Get grounded

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Friday, 27 November 2015 1345 Views 0 Comments
Get grounded

By Kiran Mehta

Is running on a treadmill better than hitting the outdoor-track?

Is running on sand really as good as it’s made out to be?

There’s no such thing as ‘equal ground’ when it comes to running. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of different running surfaces. Even if you’re strapped for open spaces, like much of urban India, we help you make the most of what you’re given, with a few simple pointers.

Running on grass

  • Pros: The soft, cushioning impact is easier on the muscles and joints. This puts grass at the top of the list especially for the older runner or for those prone to knee injuries.
  • Cons: Uneven patches put you at risk of a twisted ankle. Beware of wet grass which is slippery and could lead to a nasty fall.
  • Precautions: Look out for holes and uneven patches, and ensure that the grass is nice and dry.

Running on concrete/ asphalt

running on road-min

  • Pros:  For the city-dweller, there’s little choice but to run on concrete and asphalt roads. It’s smooth and even.
  • Cons: On an even surface, your body finds a steady rhythm which, ironically, increases your chance of repetitive injury. Road-running also puts you at risk of accidents.
  • Precautions: Despite the wide-spread belief that running on hard surfaces damages your knees, some researchers have found otherwise. Research conducted by Mark Tillman of the University of Florida found that our bodies tend to make adjustments to any kind of surface, so all tracks could impact the body in the same way.

Nevertheless, you could opt for shoes that have more cushioning to absorb the shock of running on concrete. Given a choice between concrete and asphalt; choose asphalt, since it’s a tad softer than concrete.

Running on sand

running on sand-zipprr

  • Pros: If you’re fortunate enough to live near the beach, few simple pleasures match up to running on sand with the wind in your hair. The soft sand is a hard task master and one of the best places to build strength.
  • Cons: You’re more prone to Achilles tendon (URL) injuries on soft surfaces as the heel may sink lower than the foot when striking down. Sand is good for occasional short workouts but for longer stretches, opt for even surfaces. Rocks in the sand may go unnoticed and could cause severe injuries.
  • Precautions: To protect your Achilles tendon, choose sand when you’re in a mood for a short run. Make your way to the water’s edge which is firmer.

Running on the treadmill

running on treadmill


  • Pros: No people to navigate. No distractions. And the weather is always good!
  • Cons: It can get monotonous. Also, there’s the risk of repetitive injury. You won’t build as much strength and endurance as you would in the outdoors due to lack of wind resistance.
  • Precautions: Focus on building strength and endurance by consciously and gradually increasing the speed, and raising the angle of incline.

Running on synthetic tracks

running on synthetic track-zipprr


  • Pros: These surfaces are designed for runners. They are spongy and easy on the feet, preventing injuries. Since the tracks are clearly marked, you know exactly how much distance you’ve covered.
  • Cons: Running in circles can get monotonous.
  • Precautions: These tracks get slippery when wet. Avoid running here in the monsoons.

Running on mud tracks

running on mud tracks-zipprr

  • Pros:  Research by Dr. Alan Logan, author of the best-seller, ‘Your brain on Nature’, has found that working out amidst nature increases your motivation. (pull-quote) Other research has also found that runners who ran in wooded areas ran faster, and felt more relaxed that those who ran through a concrete jungle. Mud/Earth also forces you to change your gait, thereby working on a wider set of muscles and preventing injury that occurs from repetition.
  • Cons: Watch out for pitfalls such as stepping on stones.
  • Precautions: Go slow; study the track and know which (uneven) patches to maneuver.

Running on gravel

running on gravels-zipprr

  • Pros: It’s soft and easier on the knees and joints. The uneven surface ensures that you use a wide group of muscles. This in turn helps build strength and coordination.
  • Cons: Loosely packed gravel surfaces can prevent you from finding a firm footing. It is also slippery and puts you at greater risk of falls.
  • Precautions: Invest in shoes that offer a better grip. Study the pathway to avoid pitfalls en route.

Running on paver blocks

running on praver block-zipprr

  • Pros: They ensure a flat and firm surface to run on, much like concrete.
  • Cons: If not maintained properly, paver blocks sink into the concrete that holds them, leading to uneven ground that often comes with the illusion of being flat, thereby catching you unaware. Sometimes as you strike down hard, paver blocks come loose, putting you at risk of injury.
  • Precautions: Watch out for dips in your track. These blocks can get slippery in the rain so avoid them in the monsoons.
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