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Is Turf Softer Than Grass? – Best Surface To Train On

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I just want to be clear that this is an article that is meant to talk about these two surfaces when it comes to soccer/football training. This isn’t going to be an article that’s going to provide a ton of gardening nuance comments. In any case, the true answer to the question of is turf softer than grass is … it depends! There are a lot of different factors that you would have to account for. Not all turf is exactly the same, and not all grass is exactly the same. Even though the layer that we see and that we step on is certainly important more often than not it’s actually what sits below the top layer of grass or turf that’s going to really determine how soft a surface is going to be. 

Since we’re going to be talking about you training in this ground the issue is that you don’t necessarily have a say in these cases on how you’d like the ground to be set up. What you can do though is get a quick sense for what type of ground you’re dealing with just by stepping on the pitch. If I had to go on ahead and give a definitive answer to is turf softer than grass, the answer would actually be no. That’s just based on the actual base that the turf is sitting on. It’s more likely for turf to have a concrete base for example. In the worst case scenarios the turf base is really close to the surface, and that’s not what you want to have. When that’s the case the pitch is going to be really hard. 

Is Turf Softer Than Grass – How To Tell How Hard or Soft The Surface Is Going To Be 

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The easy way to find out about this is to just dive a couple of times on the ground, and you’ll feel a hard ground for sure! Now, you’re probably going to want to know ahead of time the answer to “is turf softer than grass?” as it pertains to that field. That way you can adjust your outfit to help you feel more comfortable on that particular field. A good way to realize what you’re up against is just to step on the field preferably wearing cleats. If you’re standing on the grass, and you feel like you’re wearing high heels you may be in for a bumpy ride. You want to be able to sink into the ground just a little bit. That’s a good sign that the surface is going to allow you to minimize some of the blows. 

On the other side of the spectrum though if you’re standing there with cleats, and you’re really sinking into the ground you may be in for a soft landing, but you’ll have to deal with other issues. A lot of times what ends up happening is that those fields that you sink into are going to take a lot out of you. That’s why in the old days coaches would let the grass grow out a little more. The thought was the “puffier” grass was going to tire out the opposing team who wasn’t used to playing in those conditions. These concepts are still relevant today despite the obvious technological advances.      

Is A Sand Base A Good Sign For Softer Grass? 

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Yes, and no it may depend on the type of grass that you’re dealing with, and the length of the grass itself. I’ve been on fields with a sand base that even feel slippery, but are certainly softer than some of the other fields out there. In certain cases though, the sand hardens after a while because of the moisture that falls on the ground either because of rain or because it gets watered down. When that happens the surface can get real hard if you have grass that isn’t as deep if you will. Really what you end up having is a grass surface in name only so to speak. When you’re hitting the ground particularly as a goalkeeper there’s not a lot between yourself and the hard surface.  

There are also turf fields that are going to have a sandy base. That’s actually not the worst idea, because the alternative is much worse. The worst turf field that you can encounter is one where the turf has very little separating it from the concrete slab that the field is actually built on. Even some of the best turf fields ultimately get built this way, but what they’ll do is layers of sand, and a decent amount of rubber pellets to essentially create a bit more cushion. As far as our main question about turf softer than grass goes, you can be sure that the answer is a no if the turf is just directly placed over a concrete slab with little to no help. Those end up being some of the hardest fields anywhere in the world.  

Softer Grass Can Actually Be Harder To Play On 

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We’ve talked about this already. It’s not that softer grass is going to be “hard” in the sense that landing on it is going to hurt. In this case what I mean by harder to play on is that it’s going to take much more effort to be able to run on that surface. This goes back to what I talked about with grass that you essentially sink into. It’s not going to be as difficult as running in sand or something like this. If you’re constantly having to lift your feet from a surface that you keep falling into you’re just putting in more effort.

There are two main reasons why certain fields become more difficult to play on. Number one is just the type of grass that is used for the field. The more old school grass that’s a bit more puffy just naturally will be more difficult to run in. Also, if the field has absorbed a lot of water that can be a problem. I’m talking about absorbing too much water over a set period of time. To the point where you’re not necessarily dealing with puddles or anything like that, at least on the surface. When you step on the field though you can feel that it’s a bit wet. Playing on those fields is not only more physically demanding at the same time you could potentially be messing up the field by playing on it. That type of grass field is typically way softer than turf.   

The Type of Turf That Is Installed Can Make All The Difference 

As previously stated, the way that turf is installed can definitely impact how hard the resulting surface is going to be. Another thing that comes into play is the type of turf that is used on the particular field. In this day and age we’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Traditional astro turf was even harder than concrete in some instances. At least that’s what it seemed like, particularly for goalkeepers. These days there are turf fields that have replaced the typical rubber pellets that were such a staple in other generations. Doing so in favor of sand or other materials that again serve to soften the surface a bit. 

Now we also have a residential type of turf. A lot of times this type of turf isn’t exactly recommended for use in sports fields. What you have is almost like a plastic surface that works great if you don’t want to have to water and mow the lawn. Trying to play any type of sport on that surface is going to be quite the challenge. In any case I still don’t love the turf fields that are filled with rubber pellets on a sunny day. The rug burns that you can get on those types of fields are no joke. Even if you’re just running on the surface the friction and the heat that builds up is enough to cause blisters rather easily. 

Is Turf Softer Than Grass? – If You Had To Pick What Surface Would You Train In? 

For me, I would rather train on soft grass over turf any day of the week. In fact, even in grass that has grown a bit too much, and is kind of puffy I would prefer that over turf as well. Really if you train on that type of grass which was my experience both in El Salvador and Mexico you’re building up stamina in a way that you wouldn’t get on a surface that didn’t force you to put your legs up in the way that these puffy grass fields do. I don’t love playing on those types of surfaces though because the ball tends to roll a bit slower you’re more prone to making mistakes when they pass the ball back to you. 

Even softer turf fields are not ideal when it’s very hot outside. If there’s one thing that I truly don’t enjoy at all it’s those rug burns that tend to happen on turf fields. Some of the newer turf fields are less aggressive in that sense. You may not end up with those burns on your elbows. The problem with those “injuries” if you will is that it burned for days after, and sometimes you couldn’t do much to cope with the pain. From my previous experiences it’s grass that can be much softer than turf. If I had to choose I would definitely choose natural grass for both training and playing.  

Does The Type of Gear You Wear Change Depending On The Surface?     

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The short answer is that it definitely should! I’ve talked about this in other parts of the site where I’ve seen goalkeepers for example that wear knee pads just for turf fields. The one thing that I feel is very important to keep in mind is the fact that you don’t necessarily get a chance to pick and choose where you play. Back in my day it was even a badge of honor to play in some very poor looking fields. To be honest I never loved having to put my body on the line in dirt fields filled with glass. It was brutal. 

While I’m pretty sure that most of you reading this are not going to have to go through a traumatic experience like the one I just described, there’s no shame in adding some padding to your outfit. If you’re going to be playing in a rougher field maybe the knee pads are a good option that you can look into. When you play on turf field long sleeve jerseys are also a good idea in my book. You want to be able to avoid those rug burns to the best of your ability. Again, there’s no shame in wanting to protect yourself. 

Is Turf Softer Than Grass – Conclusion 

In most cases the answer is going to be no. There are usually more types of grass that are going to tend to be soft. Compared to turf which is usually just not soft at all. Yes, you can get scrapped up on a rough normal grass field. As a goalkeeper the worst thing is that right between the sticks is usually where the grass is at its worst. So that can factor into some people’s idea that they’d rather be on the turf field which is much more even across the board. You won’t get those dreaded rug burns though with regular grass fields and I do believe that affords the surface major points. 

As a goalkeeper I would definitely recommend that you train on puffy grass fields. This is going to minimize the bumps and bruises from training. Impact on soft grass is going to be a bit lighter than what we can expect on turf or other types of natural grass fields. At the same time you’re building a level of stamina that you won’t necessarily get with other surfaces. So with that in mind I would say regular grass tends to be softer and better for training across the board. Of course, there can be exceptions to the rule.