If you are thinking of going onto the dirt path and going out for a run on the trails, you should surely give it a go. But, most people worry that this change is most likely going to affect their long-planned road runs. Which begs us an essential question, “Does trail running make you faster on the road, or will it slow you down?” 

Trail running can help you to get faster on your next road race. Most trail running will offer windy roads, hilly terrain, uneven footing due to rocks and roots. By running on a technical terrain your strength, efficiency, coordination, and core will increase tremendously. Besides boosting your strength, trail running can make you run faster on the road. It provides your joints a much-needed break, thanks to the reduced impact on the softer surface.

If you are concern with improving your time, rest assured that trail running makes you run faster on the road. Many elite road runners include trail running into their training regiment. The secret is to find the right balance, to know how many trail running to include into your training routine.

What Is Trail Running and How a Slower Pace Transforms To Getting Faster

If you’ve just started getting to know about trails, being a trail runner on the road might seem like you’re cheating. But this cheat can give your body a fantastic chance to run with more consistency and faster than what you might generally achieve on the trail.

Trails serve as the perfect training grounds for a vast range of workouts that you typically do on roads or tracks. Incorporating trail running as an integral part of your training is an excellent way of building your core, leg strength, and ankle stability.

These vital things can help you gain speed and run faster over time. Running on uneven terrains up the hill and facing a treacherous descent downhill consumes a lot of physical and mental effort compared to running on flat surfaces. Moreover, even the flattest trails will have some undulations so that you can become stronger with trail running.

Build Muscle Power for Amplified Speed with Trail Running

In effect, you can think of trail running as a form of resistance training since your calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings are working way more than they do on pavements and roads.

Building your speed and power is the ultimate secret and key to running faster times, and this can be achieved with running trails. So, if you want to run faster on the road, you need to think of running on the trails.

The best place to get started is Outdoor Trifecta, your ultimate stopover to sign up for the best outdoor activities, including trail running, adventure racing, and so much more!

Trail Running vs. Road Running Times

Making the switch from running on roads to the trails can be incredibly rewarding, but it isn’t that easy. Trail running calls for more technicalities in handling the different kinds of terrains. Besides, you will have to run on soft surfaces and hills every day to work on your running pace. 

You definitely shouldn’t expect to hit your standard road running pace on the trails, at least not instantly. It calls for running in muddy trailsOpens in a new tab. and loose terrains like gravel and sand, in addition to the many sharp bends, turns, and twists that you’ll be greeted with on the trail.

The trees, narrow trails, creek crossings, and roots can throw challenges your way and slow down your running pace. This requires more energy and effort and will indeed prepare your body to become stronger.

It is quite natural for runners to worry they won’t make speed progress since trail running slows you down. But the grades of hills on the trails are not very different from those you find on the road. Moreover, running slower on trails doesn’t translate to slow run times on the road or pavements. 

Generally, a good pace for trail running will roughly be 10-20% slower than your average running pace on the road. For instance, if you run a 10 minute/mile leisurely pace on the road usually, you can reasonably expect your pace on the trails to be 11 or 12 minutes/mile.

As it goes without saying, your run time on the trails will most likely be a tad slower than your run time on the road, over the same distance. This is primarily due to the technical nature of trail running— roots, rocky terrain, and uneven ground are prevalent in trail running.   

Trail running indeed makes you faster with time by building your core strength, power, and speed. Quite evidently, running up or down steep inclines requires more effort than running on pavements, roads, or any flat surface.

The good news about running hilly and mountainous trails is that these uphill runs will replace your speed work earlier in the training phase because it’s suitable for running mechanics and will allow your heart rate to work at its threshold.

Trail running helps you to prepare for a road race. The trails’ uneven terrains work stabilizer muscles in your ankles, trunk, and hips that you probably might not be training on the roads. Running trails also significantly challenges your balance, agility, and coordination.

Once you try to control these things by running on trails, your road running skills and run times will automatically improve. Here is what some head coaches and trail champions have to say on training for a road race on the trailsOpens in a new tab..

7 Ways How Trail Running Can Improve Road Times and Make You Run Faster On the Road

No matter how good you are at road running, going off-road comes with its plus points. Let’s see the results trail running produces, which will be effective back on the road.

● It builds your stamina.

It is generally an excellent idea to mix up your running on hard pitch with going on soft trails. The spongy ground will slightly depress when your foot touches the ground. This indicates that lesser force will be transferred up your leg. This decreased intensity means you can run for a longer time and gradually create more endurance when you go back to running on roads. 

● It makes you stronger.

Trail running usually means taking on dirt and mud, as even the tiniest bit of rain can transform soft trails into sludge. Your foot is most likely to sink into the mud, making it more difficult to push off.

The key to trail running is getting your feet planted off the ground as quickly as possible. Thus, your leg will automatically be getting a more intense and challenging workout. The same concept applies if you run on sand.

The lesser time your foot’s on the ground, the lesser chance it has to settle down deep in the mud. So, it will be easier to lift your foot off. Trail running builds the much-needed strength in the other muscle groups, which further support the most important muscles for running on the road.

● It improves core stability and balance.

Windy roads and technical routes will often compel you to ponder about your running more than when you run on the road. Maintaining your optimum speed around U-turns, bends, and downhill usually can boost your balance and core stability.

You engage the core muscles in your back and abs in trail running. As a result, it makes you stronger and toughens your core, which is incredibly vital for an excellent running posture.

When you go back to road running, you will witness your posture has become much better overall. The crucial link between your lower and upper body also becomes stronger.

● Downhills help you become efficient in running.

Running downhill at a fast pace ultimately encourages a more significant leg turnover as your feet will directly be in contact with the ground for a concise time. This high speed generally develops your running style. The results will be noticeable when you hit back to running on the road. 

● It makes concrete hills look like nothing.

Without a doubt, running on trails makes you faster on the road. This is because trails often throw up slopes and hills, unlike anything you notice on the streets. After all, cars do not need to make it to paths off-road, so these trails usually range from almost vertical to very steep inclines.

When you run on trails, you are fighting against gravity in each stride. As a result, your legs have to make the extra effort and work harder than running on the road.

You will feel a burning sensation in your calf muscles and quads. In addition, you’ll feel way more powerful when you go back to running on the road or any other flat ground. 

● It connects the body and mind.

Off-road running is likely to make you think deeper and does the body and mind good. Because you will be running on technical trails, you always have to consider before you take a few steps ahead and plan your move with utmost care.

You also need to listen to what your body is trying to tell you and respond to the unexpected changes in terrain. A change of pace and the landscape means you need to be fully attentive.

As a result, you will be much more deeply involved in your running and always watch out for the few forthcoming steps. This tiniest bit of attention to detail goes a long way and will help you on the road and make you run faster on flat grounds. 

● It’s a bit of an escape.

Road running may be your most preferred style and chosen way of running competitively. Still, most of the best marathon runners switch to the trails to reset their minds and reconsider the various possibilities back on the road.

How to Keep the Running “Mojo” Alive

The act of mixing up training with a combination of trail and road running is bound to keep your running ‘mojo’ alive and thriving. Simply running on flat grounds like pavements and the road becomes monotonous after some time. Thus, you need a change of atmosphere.

Although, if you aren’t fascinated by the idea of running at all, you need to check out these easy tips to fall in love with running.

Running on the trails provides you a rather picturesque backdrop and can make you feel fresh and more alive since trail running requires you to run amidst several obstacles (be it in the form of terrain or bumps and hills). You will be using your muscles differently than you are used to.

The two create an outstanding combination as they ultimately help your weak spots and enhance your speed when you go back to running on the road.

Besides, running in nature and wilderness is a great way to rid your mind of all kinds of stress. Reduced stress indicates a receptive body and mind that can push you further and help you focus on training harder, both on-road and off-road.


Trail running is more technical primarily due to the changing surfaces and terrains, along with brooks, slopes, and hills that you might encounter on the way. This truly makes for a distinctive running experience compared to flat grounds like roads and concrete that are steady and primarily static.

Due to this noteworthy difference, anyone looking to transition from road running to trail running should gradually do so. So, if all this has got you excited, your next trail running experience is awaiting you at Outdoor Trifecta to give you the boost of self-worth and confidence you deserve. 

Sign up for your first mud run nowOpens in a new tab. with Outdoor Trifecta and experience the true thrill and excitement of trail running! 

Diego Nieves

I’m Diego Nieves, an outdoor sports enthusiast. In 2013, I was overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy. I knew my life had to change, and that's when I discovered Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). It gave me the discipline and set of principles to continue the path to health. Now, I’m exploring even more ways to enjoy the outdoors, and I want to bring you along on my journey.

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