Outdoor cross-country running in summer sunshine concept for exercising, fitness and healthy lifestyle

Plus, a Leg Recovery Workout for Trail runners!

Trail running is defined by the ITRA (International Trail Running Association) as surfaces with less than 20% concrete or asphalt and can include varying terrains of dirt, roots, rocks, sand, grass, or any type of natural surface.

The workout you get from trail running can be pretty amazing, particularly when there are steep inclines, stairs, or rolling hills involved. Hill work can not only help burn more calories, but it can also engage more of your muscles than a typical road run might.

With the uneven terrain, roots, and rocks, it’s not surprising that injuries are par for the course. When planning out your trail run training, be sure that you are increasing distance, terrain changes, and hill climbs gradually.

Be sure to approach trails with caution, especially if the ground is particularly uneven or contains a lot of leaves, mud, sand, or debris that could compromise your footing.

Feet & Ankles

Your feet are likely to take a beating pounding across backwoods trails. Proper footwear (type and fit) is essential to elevate your running experience and avoiding injury. Be on the lookout for these injuries:

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament, which runs from the heel and along the arch across the sole to your toes.If you feel pain in the heel and bottom of the foot, this could be your culprit as it is a very common injury among runners.

Sprained ankles

A split-second misstep is all it takes to sprain (or tear) one of the ligaments in your ankle. Landing awkwardly or having a sudden twist, roll, or turn can overstretch the ligaments.Symptoms of a sprain can be mild to severe swelling, pain, tenderness, and limited range of motion.

According to research, most ankle sprains occur to the outside of the ankle, usually when the person lands on one leg on an uneven surface.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of rolling your ankle subsequent times is high. In fact, the reoccurrence rate for this injury is a whopping 73%!

Achilles Tendonitis

Tendons are long, tough cords of tissue connecting muscle to bone. The Achilles tendon, the longest and strongest tendon in the human body, is located on the back of the heel and connects the heel bone to the calf muscle.

Trail runners will want to avoid over-stressing the soft tissues in the lower leg.  The Achilles tendon can become inflamed with overuse and is exacerbated with repeated hill work.

Stress Fractures

It’s no surprise that the pounding strike of your foot on rough roots, rocks, and dirt can lead to metatarsal fractures. In fact, 16% of all running injuries are stress fractures. These injuries occur when an excess load causes a micro-crack in the bone. Left untreated, these types of fractures could develop into full bone breaks that may require more extensive treatment.

Lower back

During a trail run, you actually lean slightly forward which activates your lower back. Injury can happen if a twist interrupts the natural bending back or forward as your body tries to stabilize itself.

Muscles and ligaments will generally go into spasm as they compensate for the pain and limited mobility.


Runners Knee

Patellofemoral pain, which is commonly referred to as “runner’s knee,” is characterized by pain under or around the knee cap. Weight-bearing exercise (hiking, lunging, stairs, squats and running) aggravates the injury and is typically caused by an imbalance in quadriceps muscles.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) and Hip Pain

ITB (Iliotibial Band) friction syndrome is a common overuse injury in runners and is characterized by pain outside of the hip and down the thigh. Its chief cause is due to too much friction between the ITB and bone.


Cramping involves involuntary muscle contractions that occur during or just after exercise. Calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps are very susceptible to cramping for trail runners.

Fatigue and overuse can cause an imbalance and cause muscles to contract when they are in a relaxed state.

When you get a cramp, the best thing to do is to try and stretch or roll it out.


Foam Roll Recovery for Legs

Muscle recovery is an important step in overall fitness. Try this leg sequence for posterior chain recovery. Spend 30 seconds on each area: calves, hamstrings & glutes.

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