What Surface Should you Run On?

January 17, 2017 at 4:23 PM

What Surface Should you Run on to Avoid Less Ground Reaction Forces and Potential Injury?

Among other factors, suboptimal surfaces have been linked to the incidence of lower limb running injuries; not only the surface itself influences the occurrence of injuries, but also the extent to which biomechanical adaptations take place in order to cope with a specific running surface. 

In this study, 47 adult recreational runners performed two running trials at 12 km*h-1 on asphalt, concrete, natural grass and rubber, while plantar pressure distributions were measured using an in-shoe pressure sensor. Peak pressure, pressure-time integral and contact time were determined over the plantar surface. 

As expected, grass attenuated pressure variables more than asphalt, concrete and rubber; this difference was significant and most distinct in the central rearfoot, lateral rearfoot and lateral forefoot. Peak pressures were reduced by 16% and moreover, pressure distribution over the rearfoot was in a “neutral” fashion on grass, while on more rigid surfaces, peak pressures shifted laterally. 

Surprisingly, the rubber surface – which was expected to be relatively compliant – did behave very similar to asphalt and concrete, presenting greater pressure values. In order to prevent running injuries, grass should be considered as the optimal surface, as it is more compliant and provides a better pressure distribution over the different regions of the rearfoot. > From: Tessutti et al., J Sports Sci 30 (2012)1545-1550. All rights reserved to Taylor & Francis.

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Paul White - Senior Physiotherapist and Running Specialist