A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Foundation showed that 4.8 million Americans participate in trail running, and that number is growing. Devoted trail runners laud trail running as better than road running both aesthetically and functionally. We can assume that the scenery is better but can trail running be better for a runner than paved running surfaces?
Trail RunningTrail runners purport that the uneven running surface of a trail forces the stabilizer muscles to work harder while the terrain changes make the run more difficult overall. Elevation change, slightly rolling hills, and ground debris all make for a much more challenging run which burns more calories. They also cite the fact that paved surfaces put a large amount of shock on a runner’s feet and legs leading to a multitude of repetitive stress injuries. This should make trail running the obvious choice but it comes with its own dangers. Trails can be unpredictable and ankle sprains are common, essentially trading danger of one injury for another. Trails are also often secluded, which is a hazard in itself. In the end running on pavement and on trails each have their pros and cons and it is up to the individual runner to decide where to run. The only thing Dr. Cohen can say definitively on the matter is that on trail or pavement the right running shoe can save you much unnecessary pain and hassle.