If you don’t live near a large meadow, running track, or gym, or if you just want to be time-efficient, you may choose to run on the streets or sidewalks near your home or office. Even though changing up surfaces from time to time may be good for your feet and body biomechanics, pounding the pavement day after day isn’t.
Concrete and pavement can wreak havoc on your feet, ankles, and legs, causing pain and gait problems. If you want to be healthy, start by protecting your feet. A bad injury could take you off the track for months or even permanently.
At The Foot & Ankle Specialists, Lisa Burson, DPM, and Joe Aoun, DPM, and our team see a lot of runners at our offices in Bay City, Caro, and Lapeer, Michigan. If you’re a runner, we advise against running on pavement and concrete whenever possible. Here’s why.
1. Pavement is too even
Although running on trails allows for the risk of twisting your ankle in an unexpected hole or tripping on a rock, the unevenness of the terrain works your feet in ways that are healthy for its biomechanics. Your feet must constantly adjust to the ground, which works all the tendons and ligaments.
In contrast, pavement and concrete tend to be flat, even, and uniform. Your foot hits the surface the same way each time. Your push-off is the same, too. Repetitive motions lead to stress injuries. If you must run on pavement because of time restraints, try to find a day or two each week for trail-running to keep your mind and muscles sharp and flexible.
2. Pavement is too hard
The most obvious attribute of pavement is its strength and hardness. However, that also means that the impact of hitting its surface can reverberate through your entire body.
On a scale of 1-10, runners rated concrete 2.5 because of its unforgiving nature. Roadways and park paths that are covered in asphalt, however, gain a higher rating of 6. Although asphalt is also hard, it has more give than concrete, so it absorbs some of the shock of your foot’s impact.
Nevertheless, pavement stresses your bones and supporting tissues. If you run consistently on pavement, you may find yourself suffering from related issues, such as:
- Shin splints
- Back pain
- Knee injuries
- Joint pain and injury
- Hairline fractures
- Plantar fasciitis
You can mitigate some of the effects of pounding the pavement by ensuring that you have a well-fitted and designed running shoe. Avoid running, or even walking, on pavement with flimsy shoes such as flip flops, sandals, or even “barefoot” shoes that have no absorptive capabilities.
3. Pavement can be hot
If you’ve decided to go au-natural and run barefooted, beware of pavement on hot days. Though it may seem obvious that pavement could burn your feet (and your dog’s feet, too), the burns can be more than superficial.
Runners sometimes develop second-degree burns with blistering from pounding a too-hot pavement. Even if the air feels comfortable to you, asphalt absorbs and retains heat, which could make it hotter than you expect.
Even if you aren’t barefooted, if you fall on asphalt while running, it’s possible to suffer a burn. Be sure you treat a burn with cold compresses, and contact a doctor if you develop blistering or bleeding.
Take care of your feet
Cross-training is the best way to keep your entire body fit and strong, and that goes for cross-training on different surfaces, too. If you’re a competitive athlete who must run on track during meets, be sure you train on other surfaces as well.
Warm up and cool down after every training session or meet to keep your muscles flexible and your joints lubricated. Be sure to wear the right footwear, too. If you under- or over-pronate, you may benefit from custom orthotics to keep your feet in alignment when you run.
If you have foot or leg pain or simply want to learn more about improving your biomechanics during running, contact us at The Foot & Ankle Specialists today. Book your first appointment online, or call our friendly team.