Knowing the pros and cons of different types of running surfaces can help you get a leg up on the best type of running surface for you, especially if you’ve had running injuries that still cause foot pain or you want to prevent foot and ankle problems.
When it comes to your exercise routine you’ve probably heard that variety is a good rule of thumb because different exercises work different muscle groups and don’t let your body get used to doing the same thing over and over again.
The same is true when it comes to running. When you’re ready to pound the pavement, surface variety is best. Why? Because your feet and lower extremities are experiencing a lot of stress when you run. Switching up running surfaces allows you to spread the stress to different muscle groups and joints, instead of requiring all the stress to fall on one area that will potentially cause foot and ankle problems.
If running is your chosen method of cardio activity, different surfaces will not only offer a different type of training to vary up your running routine, they can also help keep you safe from injury.
So let’s take a look at some common running surfaces:
This is often a favorite running surface for urban runners through parks or running trails. It’s typically a more level surface and gives more spring, but also has less give and more shock that the body has to absorb. Professional runners typically try to stay off of concrete when training, especially in cold weather because it can cause breaks and shifts in the concrete.
This is the most convenient choice for runners because it’s easy to lace up your running shoes and take a run along the side of any road. Asphalt has slightly more give than concrete and requires less energy than softer running surfaces, but there’s still a lot of force of impact.
Asphalt also has more of a slope, so you’ll want to change the side of the road you’re running on, otherwise one foot will continually pronate (turn inward) which can later lead to foot and ankle problems, as well as problems in your knees, hips and back.
While tracks made out of the polyurethane material are level, generally have even surfaces with some give, and good traction, they can sometimes be too hard or too soft. When finding a place to run, take the advice of Goldilocks and find a track or route to run on that’s just right for you.
There is minimal force on impact when running on sand, but it requires the muscles and tendons in your foot to work overtime as they stabilize, so you’ll expend more energy than when running on other surfaces.
Avid runners try to vary up their routines by getting half or more of their runs on a back road or dirt running trail. Running on dirt trails requires you to work a little harder, but make sure you pay attention and watch out for any rocks, branches, or other hazards that may be in your path.
It seems runners have a love-hate relationship with treadmills. While they are convenient and give you direct feedback of your speed, incline, etc. they aren’t a very natural form of running because you’re essentially standing still while the surface is moving. They’re fine for an occasional run or training, but shouldn’t be the primary surface of your running routine.
The best way to avoid and prevent foot and ankle problems when running is to consistently run on different surfaces. If you start to have chronic foot pain, visit a podiatrist for an evaluation and make sure you ask about HyProCure® – a remarkable procedure to correct foot misalignment, often common among runners who suffer from over-pronation.
If you’re in the New York area, contact us at Adler Footcare. We believe feet shouldn’t hurt and neither should their treatment.