Do Surfaces Matter When Running?

Different road surfaces have corresponding effects to one’s running routine. Each surface has a unique way of working on muscles, bones and joints of the body. The biomechanics of movement shifts depending on the texture, flatness and slope of the surface. Therefore, runners should adapt the approach and strength to the setting.

Natural Surface Paths

Grasses, dusts and sand are examples of natural surfaces. These kinds of surfaces provide rough and bumpy tracks which works out wider range of muscles. The uneven surface means the runner has to focus to avoid injuries. According to doctors, these are usually softer which lessens joint strains.

Man-made Surface Paths

These paths include concrete, asphalt and rubber. These surfaces are predictable, smooth and hard. The solidity makes the path tougher on the feet and knees. Doctors recommend avoiding concrete, which is the hardest, altogether. If other options are not possible, shoes should be made with top quality cushion to lessen the force when landing. Doctors caution that strong concrete landings can have too much force to break red blood cells which oxygenate other parts of the body. Running on cement also places a runner at greater risk for shin injuries.

Asphalt has lesser risks but it is still a threat for stress fractures. Rubber is a better option because it doesn’t force joints too much.

Choosing the better surface

The kind of surface that is ideal for you is a personal choice.  It is determined by your level of ease and disposition. There are medical studies conducted to help you decide on which surface to adopt or avoid.

A research done in Hong Kong found that running on grass caused low stress on the plantar fascia. This ligament is often injured when running.

Majority of doctors agree that natural surfaces are the best for running. Hirofumi Tanaka, who is a physiologist from Texas, opposes. He argued that bumpy paths of dirt and soft paths are risky. He prefers flat and hard pavements.

It would be best to vary surfaces to give the body a challenge. If concrete will be used, make sure to have great running shoes and reversible running jacket for protection.