By: Megan Smith
Whether you're a seasoned runner or just starting out, running on hard cement surfaces can put a repetitive, pounding pressure on your feet, legs and knees. But although these symptoms may be painful, you don't have to give up your running career for good. Talk to your doctor before making any changes in your exercise routine, or before using at-home care to treat injuries.
When you run on a hard surface, like a road, sidewalk or driveway, your feet act as shock absorbers. With each foot strike, you risk developing pain and injury. Running on a hard surface puts pressure on the joints in the feet and the knees, and on the muscles in the legs, including those surrounding the shins. When these shin muscles become inflamed, you may experience shin splints, which make the front and insides of the shins burn and sting.
Although anyone who runs on a hard surface may experience pain, individuals who run improperly or wear improper footwear may be more likely to experience leg and foot pain. Running with very flat shoes with minimal support will put more pressure on the feet than a pair of supportive running shoes. Running on heavily cambered roads, where the road surface is uneven, may cause additional knee and ankle pain. Running at a steep incline, either uphill or downhill, may cause shin splints, MayoClinic.com warns.
Some leg and foot soreness is normal, particularly if you've been running more than usual. But if you notice any swelling or pain that feels more severe than normal, contact your doctor. He may recommend applying ice to the afflicted area in 15-minute increments, and staying off of the affected area completely until the pain is gone. If the pain is chronic, your doctor may recommend specialized orthotics to cushion your foot.
Reduce the likelihood that you'll experience foot and leg pain by running only on dirt, grass or asphalt roads that are lightly cambered, or fairly even. Do not run on concrete; it does not provide enough of a cushion for your feet. Wear running shoes that are approved by your doctor and fitted by a professional at a specialty running-shoe store. These shoes should be snug, but not too tight, and should provide support for the bottoms of your feet. Start each workout with a brisk walk, then stretch for 10 minutes before running to prevent leg and foot injuries. With each stride, strike the ground with the heel of your foot, then allow the ball of the foot to follow. This will minimize the amount of stress you place on your feet and legs, the American Council on Exercise explains.