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July 7, 2017

Running surfaces ranked; Paul + Ryan debate the best type of ground

Spurred on by a recent negative experience with nature’s cruelest mistake–sand–Ryan and Paul signed onto email to banter about what is the best running surface.


Ryan Sterner–10:17 AM

Hi Paul,

The other day I was duped into going to the beach, one of my least favorite activities. As I walked towards the water, I couldn’t help but notice that a tremendous amount of sand began accumulating in my shoes. Every step sent the stuff deeper into the crevices of my feet, socks, shoes, etc. It was miserable. There’s nothing worse than sand in your shoes.
I finally found a place to roast in the sun for an hour and proceeded to take off my shoes and clear them of the unwanted debris. In the middle of emptying my right shoe, some clown in half tights and Hokas sprinted across my periphery and on his back kick propelled a foot-full of sand into my eyes and mouth. There was nothing left to do but sit in the sun and feel sorry for myself.
But that leads me to today’s big question: beach running, what’s the deal? Sand has notoriously wonky footing, gets in your shoes, and exerts somewhere between 50-100% more energy than running on a nice, normal surface. Am I being a baby? Am I missing out on all the fun?
Sincerely,
Ryan

Paul Snyder–10:46 AM

Hey Ryan, I’m glad you reached out on this topic.

You are not being a baby. And you are not missing out on any fun.
Sand is awful. Sand is grating. Sand can be hot, or cold, but is rarely just right. Sand is why I don’t like beaches that much, and sand is why when I do go to the beach, I refuse to wear sandals.
And the only thing worse than walking or standing or lying down on sand, is running on it. If you’re far enough from the water, you’re just flailing around like a dumb ass trying to generate enough traction to facilitate forward momentum. If you’re down near the water, you’re running on a nice hard, compact surface, but on such a camber that you risk succumbing to hip dysplasia like an aging golden retriever.
But for whatever reason, beach jogging is romanticized by the DISHONEST media and liberal COASTAL elites IN Hollywood. Well color me a triggered snowflake because I think it sucks.
What do you say we rank all the running surfaces, to further demonstrate how awful sand is?

Ryan–11:03 AM

Friend, you have yourself a deal.

1. Concrete

I can hear people groaning already, but give me concrete or give me death. I’d estimate that anywhere between 75-90% of my lifetime mileage has been run on sidewalks, paved roads, or bike paths, and it’s been great. I’m sure the running bourgeois would love me to say something like “pulverized gravel” or “dirt.” These are surfaces for the modern day fancy dog. Concrete is a no nonsense surface, most of the time it’s flat, and you get great energy return.

Paul–11:44 AM

2. A Track

They don’t call it “sand & field,” folks. Tracks aren’t as hard as concrete, so they lose points there, but they are flat, round, and allow you to easily keep tabs on the distance you’ve logged. And as an added bonus, most–if not all-track world records have been set on a track!

Ryan–12:14 PM

3. Grass

There’s a reason we surround our houses with this stuff. Not only is it pleasing to look at, but if you need to learn how to ride a bike or do a back flip, it feels forgiving enough to do so without fear of scrapes–we all know that scrapes hurt the worst. I also can’t think of a nicer feeling than kicking off your shoes at the end of a run and finishing the thing off with a mile in the grass. It’s probably only ranked third because things hide in grass, like ticks and snakes.

Paul–12:30 PM

4. Dirt

Grass’s grittier cousin, dirt, is best known for its versatility (can become mud) and its ability to make filthy all it comes in contact with. Runners like running on dirt, because it shows up on their legs, which people then notice, alerting the general public to your recent brush with aerobic exercise!

Ryan–12:46 PM

6. Woodchips

What is a woodchip? It’s like sand except 1000 times larger. Running on woodchips presents many of the same problems as sand: kicking up bits of the running surface, the off chance of one of these things getting lodged in your shoe, splinters. None of those are good things.

Paul–12:50 PM

7. Treadmill

If you’d asked me to help with this ranking a year ago, I’d have put “Treadmill” way higher up. It’s basically concrete, but indoors. What’s not to love? Well, after falling in love with the treadmill this year, I developed a vitamin D deficiency due to lack of exposure to sunlight. So there’s that. Running outdoors has its drawbacks (weather, insects, hecklers), but it’s good for bone health somehow.

Ryan–1:26 PM

8. Sand

If you were having a picnic on any of the above surfaces and accidentally dropped part of your meal on it, it would be easy to pick it up, blow on it a little bit, and continue eating. If you drop anything in sand it’s fucking ruined. This is a metaphor for doing anything, not just running, on sand.

Paul–1:29 PM

Well, I think it’s safe to say we’ve satisfactorily ranked every available running surface in the world to prove our point that running on the beach is for losers!

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