Running on the beach has its virtues and its downside. Tailor the activity to meet your personal needs.
A few times a month, I take my sprints to the beach. Fall and winter mornings are especially quiet in north Malibu, as the tourists have split and only the hardcore surfers remain. Zuma beach provides a breathtaking landscape, particularly when the beastly waves come ‘round.
Regardless, I come for the training, not for the surf. Getting the most out of my sprints is important to me. I want to be certain that I’m not losing much optimizing for the sand over the road. From runnersfeed.com:
According to a study performed by The Journal of Experimental Biology, an athlete running on soft beach sand expends close to one and a half times more energy than an individual running on the road. Vacationers who want to sustain some level of fitness but who also want to decrease their training time while they are on vacation may like the idea of soft sand beach running as an efficient calorie burning workout.
Psffttt. I’m not on vacation, I’m at home. Because I’m able to partake in the activity regularly, I need to know it’s safe to strike the uneven surface with my bony bare feet. Truth be told, I’m not the least bit concerned, but I know that someone out there might be. So here you go:
According to a study called “The Dynamic Loading response of Surfaces Encountered in Beach Running” performed at Griffith University, barefoot running allows pronation to both occur earlier and end later in an athlete’s landing. This applies more pressure on the ankle and knee joints leaving them more susceptible to injury than if an athlete were running on even ground. Athletes who run on soft sand, because the sand allows for increased pronation, experience posterior shin pain (shin splints) more frequently than road runners
I’ve personally never encountered any of these issues. Maybe that’s because I have no calves and therefore my shins have less to support? Just spitballin’. Anyhow, there are studies that suggest otherwise:
A Griffith University (Queensland, Australia) study concluded that landing on soft sand increases the “collision” time, or the time during which the foot sinks into the sand, and therefore reduces the overall stress of pounding on the lower extremities.
These Aussies like their contradictory studies, huh? I’m good with balance. Plus, y’all know I’m not an endurance guy. I’m hitting quick bursts and am not quite as concerned with pounding. I’m more focused on muscular development and the maintenance of lean tissue. The more recruitment of fibers, the better:
The increase in collision time on soft sand also indicates that sand has less rebound than pavement, which forces the quadriceps, hip flexors and gluteus muscles to all engage more than they do on a normal run.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. Looks like you’re going to need take the very scary step of deciding for yourself. Will you brave the beach and take the shin splint risk? Will you see the upside of potential muscular development? Is the scenery the deciding factor? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
Don’t come all at once. I like my beach quiet.