Home > The Scene

What to do: run on the trails, track or roads?

Can't decide whether to hit the trails, head for the track or stick to the roads for today's run? We're here to help with the decision

hill workout

As runners, we’re lucky to have a lot of options when it comes to training. We can hit the road for a simple loop around town, we can head to the track for some speedwork or we can find some trails to get off-road and into nature. Sometimes it can be tough to decide which of these to choose, because every option is a great one. If you’re planning today’s run and struggling to decide where to do it, we’ve got a few questions that will help you figure out which surface is best.

Do you have a lot of time?

We’re not all lucky enough to have trails or a track near our homes, so if you’re short for time, a road run might be your best bet. If your day’s wide open, consider taking a drive to the track or some trails.

RELATED: 6 key differences between road and trail running

What’s the temperature like?

If it’s hot and humid, you might want to stay close to home so you can circle back for water when needed. It’s certainly OK to go to the track or trails for a hot run, but just be sure to take lots of water and not to push it too hard. At the same time, while it can still get very hot on the trails, the trees could protect you from the sun, which might be a good reason to head into the woods. 

Do you want to go fast?

Sometimes, all you want from a workout is to go fast. You can run fast on the road and trails, but the best place to get some speedwork in is on the track. If you feel the need for speed, that’s where you should go.

RELATED: Trail runners: focus on time instead of distance to manage training volume

Are you bored with your regular routes?

Running the same route every day can get boring. If you need something new, we recommend finding some trails. Sure, you could mix things up with a track run, but you’ll see the same view every 400m. For a change of scenery, it’s best to go to the forest.

Do you mind getting dirty?

Sometimes it’s fun to just get muddy. If you don’t mind getting a bit dirty, head for the trails. If you’ve got new shoes or gear that you’d rather keep clean for a while, it might be best to stick to drier land. 

How long do you want to run for?

Maybe the most important question of all: how long are you hoping to run today? If you’re looking to go for an hour or more, avoid the track (unless you have a specific workout to do there). Running 60 minutes around a track isn’t the most exciting of things to do, so explore a bit instead. Get on some trails and enjoy the fresh air for the hour or two outside. If you can’t make it to the trails, the road’s your next best option. 

RELATED: More pro tips for hitting the trails

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

Top 10 shoes our testers are loving in July

We tested tons of great shoes this year, but only the very best make the list