For many runners, asphalt is their chosen stomping ground. It’s easy to find, and unless you live well off the beaten path or in an urban terrain where asphalt is too dangerous because of traffic, you’ll likely find yourself spending countless hours and strides upon its surface. However, like all running surfaces running on asphalt has its pros and cons and you’ll want to look at both before you make it your primary choice of terrain for running.
Pros of Running on Asphalt
1. It’s readily available: If you live in the suburbs you’re likely familiar with this terrain and know that it is available for you at all times of the day.
2. It Can handle all your running needs: Asphalt is versatile in that it provides you a surface that you can walk, run, or sprint on at any time.
3. Easy to route your run: Asphalt is easy to map out due to where it is found. A quick trip around the block or through your running route with your car and a reliable odometer will allow you to map out your distance and the time that it should take for you to accomplish your run.
4. Easy to see obstructions: Pot holes can really ruin your day. They can cause injuries to your ankles, ligaments and could potentially land you a nasty fall, but asphalt is fairly easy to see and with a little care you won’t have the obstructed view of your running surface that can occur with grass.
5. It’s good for all weather: Unlike grass which can soak your shoes or dirt that can turn to mud and bog you down, asphalt will help to keep your feet dry and you’ll be on a consistent terrain.
It’s easy to see, find and you know the layout well. However, asphalt also has a darker side and you should be aware of the cons.
Cons of Running on Asphalt
1. It’s not as even as it looks: You’ve probably noticed those drains running along the side of the road, and water makes its way there by tapering from the middle of the road outward. If your going to run on asphalt then consider that one leg will always have a little farther to fall on the landing and how that may impact your MCL and ankles.
2. Traffic: If your living in an urban terrain, road running might not be an option, or you might have to adjust your schedule to a time of the day when traffic is lighter. Even if you live in the suburbs you’ll want to remember that it may be hard for others to see you when backing out of their parking space or if visibility is low.
3. Winter Weather: Black ice is no one’s friend. You’ll want to remember that running on asphalt will make winter running harder and slippery even when there is only a light dusting of snow or sleet. If you’re going to run on asphalt, you’ll want the proper footwear for the weather conditions.
4. Risk of injury: Asphalt isn’t as unforgiving as concrete, but it’s pretty close. So you will want to take into consideration that your risks of shin splints and other shock induced injuries will increase when running on asphalt.
It’s a numbers game for most people. Whether or not to run on asphalt will come down to the time you have available, the ease of getting somewhere else, and your own willingness to make a commitment to your terrain. However, even if you decide that running the road outside your door is your best bet, you’ll want to switch it up every now and again to relieve your legs, minimize the risk of injury, and train the other small muscles in your body that will benefit from some cross training on other surfaces.