Sprint on sand—sans injury and muscle soreness—with fitness and beach safety tips from a running coach

By Marnie Soman Schwartz
Updated June 19, 2019
Guido Mieth/Getty Images

It's hard to picture a more idyllic running situation than leaving tracks at the ocean's edge. But while running on the beach (specifically, running on sand) definitely has some benefits, it can be tricky, says New York Road Runner coach John Honerkamp.

On the plus side, when you're running on sand, the unstable surface provides some extra strength training for your lower leg muscles, which have to work harder to stabilize your feet. And when you sink into the sand, it makes it even tougher for your body to lift up for each step, amping up the intensity of your run.

"Thicker sand exaggerates each step," says Honerkamp. "It makes you feel like you're climbing. Your calves are working that much harder to propel you forward."

But like any new activity, using your muscles in that different way can leave you super sore. Follow Honerkamp's advice to enjoy running on the beach and still feel good the next day. (Then book one of these 10 Beach Destination Runs for Your Next Racecation.)

Pick the Right Pack

When you're running on sand, tighter, more packed sand (or even better, wet sand) is preferable to a dry, looser surface. It'll still be soft, but you'll sink in less and be less likely to overuse your muscles while trying to stable.

Keep it Short (and Less Frequent)

Even though your muscles are working extra hard, you might not feel the impact of running on the beach until the next day…when you wake up achy and barely able to enjoy your vacation, let alone fit in another run. Start with just 20 to 25 minutes at a time (or even less) to make sure you don't overdo it, advises Honerkamp. And if you live near the ocean, don't start doing all your runs at the beach. Once a week would be ideal. (If you still want to be at the beach, swap in this non-running beach workout you can do in the sand.)

Go Barefoot (if You Want)

Running in wet socks or with sand in their shoes is nobody's idea of fun, and Honerkamp says it's fine to run barefoot on the beach. Though if you're prone to injury or require a very supportive shoe, you might want to keep them on instead of running barefoot on the beach. Not sure? Try walking a mile in the sand. If your calves hurt the next day, you probably shouldn't run barefoot. (Need a new pair of running shoes? Check out The Best Sneakers to Crush Your Workout Routines.)

Go Flat—and Out and Back

Shorelines are sloped, which can mess with your form. When running on the beach, run on the flattest part of the sand that you can, and make sure you run back on the beach the way you came to even out any imbalances.

Stay Sun Safe

Wear extra sunscreen, since water and sand reflect rays. And check the tides so you don't get stuck in a situation where you're far from home and can't run back. (Find an awesome sunscreen in The Best Sweat-Proof Sunscreens for Working Out.)

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