Taking to the roads or the trails for a run gives your body a solid cardio workout that builds your overall health and fitness. While both surfaces offer an effective workout, the two types of running give you two distinct running experiences. Understanding how the two surfaces vary enables you to decide which option best fits your running goals.
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Smooth or Soft Surface
Road running provides a smooth, even surface that makes it easier to keep your footing. The drawback is the hard concrete and asphalt you run on, which give your joints a pounding. The uneven nature of a trail increases the risks of falling or tripping if you don't pay close attention to the trail in front of you. The advantage is the softer surface of mud, dirt or grass, which means less jarring on your joints. Special trail running shoes can help you maintain stability on the unpredictable trail surfaces.
Close and Convenient
Roads offer a convenient location for your outdoor runs. You have the option of running on roads near your home, work or school by simply stepping out the door. Most people must drive to get to a suitable trail for a run. The remote location of many trails makes getting there a challenge. If you are injured or need assistance on a trail, it may take longer for help to arrive.
Roads provide an easier method of measuring distance if you want to know how far you are going. Online mapping systems allow you to map your running route, with the distance provided instantly. You can also drive the route using your car's odometer to determine the distance. Trails don't typically appear on mapping programs and you can't drive along a trail to measure the distance. A GPS-enabled running watch is an option for measuring distance, but you won't know the distance until you are out on the trail.
Roads are typically busier than trails, with both vehicles and foot traffic. While traffic does present a potential safety hazard, you also have others around to provide a level of safety. An attacker is less likely to strike with others around. If you become injured, you also have people to help. On a trail, you may be the only person running. If you fall down or become injured, you may be stuck on the trail for a long time before someone finds you.
A trail provides a natural setting that appeals to many runners. You come across trees, flowers, animals and occasionally a stream or lake. You are likely to see houses, businesses and vehicles while running on the road. For most people, nature is a more relaxing, enjoyable environment for a workout.