Increase PR. Eliminate body exhaustion. Vary your training terrain.

Different Running Surfaces – Train to Avoid Injury

textTraditional running training is done on pavement. But did you ever wonder if pavement is actually the best surface to run on day after day? For some runners, pavement is the only ground they use.

In fact, it is not the best ground to run on! Ask the athlete! (Since we moved to Sedona we do mostly trails… and we have seen a few professionals training out there!) Running on different surfaces will not only change the scenery, it changes everything. Trails work your leg muscles differently, grass and sandy beaches too! This will also keep us healthier and injury free.

Variation is the key here. Over repetition is tiring on the body. Pushing off on soft surfaces engages and strengthens more muscles which will lead to faster running times on the road. This will help your PR in return, but in a softer way and without the mental strength of forcing things but instead with enjoyment of doing something new and different.

Here are some ways to change up your running workout:


Compared to running on asphalt, running on grass produces less pressure on your knees. Grass is perfect for recovering from a long race you just performed or from an injury. Grass is also a perfect surface to use when you want to add some miles into your weekly miles total since the pressure will be softer on your knees.


Sand is a very difficult surface to run on due to its instability. It will strengthen all of the muscles in your feet and legs. Running in the sand also challenges your aerobic capacity faster due to the fact that you have to pull your legs up. Because of this, the effort is greater and you can burn more calories faster. It is a great place to run if you have limited time for the day.


Trail running is perfect to keep you focused and aware of your running. The extreme ranges of varied movement your hips, legs and feet will have to deal with strengthen your leg muscles AND it sharpens your focus. Focus is the key to performance: focus on breathing and feeling will always guide you higher in your running PR. Trail running will also build very strong runner’s legs in the long term. This, in turn, will make the pavement feel like a piece of cake!


Pavement is great for working on your speed. The equality and easiness of the surface really allows you to focus on your speed. It is a good place to also focus on your overall form. But don’t overdo it!

No matter what, changing your running surface will only give positive benefits.
Pavement is not necessarily the best training surface. So keep it in mind and integrate changes in your training. We would suggest going out on sand, grass or trail three times a week!

Enjoy the running!


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27 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley @ BrocBlog says:

    I almost always run on pavement but recently I have been trying to hit the trails once a week, its a great new challenge.


  2. Hilary says:

    Pick me!


  3. Casey says:

    Thanks so much for this! This is definitely my problem. I think I need to go shopping for trail shoes now.


  4. Lisa Graham says:

    I mostly run on pavement, but have started running the trails on weekends in our neighborhood when it’s light enough.


  5. Dina Caballero says:

    I am trying to add in some trail running to my usual road runs. I also do hill workouts once a week or so.


  6. Michelle MacBride says:

    I used to train on pavement only, then I ran a 5k that was all sorts of terrain. Now I run on dirt and grass once in a while just to keep used to it.


  7. annie eggleston says:

    I mostly run on the sidewalks in town or the back dirt roads! Its hard to run on the pavement especially with some crazy drivers!


  8. Bree roe says:

    I do most of my training on the treadmill. Not the best but it works!


  9. Holly says:

    I typically run on the sidewalk. I found it easier on my legs to run the sidewalk, no slope like the pavement.


  10. Shirley Jump says:

    I mostly run on paved trails, but now that the weather is a bit cooler, I’ve been adding beach runs. There’s nothing like running on the sand while the sun comes up 🙂


  11. Kristen says:

    Love changing up what I run on.


  12. I train on trails during the summer (it gets too busy on the weekends, so I can’t really get on the trails when school starts).


  13. Nick says:

    My running alternates between gravel track, pavement, the grassy shoulder of the road, and treadmill…almost never the same path twice in a row!


  14. Vivian workman says:

    Mix it up. About 80% road, 20% trails


  15. Melanie says:

    I mostly run on pavement. When my knees need a break then I do the treadmill. I should try to incorporate more trail running.


  16. Jennifer Caccamo says:

    I run mostly roads but have started to run more trails lately.


  17. Teresa Lewellen says:

    I have so far just run on the treadmill and pavement. I think I will try running on grass next week.


  18. Nadia says:

    Wow, will try training on different terrain; I always train on pavement.


  19. Lisa Klingenberger says:

    We only train at walking tracks. We do change tracks, one is flat and straight, one has a bit of an incline on two sides and is a circle and the third is a circle on the side of a hill. Never thought to change terrains. Interesting.


  20. Adrienne Berg says:

    I prefer to run on pavement. I will occasionally run dirt/trail, but really prefer road running.


  21. Meagan says:

    Thanks for the great info! I like to switch it up from time to time!


  22. I run 90% on pavement because it’s more convenient but I prefer to run on crusher dust/trail


  23. Holly says:

    I like to run on the sidewalk. I found it easier on my legs.


  24. Gigi says:

    Treadmill and pavement 🙂


  25. brooke says:

    I mostly run on pavement strictly out of convenience. If I had a choice, I would run on trails all the time. I really notice my ITBS isn’t nearly bad when I am able to hit the trails.


  26. Dave Taylor says:

    In the UK we have fell running – like trail running but on rougher terrain. It’s fantastic!


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