Hit The Trails: Everything You Need To Get Started In Trail Running

Runners, writers, photographers and outdoor adventure experts Jen and Sim Benson have written and photographed several guidebooks including Wild Running, Amazing Family Adventures and The Adventurer's Guide to Britain. They are Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champions, routes editors for Trail Running magazine and contributors to Outdoor Fitness and Runner's World magazines. 


Jen and Sim have been working with National Trust rangers to create a series of unforgettable trail running routes.  We spoke to them about getting into trail running and the kit you might need. 

What do you think are the main things for people to consider when getting into trail running?

"Leaving the pavements behind you and heading off on the trails to explore hills, mountains, forest and moorland is an incredible experience. With a bit of practise and the right kit, it's something any runner can enjoy. 


"Whether you're new to running or you're coming to trail running from a road or trail background, the main thing to remember is to take it slowly at first and build up your distance and speed when you feel ready. Running on uneven terrain requires you to use your body very differently to running on hard, flat surfaces and it will take a bit of time and practise to adapt. The amazing places off-road running takes you are well worth it though, so stick with it and you'll be surprised how quickly you improve - before you know it you'll be flying along the trails with ease."

Top tips for finding your way:

1. Plan your route before you leave! If you need some inspiration, head over here to find a selection of incredible routes designed by the rangers that look after the landscape and wildlife you’ll find along the way. Remember to always tell someone where you're going, and what time you expect to be back.


2. Think about getting some ICE (in case of emergency) tags for your laces.


3. Get to know your OS maps. Paper maps are great for planning: just buy the one(s) for the area you'll be running in and look for footpaths and bridleways to run on. Custom maps centred on your postcode are great if, like us, you live in the corner of four different maps! OS Maps Online is also a fantastic resource; there's a subscription fee but it allows you to view any part of the country at up to 1:25,000 scale, so it's fantastic for planning adventures. 


4. Phones, watches and other GPS devices are great for taking out on the trails, but if you're heading somewhere remote always have a backup plan in case there's no signal or your batteries run out.


Essential kit for trail running:


Probably the most important investment you can make, the right shoes will make your run comfortable, safe and enjoyable. Make sure they fit your feet perfectly and always wear them around the house for a few hours before committing to taking them outside. Off-road shoes have rugged soles which give you grip and protection. If you're going to be running in mud, you'll want deep, wide-spaced lugs to keep you on your feet, whereas if you're sticking to hard-packed trails you'll need cushioning to keep you comfortable. Your choice of socks will also make a big difference to your comfort: light padding for protection, sweat-wicking fabric and a perfect fit will ensure you finish your runs blister-free.

Technical Clothing

A lightweight waterproof jacket is essential if you're heading out on the trails in poor weather. Look for taped seams, a well-fitting hood and a fit that doesn't restrict you when you're running. Many running-specific waterproof jackets pack down to a tiny size so you can stash it in a pack or pocket and hardly know it's there. Layer up in technical clothing such as base layers, tees, tights and shorts according to the weather, and always take a spare layer on longer runs.

Food and Hydration

If you're heading out for more than an hour we would recommend taking food and water with you. Water containers range from soft flasks which stow easily in a pocket through to hydration bladders which you carry in a pack and drink through a tube. It's worth remembering that food, drink and how you carry it is all a personal choice and as you run more you'll work out what suits you best. 

Emergency Kit

One of the many joys of trail running is the places it takes you, but this can present a problem, for example, if you injure yourself while running or come across someone else in trouble. It's worth considering taking these emergency items if you're running in remote areas: map, compass, whistle, basic first aid kit, survival bag, emergency food, money, mobile phone. Emergencies are unlikely to happen but, if they do, it's always best to be prepared.


A well-fitting, running-specific back or waist pack will mean you can carry everything you need for a great day out on the trails in comfort. Race vest-style packs distribute weight around your body and usually have plenty of pockets, including some on the front straps, so you can easily access food, water and equipment on the go. Make sure the main compartment is large enough to carry everything you need. If you're only running shorter distances a waist pack may be sufficient, allowing you to carry snacks, keys and an extra layer with you.

In partnership with

The National Trust


We are proud to be the Official Outdoor Retail Partner of the National Trust. With our quality equipment and expert advice combined with the National Trust’s enduring care and access to a huge range of special places, we hope to inspire and grow everyone’s connection with the outdoors. By supporting the development of walking and running activities such as Ranger Runs we are helping more people to discover our shared passion for nature and the great outdoors.