Jogging Tips: What’s The Best Terrain To Run On?

Monday, December 18, 2006 - 4:05pm

By Michele Silence, MA

If you run or jog regularly, you’ve probably put some serious thought into your shoes. And your clothes. And your heart rate. But what about your terrain? What about the surface your feet strike over and over, day in and day out? What you run on is very important to your long term well-being. Do you know the safest surfaces to jog on? Here’s a quick comparison of the most common running surfaces.

1.   Avoid jogging on concrete

Hard as a rock (it is rock), concrete should be avoided like the plague. If you decide to train on concrete, don’t be surprised if you begin to have joint and ligament pains. Stone is hard; it returns all the force you hit it with directly back to you. Your body can’t take that amount of stress. Eventually, it will start breaking down with fractures, sprains, and strains.

2.   Asphalt is the recommended jogging surface

Asphalt is generally the favorite surface of most runners. It absorbs impact well, and it is level so you don’t have to worry about twisting an ankle. Watch out for cracks and uneven areas.

3.   Dirt surfaces can be uneven and a danger when jogging

Although forgiving in terms of shock absorption, dirt has one critical drawback. Unless you’re running on a track, you’re probably going to hit some uneven areas. Holes, pebbles, stones and pine cones can cause you to twist an ankle without warning. Stay cautious of surrounding debris and glance at the ground in front of you often.

4.   Downside of jogging on grass: can be slippery

Thick and matted, grass absorbs a good deal of the impact from the foot strike. Be careful of hidden holes and dips. Also, be careful in the early morning or after a rain. Grass can be very slippery when it’s wet.

5.   Sand jogging - burns lots of calories, but can be a struggle

If you’re looking to burn a lot of calories, running on the sand can give you a great workout. Because your foot sinks into the sand, it’s more of a struggle to run on it than on a less giving surface. As far as safety, sand compares closely to running on asphalt. But, it may not be practical and you won’t find the kind of inclines you may like to target other muscles. Tip: Run on sand that is both wet and flat. Avoid the sloping shoreline and protect your knees.

For successful jogging - choose your surface, technique and shoes carefully

In short, choose the surface that you feel most comfortable on, but avoid concrete. Concrete will jar your bones and create unnecessary impact on your spine. Run on a natural, flat surface that feels good to you. Remember, too, that a good running technique and quality shoes are important to ensure you avoid injuries. Other than these tips, as long as your body feels good, keep on running!