Mike and I have been curious to try trail running but hesitant to do so without special trail running sneakers. Recently, we had the opportunity to try out Salming’s new trail shoes, the Salming Trail, during a trail run demo day hosted by Runologie and Salming, at Umstead State Park in Raleigh.
I was a big fan of the Salming distance sneakers I tried out during a demo day back in January. An established Swedish brand with its US headquarters here in Raleigh, Salming is all about running naturally, with minimal cushioning and a low heel-toe drop. Their new trail sneakers felt molded to my feet, snug but not too tight, and also extremely lightweight. One noticeable difference between the distance sneakers and the trail running sneakers was the stiffer bottom due to a rock plate wedge, protecting feet from rocks, roots, etc. Also, the RocShield (trademarked) adds a side shield, protecting feet even more from rugged terrain.
Before the run began, I had trouble flexing my foot while walking around the parking lot. But once on the trail covered with rocks and roots, I found my feet (and hence the shoes) were able to flex easily. My feet felt protected but I could still feel and grip the ground. Despite some damp early morning surfaces, I didn’t slip once due to lack of shoe grip. Honestly, I forgot about the sneakers when I was running and really just concentrated on the trail. The Salming Trail T1’s were incredibly comfortable and offered the perfect amount of protection and support.
Luckily, I was able to experience my first trail run in awesome sneakers. I had figured that since I love hiking and I love running, that I’d fall in love with trail running. I learned that trail running is HARD and takes practice. But I am excited to get out there again soon. Some trail running observations:
Lower your pace expectations. I didn’t pay attention to my watch until it beeped at mile one with a pace of 10:32. 10:32?! I thought I’d been running much faster than that. I didn’t go in with pace expectations but was still surprised to see that number. After mile one, I didn’t pay any attention to my pace. I stopped when I wanted to stop, walked when I wanted to walk, and focused on being careful…bringing me to…
Concentration is key. I found trail running to be relaxing in an entirely different way from regular running. Because you’re so focused on your next step and the trail in front of you, it’s hard to think of anything else. I was forced to really clear my mind. Usually, I like long runs to think through problems/ideas/etc…. With trail running, it’s hard to think about much else besides the run. I don’t even think I’d be able to listen to music, much less zone out listening to a podcast like I usually do for long runs. Although mentally tiring, it’s relaxing and calming, as well. But because of the mental focus needed and also the challenge of running on difficult terrain, it’s easy to lose concentration towards the end of the run. So, I recommend that you…
Bring bandaids. I fell at mile 4, slipping on a loose rock that was covered in leaves. I mainly slid, getting a dirt burn/rash on my legs. But, when I tried to catch myself, my left hand landed on a sharp rock. I gripped my hand in a fist to try to get the bleeding to stop while running the last mile. In the future, I’ll always bring bandaids on trail runs.
Keep your hands free. Since I always bring water on runs, I was running with my Nathan hand-held. This wasn’t a good idea for a few reasons: 1. it threw my balance off and 2. I tried to protect my water bottle when I fell (good instinct…), so put all my weight on my left, empty hand. For future trail runs, I’ll wear my Nathan hydration vest to keep the weight evenly distributed and leave my hands free to catch myself if I fall.
5 miles on a trail doesn’t equal 5 miles on pavement. I was dead at mile 2! My legs felt so heavy and exhausted just a couple of miles into the run. Granted, every trail is different and this was extremely hilly. Trail running requires different and more muscles as you navigate around tree stumps, roots and other obstacles. According to our Garmin watches, of all our runs, this trail had the most elevation gain for a distance less than 9.5 miles.
Take it all in. It’s easy to get focused on (and you should be focusing on) the trail, but I enjoyed taking breaks to take in the beautiful stream, falls and scenery (and to catch my breath). Umstead Park is gorgeous and it’s hard to believe it’s in the city of Raleigh! It’s relaxing to be immersed in nature.
I really enjoyed trail running and the challenges it offers. It’s a fun way to mix up your running routine muscle-wise and scenery-wise. Mike and I’ve run in cities we’ve visited on vacations but trail running opens up new possibilities for vacation running! Although this was my first experience with trail running shoes, I’d highly recommend the new Salming Trail T1 and plan to purchase them for my own future trail runs.