If you’re an avid runner, you probably have a favorite place or favorite route you like to run. It’s easy for most of us to just slip on our running shoes, head out the door, and hit the familiar streets of our neighborhood. But while those streets might be familiar, there are benefits to switching it up now and then and running on track versus the road.
Let’s take a look at the differences in road and track running and explore why it might be beneficial to switch it up now and then.
Benefits of Running on a Track
From the material, to the shape, there are a lot of benefits to running on a track rather than the unpredictable terrain of the city streets or country roads.
- The material of a track, typically a rubber or composite material provides a more consistent and often softer surface, leading to decreased impact on the joints
- The flat surface allows for controlled pacing and even splits
- There are fewer unpredictable hazards on a track (like lifted tree roots, cracked sidewalks, or unexpected debris), allowing you to focus on your run without risking injury
- It’s easier to track your distance and time your runs
Track running is great for interval training, speed work, and practicing race paces. If you’re training for a marathon, running on a track can be a great place to work on your pace skills.
But tracks aren’t just great for marathon runners. The controlled environment can be a great place for beginner runners to start understanding pacing, work on their form, and master the basics of running before they hit the streets.
While you don’t need special shoes for running on a track, if you’re going to be primarily on a track, it’s worth looking into.
- Track shoes are generally lighter than road shoes to allow for maximum speed. They may provide less cushioning as a result but if you’re running on a track, you have a softer surface.
- The upper of a track shoe is generally made of lightweight and breathable materials, often with a snug fit to prevent the foot from moving inside the shoe during sprints or turns.
- Track shoes often come with metal or plastic spikes screwed into the sole. These spikes provide grip, especially during high-speed races or on wet tracks.
- You can also look for a hybrid between road and track shoes, often referred to as “flats”. They might have a few spikes or a grippy sole but also provide more cushioning than traditional spikes and can be useful for training sessions on the track.
Benefits of Running on a Road
Obviously running on a road is going to be the most convenient but there are a few more benefits to road running.
- Roads are great for building endurance and getting accustomed to real-world terrains
- They’re better for long runs
- More interesting scenery
- Allows for more a challenge with varying inclines and elevations
Some science has shown that when a finish line is in sight, our bodies will start to slow and get ready to stop, making those few miles or moments extremely difficult. On a track, it’s really easy to know exactly where that finish line is, making it more tempting for our brains and bodies to shut down. Road running can help prevent this.
While starting out on a track is a great way to train for a marathon and work on the basics, most races are run on roads so you’ll want to move your training out into the real world to start building on your endurance for longer distances.
Running Shoes for the Road
If you’re hitting the streets, make sure your shoes can support you.
- Road running shoes are designed with ample cushioning to absorb the shock from hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete.
- Cushioning helps protect the joints from the repetitive impact of road running.
- These shoes are constructed for durability given the wear and tear of abrasive road surfaces.
- The outsole is often made of tough carbon rubber to ensure longevity.
Whether you’re running on a track or the road, make sure to practice good form and if you need extra support, grab an insole to add to your shoes to keep your body feeling good so you can do (and run!) more.