Road vs off road running

I started running a couple of months ago - usually running in the evening after work and at the weekend. So far all the running I've done has been on the road/pavement. Fancied something different today, and ended up doing my run in a woodland/park type area - lots of muddy trails and hills and different surfaces. Really good fun, but felt a lot harder than the running I do on the roads.

Just wondering if I should be doing more of this type of running rather than just sticking to main roads?

Also, is it normal for it to feel more difficult than running on concrete on the main roads? The run I did today felt a lot harder than the last time I did it!


  • Hi Lisa

    Do as much off road as you can.
    Soft surfaces mud, grass, leaf mold are kinder to your joints than tarmac or concrete.
    Uneven surfaces will strengthen your legs to avoid injury.

    However it felt harder than on the road, because you were having to work harder, lifting your feet more and working against surfaces like grass and mud, which slow you down,

    But don't leave out the roads entirely, if you want to race on roads, you need to do some of your training on roads.

  • Thanks David - will definitely keep up with the off road stuff - I enjoyed it more than my road running. I was having such a good time today I didn't want to stop!

  • However, if you've damaged your ankles as many times as I have then running off road is not really an option, unless it is a nice path...
  • I today did a 10k off road race (grass, mud trails and some road lanes). This was incredibly hard for me compared to road runs and added about 1 min to my pace time, normally 8:58 min miles and today 9:58 min miles. Are there any tips that can help with my technique off road?

  • TheraThera ✭✭✭
    I have been thinking about some offroad running. I usually run on the treadmill to break up the road/pavement running. Do you need different shoes?
  • Michelle

    It wasn't Crossdale was it?


    Start with somewhere easy like a park, and your normal trainers should be OK.

    If you are going to do tougher terrain, then you need stronger shoes. 

  • Mix it up - do a bit of both.

    Roads: you can get a bit of speed in as the hard surface lends itself to maximising propulsion - 'equal and oppostie reaction' stuff.

    Trails: good for joint strengthening, nerve re-education, as the surfaces are uneven plus it's often more scenic image

    I do more off road than on... so find road running (a) easier and (b) more boring

    If you want to improve your off road running, just do more of it. Adaptation. 

  • TheraThera ✭✭✭
    Does off road running help with ITB (I need to strengthen my glutes)?
  • I started running approx 2 months ago and it is all off road and I have to say it took many attempts to reach the two mile mark. From my limited experience (and no road running to compare with) I have found it important to focus on form in order to maximise energy for coping with the energy sapping terrain. Thera I certainly find the off road running heavy on the entire posterior muscle chain but like I say I have limited experience and no on road experience so take that only on face value.

    Album of photos from my running route 

  • Off road as much as possible.

    Not because of form, or training, or anything like that.  Just because it's sooooooooooo much nicer to be away from all the cars and the hubbub.

    For me, the most important thing about running is to enjoy it.  That way you're sure to keep doing it and stay fit and active for as long as possible.

  • I would certainly agree with that I love the isolation it allows you to completly switch off your head and have some genuine time to yourself.
  • i am so pleased that someone has said it's harder!

    i've recently started running after a long layoff.  now out in the countryside so all running is off road and hilly as opposed to nice canal paths and flat.  even with my lack of fitness and extra weight and extra years i'm amazed at how slow i am!  10:40m/m when i at least thought i'd be at 9:45m/m or something (was around 9m/m before but was mainly just cycling).

    anyway, i love it: the countryside, very few people and those you do come across are always others out enjoying the countryside.   just bought a headtorch so i can carry on in the winter.  trail shoes (addidas kandida?) make the running easier than the massive motion control shoes i wore on the road as i can kind of feel the track better and my feet don't get thrown off at weird angles.  i was really suprised.  also i really feel my lower legs strengthening.  i hope that that combined with other strengthening work will help keep me injury free.

    only thing i'm wondering about rather prematurely is what it'll be like running VLM after so much trail running?  i guess a few road races will let me know how my legs respond and also give me a better idea of times i can expect.  i guess i could run around the same mile of pavements in the village.  don't fancy heading out on the roads though as they're pretty busy.

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