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The Hidden Benefits of Trail Running: Discovering Nature’s Gym

Running disciplinesRunning wild. 3 running disciplines for you to try!

Bouncing back and forth on your local pavement, around the same parks, and along the same streets can sometimes get a bit monotonous. Your running routine can start to feel a bit stale and uninspiring. What if there was a way to invigorate your running routine, stimulate your senses, and enjoy the great outdoors all at the same time? Allow me to introduce you to the world of trail running.

Trail running is essentially off-road running. It’s taking your run to the hills, the forests, the mountains, and the moors. Imagine the soothing sound of a rustling breeze through the trees as your personal soundtrack, and majestic peaks or tranquil streams as your backdrop. Not bad, eh? Trail running offers a more diverse and dynamic running environment, that’s for sure. But the benefits go beyond that; it’s not just about stunning views and serene settings.

Every run becomes an adventure when you hit the trails. The uneven terrain, the twists, and turns, the steep inclines and declines; they all make for a challenging and highly satisfying run. But here’s the kicker – it’s not just good fun, it’s good for you. Trail running offers an amazing full-body workout, working out different muscles that you wouldn’t normally engage on flat, predictable pavement. It’s nature’s gym, just waiting for you to lace up and explore.

Discover UK’s Spectacular Running Trails

1. Pennine Way, Northern England

First up on our list of top UK running trails is the Pennine Way. A long-distance footpath that cuts through the heart of Northern England, the Pennine Way offers a fantastic blend of rugged landscapes and breath-taking views. The trail runs a staggering 268 miles from Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District, up to Kirk Yetholm, just across the Scottish border. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run it all at once! There are numerous shorter routes along the trail that are perfect for an afternoon’s run.

What makes the Pennine Way stand out is its dramatic and diverse scenery. From the dark, brooding moors of Bronte Country to the beautiful limestone dales of Yorkshire, every run offers a different setting. Its varied terrain is not just a feast for the eyes, it’s also a fantastic challenge for your legs and lungs. From steep hills and rocky paths to boggy moorland and flowing streams, it’s a trail runner’s paradise.

Penine Trail Running
Bleaklow Pass Penines Hiking Trail Mountains England

2. South Downs Way, Hampshire to East Sussex

Next up is the South Downs Way. This beautiful trail stretches 100 miles from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex, taking in the stunning chalk hills of the South Downs National Park. The rolling hills and vast, open landscapes provide a stunning backdrop for a run, while the varying gradients offer an exhilarating workout.

While the South Downs Way can be tough, the views are worth every ounce of effort. From ancient woodland and wildlife-rich heath to quaint villages and historical landmarks, there’s always something to take your mind off the burn. And after a long run, what could be better than relaxing in a cosy pub in one of the many picturesque villages dotted along the trail?

view from the south downs way footpath, sussex, england uk
view from the south downs way footpath, sussex, england uk

3. West Highland Way, Scotland

For those seeking something a bit wilder, the West Highland Way in Scotland is the trail for you. Stretching 96 miles from Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, the West Highland Way offers some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the UK.

On this trail, you’ll pass serene lochs, cross dramatic moors, and ascend rugged mountain paths. Each step is a heart-pounding, lung-busting challenge. But with stunning views and an amazing sense of achievement waiting for you at every peak, the West Highland Way is an incredible running experience that you’ll never forget.

West Highland Way, Scotland – A wooden sign post with sign and icon of West Highland Way. Wooden pole with directional sign post for the West Highland Way in Scotland.

4. Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wales

Running along the Welsh coastline might seem like a dream, but the Pembrokeshire Coast Path turns it into a reality. This national trail hugs the coastline for 186 miles, from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south. You’ll be treated to spectacular views of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and charming coastal villages.

Despite the challenging terrain and occasional steep climb, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is highly accessible, with shorter routes and circular runs aplenty. Plus, with a wealth of wildlife, from seals and seabirds to dolphins, you’ve got the perfect companions for your running adventure.

view from the south downs way footpath, sussex, england uk
Caldey Island coastal path on the coastline cliffs of the coast of Tenby Pembrokeshire South Wales, stock photo image

5. Cotswold Way, Chipping Campden to Bath

Last but certainly not least is the Cotswold Way. This trail stretches 102 miles from the charming market town of Chipping Campden to the historic city of Bath. As you traverse this trail, you’ll encounter enchanting woodlands, beautiful open hilltops, and historic landmarks, all set against the backdrop of the stunning Cotswold countryside.

The terrain of the Cotswold Way is as varied as the scenery. Expect to navigate steep inclines, descend into quaint valleys, and traverse the occasional stile. It’s a workout, no doubt about it, but with such stunning surroundings, you’ll be too absorbed in the moment to notice the sweat on your brow.

Cotswolds Running Route
Cotswolds Running Route

Lace Up with the Best Trail Running Shoes

1. Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270 – £64.98 Amazon

UK-based Inov-8’s TerraUltra G 270 shoes are a perfect match for the rugged trails. With an emphasis on grip and protection, they are engineered to tackle everything from rocky paths to muddy moorland. The shoes feature Graphene-Grip for unparalleled traction and a cushioned midsole for a comfy ride, even on the toughest trails.

Where the TerraUltra G 270 really shines is in its versatility. Whether you’re tackling the steep ascents of the Pennine Way or the rocky coastal paths of Pembrokeshire, these shoes will keep you steady on your feet. Plus, with a roomy toe box and a snug heel, they offer a great blend of comfort and stability, so you can hit the trails with confidence.

2. Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 – £143.99

Salomon has long been a go-to brand for trail runners, and the S/Lab Ultra 3 is a prime example of why. These shoes are designed for long-distance running, with a focus on comfort, durability, and stability. They boast an Energy Save midsole that provides shock absorption and a Contagrip outsole for superior grip on all surfaces.

What sets the S/Lab Ultra 3 apart is its snug, secure fit. The Sensifit system cradles the foot from the midsole to the lacing system, providing a secure, snug, and virtually customized fit all around the foot. Whether you’re clocking up the miles on the South Downs Way or navigating the hills of the Cotswold Way, these shoes won’t let you down.

3. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 – £141.97 Amazon

Named after Karl Meltzer, AKA “The Speedgoat”, who holds the record for the most 100-mile trail race wins, the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is built for tough trails and long distances. It offers plush cushioning and an aggressive Vibram Megagrip outsole, ensuring comfort and grip no matter the terrain.

One feature that makes the Speedgoat 4 stand out from the crowd is its wide platform. It provides a stable base on even the most challenging trails, from the rocky paths of the West Highland Way to the rolling hills of the South Downs Way. Plus, with a breathable yet rugged mesh upper, your feet will stay cool and protected all run long.

4. Brooks Cascadia 15 – £75.12 Amazon

The Brooks Cascadia 15 is a great all-around trail shoe that delivers on both comfort and durability. The shoe is built to handle anything from muddy paths to rocky outcrops, thanks to its protective rock shield and sticky TrailTack rubber outsole.

One of the standout features of the Cascadia 15 is its adaptable cushioning system. The BioMoGo DNA midsole adapts to your stride, weight, and speed to deflect impact away from your body, making it an excellent choice for the varied terrain of the Pennine Way or the coastal paths of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

5. Altra Olympus 4 – £84.99 Amazon

The Altra Olympus 4 is designed to tackle any trail with ease. With a durable, Vibram Megagrip outsole, a balanced and cushioned Zero Drop platform, and a spacious FootShape toe box, it provides a blend of grip, comfort, and stability that’s hard to beat.

The Olympus 4 is particularly good for long, demanding runs. The high-stack, ultra-cushioned midsole absorbs impact, making it an excellent choice for running the longer routes on the Cotswold Way or the West Highland Way. Plus, with the breathable, durable engineered mesh upper, your feet will stay comfortable and cool throughout your journey.

Altra Running Shoe

And there you have it, friends! Armed with these nuggets of information, it’s high time you discover the hidden benefits of trail running. Remember, every trail run is an adventure waiting to happen. So why not lace up and go explore nature’s gym!

Andy Barr
the authorAndy Barr
Editorial Lead
Andy was late arriving into the world of fitness, running and training. He did not really take up regular gym going until he was in his late 30's. He lost over 7 stone in weight since starting and completed an olympic length triathlon in June 2018. He enjoys playing football, boxing and outdoor running.

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