Disclaimer: This story does not contain any proselytizing about trail running to find personal strength, summon Jah, or otherwise communicate with nature. Rather, this is about why skiers should consider trail running because it’s a proven way to get in shape for winter. I know skiers who do nothing but mountain bike in the summer, followed by a fall of trail running and calisthenics, then show up for opening day exceptionally fit. Trail running and skiing go well together for four big reasons:
1. Running on flat terrain ensures that you get all the benefits of running on pavement only with dirt-softened impact to cushion your joints.
2. Pumping your legs up hills gives you cardio conditioning for bootpacks, touring, and skiing long runs.
3. Running downhill works your quadriceps just as skiing does.
4. Running on uneven terrain strengthens the little stabilizing muscles surrounding your major lower body muscles. These are areas you’ll never work on a treadmill and they are key to injury prevention. Without your big muscles’ supporting cast, you may find yourself in one.
Convinced yet? Good. Now go get yourself some shoes to do the job. Know that quality running shoes are the single-most important piece of fitness equipment you should own. So whatever you do, don’t skimp on them. Here’s a set that has served me right. I’ve owned two pairs and haven’t been let down.
Pearl Izumi Syncroseek III
Pros: Comfortable right out of the box. Really. That’s because they’re built with a seamless upper so no matter how nubbed your skier’s feet are, you won’t feel any hot spots. For most people there’s no break-in period. Once you hit the trail, you’ll appreciate the stable ride, thanks to a plastic frame deeply imbedded in the shoe. If you’re like most of the population and pronate—your ankle slightly rolls inward as your foot leaves the ground—you’re in good hands as this shoe corrects mild forms of it. The sole feels precise on rocky ground and, should you blow a step and start to roll your ankle, the frame compensates and rights your foot before you can get hurt. Cons: It’s not the lightest shoe ever made but you won’t notice the heft on the trail. Verdict: A great all-round trail runner that performs admirably on the pavement, too. [$105; pearlizumi.com]