control your hop and squat e.g: glutes, hammies, quads, calves, foot muscles and core (just to name a few, right?).
Some of my favourite strengthening exercises for runners are single leg get ups from a chair, glute bridge variations, kettle bell step ups and lunges and of course - calf raises! All of the different calf raises!!
The shoes you need are different!
Road running shoes are different to those you need on the trail for a few reasons:
The surfaces are different - trail runners often have toe guards and rock plates to stop you from stubbing your foot on the uneven terrain
Weight of the shoes are different
The form of the shoes are different (different focuses on support areas in trail runners versus road runners)
Then there are a whole bunch of different types - minimalist, hybrid, etc!
Myself and the Podiatry team from Pod Fit Podiatry will be discussing this soon in much more detail!
The vibe is different. I think. You may disagree.
Now this one is totally subjective. I've found that with road running events its all about PB's, pushing yourself, competition (against others or just your previous times) and your Garmin app/strava!! Whereas with trail running I have found its similar in the Garmin app logging, strava etc (that's pretty much just a runner thing I reckon!) but its more laid back, more about scenery, more about your own PB rather than competition.
Regardless of which event, the one thing I really love about running events is the sense of support and community; road runners and trail runners alike - everyone is supportive of each other, stops and helps if you fall down, cheers you on and high fives you at the finish line and there is a real sense of camaraderie!
Let me know what you think about trail versus road running in the comments below. I love both types of tracks - although I might be leaning a little more towards trail running at the moment because I just love running around the beaches and hills in the sunshine!!