Backpacking Fitness

6 Key Tips for Trail Running in the Spring

Don’t let mud season slow you down. Ultrarunner Jerry Armstrong shares his tips for staying out no matter the weather.  

Trail running is the best way to get in shape—and stay in shape—for backpacking. It works your legs and your lungs, and is way more fun than going to the gym! Just follow these tips when the going gets cold and wet.

1) Forget about avoiding puddles and mud; it’s futile (and bad for trails), so just plow on through.

2) In the wettest conditions, use the same running shoes as usual, but add a pair of waterproof/breathable Rocky Gore-Tex socks ($70; with a lightweight pair of socks underneath. On rainy, all-day adventures, use foot powder (like Gold Bond) and trade wet socks for dry ones every three hours or so, as your feet will likely get sweaty.

3)Ankle gaiters will keep out muck and snow; in icy conditions, carry a pair of Kahtoola Nanospikes ($50; and put them on when you need better traction.

4) Adapt your kit to the conditions. In cold weather, wear compression calf sleeves above the socks. Mittens that convert into fingerless gloves offer the best combination of warmth and on-demand dexterity. Add a hat, ear warmers, and layers as needed, but you should be chilly at the start. You’ll warm up fast.

5) In frigid temps, wear your jacket over your running pack to keep snacks and water from freezing (or stow them close to your torso).

6) Post-run: Clean shoes, remove insoles, and stuff shoes with newspaper to speed drying.