How to Choose Running Track Surfaces: The Ultimate Guide

Are you planning to construct a running track or improve an existing one? Selecting a suitable running track surface is essential for both the athletes’ safety and performance. Besides, with a multitude of options, it could be difficult to identify the one surface that suits your purposes well.

What Activities Do You Need Running Track Surfaces For?

The first thing to do in selecting a surface for a running track is to determine what kind of activity will take place on the track. Will it be used for training or competition, or for both? The activity will guide the need for the performance of the surface. Furthermore, you will need to consider the climate and weather conditions in your area along with the quantity of maintenance needed to preserve the surface in good shape.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Running Track Surfaces

As for running tracks, selecting the most suitable surface is either way decisive. Surface type has the potential to affect your performance, safety, and maintenance spend.

Track Surface Types

There are several good types of track surfaces, they are: natural surfaces, all-weather surfaces, synthetic surfaces and among others. Each type has its characteristics, such as traction, shock absorption, and resilience. 

Surface Durability

The durability of the running track surface is a significant parameter to think about when making the scoring choice. It takes things like the type of surface nature of the track, the number of users and the climate factors into account for the durability of the running track surface. The polyurethane surface usually can serve for 15 years. Latex surfaces can operate within a lifetime span of about 10 years. Rubber track from Huadong Track can be used for about 10 years to 20+ years depending on specific rubber track range.

Comparing Running Track Surface Options

No matter what sport is going on, its important to get a good running track surface when it comes to running, there are multiple factors to bear in mind. The surfaces you select can change how you operate, risk of injuries and also the maintenance costs. Here are the most common types of running track surfaces to consider:

Natural Surfaces

Cinder, clay, and sometimes grass are common natural track surfaces.

Pros:

  • They are comfortable, affordable, and reduce joint impact, providing excellent cushioning and helping to prevent injuries.
  • These surfaces create more resistance, strengthening foot muscles and improving running techniques.

Cons:

  • They become unusable when wet and require constant, costly maintenance to prevent surface irregularities.
  • Although recent advancements have improved their water retention and reduced maintenance needs, the high costs of materials and technology make natural surface tracks rare today.

All-Weather Surfaces

Invented in the late 1960s, all-weather track surfaces, also known as “asphalt-bound” surfaces, consist of asphalt combined with rubber or sand. These tracks are known for their durability and ability to withstand various weather conditions, making them reliable and providing a fast, steady running surface for athletes.

However, they have become less commonly built due to several issues:

  • Temperature Sensitivity: Asphalt-bound surfaces become very soft in the summer heat, potentially leading to a slower surface, and quite hard in the winter cold, which can be harsh on runners’ joints.
  • Aging and Resilience: As asphalt ages, it hardens and loses its cushioning properties, increasing the risk of injuries to runners’ joints and muscles.
  • High Costs: The cost of constructing asphalt-bound tracks is high. Manufacturing the necessary asphalt mix involves shutting down the asphalt plant, producing the special mix, cleaning the plant equipment, and then restarting regular asphalt production, all of which add to the overall expense.

Despite many asphalt-bound tracks still being in use today, these drawbacks have led to a decline in their popularity for new track constructions.

Synthetic Surfaces

Polyurethane Tracks

Polyurethane tracks represent the most commonly used running track covers. It is a mixture of rubber granules together with polyurethane binders which creates a tough and shock-absorbent surface. One of polyurethane tracks’ main characteristics is the great traction that runners enjoy, thus, they maintain their race pace and form. They, however, require little maintenance with sweeping and power washing being enough to clean them every so often.

Pros:

  • Offers excellent traction
  • Provides a consistent and shock-absorbent surface
  • Requires minimal maintenance

Cons:

  • Can be expensive to install
  • May require resurfacing after several years of use
  • Not ideal for colder climates

Latex Track Surfaces

One of the most commonly used surfaces for the running track is rubber. It’s a composite of latex binders, so it’s kinder and more comfortable than polyurethane tracks. This reduces the chances of injuries, especially for runners with joint complications. Also, the latex is more economical than the polyurethane tracks.

Pros:

  • Provides a softer and more cushioned surface
  • Can help reduce the risk of injury
  • Less expensive than polyurethane tracks

Cons:

  • May require more maintenance than polyurethane tracks
  • Can be less durable than polyurethane tracks
  • May not provide as much traction as polyurethane tracks
Rubber Track Surfaces

Rubber track surfaces are typically made of synthetic materials such as polyurethane or EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) rubber. These materials are mixed with binders and additives to create a durable and resilient track surface. The specific composition may vary depending on the manufacturer and desired performance characteristics of the track. For example, Huadong Track produce it by pure NB with a small amount of environmental protection additives.

Pros:

  • Enhanced Performance: Rubber tracks boost runners’ speed and efficiency by 2-3% with their spring-like properties.
  • Shock Absorption: They offer excellent cushioning, reducing muscle stress and minimizing injury risks.
  • Durability: Rubber surfaces last over 20 years with minimal maintenance and remain consistent in various weather conditions.
  • Weather Resistance: They maintain performance regardless of climate, resisting degradation over time.

Cons:

  • Initial Cost: Installation expenses can be higher than other surfaces due to material and labor costs
  • Limited Customization: Options for tailoring tracks to specific needs may be restricted compared to other types.
  • Surface Heating: In warm climates, rubber surfaces can retain heat, affecting athlete comfort.

Making the Final Decision

Now that you are familiar with the different types of running track surfaces available, it’s time to make a choice. Here are more factors to consider when making your final decision:

Performance

Take into account the kind of athletes who will use the track. What is it for – elite competition or fun use? The condition of your surface will determine the performance of the atheletes. Some surfaces are made for speed, while others are made for comfort and shock absorption.

Safety

Safety is the key factor to take into account when selecting the running track surface. Search for surfaces that give good grip and cut the chance of getting hurt.

Environmental Impact

Take into account the environmental footprint of the flooring material. There are some surfaces that are more eco-friendly than others do. Scan for surfaces that are made from recycled content or recyclable at the end of their lifespan.

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