Runners should be concerned about what type of surface they are running on, since different surfaces will affect your foot health than others. As we run, some of the energy from our bodies is transferred to the ground. Soft, springy surfaces absorb some of the energy while deflecting some back to propel our bodies forward and tend to be easier on our joints over the long term, while hard surfaces neither absorb nor deflect energy, but are better at preventing injuries in the short term.
Running on soft, springy surfaces like grass and wooded trails are often recommended by running experts and doctors because they are easier on the joints and absorb impact. The variances in surface also help develop strength in the tiny muscles of your calves and thighs, which work hard to stabilize your legs on uneven surfaces.
While running on grass or trails may be a better option, for newbie runners, they may not be looking out for ditches, tree roots, or unevenness in the terrain. New runners on this type of surface often have pulled muscles or twisted ankles because they aren't used to watching out where they are running. Many runners will also say they don't appreciate the scenery like they should, because they are busy watching out where they are going. Grass and dirt can get wet and muddy, and slippery conditions make it more treacherous for runners. Runner's World magazine gives grass the highest rating of all terrains, but says that the best grass, like on golf courses, is usually off-limits.
Some runners prefer running on treadmills because it has a spring-mounted band that absorbs shock and protects the joints, but it doesn't let you use the same muscles you would on grass or trails.
Runner's World ranks pavement, which is ten times harder than asphalt, as one of the worst running surfaces- only snow beats it out. However, for those who live in urban areas, running on anything else is impossible. Pavement, while being unrelenting on joints and shock absorption, does make it easy for runners to keep track of mileage and keep a steady pace. There are also no tree roots or divots for potential sprains, just curbs and breaks in the pavement.
Unfortunately, most road races and marathons are held on pavement, so runners who wish to participate in these events should train on these types of surfaces so they are used to it for race day. We would recommend limiting the amount of time you spend running on pavement and mix up your running routine to include both soft and hard surfaces
Reference: Divine Caroline
If you are a runner and have a foot problem, call our Newington, Kensington, or Middletown office to make an appointment.
Craig M. Kaufman, DPM
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Sports Medicine Podiatrist in CT
Podiatrist in Newington
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