There has been a major influx in trail runners over the past few years. Active noted that there has been a 36 percent increase over the the last five years in people who consider themselves avid trail runners. Why is it that more and more people are hitting the dirt instead of pounding the pavement? It turns out that trail running offers three huge benefits to road running. Trail running can be easier on your body, it can be a better workout and it offers scenery that can not be seen from any concrete sidewalk.
Dirt trails can be far more forgiving on joints than concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads. The softer dirt surface helps to alleviate strain on your feet, ankles, shins, knees and hips. running can be hard on the body because of large amounts of repetitive force placed on our joints, running on softer surfaces such as dirt, sand or grass helps to reduce the maximum force on joints and can help promote healthier overall joint health.
Some of the forces that would normally be transmitted from the pavement up to the ankles, knees, shins, and hips are dissipated when the foot hits the ground on the trails because there’s some give there.
Trail running is generally done in desolate remote areas removed from cars and building and typically have a high quality of air that you breath during your run as well. Making it healthier for both your joints and your lungs.
There are two main performance benefits to trail running. Trail running typically involves a lot more hills that road running and will thus help build more muscle and power. Trail running also recruits stabilizing muscles that would not be used as much on a flat stable concrete side walk. The imperfections of an uneven dirt trail helps strengthen these supporting muscles and ultimately increases overall ankle strength.
Running over uneven and varied surfaces makes the muscles of the lower leg work especially hard; think specific strength training for the lower leg muscles. I recently noticed how sore my lower legs were after a competing in an off-road multi-sport event. The tendons, ligaments and muscles all get stronger in response to this type of stress.
Finally and arguably the most valuable is the scenery involved with trail running. There is something special and relaxing about being able to remove yourself from the modern world and its distractions. Trails are an excellent way to get away from the busy city and allow yourself to connect with wilderness.
Are you a trail runner or a road runner? Comment below which and why.