Anton Krupicka, one of the best mountain runners in the business, tells us how he runs on technical, rocky, and gnarly trails. Follow these tips to improve your trail-running game.
For Boulder, Colorado-based trail runner Anton Krupicka, training in the hills is a ritual. The mountains sit triangularly in his backyard. And regularly running up and down rocks, roots, and gnarly Colorado trails has paid off for Krupicka.
The Nebraska-bred collegiate cross-country runner won the 2006 Leadville Trail 100 Run, finishing with the then-second-fastest time on the books. And at 23 he won the iconic ultrarunning race just 3 weeks after his first-ever 50-mile run. It was an astounding ultrarunning debut, and many trail-running accolades and personal epiphanies have followed in the last decade.
But for Krupicka, the “daily discipline” of running for over 20 years has kept him balanced. He still moves lightly, diligently, and intelligently, even on the trickiest of terrain. He shared exactly how he does this in these pro training tips for trail running.
Trail-Running Training Pro Tips
1. Increase Foot-Strike Cadence
When negotiating technical trails with uncertain footing, a shorter (and quicker) stride is always better. This quicker cadence ensures that you’re committing less weight to potentially unstable foot plants. It also makes it easier to quickly readjust your momentum and center of gravity on technical terrain.
2. Hike Rather Than Run
Don’t be afraid to hike! Sometimes it’s simply more efficient than running. The calculus is different for everyone. But once a trail reaches a particular steepness, hiking is more efficient than running for a given speed. I have experienced countless instances in both races and training runs where I’m hiking at the same speed behind someone who is stubbornly trying to continue running.
That said, efficient hiking takes practice. Knowing when to switch back and forth between a run and hike comes from experience and lots of miles on the trail. Based on the steepness and the technical degree of the trail, you will have to play around with transitioning. Additionally, hiking with this type of intention is a completely different neuromuscular pattern. If you don’t train it regularly, it can feel strained and awkward. But the idea is to maintain a consistent perceived effort over the course of the long climb and the entire run.
3. Wear Appropriate Footwear
There’s no doubt that shoes matter on technical terrain. To be the most adept and agile, I prefer a “svelte” shoe. That means trail-running footwear with low heel-to-toe drop and overall stack height, along with a sticky rubber outer and midheight lugs. Recently, I’ve been using La Sportiva’s new Kaptiva trail-running shoes.
The lower stack height will put your foot closer to the ground, making you more stable and less prone to ankle rolls. Sticky rubber can inspire cat-like confidence when dancing over rocky rubble, especially when wet. And substantial lugs will provide stability in both mud and loose-over-hardpack conditions.
4. Always Anticipate Obstacles
Especially when running on flat terrain or slightly uphill, I find it easier to more efficiently maintain a running cadence and stride if I anticipate “step-ups.” I do that by planting my leading foot as close to the base of the step or obstacle as possible.
That way, all of my energy can be used for lifting my body up onto the step rather than having to propel my bodyweight both forward and up. Over the course of a run, implementing this technique can help conserve significant amounts of energy.