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What Running Surface Is Best For You?

Posted Dec 21 2009 6:51am
Being an urban joggler, I tend to log lots of miles on the sidewalks of the city. Of the ~1400 miles under my shoes this year about 70% were done on concrete sidewalks.

You might wonder, is this bad?

I don’t really know. It certainly hasn’t seemed to hurt me as I’ve been runningjoggling andy swan running surface similarly for the last 10 years and haven’t experienced any significant injury.

Different Running Surface for Different Reasons

A concrete running surface isn’t my preferred one but it is the one that is most convenient. That’s why I do it. If I could choose, I would go with a well-groomed dirt trail. It feels better.

Recently Runner’s World did a review of the different running surfaces and analyzed their pros and cons. Interestingly, they did not include the concrete surface that I run on. I wonder if that means they think it is just too preposterous to log many miles on concrete.

Here is a summary of what they said.

Running surfaces

Asphalt Roads - This is most every road in America & my second-most often run on surface. If you are not particularly injury prone then it’s fine to run on asphalt. However, if you are trying to recover from an injury, try one of the softer surfaces until you heal.

Dirt Trails- These surfaces are great when smoothed. That are soft impact and can be good for any runner. The downside is that they are often uneven and can cause you to twist an ankle. If you’ve had an ankle sprain you might consider a surface that is a little more consistent.

Sand -A great surface for building leg strength. So, if you’re injury free and are looking to improve your times, a little sand work can go a long way. But don’t do too much, sand running can increase your chances of injury more than any other surface.

Synthetic Track – This has all the benefits of dirt running without the unpredictability. This running surface is probably the best and is good for any runner. The downside is that it’s usually in the shape of an oval and turning to your left for an extended period of time can stress the inside leg and possibly lead to injury. The other problem is that most people do not have access to a track like this.

Grass – Another nice, natural surface that will be good for most runners. It is cushioned so it feels much nicer on your knees than asphalt or concrete. It can be a little dangerous if the grass is wet. Also, if you tend to overpronate this could happen more on grass and lead to a stress injury.

Treadmills – This surface is probably the most common for most runners (especially during the winter). It is great for most runners as it is smooth, cushioned, and straight. Unfortunately, those benefits also make it incredibly boring to run on and if you are preparing for a race, you’ll need to get outside occasionally because treadmill running will not completely prepare you for a race.

What surface do you like running on most? Leave a comment and let the rest of the JYAJ community know.

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