The Surface You Run On

It is important as a runner to consider the longevity of your career in relation to injury and the surface you run on. The impact on our spine, muscles and tendons varies significantly with the nature of the surface. I have drafted a table showing a purely personal and subjective guide on a scale of 1 to 10.

Surface

Concrete footpath 10
Blacktop footpath 10
Running track (variable) 8 (average)
Old railway line (dry) 7
Old railway line (wet/muddy) 5
Forest trails (dry) 6
Forest trails (wet/muddy) 4
Grass (dry) 3
Grass (wet) 2

During the winter months most of us have to run in darkness during the working week, but it is vital from the view of injury prevention to head for more giving surfaces at the weekend. In the spring, summer and autumn most of your running should be on soft surfaces. In reality with a bit of thought some of your “dark” sessions can be carried out on grass or on a running track. Try to find a playing field with street lights adjoining on most sides. Or even do hill reps on a footpath in a lit area, jogging back down on a grass verge.

Strict attention to the surface you run on can pay big dividends in relation to injury avoidance and a long running career.

Mel Edwards
November 2007