Running With Coach Kinsey: Choosing Your Running Surface

Living the Run is thrilled to welcome Marty Kinsey’s Weekly Blog, “Running With Coach Kinsey!” Coach Kinsey is the head coach for the men’s and women’s cross country teams at St. Mary’s College (Division 1) in Moraga, California. You can look for Running With Coach Kinsey every Thursday. Here is Coach Kinsey’s first installment…     


Choosing your running surface: 

Marty Kinsey

You purchased your new shoes, running gear, and downloaded the best playlist to your i-pod… Now what? A basic mistake in training is choosing the wrong surface to run on. As a matter of convenience most people train on surfaces that are offered right out their front door. However, this can lead to a quick injury, sidelining both you and those new catchy i-tunes. This is my recommendation for the four most common running surfaces: concrete/pavement, grass, and dirt trails.


Avoid if possible. Concrete/Pavement (most side walks, streets, walking trails) offers the least amount of cushion to your body. Imagine if boxers traded their speed bag for a brick wall. Their joints would soon breakdown, as there is no give to the brick wall. Running on concrete/pavement provides minimal give to your knees, ankles, shins, and so on. This also means that your shoes begin doing more of the work to cushion the shock of each step. The quicker your shoes break down, the more money you have to spend. Save your legs, and your pocket book- avoid the concrete and pavement if possible.  


A better option for runners is running on grass. Grass is softer, and even better, grows over dirt. Finding a mildly firm grassy terrain that is not too thick with grass can provide a great cushion for your joints and keep the odds of injury lower than training on concrete.  It also often helps build lower leg muscles, as the give is just enough to increase the required leg lift. The draw back to grass running is that most people don’t have access to miles of this surface to train on.  

Dirt Trails:  

Probably the best option to choose form is dirt trails. Most cities offer hiking trails that often make for some great running. The surface usually provides enough give to the joints, yet has enough firmness to run for a long period of time. Be on the lookout for roots, rocks, and small potholes. Although trail running may be the best surface to run on, it can present some hazardous situations if you are not careful to watch where you step.  

Marty Kinsey
Men’s and Women’s Head Coach
Cross Country Coach
Saint Mary’s College

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.