As runners, we’re creatures of habit. We find ourselves on the same routes — think of that perfect prework loop in the park — day after day. But it’s no secret that variety can unlock myriad benefits for runners. Switch up your workouts, and you’ll prevent injury, avoid burnout, improve your strength and endurance — and more.
One of the simplest ways to disrupt your routine is to aim for variety in terrain. Choose the track for speed and smoothness, the road for middistance runs or the trails for adventure and less impact. Even the treadmill has its place. Proper footwear is essential to staying injury-free while reaping the maximum benefits of each surface.
Protection and traction are key when you’re pushing the limits on dirt, rock or gravel. Look for a cleatlike grip, with added stability and support. Most trail runners feature protective details like stiff toe covers, hidden shanks and plates that shield feet from bruising while promoting stability on rocky, uneven terrain. Some shoes include built-in outsoles or removable GORE-TEX liners for wet, muddy conditions. For rolling hills, pick a pair with extra heel cushioning. Bonus: Your trail runners can double as hiking shoes.
UA Pick: UA Fat Tire Low
Pro tip: Before purchasing, test a pair of trail runners on an incline, jogging up and down to determine proper fit.
For most runners (particularly city dwellers), the road is the most convenient surface for a run — but too much street time can quickly lead to injury. Make sure your shoe is up to the challenge when you hit the street. First, get to know your natural stride. A simple way to do this is to examine the bottom of your current pair and examine the treads for natural patterns of wear. Do you overpronate, rolling your foot inward, increasing your risk for knee injury? Choose a shoe with stability and motion control. Or do you supinate, rolling your foot outward? Pick road runners with extra cushioning and flexibility. Overall, your shoe should absorb the shock of striking concrete.
Pro tip: If it’s safe, run on the asphalt (rather than the sidewalk) to diminish impact — and save your legs for hills.
When you hit the track, you probably shouldn’t opt for spikes or racing flats unless you’re running a race or completing a time trial. For most recreational runners, it’s advised to keep the extra ounces of weight and spare your legs: The minimalist construction of spikes and racing flats significantly increases your risk for nearly every type of injury, from shin splints to hip and knee issues. Choose a low-profile, responsive training shoe that’s lighter than your road runners. If you’re less prone to injury or preparing for a speedy race, select spikes (for shorter bursts only) or flats (for middle-to-longer distances) with a snug fit. Racing shoes should hug your foot like a glove to prevent slippage and drag.
Pro tip: If you’re a heel-striker, always choose a racing flat over a spike, regardless of the distance you’re running.
For runners who live in cold or extremely hot climates — or for those who value the predictability of machine-set speeds and inclines — the treadmill is often the most convenient option for training. In most cases, your road runners will do the trick, but some gym-goers enjoy the opportunity to wear a lighter-weight pair with less cushioning, since the treadmill’s slight bounce and softness lessen the impact. It’s also your best chance to keep a flashy pair of kicks looking fresh and clean.
Pro tip: If your road running shoes include increased stability, motion control or flexibility to support your individual stride, always hit the treadmill in a similar pair.
- Toss your shoes after 300–500 miles. Even the best shoe can induce injury with overwear.
- Unsure what type of runner you are? Consider visiting your local running store for an expert gait analysis.
- Donate or recycle your castoffs. Visit Soles4Souls or Give Your Sole to learn more.
It Comes From Below. You already have what it takes to exceed your own expectations, on every run, in all conditions. Make sure your shoes keep up with you.
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UA Run Camp brings together the world’s most passionate runners and pits them against some of the world’s worst conditions. The goal: to push the limits of athletes farther than they ever thought possible.