Everyone has a very strong opinion on which surface is the ideal to run on and the biggest debate in this regard is ‘Should you run on grass or should you run on asphalt?’. You’ll find supporters of both surfaces and even find conflicting views on the disadvantages of each. So yes, it can get highly confusing for first-time runners, but we can shed some light on what exactly you need to do differently when running on the road and running on grass.
There are a lot of people who are vehemently anti-asphalt because they feel the pavement’s hard surface cannot possibly be good for your joints. We do know that the harder the running surface the greater the impact absorbed by the body. Supporters of asphalt or road running says it has better shock absorption for your legs than concrete surfaces. It is one of the fastest running surfaces and one sees fewer ups-and-downs, making it easier to run. If you want to build speed, there’s nothing like running on a well-paved road. Another advantage is that it will condition you for competitive running, since more marathons happen on city streets, which have an asphalt top.
For many, running on grass is the only way to run. It’s considered to be the ideal running surface because of the soft, cushioning effect it provides for your feet. If you are going barefoot, you will immediately welcome the softer landing your feet get when running on grass. The softer surface cushions your legs and feet from impact with each foot strike, especially if you haven’t perfected your form.
On the flipside, softer running surfaces requires your leg muscles to work harder and can lead to ankle and feet issues, if they are not properly strengthened. Another disadvantage of grass surfaces are usually irregular and that can lead to accidents/injuries, if you are not familiar with the surface. You are also more likely to get your feet stuck in the soft surface if not careful about your technique.
Thankfully, runners don’t have to choose one or the other. Why not enjoy the best of both worlds? Studies have shown that your body automatically adjusts to different surfaces to keep forces constant when foot strikes plate. While running on a hard surface your body decreases its stiffness and on a soft surface, your legs stiffen. It’s up to you to decide what surface you’d like to run on, but if you ever want to switch surfaces (grass to asphalt or vice versa) make sure that the change is gradual since your body will need time to adapt.
Eventually whichever surface you go with, remember to keep your form intact and don’t let a changed surface determine the way you run. And always always wear the right shoes for the right surface.
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