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How to Transition from Road Running to Trail Running?

How to Transition from Road Running to Trail Running?


There are several things to keep in mind when transitioning from road running to trail running. Running Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman shares his thoughts. From discovering local trails, to pacing, hiking and more. This is the first of several videos in our "Trail Running Basics" series.

Trail Running Basics

I'm here to talk to you about the trails. It's one of my favorite places to be. A lot of you may be running a lot of roads and you may be wondering how to transition to trail running. The first thing you may want to do is look online, find some local trail running groups, running stores, or even talk to some of your friends who are more experience in running trails than you.

trail running with friends

You are going to get out on the trails and one of the first things you are going to do is try to let go of your pace and mileage goals. When you are on the road, it is easy to get caught up on pace per mile. A 6 mile run on road might not take you very long, while on trails this might take you 50% longer. 

power hiking trails

It is common when you get on the trails to hike a little bit, it is not a continuous run the entire time. You want to start letting go of pace per mile and focus more on your effort and your overall time on feet. 

trail running fundamentals

Some of the things you are going to experience on the trails are scenery, dirt and animals. It's a lot more peaceful place to be and it's a hack of a lot more beautiful. 

You will realize how beautiful it can be and it's the run you will look forward to every time. 

This week enter for a chance to win a $75 Path Projects gift card. To enter, let us know: "what advice would you give to runners looking to start out with or improve their Trail Running?" 1 winner will be picked at random by 4/29/19.

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Thanks for all of the advice in the article and thanks also to the readers who have provided advice in the comments. I’m new to trail running and have tried Griffith Park a few times. I also listen to the TRN podcast where the hosts advise separate liners and shorts. Why is that? I have (and love) the Tahoe baseliner and the 5" inseam Sykes shorts but I also have lined shorts from Nike, Adidas, Brooks that I prefer for road running especially on hot days. Will these shorts not work well on longer trail runs this summer in the Los Angeles area? Thanks to all who can share some experience and advice.

deron matsuoka,

Start with updated equipment, separate base liner is a must. Enjoy and let the run or walk become a passion.

John Gish,

Bring water, leave your headphones at home, breathe deeply and pray for no snakes!


Keep track of your time on feet, not miles or pace; bring snacks; listen to the different sounds; eat snacks; play in the dirt; eat more snacks; look at the views; eat…

Colin Chapell,

Run to the tree, walk to the rock. Run to the funny looking bush, walk to the stump. Repeat.

Garrett Christensen,

Hey man it’s cool to walk. Almost everyone does at some time during a trail run!! Slow down and enjoy the views!

Paul Letourneau,

Make sure to bring along more water on trail runs and maybe an alcohol wipe to clean any unexpected cuts along the way


You don’t have to run every step. Always have a plan for water. Tell someone where you’re headed and an estimate of when you’ll be back. Have fun!



Dustin Pfaff,

Don’t worry about your time/pace. It’s going to be a lot slower then what you are used to on the street. Each trail is different. What matters is that you are out there. Do your best. Enjoy it.

Daniel P.,

My advice, do slow up and do watch where your feet land somewhat ( avoiding tree roots, rocks, etc.) Then enjoy the beauty and surroundings the trail has to offer. It really is a lot of fun 🙂👌.

Michael S ,

Learn to connect with the nature around you: the birds singing, the wind in the trees, or the creek gurgling. The trail is alive!

Peter E Bonstrom,

Look for a group of people who are into trail running, the community is awesome and you will learn much faster!


You probably won’t puke until you hit the 50 Mile distance- Something to look forward to!

scott keil,

Don’t expect to run as fast as you do on the road. It’s ok to walk (power hike) the uphills. Look ahead 10-15 feet in front of you!

Michael Beaudet,

Don’t focus on your feet and the trail. Look up! Look forward! Look around! Enjoy where you are as the trail passes under you. Stop and look at the views, look back where you’ve just been (it looks different!). Enjoy the silence. Encounter the source of all around you, run with it!

Steve Gilmore,

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