Best Surface To Run On: Top 10 Best Surfaces To Run On

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Best Surface To Run On

Best surface to run on – The beauty of running lies in the fact that it’s possible to run on any surface, no matter where you are. If you’ve got healthy feet, there’s no real problem with training anywhere.

However, not every surface is meant for training. It is important to tailor your session to the location you are in since the impact and stresses can vary widely, which shows their effect on your joints and muscles.

Marcus O’Sullivan, the 2-time world champion stated that his body would relax completely whenever he ran on the grass during the summer months.

He added that concrete hurt his body akin to a shockwave and was slowly damaging his body due to added stress. He concluded that running on softer grounds would ensure a long career.

Marcus is over 35 years old and is still racing alongside the world’s leading mile runners. Just like him, many others have also noticed different effects, both psychologically and physically, when they practice on different kinds of surfaces.

So what is the best surface to run on?

The best surface to run on is more of a personal preference, this guide can help you learn more about the pros and cons of each alternative, thus helping you choose the one that’s best for your purposes.

You will see that my best surface to run on is grass, but please check out the other 9:

Ratings have been given on 10.


  1. Grass – Rating: 9.5



Grasslands of football pitches, parks, and golf courses are often the most natural, purest running surface. Areas that are used for sheep grazing are home to close-cropped, fine turf as well.


Pros: Although grass tends to be easy and soft, providing a smooth experience while running, it also makes your leg muscles work extra hard. It builds your strength, which is something that can be noticed when you go back to running on normal roads. When it is flat, it promotes speed (Although you might need spikes to counter wetter conditions). Unlike tracks, you can run a number of repetitions without making any tight turns or moves.


Cons: Grasslands are often uneven and dangerous for athletes who have unstable ankles. When they are wet, they’re also highly slippery. Runners who have allergies may face problems while running. Its softness is known for tiring legs out quickly. Also, while you can find the best grass running surfaces in golf courses and bowling greens, owners may not take kindly to runners practicing on their prized turf.


In Conclusion: If you’re able to find flat grass surfaces, they’re the best surface you, as a runner, could hope for, especially if you’re older in age.



  1. Woodland Trails – Rating: 9


If you want a run that combines ideal running grounds with an every-changing environment, local woodland trails are your best bet. Soft peat can be incredibly kind to runners and the trails are mostly level for miles on end in certain forests. However, they can also get muddy at times.


Pros: They are incredibly smooth for running and are located in lovely, scenic areas, which make you eager to go back and run.


Cons: Unless you find well-drained peat or wood chips, woodland trails are usually slippery and muddy. Tree roots often pose a hazard for unsuspecting runners.


Conclusion: While woodland trails are often a mixed bag when it comes to quality, they’re mostly great for runners. A solid wood-chip running trail through a pleasant and huge forest is heaven for an avid runner, though such trails are usually found in Finland rather than Britain.



  1. Earth – Rating: 8


There are a number of different trails that fall under this classification. They include worn-out running routes to winding tracks that head out to scenic locations. There are points where ideal trails get excessively hard-baked or muddy to yield any kind of benefits. However, practically speaking, these accessible dirt trails are absolute bliss for runners.


Pros – The soft to medium surfaces lower the chances of suffering from overuse injuries & reduce downhill running impact. Bare earth running trails also look inspirational with clean shade during the summer months.


Cons – Slippery, wet mud is extremely tough to run properly on. Your Achilles tendons and calves face a higher risk of contracting injuries. Additionally, in remote areas these surfaces are rougher as well, thus increasing the chances of twisted ankles.


In Conclusion – It’s among the best running surfaces you can hope to practice. However, city-based runners may find it difficult.



  1. Cinders – Rating: 7.5


Made of slag, ash, carbon, and fine rock, these running tracks hail from a different era. Some of them happen to be around even now. It is also possible to find them in town parks and such places.


Pros: They are better for your legs compared to roads. When they’re maintained properly, they provide an even, good surface for running. Being a track, you can also measure the distance you’ve run accurately.


Cons: Cinders aren’t an all-weather running surface though. During summer months, they tend to become slippery and loose. During the rainy season, they turn into deadly quagmires. Loose cinders may also cause slight slippage.


In Conclusion: With all-weather running surfaces surging ahead, cinder surfaces aren’t so common anymore. However, if you maintain them properly, they are still an incredibly comfortable running surface.



  1. Synthetic Track – Rating: 7


These days, almost every British track is made using synthetic modern materials. Although people usually consider them to be ideal surfaces for runners who like speed, they are even more versatile.


Pros: They are a reasonably comfortable surface. Since they’re also 400m around, timing sessions and measuring distances become pretty easy.


Cons: As they have 2 long curves in a lap, the hips, knees, and ankles are exposed to remarkable stress. A longer run can also become extremely tedious.


In Conclusion: While tracks are great for speedrunning, practicing anything else can take you some effort.



  1. Treadmill – Rating: 6.5


For people living in places with unpredictable weather conditions, treadmills are their best bet (They’re better than running around in your dining room, wouldn’t you agree?) Most treadmills also come with monitors, which display data as calories burned, heart rate, pace, display incline, and others. This running surface’s hardness can vary between machines – some may be softer compared to others.


Pros: Your legs will thank you due to the treadmill’s smooth surface. You can also hit your desired pace by simply adjusting your treadmill settings. Additionally, there are no external factors like bad weather, wind, and dogs to hinder your progress. Thanks to this control, it is ideal for speedrunning purposes.


Cons: Running around in the same spot is not exciting at all. Unless you concentrate hard to keep up with the machine’s pace, you might find yourself dumped in an unceremonious manner. There are no natural breezes involved either, so runners may find themselves sweating profusely. They are also extremely expensive and gym memberships are not viable for people who are just there to practice their running.


In Conclusion: While it isn’t suitable for everyone, it is fine for people living in inner-city areas with freezing weather, few trails, and little grass. Rural runners and runners who have problems with maintaining a steady speed can go for them.




  1. Asphalt – Rating: 6


This is a mixture of crushed rock, tar, and gravel, which has been used for constructing more than 95% of Britain’s road system. While it’s not exactly soft, it is available everywhere and is far better compared to concrete.


Pros: This is a surface on which you can log the fastest times. You can measure distances without much trouble. Maintaining a steady rhythm isn’t difficult either. It’s also an even predictable surface, which doesn’t strain your Achilles tendon, unlike uneven or softer terrains.


Cons: Traffic, potholes, cambers make the surface unappealing to some. It also does tend to strain the body’s muscles too much.


In Conclusion: The pros and cons are pretty even on this one. Before you race on them though, we recommend that you have some training experience under your belt.






  1. Sand – Rating: 6



Sand can provide a challenging running experience. If it’s deep and dry, it’s great for giving the calf muscles a refreshing workout before risking impact damage. If you’re running on a beach, the surroundings and the breeze make up for an awesome experience. You can also run on the firm sand strip near the water if you’re not a fan of the dunes.


Pros: You can run barefoot surrounded by a pleasing atmosphere. It is also great resistance training & strengthens leg muscles.


Cons: Although it improves leg muscle strength, its softness may lead to Achilles tendon-related injuries. Additionally, while the sand strip near the water is firm, the tilt can stress your body unevenly. Running barefoot may also mean blisters.


Conclusion: While firm, flat sand is an ideal running surface, most beaches tend to have cambers. Uneven surfaces can also overstress your muscles. It is best to restrict your runs to short distances on sand surfaces.






  1. Concrete

Made from cement or crushed rock, concrete is also used for making pavements and around 5% of all roads. Out of all the surfaces listed here, these deliver maximum shock to the legs of the runner.


Pros: A concrete surface is usually accessible everywhere and is flat. If you keep to the pavement, it’s possible to avoid traffic issues.


Cons: With a surface that is 10x times harder compared to asphalt, oncoming pedestrians, and kerbs, there’s a real chance of getting injured.


Conclusion: City runners don’t usually have a choice apart from practicing on concrete. However, switch to a softer surface the second you get an opportunity.


Rating: 2.5





  1. Snow

People living in Britain usually don’t come across many opportunities for running around on snow. However, with snow comes ice as well.


Pros: Snowfall can transform drab parks into winter wonderlands that can make running seem adventurous as you move through fresh snow. You will only be able to jog slowly, which can help your injured muscles make a quick recovery.


Cons: Snow can become a slippery surface once it’s broken. Frozen footprints, ice, and slush can make running an unpredictable experience. Snow may hide dangerous obstacles and result in muscle fatigue & increase your chances of injury. Your shoes may get damaged as well.


Conclusion: While it may seem like a pleasant experience, it’s generally not worth it.


Rating: 2

Topic: Best surface to run on

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Gerald has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise, Nutrition & Health. He is an ASA qualified swimming teacher, and a qualified personal trainer. Gerald has developed his own exclusion diet, which he uses to help his clients lose weight.