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Thursday, August 11, 2011

No proof that running on soft surfaces can foil injuries!

Caught your attention? The Strait Times on Saturday 30 July 2011 reproduced an article from the New York Times. The article, as the headline suggested, is that running on soft surfaces does not reduces injuries. The actual headline in the NYT is even more provocative: "For Runners, Soft Surfaces Can Be Hard On The Body". Read the full article here.

To summarise, the writer quoting several physiologists and sports specialists concluded that because there are no scientific evidence ie published studies and because runners including exercise physiologist, Hirofumi Tanaka have got injured from running on trails, therefore it concluded that "runners are more likely to get injured on soft surfaces, which often are irregular, than on smooth, hard ones".  Finally, it went on to recommend that "with no evidence that softer surfaces prevent injuries,there is no reason to run on softer ground unless you like to".

So basically what it is trying to say is that contrary to the generally accepted consensus that running on trail(soft ground) is kinder on the legs, it is in fact not true.

So is running on soft surfaces that bad? Yes it is true that running on uneven ground can leads to falls and sprains. Presumably running on hard surfaces or even ground will not cause falls and sprains. Generally, this is true unless one step into a pothole or tripped over his own shoelaces. But running on hard ground can lead to problems like ITB, shin splint, stress fractures etc due to the higher impact on the hard ground. Not that running on soft ground will not cause these problems but since almost all runners, I dare say do not run exclusively on trails, we will never know the extent that soft ground running can contribute to the usual running injuries.  But what everybody assume is that because soft ground running means lower impact to the joints, direct running injuries will be reduced. Falls and sprains arising from the fall are indirect injuries which can happen to anyone whether running or otherwise and should not count as direct running injuries.

So my take on this? Run as you deem fit and ignore whatever studies that are published. If we listen to every studies that have been done, we will just have to stay at home and watch TV and not do anything. Oh wait, there are studies that staying at home and watching TV is bad for the health! So how?

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