You might think you already have all the gear you need to become a capable trail runner. But there are some items that are worth upgrading in order to reach Colorado’s most alluring locales.
What’s in your closet: Street running shoes with lots of padding against concrete
What you should buy: Denver-based Altra’s Lone Peak 5 ($130) will help you feel more connected to the trail because of its drop sole; instead of a raised heel, it’s closer to the ground, so it helps you feel more nimble. (Note: To avoid injury, transition to a lower heel gradually and mind your form and strength training.) It still provides protection from the occasional jagged rock thanks to a stone guard, a removable insert that runs the length of the sole.
What’s in your closet: A dozen mismatched ankle socks
What you should buy: Smartwool’s PhD Pro Endurance Print Crew ($26) was co-designed by Rob Krar, who won three 100-mile races, including the Leadville Trail 100 Run, in 11 weeks in 2014. Krar added extra padding around the ankle to protect against shoe-on-ankle irritation and venting over the top of the foot to prevent your shoe from becoming a swamp. Those extras are nice, but the Endurance earns its price tag with its security: It’s as tight as Batman’s suit.
What’s in your cabinet: A Hydro Flask metal canister, which may keep water delightfully chilly but also weighs about 100 pounds
What you should buy: Broomfield’s Ultimate Direction’s Clutch 5.0 ($40), which carries about 16 ounces of water and slides around your thumb like a glove, might seem like an unnecessary expense for beginners, seeing as you don’t need to hydrate on-trail if you’re running for less than an hour. But a bottle whose presence you barely notice feels like a bargain on exposed North Table Mountain during a scorching summer day.
What’s in your closet: A giveaway Rockies cap
What you should buy: GearJunkie’s top running hat of 2021, Boulder’s Headsweats’ Performance Race Hat ($21), is an ungainly sum of parts—a sweatband attached to a bill covered by breathable polyester. In case that wasn’t clear: You will not look attractive wearing it. Platypus vibe aside, the Performance Race Hat has been designed to do exactly what you as a runner need a cap to do, which is to keep the sun off your face and sweat out of your eyes—and then survive a trip through the spin cycle.
What’s in your pantry: Gatorade and Kind bars
What you should buy: Anytime you’re running longer than an hour, you need fluids, says Kylee Van Horn, a Carbondale dietician and Trail Runner magazine columnist. Spike your water with electrolytes, such as those in Boulder-based Skratch Labs’ Sport Hydration Mix ($1 per serving), to replenish sodium and potassium and prevent cramps. For runs longer than 75 minutes, start munching from the outset. Steamboat Springs’ Honey Stinger Waffles ($24 for 16) are a convenient option.