Trail Running has never been a forte of mine. For some reason as soon as the ground gets muddy, slippery, rocky, covered in leaves or even just a little damp I seem to slip and slide all over the place and just can’t stay on my feet. I end up having to walk or in many cases tentatively shuffle down any slopes and lose all confidence as my feet just won’t stay where I put them. Maybe it’s the fact that I run right up on my toes and only use a tiny portion of the soles of my shoes, or maybe it’s the shoes themselves, but I’ve just never been able to get anywhere at a suitable pace whilst trail running.
It’s a shame really because as an ‘outdoorsy kind of chap’ I obviously love trail running. Covering ground out on the hills and in the forests under your own steam, splashing through the mud, ducking under branches, jumping over logs and fording streams, what could be better? Not only good fun, trail running makes the time your are running for fly by, is good for ankle and knee strength and good for general running fitness and technique. It’s good for the soul too. Out in the fresh air and the countryside away from roads and work and people, it’s the best way to be.
Since my running injury earlier in the year I’ve been very gradually building back up my running. This has all been on the flat, easy, MAF zone aerobic runs with just one or two slightly harder, but very short tempo runs. Now that I’d built up to 40 minutes of running like this, it was time to start with a few hillier runs. Nothing too mad and still easy, MAF zone aerobic runs but with some hills involved I had a chance to get out onto the trails and away from the flat roads and paths.
I treated myself to a new pair of Innov-8 X-Talon 212 trail running shoes. I’d tried trail running shoes before but had never found a pair that fitted properly or were comfortable for running in, so had always ran in my Brooks Ghost road running shoes. In the back of my mind these got the blame for my lack of traction on the trails – anything to move the blame away from my technique! The new Innov-8 shoes looked nice and were bought with the intention of trying them for winter trail running, but also for summer walks in the hills, such as my speed assault on Ben Lomond earlier this year. With a ‘hilly 40 minute MAF zone run’ planned, today was my first chance to try them out for running.
I’d worn them to work for a day just to make sure they were comfortable, but this was a test as far as running was concerned. I needn’t have worried though as they felt fine. They are very light which is nice and although I didn’t really push them too hard in crazy terrain, they did seem to perform well. I can’t be sure yet, but I’m sure I had more traction and didn’t slip over once despite running up and down some fairly muddy, leaf covered trails. I did notice that they were quite harsh on more solid terrain. Much of the run was on fire-road and they felt as though they lacked a little cushioning here, feeling almost like racing flats. That’s nice in a way, but will take a little getting used to, and I’ll have to keep an eye on my knees too just in case they are too harsh for them, but overall I think I liked them.
They haven’t of course suddenly turned me into an expert trail runner, I’m sure my technique still needs some work as far as that is concerned, not to mention my speed, strength and fitness, but the main area I was lacking in as far as trail running is concerned was confidence underfoot and so far these shoes seem as though they may help with that. A few more runs in the mud, snow and ice, without any slipping and sliding could well help with my confidence over such terrain, and then I’ll be off – trail running into the hills without a care.