I fell in love with running on a treadmill that had a shock absorption feature. I didn't venture outside until my treadmill broke and didn't have any other choice. I wasn't crazy about it at first but it was better than nothing. But in time it did grow on me. And unfortunately so did the aches and pains that so often can come with running outside. For the next two years, I pretty much ran with ibuprofen and a knee brace. It wasn't until I moved to Wisconsin and ran almost entirely on asphalt did my knee pain go away. So what was the difference?
Well, no sidewalks to run on at all. I live in a rural area and sidewalks are non-existent. When I lived in the Chicago area I ran on sidewalks mostly for safety reasons. Sidewalks are mostly made of concrete and can be hard on your knees. And if you live in colder climates where freezing and thawing are an issue sidewalks are not always even which can be even worse for your knees and your ankles.
I do the vast majority of my running on trails that are paved with asphalt and are pretty flat, unlike the roads in the Chicago area which are curved to provide drainage. And while that curve can prevent basements from flooding it isn't as friendly toward your knees and ankles. You can counteract this effect to an extent by running on the alternate side of the roads if it can be done safely.
We might not have any sidewalks but we have plenty of gravel trails running parallel to the asphalt roads. It isn't as soft as the dirt trails but it's still better than concrete and is pretty flat throughout.
I think the combination of flatter roads and varying types of running surfaces are the main reason my knee pain has disappeared. While these surfaces are easy to find around here they might be more of a challenge in an urban area. Traveling to a forest preserve to run on a trail might be an inconvenience (especially if you are strapped for time) but it might be worth it to bring some relief to your knees and ankles. Happy running!
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