Ever wonder why so many people run in the parks, on dirt trails where it’s nice and soft, rather than that hard concrete we punish ourselves on during marathons? The answer is very simple: natural trail surfaces “give”; concrete does not.
As we all know too well, the legs, knees, and feet of a runner take on the full extent of impact trauma, shock absorption, and friction. Under ideal conditions, therefore, we look for surfaces that will absorb shock to the lower extremities while simultaneously providing energy return to the foot in a continued motion.
There are quite a number of surfaces one can run on artificial snow, asphalt, bark, carpet, cinders, clay, concrete, dirt, grass, hard synthetics, rock, sand, snow, and wood. In a report featured in 1983 in Athletic Purchasing and Facilities, John Sprague described 106 synthetic surfaces for sports.
At one point, you may have run on a majority of these surfaces. Which one did you like the best, and which surface gave you the best without injury? Which surface has the best efficiency, and yet lowers the risk for repeated trauma to legs, knees, and feet?
One frequently asked question is, “Should we run on a natural surface or a synthetic surface?”
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