The difference in running surfaces

The difference in running surfaces


The difference in running surfaces


Running on different surfaces can affect your running technique, impact different joints and muscles than what you’re used to, as well as shake-up your recovery. If you’re used to running on asphalt, a beach run on soft sand is going to be far more taxing on your calves and you’ll feel out of puff sooner than what you would normally. We’re going to take a look at the different type of surfaces, how they impact your running and the type of shoes you should wear.


It’s soft, absorbs more of the impact as your feet connect with the ground, so grass is gentler on your joints. Large park or school fields are an ideal place to run on grass, as long as you don’t mind the mundane sights which often go hand in hand running in a confined space. Don’t be tempted to run barefoot, as the soles of your feet don’t provide the necessary cushioning. Besides you never know what you might stand on – a patch of prickles, sticks, lone stones (which really hurt) or even a snake. The closest thing to running barefoot is the new Nike Free RN. With the flexible sole, heel and light breathable uppers, it’s as closest thing to running without shoes.

All-weather track

Designed for all weather, the artificial running tracks are have a rubbery feel underfoot. Traditionally they were made from gravel or sand, while there are still many like these still around, the newer tracks are made from latex or rubber. They are the ideal surface for fast running, particularly as there are no surprises with uneven terrain, but unless you have a running buddy to spur you on or a great playlist, it can be quite boring attempting long distance. Specially designed track and field shoes will provide your feet with the sport you need.

Off-road/Cross Country

Despite the pitfalls of uneven terrain, being slippery underfoot when wet, rocks, branches and hidden tree roots which may send you sprawling and potential to get lost, cross country is the most exciting type of running surface. You never know what’s around the next corner. Trails are often sandy with leaves, but there’s far less impact on your joints than on-road running. Ensure you have good shoes with traction and laces that don’t come undone. Make sure you’re prepared just in case you get lost or hurt and become unable to walk or run back to civilisation.


Footpaths and road surfaces are often made from asphalt, a mixture of pitch with sand and gravel. While it’s a little more yielding than concrete footpaths and less slippery, you want to be sure that you have running shoes with cushioning to absorb some of the impact. It’s a great surface for running long distances. Be sure to wear reflective gear, so you stand out like a lit up Christmas tree, especially if you are running at dawn or dusk


You may want to re-enact the opening credits of Baywatch, but running on sand is a lot more difficult than it looks on television Long distance beach running impacts heavily on your knees, quads, feet and ankles, particularly if you are running in soft sand. The sea breeze and sand between your toes is very therapeutic. If you must run, wait until the tide is out for a firm running surface and keep your distance short.


Running on concrete can be hard on your joints. It’s said to be 10 times harder than asphalt. Therefore it is crucial to have good shoes with good cushioning. Forget opting for a light shoe, go for more cushioning as it saves your even better cushioning. It saves your energy by decreasing the amount of effort required by your muscles on impact and take off.

Not all shoes are created equal, so talk to your local rebel footwear specialists about the surfaces you intend to run on.