The right surface makes all the difference for your athletic tracks and running team. For many years, athletic tracks were limited to organic materials, such as dirt and clay. While those can often be useful surfaces, advancements in technology have created more options, so you can customize your track for the type of running you use it for.
Athletic tracks need to be the right balance between hard and soft for ankle and knee protection. Tracks that are used for long distance running need to be softer for joint support. Tracks used for sprints should be firmer.
Old outdoor tracks were traditionally made of clay or cinder, and sometimes grass. The problem with these types of tracks is weather—any type of condensation often makes the ground too soggy or slippery to run on. Cinder tracks were made by making 3 layers, first of rubble and stone, followed by coarse cinder, and then a fine layer of cinder mixed with clay, black loam, or coal ashes. These tracks are more inexpensive to purchase, but they eventually cost a lot more to maintain. Replacing filler materials and leveling the surface, as well as remarking the lanes, winds up costing more in the long run.
Typically, outdoor tracks are either permeable, which means water drains through the surface, or impermeable, which means water evaporates or drains from the surface. The type of surface used on a track often greatly depends on the climate and weather of the area. Today’s outdoor tracks usually consist of asphalt, concrete, rubber, or composite rubber urethane. Latex rubber track surfaces are a very common outdoor option. They need to be able to withstand the elements.
Outdoor synthetic tracks offer good traction even in inclement weather. Latex-bound surfaces are both durable and permeable, which allows water to easily drain from the surface. Asphalt is considered a flexible surface, but as it ages, it can shrink or harden and become prone to cracking.
Synthetic tracks are usually made of polyurethane, which is a synthetic pour that creates a supportive surface for running. Synthetic tracks offer excellent shock absorption, like natural surfaces, while also preventing loss of speed. They are a safer alternative for runners. Synthetics provide support for runner’s joints and are a softer surface for falls.
Indoor tracks are typically made of poured urethane, especially if they are in multi-use spaces. Indoor tracks are often used for different types of running, from training to physical education classes. They are also typically shorter than outdoor tracks, and average six lanes, instead of the eight or nine an outdoor track has. For spaces that are only used for track and field, the tracks can be banked at an angle.
New tracks are more customizable than ever before. Durable synthetics allow you to choose the right level of cushion for your runners. You can also pick out colors that match your team spirit—you’re not just limited to the black cinder running tracks of old.
All types of tracks will eventually require maintenance. The type of material chosen for the track will determine the type of maintenance, as well as how often it is required. Traffic can also affect the longevity of a track. Following proper procedures, recommended by the manufacturer and the installation team, will help expand the lifespan of a track. Repairs, when caught early enough, can usually be fixed without requiring tearing up the entire track.
Interested in building a new track, or updating your existing one? Contact one of the athletic facility experts at H2I Group. We specialize in the design, installation, and maintenance of athletic facilities, both indoors and outdoors.