Running Surfaces Can Make a Difference

The terrain that an athlete runs on is critical to not only their performance but also to the health and maintenance of their bodies. You might be surprised at what running on a different terrain can do to your body. When it comes to the type of surface that you run on, the most important factor is the amount of shock absorption that the terrain provides. Now just because something is super shock absorbent does not mean it is the most ideal running surface. For example, many people like to run on beaches because it is a very soft surface, but it also takes much more energy to run on sandy surfaces because you sink into the sand as you run. Therefore, there is a cost-benefit ratio to running on very shock absorbent surfaces, on one hand they provide a softer surface for your feet to land on but on the other hand they require more energy to run causing you to get tired more quickly during your run.

More traditional running surface materials are concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets. If you have the choice, the asphalt streets are actually a better option because they are softer on impact compared to concrete sidewalks. You may not be able to feel a difference when running on the two but over long distances, your body will certainly be able to feel the difference.

Besides the material that a running surface is made of, another factor that makes a difference while running is if the terrain you run on is slanted or banked. Running on a banked surface in one direction or another is common because many roads and pathways in Houston are designed this way to help them drain properly. The problem with running on a banked surface is that you get an uneven distribution of force and work that is put onto each leg. The leg that is lower bears more weight and does more work than the leg that is more uphill. If you know you are running on a slant then one thing to consider is make sure you are running on an out and back run route and not a circular path. If you are running in a circle then the same leg is always bearing more weight and doing more work than the other leg. If you run out and back then one leg does more work on the way out and the other leg does more work on the way back. By the end of your run your legs have taken on the same workout which will minimize the chance of injury.

The composition and contour of the surface you are running on is very important to the health and performance of a runner. Making a conscious effort to run on a flat surface that has the optimal shock absorption is important to consider on every run.
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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