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Monday, November 5, 2007

Running Surfaces Rated


photo by gawnesco

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Concrete - Without a doubt the worst running surface possible. The problem...it's hard. Really, really hard. A few miles a week on concrete sidewalks might not set you up for an injury, but as you increase your mileage, try to find a softer surface to run on, as lots of concrete running dramatically increases the likelihood of injury.

Asphalt - Now you would think that asphalt is just as bad as concrete, but it is not. It's actually about 8 times "softer". The real problem with running on asphalt roads is not the hardness, but the camber of the road. Roads are designed to shed water and are actually higher in the center and lower of the sides. This leads to a surface that isn't flat and can cause injuries.

Sand - Well, sand is nice and soft, right? Not when you run on it. It compacts into a hard unstable surface. Running on the beach is especially hard on your body because, like asphalt roads, the sand slopes toward the water, leading to an un-level running surface.

Dirt - Dirt trails are the best running surface. They tend to be softer and easier on your body than any other running surface. On some trails you may need to watch out for exposed roots and rocks. Well groomed dirt trails equal running nirvana.

Grass - Grass is also a very good surface to run on from an "injury avoidance" standpoint, but grass tends to hide uneven ground, so you should be cautious.

Treadmills - Treadmills are a good choice for running, but they do tend to change your stride, as you are propelling yourself up more than forward. Consequently, you will land harder, but treadmills can provide some extra cushion to accommodate. Some other good points are that temperature and weather are not an issue. But, in my not-so-humble opinion, that is offset by the fact that "dreadmill" running is so bor-ing.

So, here is my list of running surface, ranked best to worst:

  • Dirt
  • Grass
  • Treadmill
  • Sand
  • Asphalt
  • Concrete
Now, get out there and run.

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Kristen said...

This is off topic, but did you find a place to get a Suunto from yet?

Fit Club Scott said...

Not yet. I'll probably order it from Amazon.