Trail running becomes increasingly popular
By Christian Vey, dpa
September 4, 2012, 12:09 am TWN
HAMBURG--Jogging can become quite a boring pastime after a while, which is probably why the sport of trail running through rivers and valleys and over mountains and fields has become so popular in recent years.
"I can really recommend it," says Urs Weber, editor of the German edition of Runner's World magazine. "It is more interesting and increases motivation — an excellent broadening of horizons for a runner."
Trail running differs from the usual road running in that the route is left to each runner's personal choice and generally takes place on hiking trails that involve traversing varying rough terrain such as hills, mountains, deserts, forests, and meadows.
The idea is not exactly new, however, and has existed in some guise or other for many years. "Before, people used to talk about cross-country running or simply forest running," explains Weber.
The concept of trail running has grown into a significant industry in recent years, with surveys showing that nearly 5 million Americans engage in the activity to some degree each year.
Specially designed shoes — more robust than the average running shoe — are recommended by experts before embarking on trail running.
Most have a waterproof upper so that a runner's feet remain dry when crossing wet and muddy terrain, while the area around the toes is reinforced to offer more protection.
The soles of the shoe are the most important and have a design similar to winter tires on cars. The middle of the shoe sole is generally flat so that more of the foot remains in closer contact with the ground
"Traction is improved and the grip to the ground beneath is better," explains Weber.
The risk of twisting an ankle is also reduced when wearing shoes specially designed for trail running, where the focus is more on stability than absorbing shock.
"The shoes should come up a bit higher than normal," advises running expert Juergen Wicharz. "I also especially recommend a muscular stability training exercise program for the ankles. This is often forgotten about."
Inexperienced trail runners leave themselves open to serious ankle injuries because of the uneven terrain on the trails. "Beginners are often not able to manage it," says Wicharz.
The sport is not recommended for those suffering from arthritis or with pre-existing knee or hip problems, he warns. "Mountain descents are particularly bad for a knee that has already sustained an injury."
However, for those runners able to endure the demanding routes, trail running is a sport that offers huge advantages over the usual road running.
"Every stride is different and the muscles are tested in a different way all the time due to the constant changes in direction," explains Weber, who is certain that the variety and added pressures are better for the muscles. "There isn't the same monotony as you have with road running where every stride is the same."
Trail running not only takes place in the wilderness or up mountains, there are also city trails to be discovered. The most important thing is to follow a new route, believes Weber. "Don't plan anything, simply start running and let the route unfold in front of you."