Updated: Sep 20
If you want to run on the fantastic trails of MacRitchie, Bukit Timah Hill or elsewhere, it is worthwhile investing in some basic gear to make your run enjoyable and safe. Most of these items can also be used on normal (non-trail) running routes. Singapore's tropical climate presents some issues with heat and weather that may differ from other, temperate cities.
Singapore has an active trail running community, from recreational runners (like me) to some serious ultra-athletes! In this article I share tips on what items have served me well for most runs, up to about 16km (10 miles). I am assuming that many will have a GPS enabled watch (or phone), I won't be touching on these.
Any recommendations are entirely my personal preferences, use these as a starting point, find what items and brands work best for you. Please note that whilst I am a keen runner, I am not a running coach. If you have any concerns about your health or are under treatment, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle.
I have included some external links to reviews or to particular brands, hopefully they remain active. I have not discussed GPS watches, or phones.
Essential to maintain balance on rocks, slippery jungle clay or loose soil and mud. While most trails in Singapore are well groomed, I find that the the variable ground conditions require a slightly aggressive lugged sole rather than say hybrid ‘road and trail’ shoes.
All major brands have their own trail shoes. As the climate is hot, my preference for shoes are for them to be lightweight and breathable. No gore-tex lining. I am currently using, and really enjoying, the Saucony Peregrine.
My other longtime favourites have been from UK brand Inov8. Their Trail Talons are good for mixed surfaces. I switched to the Peregrines purely because I wanted to try out these highly rated shoes and, impulse purchase, they had a pair in the shop when I needed to get a. new pair.
Other respected brands of trail shoes that I see on the trails, the ever popular Hoka, Salomon and Altra brands. All these brands are reviewed in the video below with the exception, very weirdly, of the popular Peregrines...
Sometimes, rather than running, I might go rucking - hiking with a weighted backpack. This provides a different type of workout and another way to enjoy the outdoors, at a slower pace and with more chance to see nature!
Hydration and Running Pack
For any trail run longer than an hour, I like to run with a small pack, to carry water and my other gear. Running belts are great for shorter runs but not if I need to carry water. A pack allows me to carry 1.5 litres, sufficient for a longer run. I have not tried 'vests'.
I am using the 7 litre (volume) Nathan TrailMix. Lightweight, with easy to adjust straps and large enough to carry the essentials. The front / chest pockets are great to carry a phone or snacks for a longer run. After my run it is easy to rinse (to get rid of the sweat) and quick to dry.
A resealable or ZipLock bag is useful to keep any precious items dry (money, cards, car key etc) or to carry litter.
Always start your run well hydrated. If you are not used to the heat (and even if you are) your sweat rate will likely be significant compared to cooler climes. Knowing how much you sweat allows you to plan your run and rehydration better.
Definitely nice to have, long socks (above the ankle), are practical for the trail as they provide protection against dirt, stones, sharp twigs and insects. The excellent US brand Darn Tough is available in some Singapore retail outlets, and online. I use the merino wool blend 'Micro-Crew' running sock. The socks are lightly padded and keep my feet fresh, even in the heat.
A brimmed hat is useful, as much as for rain protection than for the sun. Some people like baseball caps, I find them too hot (too tight fitting) in Singapore’s heat. I prefer a 'bucket hat', a short brimmed jungle hat. Light and roomy enough to be cool, enough brim width to shield my eyes - either rom the sun or to keep the water out of my eyes if I get caught in the rain. This latter point is important, when it rains hard it can be impossible to see anything when running.
Head Torch. I prefer to run and afternoon or early evening. A head torch can come in useful in case I get stuck outside when it is dark, perhaps coming back from the trail and am on dark roads. 500 to 600 lumens strength seems to be sufficient. Petzl brand, TIKKA or ACTIK models, are good. The Decathlon brand rechargeable head torches, although slightly heavier, provide excellent value. It is easy to remove the Deacthlon strap to wash it. I had trouble with the Petzl strap, perhaps it could be removed or perhaps user error! A small light to place on the rear of my pack (or hat) comes in handy when on the streets.
Spare Laces. You never know when they might come in handy.
I hope that these tips come in useful. If you are in Singapore check out the trails around MacRitchie if you haven't already had the chance. Once again, the item in this article are my own preferences based on my experience, in the tropical Singapore climate. There are many other excellent brands and products that might be more suited to your needs. I would be interested to learn what works for you, let me know in the Comments at bottom of page.
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