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Get salty: beach running 101

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Nothing beats an ocean breeze, especially when it’s so hot you feel you could drown in sweat. And that beautiful ocean view almost makes you forget the beating you’re putting your legs through.

Despite these perks, running on sand is overall more challenging than running on pavement or trails. A Belgian research study even concluded that running on the sand takes 1.6 times more energy than running on a hard surface.

If the beach is calling your name and you’re up for the challenge, use these tips for the most successful beach runs.

1. Find the right beach

For runners, not all beaches are created equal. Make sure you consider these factors:

Length: Many beaches can be interrupted by a jetty, cliff or river mouth. Try to find a beach that has at least a mile of uninterrupted shoreline. 

Slant: Some beaches are unsuitable because they are cambered or crowned. Depending on how cambered the beach is, this could cause you to run on a slanted surface for a long period. Running on a slant can put more pressure on your knees, ankles and hips, which is asking for an injury. When it comes to beach running, the flatter, the better!

2. Select the right sand

Any beach bum can tell you that all sand is not the same. The type of sand you run on significantly affects the intensity of your workout.

A falling or low tide creates the most level, hard-packed surface for running. As the water recedes, it leaves hardening sand behind—similar to a soft trail that’s forgiving on the body. Wet, packed sand is the best surface for an enjoyable run.

A high tide leaves soft, dry sand, which is kindest on the legs, but it’s also much harder to power through (it makes 10-minute miles feel like speed work). Don’t fear the dry sand but get ready for a hard workout.

3. Should I ditch my shoes?

Running barefoot on sand seems so appealing, but if you’re not used to it, you can easily get injured. Running barefoot can lead to or worsen plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains or Achilles injuries because you don’t have the support of shoes; therefore, the muscles get stretched longer than they would on a harder surface. Additionally, beaches tend to have a lot of shells and other sharp objects you need to watch for, so kicking off your shoes could lead to a cut or worse.

There aren’t specific shoes designed for running on sand, so you have many options. A lighter-weight trail shoe is a great choice for beach running because of the added grip.

Do you run on the beach? Is it worth it? Comment below!

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2 Comments on "Get salty: beach running 101"

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John Vonhof
June 28, 2016 11:55 AM

When running in the sand, be mindful of getting sand inside your shoes and socks. The mesh uppers used in most of today’s shoes allows sand, dirt, and grit inside. The sand can lead to hot spots, blisters, and even skin being rubbed raw. Gaiters worn over the top of the shoes can help. When possible, run on the packed sand near the water’s edge.

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