Today, I’d like to mention another terrain: dirt road. Like running on grass, I will discuss benefits, tips and necessary techniques for running on dirt road.
Benefits of running on dirt road.
- Dirt road is also considered as one of the best surfaces to transition to because it is soft but still has enough hardness to reduce impact on the joints as well as the risk of impact-related and overuse injuries such as shin splints, runner’s knee and IT band syndrome.
- Additionally, uneven surfaces of dirt road like grass also force your muscles, even small ones work harder and make them stronger and improve your balance.
- In comparison with other types of road or terrains, there is less traffic on dirt roads, which is safe for runners. You can freely run without paying too much attention on traffic and wasting time to avoid it. As we know that there has been several unexpected accidences to runners on crowded traffic roads.
- The rough surfaces of dirt roads force runners out of a rhythmical stride and often require a mix of long and short steps, small leaps and jumps. These types of motion make a variety of muscles works harder and prevent them from adapting to a set of running motion, thus running on dirt road becomes more efficient and burns less fuel.
- A study showed that runners could burn more than 40 percent of calories when running on an uneven and rough surface than running on a smooth one. Dirt road often has rough and uneven surface, means that you can burn more calories, which is very helpful for fitness, weight loss, and health.
- Running on dirt roads sometimes has the similarity to running on hills or trails because they allow you to be closer to the nature, which makes your mind more relaxed and comfortable.
Techniques for running on dirt road.
- Most dirt roads are often a mix of gravel and dirt. When running on these you should avoid chunks of gravel used to serve erosion prevention. It is better for you to run in the established tire tracks where the gravel was swept aside created by vehicle traffic
- Additionally, these roads tend to have more crowns because of erosion. You should run on top of the crowns to avoid modifying your stride too severe on the sloping sides or an ankle twisting.
- As I mentioned above, the rougher surfaces of dirt roads often require a mix of long and short steps, small leaps and jumps. You should keep in mind this technique to deal with dirt roads.
- If you have just transitioned to running on dirt road from other surfaces, you should give your body some time to get use to the technical surface of dirt road before running too much and too far to not increase the risk of injury.
- Warm up pre-run and cool down post-run are important things that you have to keep in mind when running on any surfaces. Running on dirt roads is no exception. You can do these by jogging, walking or some exercises. Warm up is to prepare and let your body gradually adjust to the harder work while cool down helps prevent dizziness, cramps, abnormal strain on the heart, and promote removal of body waste products like lactic acid.
Tips for running on dirt road.
- In terms of running shoes for dirt roads, because of the fairly hard surfaces, I recommend wearing road shoes which support much more for you than trail shoes. The real benefit of trail shoes is that they are “grippy” on rocky surfaces, loose sand and other technical surfaces like snow, mud, etc. but on hard surface of dirt road, these shoes have less padding and traction to help you than road running shoes. Brooks GTS shoe is a great option.
- Despite lower traffic, it is also the middle of the road so you have to be aware of your surroundings.
- Like grass, dirt roads are possibly uneven which can be bad for your ankles, so pay close attention to where you are stepping and it is better to avoid this surface if you have had ankle injuries. Besides, when it’s hot and dry, this becomes a hot and dusty oven but often turns into muddy and slippery when wet. Therefore, run slowly and carefully on these is very essential.
- Certainly, there are few street lamps on dirt roads so you should run in daylight because if you have trouble when running at night, it is difficult for you to be seen.
- Although there is lower traffic on dirt roads than city/town streets, the speed limit is often higher. You should run against traffic and wear bright clothes to be visible and give yourself a defensive edge.
- Choose the main dirt roads to run so at least there is someone around to help you if you get lost.
- If you tend to run over an hour, you will need to bring some fuel and hydrate yourself.
- You should use sunscreen on most runs but for running on dirt roads, it is necessary because there might not have much shade.
In short, for any type of surface, there will be benefits and drawback. Importantly, you have to remember what you should do to adapt to the surface you are running on to develop its benefits as well as prevent bad situation from happening. I hope that my article provided necessary information for you to prepare for your dirt road runs in the future.