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How Different Running Surfaces Affect Your Body

The freedom of running takes us on many different surfaces: road, sidewalk, dirt, grass, sand, track, and treadmill. Each surface has its own set of pros and cons and it is important to understand these before starting your run.

Here at PledgeSports, we care for the health and fitness of all athletes, whether they’re fundraising with us or not.

By staying informed we make more intelligent decisions, and perhaps avoid some of the most common downfalls in the process. Here are 7 of the most common running surfaces and how they affect us.

Road

Runner woman runningThis surface is favourable to the majority. The road can be beneficial because of its convenience; however, it can also be tough on the joints, thus leading to a potential injury.

Meanwhile, some experts believe the road is beneficial to runners with Achilles issues. The road’s hard surface reduces stress on your Achilles’ tendon causing less susceptibility to injury.

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Regardless, while running on the road safety becomes a concern. Be sure to wear reflective gear and be on the look out for traffic, especially when using headphones.

Footpath/Sidewalk

1142-hobi-olahraga-lari-cegah-bahaya-dehidrasi-dan-overhidrasi-2For many city runners, this is the safest and most convenient surface of them all, however, they can also be one of the hardest. The hard ground creates a great deal of stress on your joints and muscles. Therefore, if you’re fighting an injury, it may not be the best road to recovery.

So, how can you avoid the negative aspects of pounding the pavement?

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For one, try a shoe that has been fitted properly. Also, try some extra insole support. Both solutions will help soften the blow. Meanwhile, this sounds basic but beware of unrepaired footpaths, especially when running at night. It’s easy to clip a broken or raised slab, and this could force you to the ground.

Not an ideal way to find out how hard the ground is.

Dirt

Al 15For some, dirt is the answer to their running prayers. This type of surface has an optimum degree of hardness and just enough leeway preventing the most common running injuries like plantar fasciitis and IT band syndrome.

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On the other hand, at times, the trails can be very demanding, serving as the home for many steep rolling hills, not to mention, tree roots and big rocks. When running on dirt paths, also known as trails, you quickly learn that if you look up then you’re going down!

Aleks Kashefi ran the entire length of Europe during the Autumn and Winter months of 2016 and early 2017. Aleks ran a lot of trails in covering 6,189km of the continent and has become a big fan of what mother nature has to offer runners.

“I really like running on boulder technical terrain, whether it’s uphill, flat or downhill. The more severe and technical (rocky, rooted, bumpy) the better,” said Aleks.

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Michael+Wardian+Tarawera+Ultramarathon+BI_t0wpydlhlMichael Wardian is an American marathon and ultra-marathon runner.

Wardian has won multiple titles, including 3 consecutive US 50km Championships, the US 100km National Championships and 6 National Marathons, winning 3 consecutively on 2 different occasions. While the roads have been good to Michael he has a soft spot for trails too, it seems.

“I love running roads, trails, track etc., I don’t play favourites. I like to run on trails with Rosie our Vizsla (dog) as she loves it, but again I like it all,” said Michael.

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Grass

Runner athlete running on sunset grass seasideThe soft surface of the grass provides a much lower impact than other surfaces. The grass layer acts as an extra cushion and provides a well-earned break on the joints of those who train on the road.

Unlike running on the road, be sure to keep your head down navigating through the path that lies ahead. Grass can hide holes and uneven surfaces, making it very east to go over on your ankle.

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Don’t be fooled by its soft surface, grass can cause injury in the blink of an eye.

Sand

1456871298703As running surfaces go, there is nothing as incredible as a morning run along the coast as it is inspiring and generally has a fantastic impact on your mood.

Furthermore, besides the beneficial mental aspects of running on this surface, the loose sand creates resistance, ultimately providing an effective workout and a great way to catch the body off guard. Not to mention, the soft impact of the sand helps prevent injuries.

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While the loose sand can provide an excellent workout, it can also force the ankles into a vulnerable state. Fortunately, the sand is harder when wet; therefore, running closer towards the water will provide a potentially safer running surface.

Treadmill

insidejobfeb500_0The treadmill is one of those running surfaces that moves to your command and, as is the opinion of many, is no running surface at all. It’s also a great tool for transitioning onto the street and it provides an effective tool to build your mental strength.

“I think treadmills are incredible tools and allow you to be present for your family, work, etc. at a moments notice,” said Mike.

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We’ve heard of people running full marathons on a treadmill, staring at the same wall for hours on end. If that doesn’t build mental strength, not much else will. In addition, some say the treadmill can help with injuries, while conversely, others say they cause injuries or prolong their effects.

“Treadmills give you ground as you run so there’s no need to shift weight forwards. It’s not really the same as running outside because of that,” according to Aleks.

Whatever you choose, understand that we all have different bodies and different goals, treadmill or no treadmill movement of any kind is better than no movement at all.

Track

woman-on-track-700The soft, spongy surface of a track is an ideal surface to run on. This man-made 400-metre loop is perfect for short speed workouts.

However, when running long distances, it’s best to approach with caution. Repetitively circling around the same tight loop can wreak havoc on your IT Band.

While on the track keep your runs short and quick… then quickly run off!

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