You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a new pair of trail runners for your first race, but you shouldn’t wear your 5K racing flats, either. “A shoe with good support, stability, gripping potential, and comfort is essential for the trails,” Hobbs says. “A good all-purpose shoe will perform well on short sections of road as well as the trails. There are few people who live right next to a trailhead, so it is helpful to select a shoe based on where you will be doing most of your trail runs.” Head to your local running store for advice on the best shoes for your body type and your local trails.
From your ankles up, think about the weather. “Always be prepared for what the conditions are, or what they might become,” Hobbs says. “You may start in the sunshine only to experience a dramatic change in weather 90 minutes into the run.” If you don’t want to worry about this possibility, consider a shorter course for your first trail race. That way, you can just lace up your shoes and go, rather than worry about carrying a wind jacket, a hat, or gloves.