I normally do a fair amount of barefoot running on grass, dirt, and pavement, but on a recent trip, I ended a couple of runs with several miles on sand. It felt easier on my calves and lower legs compared to solid surfaces, but I noticed some differences in soreness afterward, mostly along the IT band, which usually gives me no problems at all. I'm guessing this was caused by either the slope of the beach in places, or just having to stabilize my legs more while landing on a soft surface.

Aside from obvious hazards like stepping on sharp objects, are there any specific strains or other injuries I should be more aware of when running longer distances on sand, due to the reduced traction or other factors?

2 Answers 2


It's an issue of depth: pushing off a surface that gives that much induces more stress on the entire chain, because everything has noticeably more work to do.

IMO the pushing-off would have a greater effect than landing, but that's more "intuitive" than "true".

Other than adjusting to the additional stress, I don't think there's anything intrinsically more "dangerous", you just have to be aware you're going through a larger range of motion, and the muscles/tendons/etc. will be doing more work than on a more-solid surface.

For me the greatest difference is in my calves, but because of previous IT band issues, and current exercises for one of the martial arts I study, IT band stuff doesn't bother me as much as it used to.


This answer comes after 5+ years of the question being asked, so its directed more to a future searcher than to the OP.

The first time I ran just 1 km on loose sand (on the beach) I actually had aching legs, abs and glutes for 1-2 days after running. Same as the OP, I'd been running varying lengths on various kinds of surfaces without any problems. The aching abs and glutes indicate that sand running works the "core" rather intensely.

Running on sand is very different from running of a proper surface - in addition to a greater range of motion, your legs need to work harder (implying greater stress on just about every muscle/tendons/ligaments in the leg) to push off with every step - the little stabilizer muscles which are rarely used on regular surfaces need to kick into action on a soft surface. More importantly, due to the shifting nature of loose sand your core works a lot harder to just maintain balance and posture (hence the need for strong core/glutes).

So overall, of you overdo it without practice, you'll have the usual stress related injuries. But if you work up to it and do the necessary core strengthening exercises, you might come to actually enjoy it as a thorough workout, as I now do. You'll also notice that running on sand significantly improves your sense of balance and helps improve (both speed and posture) your regular running as well.

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