serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Urban Trail Running

posted by Chris Barber

What do you do when you can’t get to the trail for a trail run?  You should go for a non-perfect substitute for trail running I like to call Urban Trail Running.  Urban Trail Running gives you the training, health benefits, and excitement that trail running does while staying in the city!


Running in a city can lead to many types of injuries because of the continuity of the flat paths and the rigidity of surfaces.  Animals tend to take the path of least resistance, but you’re not an animal, you’re a human, take the path with resistance, your body will thank you.  The mechanics of running on a flat/even surface makes every step the same.  This can cause damage and stress to particular areas of your body.  One of the most common injuries to runners is the iliotibial band syndrome which is caused by muscle imbalance because running on flat surfaces does not work your stabilizer muscles.  The hard concrete running surfaces can aggravate these types of injuries as well as create injuries on their own like shin splints.  Shin splints are caused by the repeated stress on the shin bone, often as a result from running on concrete.  So what should you do?  Urban Trail Running of course.

Urban Trail Running is taking the exercise benefits and some of the excitement you get from Trail Running to the urban environment.  Of course you want to run the trail, but you can’t always make it out so Urban Trail Running is your next best option.  First focus on finding differing surfaces, this is often the most difficult task in an urban trail run.  Look for parks and other grassy areas, small running trails, or windy roads.  You may be able to find paved paths in your city that curve a lot which is good for working on your balance.  Anything that varies your terrain or route will help you work on your lateral movements and stabilizing muscles.  Personally, where I live there are many small parks with large hills that I like to run through to vary my steps on my run.  If you don’t live in an area with small parks then look for culverts.  Anywhere there is water there is usually uneven terrain that you can run on.  When running on the street try to run on as much asphalt as possible.  Not only is asphalt not as rigid as concrete, but it is sculpted at more of an angle, giving you more of an uneven surface to run on.  If in a ultra urban environment like Manhattan, look for steps and other uneven surfaces to vary your run.  Run down the subway stairs, hurdle the entrance stall, run a half circle inside the subway terminal, then hurdle back over the entrance stall, and then run back up the stairs. Trust me, Manhattans have seen much stranger.

Overall, to Urban Trail Run you need to vary your surface and terrain as much as possible.  Jump over benches instead of logs, run down embankments instead of steep hills, and hop over steps instead of roots and rocks.  Urban Trail Running is going to be the new craze.  All the kids will be doing it!  Don’t you want to feel like a kid again?


  1. JT says:

    I love love love love LOVE this post!

  2. [...] is going to see a massive increase in new runners across all types of running:  Trail running, Urban Running, Road Races, any running; they are all  going to gain popularity in 2010.  In 2009 we saw an [...]

  3. Karina says:

    Thanks for the reminder that to improve in my running, I must change things up! What’s the definition of insanity again. . .? I use the excuse a lot that I can’t run hills because . . . well, southern Florida doesn’t have many, but you’ve inspired me anew to hit the parking decks and bridges around here. Becoming a stronger runner does take some effort, after all.

  4. [...] I can’t run on trails I like to run races that are mirror urban trail running.  Last weekend I got a chance to participate in a unique race: running to the top of 191 [...]

  5. [...] of movement.  However, they are even more similar to a sport I conceptualized in August of 2009,  Urban Trail Running.  Urban Trail Running allows runners to get the exercise benefits and excitement of trail running [...]