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The Ultimate Guide to Running on Sand: Tips and Tricks for Success

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Have you ever tried running on sand? It’s not like running on a regular surface. The soft, uneven terrain can make it more challenging and require more energy. But, there are also benefits to beach running that you won’t get from running on a hard surface. In this guide, we’ll explore the benefits, challenges, and how to get started with running on sand.

The Benefits of Beach Running

Running on a soft surface can be a great addition to your workout routine. Here are some of the benefits:

Extra Burn

According to a study, running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy than running on a hard surface. This means that you’ll burn more calories and get a better workout in the same amount of time.

Builds Strength

Running on sand can also help build strength in your feet, calves, and other muscles that don’t get worked as much on a hard surface. This can help improve your overall running performance, balance and reduce your risk of injury.


Running on soft sand is also low-impact, which means it’s easier on your joints. This can be especially beneficial if you have knee or hip pain.

Scenic Views

Last but not least, running on the beach can be a beautiful and peaceful experience. You’ll get to enjoy scenic views and fresh air while getting your workout in.

The Challenges of Beach Running

While there are benefits to running on the sand, it’s important to be aware of the challenges as well:

Unstable Surface

The soft, uneven terrain of the beach can make it more challenging to run on. You’ll have to work harder to stabilize yourself and maintain your balance which will strengthen your leg muscles and core. Sand dunes can provide an even higher calorie burner since the terrain is a lot more challenging.

Slower Pace

Due to the extra effort required to run on sand, you’ll likely run at a slower pace than you would on a hard surface. This can be frustrating for some runners.

Risk of Injury

Running on sand can also increase your risk of injury if you’re not careful. The uneven surface can put more stress on your feet, ankles, and calves, which can lead to strains, sprains, or even fractures.

How to Get Started with Beach Running

If you’re interested in trying beach running, here are some tips for getting started:

Start Slow

Begin by walking on the beach to get used to the sand. Then, gradually work your way up to running. Start with just 20 minutes and slowly increase the time and frequency of your runs. Dry sand is going to be softer and more difficult than wet sand. I would suggest starting to run on wet sand to get used to the feeling and adjust to the balance difference before moving to dry sand.

Choose the Right Surface

Avoid running on the hard-packed sand next to the water, as it can be tilted and uneven. Instead, look for a flat, firm section of sand to run on.

Wear the Right Shoes

Wearing the right shoes is important for running. Look for shoes with good traction and support that can handle the sand and uneven terrain.

Stay Hydrated

Running on the beach can be dehydrating, so be sure to bring water and stay hydrated during your run.

Listen to Your Body

It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If you feel pain

When it comes to beach running, one common question is whether to wear shoes or go barefoot. The answer, according to experts, is that either option is fine. John Honerkamp, a coach and consultant for running companies, suggests going with what you’re used to. On the other hand, if the sand is deep or soft, most people find it easier to run barefoot.

However, if you haven’t run barefoot before, it’s important to be cautious. Running barefoot can put extra stress on your feet and calves, and there’s also the risk of stepping on things in the sand, such as bees or sharp objects.

If you do decide to run barefoot, it’s important to build up slowly and gradually. Start with short distances and work your way up to longer runs. It’s also a good idea to transition gradually from heavier to lighter or thinner shoes to help prepare your feet for running barefoot.

If you prefer to wear shoes, look for shoes with good traction and support that can handle the sand and uneven terrain. If the sand is compact enough, you may find it more pleasant to run in shoes.

Regardless of whether you wear shoes or go barefoot, it’s important to protect yourself from the sun while running on the beach. Be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to plan your beach run for early morning or late evening when there are fewer crowds and the sand is cooler. The sand can get very hot in the afternoon sun, which can be uncomfortable or even lead to burns.

Lastly, it’s important to remember landmarks and where you started, as all those towels and beach chairs can start to look the same. This will help ensure that you don’t get lost and can find your way back to your starting point.

In summary, whether you choose to wear shoes or go barefoot while beach running is a personal preference. It’s important to build up gradually and protect yourself from the sun, while also being cautious of the risks associated with running on sand. With the right precautions and mindset, beach running can be a fun and rewarding addition to your fitness routine.

Going on vacation doesn’t mean you have to skip your workout routine. In fact, beach running can be a fun and effective way to get some exercise while enjoying the scenery. Here are three ideas to make your beach workout fun and effective:

  1. Hill Sprints - Find a sand dune that you’re allowed to run up and start with four 10-second bursts. Gradually build up to 10 bursts. These short uphill bursts can help build power and strength, according to John Honerkamp, a coach and consultant for running companies.
  2. Strides - Strides are short bursts of speed that can help improve your running form and build foot muscle strength. To do strides on the beach, build up your speed and intensity over 40-100 meters and then slowly decelerate. Give yourself time to recover before repeating. This can be done barefoot or with shoes.
  3. Ease Into It - If you’re new to running on sand or prone to injury, it’s important to ease into it. Take a walk on the first day, then run for just 10 minutes on the second day. A few days later, run 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back. Easy running will help build up your calf muscles and endurance without putting too much stress on your body.

No matter what type of workout you choose, be sure to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun. Remember to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard, especially if you’re new to beach running.

In conclusion, beach running can be a fun and effective way to get some exercise while on vacation. Try these three workout ideas to make it enjoyable and challenging. Remember to stay safe and listen to your body, and you’ll be on your way to a great beach workout.

Caroline Buckee

Caroline Flannigan is an epidemiologist. She is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and is the Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

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