Running on Pavement: How Bad Is It For Your Feet?
Any avid runner has weighed in on the debate: which surface is best for running? The science aside, you probably have a personal preference, or are even limited by your immediate surroundings. For many of us, convenience is the deciding factor—and that means running on the ubiquitous pavement of city and suburbia.
While running on pavement poses its unique dangers, you can avoid injury with the right steps and the care of a trusted podiatrist.
The Impact of Running on Pavement
The mechanics of running are complex, with the incidence of injury the result of various factors other than the hardness of the surface you run on. While the jury is still out on whether running on hard surfaces is definitively bad for your feet, it does pose its unique dangers. The two main factors behind the arguments against running on pavement are the negative effects associated with impact and repetition.
Impact: Running is one of the roughest activities our feet can endure. The feet bear up to two to four times your normal body weight while running, repeated up to thousands of times over the duration of your trek. The feet play an integral part in the two essential steps of running: landing and push-off. When running on a hard surface like concrete or asphalt, the ground does not absorb any of the shock of impact upon landing. The weight of impact is then borne fully by the feet, sending vibrations up the leg when landing. When repeated continuously, this process can result in increased injury to the legs and feet.
While running on any pavement is not considered ideal, keep in mind that concrete is considered far worse than asphalt.
Repetition: Citing the aforementioned effects of impact on the feet, repetitive impact causes constant stress to the same muscles and bones in the body, leading to specific injuries. While asphalt would appear to be easier on the body due to its continuous nature, the continuity actually forces the body to endure repetitive trauma to certain muscles. The body is designed to adapt to its surroundings, not bear monotonous stress. Training across various terrains will even out the impact endured while running, lessening the likelihood of injury from repeated trauma.
However, this does not necessarily make running on grass or soil the superior alternative. Softer surfaces like nature trails tend to be more irregular, which is their dual benefit and risk. On one hand, you avoid repetitive impact and injury to the same muscles and bones, which you would suffer on a continuous surface like asphalt. On the other hand, uneven surfaces could present unforeseen obstacles such as pits and dips, resulting in sprains or even broken bones. The best recommendation is to switch up the terrain, to avoid constant impact and injury to certain parts of the body.
Training Tips for City Runners
Regardless of what surface you run on, running injuries are more a function of poor preparation than surface rigidity. A serious runner will know what to expect, and take preventative measures to avoid injury by becoming properly equipped. The first step in this is gaining intimate knowledge of your foot’s unique physiology and its needs, and that starts with consulting a certified podiatrist. Only a trained podiatrist can understand the support demanded by your unique foot anatomy and running patterns, and will advise you on what orthotics and shoes you require to avoid undue foot trauma. Common foot injuries suffered by runners include: plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, stress fractures, and Achilles tendonitis.
Before starting any running regimen, follow these steps:
- Consult your podiatrist. No two feet are the same – not even your feet. Only your podiatrist can identify physical conditions such as fallen arches, or recognize irregularities in your movement patterns such as overpronation. Both require special medical attention to avoid injury when running. In addition to this, no two feet are completely identical, with one possibly requiring extra attention. Consult your podiatrist to determine if you require custom orthotics, supportive inserts, or a specific type of shoe to reduce trauma when running.
- Wear the right shoes. The right equipment is essential to peak performance, and this is especially the case with running. Depending on your running form, you will likely require maximum cushioning and support to reduce the shock of impact, and a flexible sole designed to allow full range of motion. Further specialization is required if your feet overpronate, or if you have wide or narrow feet. Be sure to get shoes designed for the terrain you typically train on, whether it be nature trails or city streets. While running shoes can be extremely expensive, consider it an investment in your foot health.
- Change the terrain. Again, repetitive impact to the same muscle groups can lead to injury. Switching between softer and harder surfaces will allow your body to adapt to different conditions, and provide more comprehensive training to all muscle groups.
Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Vikki and Dr. Connie
To keep your feet in prime shape, schedule a consultation with esteemed podiatrists Dr. Vikki and Dr. Connie today. For all of your podiatric needs, contact the caring specialists at the Superior Foot & Ankle Care Center.