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Ascent Integrative Health

Choosing Your Running Surface: Are You at Additional Risk of Injury?

Posted 6 months ago on

Spring is upon us, which means longer days, more sun (we can only hope), and reprieve from the monotony of treadmill training. However, with the changing of the seasons and increased outdoor activity many healthcare practitioners are faced with a barrage of athletic injuries as a result of the de-conditioning that occurs during the winter months. Still, with some slight modifications one can greatly reduce their risk of injury. One simple adjustment you can make to reduce the risk of injury is to vary the types of surface you are running on.

Choose your surface:

People automatically assume that running on harder surfaces such as concrete and asphalt result in greater risk of injury. However, the legs function as springs to help absorb the impact when your foot strikes the ground. Interestingly, the vertical displacement, or the up-and-down motion, remains unchanged regardless of the surface type. However the range of vertical displacement changes for each runner based on their running form or gait. This up-and-down movement effects the force of impact when the foot hits the ground and may be a better predictor of injury risk in runners. Fortunately this is something that can be corrected through appropriate coaching and training. Regardless, training surfaces should be varied to provide a variety of different loads reducing the risk of overuse injuries associated with one surface.

  1. Dirt and Gravel: A well maintained dirt or gravel trail may be the best surface for running as it can
    provide a firm flat, yet forgiving surface reducing loads at the ankles, knees and hip. Be aware of ruts and holes as these are known as ankle killers.
  2. Concrete: This is considered to be the hardest surface. However, it may not be the firmness upon which the problem is created, but how flat the surface is, resulting in limited variation and overuse of the same Running on this surface should occur in moderation.
  3. Asphalt: It’s everywhere. However, typically roads are designed to be sloping away from centre to improve drainage. Thus, the uneven surface of asphalt can result in irregular strain on joints and variation in direction is advised to limit such consequences.
  4. Grass:  Soft grass is generally considered as a dangerous surface because clumpy and uneven grass increases the risk of ankle sprains/strains. This surfaces should be avoided, unless one can find well groomed paths along the grass.
  5. Track: A running track offers safe soft surfaces with well demarcated distances. However, direction should be alternated frequently as the inside leg experiences greater loads during corning which can lead to imbalances and overuse injuries.

Ascent Integrative Health and Sport Therapy now offers a comprehensive running assessment that can provide useful data in the management of running related injuries, performance and health. Book your appointment now so we can be apart of your running journey. Further, we would love to hear your success stories to share them with other motivated runners, this can be done by emailing us a photo with a small caption telling us how we helped you achieve your running goals.

 

  • By Dr. Roger Menta, Sport Specialist

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