Tips to trail run safely this summer

By Abby Stanislaw Jul 1, 2024
Ski Utah teamed up with University of Utah Health to bring you tips to stay safe and active on the trails this summer!
Tips to trail run safely this summer

As summer sets in and trail running becomes a popular activity in Utah's mountains, it's crucial to take steps to prevent overuse injuries. Overuse injuries occur when repetitive stress is placed on muscles, joints, and tendons without adequate recovery time, leading to conditions such as patellar or Achilles tendinitis/tendinopathy, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and stress fractures. This practical guide, crafted by Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist and Doctor of Physical Therapy and Ski Utah Contributor Abby Stanislaw, in collaboration with University of Utah Health, provides essential tips to help runners stay injury-free this season.

1. Warm-Up Before Running

A proper warm-up increases blood flow and prepares muscles, tendons, and ligaments for activity. Dynamic stretches like squats, high knees, leg swings, and lunges are quick and simple ways to prepare your body for a run and require little space to be performed at the trailhead. I also recommend doing some form of muscle activation routine prior to running such as side steps with a band or single-leg bridges. If you’re already working with a PT, this is a great time to incorporate some of your PT exercises (if appropriate) into your day as a way to optimize performance and biomechanics on the trail.

2. Strength Training/Cross Training

Strength training improves muscle performance, fatigue resistance, and reduces overuse injury risk. Focusing on lower body exercises such as squats, lunges, hip thrusts, towel scrunches, toe yoga, and calf raises, performed at least twice a week, can be beneficial for runners. To reduce your running load while maintaining cardiovascular fitness, incorporate activities like swimming or cycling. Yoga, Pilates, or Barre are also great ways to work on the required lumbopelvic stability for running with minimal impact.

3. Wear Proper Running Shoes

Choosing shoes that fit well and provide adequate support and cushioning for your foot type and running style reduces stress on the feet and legs. I would never recommend for or against a specific type or brand of shoe; the best shoe is the one that fits your anatomy and running style the best! If you have wider feet, make sure to get a shoe that accommodates the widest portion of your foot; if you have narrower feet, follow suit. Make sure to check your shoes every couple of months to ensure they haven’t lost stability as you have packed out the foam. To help them last longer, you can always try having two pairs of shoes which you alternate, allowing the foam to maintain rigidity for longer.

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4. Gradually Increase Mileage and Intensity

Avoid overuse injuries by gradually increasing running distance and intensity. Aiming for no more than a 10% increase per week is advisable. See the cross-training section if you’re looking for ways to progress cardiovascular fitness while building up running volume.

5. Listen to Your Body

Paying attention to pain or discomfort and taking rest days when needed is crucial. Early intervention can prevent minor issues from becoming serious injuries. Seek professional help if you have recurrent pain that lasts more than 24 hours after your run or if you continue to experience the same symptoms with each run, as this could indicate a biomechanical issue. At University of Utah Health, individuals have access to exceptional orthopedic doctors and physical therapists who specialize in sports injuries and injury prevention. These experts are dedicated to helping patients achieve their health and fitness goals, ensuring they can continue to enjoy all the outdoor activities Utah has to offer.

University of Utah Health has resources for how to start trail running here as well as a running clinic. Living and training in a mountainous environment like Utah presents unique challenges and opportunities. By following these tips, you can enjoy your activities while minimizing the risk of injury. 

Content produced in partnership with University of Utah Health


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