As has been our habit lately – a long bike ride or run on Sundays – the wife and I put in a long run this morning; five miles to be exact. As we were running, five miles covered over 44 minutes gives you plenty of time to think, a few thoughts came to mind.
Concrete vs. Asphalt
Like a lot of communities I suspect, our community has a lot of mixed environments with respect to concrete sidewalks and asphalt paths. During our run there were some blocks with sidewalks, some without, and long stretches with multi-use (walk, run, and bike) paths.
Some streets in the neighborhood have sidewalks …
The first thought revolved around the question of running on concrete or asphalt. There are strong opinions regarding the impact to feet, ankles, knees, and hips when running of concrete vs. asphalt. A widely held belief is that concrete is a harder surface and the impacts to the human body are greater when running on that type of surface. Running has been a part of my workout regimen my entire life, and when possible, I choose to run on asphalt; likely in part because of that widely held belief (myth?) which was factor in shaping my habit.
When I returned from the run I did a little research to try and get the facts on the hardness of concrete and asphalt and their respective impact on runners. As you might imagine, there are a lot of opinions out there. My takeaways are that concrete is definitely a harder surface; however, the differences between the two surfaces are mitigated by the cushioning afforded by good running shoes. As noted by Jonathan Toker, PhD, at SlowTwitch, ” … the hardness difference between concrete and asphalt is insignificant when running in shoes, because the cushioning afforded by shoes far exceeds any cushioning provided by those surfaces. When moving to grass or dirt, the contribution of those surfaces to reducing ground impact begins to play a much larger role.”
While some streets in the neighborhood don’t have sidewalks.
The second thought was if you run in the street, either because you prefer the asphalt surface or because there isn’t a sidewalk or multi-use path, you should definitely run against traffic. Contrast that with riding a road bike where you should absolutely ride with traffic. So often I see people running or riding on the wrong/opposite side of the street. When you are running, it is absolutely ideal to be facing traffic, to see what is coming toward you. From a safety perspective, it’s a no-brainer.
One section of the multi-use path in and around my community.
The Value of Multi-Use Paths
As I was running down one section of a multi-use path, my final thought involved the political rhetoric around the purpose and value of government. While it may seem insignificant, the multi-use paths in my community serve a valuable need; providing citizens a safe, scenic path in and around the city as they strive to improve their physical health. Our local government has done a fantastic job in resurfacing some older paths, building new paths, and joining various paths together so it is possible to walk, run, or ride for great distances.
This map, from 2009, is a little out of date as it does not reflect some of the recent paths that have been built. However, it does give a good visual of how extensive the path system is. The BST Fitness Loop – blue path in the inset – is essentially the loop we ran this morning.
Regardless of which surface, concrete or asphalt, you choose to run, the impacts to your lower body will be the same … a good pair of running shoes will see to that. Be mindful of which side of the street you’re on, particularly if a sidewalk or multi-use path is not available. If walking, running, or riding is part of your workout regimen, lobby your local government to build or improve multi-use paths. It’s a great thing to see friends and neighbors out on a Saturday or Sunday morning walking, running, and biking their way to better health.