Running, like walking, is one of the easiest and most effective ways of getting in shape and improving fitness. It can seem simple, and in most cases it is. Just pop on some joggers, open the front door and start running. But while the beauty of running is that you can do it virtually anywhere, some places are better than others.
If you find your ankles and knees getting sore after a run, an ache coming through your legs, or just general pain afterwards, one of the most common culprits is your running surface. Have you ever thought about running on grass vs. concrete and if it really matters?
How running impacts your joints
When you take a step, your body weight is distributed across your ankle and knee joints. When running, this force is greatly increased up to 12 times your body weight on those joints.
When your foot strikes the ground, that force can be cushioned by the surface your running on, and this is where what you're running on really matters.
Running on softer surfaces like grass, sand, and dirt will help lessen the blow, where harder surfaces like concrete, asphalt and stone often send the shock of the force right back up the leg.
Whether you're running on hard surfaces or even on soft surfaces, if it’s excessive can lead to tendinitis, muscle tears and swelling, leaving you vulnerable to more serious injuries.
The simple solution is to stop running on concrete and other hard surfaces, but this is easier said than done if you live in urban areas. No matter where you are, we’ve come up with four great ways to protect your body when running on varied surfaces.
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Running on grass vs. concrete
Avoid hard surfaces like roads and footpaths. Where unavoidable, try and break up the run with grass next to the path, or do low-impact activities (squats, floor-based exercises, push-ups) in between to rest the joints while still keeping cardio going.
Grass ovals are great, as well as reserves, large parks and even lots of bushland.
The shoes you're wearing
Wearing the right footwear while running is crucial to protecting your body, getting the most out of your run and minimising pain or discomfort.
Wide shoes with a proper arch support and cushioned heel are ideal while using comfortable socks helps add a bit more cushioning.
You can also try wearing specific run and walk socks to support your joints and muscles while also supporting circulation for a speedy recovery.
In cases where your feet are sore from just one run or you find that just standing for longer periods can hurt, it’s worth looking at insoles too.
Keeping a regular routine can help
How regularly you run, as well as where can affect the endurance of your body and its resilience on different surfaces.
Running multiple days in a row might sound like a good idea, but it can fatigue the body quickly and lead to injury. Additionally, if you’re always running the same route, it can mean that some muscles are neglected.
Break up your run routine with some different exercises, whether it’s swimming, cycling or home workout. Changing your running route to cover hills, longer stretches and varied terrain can help keep it fresh and exercise alternating muscles.
Warming up before a run helps, but stretching properly and warming down afterwards is key to preventing injury and pain.
Make sure you spend 5 -10 minutes stretching your legs and ankles after a run to take out any tension and reduce the risk of soreness the next day.
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