Pavement hell

Hello everyone this is my first (but probably not last) entry on this forum. I have been running for the past three months on nothing but the pavement. Although the running has been going well I am worried about possible damage to my knees/ankles. Is there anything to be gained from area specific weight training, or should I look for a better route to run, including grassland, athletic tracks etc..


  • I do most of my running on road & pavement. Can't avoid it really, especially as a lone female during dark winter months.

    However, now that spring is sprung I'll belooking to go out on trails a lot more. I find running on grass quite hard going.
  • Hi Adrian! Welcome to the forums! I'm not an expert on running by any means but I'll give you my opinions for what they're worth!

    Firstly, running surfaces. Whilst RW mag would have us all believe that every runner lives 30 seconds from a running track it's not always the case. Therefore, you need to make the most of what you've got available. If you can, run on the road rather than the pavement - tarmac is very slightly more forgiving than concrete - and saves the constant up and down of kerbs and driveways. Grassland isn't necessarily much better for your ankles and knees unless you can guarantee it's flat because the uneven surfaces can twist your joints into awkward positions.

    Obviously the best place to run is on a track - or failing that the treadmill. In this weather, however, you really don't want to be stuck indoors so I'd save the treadmill sessions for once a week and use them for speed or interval training.

    Onto weight training, from what I know a lot of runners do nothing but running but there are advantages to doing a couple of weights sessions in the gym each week. Strengthening the quads and hamstrings on the legs will of course help your running, as will calf raises. And strengthening your arms will help as you use your arms to propel you along whilst running. In addition, working on your abs (stomach) will improve your posture whilst running - have I convinced you yet?!

    Anyway, see how you get on! Keep your training steady - don't increase your mileage by more than 10% a week. And if you haven't done so already, get yourself to a specialist running shop and make sure you get a suitable pair of trainers for running outside.
  • I can't believe that tarmac is any softer than pavement ! It feels just as hard to me. The key is to increase your mileage slowly so that you gradually become accustomed to the stresses involved.

    I much prefer running offroad because the scenery is often better and there are no cars to get in your way. The ground is uneven which stresses your ankles and similarly you need to accustom yourself to this gradually. But when its been warm and sunny, offroad paths can be baked as hard as tarmac anyway. If you're going to run offroad the best defence is to get some low shoes (e.g. fell shoes or spikes) as these reduce the twisting stresses around the ankle.
  • Having started recently, then stopped because my knees were playing up, I restarted this week, deciding to try grass rather than pavement. 6 minutes into the run, I twisted my ankle, and heard an ominous crack. Once it's better, I'll be back on the pavement, I think!
  • The Pitts, i've sprained my ankle a couple of times and heard an ominus crack as you mention, what causes the cracking noise if it isn't bones breaking ?
  • 2 beliefs about that. And really, no-one's decided which is accurate.

    1. It's actually the "popping" of the fluid between bones in the ankle joint as it moves suddenly from one part to another - causing a sudden bulge.

    2. It's a sudden tightening of the tendons - like when you pull an elastic band tight.

    Personally, I'd be more inclined to believe the second one. Particularly because it's affected my toe movements, so the tendons must be involved somehow. But thankfully not as bad as I originally thought.
  • Running on gravel is tops because there's some give.

    Grass running is also good, but the best is the hard sand at the shoreline of the beach (not that this helps us city folk).

    nb. I've read that getting used to running on uneven surfaces like bridle paths/grass etc. helps prepare your ankles for those awful cobbles under Tower Bridge!
  • Oh gawd - I was reading all your missives till I got to Splints' comment about the cobbles at Tower Bridge and it reminded me what we've got to do in just over two weeks' time! :)!!(
    It was the mat ON cobbles that did for my hip last time - far better to run on the cobbles coz at least you can see the sharp ones clearly - the mat hides the dodgy ones.
  • Seen really heavy trucks distort tarmac beneath them, then it recover, so I believe its softer than concrete, which would, I think, shatter/crack if it couldn't support the weight. But does tarmac really "give" meaningfully beneath a runner ?

    Yeah, sandy beaches are great. The soft stuffs hard work, the shoreline stuff ideal but then the rippled stuff washed compact feels REALLY hard.
  • I ran (well, okay played footy, but it's good for speedwork, which I hate!) on astroturf last weekend, and my ankles are in *agony* - all stiff at the top and swollen on the outside. No idea what I've done, but I'll be steering clear of that kind of activity when/if I can run next.

    Generally I run on paths in parks - fairly solid, but flat anda bit more forgiving than pavement.
  • CK
    re astroturf/other "artificial surfaces". The problem with many of these for footie, rugger (even yankee football in stadia) is that when you change direction your foot can stop immediately, so good is the grip.
    That sounds ideal, but actually greatly increases the load on joints compared with grass, where you'll tend to slide a bit.
  • Hi all. I'm new to running and this forum. Started running in January, and all on treadmill. I found the change to running outside terrible - but getting better. I can definitely fell the difference between tarmac and concrete, but them I'm over 17 stone - maybe that's the difference.
  • Hey, TCB, that sounds like it may well have been the cause of the problem. Finally my ankles seem okay today (10 days later - argh!) and I shall be steering well clear of such things and doing my speedwork properly, on the treadmill (yawn), from now on.
  • I started running again in January on the treadmill and quickly got bored staring at myself in the mirror. Went outside and promptly did my ankle in (again!). The problem is the uneveness of many of our streets' pavements, also I'm convinced that all that pounding is no good for the joints. I went out for a short easy-pace run yesterday, didn't care much for the pain and so went back for my bike and spent the next three hours cycling around the lanes! Bliss.
  • Running on uneven surfaces is tougher, and awkward in the beginning but you are working the muscles and tendons in a slightly different way. However, it's good for you in the long run (soz) strengthening the support systems.

    Flat grass is good but I've got nothing bigger than a couple of footie pitches are canal towpaths and disused railway lines.

    My sympathy to the lone girl runners who have to stick to the pavement...would do my head in.
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