Working on Totally different Surfaces Impacts Your Physique in Totally different Methods

Runners put a whole lot of thought into their exercises, contemplating issues like how far they’re going to run, how briskly they’re going to run, whether or not they’ll do a gentle distance run or an interval exercise. But one factor leisure runners not often take note of is the floor they’re going to be operating on. From asphalt roads to dust trails, treadmills to operating tracks, what you land on with every stride could make a distinction in how operating impacts your physique.

So, what’s the finest floor for operating? We broke down the results of the commonest choices.

How completely different surfaces affect the results of operating

The floor you run on can both buffer or improve the impression of every stride in your physique, relying on its stiffness and levelness, says William Charschan, DC, a licensed sports activities doctor, the proprietor of Charschan Chiropractic and Sports activities Damage Associates, and the previous medical director for USA Observe and Area in New Jersey.

However there are a variety of different variables that have an effect on impression, too, he provides. “The physique type, flexibility, core effectiveness, and even your trainers can have an effect on impression,” he notes. Your operating effectivity may also make an enormous distinction in how you are feeling and the way a lot work it requires so that you can run.

“For instance, a 9.5-minute mile tempo is less complicated on the physique than an 11-minute tempo and extra environment friendly too, because the slower tempo has increased ranges of floor impression,” he says. “If a runner is unable to run quicker and is caught at 10.5 or 11 minutes, the bottom impression will probably be increased.”

That mentioned, irrespective of your tempo, completely different operating surfaces can place completely different sorts of stress in your musculoskeletal system, and alter your threat of accidents.


Most roads and bike paths are fashioned from asphalt, making it one of the crucial widespread surfaces we run on. However Dr. Charschan says that the surface temps and solar publicity can change how asphalt impacts our our bodies.

“Asphalt is a forgiving floor, particularly because it heats up—however too scorching, it may be melty and have an effect on your shoe adhesion, because the darkish floor will warmth from the solar,” he says. “Ideally, operating on asphalt is [best] in cooler climate when the floor has extra give however not too gentle. Within the winter, like all floor, it’s stiff and absorbs shock much less successfully.”


Dr. Charschan says that concrete and cement—that are what sidewalks are sometimes fabricated from—are very stiff and unforgiving surfaces: “I don’t suggest operating on concrete commonly, however it isn’t affected by climate, humidity, or dampness.”

The danger of doing an excessive amount of mileage on concrete is that the hardness of the operating floor will increase impression stress, which may improve the chance of accidents like stress fractures and shin splints.

For those who stay in a metropolis with numerous concrete sidewalks, attempt to restrict the frequency and length of runs on them; search for trails or grass alongside the sidewalk, or hop into the street if it is protected to take action—even asphalt has a bit extra give than concrete.

Filth trails

Path operating has elevated in reputation as an effective way to get away from the hustle and bustle of site visitors and join with nature. Working on dust trails can also be gentler on the bones and joints as a result of elevated give of the pure earth in comparison with the relative stiffness of asphalt and concrete. Nevertheless, the muscular demand of operating on trails is bigger than street operating as a result of a path will not be as easy and even.

“As a result of uneven terrain, a powerful decrease physique is required to keep away from sprains from stepping on rocks and such, [but] path footwear provide improved traction,” says Dr. Charschan. “The dust itself is affected by the climate. Dry climate is, after all, going to make it stiffer and fewer more likely to mitigate shock, and moist climate will soften it. Additionally, these surfaces are tougher in colder climate, which can end in extra impression points.”

Whereas traumatic accidents like sprains are extra widespread in path operating than on flat roads, some analysis has proven that persistent accidents are much less prevalent (seemingly as a result of want for extra diverse physique actions to run over roots and rocks, and up and down steep hills).

Rocky trails

Dr. Charschan says that the qualities of rocky trails are much like these of dust trails; nevertheless, rocks may be slippery and might usually result in twisted ankles, particularly if these rocks are free.

Rocks are also poor shock absorbers so the impression stress on the muscular tissues, joints, and connective tissues will probably be increased when operating on rocky trails versus dust trails. You should definitely select path footwear with outstanding lugs for traction, and ample cushion to assist take up impression.


Most treadmills have pretty cushioned operating decks, notably premium house treadmills and most industrial treadmills. This helps to soak up impression shock and scale back joint stress relative to operating on the street.

Working on a treadmill can also be very constant—you will not journey on a department. However that repetitive foot strike can result in overuse accidents. One solution to mitigate that threat is to fluctuate the incline and the pace so that you just change up your operating type and the muscular tissues labored.

In case you are planning to switch your treadmill coaching to street operating for an upcoming race, analysis suggests that you must set the incline on the treadmill to about one % with the intention to finest mimic the metabolic and physiological calls for of operating outdoors. It is because there’s restricted air resistance when operating indoors, and the treadmill belt is pulling you alongside fairly than you needing to generate all the propulsive drive with your individual muscular tissues.

Working tracks

Most trendy operating tracks are produced from a vulcanized rubber that’s wonderful for absorbing shock whereas nonetheless selling sufficient vitality return to be responsive for quick operating.

“Most operating tracks are fabricated from a fabric designed to mitigate shock,” says Dr. Charschan. Nevertheless, should you’re operating on the observe commonly, you’ll want to reverse the course on alternate days, he suggests. Working the identical course the entire time, particularly for lengthy runs and exercises, could cause stress in your hips and ankles, notably if the observe is banked or the curves are tight.


Astroturf is discovered on the infields of many operating tracks the place soccer, soccer, or different sports activities could also be performed. Though distance runners don’t are likely to run a lot on astroturf, sprinters or runners doing interval coaching and pace coaching could do exercises on this forgiving floor.

“It is a cushioned floor many sports activities are performed on. The benefit of it’s that it may be utilized in any climate and these fields don’t want resting,” says Dr. Charschan. However he provides that turf is not fairly as gentle as grass and sprains like turf toe can occur.


Working on grass is typically beneficial as a gentler various to street operating. “Grass has extra give to it, however pay attention to divots and different pits within the floor that may trigger an damage, comparable to a sprained ankle,” says Dr. Charschan. “It additionally may be a lot softer when moist.” (Learn: muddy.) He provides that whereas many sports activities use manicured grass lawns, your typical grass area is simply too uneven to be ideally suited for operating.


For those who’ve ever run on the seaside, you’re seemingly properly conscious that operating on dry sand could be very troublesome as a result of the sand strikes beneath your ft as you push off. This reduces operating effectivity, since vitality is misplaced to the shifting sand. Which makes it a difficult cardio exercise, and a chance to strengthen completely different muscular tissues.

“[Running on sand] pushes the runner right into a midfoot stride and can make the calves sore. Construct as much as this or think about a minimalist shoe that has a low heel (1-4mm within the again) to coach in first earlier than doing this,” suggests Dr. Charschan. One other technique is to start out by operating nearer to the shore line the place the sand is damp from the ocean, which can supply extra stability to push towards.


If there’s a boardwalk alongside the seaside, Dr. Charschan says this is usually a nice various operating floor that also means that you can take pleasure in operating subsequent to the ocean however in a manner that’s gentler on the physique.

“This floor will reply to your impression and bounce again, which makes you are feeling lighter in your ft,” notes Dr. Charschan.

You can too discover boardwalks in some neighborhood parks or newbie strolling trails.

The perfect floor? A number of surfaces

As with most coaching ideas integral to the game of operating, various your operating surfaces is the easiest way to supply your muscular tissues, joints, bones, and connective tissues completely different stresses whereas mitigating the dangers of operating an excessive amount of on one sort of floor. Selection not solely helps forestall overuse accidents, however it’s going to naturally drive you to strive completely different operating routes, which may also assist forestall boredom—and plateaus in your progress.

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