Looking for a fun sport that will get you in amazing shape without draining your bank account? Then trail running might be for you. Trail running gear is ridiculously simple. In fact, all your trail running gear can be stored in a single drawer!
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve been on a quest this year to embrace minimalism. A big part of this has involved decluttering my outdoor gear closet! I am trying to be more mindful about gear purchases and only keep things around that I really enjoy using. So when it comes to trail running, I have learned a lot about what I actually need — and also what I really love.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the only three essentials you need to start trail running. If you’re a beginner, start here!
I’ll also share some of the “extras” that aren’t essential but have really brought a lot of joy to my trail running life. Check these out if you’re already trail running and need extra comfort, fun, and entertainment on trail.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
The only 3 things you need to start trail running
Trail Running Shoes
You can trail run in road running shoes in a pinch. But once I tried trail-specific shoes, I realized that they make a huge difference in your traction and stability.
I’ve been running in the Salomon Speedcross 4 this season and totally loving them. They have amazing tread and feel. And I’m totally hooked on the super convenient Quicklace system that makes them a snap to take on and off.
These are in fact the shoes I wore when I walked across the Grand Canyon and back in a day. They were super comfy and gave me no blisters or hot spots.
Merino Wool Blend Socks
Believe it or not, I started trail running in cotton socks. (Oh the humanity.)
But I’ve quickly realized that your foot twists and turns a lot during trail running, so you really need a high performance sock material that wicks sweat away from your skin and won’t chafe when damp.
If you’ve been hanging around this blog longer than a hot second, you already know about my obsession with Darn Tough socks. And guess what? While they’re great for hiking, they’re awesome for trail running too!
Hydration vest or belt
If you’re already a road runner, your existing hydration belt may totally work fine on short trail runs.
But if you are going to be taking longer trail runs or heading into the backcountry, consider picking up a hydration vest. It will allow you to carry a few liters of water at a time. This can be a lifesaver if you’re planning a long loop run, crossing the Grand Canyon, or running 10 miles between aid stations in a trail ultra.
I’m currently running with the Nathan Firebreaker vest, which I totally love. It holds 2L of water and has 6L of total gear storage. The design is super smart, with exit holes for the hydration system hose and also my phone charger cord! I did buy an aftermarket bite-valve, as the one that came with the reservoir was drippy and didn’t have a shut-off switch.
Truth be told, I might upgrade to a vest with more storage for my 55K ultra run in the fall so I can carry my headlamp and a couple extra survival supplies. If you have a larger capacity hydration vest you’re loving, tell me about it in the comments!
Trail running accessories and extras to consider
Being a minimalist doesn’t mean depriving yourself or going without the latest gear and gadgets. It just means being mindful and only purchasing stuff you truly need and love.
Here are a few trail running gear accessories that have greatly enriched my runs. They definite made the decluttering cut. You might enjoy them too!
ExOfficio Give-n-Go sports underwear
I’ve raved before about my favorite hiking and travel underwear, the ExOfficio Give-n-Go line. And they’re also great for trail running! The mesh is cool, resists odor, and doesn’t twist or stick to your bum like wet cotton. Read my full ExOfficio Give-n-Go review here! Or check out men’s and women’s styles at REI.com.
Vie Active Natasha 5-pocket sports bra
Disclosure: I received a free Vie Active Natasha bra in exchange for an honest review.
Yes, a 5-pocket sports bra is a thing! I recently took this Vie Active Natasha bra on a 3-day backpacking trip through Rocky Mountain National Park and loved the look and feel of it. It’s flattering and supportive (at least for this B+-cup girl). And it was so comfortable, I actually slept in it. On shorter trail runs, I sometimes leave the hydration vest at home, throw some gels and travel-size sunscreen in the Natasha bra’s pockets, and head off feeling free. It also has a mesh phone pocket in the back that comfortably holds my phone — even with its big, fat Otterbox Defender case.
Special offer: Shop Vie Active and use the code ADVENTURE20 to get 20% off full-priced items!
If you’ve never chafed before, long trail runs might be the first time you experience it. Since I started training for my trail ultra, BodyGlide has surpassed ibuprofen as the most important item in my first aid kit! BodyGlide is free of pore-clogging petroleum and oil and rich in vitamins and moisturizers. It even comes in tiny 0.8 oz. sizes you can easily stash in your hydration pack (or Natasha sports bra). Shop for men’s and women’s BodyGlide on Amazon.
Honey Stinger Energy Chews
Eating during intense exercise can be hard. But when you’re trail running for hours, you need something to keep the energy going. Even when my stomach is a little iffy, I always devour these delicious Honey Stinger Energy Chews! They’re made with organic honey and tapioca syrup and deliver sustained energy. If you missed your morning coffee, try the cola flavor with a touch of caffeine.
JBL Endurance Sprint Headphones
Do you love listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts on your runs? If so, I feel you! Running is where I get my reading done. So my life totally changed when I ditched the white iPhone earbuds and upgraded to wireless headphones. I’ve been using the JBL Endurance Sprint headphones for 8 months now, and loving the touch controls, magnetic hooks, and 8-hour battery life. And since they’re waterproof, I never worry about them shorting out in the rain (or when I’m just sweating hard).
Otterbox Defender Phone Case
A few years ago in Italy, I fell while hiking and smashed my iPhone. So I know that a good case is important, especially in a sport like trail running where we all crash once in a while! I’ve been using Otterbox Defender cases for my iPad and iPhones for as long as I’ve had them, and they’ve been amazing! I’ve watched my phone bounce down two flights of cement stairs and submerge in water — all with zero damage. Plus these cases are made right here in Colorado, USA. Shop Otterbox Defender Cases on Amazon.
And two for my wishlist …
Before my ultra, I’m considering buying a pair of these women’s Black Diamond Distance FLZ collapsible trekking poles (carbon unisex version here). I’m a hiker who uses a lot of arm going uphill, so I have a feeling they’ll help my running a lot.
But in the spirit of minimalism, I’m waiting to see if I REALLY need these before I bring them into my life … and my gear closet.
So there you have it. All the trail running gear you need to get started as a beginner — plus a few extras for you to love (maybe).
Do you have any favorite trail running gear? Comment below to share what you love.
Originally published August 22, 2019.