Ultimate Trail Running Stats [179 Facts]

Posted on 11 November, 2021 by Paul Ronto

Trail running is a rapidly growing segment of the running world. Beautiful vistas and challenging terrain draw runners into the world of dirt, rocks, and hills. From 5Ks to 200mile ultra races, trail running is booming. Trail running has been steadily growing about 12% year over year since 2010.  

We’ve compiled 179 stats and facts and created the largest trail running database on the web. 

Trail runner demographics

  • 36.5% of trail runners are women
  • 63.5% of trail runners are men

Trail runner participation by gender

  • 90% of trail runners are between the ages of 22 and 55. 
  • The largest age demographic of trail runners is 25-44 years old with 48.9% of the total population.

Percent of trail runner age groups

  • 39% of trail runners have been running for 1-5 years.
  • 56% of trail runners have been running for 6 years or more.
  • 44% of trail runners run 3-5 days a week.
  • 7% of trail runners run 6-7 times a week.
  • 48% of trail runners run between 6-20 miles per week total.
  • 13% of trail runners run 41 or more miles per week.
  • 5% of trail runners run more than 50 miles a week. 
  • 35% of trail runners run with a dog. 
  • The majority, 69%, of trail runners are white or caucasian.

Ethnicity of trail runners

Socioeconomics of trail running

  • Trail runners are largely affluent with 31.5% earning over $100K annually.

Income range of trail runners

  • Most trail runners are college-educated with 78.2% having some college experience.

Education level of trail runners

Time spent trail running

  • The average trail runner gets out onto the trails 31.8 days a year.

Number of annual trail running outings in US

Cross-training and trail running

  • The majority of trail runners participate in crossover sports, the largest being road running at 83%.
  • Weight training is another large crossover sport for trail runners with 70% participating in free weights and 55% using weight machines. 
  • Hiking (52%) and cycling (road, MTB, and BMX) (51%), and camping (44%) allow trail runners to be outside enjoying nature as well. 
  • Interestingly, trail runners are also avid bowlers (51%), billiards players (42%), and anglers (38%). 

Trail running crossover sports

  • Trail running is a gateway to other outdoor activities with 98.4% of trail runners participating in at least one other outdoor activity. 

Trail runners who participate in other outdoor activities

Distance to trail running

  • The majority of trail runners, 84.6% travel 1 hour or less to access their trail runs. 
  • Less than one percent (.6%) of trail runners travel more than a day to participate in trail running.

Distance from home trail runners travel to run

Influences behind trail running

  • The majority of trail runners are influenced to do outdoor activities by friends or family. 
    • 46% said friends got them into outdoor activities and 32.8% mentioned parents as their motivation. 

Who influenced trail runners to participate in outdoor activities

  • The main reasons trail runners like being outside is because it’s relaxing (64.5%) and it’s great exercise (60.6%). 

Reasons trail runners like being outside

Preferred terrain for trail runners

  • 84% of trail runners prefer a mix of terrain compared to solely flat, uphill, or downhill terrain.
  • 47% of trail runners prefer to run on singletrack.
  • 45% of trail runners prefer a mix of single track and wider paths.
  • 5% of trail runners prefer wide gravel and dirt paths.
  • 3% of trail runners prefer open fields or paved city pathways. 
  • Less than 1% of trail runners prefer to run exclusively on fire roads.

Trail running race statistics

  • From 2013 to 2019, there were over 25,700 trail races across 195 countries (or self-governed regions) worldwide.
  • Since 2015, on average 3,600 trail races are conducted annually.
  • There are 1.77 million trail racers worldwide.
    • 77% of trail running racers are men, 23% are women, 
    • The percent of women trail runners has increased from 18% in 2013 to 26% in 2019.
    • The countries with the most female trail running racers are Finland (43%), Australia (41%), and Canada (39%). 
  • 73% of trail runners will run 1-5 running races per year.
  • 4% of trail runners will run more than 10 races per year.
  • The majority of trail racers (54%) prefer “small” to “Medium” races, compared to XXS (short and easy -- 5-10K) or XXL (long and hard ~200 miles) races. 
  • Only 5% of trail runners prefer races 10K or shorter. 
  • European trail racers have the highest ITRA performance index score (out of a possible 1000) at 443 followed by, North America (442), Oceania (438), Africa (408), South America (393), and finally Asia (362). 
  • During the pandemic 37% of trail runners had done at least one virtual race.
  • 83% of trail runners do not plan to run a virtual race now that the pandemic is subsiding. 

The rise of ultra running

Ultrarunning is not technically only trail running, but the majority of ultra races are trail-based. An ultra is defined as any run longer than a standard marathon (26.2m) and includes benchmark distances like 50K, 50mile, 100K, 100mile, and longer. 

  • There has been a 1676% increase since 1996 in ultra racing from 34,401 to 611,098 yearly participations. 
  • In the past decade, the sport has grown 345% from 137,234 to 611,098.

State of Ultra Participation

  • The average age of ultra racers is 42.3 years old, which has dropped from 43.3 10 years ago. 
  • Ultra races attract more foreign runners than any other distance race with 10.3% of participants being from another country. 

Foreign participants running events

  • 41.02% of ultra runners are likely to participate in more than one race, a larger percentage than any other race distance.

If you are interested in more ultra racing data check out our State of Ultra 2020 and our study on Which runners are the most obsessed

Trail running technology

  • 77% of trail runners rung with a GPS watch. 
  • Only 10% of trail runners don’t use a GPS watch or smartphone tracking app. 
  • 50% of participants wear a Garmin-specific brand tracker.
  • 13% of trail runners track efforts in a journal or calendar. 
  • 23% of trail runners are using tracking devices to attempt personal records and make non-race performance improvements. 
  • 37% of trail runners interact with friends on Strava. 
  • 23% of trail runners listen to trail running-related podcasts. 

COVID-19 impacts on trail running

  • 56% of trail runners did not see a change in the amount of time spent trail running due to the pandemic. 
  • 28% of trail runners spent more time trail running, and 16% spent less time trial running because of COVID-19. 
  • 40% of trail runners have explored new trails during the pandemic. 
  • 21% of trail runners have continued to run the same trails during the pandemic as to before the pandemic. 

Trail running shoe and gear preferences

  • 83% of trail runners wear trail-specific running shoes when on trails.
  • 67% of trail runners will purchase two or more pairs of trail running shoes in a year.
  • 71% of trail runners own and wear a hydration vest while running with 43% preferring Nathan, 31% Ultimate Direction, 24% CamelBak, and 23% Salomon. 

Trail shoe brand preference

  • Altra and Hoka are the top two preferred trail running shoe brands by trail runners. 
  • La Sportiva and New Balance are the least preferred of the major trail running shoe brands. 

Trail running shoe preferences

Trail running shoe preferences
  2018 2019 2020 2021
Altra 19.9% 20.9% 20.8% 22.0%
Hoka One One 14.6% 18.6% 19.6% 22.0%
Salomon 11.9% 10.0% 10.0% 11.0%
Brooks 12.3% 12.4% 11.7% 10.0%
Saucony 8.7% 8.9% 7.8% 8.0%
La Sportiva 5.6% 5.3% 4.0% 4.0%
New Balance 4.7% 4.9% 4.0% 3.5%

About RunRepeat

Trail running is a growing sport that requires great gear. Check out RunRepeat’s reviews on trail running shoes from top brands like Hoka One One, Altra, Brooks, Salomon, Saucony, New Balance, and Inov-8

Also, check out our guides on the 10 Best Trail Running Shoes and the best Nike trail running shoes

Interested in learning more about shoes?  Check out our shoe buyer’s guides or our pages on road running shoes or even just some info on what are the best sneakers.

Use of content

  • We are happy to give interviews on the topic at any time. For this purpose or for print-use questions please reach out to Paul Ronto at paul@runrepeat.com.
  • Feel free to use material from this page in any web coverage of the topic, we just ask that you refer, and link back to this original source.

References

  • https://trailrunner.com/trail-news/spring-2016-trail-running-survey-results/
  • https://itra.run/documents/Infographics/EN-ITRA-Trail-Running-Infographics-2020.pdf 
  • https://runningmagazine.ca/trail-running/by-the-numbers-itras-report-on-trail-running-in-2020/ 
  • https://trailrunner.com/trail-news/preliminary-trail-running-survey-results/
  • https://runrepeat.com/guides/best-trail-running-shoes
  • https://outdoorindustry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2010-A-Special-Report-on-Trail-Running1.pdf
  • https://ultrarunning.com/featured/head-heart-and-soul-the-future-of-trail-running/
  • https://www.livestrong.com/article/13730338-running-statistics/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_running
  • https://runrepeat.com/most-obssessed-runners-stats-page
  • https://runrepeat.com/state-of-ultra-running
  • https://trailrunner.com/trail-news/spring-2021-trail-runner-survey-results/
  • https://trailrunner.com/trail-news/spring-2020-trail-runner-survey-results/
  • https://trailrunner.com/trail-news/trail-running-in-the-pandemic-our-survey-results/
Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.