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Altra's Lone Peak 5 shoe ($130). Photo by Sarah Boyum
The Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running in Colorado

The Colorado-Made Trail Running Gear You Need

If you want to set yourself up for success on the trail, don’t skimp on these essentials.

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.

Shoes

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.

Socks

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.

Water Bottle

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.

Hat

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.

Fuel

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.

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