Depending on where you live, there are usually various options of running surfaces from which you can choose. Whether it be the cement on the sidewalk, to the rubber on a track, different types of surfaces all have there respective advantages and disadvantages, and you should be familiar with all of them to help you choose which surface is best for you.
Cement (or concrete) is all over the place in suburbia as well as in the urban jungle. However, just because it is everywhere does not necessarily mean you should run on it, and there are many drawbacks to running on this hard surface. For one, cement is extremely hard and causes more shock to your legs than any other surface. Obviously, this is bad for your joints, so you should try and avoid running on concrete whenever and wherever possible.
Asphalt, like concrete, comes in much abundance in our country, and you can find an asphalt road just about anywhere. Unlike concrete, asphalt is much less harmful on your joints from foot strike impacts, and it is a nice surface option to run on. The downside, usually asphalt is poured onto a road or street, and on those, there are cars. Hopefully you live in a runner friendly area where people keep their eyes peeled for pedestrians, but nevertheless, you can’t account for all of the drunk and texting drivers that are just waiting to cause an accident. One word of advice for running on asphalt, run on the opposite side of the direction of traffic, and be cautious!
In parks all across the nation, there are designated trails for runners and bikers that are made by the hands of man. Usually in the form of wood chips or gravel rocks, these trails are usually easy to find as well as easy to run on. You don’t have to worry about motorists crashing into you, and the surface itself is pretty elastic and not so harsh on the knees. However, these types of trails can cause a good amount of slippage. Rocks and wood chips aren’t usually packed in tight like other surfaces, and if you balance is not up to par, you might just end up falling flat on your face.
We know you’ve seen a track, and you probably have ran on one as well. There is guaranteed to be one at your local high school, and the spongy feeling surface offers a lot more protection on your joints than other types of surfaces. Unfortunately, as you probably have already learned the hard way, running around tracks can be very, very boring… and monotonous. If you can manage to outlive the boredom, tracks are great surfaces to run on, and they allow you to easily track your pace.
Lastly, we come to the dirt trail. You can find these pretty easily (not as easily as a road), and they are abundant in parks and especially wooded areas. They usually have pretty good traction, and the elasticity is a little firm but overall not too bad on the joints. However, there are two things you need to know when running on these types of dirt surfaces. For one, get yourself a pair of trail runners, because they are specially designed to handle the larger amounts of rocks and debris that you will surely encounter on a trail. Secondly, avoid running on dirt trails after rains, because a muddy trail is just about the worst surface you can run on.