Whether you're a newbie trail runner or a seasoned ultra runner, spring is a great time to evaluate your gear and refresh your options. With more runners leaving the roads and turning to rocks and dirt, several companies have stepped up to the plate with quality and durable trail gear to serve this growing market of nature lovers. Don't miss out on this season's top brands.
Trail running is more self-supported than road racing, so a practical hydration option is crucial. Whether you're racing a trail half marathon, or just heading into the woods for a training run, you'll want to bring water. A quality hydration vest will almost feel weightless. It will fit the groves of your body, and be easy to adjust or remove.
A tried and true option:
Hydrapak's E-Lite Hydration Vest is a mere 9.9 oz. This minimalist harness is constructed with breathable mesh and carries essentials in two expandable front zippered pockets or four integrated holsters. The vest is built around a 1 liter reversible reservoir that slips into the back panel, with five adjusting points that allow runners to dial in a perfect fit. Other big names include Nathan and Ultimate Direction.
What your friends don't have yet:
UltrAspire has spent the past few months developing and testing six hydration packs on seasoned trail runners and ultra-athletes, so keep an eye out for these. Their line is unique, super lightweight, and endorsed by names like Dana Miller and Jeff Browning. These packs even cater to trail runners who prefer to drink from handhelds, offering convenient bottle-storage options. Until now, handheld bottle users have been ignored in the running vest market. These innovative packs are expected to draw a significant following among trail athletes.<!--<p><i><b>More:</b> <a href="/Page29685.aspx" title="4 Key Hydration Tips for Runners">4 Key Hydration Tips for Runners</a> </i></p>-->
2. Trail Shoes
When you're hopping over rocks or slogging through mud, you may find that road shoes just won't cut it. Find a trail shoe that is comfortable with a tread that will work on the terrain you run on, be it rocks or desert or hard-packed dirt. Do your research before buying, try on a few pairs, and find out what other trail runners in your area are wearing.
The same shoe will not work for everyone, so trust your personal preference and instinct. You may also want to opt for a size slightly bigger than your normal shoe size—your feet may stretch out as you develop stronger foot muscles and better balance on the trails. Or they may swell on longer trail races.
A tried and true brand:
Merrell is one of the biggest and most respected names when it comes to quality trail shoes. Besides offering great products, they take the time to educate their customers, answer questions, and interact with them on a regular basis. Merrell's Facebook page has several interactive features, and they are ahead of the market as far as knowing what their customers need.
What your friends don't have yet:
The MT110 is a recent minimalist trail shoe release from New Balance. Features include a 4mm drop from heel to forefoot, and a design that encourages sockless wear with barefoot-friendly interiors. This shoe has been tested on Green Mountain in Boulder, Colorado, and boasts the names of greats such as Anton Krupicka, Erik Skaggs, Brandy Erholtz, and Liza Howard.<!--<p><i><b>More:</b> <a href="/Page34845.aspx" title="How to Transition to Minimal Shoes and Barefoot Running">How to Transition to Minimal Shoes and Barefoot Running</a></i></p>-->