5 North Shore Trail Running Tips

Peter Frank Edwards


Tired of running in the concrete jungle? Yeah, us, too! And I’m sure your joints are as well!

Northern Minnesota offers some of the best trail running routes in the Midwest. The beauty inherent to each of the four seasons will distract you from the burning sensation in your legs, and the bear chasing you will make you run your fastest mile ever! But in all seriousness, trail running is a great way to get your exercise in without the monotonous view of concrete.

Although trail running does bring with it some added danger, by having the proper gear and mapping out your running route, you can be sure to stay safe. Besides, potholes in the road and crazy drivers in the city aren’t any safer than roots in the trail or maybe a moose on the bridge.

Here are 5 tips for anybody wanting to get started:

  1. Trail Shoes

If you're going to start incorporating trail running into your exercise regimen, it is wise to invest in a pair of trail running shoes. They differ from regular road-running shoes in the fact that they have a lower profile (lower to the ground), which will help reduce your chance of rolling an ankle. Trail shoes also offer rugged tread, which will also help you get better traction on muddy, wet trails. To avoid losing your toenails, your shoes should also be about a half size bigger than normal. You want the shoe to remain snug on your heel, but the added room in the toe box will allow for your toes to shift forward without hitting the shoe cap.

2. Be the Hill

When running the trails, take on the mindset that you are mountain and that in certain terrain you have to adjust your running style. When going up steep hills, take short, quick steps and use your arms. This will ensure optimal footing and leverage up the hill. When running down steep hills, it is better to use a stair-stepping motion; move in a similar motion as you would be running down a flight of stairs, keeping your torso tall and letting your legs take all the impact.

3. Know the rules of the trail

On many trails in Duluth and the surrounding area, you will rarely see other runners, as there are so many trails in the area, but when you do, it is good to know the rules. You should yield to other trail users, such as hikers and mountain bikers. Uphill runners should yield to downhill runners. And, apologies in advance to your new pair of shoes, but when there is a puddle, run through it - not around it - to avoid making the trail wider.

4. Keep your eyes on the trail

It is extremely hard not to gaze off into the distance at the beauty of the woods, but it is very important that you focus on looking 3-4 feet ahead, at all times, to create a line of travel. If you want to enjoy the sights, walk it out or stop. As you become more comfortable running on trails, your instincts will kick in, and the focus that comes with trail running will become second nature to you.

5. Keep it safe

When heading out to the trails, be sure to run with a buddy or a dog, tell someone where you will be running, and take your cell phone with you for safety. If you are concerned about wildlife, wearing pepper spray is never a bad option. And, always make sure to always bring fluids and fuel.

Most importantly, have fun on the trails, but be careful!

Looking for location ideas?

Check out this resource, which offers some tips for getting the most of the Superior Hiking Trail; this list if you're looking to try a hike, rather than a run; or this list for trail running tips in, and very close to, Duluth.

“Once you get on the dirt, you never want to go back on the roads”

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