Whether it's wind, rain, sweat or big pointy rocks, when you head into the great outdoors you need to make sure your trail running kit does the job.
If you do it week in week out, save it for sunny weather or just give it a go when exploring a vacation spot, taking in nature in all its glory surrounded by rivers, mountains and woods is absolutely glorious.
- The best trail runs around London
- The essential trail running kit for men
- The world's toughest foot races
What's less glorious, however, is hitting the wall in the midst of a long trail adventure because your fuel fell out your pocket, or getting caught short in one of the UK's finest downpours. But, as the old adage goes, there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing – so it's time to get geared up in the best running kit on the market and take on those trails with confidence.
What do you need for the trails?
While some gear aspects like headwear will vary depending on the season (visor, cap or bobble hat, for example), others remain steady throughout the year. You'll always need a reliable pair of specialist trail shoes to give you adequate grip and support, socks that dry quickly and won't encourage blisters, and plenty of pockets and bags for storing your essentials.
We've got all of these on hand below - have a sift through, work out what you need and get ready for the trail run of your life.
Best trail shoes
Saucony Guide ISO 2 TR
Despite the fact so many people struggle with overpronation, it's surprisingly hard to track down a good pair of supportive trail shoes. Uneven ground can make stabilizing your ankles particularly tricky, so to avoid injury and twingy muscles it's a must to get the right pair of shoes.
Saucony has adapted its classic stability Guide ISO shoe to make it suitable for trails, still featuring a medial post and supportive arch to prevent your foot rolling in too much, with deeper lugs than the original Guide ISO to aid your grip on slippery trails.
Saucony's PWRTRAC outsole at the forefoot is slightly tacky to improve traction, while the XT-900 carbon rubber material on the heel is extra hardy. It also has the same plush cushioning as the original Guide ISO, so you're set for a comfy ride.
The drop is 8mm, which may be a bit on the high side if you're used to more level shoes, but if not, these are an excellent choice for overpronators who are taking to the trails.
Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260
If you like a muddy run, you'll love this shoe. Designed specifically for mountains, mud and obstacle course races, the inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 is the ultimate off-road shoe.
Getting a look at it, it's not difficult to tell why they've incorporated 'claw' into its name – its lugs are a hefty 8mm long to give your feet a solid grip to your terrain, whether it's rocky, boggy or slippery. With the lugs having been made with graphene, too, inov-8 says that it should last up to 1000 miles of running – one for any ultra fans out there.
It has a built-in gaiter to keep grit, leaves and other nasties out, and the upper materials are durable for extra protection – the tongue's even made with Kevlar. It also has a 4mm drop, so pretty minimal, and are very light considering all its features at just 260g.
The bright green design might not be to everyone's taste, but there's no denying it'll help keep you visible on the run.
Unsurprisingly from a brand that was launched in the Swiss Alps, On Running has joined the trail running crusade with these Cloudventure shoes.
With the same smart CloudTec pods as its road running siblings, this neutral shoe has an extra overlay on the outsole using the brand's Missiongrip technology. Its cross-hatched design and slightly sticky texture help improve traction on trails, plus multiple columns of lugs provide a secure grip.
It may look a touch chunkier than On's usual offerings, but don't be fooled – this shoe still weighs in at just 225g, with a 6mm heel drop and a propelling action from the air pods.
The upper is designed to give extra ventilation, so it's a great option for running holidays in hot climates.
Salomon NSO Long Run socks
Socks seem like the simplest piece of kit - everyone has them, right? But once you're five miles into a trail half marathon in M&S cotton socks and they're soaked through, saturating your feet in god knows what and giving you a few blisters for good measure, you'll be regretting not picking up a specialist pair.
These NSO Long Run socks from Salomon are made from a blend of merino wool and polypropylene for all the features you could want in a sports sock – soft, warm, breathable and sweat-wicking. All this keeps your feet comfy while preventing blisters from developing (typically caused by heat, moisture, and pressure), plus there's denser elastic at the arch add some more support.
Salomon says that the mineral oxide fibres it has woven in can help improve muscle tone and reflect energy back into the body – the jury's out on that one, but however you look at it these socks are technically brilliant all round.
Best running belt
Forget bum bags that flap and bounce around as you travel, the FlipBelt is where it's at. The two layers of technical fabric are stitched together to create essentially a big circular tube pocket that fits snugly around your waist, small slots in the material allow you to slide in all your essentials – your phone, gels, cards, and cash, plus there are elastic loops to thread your keys onto.
It's made from stretchy technical material, so it won't chafe if placed up around your stomach and can be chucked in the wash along with the rest of your kit when you're done with it.
This particular design features reflective detailing all the way round to improve your visibility on night runs, but if you're more of a day runner you could opt for one of their classic designs.
Best running jacket
The North Face Women's Flight Series Better Than Naked Jacket
If you're running in the UK, or anywhere else prone to changeable weather, it's best to always be prepared for a downpour.
This bold blue jacket is ultra-lightweight, made from breathable mesh and is highly waterproof, meaning you can stay dry without overheating (because nobody enjoys the sensation of steaming in their own sweat).
When it's dry outside, it can be stashed away into its own pocket and tucked in your bag, ready to go again if the heavens open. The material is reflective, too, making it handy for running in low light.
The only thing extra thing we could ask for would be a hood for a little head protection, though this would inevitably add to the bulk when it's folded up. Whether it's actually 'better than naked', we'll leave you to decide, but it's a nifty piece of kit nonetheless.
Best running tights
Arc'Teryx Sunara women's tights
It's tempting to opt for old, battered leggings for trail running in case you trip or get attacked by a rogue tree, but if you're looking for ultimate comfort on the go then it might be wiser to go for a pair of technical tights.
These Sunara tights from premium outdoor clothing brand Arc'Teryx are designed to let moisture from sweat and rain evaporate, leaving you comfortable and not too chilly. Their material is comfortably smooth and stretchy, with flatlocked seams to prevent rubbing and irritation, and they're lightweight without being overly thin.
They have an internal pocket to store your bank card in, plus another lower down the thigh that's big enough for a smartphone. One other clever feature is a reflective lining at the ankles, which you can reveal by turning up the cuffs. A highly comfortable pair of specialist trail running tights that will do you equally as well in the gym.
Best running shorts
Lululemon Fast and Free Short
At 10 inches long, these Lululemon shorts offer much more coverage than your standard running shorts. Whether you like to keep covered or are prone to chafing in sweaty weather, they'll do you well.
The shorts are super lightweight and made from the brand's quick-drying Nulux material, ideal for hot and humid runs. Each leg has a deep, skin-tight pocket that can snugly store a few gels or a phone (useful if you're out for a long run and need additional storage), plus a hidden pocket at the back has room for a credit card and house key.
Whether you wear them alone or under a pair of looser shorts for comfort, the Fast and Free shorts will have you feeling exactly that.