That's what a proper pair of trail shoes makes. I ran the Golden Gate Trail Half just north of San Francisco three weekends ago, over almost the same course as that for the Golden Gate Headlands Half Marathon, which I'd run earlier this spring. Instead of the Vibram FiveFingers, I wore my new Brooks Pure Grit. And, it was pure joy not having to focus almost exclusively on the trail surface and being able to just run and enjoy the gorgeous views! Here's one from about half a mile out from the start line and looking generally south across Rodeo Lagoon at Bird Island in the background. 5-Mile runners can be seen coming up the Coastal Trail of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
And, here's a view from higher up the hill, with Bird Island at about the center of the photo and Rodeo Beach now visible.
These two photos and the following one were taken by my daughter, who ran the 5-Mile race, along with my son. The first half of the 5-Mile course was the same as that for the Half Marathon. There were also the 50K, 30K, and marathon events. The three of us together, we run several local races near home every year, which I really enjoy! The Golden Gate Trail races were our first ones away from home.
The course was tough--but fun!--right from the start, Here's a view of a slower section of the first couple miles, which a friend of mine noted as reminiscent of Moses leading the chosen people out of Egypt to the promised land. Except that it didn't: the top of the climb in the background of the photo, above the stair-stepped section with railings, was just a respite.
Here are the course map and elevation profile (for the Half), both from the race Web site (Coastal Trail Runs).
This race, compared with the Golden Gate Headlands Half Marathon that I'd run earlier this year, was generally better organized (though I'd still happily run the latter). For this race, the course was somewhat better marked, though that could be because it was my second time running it. The start-finish line actually looked like one. More importantly, it was located north of Rodeo Beach, and, thus, there was no run across the beach--and sand in the shoes. The aid stations were better stocked, with more variety; I took mostly orange slices and salty snacks. I brought my own gels. I also refilled my water bottle at the second station (~Mile 9). The volunteers at the stations were very helpful (as they were in the earlier race). There were plenty of food at the finish. Early arrivals before the start of the race got to park closer to the start/finish line, about 1/4 mile away, which was what we did. Later arrivals parked about a mile away. It'd be nice if there were also a few porta potties at the parking lots, beside those at the start/finish line. Registration included a tech shirt, with printed race year.
This race had medals for all finishers and for those who placed. I came in second in my age group (2:15:27), some 29 minutes slower than my PR for the half. For such a course, though, I was pretty satisfied.
My 30-second review of the Brooks Pure Grit: Nice fit, fairly light (for the amount of sole cushion it provides), toe box could be squarer/larger, sure grip of trail surface, carefree running!
So, the bottom line or, rather, the "bottom of the shoes": To properly run a trail race, one needs a proper pair of trail shoes (duh!).