Soft Sand Running v Road v Treadmill – what’s the best?

6 October 2023

Soft Sand Running becomes very popular at this time of year. It’s a brilliant way to get your heart rate up – it’s tough! But what’s best – Soft sand, running on the road or a treadmill? let’s look at all;

Running on Soft Sand

Soft sand is an unstable surface. It provides minimal support and requires your muscles to work hard to maintain balance.

Soft sand reduces the impact on your joints compared to running on harder surfaces like pavement. This makes it a lower-impact option.

Running on soft sand engages more muscles than road running – particularly the calves, hamstrings, and stabilizer muscles, as you need to push off and stabilize with each step.

Running on soft sand is more challenging, and you may find yourself running at a slower pace and expending more energy for the same distance.

While it’s easier on your joints, soft sand can pose a higher risk of ankle and calf strains due to the uneven and shifting surface.

Running on the Road

Roads provide a stable and consistent surface, making it easy to maintain a steady pace and reducing the risk of tripping or twisting an ankle.

Road running has a relatively high impact on your joints due to the harder surface. Proper footwear is essential to assist in mitigating this impact.

Road running primarily engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. It’s less demanding on stabilizer muscles compared to soft sand running.

Running on the road allows for a more predictable and controlled pace, making it easier to track your speed and maintain a consistent workout.

While road running has a higher impact, it may lead to overuse injuries like shin splints or knee pain if not done with proper form and adequate rest.

Treadmill surfaces are even and predictable, similar to roads, allowing for precise control of your run.

Treadmill running falls between soft sand and road running in terms of joint impact. The surface has some give so is softer than pavement, but not as soft as sand.

Treadmill Running

Treadmill running primarily engages the same muscles as road running, focusing on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. It’s less demanding on stabilizer muscles than soft sand.

Treadmill running offers a controlled and constant pace, making it a great option for tracking speed and maintaining a consistent workout. You can control your intensity and push yourself harder with the guidance of the programs.

Treadmill running reduces the risk of tripping or falling compared to outdoor running. However, it’s still important to maintain proper form and avoid overuse injuries.

Over the years treadmill running has been given a bad rap, and more recent research is inconclusive either way.  

So all in all, each has its benefits and considerations, if running is your thing, blending a mix of all three would create a great routine.  Most importantly it’s what you enjoy.  Most research shows that consistency and enjoyment are the key factors to a successful exercise routine!

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