For years, we have been taught the benefits of softer surfaces in training. From dirt roads to crushed gravel and wood chip trails, spending time off the pavement has been linked to reduced frequency of injury and the strengthening of critical proprioceptors. (Proprioceptors are sensors in the limbs that provide information to the brain about joint angle, muscle strength and muscle tension.) Finding quality, non-paved venues for running, however, can be a daunting task.
1. Soccer Complexes: Great for Runners
As soccer has exploded in popularity in America, so have soccer complexes, often containing multiple connected, well-groomed fields. If you are lacking access to a quality dirt road or crushed gravel path, find a grass soccer or softball complex and run around the exterior for at least one of your shorter weekly recovery runs (or at minimum, a portion of one of your runs).
2. Treadmills Need Not Be Dreadmills
Gym-based treadmills, often referred to as "dreadmills" by outdoor purists, are actually an outstanding resource for a softer, non-paved weekly run. Look for quality treadmills with a wider belt on a stable platform for the best softer ride.