Why we should all run off road as much as possible
I've always been lucky that I've lived near a lot of countryside. As a result, a lot of my runs have involved running off road. In my opinion, the majority of runners, of all levels, should incorporate more off road runs into their training, and it always amazes me that more do not.
Probably, the main benefit of running off road is that it is more enjoyable and will make your runs a lot more interesting.
Running can be hard work sometimes, so why not make it as enjoyable as possible. If I stick to the roads around the town, sometimes an hour can seem a long time. In the countryside, time seems to go a lot quicker!
Running off road is a natural activity. Running on the road is not. By running more on a slightly uneven, softer, surface, your body will become a lot stronger and you'll be less prone to injury. This is the concept behind the MBT shoes. Running on a softer surface will mean less impact on your joints which can take a 'bashing' on the road. Moreover, from a biomechanical point of view, running on an uneven surface is a lot better in terms of injury prevention. A lot of running injuries come about through the repetitiveness of running, which inevitably occurs when running long distances on the road. Running on an uneven surface or twisty paths mean your foot is not always hitting the ground at the same angle, meaning there is not the same repetitive strain on the legs. This is why a lot of off road shoes do not bother with anti pronation support because it is not so necessary.
Another benefit of running off road is that you'll normally incorporate a lot more hills into your run, than if you just stay to the roads around a town. Running uphill, and downhill, is great for building leg strength, which will give you a more powerful stride and enable you to run quicker. It is no coincidence that the best runners in the world, the East Africans, live and train in hilly surroundings.
When there are so many reasons to be running off road, why do runners not incorporate more into their training? Running off road is more difficult than on a flat uneven surface, which might be off putting. The key is to just run slower and keep your heart rate at the same level as if you are on the road. With the increase in popularity of speed distance monitors, we have a pretty accurate indication of the lengths of our runs. Running off road might not be as appealing as it'll become evident that your run isn't as far as you might have thought! What is more important, however, is the duration of the run, not the distance.
In the winter, it is often difficult to run off road with darker nights. Moreover, when doing quicker paced runs, you need to run on a firmer even surface. However, where possible make the effort to incorporate more off road into your training, even if it involves a short drive to a park or woodland area.
Need some off-road shoes? We stock a huge range at Apex, designed to help you gain a firm footing on the most difficult terrain. Our range of men's off-road shoes can be found here and our women's range here.