Trail Running Tips From Team Injinji

October 18, 2023

Unlock the secrets to elevated trail running performance with invaluable advice from Team Injinji athletes. Learn about their best training techniques, tips for mental fortitude, and race-day preparation.  

A runner mid stride on a desert trail. A runner mid stride on a desert trail.

Anthony Lee 

Anthony is a United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA) ultrarunning coach and trail runner living in Colorado. 

How do you adapt your training and gear preparation for races at high elevations, or in extreme weather conditions?  

My training and gear preparations have to be super specific. I test my cold or hot weather gear on long training runs in the mountains by bringing what is required from the race organization. Having a running vest that carries mandatory gear is important for any unforeseen weather. For training, I usually do my runs on similar terrain that I will see from a race by doing the necessary vertical (distance) or speed work and scheduling my runs to be at a similar time as when I would be racing.

What is your favorite Injinji trail running sock and why? 

My favorite Injinji trail socks are the Trail Midweight Mini-Crew and the Trail Midweight Crew. Both are perfect due to their cushioning, comfort, and support. I also love that the height seals out dirt and debris. The best feature is that they minimize blisters and keep my feet moisture-free.

How do you stay mentally engaged during longer training runs, especially when running solo?

I set clear goals for the run, such as distance, pace, or time. Having a purpose for the run will give the run direction and help you stay focused. I usually plan my routes to have scenery or a variety of terrain to keep me engaged. Running through parks, and trails, or exploring new areas can make the run more enjoyable. Lastly, mindfulness and meditation: I pay attention to my breathing, surroundings, and body sensations. Meditation techniques can help me maintain mental clarity and reduce boredom.

Do you have any tips for trail-specific drills or exercises to enhance balance, agility, and stability?  

I have four tips for trail-specific drills and exercises that help enhance balance, agility, and stability.  

  • Single-Leg Balance Exercises: Stand on one leg and try to maintain balance for 30 seconds to a minute. You can make this more challenging by standing on an unstable surface using a foam pad or a Botsu ball.
  • Ankle Mobility Exercises: Perform ankle circles and calf raises to improve ankle flexibility and strength which are essential for navigating uneven terrain.
  • Plyometric Drills: Incorporate exercises like box jumps, squats and tuck jumps to develop explosive power and improve your ability to handle rugged terrain.
  • Core and Hip Stability Exercises: Strength your core and hip muscles with exercises like planks, side planks, glute bridges, and clamshells to help provide stability.

How do you familiarize yourself with the course before running a new (to you) race?  

To have a successful race, I study the race website. I will look at the course maps, elevation profiles, aid station locations, and any specific instructions or rules. Also, I will search for race videos or reviews of the race from previous participants. This provides valuable insight into the course's terrain, challenges, and overall feel. If the race is close by, I will also visit the course in advance. Running or hiking sections helps me become familiar with the terrain and challenges. If I'm not able to visit the course, then I train on a similar terrain to what I will expect on race day. Lastly, I stay flexible. Sometimes no amount of preparation can eliminate all surprises on race day. Stay adaptable and be ready to adjust your strategy if needed. 

Anthony Lee (Left) and Donovan Stewart (Right)

Donovan Stewart  

Donovan is a digital creator and runner based in South Carolina.  

What do you wish you had known before your first trail race, and what advice would you give to beginner trail runners looking to get into trail running?

I wish I knew to bring my own snacks. Some races have great snacks at aid stations and some only have water, so bringing my own pop tarts is a must moving forward. The best advice I would give to beginner trail runners is to be patient! Bouncing around on the trails takes more energy than road running and the same effort you give on the road or track is very different on the trail.

In your experience, what has proven to be the most challenging, but not-so-obvious, aspect of transitioning from road to trail racing?

The most challenging aspect is respecting the mountains on a long run! Mountains are beautiful and enjoyable to run through BUT when you are out for a long time, it's best to take your time up the mountain versus blasting up.

How do you equip yourself to navigate an unfamiliar or new trail during training?

I load my expected route onto my GPS watch (COROS APEX 2 Pro) and study the elevation map. Knowing that I have a lot of elevation change ahead of time is an easier pill to swallow than being surprised on the run.

How does cycling complement or enhance your trail running performance?

Cycling is the perfect complement for so many reasons! I go cycling when I'm feeling a bit too sore from my trail run which is pretty often since I am kicking into my training block for spring races. Cycling also allows me to practice what foods work well with my stomach for training. It's fairly easy to pack snacks and eat when on a long bike ride so I can easily simulate what’s easy to eat or drink when running.

What is your favorite Injinji trail running sock?  

The Spectrum Trail Midweight Crew!  

Jade Belzberg

Jade Belzberg

Jade is a freelance writer, runner, and running coach living in Arizona.  

When it comes to training, what is your biggest tip for improving endurance and stamina on the trails?

My biggest advice is to stay consistent and aim for improvement over the years, not weeks or even months. Trail running can be more challenging than road running due to the terrain and elevation profile, so give yourself grace when your splits don’t look like what you might want to see.

What is your favorite Injinji trail running sock and why?

I love all the Injinji options (especially the Run Lightweight No-Show for speedwork) but tend to favor the Women’s Trail Midweight Crew for longer runs in the fall and winter. I like the extra protection the socks offer to my shins, and they let me get away with wearing shorts or cropped tights in cooler temperatures.  

Do you have any pre-race rituals or routines that help you get into the right mindset before an ultra?

I’m someone who thrives off a quiet, internally motivated approach to racing, so I try to avoid the pre-race hype seen at some races. I also love a homemade matcha latte before the start of every race!

How do you approach recovery after a long trail race?  

I aim to eat a lot of nutrient-dense food, take hot baths with Epsom salt, and sleep as much as I can. I also like to view this recovery time as something to look forward to, so I tend to invite activities that sound fun like going on longer walks with my dogs, reading books I’ve been looking forward to, and spending time outside in a more relaxing way, like through gardening or birdwatching.  

How do you maintain trail fitness during off-seasons or periods when you cannot access trails regularly?

I do a fair amount of road running throughout the year, both due to ease of access and time constraints and honestly think these runs are just as important to building my trail fitness as strictly trail runs. I also really enjoy exploring new cities by road. In general, I try to embrace it all! 

Cortney Haile

Cortney Haile

Cortney is a marathon and ultra-runner living in the mountains in Golden, CO.  

How do you maintain mental toughness during challenging races? Do you have any mantras or affirmations that you think about when facing challenging moments on the trail? 

I think as endurance athletes we love to test ourselves, and when things get challenging that’s when you find out what you are made of. I largely think that’s why we take on big challenges, so you don’t want to rob yourself of the opportunity to face that challenge. I usually think about how much time and sacrifice has gone into the preparation and if I can just push through, I will be happier on the other side!

I don’t really have any mantras I use, but I like to break the race up into tiny chunks, so that it seems more manageable. I am never thinking about running 100 miles, but trying to stay in the moment and reach my next little goal… which may be the next aid station or even just a tree I see up ahead! There’s definitely a lot of mental gymnastics involved in ultra running!

How do you balance training on different types of terrain to prepare for varied trail conditions? 

Living in Golden, Colorado I am fortunate to have access to all sorts of terrain. For the majority of my training, I will just run on my favorite trails which is usually a mix of different terrain, but I do think it’s important to get time on trails specific to your race. If you are racing a mountain race you wouldn’t want to spend too much time on smooth, runnable single track and vice versa. During the key building phase leading up to a race, I will make sure to do my long runs on terrain that best mimics the race, even if that means driving farther than I normally would. 

What is your favorite Injinji trail running sock and why?

I love the Spectrum Trail Midweight Crew and Mini-Crew. The taller sock helps keep dirt and debris out of my shoes! Plus, the toesock design has been essential as I’ve switched to shoes with a wider toe box to let my feet splay naturally. As someone who is not naturally gifted in tackling technical terrain, I have found this really helps! 

What role does cross-training play in your trail running preparation? What activities do you find most beneficial?  

As a former triathlete, I still incorporate a lot of cross-training into my preparation. Like so many folks these days, I’ve really gotten into gravel riding which I find is a great way to build your cardio base, with much less stress on your body. I also swim a few times a week, mainly as a recovery tool. I think cross-training is a nice way to mix things up and it’s easier on my body than just running. I don’t log as many running miles as a lot of other ultra runners, but I think the cross-training keeps me healthy!

What do you look for on a trail racecourse? Certain types of terrain? Elevation gain?  

A few different things come into play when picking a race. I will usually look for a course that suits my skillset (or lack thereof) which for me means a fast runnable course, rather than a technical one. I have also found that I perform well in heat, so picking a hot race usually works out well. I also want to race in fun places that I might not travel to otherwise, so the destination itself is usually a big factor too! 

Thinking about hitting the trails soon? Take Team Injinji’s advice and don’t be afraid to get out there! Boost your confidence on the trails with Injinji socks for fresh, happy, blister-free feet!