Trail Running Shoes vs. Road Running Shoes

Improved Traction

Trail shoes are designed for better traction when you’re off road than your road running shoes. Companies improve grip in a few different ways.

Some shoes use stickier rubber to improve your grip on rocks, wet logs and other surface, while other shoes use different tread patterns to keep you on your feet. Many trail running shoes, though, have deeper rubber lugs on the outsole to dig into soft dirt and mud.

No matter what type of traction the shoe has, trail shoes make tight turns easier to navigate and help you feel more sure-footed than you would in a pair of road running shoes.

Increased Protection

Rocks and roots can wreak havoc on your feet and ruin your shoes, so trail shoes include protective overlays in the upper to prevent pokes and reduce the likelihood of rips and tears.

Certain trail shoes also incorporate a rock plate, which is a thin piece of plastic or carbon fiber sandwiched into the midsole to block sharp rocks from penetrating the bottom of the shoe. If your local trails are rocky, consider wearing shoes with this feature.

Comfortable Fit

Your trail running shoes should fit similarly to your road running shoes, meaning they should be comfortable without being sloppy.

A snug fit around the midfoot is essential for keeping your shoes in place over uneven terrain, while a wider forefoot allows your toes to splay out and grip the trail, especially when going up and down hills.

If a running shoe is uncomfortable when you try it on in a store, it will be uncomfortable when you run. Modern running shoes, whether road or trail, don’t need a break-in period to fit well—they should work for you right out of the box.

Durability for the Unexpected

Your road running shoes were built to last a long time, but excess wear and tear from hitting the trails in your road shoes will drastically decrease their lifespan.

Trail running shoes are made to stand up to the obstacles expected while off roading. Added skins on the heel and toe protect the mesh upper from abrasion, and improved drainage let your shoes dry out quicker after you cross streams or splash through puddles.

In short: You’ll get more wear and need fewer replacement shoes if you choose the right running shoe for the job.

Article by Hunter Hall. Hall is the Marketing Manager at Fleet Feet Nashville and also a competitive runner.

Trail Running Shoes 101

Whether you’re a beginning runner or an elite marathoner, the single most important factor to your success on the roads or trails is your choice of shoe.

That’s especially true if you’re attempting trail running for the first time.

Choose a shoe that is poorly made, doesn’t fit properly or is inappropriate to the terrain you plan to run on, and you’re probably headed for disaster.

Why Can’t I Use What’s in My Closet?

While your road running shoes are probably sufficient enough for groomed trails or fire roads, any treks into more rugged terrain will require a trail-specific running shoe. (The right shoe will ensure that you remain healthy enough to enjoy all that summer has to offer.)

Here’s a quick breakdown of what constitutes a trail running shoe, and how to choose one that’s right for you.

Trail Shoes vs. Road Shoes

The main difference between road shoes and trail shoes is their composition. Shoes designed for road running are generally made of lightweight material to encourage speed and responsiveness. The need for traction on paved roads is minimal, so the treads of road shoes are thin.

Trail running shoes are traditionally heavier and designed to support and protect the foot on rugged terrain. These shoes offer durable soles with more aggressive tread patterns to defend against rocks, sticks and other obstacles one might encounter on the trails.

More: 5 Reasons to Try Trail Running

It’s in Your Sole

The soles of trail shoes are wide and close to the ground to provide support on uneven surfaces, preventing the ankle from twisting when the foot comes down on bumps or rocks on the trail.

In addition, most trail running shoes offer a protective toe bumper to guard against stubbed toes, and some also include a thick insert between the midsole and outsole to defend against bruising caused by stepped-on debris.

Depending on your running style and the ruggedness of terrain, you may choose to wear a hybrid, conventional or minimalist model of trail running shoe.

But which one should you get?

More: 15 Technical Tips for the Trail

Whilst many customers now realise the benefit of owning a dedicated trail running shoe, we still frequently get asked “what’s the difference between a road and trail shoe?”. Maybe you have bought a cheap running shoe online and you’re not sure if it’s a road shoe or trail shoe or perhaps you’re wondering which shoe would be best for your needs? This article will help you to understand the real difference between a road and trail shoe and if you would actually benefit from a trail shoe.

What is a Trail Shoe?

Trail shoes are running shoes designed specifically for running off road, whether that is through forests, on bridleways, beaches or on a grassy field. If you are running off-road then you should probably be using a trail shoe; however whilst you can run almost anywhere with a trail shoe they aren’t so good at sustained road running. This is where the road running shoe is the master. This said, some trail shoes are better at road running than others, whilst some are much better kept off the road.

So there are different trail shoes?

Yes. The trail shoe category has become full of choice in recent years, so much so that there are now subcategories within the trail category:

  • Modified road shoes

As the name suggests, these are road shoes that have been modified to make them ideal for trail running. Normally the outsole is replaced with a grippier compound and deeper lugs, whilst the upper is reinforced to make it more durable and in some cases water resistant. As these contain all of the cushioning and support of a road shoe, this type of trail shoe is ideal if you are looking at doing very long runs off-road; or mixed runs of road and off-road. Some of the popular road shoes come in trail versions which is great if you get on really well with the road version, but simply want better grip.

  • Specific trail shoes

These are trail shoes that have been designed from the ground up, purely for running off-road. They generally have a lower profile and will be more stable when the going gets tough, their outsole will have been tested for vigorous trail running and multiple surfaces, they are very dynamic and may have trail specific features, such as lace pouches; toe bumpers; ripstop uppers; de-clogging outsoles etc. Whilst these are perfect for the ultimate off-road experience they are generally less cushioned and less supportive than the modified road shoe type option.

  • Lightweight trail shoes/fell shoes

This is where things get messy; literally! These shoes were born for the muddiest, messiest runs, if you are running an obstacle event such as tough mudder or need maximum grip for a muddy hill run; then look no further. Characterised by their thin midsoles, very aggressive outsoles and minimal uppers these shoes are perfectly suited to softer surfaces. Be warned, however, as thinner and lighter means much less cushioning and support, so you may end up with injuries if you venture off the soft stuff too often. While you’re here why not check the top five UK mud runs.

Do I really need a trail shoe?

  • This obviously depends on whether or not you run off-road. If you’re struggling for grip when you take your road shoes off-road, or you spend over 10% of your running off the road then you should probably consider a trail shoe.
  • Road running shoes aren’t designed to get wet and dirty and also the outsoles are designed specifically to grip on firm surfaces like pavements, so they don’t grip very well in wet, muddy or loose ground conditions.
  • Bear in mind that your biomechanics change when you run off-road, so it’s not as simple as knowing the trail shoe equivalent to your road shoes and running in them; always get a proper biomechanical assessment first.

So it’s clear that there are some big differences between road and trail shoes. Running in a trail shoe on the road will result in the outsole wearing out more quickly and you run the risk of injury from less cushioning and support. Running off-road in road shoes you will be compromising on grip and durability. This is why we always recommend using a trail shoe for your off-road running and a road shoe for your road running.

Buy Trail Running Shoes

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below.


Why after running a 21km on the road it feels like my hips are breaking and my knees are squeaky but when I do a 24Km on trail my body is not nearly as wiped out afterwards? Yet I’ve heard people say Trail running is harder on your body and joints than road running?

This is a question that I regularly thought about in my running lifespan. I mean you’d think that trail running is much more raw, harsh, hard and technical than road running. You have to duck, jump and dive every now and then. Your feet might land in strange positions as you try and miss obstacles that are in your way, all this might give you the impression that trail running is harder on your body than the road, Right?

– Wrong.

I did some research and was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

Road running is a much more common occurrence for most runners, getting up in the morning and heading out the door for a run around your block is much more convenient than having to drive to a destination to hit the trails. The road is constructed from asphalt or concrete, man-made. Both these mediums are very hard and has a very high impact on your body.

On the flip side trails are more natural, softer surfaces, consisting of the ground, soil, mud and grass. All of which allows for less pounding on your joints and on your body. Trail running however has more obstacles and will allow for a slower more concentrated run. You’re constantly faced with either a root or a rock that is in the way, or even a branch up ahead that you have to look out for. As a Trail runner it is also very important to have good balance and a very strong core to support your legs as they jump and move in sudden different directions. The uneven surface and varied terrain challenge the muscles of the lower body more than a flat, firm run. The natural obstacles can give you a more effective overall workout and help improve your sense of balance and reaction time.

Road running is more of a fast paced with little less endurance than trail running, depending on the distance. Road running makes for a much more consistent forward movement with little or no obstacles. Because of its flat surface, road running doesn’t have the same effect on the lower body as trail, however it still promotes endurance and strength in all the major muscles.

You will also see when you compare most professional trail runners to professional road runners there are a significant difference in body build for the two groups of athletes. Your trail runners have a much more muscular appearance than Road Runners who usually sport a much leaner physique. Each of these attributes allows these two groups of athletes to perform at their best in their fields.

It’s said that it can be very beneficial for road runners to occasionally switch up their training and opt for a slower run once a week by hitting the trails. This might not only be refreshing for them mentally but also help them rest up tires legs on a softer surface without doing less mileage or sitting out completely. Not that I’m saying trail runners run slower than road runners at all, some trail runners kill it on technical sections where road runners might not have the necessary skill to move economically enough to make it down or up fast.

Running on trails changes up your gait. This will get road runners on their fore feet, running forward on their toes, shortening their stride as they make their way through technical sections. Most road runners spend their entire career perfecting their stride and gait as to minimize the uneven movement that side to side trail running encourages. Trail running can help road runner with activation and condition of muscle groups in their legs and core that provide additional stabilization reducing the pressure put on muscles mainly used for forward moving movement. By not conditioning the other muscle groups road runners run the risk of over working their main muscle groups and this can lead to injuries and poor running performance in the long run.

So there you have it, Trail running is definitely not harder on your body than road running and cross training between the two can be beneficial for both sides.

Happy Running and See you on the Trails!


Making the switch from road running to trail running is incredibly rewarding, but it’s not easy. When it comes to trail running vs road running comparison, trail running often requires more technique to handle the terrain, and you will likely be running hills more frequently than you were on the road.

Here are the basics you need to know about trail running vs road running with three tips to help you transition from road running to trail running. Before you begin, be sure to take some initial measures:

  • If possible, invest in a good pair of trail running shoes with a good grip on the bottom.
  • Try to be somewhat familiar with the basics of trail running. (For a few ideas, check out this video on how to handle steep terrain so that you’re prepared for the hills.)

Now that we’re ready to trail run, let’s take a look at trail running vs road running and the three tips that’ll make your transition from a road runner to trail runner easier.

Tip #1: Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon

Instead, use your normal mileage as a guide for how far you should be running and try not to stray too far from your normal effort levels.

It’s natural to want to dive into the deep end when starting something new, but doing this with trail running can be dangerous.

Trail running can be much more taxing than road running given the precision it requires, so note how hard you are working within your miles and make necessary adjustments to keep your runs at an effort level similar to that of your last road run.

Even if your mileage or effort level is the exact same, you may need to bump up the mobility because trail running can do more damage to your body than road runs.

Especially in the beginning, be smart about this and go the extra mile when it comes to something like foam rolling. Preventing running injuries should always be a top priority, and that may require some extra effort when learning how to train for trail running.

Tip #2: Forget About Running Pace

Pace can be a great training tool for road running, whether it’s your “race pace,” a resting pace, VO2-max pace, or some other measurement.

But when we get to the trail, even if you’re in the middle of a marathon training plan, go ahead and throw all of those numbers out. If you’re a true data enthusiast and just can’t imagine running without looking at any numbers at all, try Running Power, which is a great metric to use when running in hilly terrain.

They simply don’t apply when we’re running a technical trail, maneuvering through rocks or making our way through a slippery downhill.

You know your body, so be honest about what level of intensity your training plan calls for that day and go from there.

Instead, use effort or intensity as your guidepost. If you know you’re heading out to do a moderate run, adjust your speed to do that.

After all, keeping an eye on your pace while trail running can be disheartening. So avoid that route and just focus on intensity and your perceived effort level.

Tip #3: Enjoy the Journey

Learning how to train for trail running races or just how to trail run in general is tough. It is crucial that you approach this training with an open, grateful mind. Enjoy the process.

Appreciate how hard it is to run two miles with 1200 feet of elevation gain. That’s not an easy thing to do! Re-evaluate what running success looks like to you so that you enjoy the trail running process and can appreciate what you’re doing.

Again, using your intensity level or effort level as the guiding metric will help here, because your mileage or your pace might not always be what you define as a successful run.

Trail running is a great way to train your mental toughness so emphasize that each and every time you head out on a trail run.

But if you can make that mental shift and enjoy the journey and the small victories that will come as you practice trail running more often, you will be more motivated to continue. You will enjoy those steep hills and the tough terrain.

In addition, trail running is going to bring some incredible views that road running doesn’t often offer. Take them in. Use them as a reminder that trail running is different than road running, and the transition is not always a seamless one.

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

Exactly How Treadmill and Road Running Are Different (and Why Both Are Good)

In running, your loyalty does not have to lie with a specific terrain. Road, trail and the track have their positives — as does the (dreaded) treadmill. No matter your preference, you don’t have to choose one running surface; in fact, you shouldn’t.

Your running benefits from running on both the treadmill and roads. Here’s what to keep in mind as you switch terrain:


It has become widely recognized that varying surfaces during training is one way to avoid injuries. Studies back this up, especially when it comes to running repeatedly on a concrete surface only. Because of this, Chelsea Ley, director of programming at tread HAPPY in Virginia, recommends varying up your running surfaces to include the roads and treadmill, but also trails and grass, in order to avoid injuries from repetitive biomechanical movements and impact.

“Running on harder surfaces is actually important; the repetitive pounding or running can strengthen bones and prepare runners’ muscles and soft tissue for further pounding in a future race or effort,” explains Ley. “The treadmill, though, can serve as a valuable respite for runners who complete their workouts predominantly on hard asphalt or concrete. Treadmill runs, similar to other ‘softer’ surfaces like grass, can not only help prevent overuse aches and pains, but they can also help runners recover more quickly while also maintaining or improving their cardiovascular fitness.”

In addition, varying your surfaces can also further your mental training. There is a reason the treadmill has earned a reputation as a “dreadmill,” many consider it more psychologically challenging to run on a treadmill. Though there are no concrete studies that have determined which surface is, in fact, easier from a mental perspective, just as muscle memory is affected when switching between the two, there is a definite mental shift as well. From this perspective, whether one or the other is easier actually depends on the preference of the runner.

“Running outside usually allows for a runner to be more immersed in the present moment and more tuned into their bodily state,” admits Ryan Bolton, owner and founder of Bolton Endurance Sports Training. “However, when running on the treadmill, there are no interruptions and you can nail specific workout parameters easily by adjusting paces, etc. as necessary. This, too, for some people can put them into that running ‘zone.’”


While it may not be clear as to whether or not the treadmill or roads are mentally easier, studies have shown adjustments need to be made to treadmill running to make it live up to road running. Not only is perception of speed different — one study found treadmill runners undershot their pace when trying to match what they would run outdoors — but the energy expended is different, too. This is why it has long been recommended to add a 1% incline when running on the treadmill to reflect the energy cost of running outdoors.

“The longstanding advice to set the treadmill at 1% to simulate outdoor running is even in question now that very recent research has found that the addition of some incline may only be beneficial for certain types of treadmill workouts,” shares Ley. “Our take on the issue: Add a slight amount of incline as an added challenge. Even if the change in grade doesn’t necessarily help as previously thought, it definitely can’t hurt!”

Ley also points out VO2 max — or cardiovascular fitness — has been reported to be similar when running on a track and the treadmill, and biomechanical patterns vary negligibly. The key difference Bolton wants runners to be mindful of is the belt itself and how it, inevitably, pulls the foot backward.

“This alters form slightly and can make running at a comparable pace slightly easier,” he adds. “This compensation can increase over time as the runner will make micro-adjustments that allow for the foot to be pulled back by the treadmill. Initially this is very trivial, but over time can make a runner ‘lazy.’”

Even while pointing this out, Bolton doesn’t think runners should avoid the treadmill (nor should they run on it 100% of the time). The differences between the treadmill and road running are what make them ideal training partners; it absolutely doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t be — one or the other.


There is a time and place for running on the treadmill and running on the roads. If the only thing holding you back from the treadmill is a gut feeling you’ll get bored, try a treadmill class to make it more of a social event. Ley vows the combination of programming, coaching and music will help change your perception, while challenging you more than a 3-mile jog where you catch up on whatever news is being broadcast over the gym televisions.

Understanding when and how to use each training method is what is going to ultimately help you maximize your training. Of course running on the treadmill isn’t going to be exactly the same as running on the roads. This is just as true of running on the roads versus tackling trail running. While you can’t have the exact same running experience from day-to-day, you can use this variance to your advantage.

“A balance of road and treadmill running can be beneficial for runners that want to use both for training,” concludes Bolton. “Running on the road is obviously best to replicate real running conditions; being that races are on roads and trails, replicating those surfaces while training is best. Foot strike, stride length and the ability to self pace is enhanced when running outside. However, I do suggest supplementing treadmill runs for recovery runs, some specific speed work to work on turnover or pacing and for runners coming off injuries.”

The Pros & Cons of Road Running vs. Trail Running

Mark lakefront in Chicago for the Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile.

In my previous blog I mentioned how I started out running on roads and then became hooked on running trails. I also alluded to how I’m pulled in both directions as I still like to run on roads. I recently ran the Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile and this was to be my longest run on a road surface. I figured this would be the “ultra” test to see how much I really liked to run on roads.

I believe trail running shares surprisingly very little with road running and it attracts an entirely different breed of people. Trail runners tend to be the more outdoorsy type of people where as road runners seem to be more Type A or a competitive bunch. Trail races tend to be more laid back while road races are usually more intense and an outlet to find out your exact pace per mile. I know this is not true for everyone but just a general observation. Often our choices are dictated by convenience to a trail head so road running is generally a more convenient surface for most of us.

The main positive for me with trail running is that the softer surface generally allows me to stay healthier and have much less downtime for injury. If I’m training hard and subsequently running higher mileage, I have to dedicate many miles on the trail regardless of the race surface goal. Trails do build strength and stamina due to the uneven terrain and the softer surface absorbing the impact. Secondly with trail running your foot strike varies so much that overuse and repetitive motion injuries are less frequent than on road surfaces. Finally the greatest positive for me with trail running is the carefree feeling of being away from cars and traffic. It is a quiet, less stressful and peaceful feeling to run deep in the woods.

The main negative I see with trail running is that you have to pay close attention to the trail surface, if not it is easy to fall or roll an ankle. An injured ankle can be tough to heal if you continue to run on any sort of technical trail. Trail running pace is generally slower especially on tight, twisting hilly single track, so expect your pace per mile to drop anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds while trail running. The softer surface absorbs your footfall and you get less spring off so it is tougher to keep the same pace that you are used to on roads. Trail running should be more about time on your feet and not mileage and this can be difficult to deal with for a road runner. I often curse under my breath as trail miles seem to take forever and I constantly doubt the person who measured the route.

Road running negatives are quite obvious. The harder surface breaks down muscles much quicker and it is tougher to recover as you rack up the miles. Overuse or repetitive motion injuries are much more frequent because your foot strike is almost always the same with each landing. Running on roads is much more dangerous if you have to deal with traffic. Luckily greenways are popping up everywhere and some are even well lit giving a safer venue for night time running.

A positive with running on a road is that you get much faster turnover or an increased pace per mile especially on flatter routes. You can log an 8-10 mile workout in much less time than a trail run. If you are not having to deal with cars you can turn your brain off and float along not worrying about that next root or rock you need to avoid. I like to do most of my speed workouts on road surfaces even though I race mostly on trails. I like to feel faster after being on the slower surface of trails.

In conclusion I like what both road and trail running gives me. I enjoy mixing it up and I get bored of just one type of surface every day. I need the release that each offers me. After my 50 mile road ultra at Chicago I’m definitely spending much more time on trails. My leg muscles and joints were wrecked but I did have fun and I almost met my “A” goal. However if I had to pick one surface, I would rather be running trails. Trail running has saved me from a lot more injuries and trails have taken me to some very beautiful areas that a road simply does not offer. Trail running is excellent therapy for all that life throws at us. I owe much to those trails that take me far away, even if they are measured incorrectly. There is no way that it could be my lack of fitness for all those twelve minute miles in the woods!

Road Running Vs Trail Running: The Differences and What You Can Expect

We, runners, are very fortunate to have the sport that we do. By and large, especially compared to other sports and hobbies, running is very accessible and relatively fuss-free. For the most part, running doesn’t require tons of specialized equipment, years of costly lessons, or expensive machines that necessitate a gym membership. As long as you want to run, and you have a safe place to do it — along with a good pair of shoes and good socks for runners, minimally — you’re golden. Often runners seek specialized socks for trails like trail crew running socks instead of regular socks and that’s ok too.

That’s not to say that running, as a sport, is without nuance. Running encompasses so many different “types” of running, including running on pavement/roads, running on trails, running on a treadmill, running through mountains, and running on a track, just to name a few. The deeper into your running you get, the more you will realize that all these nuances will add complexity to this otherwise straightforward sport.

We’ll spend some time differentiating between road running and trail running. It’s entirely possible to include both types of running into your training plan and to compete in both environments’ races. There are some key differences, however, between each, that may change how you approach your training and your gear, so it’s worth exploring.

Some differences between road running and trail running include

  • In trail running, pace matters less than effort, generally speaking. Oftentimes when you’re running on roads, your run is ruled by your pace. Generally speaking, road runners want to hit a certain pace for a certain distance, and they can determine whether their run was successful, or a failure, based on how much they hit their prescribed paces. In trail running, the pace is almost irrelevant. It’s important to remember that when you’re running trails, you will encounter great challenges, many of which you will never encounter — or very infrequently — encounter when you’re on roads. These challenges include but aren’t limited to, lung-burning ascents, quad-killing descents, altitude, and debris-riddled terrain (such as singletrack or trails peppered with tree roots and loose stones). These aforementioned challenges will certainly take a toll on your pace, so it’s often a better call to judge your trail runs’ success based on your perceived effort than on your actual pace.
  • Road times will be significantly faster than trail times for the same distance. Closely related to my above point, a successful runner needn’t compare her road times to her trail times for the same distance simply because they will be wildly different. This all goes back to the point I made earlier about how the terrain, elevation gain or loss, and altitude will invariably affect your running pace. If you’re a road runner who can comfortably run an 8-minute mile, for example, it wouldn’t be egregious to think that you may have to work really hard to hold an 11 or even 12-minute pace on trails (especially depending on the type of trails you’re traversing). Put your ego aside when you’re running trails, and don’t worry about what your watch says.
  • Trail running’s vibe is often much more chill. It seems that as runners age, especially if they started out as roadrunners, they’ll often begin to gravitate toward trail running to begin chasing down new goals and to relish in the very different atmosphere. Most people would argue that trail running is more low-key and chill compared to its road running counterpart, and that may be the case for you (though don’t be tricked into thinking that there aren’t any competitive trail racers out there because there definitely are!). For the most part, however, I’d argue that many trail runners — regardless of age — do it because they love to be in nature and to accomplish crazy goals that they never thought they could (such as running through the mountains, running for multiple days, or running formidable distances).
  • Trail running can necessitate more gear than road running. Particularly if you’re going to be running trails for long stretches of time or running trails that are especially perilous, you may find that trail running necessitates more gear than good ol’ fashioned road running. In road running, aside from an outfit, shoes and a watch, that’s about all you need. With trail running, however, you may find that you end up carrying a hydration vest to store your water and food, poles to help you traverse mountains, or even a helmet to help you safely traverse the most dangerous parts of your journey. The risks can be inherently different and greater in trail running compared to road running, so it makes sense that the sport would necessitate different gear, too.
  • Trail running and road running can have a symbiotic relationship. Finally, though there are key differences between trail running and road running, it’s worthwhile to mention that the two different types of running can have a symbiotic relationship with each other. The strongest road runners, for example, will still be challenged by running trails; in fact, they may feel more mentally resilient and tough as a result of running trails and may find that the speed they develop on trails transfers nicely to the roads. Conversely, someone who trains exclusively on trails may be floored at how fast she can go when running on roads — free of debris, altitude, or elevation. It’s entirely possible to include both types of running into your training plan and still be able to reap the benefits on race day.

If you haven’t yet taken the plunge into trail running or road running, now’s your chance. You’ll find so many advantages to each, and best of all, you’ll really enjoy the shake-up in your training and the new and different stimuli that each type of running brings. Even if you’ve never run a step in your life on roads or on trails, it doesn’t matter; all of us began somewhere. It can be really easy to feel intimidated and that you don’t “belong” in this new type of running, but don’t let your fear of the unknown overshadow your desire to do something new. Do yourself a favor and see what you’ve been missing.

A lot of trail runners transition from a road running background. If you are used to strict pacing for your road races and training then adjusting to the variability of trail running is going to take some work. It’s definitely a bit of a mental hurdle to start running trails and see your average pace per mile become so much slower.

So, what is a good trail running pace? A good trail running pace is roughly 10 to 20 percent slower than your average road running pace. For example, if you normally run a 10 minute per mile easy run pace on the road, then you should expect to run 11 or even 12 minutes per mile pace on the trails. Ultimately, it will come down to just how rugged the trail is – it could be buffed out single track that mountain bikers use, or it could be a rocky and technical trail with a lot of vertical gain.

The reason most runners fret over running pace is to find out how fast they can cover either the entire trail or at least go as far as possible. This objective is the same for road running as well. But when you choose trail running, there are different things you need to consider when
compared to road running.

The ascent or descent will change, the surface can change, and the altitude will also have a role to play. Regardless, let’s take a deeper look into how trail running and road running compare and how you can determine the right pace for you.

Pros and Cons of Road Running Vs. Trail Running

As you would know, running is an impact sport. It engages the entire body by placing stress and engaging different muscles and joints throughout. The stress and activity in these muscles and joints can actually be beneficial for the body.

Running not only helps strengthen your muscles but also improves cardiovascular endurance, stamina, and overall physical health. However, if overdone or not done properly, the repetitive stress can lead to some injuries. There are several ways one can lessen the stress on the muscles and joints to avoid sustaining injuries to the tissues. For example, you can use the footwear, change your training intensity,
and improve your running form.

One other change you can make is to change the surface or elevation you run on. This means that road runners switch to trail running. Does this mean you should make the switch as well? There are pros and cons to both techniques. I have compiled some of the most common ones below to help you give an idea of what you might be facing with each. You can make your decision regarding making the switch based on these pros cons.

Road Running – Pros

  • Convenient – roads and pavements are everywhere. You can just put on your running
    shoes and leave your house.
  • Surface consistency – since they are manmade, most roads are leveled and consistent
    on the surface, making running on them easier.
  • Provides a sturdy running surface, especially for someone with Achilles problems.
  • Simulates race surfaces – since most marathons and community races take place on
    roads, road running makes for good training.

Road Running – Cons

  • Hard surface – roads can be very high impact and increase the risk of injury for those
    with poor tissue quality, arthritis, and those recovering from injuries.
  • Surface Consistency – I’ve included this in the cons as the consistent surface stresses the
    same regions, which can plateau progress.
  • You can trip very easily as roads and pavements have cracks or can be of poor quality.
  • It can be dangerous due to other pedestrians, bikers, and passing traffic.

Trail Running – Pros

  • Soft surface – running trails usually have a soft surface like dirt, grass, and sand, which
    can be beneficial for reducing the risk for sustaining impact-related injuries.
  • Surface elevation – trails have varied surfaces and elevations that put stress and force
    on different tissues throughout the body.
  • Varied surface elevation and surface makes training much more beneficial as it increases
    strength and balance in different areas of the body.
  • Trails are solely for running, hiking or trekking, eliminating any danger from pedestrians
    or incoming traffic.
  • Since trails are natural, they offer a great chance for runners to see natural beauty and
    get fresh air.

Trail Running – Cons

  • While the soft surface on trails reduces the risk for injuries otherwise, there is still a
    chance of ankle injury due to uneven surfaces.
  • The elevation can be hard on people with hip or knee pain and/or balance problems
  • Not as convenient as they are usually out of the city area
  • The uneven surface can be hard on shoes

How to Get Faster at Trail Running

One thing new runners often complain about is their speed. They think that since they are new to the sport, they are not likely to run fast. However, hard work, training, and effort go a long way.

Here are some tips that can set you off on the right track when you want to get faster at trail running:

  • Take it slow and gradual. Instead of jumping right into technical single-track trails, build your endurance on a groomed trail. Learn how to navigate simple tracks and build new neural pathways. This will be crucial when you’re running a more challenging trail. Similarly,
    increase your time on the trail gradually. This will help build endurance in your body and get your muscles used to the exertion before running long distances on the trail.
  • Run by effort or time. Instead of focusing on your pace, run by effort and time as you will be naturally slower at the beginning. Put in varying levels of effort to gauge how your body responds and sustains the pace. This will allow you to adapt to a new trail easily.
  • Develop balance and strength. Trails have a mix of varying altitudes, elevations, and obstacles. You need to work on building muscle strength, especially in the lower body, to prevent injuries. Try using balance boards, rolled up towels and exercises like high-knees, skipping, and stretching to develop balance.
  • Split time between road running and trail running. When you make the switch from road running to trail running, your foot speed slows down. Your body learns how to adapt to the varying uneven surface. Run short, fast intervals on the road once or twice a week at least. In addition to that, space trail runs closer every three to four days to build your muscle memory.

Do You Burn More Calories Trail Running?

Compared to an even road, the uneven trail will have you leaping over roots and logs and climbing steep hills and elevations. The movements in trail running are more variable and diverse.

This gets more muscles engaged and active in your body, making your body more agile and stronger. When you run on uneven terrains, your thigh muscles particularly work harder. Consequently, this means that you burn more energy. Just an inch of surface-height variability increases the number of calories you burn percent. This means that if run at an 8-minute-mile pace per hour, you would be burning 40 extra calories.

This doesn’t include the impact of the steepness of any hills that you may encounter on the trail as well. In a few simple words – Yes, trail running does burn more calories. In fact, it can increase your calorie burn up to 10%.

Why Road Runners Should Run on Trails

This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to trail running. More specifically, road runners ask how it would benefit them when the race they’ll be running won’t be on a trail.

If you’ve read the blog from the beginning, you would have come across the pros and cons of both trail running and road running. The benefits of trail running mentioned there will shed some light on to why road runners should give it a try.

However, the most convincing benefit is the fact that trail running slows you down. Road runners are no strangers to pushing their limits when it’s not necessary. When done more frequently, this excessive push can actually rob your muscles of the benefits of active recovery.

Active recovery is an important part of a runner’s training. It helps improve muscle memory, increases muscle endurance, and recovery from hard workouts. When your body doesn’t get this, our muscles end up just being overworked, fatigued, and prone to injury. Running trails can help road runners make improvements in this area, aiding their training even more. Besides changing your running gait, trails can help engage and condition ancillary muscle groups. This helps improve stability and balance, taking the load off the main muscles when moving forward.

Additionally, you’ll actually get the chance to stop and smell the flowers. Instead of weaving through other runners and pedestrians, looking out for vehicles, and being surrounded by pollution, you can enjoy nature.

Related Questions:

Do I need trail shoes for trail running? You do not need trail shoes to start running trails. The only time they would be absolutely necessary is if the trails are quite muddy and you would be slipping without the extra traction of a trail show. Otherwise, just get out the door and decide based on your own experience and specific trails you want to run.

Is trail running good for marathon training? Trail running is great for marathon training. Many runners enjoy trails as a form of recovery from the constant pounding they normally do on the pavement day in and day out. Pick a recovery day and try out the trails to change things up. You just might enjoy it!

Related content: Avoid These 5 Common Ultramarathon Mistakes


The Road to Success: How to Advance to the Top

Alexander R. Margulis Skip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information) Published by: Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2009.

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  • Frontmatter
  • Forewordix
  • Prefacexi
  • Bibliography99
  • Index101

Top Road To Hana Stops & Things To Do

There are so many stops on the road to Hana that most people miss something that they wish they had the time for.

This is why Maui has one of the highest return rates in the destination travel industry.

The road to Hana on Maui’s lushly rugged east side is a stunning yet white knuckled road trip into the heart of what most people dream about when they think of Hawaiʻi: tropical waterfalls, remote beaches with fruit and flowers hanging everywhere in the rainforest. The road to Hana is definitely all of these and more. It does take some planning though, and unless you’re on a tour van where everything is taken care of you could end up feeling stressed out. That’s the opposite of what a Hawai’i vacation is supposed to be.

The road to Hana is an all day journey whether you go all the way around or not. This is because there is only one road going around this entire side of the island. Returning visitors often go to Hana many times as there is always something new to be discovered. New flowers, new views, new hikes, new waterfalls, new roads, new fruit stands, new seasons and constantly changing weather. At the same time there are many things that do not change. The ancient landscape of waterfalls, peninsulas, farms, flowers, and forests have coexisted in this rugged jungle environment with the residents, many of whom who’s families have lived out here for centuries. Having spent just over a decade traveling and photographing the road to Hana I have developed a list of my tried and true favorites.

As a professional photographer who has lived in Maui for over 18 years, I have been blessed to work with many of Maui’s tour businesses. Over the years I have photographed tours on boats, helicopters, bicycles, horseback, paragliding, zip-line courses, golf courses and even submarines, but my all time favorite location in Maui to photograph is the road to Hana. I have traveled the road in every way imaginable and there are some differences between taking a tour and driving yourself, so I’ll try and address these differences as I go. Just remember if you go on your own, learn the etiquette of driving the road to Hana, leave early, pick several stops that look the most interesting and try spending a little more time at them and less driving around hoping something will catch your eye. Consequently you may have to bypass some of the not so interesting stops, but in my opinion you can’t see it all in one day anyways. If that’s you’re goal, take a tour.

So here are my top 10 road to Hana stops.

The Hana Rainforest

Once you’ve gone through the town of Paʻia and past Ho’okipa Bay the road starts to get narrow and winding. For the most part the view is mostly rock walls and dense rainforest gulches sprinkled with an occasional view of the ocean. That’s why I like to stop within the first 30 to 45 minutes of the drive just to get out and see the trees and forest up close. There are not a lot of parking or hiking trails along this road and for good reason… one wrong step and it can be hundreds of feet free fall to the ocean. If you’re on a tour van this is not an issue as a guide knows where all the safe stops are. I like stopping at the painted eucalyptus trees for a couple of quick photos and a nice leg stretch to start the day.

Ke’anae Peninsula

This is a great place to stop and get a feel for how wild and raw the Hana coastline really is. The view looking back from where you just traveled is stunning. This is also a bathroom stop and the banana bread stand at Aunty Sandy’s Keanae Landing is excellent. Be careful of the ocean waves and lava rocks along this coastline. The tide pools are fascinating but rogue waves can show up at anytime here. Several people have been injured or lost their lives at this location from these waves. A tour guide can show you where the big waves hit and share some history about the old stone church that sits a few yards from the bathrooms.

Black Sand Beach

Wai’anapanapa State Park is an amazing place where you’ll not only get to walk on Maui’s black sand beach but there are interesting paths, trails, lava tubes and fresh water caves to explore. Walk the path along the coast and you’ll discover a blow hole, ocean cliffs and lava sea arches. There are camping spots here which are first come first serve and several rustic cabins that must be reserved in advance. Staying the night in Hana is really one of the best ways to see and experience this side of the island but if you only have a day this is a fantastic place to spend some time. If you’re on a tour this is a good 45 to 60 minute stop with the added benefit of local stories and history thrown in.

Fruit Stands

The number and variety of farmers markets have increased in Maui over the last few years but the fruit stands throughout the Hana area have been around for many decades. They are well known for having some of the best variety and flavors of fresh fruit anywhere in Hawai’i. Many of these stands have smoothies made with fresh sugar cane juice, which is my favorite. I usually stop at several fruit stands because I’m always on the lookout for my favorites like apple bananas, Tahitian lilikoi and the big prize… monster avocados! Whatever you may find I recommend getting a little more than you think you can eat. By the time you get back to your hotel or condo you’ll wish you had more. Tour guides can help with this because they know what’s ripening when and who has the best trees and thus, the tastiest fruit.

Koki Beach

This reddish gold sand beach is on the other side of Hamoa beach. Hamoa beach is well known having been voted “best beach” many times but it is quite small and can be difficult to find parking and requires going down a steep path. Koki beach is a bit more accessible and beautiful in my opinion since Alau Island can be seen just off shore from here. I wouldn’t swim here though as the waves are treacherous and some have been injured on the unseen lava rocks. The red cinder cone behind this beach has a great ancient Hawaiian legend I learned about from a tour guide. Always something new….


Since this road is a 10 to 12 hour drive you should have a plan for lunch. You can bring your own food and supplement it with fresh Hana fruits and banana bread, or you can grab a burger or sandwich at Hana Ranch Restaurant, Hotel Hana or choose one of several food truck type spots in and around Hana town. Hasagawa General store has groceries also including some unique Hana items and souvenirs. If you’re on a van tour food is usually provided but be sure to ask what kind of food. Hana van tours have various food choices. They can often range from a simple sandwich and chips to a stop at a Hana restaurant or a full picnic meal with beverages all day. Whatever you do be sure to have your food and beverages together when traveling this road. There are choices for food along the way but because this road is busy some roadside food stands can sell out and close by the early afternoon.

West Wailua Waterfall

The road to Hana has many waterfalls of various sizes and configurations, but the iconic waterfall most photographed is West Wailua. Located between Hana town and the Pools of Oheo, this waterfall is one of the largest seen along the road. Here you’ll find some decent parking (by Hana road standards) and various residents selling handmade items of all kinds. It’s a beautiful “quick stop” for a photo and a plumeria flower hair clip and other hand made items. You can also hike down and take a dip in this waterfall pool, but be careful as flash floods are common. The next stop a short distance down the road is much better for swimming, weather permitting of course.

Pools of Oheo

Located about 15 minutes down the road from Wailua Falls is Haleakala National Park’s Kipahulu area that includes the Pools of Oheo. After you buy a pass at the gate there is multi level parking, a visitor center and a wonderful trail system. The trail down towards the ocean takes you in a loop all the way around to the pools and back. The trail heading uphill leads across the road and up into Oheo gulch, which is an epic hike through bamboo forest and jungle streams to the incredible 400’ Waimoku Falls. It’s about an hour long hike mostly uphill. Since most people arrive at the pools late in the day, this hike is best left for a morning adventure after an overnight stay in Hana or while camping at Kipahulu, in my opinion. It is an amazing place in the morning light and I love camping here, but I’ve seen dozens of people scrambling up this trail as I was coming down at sunset thinking they can squeeze this hike in. I tell them there is not much to see in the dark! If you’re on a tour this should be a good hour long stop. This is plenty of time to find out how cold the water is and hike the 1 mile loop trail around the pools.


Known in Maui as “the backside” Kaupo is a landscape of stunning contrast to the winding rainforest roads of Hana. This area is where Haleakala laid down a steep but flowing mountainside that is the shortest distance from ocean to the 10,000’ summit on the island. Stark and somewhat barren it is none the less breathtaking in it’s scope and vastness. It is also some of the roughest road you’ll find in Maui. Not a problem for a tour van built for the road, but some rental cars may give you quite a jostling. Some of the canyons seen along this side of the island are enormous and speak to an ancient past when this was the wet side of the island instead of the dry side it is today. It is also the location of Maui’s newest wind farm because of the strong winds that get funneled between islands here. This barren landscape also hold the ruins of many intact ancient Hawaiian buildings and temple sites since it has remained undeveloped since western discovery. A guide can share all of this amazing history with you on a tour.

Tedeschi Winery

The history of the ʻUlupalakua ranch lands here in what is known as Upcountry Maui dates back to 1845 and includes visits by Hawaii’s last king. Wine grapes were first planted here in the early 1970’s and while waiting the several years it takes for the vines to mature it was decided to try making wine with something readily available – pineapples. It turned out to be popular and thus started the Tedeschi Winery venture. Today the wines are superb with varieties for most palates including their well known pineapple wine. I don’t really care for sweet wines but the Plantation Red is excellent! Walking throughout this property is one of my favorite things to photograph in Maui. If you’re planning on a tour be sure to ask if wine tasting at Tedeschi winery is on the list. It’s a great way to finish off a spectacular adventure like the road to Hana!

Aloha Nui Loa

Koki beach and Alau Island Menu board at Twin Falls Maui’s black sand beach.
Fruit stand along Hana Highway Rainbow eucalyptus in the Hana rainforest. Picnic tables overlooking Wai’ānapanapa State Park
West Wailua Waterfall on Maui in Hawaiʻi near Hana. Picnic lunch with Valley Isle Excursions
The Kaupo area of Maui is past the Pools of Oheo and is known as “The Backside” Visitors on tour at Kaupo Keanae Peninsula is the half way point to Hana town.
Crashing waves at Ke’anae Peninsula Koki Beach just outside Hana town. Maui’s road to Hana.
Tasting room and Maui’s Winery. Pools of Oheo in Haleakalā National Park. A waterfall seen from Hana Highway

Hours and Dates of Operation  

For the Current Weather and Road Status


** ALSO SEE Special Hours of Operation BELOW**

Please note: Closing times listed above are the last time cars are allowed to start up the Auto Road; ALL vehicles must leave the summit no later than 45 minutes after closing time and continue directly to the base.

Also all NH State Park facilities at the summit may not be available early and late in the day or during inclement weather.

For More Information About Drive Yourself >



June 20

NEDD Mt. Washington Road Race

Road open 1:30pm-6pm


June 27


Road closed to all traffic


July 10-12

Climb to the Clouds

Friday July 10th road open 1:30pm-6pm

Saturday July 11th road open 1:30pm-6pm

Sunday July 12th road closed to all traffic


July 26


August 30

Sunrise Drive

July 26th open from 4:00am-6pm

August 30th- open from 4:30am-6pm


August 2

Adaptive Sunrise Ascent

Road open 11am-6pm


August 15

Mt. Washington Bicycle Hillclimb

August 15th road open 1:30pm-6pm

Please note: Closing times listed above are the last time cars are allowed to start up the Auto Road; ALL vehicles must leave the summit no later than 45 minutes after closing time and continue directly to the base.

Also all NH State Park facilities at the summit may not be available early and late in the day or during inclement weather.

For More Information About Drive Yourself >


May 23 – October 25 8:30am – 5:00pm
October 5- closing day October 25 8:30am – 4:00pm

All tours are approximately 2 hours for the round trip, including 1 hour on the summit.
Reservations are not required but are available online only, limited availability.

One-way Hiker Shuttles are also available.

For More Information About 2-Hour Guided Tours >


Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays
Available June 3 through August 30

Guided Discovery Tours offer a customizable format, which is tailored to the interests of each group. Reservations are required for these extended tours and need to be made at least 24 hours in advance of the tour date.

For More Information About Guided Discovery Tours >

Looking for SnowCoach info?

If you have any questions about the Hours & Dates of Operation at the Auto Road, please call us at (603) 466-3988.

The research can only tell us so much and doesn’t take into account differences among individual runners.

The research leaves many unanswered questions, however. Is running on grass better for everyone, or are there some people who should avoid it? What about runners who are less experienced, heavier, or older than the runners studied?

It’s also unclear just how the forces and pressure on the foot translate to soreness and injury. Plus, there’s no evidence to conclude whether certain surfaces lead to fewer joint injuries, Miller says. “The theory is that can slow down progression of things like arthritic changes or other joint pain,” he says. “But it hasn’t been proven, and there has been some debate.”

The general consensus is that soft surfaces are better, for a couple of main reasons.

The studies that are out there—and experts who treat knee pain—typically recommend patients run on softer surfaces if their knees hurt. Why? Everything from your foot up to your knee is connected. “The stress and impact of pressure from the foot and heel striking the ground affects the knee joint,” Tehrany says. “The softer the surface, the lesser the impact.”

One of the beauties of our sport is that you can run on just about any surface, anywhere in the world. As long as you have feet, you can train wherever you find yourself. But not all surfaces are created equal – vary your location and you’ll vary your session, because of the different impacts involved and the stresses which make their way up to your joints.

“In the summer, when I run mainly on grass, my whole body seems to relax,” said two-time world indoor champion Marcus O’Sullivan after winning a mile race. Concrete, he noticed, sent shock waves through his body and was a surefire route to long-term damage. There was only one way to sum it up: “I’m convinced that if you run on softer surfaces, your career will last longer.”

The 35-year-old Irishman is still mixing it with the world’s top milers, and many other runners have noticed that they feel different, physically and psychologically, when they run on different surfaces. And while running-surface preferences are something of an individual matter, varying from runner to runner just like favourite shoes, the following guide will clear up the merits of the various alternatives so that you can make the very best of what’s available to you.

The best surfaces to run on – grass

Thomas BarwickGetty Images

At its best, the grassland of parks, golf courses and football pitches provides the purest, most natural surface for running. Areas where sheep graze are often home to fine, close-cropped turf, too.

Pros: While grass is soft and easy on the legs in terms of impact, it actually makes your muscles work hard. This builds strength and means you’ll notice the difference when you return to the road. When it’s flat, it provides an excellent speedwork surface (spikes may be necessary in wetter conditions) and, unlike a track, can give you space to run whole repetitions without having to make tight turns.

Cons: Most grassland is uneven and can be dangerous for runners with unstable ankles. It can also be slippery when wet, runners with allergies may suffer more symptoms when running on it, and its softness can tire legs surprisingly quickly. Finally, of course, while the very best grass for running is often found on bowling greens and golf courses, the owners are not always happy to discover runners on their hallowed turf.

Conclusion: If you can find a flat, even stretch of it, grass is the best training surface for most runners, especially as you get older.

Rating: 9.5/10

The best surfaces to run on – woodland trails

John and Tina Reid

For a run that mixes constantly-changing surroundings with near-ideal running surfaces, head for your local woodland. Soft peat is God’s gift to runners, trails are usually quite level, and in some forests they go on for miles. They can sometimes be rather muddy, though.

Pros: Usually easy on the legs and located in scenic areas that make you keen to return.

Cons: Unless you’re lucky enough to find wood chips or well-drained peat, woodland trails can be muddy and slippery. Tree roots can be a hazard for unwary runners.

Conclusion: Woodland trails can be a bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality, though the odds are usually in your favour. A wood-chip trail through a huge forest is the ultimate runner’s treat, though these are found in greater abundance in Finland than in Britain.

Rating: 9/10

The best surfaces to run on – earth

Chase JarvisGetty Images

This heading covers a wide spectrum of trails, from the worn-out routes across playing fields to the winding tracks heading out into the back of beyond. There’s a point at which an ideal trail becomes too muddy or too hard-baked to be of much real benefit, but in practical terms, you can’t go far wrong with good old accessible dirt.
Pros: The medium to soft surfaces decrease the risk of overuse injuries and reduce impact on downhills. Bare earth trails are often in inspirational settings with shade in the summer.
Cons: Wet, slippery mud is very hard to run on and increases your risk of injury – especially to calves and Achilles tendons. Also, as you get further away from civilisation, the surfaces are likely to become rougher, making twisted ankles more likely.

Conclusion: One of the best surfaces to run on, though sometimes difficult for the city-based runner to find.
Rating: 8/10

The best surfaces to run on – cinders

AnnimeiGetty Images

This gritty composition of fine rock, carbon, ash and slag made up the running tracks of the pre-synthetic era. A few of them are still around, and you can also find cinder paths in some town parks.

Pros: Cinders are much easier on the legs than roads are. If they’re well-maintained, they can provide a good, even surface, and a track has the obvious advantage of being of an exactly-measured distance.

Cons: Cinders certainly don’t provide an all-weather surface! In the heat they become loose and slippery, and in the rain they can turn into a quagmire. Loose cinders can also create slight slippage underfoot.

Conclusion: As all-weather surfaces grow in popularity, cinder tracks are few and far between. If they’re well-kept, though, they’re still one of the most comfortable surfaces to run on.

Rating: 7.5/10

The best surfaces to run on – synthetic track

Chris RyanGetty Images

Nowadays, almost all British tracks are made of modern synthetic materials. While most people think of them purely as fast surfaces for fast runners, they’re more versatile than that.

Pros: Synthetic tracks provide a reasonably forgiving surface and, being exactly 400 metres around, make measuring distances and timing sessions easy.

Cons: With two long curves on every lap, ankles, knees and hips are put under more stress than usual. Longer runs also become very tedious.

Conclusion: Tracks are ideal for speedwork, but you have to be dedicated to use them for anything else.

Rating: 7/10

The best surfaces to run on – treadmill

When the weather’s bad, a treadmill is the best indoor running option for most runners (well, it beats running on the spot in your living room). Most treadmills have monitors that display incline, pace, heart rate, calories burned and other data. The hardness of the running surface varies between machines – some are far softer than others.

Pros: The smooth surface is generally easy on the legs, and hitting a desired pace is simply a matter of adjusting the machine (as long as you can keep up!). Additionally, you don’t have to worry about external factors such as dogs, wind and bad weather. The precise level of control makes a treadmill ideal for speedwork.

Cons: Effectively running on the spot isn’t very exciting, and if you don’t concentrate on keeping up your pace, you could be unceremoniously dumped behind the machine. Without the benefit of a natural breeze, treadmill runners tend to sweat profusely. The machines are too expensive for most individual runners, and gym membership may be uneconomical if you just go there to run.

Conclusion: Not everyone’s cup of tea, but fine if you live in an inner-city area with few trails, little grass and freezing weather. Also good for rural runners when the days are short, and for runners who find it hard to keep up a steady pace.

Rating: 6.5/10

Running inside?

The best surfaces to run on – asphalt

Asphalt is the mixture of gravel, tar and crushed rock that makes up 95 per cent of Britain’s roads. It isn’t the softest surface around, but it’s difficult to avoid and it’s better than concrete.

Pros: As all road-runners know, asphalt is one of the fastest surfaces you can find, it’s easy to measure distances on it, and it’s simple to keep up a steady rhythm. While it’s rather solid, it’s a predictable, even surface that puts less strain on the Achilles tendon than softer or uneven terrains.

Cons: You face cambers, pot-holes, traffic and a pretty unforgiving surface that does put a strain on the body.

Conclusion: Though it’s a hard surface to run on, asphalt is also one that’s hard to stay away from. If you intend to race on it, some training (but not much) on it is advisable.

Rating: 6/10

The best surfaces to run on – sand

Dougal WatersGetty Images

Sand offers a run with a real difference. If it’s dry and deep, you can give your calf muscles the work-out of their life without risking any impact damage to your joints. If you’re on the beach, you get the sea breeze and the surroundings as a bonus, and if you don’t fancy the dunes, you can choose the relatively firm strip by the water’s edge as a brisker alternative.

Pros: Sand gives an opportunity to run barefoot in an pleasant environment. Running through dunes provides good resistance training and strengthens the legs.

Cons: Despite being great for building leg strength, the softness of the sand means a higher risk of Achilles tendon injury. Also, though the sand is firmer at the water’s edge, the tilt of the surface puts uneven stresses on the body. And while it’s tempting to run barefoot, watch out for blisters.

Conclusion: Flat, firm sand can be a near-perfect running surface, but most beaches have cambers and any uneven footing can overstress muscles. It’s probably best to limit runs on sand to shorter distances.

Rating: 6/10

The best surfaces to run on – concrete

Justin PagetGetty Images

Concrete is primarily made up of cement (crushed rock), and it’s what most pavements and five per cent of roads are constructed from. It delivers the most shock of any surface to a runner’s legs.

Pros: Concrete surfaces tend to be easily accessible and very flat, and if you stick to pavements, you can avoid traffic.

Cons: The combination of a hard surface (reckoned to be 10 times as hard as asphalt), kerbs, and the need to sidestep pedestrians, can lead to injury.

Conclusion: City dwellers probably have little choice but to do a large proportion of their running on concrete. If you get the slightest opportunity, though, look for softer surfaces.

Rating: 2.5/10

The best surfaces to run on – snow

john finney photographyGetty Images

If you live in Britain, you won’t generally have many opportunities to run on snow. That’s just as well, for where there’s snow, there’s usually ice too.

Pros: Snow can convert a drab park into a winter wonderland, giving you a sense of adventure as you tread through a freshly fallen snowfall. It also forces a slow pace, which is excellent for muscles recovering from injury.

Cons: Once broken, snow can be slippery, and slush, ice and frozen footprints make the going even more unpredictable. Snow can hide dangerous objects and cause muscle fatigue, and as well as increasing your risk of injury, it’s also bad for your shoes.

Conclusion: Initially a pleasant change, but the feeling doesn’t usually last.

Rating: 2/10

Synthetic Track to Woodland Trail: Find the Best Surface for Your Running Training

Most runs take us over a variety of surfaces. This adds variety to your training and makes it more effective by forcing your body to adjust to the changing terrain.

But do you know how the different running surfaces affect your body? Learn about the most common surfaces and how to use them as an effective training tool.

1. Synthetic track


A synthetic track is good for structured tempo and interval training. The springy surface is also perfect for beginners or runners coming back from an injury.


Runners are taught to run counterclockwise on the track. Over time, this can lead to muscle imbalances. Therefore, it is a good idea to change direction once in a while.

Watch out for Achilles tendon problems:

The rebound effect of the synthetic track puts a lot of stress on your calves and Achilles tendons. Switching to a cinder track can help with this problem.

2. Asphalt


Asphalt provides perfect conditions for tempo workouts because you don’t have to pay attention to the surface. Nearly every step is identical, and you can achieve maximum propulsion. This allows you to run at a fast pace.


The hard surface means more orthopedic stress (so be careful if you have joint issues). Your choice of shoe is crucial here: make sure to choose a well-cushioned model.

3. Woodland or nature trails

Soft woodland or nature trails have the best cushioning and are excellent for joint-friendly training. Plus, they are ideal for a flexible and reactive running technique.

The soft surface can sap your strength and slow your pace. Therefore, trails are not well-suited for running at a specific pace – the intensity is high even at slower speeds.

4. Mountain trails

The constantly changing conditions make mountain trails challenging and lots of fun. Thus, they are good for training your foot strike and running technique to match the terrain. Plus, the effort of compensating for the uneven surfaces and the regular changes in direction work your supporting and stabilizing deep muscles.

Be careful – it’s easy to turn an ankle. Therefore, you should only run on mountain trails when you are well rested.

5. Sand

When the sand is hard, running on the beach is easy on your joints. When it is soft, you have to pick up your knees, push off harder and apply more strength, which helps you improve your running technique and stamina

Running on the soft surface is very exhausting – therefore, you should incorporate regular breaks to avoid overuse injuries. On long runs, the slant of the beach can lead to pelvic obliquity. To avoid this, you should change directions regularly.

6. Grass

Grass is ideal for barefoot running. It strengthens your foot muscles and improves your running technique. Plus, well-maintained grass provides the best cushioning.

You have to be careful when training barefoot to run on well-groomed grass free of rocks and broken glass.

7. Treadmill

Running on the treadmill is easy on your tendons and ligaments. It is a good, low-impact way to start training again after an injury or a break from running. Plus, you can select the pace and the incline of the surface.

Treadmill running is not the same as running outdoors. The ground is literally being pulled underneath your feet, so you achieve a much smaller training effect. Plus, most of the stress during the push-off is on your calves and Achilles tendons. This can lead to overuse injuries.

Takeaway: Each surface has pros and cons for your running training. You should choose the surface that is best for you based on your training goal and try to switch things up from time to time to keep your training fresh and exciting.


Running on the road

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