Knee Pain: Is Running On Concrete Or Pavement Bad For My Knees? – Running Outfitters (2023)

Should I Run on Hard Surfaces?

Just like there is a lot of confusion out there regarding the effects of cycling on knees, there is a lot of unfounded fear regarding running on loose surfaces or running on pavement.

Both cycling and running can be extremely great for your knees provided you don’t go overboard with it. And too much of anything is a bad idea any way.

While it’s true that most professional and recreational runners train on firm surfaces, there is no reason for non-athletes like you and me to refrain from running on paved roads.

Running on pavement helps improve stride rate and stride length. This will allow you to cover more distance with the same effort, which will result in greater endurance and aerobic capacity.

It also has a positive effect on the joints by strengthening the muscles of the legs without the additional pressure on the joints that occur when running on an uneven terrain.

There are however a few precautions you need to take whenever you decide to start running on a harder surface.

Avoid running on concrete or asphalt for a week or two if you have previously been used to running on softer surfaces.

Make sure you are wearing proper running shoes and take it slow.

If you encounter knee pains after running on street, you should get the knees checked out by a medical professional.

Why Running on Hard Surfaces is Okay

Running is one of the most common forms of cardio and low-impact exercise. For this reason, most runners dread the thought of having to run on concrete or pavement. But a lot of runners have heard horror stories of runners whose knees gave out and they never ran again.

Sure, this form of cardio is hard on the joints especially the knees. The tension that is generated when you run on an uneven surface is very high, and studies have shown that these forces can be up to three times higher on concrete or pavement compared to running on a track.

(Video) Is running on concrete bad for your knees?

But this is true for running on any kind of hard surface.

It doesn’t matter if you are running on sand, dirt, concrete, or pavement, the forces that are being exerted on your knees are going to be there no matter how hard or soft the surface is. So if you want to reduce the amount of joint stress on your knees, take special care while running on hard surfaces.

Why You Should Avoid Running on Hard Surfaces

One of the factors that most often contributes to knee injuries is running on hard surfaces. You may have heard some athletes say that the harder a surface, the more force it transmits and therefore the better the strength training effect.

While this is true, the amount of stress and number and intensity of knee injuries sustained from running on hard surfaces can be very high, which outweighs the positive effects. Ideally, it is best to train on a soft surface where the impact of every step is evenly distributed.

How hard could a soft surface be?

A soft surface becomes hard when you build up too much muscle tension, which you do when you are under stress and nervous, or you have been fighting a losing battle with a bout of knee pain. There are some who advise that it is best not to worry about the surface at all and to concentrate on relaxation and correct running form instead. However, if your knee pain is severe and you are unable to relax, running on harder surfaces may seem like the only option you have left.

Disadvantages of Hard Surfaces and Impact-Related Knee Injuries

Even if you have built up muscles so strong that you can run on a hard surface, or you are running relaxed on a soft surface, it is still a bad idea. Running on hard surfaces makes the shock dissipate by flexing your knees, which leads to knee pain.

Other Tips to Prevent Knee Pain

Some research suggests that running on soft surfaces like grass and dirt, instead of pavement or concrete, may reduce the risk of running related knee injuries. However, not all types of pavement are alike or have the same effect on your knees.

In fact, one study found that a softer surface actually increased tissue damage to the meniscus, while a very hard surface, such as concrete, reduced it. So, it’s not all about soft vs. hard surfaces.

Softer surfaces may lead to less damage to your knee because of the extra shock absorption. However, you’ll want to watch your step on soft ground – it’s easier for your foot to get stuck in a hole or hit something on softer surfaces.

Pavement has a higher coefficient of friction, which results in a more stable knee. This actually translates into increased loading on the knee, which can result in stress fractures.

So to come back to your question, is running on pavement or concrete bad for your knees? The answer is a bit more complex than the question. If youâ??re just beginning your running career, start off on a softer surface. It may help prevent knee pain over the long run. And, if you have knee pain while running, talk with your doctor about other ways to recover and prevent future knee pain.

(Video) Knee Pain When Running? | How To Avoid Runner's Knee

Wear the Right Running Shoes

Pavement running will cause more damage to your knees than the same distance run on a softer surface, such as grass, dirt, or a wood chip trail. Even running on a softer surface near roads also has its risks, as most trails run by roads are packed with sand, salt, and gravel from all of the passing road traffic.

It’s a more reliable predictor of knee joint problems to look at the time of year that you run. Health experts, such as the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, agree that generally, the months when the ground is frozen solid (December to March) are bad months for runners, because the increase in weight from the cold air also decreases knee joint lubrication. The solution is to run on grass when you can during the winter.

If you choose to run on asphalt, make sure that your shoes have been designed for road running. There are many different types of sports shoes and it can take a bit of research to find the right ones for you.

Make sure the shoe fits properly, as both heel and forefoot running put a lot of stress on the joints. Improper shoe wear is one of the most common causes of knee pain. The most important thing is to have a pair of shoes that are designed for your purpose.

Improve Your Running Form

The best way that an individual can take control over pain when running is to pay attention to running form. If you are running correctly, you can greatly reduce the amount of impact that your body has to deal with.

When you are running, set your watch to beep every five minutes. When the watch beeps, check your form for the last five minutes. You do not need to stop and check your form at each beep.

The goal is to take stock of your form over time.

When running, your head should be up and looking forward, not down. The head up position will make you able to avoid objects on the ground and obstacles so that you can run to avoid them.

You should always try to be on the balls of your feet when you are running. By doing this, your body is in a better position to react to changes.

It is also important to have your feet underneath you so that your feet, hips, and ankles can generate the most amount of power when you are taking off.

Most people have the tendency to over stride. This is when the person is reaching out too far with their feet. This is often due to a lack of flexibility, but a lot of people also do it accidentally. This can cause a lot of excessive impact on your legs and knees.

Strengthen Your Quads and Hamstrings

No matter how long or how often you have been running, your quad and hamstring muscles won’t have enough strength and endurance without some attention. Quadriceps and hamstring muscles are used not only during running – you use them even when you’re walking, doing just about anything, and especially everyday jobs such as yard work. So it’s always a good idea to make sure that they can handle the load.

(Video) Is Running Bad For Your Knees? When Non-Runners Say This, We Get Worried...

As I’ve mentioned earlier, many runners find it challenging to strengthen their upper leg muscles. This is mainly because of the common misconception that this can only be done in the gym with weights. For example, some runners think that squats are a good quad and hamstring conditioner and that’s about it.

The fact is that there are many exercises that you can do from home or during your daily walks and runs that you can tailor to target specific muscle groups.

Cut Back on Running Mileage

Aligned properly, your knee should never have direct contact with the pavement or concrete when you are running. At the same time, it should never be completely off the ground.

When your knee completely leaves contact with the ground (such as when running on soft sand or grass), you are at a higher risk for damage.

When your knee makes contact with the pavement, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It's the angle of impact with the ground that causes the most problems.

Running on hard surfaces may put less stress on your body compared to running on softer surfaces. Due to the increased impact, you will have to slow your gait a bit and run a bit more upright, which keeps your knees in line and in a better position to absorb impact safely, according to a report by the American Council on Exercise.

When to reduce running mileage: When you drastically increase your running mileage without properly interval training, it can lead to chronic knee pain and cartilage problems. It can also hinder your endurance levels. When your knees feel stiff when you are not running, or if you experience shin splints, are having more knee pain than normal, or are unable to reach your usual distance you should expect to slow down a bit.

If any of these symptoms continue on more than a few days, it may be time to cut your running mileage back to prevent any further injury.

Do More Cross-Training

The problem with running on concrete is that it can take a toll on your body over time. If you run on concrete a lot, you are likely to develop knee injuries like runner’s knee. But, the pain can also come from other joints.

In fact, shinsplints, pain in the lower legs and hip problems are also common in those who run exclusively on concrete.

But the problem with running on concrete is not just the knee. It can cause a lot of damage in your body, including your mind.

(Video) Knee Arthritis- 5 Most Common Signs You Have It!

If you run on a track, you can stay in one place and run over a short distance a lot of times, which may not have any negative impact on your body.

But for those who run on the street, it always has the potential to overwork some parts, especially knees and hips.

So you can notice pain more quickly as you run more often on concrete. And eventually, it can have a negative impact on your running career.

The best advice about running on concrete is to run as little as possible. Instead, do some other activities.

If you must run on concrete, you can try some of these to protect your knees:

  • Wear some proper sport shoes
  • Wear a knee brace
  • Run with a more upright posture

Conclusion

So there you have it, folks!

Your complete guide on how to protect your knees.

Whether you are a marathon runner or a casual runner, you need to take the necessary precautions to ensure that your knees are always in the best shape possible.

The guide walks you through the most important aspects of knees and how to tackle them.

So armed with the knowledge from this post, you are well equipped to make the right decision for your knees and running well into your senior years.

Now it’s time to stop worrying about your knees and running and get out there to pound those pavement.

Your only regret should be that you didn’t start running sooner!

(Video) How to Tell if Knee Pain is Meniscus or Ligament Injury

FAQs

Is it bad for your knees to run on concrete? ›

Cons: Concrete is the least forgiving of running surfaces, according to Timothy Noakes, author of “Lore of Running.” When running on concrete, the ground doesn't absorb any of the shock that travels through a runner's feet, knees, hips and lower back. This can lead to an increased injury risk.

Why do my knees hurt when I run on concrete? ›

"The stress and impact of pressure from the foot and heel striking the ground affects the knee joint," Tehrany says. "The softer the surface, the lesser the impact." In addition, soft surfaces give your body a little bit of extra time to adjust to the surface.

What is the best surface to run on for your knees? ›

Running on grass or sand has many benefits for runners. The surface is soft and absorbent, which means less force is being placed on the knee with every step. Additionally, running in sand forces the activation of quadricep and hip muscles. These muscles support and strengthen muscles within your knees.

Is running on the pavement bad for you? ›

Does running on the pavement increase your risk of injury? And it might not. There is, you see, not a huge amount of, er, concrete evidence to suggest running on hard surfaces increases injury risk. But ask yourself: when do you feel more beaten-up – after a road marathon or after a trail marathon?

How do you protect your knees when running on concrete? ›

Prevent Knee Pain
  1. Run on softer surfaces like grass or asphalt. ...
  2. Wear the right shoes for your gait. ...
  3. Take shorter steps and land with your knee bent. ...
  4. Strengthening your quadriceps and hamstrings may also help prevent this type of injury. ...
  5. Warm up and cool down each time you run.
2 Jun 2015

How do I stop my knees from hurting when I run? ›

Five Tips for Preventing Runner's Knee
  1. Stretch the Muscles around Your Knees. Before running, make sure to do a light warm-up followed by some stretching. ...
  2. Strengthen Your Leg Muscles and Core. ...
  3. Use Cold Therapy on Sore Knees. ...
  4. Give your Knees a Break. ...
  5. Stay Hydrated.

How do I strengthen my knees? ›

Knee exercises for runners
  1. Knee bends – 3 sets of 10 repetitions (reps) ...
  2. Thigh contraction – 3 sets of 15 seconds with each leg. ...
  3. Straight leg raises – 3 sets of 10 reps with each leg. ...
  4. Hamstring stretch with thigh contraction – 3 sets of 15 seconds with each leg. ...
  5. ITB (iliotibial band) – 3 sets of 15 seconds with each leg.

What is the fastest way to relieve knee pain? ›

Self-care measures for an injured knee include:
  1. Rest. Take a break from your normal activities to reduce repetitive strain on your knee, give the injury time to heal and help prevent further damage. ...
  2. Ice. Ice reduces both pain and inflammation. ...
  3. Heat. ...
  4. Compression. ...
  5. Elevation.
11 May 2021

What is the best painkiller for knee pain? ›

Drugs That Tame Inflammation

Aspirin. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn)

Is pavement or treadmill better for knees? ›

Treadmills offer better shock absorption than pavement or roads, which means less stress on the ankles and knees. And when you run at an incline on the treadmill, you build strength and endurance like you would running hills outside. But you don't have to run downhill, which can be hard on your body.

Is it better to run on concrete or asphalt? ›

Although running on a sidewalk may sometimes be a safer choice (to avoid traffic), asphalt is a bit softer and therefore easier on your body than concrete. So, if you're running on a hard surface, opt for asphalt roads when you can, assuming they're safe.

Is it better to run on concrete or treadmill? ›

Running on a stiffer surface like asphalt or concrete is going to provide more ground reaction forces, which can definitely reinforce your bones a little more than a treadmill,” King says.

Why should you not run on concrete? ›

Hard surfaces cannot absorb the pressure easily and so they reflect that energy back up into your joints. Concrete is one of the hardest surfaces to run on, which means most of the energy of your footfall is reflected back into your body with each step.

What is the best surface to run on? ›

Grass has to be the best option as it provides a nice balance of a soft surface that is easy on your bones and joints and one that also provides you with more of a workout since you don't bounce right back up like you do when running on harder surfaces.

Does running strengthen knees? ›

Knee and joint pain may be common complaints among runners, but chances are slim that arthritis is the culprit. In fact, multiple studies have shown that regular running strengthens the joints and actually protects against development of osteoarthritis later in life.

Do knee braces help runners knee? ›

Knee pain is one of the most common issues that runners experience, and that pain can sideline your running for weeks or even months at a time. However, there is some good news; wearing a knee brace can help prevent knee pain and injuries, and allow you to keep running pain-free for years to come.

How do I know if my knee pain is serious? ›

Call your doctor if you:
  1. Can't bear weight on your knee or feel as if your knee is unstable or gives out.
  2. Have marked knee swelling.
  3. Are unable to fully extend or flex your knee.
  4. See an obvious deformity in your leg or knee.
  5. Have a fever, in addition to redness, pain and swelling in your knee.
11 May 2021

Is it better to run on soft or hard ground? ›

Foot-contact time on soft surfaces has been recorded at over three times as long as it is on hard surfaces. But while harder surfaces provide faster times, they are also a faster route to impact stress and overuse injuries. Which surface you run on depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

Why do my knees hurt so much when I run? ›

Runners knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is knee pain associated with your patella or kneecap. It is the most common condition for runners. It's thought to be caused by an imbalance in the muscles that support your knee, and mechanical errors that can cause poor knee tracking.

What happens if runner's knee goes untreated? ›

Left untreated, patellofemoral pain syndrome generally gets worse over time. If you continue using the affected knee without treatment, you may cause further injury.

Should you exercise with knee pain? ›

If you've got sore knees, exercise might seem like the hardest thing you can do — but it's also one of the best. "Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for knee pain," says Dr. Lauren Elson, an instructor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.

What exercises should I avoid with knee pain? ›

Avoid jarring exercises such as running, jumping, and kickboxing. Also avoid doing exercises such as lunges and deep squats that put a lot of stress on your knees. These can worsen pain and, if not done correctly, cause injury.

How do you build cartilage in your knee? ›

Cartilage Regeneration Options

MACI is a surgical procedure that uses cartilage-forming cells from your body to restore damaged cartilage in the knees. It involves a biopsy to harvest chondrocytes (cartilage-forming cells), which are allowed to multiply in a lab, and surgery to implant them into the damaged area.

What foods make your knees stronger? ›

The Best Foods for Healthy Joints
  • Seeds and Nuts. Seeds and nuts are packed with healthy Omega-3 fatty acids known to fight inflammation and help reduce it in your connective tissue and joints. ...
  • Coldwater Fish. ...
  • Fruit. ...
  • Cruciferous Veggies. ...
  • Beans and Lentils. ...
  • Olive Oil. ...
  • Whole Grains. ...
  • Root Veggies and Garlic.
27 Oct 2020

How can I naturally lubricate my knees? ›

Consuming healthy fats can increase joint health and lubrication. Foods high in healthy fats include salmon, trout, mackerel, avocados, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods will assist in joint lubrication.

What can I drink for joint pain? ›

Tea is one of the most-studied drinks when it comes to its benefits for arthritis patients. Green, black and white teas are all rich in polyphenols – compounds from plants that have strong anti-inflammatory effects. You'll find the highest polyphenol levels in green and white teas.

Do compression socks help with knee pain? ›

Compression socks can also act as a brace to allow for more control and comfort when walking. “Compression stockings can 'support' the muscles and soft tissues around the joint, which helps pain management as well,” Dr. Zinkin says.

What is the best natural painkiller for knee pain? ›

8 Natural Home Remedies for Knee Pain
  • RICE.
  • Tai chi.
  • Exercise.
  • Weight management.
  • Heat and cold.
  • Herbal ointment.
  • Willow bark.
  • Ginger extract.

Is walking good for knee pain? ›

People with knee osteoarthritis may reduce their risk of knee pain by walking more, according to a study published online June 8, 2022, by Arthritis & Rheumatology.

What will an orthopedic doctor do for knee pain? ›

When you see an orthopedic surgeon, you will likely undergo a thorough evaluation that includes diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI. The doctor will then prescribe the least-invasive treatment that will work to heal your injury or relieve your knee pain.

How do I protect my knees when running on a treadmill? ›

Running at a slight incline of 3% is optimal to avoid the unnatural movement patterns caused by running on a level treadmill setting. “Even a 1% incline levels out the surface beneath you, relieves the pressure from your knees and places the workload on the glutes and hamstring muscles,” Dr. Plancher adds.

Which is more effective treadmill or outdoor running? ›

Experts have found little evidence to suggest that there is a difference in weight loss between treadmill running vs running outside. Regardless of which option you pick, the National Library of Medicine (opens in new tab) advises that regular aerobic exercise will burn calories and aid in your goals.

Is it better to walk outside or on a treadmill? ›

A treadmill provides a predictable and consistent walking environment, but may not burn as many calories. Walking outside offers a varied environment and terrain, but could be unpredictable or hazardous. Ultimately, the best option for you is the one you enjoy the most and that most easily fits into your routine.

Is running on grass better than concrete? ›

Running on grass makes running a little more difficult due to the softer impact. Alternatively, running on concrete provides a harder impact surface, making the running process a little easier as you don't need to put as much force into pushing away from the ground with each stride.

Is running on gravel better than concrete? ›

Dirt roads, crushed gravel, limestone, and the like are significantly softer and easier on the body than asphalt and concrete, but still quite responsive.

How does walking on concrete affect your body? ›

Unlike other surfaces, concrete has no give. This inflexibility affects the body. Standing or walking on concrete flooring every day can result in backaches, knee pain, swollen legs and sore feet. Left untreated, you may experience injuries and chronic pain.

Are treadmills good for knees? ›

Running or jogging on a treadmill can put more stress on your bones and joints compared to working out on an elliptical trainer. Ultimately, this can lead to injuries . Common running injuries include shin splints, knee injuries, and stress fractures.

Why is running on concrete harder than on a treadmill? ›

Running on hard surfaces like concrete can be dangerous because the road does not absorb the impact of your stride. To combat this hazard, treadmills are often designed with padding beneath the moving belt that softens the blow on the feet and helps prevent knee injury.

Is running on a treadmill for 30 minutes good? ›

Get Running

Running on the treadmill for 30 minutes at an easy pace of 5 mph, a 125-pound person will burn 240 calories while a 185-pound person will burn about 355 calories. A 240-calorie loss adds up to just over an ounce of weight lost. A 355-calorie burn adds up to about 1.6 ounces, or 1/10 of a pound.

Is it bad to always run on concrete? ›

Concrete and Asphalt

Those concrete sidewalks are some of the hardest surfaces you can run on—followed closely by asphalt. The sheer (repeated) force at which your feet strike concrete or asphalt can cause shin splints and stress fractures.

Is it better to run on concrete or grass? ›

Grass has to be the best option as it provides a nice balance of a soft surface that is easy on your bones and joints and one that also provides you with more of a workout since you don't bounce right back up like you do when running on harder surfaces.

Is it better to run on sand or concrete? ›

Running on the sand allows for a softer landing than when running on pavement. As such, you'll put less stress on your ankles, knees, and hips. Lowering the impact on these weight-bearing joints may reduce your chance of impact-associated musculoskeletal injuries.

Is it better to run on soft or hard ground? ›

Foot-contact time on soft surfaces has been recorded at over three times as long as it is on hard surfaces. But while harder surfaces provide faster times, they are also a faster route to impact stress and overuse injuries. Which surface you run on depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

Is running on a treadmill better for your knees? ›

It's Easier on the Joints

Treadmills offer better shock absorption than pavement or roads, which means less stress on the ankles and knees. And when you run at an incline on the treadmill, you build strength and endurance like you would running hills outside.

Is running on street bad for knees? ›

Running is not bad for your knees; running with poor form is bad for your knees. In fact, most knee injuries caused by running are overuse injuries, meaning you're putting more stress on your body than it can handle.

Does running on concrete make your legs stronger? ›

In support of this notion, a 2002 study by Mark Tillman of the University of Florida, using force-sensing shoe inserts, found no difference in the forces created by running on asphalt, concrete, grass and a synthetic track.

Is it better to run on sidewalk or asphalt? ›

Although running on a sidewalk may sometimes be a safer choice (to avoid traffic), asphalt is a bit softer and therefore easier on your body than concrete. So, if you're running on a hard surface, opt for asphalt roads when you can, assuming they're safe.

Is walking on asphalt better than concrete? ›

While asphalt is harder on your joints than a walking track or a dirt path, if you can find a road that's closed to traffic then walking on the asphalt surface is usually better than the concrete sidewalk.

Which is better asphalt or concrete? ›

Overall, the difference between asphalt and concrete driveways is that asphalt is less durable than concrete. With proper maintenance, it can last 30 years. Alternatively, concrete provides a sturdy, long-lasting option and can last homeowners 50+ years with occasional repairs and degreasing.

Is trail running better for your knees? ›

Trails Are Easy on the Joints

Pounding the pavement or asphalt can make for weary joints. Over time, this can lead to joint injury as well as arthritic changes. Running trails, on the other hand, provides a softer surface for running. This is naturally easier on your joints and will keep you running longer.

Is running on gravel better than concrete? ›

Dirt roads, crushed gravel, limestone, and the like are significantly softer and easier on the body than asphalt and concrete, but still quite responsive.

Is running on grass harder than pavement? ›

Running on grass makes running a little more difficult due to the softer impact. Alternatively, running on concrete provides a harder impact surface, making the running process a little easier as you don't need to put as much force into pushing away from the ground with each stride.

What is the most difficult surface to run on? ›

Unfortunately, concrete sidewalks are the hardest surface around to run on, closely followed by asphalt. This means that they deliver a lot of impact through your legs as you run.

Is it good to run on cement road? ›

But running can put repetitive strain on your body, starting from your feet all the way to your lower back, and can cause aches and pains. This can be especially true if you run on hard surfaces, such as concrete.

How do you properly run? ›

How To Run Properly | Running Technique Explained - YouTube

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