Running can be done at almost any time of the year and on almost any surface. It’s the greatest benefit of being a runner: any time, anywhere. It could very well become your mantra by the time your early running years are behind you, but you should give consideration to where your feet land. There are many different surfaces for you to choose from, and each has it’s pros and cons, so before you set off on your new, healthier lifestyle, take a few moments and consider what each one has to offer.
1. Grass: It’s one of the most absorbing and forgiving of running surfaces that you can choose from. You’ll find that your risk of injury due to impact is decreased significantly and you’ll likely be able to avoid some of the common running injuries from impact with the surface. However, grass can also increase your risk of rolling your ankle and knee injuries due to the uneven surface.
2. Asphalt: By far the most common running surface and the one you’re most likely to choose when starting out and running through your neighborhood. Although it’s technically softer than concrete, it is still an unforgiving surface to run on. Injuries can occur from the constant impact of your feet on the surface and also from uneven running as most asphalt surfaces are slanted to the outside in order for water to run off properly.
3. Trails: Trail running can consist of either dirt trails, which offer similar benefits to grass, to compress running terrain composed of gravel, wood chips, dirt and sand. It’s more forgiving than concrete but can come loose and cause injuries from slipping.
4. Concrete: The worst material that you can run on, concrete allows for almost no shock absorption from your running and can quickly lead to injuries. If you life in an area where concrete sidewalks are your best option for getting outside, you should remember to be looking out for the curb and try changing up your running surface whenever you can.
5. Sand: It’s the softest of running surfaces, however it’s also one of the most unforgiving. While there are great physical benefits from running on sand due to the effort it will take to move through it as your body sinks in, you will also be dealing with the constantly changing level of the terrain making it easier to fall and injure the ligaments in your knees.
6. Synthetic Tracks: Tracks offer a wide range of benefits from allowing you to measure your distance with high accuracy, to being able to provide your feet with a good grip. It is more forgiving than asphalt and concrete, but still not as absorbent as grass or a dirt trail. You’ll also have to contend with others while on the track.
Each of the surfaces above offers you a different opportunity. If one of them doesn’t seem appropriate or feels uncomfortable, then switch to one of the others. You can also choose to run on a treadmill which offers an even and absorbent surface, but does require either the purchase of one or being in the location of one. Treadmills can also become monotonous very quickly.
But, whichever surface you decide to run on, do so with your joints and training needs in mind. If one doesn’t work out, you can, and should switch to another one.