How to Safely Run on Sand Without Getting Hurt

Running on the beach can be a peaceful, beautiful running experience. It can also help make you a stronger runner. Research has found that beach running can improve cardiovascular endurance and improve running speed.

Running on sand, especially dry sand, is tougher than running on pavement. So you'll definitely work harder on the beach. But being able to jump in the water after you're finished will make it worth your effort. Be prepared with these safety tips before you go.

Start on Wet Sand

Mixed race woman running on beach
Blend Images - Erik Isakson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

If you're new to beach running, start out on wet, firm sand. It's much easier to run on than sand that is soft and dry. For this reason, low tide is a great time to go for your beach run.

If you're unsure when tide is low, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers an online Tide Predictions search page. This will tell you roughly what time tide is lowest based on geographical location.

Once you get used to running on wet sand, slowly add 2- or 3-minute intervals on the softer sand, returning to the wet sand in between. Once you begin to get used to running on dry sand, start running on it for longer stretches.

Stick to Flat Ground

View of Jaco Island in the distance with white, sandy beach in the foreground

urf / Getty Images

Running on a beach that's sloped can lead to injuries. It's also much easier to fall and injure yourself when running on a banked surface. Therefore, it's best to stick to a beach that is relatively flat.

If you're planning to run while on vacation, do an online search for "best running beaches" followed by the location you're visiting. This can help you identify some of the flatter beaches other runners prefer in that area.

Don't Expect to Run Your Usual Pace

Running on the beach is harder than running on the pavement or on a treadmill. It not only increases your heart rate more significantly, but it also greatly increases your training load.

Don't overdo it by trying to keep a running pace that is too high. Start slow and, as you get more used to sand running, you can increase your pace over time.

Stay Hydrated

Runner Drinking Water
Runner Drinking Water. Photo by George Doyle

To prevent dehydration and other heat-related illnesses, make sure you hydrate properly. This requires ensuring that you have plenty of water available before, during, and after your beach runs.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends:

  • Before exercise: 14 to 22 ounces of fluids approximately 2 hours before the physical activity
  • During exercise: 6 to 12 ounces of water or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes
  • After exercise: 16 to 24 ounces of water or sports drink for every pound lost during the exercise session (which requires that you weigh yourself before going out for your run)

Thirst isn't always the best indicator of when you need to drink, because it generally doesn't appear during exercise until you've lost around 2% of your body mass. That means that you're already dehydrated.

If there aren't any water fountains along your path, carry a water bottle with you, or carry some cash to buy bottled water at a store near the beach.

Ease into Barefoot Running

Barefoot Running
Barefoot Running. Photo (c) Cameron Spencer / Getty images

Barefoot running is a good way to build up strength in your feet. But because we're used to wearing shoes all the time, our feet are not nearly as strong as they could be.

If you start running barefoot on the beach too fast or too frequently, you could injure yourself. Running without supportive shoes on sand can lead to or worsen plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, or Achilles injuries.

If you really want to run barefoot on the sand, start out with short runs—just 15 minutes or so—to build up some strength in your feet. And, of course, be on the lookout for broken glass and seashells.

Protect Your Skin

Running on the beach usually means that you're in direct sunlight, so make sure you put on some sunscreen. This can keep you from getting burned while also helping to protect you from sun-induced skin aging and skin cancer.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that is water resistant. Wearing sun-protective clothing can help too.

Also, try to avoid running between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's intensity is at its greatest (even during the winter). The sand reflects the sun, increasing your risk of a burn.

Have a Pair of Beach Running Shoes

Running on the beach at sunset

Getty 

There aren't specific shoes made for beach running, but you're better off dedicating a pair of your running shoes for beach runs. That way, you don't have to bother trying to get all the sand out of your shoes after your runs.

They may also get wet, so you might want to have two pairs handy if you plan to run at the beach regularly. You don't want to have to wait for them to dry out before you can hit the sand again.

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9 Sources
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