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.

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SAND

Pros: Not a lot of force on impact with sand.

Cons: Running on sand requires muscles and tendons of the foot to really work overtime to stabilize the foot, so there's a lot of energy expenditure. Don't be fooled into thinking you can run barefoot, or you may end up with a stress fracture. If running at the beach, run closer to the water's edge, where the sand is more compact and less irregular.

TREADMILLS

Pros: Treadmills are convenient. They're generally in a weather- and light-controlled environment, they give you direct feedback on running speed and elevation, and the surface gives, to some degree.

Cons: It's a somewhat unnatural form of running. You're basically standing still while the surface is moving. You don't typically run on a treadmill, you "hop" because you have to project yourself into the air to let the belt roll under your feet. Try to do most running off the treadmill and save it just for an occasional run.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Individual foot structure plays a key role in what kinds of surfaces a runner should select, says Schwartz. "A high arch is not the best shock absorber, so you may not want to do a lot of training on hard-impact surfaces," he explained. "I'm not saying you can't, but you should minimize it." The opposite would be true for someone with a very flexible foot, the kind that over-pronates (rolls inward) upon striking the ground. "You probably don't want to spend a lot of time training on soft surfaces," Schwartz offers. "It would create more stress on muscles and tendons."

Frank Claps is a free-lance writer, personal trainer and owner of Fitness for Any Body in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at claps@nni.com.

 

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