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  #1  
Old 03-12-2013, 11:56 PM
IceQube IceQube is offline
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Running on Asphalt vs. Concrete

I ran a short distance on asphalt and found it much, much, harder to run on the asphalt - I had to put in a lot more effort to keep moving forward.

Is this because asphalt is softer than concrete?

Or am I just imagining things?
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  #2  
Old 03-13-2013, 12:23 AM
the_diego the_diego is offline
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Traction on your shoes.
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Old 03-13-2013, 12:31 AM
eschereal eschereal is online now
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You're doing it wrong
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Old 03-13-2013, 12:35 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Last I heard, there are two factors at play.

Your legs normally store a fair proportion of the energy from each step in the tendons and muscles of the legs, ready to rebound at the next stride. If that energy is instead transferred to the surface, it becomes much harder to run at t he same speed.

Asphalt is much more flexible than concrete. So at each step it absorbs a surprisingly large amount of the energy, leaving you struggling.

The other factor is that asphalt usually has a much more uneven surface, When you step down onto it, the sole of your shoe deforms into the imperfections, dispersing the energy of the step. It's like running on a sponge. You can get the same effect by running on some exposed-aggregate concrete surfaces.

I don;t think that traction would play a great role, since the traction on asphalt is normally higher than concrete. Not that it matters much, since for all practical purposes both have perfect traction for running. Nobody actually slips at all running on dry asphalt or concrete.
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Old 03-13-2013, 01:40 AM
the_diego the_diego is offline
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Actually traction does play a major role, especially when you're already "floating" above the surface and it takes only a slight "kick" from the ball of your foot to maintain your forward momentum. I know one's foot (whether bare or shoed) bites much more easily on either brushed concrete surface or "stony" alsphalt.
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Old 03-13-2013, 03:38 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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Try running on grass. That would really slow you down.
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Old 03-13-2013, 04:15 PM
snowthx snowthx is offline
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Tangental: Which one is worse on your knees? I run on both surfaces quite a bit and I do not find much of a difference. Most of the time I chalk any difference to how "I" feel on any given run. I see people favoring asphalt over concrete when both are available (running in the bike lane rather than the sidewalk), likely due to the perception that concrete is harder on your joints. Any truth that?
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:59 PM
SmellMyWort SmellMyWort is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowthx View Post
Tangental: Which one is worse on your knees? I run on both surfaces quite a bit and I do not find much of a difference. Most of the time I chalk any difference to how "I" feel on any given run. I see people favoring asphalt over concrete when both are available (running in the bike lane rather than the sidewalk), likely due to the perception that concrete is harder on your joints. Any truth that?
I've never noticed a difference either and I have quite a few miles under my belt. I always when I see someone who insists on running in the street when there is perfectly good sidewalk (though there are some exceptions). If I ever reach a point where some tiny (if any) difference in surface becomes an issue I'll just take up a different exercise.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:29 PM
JerrySTL JerrySTL is offline
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I can tell the difference while riding a bicycle on a hot day. Sometimes you can even see the tire tracks in the asphalt on a hot day.

I run on a trail that has a mixture of rubberized, asphalt, and concrete surfaces. I definitely can tell when I'm on the rubberized parts. I can't tell a difference on the asphalt or concrete; however, if it's hot outside, I'm riding the bicycle instead of running.
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Old 03-14-2013, 06:14 PM
Fiveyearlurker Fiveyearlurker is offline
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Apparently there is no evidence that running surface matters with regard to injury. Further, running does not appear to detrimentally affect the knees, and might actually be beneficial to knee health.
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  #11  
Old 03-14-2013, 06:59 PM
snowthx snowthx is offline
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Originally Posted by Fiveyearlurker View Post
Apparently there is no evidence that running surface matters with regard to injury. Further, running does not appear to detrimentally affect the knees, and might actually be beneficial to knee health.
Good info - thank you! The nyt article compared paved versus "soft" surfaces, where I would imagine there are significant differences in feel anyway. The difference in feel, at least for me anyway, between asphalt and concrete, is non-existent.

For the OP, the difference may just be how you feel on the day of the workout. A lot about running, as I am learning, is upstairs between the ears. Try a route that incorporates several types of surfaces in a short distance - see if any of them make you feel better or worse on a single run.
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Old 03-15-2013, 10:26 AM
Shadowfyre Shadowfyre is offline
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I figured that since most professional tracks (such as a Track and Field track) are rubberized, I figured softer surfaces would be better for running.

I wouldn't imagine a person's weight would be enough to compress asphalt enough to have any sap energy -like running in sand - except on very hot days where running is probably dangerous itself. I would expect (I am not an engineer of this type) that any compression from a person's weight at most temperatures would result in either no actual compression of the asphalt or any compression would "bounce" back to the normal shape.
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  #13  
Old 03-15-2013, 02:40 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
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However running surfaces can affect your speed. Newer tracks are built with a composition to enhance speed.
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  #14  
Old 03-15-2013, 02:50 PM
running coach running coach is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadowfyre View Post
I figured that since most professional tracks (such as a Track and Field track) are rubberized, I figured softer surfaces would be better for running.
Actually, a typical all-weather track is asphalt with a thin layer of material on top. They're not really all that soft.

Last edited by running coach; 03-15-2013 at 02:50 PM..
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Old 03-15-2013, 02:59 PM
minor7flat5 minor7flat5 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmellMyWort View Post
I've never noticed a difference either and I have quite a few miles under my belt. I always when I see someone who insists on running in the street when there is perfectly good sidewalk (though there are some exceptions). If I ever reach a point where some tiny (if any) difference in surface becomes an issue I'll just take up a different exercise.
Sorry 'bout that.

I run facing traffic and get over to the curb whenever someone is coming. Asphalt is definitely softer than concrete (you can poke a screwdriver in warm asphalt, but not in concrete), so I'm going for any little bit that can soften the pounding—no idea if the difference is enough to help my knees.

I do almost all of my running on the packed dirt canal tow path or on the track at the Y. I hate running on the road because of the hard surface and the many places where there are guard rails flush with the shoulder, leaving me at the mercy of potentially distracted drivers.
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  #16  
Old 03-15-2013, 03:32 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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So to the op -- the answer implied in the links provided by Fiveyearlurker (and in these studies measuring pressures while running on real surfaces) is that your stride is likely subtly different with different surfaces and that was something that you at least noticed the effect of on you. No reason to believe that either is "better" in any way.
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