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Running: Sand vs. Pavement

Growing up, I’ve always hated the idea of going for a run on pavement or concrete surfaces, nevermind a treadmill (it always sounds like someone is beating the treadmill whenever either of my feet land). However, come summertime, I find myself going for a jog or run all the time… on Sand. My Summer weekends are primarily spent out in the Westhampton Dunes of Long Island, at the beach, getting some Vitamin D. Running on the beach, is so easy on my heavy feet, unlike the roads, and paths along the NY stateside. On another note, when I run on the beach, I get winded a lot sooner than I would be running on a hardened surface,  ironically I would still run for the same length of time as my feet begin to hurt from the road. So what is better for you? Running on a sidewalk, path, or paved road; or running on a soft forgiving sandy shore?

Pavement:

Running along the surface of any road, sidewalk, or path, many runners hit the ground heel first. As the kinetic energy increase and weight of their body move forward, the foot hits flat at the bottom of the stride, then bends forward to the toes, which springs the runner off the ground and into the next stride. The harder the surface, the more wear ‘n’ tear there will be on your knees. To soften the damage running on a hard surface can cause, shoemakers have rounded the bottom of running sneakers, and have been making them lighter and more pliable as time goes on. Of course, this helps to some extent, it does not prevent any knee and joint injury from the hard surface. This means that running on sand is a better alternative for your knees, as it is a softer surface and also acts as a shock absorbent.

 

Sand:

Running on sand, as I mentioned gets me winded sooner… and it’s known to do so; it’s is a much more intense workout. In fact, moving on sand uses up 1.6x more energy than on a hard surface. Reason being, the mechanical work getting your body to move in the forgiving ground, and the inefficiency of the work done by tendons and muscles due to the sand’s unpredictable surface. In other words, running 20 minutes through pliable dry sand. However, just because you’re not pounding the pavement, doesn’t mean sand will leave you without the risk of injury. Due to the fact that you have to adjust permanently to the surface, you can easily get injured. The ever-changing surface of sand can leave you prone to sprains, and tendonitis. Consequently, you need some practice to learn how to avoid common injuries. Any movement through sand will cause a delay in body movement, as it moves when you push off, however on average, a 30-minute sand run around 6 MPH will help you burn between 300 and 400 calories.

 

All in all, whether you take off on the beach, or the street, is completely up to your preference. Personally, I rather the beach, with the sea spray, and forgiving ground, while most of my family will stick to the street sides. Before any run, make sure you stretch and get your blood pumping, and always check with your physician before starting any workout routine. Feel sore, stiff, or plain funky after any run, feel free to contact us and set up an appointment to get any kinks worked out, and get you back in your running shoes.