Workout Tips

Get a Leg Up On the Best Surfaces to Run On

Knowing the pros and cons of different running surfaces can help you stay on your feet.


Grounded Advice

Mixing up the surface you run on ensures the best overall fitness results. But each surface comes with its own set of pros and cons. For direction in your selection, we asked Edward A. Schwartz, DPM, and Bob Howard, MS, ATC, lead athletic trainer at the University of Connecticut (Storrs), for their advice. Here are their evaluations:


Pros: Gives more spring, and typically is a more level surface. Often the only choice for urban runners.

Cons: Concrete has less give and there's more shock that the body has to absorb. There can also be many breaks and shifts in cold weather, which can create safety problems. Most coaches try to keep their runners off concrete as much as possible.


Pros: Has a little more give than concrete and requires less energy expenditure than softer surfaces. Generally a pretty level surface with few irregularities. In the summer it may have even more give than in winter, when it can be rock hard. Often the most convenient choice for many runners.

Cons: There's still a lot of force on impact. And there's also more of a slope - you'll want to change which side of the road you run on because one foot has to continually pronate (turn inward) and the other supinate (turn outward) to accommodate the road surfaces. This can create serious foot problems, which can cascade into knee, hip or back problems.


Pros: Polyurethane tracks are level and have even surfaces with some give. The newly designed Tartan tracks are made with materials that offer good traction and a hard but giving surface.

Cons: Depending on the materials used, they can often be either too hard, in which case they don't cushion well, or too soft, in which case they slow you down.

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