For the majority of people who have put their sandcastle building days behind them, sand is seen as a nuisance that clings to you for the entire summer holiday and then finds its way home in your suitcase. However, studies have shown that running on soft sand has many health and fitness benefits.
Get Bigger Calves
In 1998, a study was undertaken by Semih SYigitFehmi and Tuncel at the Department of Physical Education and Sports, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. This study looked at the increase in size of various leg muscles of 51 volunteers during endurance training on sand and on roads. During the six week training period the calf circumference increased significantly in sand runners compared to the participants who ran on the road.
Burn More Calories
Because sand absorbs most of the energy applied to it, you have to work much harder to make any headway. But take heart; applying that extra effort as your feet sink into the sand does result in more calories being burned. A 1998 Belgian study concluded that running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy than running on a firm surface and up to 2.7 times more energy than walking on a hard surface.
Lower Risk of Impact Injury
Restricting your running routine exclusively to pavements and treadmills can increase the risk of impact injury as your feet and joints rebound of the hard surface. This can often lead to ankle, shin and knee injuries. Podiatrist Ian Sadler recommends running on softer, more forgiving surfaces to reduce the risk of injury. For runners, try to avoid always running on hard pavements as they provide no shock absorption. Try running some of the time on tarmac, grass or even sand to reduce the shock passed through the legs."
Improve Your Running Technique
Running in wet sand gives people the opportunity to analysis their running technique. According to Dr Romanov, sports scientist and two-time Olympic Coach, runners should use their footprint in the wet sand as immediate feedback. Just look at your foot print, how deep is it and where the main pressure is located and you'll be able to clearly define some errors of your running technique, such as a push off, an overstriding, etc.
There are differing opinions to the benefits of jogging barefooted against wearing running shoes. Many believe that running without trainers automatically conditions the foot to hit the surface correctly. This means the arch of the foot takes the majority of the impact as it is designed to do. Running shoes cushion and protect the arch of the foot meaning the muscles and tendons weaken making runners more susceptible to injuries.
The best Ethiopian and Kenyan long distance runners have great elasticity in their feet and suffer from fewer foot injuries. This is as a result of spending most of their childhood and teenage years running barefooted.
Conversely, wearing trainers does provide extra protection to the feet. As well as providing a defence to the running environment, the cushioning in the running shoes protects the vulnerable areas of the foot such as forefoot and heel.
Overall, running barefooted can be a fun and healthy way to run but should be approached with caution. Try running on softer surfaces such as sand to harden the skin on the foot before running on harder surfaces.
Most people will go running on a surface convenient to their home. For the majority this will be on a pavement or treadmill. However, fitting a trip to the beach into your training programme will help you build muscle and burn calories fast.
Definitly running on sand is in new calendar :D