Trail running- a great way to quickly get into shape but it can also be hard on your body. Over the past few months, I set out on a pain-free trail running quest and found some gear to help guide the way. Hopefully this list helps any of you suffering the same ailments and I would love to hear what works to keep you pain-free as well.
1. Opedix Tights ($225): I originally reviewed these tights for skiing, but now wear them for spring trail running. Embedded bands of rigid fabric protect your knees by offering extra support and keeping them in alignment as you run.
2. Hoka Stinson Trail ($160): I tried going minimalist for trail running and although I really liked it, my left knee continued to get worse. Now taking a complete 180, I have gone the ultra-cushioned route. The Stinson Trail features an oversized midsole to provide the ultimate cushy ride. A rockered sole is designed to create a more nimble and accurate foot roll through the your gait. While running high off the ground takes a bit of getting used to, particularly up steep hills, the relatively low 6mm heel to toe drop delivers a stable ride.
3. Leki Micro Vario Carbon Poles ($199.95): Trail running with poles is extremely popular in Europe but hasn't quite caught on here in North America. For long or steep ascents and descents, I am converted. The poles take a ton of pressure off your knees and quads, not to mention the added stability, full body workout, and aid in jumping over the occasional mud puddle. No need to match your arms to your foot stride, just plant your poles whenever seems natural. The 16.8oz. Micro Vario are quick and easy to assemble and instantly collapse with the Push Button Release Mechanism.
4. 110% Play Harder Juggler Compression Knicker ($150): The minute I return from a trail run, I throw on these compression tights and pop ice inserts on my knees and hamstrings/glutes. Strategically placed icing pockets turn these compression tights into an active recovery program that will help you feel better the next day. Just add water to the 5 reusable ice inserts and keep them in the freezer until you get back from your next trail run.
5. Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller ($25-$40): A foam roller should live in the closet of anyone who plays outdoors. Your back and legs will forever thank you. I found that a large part of my hamstring and knee pain from running (and even cycling) is from tight glutes. A few minutes of using the foam roller each night helps tight muscles loosen their grip. Fair warning- you may cry as you roll up and down your IT band but it will transform your active life in the end.
What are your tricks for pain-free running?