Running on Various Surfaces

There are several things to consider when running on different surfaces. Here I will share the pros and cons of different surfaces and leave you with a few tips as you think about your future runs.

Concrete

  • Pros – keeps us off the road, especially in areas where vehicles are frequent; relatively smooth and fast
  • Cons – hard surface and that can translate to stiff joints and excessive wear and tear on the body when adding up miles; watch out for uneven spots often found near a tree… I have hit a lip and gone down in the past (tuck and roll…)

Asphalt (Black Top)

  • Pros – smooth, fast, and what many races are run on
  • Cons – not as hard as concrete but still quite an unforgiving surface; some roads may have pitches to them and if so, ensure you are running equal mileage both directions; watch out for potholes or valleys

Track

  • Pros – the typical rubber/polyurethane material provides some cushion; the flat surface is fast; great for consistent interval work
  • Cons – making the same turns can create imbalances in muscles – try warming up and cooling down in the opposite direction of interval work; can be boring going round and round

Gravel, Dirt, Off Road

  • Pros – softer surface resulting in less wear and tear on joints; uneven surfaces and elevation changes can help with stability and core muscles; running off road can also be stress relieving by being out on a beautiful trail
  • Cons – if wet the surface could be slippery; there also could be uneven spots increasing the risk of turning an ankle, falling down or stepping on something (root or rock) that could bruise the bottom of the foot

Treadmill

  • Pros – soft surface; consistent pacing; if weather is poor it provides a safe environment; can program workouts
  • Cons – can become boring running in one place; too much running indoors impacts body’s ability to acclimate to outdoor conditions (humidity, heat, cold, harder surfaces, etc.); can overwork muscles with same contact motion over and over

Grass

  • Pros – soft surface; unevenness can help build stability and work core muscles; short grass you would find on golf courses or athletic fields are great as you can see potential issues
  • Cons – taller grass can hide holes or dips making it easier to turn an ankle or fall

Sand

  • Pros – varying degrees of softness as you get further and closer to the water; softer sand can provide a great strength workout
  • Cons – too much running in soft sand could result in overuse injuries; running closer to the water many times will be at an angle – ensure you run equal distances in each direction allowing muscles to encounter adaptions the same way

Tips

  • Run on a variety of surfaces as they serve different benefits, be conscious of the pitfalls and minimize them as much as possible. I find running on different surfaces places me in different locations adding variety and keeping my training fresh.
  • Be intentional why you are running on a particular surface. Is it to train for a race, build certain muscles, safety, variety, etc.?
  • Match the type of shoe to the surface ensuring you are being conscious about minimizing injury and obtaining the results you desire. Reference my previous blog, How To Choose Your Next Running Shoe.
  • Consult with a coach, doctor, and/or a running shoe (expert) store member for guidance on shoes and appropriate fit.

I hope this has been helpful for you when you plan your next run(s).

– Add Health to Your Life

Featured Blog Photo Surfaces

  • Upper Left – Elia and I running on sand (equal distance each direction on America’s #1 beach – Clearwater Beach)
  • Middle Left – Running on clay (dirt) at the Clay Loop in Clermont, FL
  • Bottom Left – Morgan and I got to run on the famous Hayward Field track at the University of Oregon
  • Top Middle – Finishing the Best Damn Race via Safety Harbor on asphalt
  • Bottom Middle – Morgan running a 5k Cross Country Meet on golf grass for Florida Atlantic University
  • Top Right – Racing on a dirt path at the Tarpon Springs Triathlon
  • Bottom Right – Celia and I on the concrete path of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway

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