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What surface should you run on?

Posted Mar 25 2013 2:48pm

Yesterday I went for my long weekend run.  It was pretty nice.  About a 17 mile tour through the great city of Chicago.  I ran by the United Center, the old Sears Tower, Cellular Field, the Harold Washington Library, and a number of other downtown buildings.  I to make long runs more like tours as it keeps things more interesting. Sox Park Chicago

During this run, I stayed mostly on the concrete sidewalks.  Occasionally, I would step out into the street and run on the asphalt bike lanes but mostly, it was hard pounding concrete.  That made me wonder whether this was a good surface to run on.  I spend most of my joggling time on concrete and perhaps I’m not doing myself any favors.

Well, I saw this interesting post about the effect of surfaces on running .  It made some interesting observations.  I’ll add my comments on how I think it affects jogglers.

Natural surfaces – These are trail runs and grass runs.   According to the article it is easier on your body as the surface is more cushioned.  They caution that these are often uneven and it requires more focus than other surfaces.  I agree and this is especially true for jogglers.  You should stick to other surfaces if you are a beginning joggler.  But when you get good, go for these surfaces as they are softer and will lead to less pain.

Concrete – They say concrete is the worst thing to run on because the hardness can lead to injuries.  If you are going to run on concrete you need to bet the most cushioned shoes you can get.  I’m not sure I agree as I’ve run primarily on concrete for nearly 15 years and it hasn’t led to any significant injuries for me.  However, it’s possible that I am not your average runner.  When given the choice I do prefer running on a surface softer than concrete.

Asphalt – If you are an urban runner or don’t belong to a group that has a track, you’ll probably end up on asphalt.  It’s not a bad option as it’s a bit softer than concrete but it is more smooth than natural surfaces.  If I had the option I would run on asphalt most of the time.  Just watch out for cars!

Rubberized – This is the best option if you can get it.  They are typically the surfaces of tracks and they are nice an smooth.  However, running around a track for a long time can get pretty boring.  It’ll be better for your legs but bad for your mind.  I would recommend these surfaces for doing speed workouts but if you’ve got a long run, go outside.  It’ll be much more interesting.


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