SUNDAY, June 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Summer beach bums who plan on jogging on sand instead of their usual pavement need to be extra careful to avoid injuries, experts say.
The common perception is that sand -- so soft and giving compared to hard pavement -- is easier and safer on the joints. But orthopedic experts are warning that just the opposite is true.
"Running on the beach comes with risks," according to Dr. Michael Ciccotti, chief of the Sports Medicine Center at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and head team physician for the Philadelphia Phillies.
"As you run on irregular, inconsistent surface like sand, the forces that go through the feet, ankles and hips vary dramatically and can predispose an athlete to injury in any one of these body parts," Ciccotti said in a prepared statement.
Sudden changes from firm, wet, hard-packed sand to loose dry sand can make running on the beach particularly dangerous. Beaches also usually slope downward toward the shoreline.
"Running on this sloped surface can especially predispose an individual to injury," Ciccotti said.
Sprains and tendonitis are commonly diagnosed injuries after running on the sand, Ciccotti noted. Common, too, are other strains and inflammation of joints and tendons in the knee, lower leg and ankle -- even fractures.
To prevent injuries while running, Ciccotti recommended wearing running shoes that offer stable support and are designed to absorb the shock of hitting the surface while running. Replace shoes about every nine to 12 months, he added, and stretch and warm up before you start to run, and don't overexert yourself if you aren't used to running long distances.
Also, Ciccotti said, pay attention to your running surface -- watch for changes in the terrain that may cause you to stumble or fall.
"Running on the beach is a great activity with tremendous health and psychological benefits. We just need to be extra careful to remain free of injury," Ciccotti added.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more information on running safety.