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Running On Different Surfaces


In this blog today I want to list some of the main differences about running on different surfaces. Some of this information I have acquired from professional triathletes and marathon runners over the years and other parts are through my own training through trial and error.



There are all different kinds of surfaces you can run on from concrete, soft sand, hard sand, dirt, gravel, grass, tartan or tarmac just to name a few. Each surface will effect your body in different ways, if you can switch up your training on different surfaces this can have positive benefits by strengthening different muscle groups in your legs along with ligaments and tendons which should lower the risk of repetitive strain injuries.



For me personally I have low arches and one shoulder slightly lower then the other allowing one leg to slightly internally rotate which predisposes me to injuries such as ITB syndrome and shin splints if I run too many kms on the road or concrete. What I have found is if you suffer from flat feet or low arches consider buying a neutral shoe with plenty of support like Hokas, Brooks or Skechers. These shoes provide alot more cushioning and lower the risk of injury. If you then combine this with running on the grass you can really take alot of the impact off your joints and decrease the risk of injury when building up to a half marathon or a marathon for example.



Next I'm going to discuss some of the surfaces along with the pros and cons to way up:



Grass- Running on grass is one of the kindest and forgiving surfaces as it is a soft, low impact surface, this is a great option also for speed work as it works the muscles hard especially if it's close cropped grass.


The cons on grass is it is can sometimes depending on where you are running be quite an uneven surface, so if you have weak ankles this could be a potential issue. I'd recommend just starting with less distance and building yourself up gradually if that's the case. Another con is long grass can have pot holes so always try to stick to a short grass running oval if possible.





Trail- Dirt or forest trails can be a great way to switch up your running as it strengthens the muscles of the hips as you have to change direction constantly to avoid rocks, tree roots, sticks and branches. Trail running also often incorporates lots of hill work which can really develop your calves. Dirt is often alot more forgiving on the body as oppose to tarmac or concrete.


If you are running through a forest or a track that is not well maintained be careful not to trip over tree roots or branches or in wet weather the trail could become very slippery especially on the downhills.









Tarmac- Tarmac or bitumen is the most common surface that most people run on. The biggest pro about tarmac is it's a fast surface. If you are looking to do a PR for your 10km, half marathon or marathon you will most likely do it on tarmac.


Many tarmac roads are banked or cambered on the sides allowing water to run away. This can lead to an imbalance in your stride which can lead to a hip, knee or ankle injury. Tarmac is also a very hard surface increasing your risk of injury.






Concrete- Concrete is another fast surface to run on. For most people that live in the city or near a shared pathway running on concrete is convenient.


However it is the least forgiving on your body leading to achillies tendon injuries and pedestrians are a real issue depending on where you are running.









 

About the Author

Nic Rider is a corporate health and well-being coach with 8 years experience in the health and fitness industry. He is one of the top age group triathletes in Australia practicing what he preaches as he believes in leading by example to help inspire others. Nic has coached 100's of corporate professionals to start exercise, lose weight, build muscle and improve cardiovascular health along with injury rehabilitation. He has coached clients to run marathons and participate in triathlons along with climb mountains in the Himalayas.






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