If you have been keeping pace with my articles, you already have a pretty solid understanding of my love affair with running. I have missed approximately five days of running since 1995, and probably even fewer days in the 20 years before that when I first took to the road at age 12. I am an addict! I run through all types of weather and environmental conditions. One day this past winter, I awakened to minus 18 temperatures and over a foot of snow. As the alarm clock buzzed at 4:15 a.m., my husband asked me, “Are you seriously going to go out running in this?” He shouldn’t have even had to ask. Within minutes, I was out the door.
Admittedly, even I thought it was crazy, but as soon as I was halfway down the street I came upon the snow plow truck! My lucky day! I fell in right behind him as he plowed the road for me. I was running on clumps of freshly fallen snow, chunks of ice left from the day before and various bits of rock, sand and gravel. Definitely not the smoothest of surfaces upon which I had run, but it was better than trudging through a foot of snow! After a few minutes, the driver of the truck realized this crazy woman was behind him and then gave me an enthusiastic “thumbs up” as he stuck his left hand out his window. I followed him for a couple of miles and then retreated back home along the same route. It was a workout, as the uneven surface alone worked muscles in my legs I did not ordinarily use.
Most days I run out on our neighborhood streets or on the paved bike trail near our home. Unless situations force me to do so, I rarely run on grass, dirt trails, sand, etc. My first thought under such conditions is, “Will I step in a hole or slip off a slight edge and sprain my ankle?” That is not something this serious runner really wants to risk.
However, there are two schools of thought out there as to the benefits and risks of running on uneven surfaces.
Running on hard, flat surfaces is not so much of a problem compared to the result of doing so. When you run on a hard surface, you exert significant force as your feet land on the ground. This can result in overuse syndrome which can be a contributing factor in sprained ankles.