As the weather warms up, some of you will want to hit the road to soak up the rays (safely, with SPF of course!) while others will see the temperature-controlled treadmill as the only humane option. But choosing your running surface is (or should be!) about more than just your climate of choice. Between the beach and the track and everything in between, the surface you run on can affect not only the quality of your workout but also the likelihood of injury. So read on, choose carefully and get running!
Asphalt – If you’re neither injury prone nor recovering from an injury, hitting the road is for you. Just remember that if you have shin or knee pains or any muscle strains you’ll want to tread lightly.
Track – If you’re worried about tripping or prone to ankle sprains, this is the outdoor surface for you since there are no curbs to worry about or sticks and stones to trip over (usually!). Just be careful if you’ve had calf strains, because the circular motion can put strain on the inside leg.
Dirt Trails – While the soft, uneven surfaces can increase your chances of a sprain (especially if you’ve ever had one before) it is these same qualities that make dirt trails great for people with runner’s knee, shin splints or any other injury for which impact is aggravating. Just be careful about obstacles that may be on the path.
Grass – Running on grass decreases the reverberating effects of impact from going back up your leg, making this an ideal surface for those recovering from knee injuries. That being said, if you have or are prone to plantar fasciitis, grass can actually put extra strain on the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot.
Sand/Beach – Sure, a run on the beach seems like a great idea in theory, but it’s actually the least ideal running surface. It puts a lot of pressure on the knee, ankle and hip and increases the risk of Achilles pain exponentially.
Treadmill – running exclusively on the treadmill won’t prepare you for a road race (if you’re training for one) but if you want to increase your mileage it’s nevertheless ideal – not only because the belt is cushioned to reduce impact but also because you can watch TV!