Running on Different Surfaces

By Albert Tan

You may have already been running for a while now to prepare for the Great Eastern Live Great Run 2013. Many of you would either train in the park, by the road side, around your apartment, on a running track, on a sandy beach or on a treadmill in a gym. I am going to share with you about some of the surfaces that you may expose your foot to during running, the potential injuries that each type can cause and how to tap on the benefits of training on the different types of surface.


Asphalt is the most common surface that you would normally see on Malaysia roads, recreational parks and some running tracks. Asphalt is a mixture of gravel, tar and crushed rock that makes up most of the route for road races in Malaysia. Furthermore, most people train on this type of surface.

The surface is rather solid and hard, but it put less strain on the Achilles tendon as compared to softer, uneven terrains. It is easy to run on this kind of surface as it enables you to keep your running rhythm steady.

As you may come across potholes on the roads, do be careful and stay focused during your run to avoid any unwanted injuries.

Concrete is made up of cement primarily and this type of surface is commonly found on pavements and some roads such as those in Putrajaya. Although it should be a flat surface, it may be uneven sometimes and that can cause injury.


You can have access to concrete surface very easily and avoid traffic during your run. It is much safer than running on the road. However, it delivers the most shock to the runner’s leg as compared to any other surface. During your runs, try to alternate between concrete pavements and asphalt roads.


The grass surface is softer and can absorb impact during your run. However, due to the soft surface, your legs will eventually have to work harder. That would build strength and you could perform better when you return to the road.

In Malaysia, there are hardly any big fields with grass surface to jog on or run for a longer distance other than on a football field. People who run on a football field which is part of the mini stadium track and field may have to be cautious because most of these fields have uneven surface or potholes. You may twist or sprain your ankle during your run if you are not careful enough.

Synthetic Track
Running on a synthetic track may give you the benefits of measuring the distance you have covered, doing pace runs, striding due to the flat surface and being away from traffic.


Apart from our local mini stadiums, there are other places that provide synthetic track such as KLCC Park, Lembah Kiara Recreational Park, Lake Gardens and Kepong Metropolitan Park, where the distance varies from one to the other. Avoid running too much on an old and hard synthetic track as it can cause injury.



Most city-dwellers would not have access to running on a sandy surface such as a beach. Having said that, I would like to share some tips on training on a sandy surface, in case you want to train during your beach vacation or you are staying somewhere near the beach.


Running on the beach can provide some form of resistance training and help strengthen your legs. However, you must be careful of the type of sand that you are running on. Running on soft sand can bring about a higher risk to your Achilles. Run near the firmer area around the beach’s edge and I would recommend you to wear your sports shoes.


Running on a treadmill is one of the best options during a rainy or hot day, or when you have been running too much on asphalt and concrete surfaces and are in need of training on a different surface. Running on a treadmill may feel slightly different from running on other types of outdoor surfaces.

The legs tend to use more of the front thigh (quadriceps) muscles as compared to back of the thigh (hamstring) muscles. For similar energy expenditure or muscle activation, raise the treadmill elevation to 1% or 2%. Treadmill running is also good for beginners to start with and to build confidence along the way. You can learn to pace your running and monitor your progress using the treadmill.

Remember to run on different surfaces from time to time for the different effects on your legs and performance. Change to a softer surface when you feel soreness and pain in your legs due to frequent running on hard surfaces. This helps to prevent further stress and injury to your legs.



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This health tips article ("this Article") is not professional advice and is intended to provide general information on health, fitness and nutrition for educational purposes only and you shall not, at any time, rely upon or construe this Article as a medical advice or instruction. Please be reminded to always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner before making any changes to your current exercise regimen or diet.


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