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Running on the beach


Tough workout, inspiring view / Photo: J. Booth

Don't just sit on the sand... run on it!
Time at the beach is one of the pleasures of summer. Running on the beach adds variety and challenge to your routine: the ocean views inspire and sand, whether hard-packed or deep, kicks your butt. The extra effort exerted and fuller range of motion used when running on sand can torch 1.6 times more calories per mile and develops power throughout the lower body.

Start slowly and don't overdo it
Running on sand should be added gradually, and not daily, to your routine. Soft sand gives with each step, so your leg muscles will feel the burn. Give your legs the needed recovery time (at least two to three days, as with hill running) between beach workouts. A short workout in deep sand will rarely leave you wishing you had more time for a longer run.

Beach running strengthens feet, ankles, and calves /
Photo: J Booth

Surface matters
Running near low tide provides a flatter, firmer surface on which you can accomplish longer runs. As mentioned, soft, dry sand yields underfoot and is better for shorter speed workouts. All beaches have some slant to them and running on an angled surface can wreak havoc on your knees and hips. Make sure you run out and back. And running barefoot allows your feet to move through their natural range of motion, which strengthens your feet and ankles -- but watch for sharp or foreign objects.

Proper form always matters
The familiar rules of road-running form apply on packed sand: keep your head up, your back comfortably straight, and land midfoot. The poor traction of soft sand forces you to run more on the balls of your feet, lean your body farther forward, and drive your knees and arms higher.

Stretch and enjoy
As at the end of every run, stretch. Be nice to your legs and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and pay extra attention to those fatigued calves (click here for stretches and form reminders). Finish off with some fun: cool your feet (or whole body) in the refreshing water, marvel at the vastness of the ocean and sky, and remember that a day at the beach (like every day we are healthy and blessed enough to run) is a gift.


  • Lauren (Jersey City Running Examiner) 5 years ago

    Great article! I love beach running--it's a fun (albeit challenging) departure from road and trails. Thanks for the tips.

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