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Is running on the beach good for me?

One of the best things about living at Dee Why is being spoilt for choice when it comes to which Northern Beaches paradise to enjoy on a beautiful summer’s day. Whether you’re catching waves at Curl Curl or hitting the Manly Lagoon Reserve outdoor gym, the Northern Beaches offers up plenty of outdoor activities that also have great physiotherapy benefits.

One of my favourite activities is feeling the soft sand between my toes during a steady jog. Don’t get me wrong, I hit the pavements regularly on my morning jogs, but a soft surface like sand can be a great way to add diversity to your regular training routine.

Running exclusively on hard surfaces, especially without proper technique and supportive shoes can increase your risk of impact-associated injuries like stress fractures.

Is running on the beach good for joints?

Studies have shown that mixing up your running routine and adding in some sand runs can help to put less stress on weight-bearing joints such as your hips, knees, and ankles. A 2017 study in the European Journal of Sport Science compared women who ran on soft sand and those who ran on grass and found that the sand runners experienced less muscle damage and inflammation than those who ran on grass.[1]

Running on the beach isn’t easy

The softer sand also causes many of your ankle, hip and knee stabilisers to work harder than they would on a surface like concrete or bitumen. The Journal of Experimental Biology found that running in sand actually causes 1.6 times the energy expenditure of running on firmer surfaces.[2]

This can make beach runs the perfect antidote for when you need a lower-impact session on the body but still want to have a workout that’s going to make you sweat.

However, because different muscles are working harder in the sand, beach running can potentially increase overuse injuries of the of the foot, knee and ankle if you do too much too soon, don’t have the correct foot support or have inefficiencies in your running technique.

 

Should I see a physio about my running technique?

In-depth biomechanical assessments and running technique analysis aren’t just for the professionals.

Research indicates that biomechanical running assessments can not only help runners improve their times and run more efficiently but it can also help prevent common running injuries such as[3]:

  • Runners knee
  • Iliotibial band friction syndrome
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Patellofemoral pain syndromes
  • Shin pain
  • Low back pain

If you have had a previous injury such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, ankle sprains, or recent calf strains, these injuries may flare up if you start training on a beach surface. Lower back niggles might also flare up if you may have an underlying back complaint combined with weak core muscles

Beach and sand running also puts varying levels of stress on different parts of the body and can exacerbate other existing conditions or lead to overuse injuries if your biomechanics are sub-optimal.

At Fixio, our musculoskeletal physiotherapists are experts in working with novice and experienced runners who want to improve their technique, biomechanics, performance, efficiency and ultimately prevent running injuries before they occur.

If you need help with a running injury, or would like some more information on biomechanical assessments we’d love to help you. Call us on 8964 4086 or email to info@fixio.com.au.

[1] Brown, H., Dawson, B., Binnie, M. J., Pinnington, H., Sim, M., Clemons, T. D., & Peeling, P. (2017). Sand training: Exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammatory responses to matched-intensity exercise. European Journal of Sport Science17(6), 741-747. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2017.1304998

[2] Mechanics and energetics of human locomotion on sand. T M Lejeune, P A Willems, N C Heglund Journal of Experimental Biology 1998 201: 2071-2080;

[3] Chan, Zoe & Zhang, Janet & Au, Ivan & An, Winko & Shum, Gary & Ng, Gabriel & Cheung, Roy. (2017). Gait Retraining for the Reduction of Injury Occurrence in Novice Distance Runners: 1-Year Follow-up of a Randomized Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 46. 036354651773627. 10.1177/0363546517736277.

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