How walking on softer surfaces can reduce joint pain

Hi everyone!

Today I wanted to talk to you about a little trick that I learned from my high-school running days.

That trick is, in order to heal an injury (and also to prevent future injuries), try to do your exercise on a softer surface.

I know that a lot of you might in pain these days and really struggling with the idea of walking for exercise. If you are not yet in the right place for that, I completely understand.

However, if you’re on the fence, or if you’re able to do limited walking without pain, you may actually find that you do better if you ditch the concrete sidewalk for a surface that is softer.

My favorite two surfaces to exercise on are:

  1. My local community track

A lot of towns and cities these days, I have found, are starting to build really great public tracks.

These are made with the newer surfaces that are built to be a little bit “springier” under your feet, compared to some of the older tracks (some of which are really no more than concrete circles with lines painted on them!).

If you are lucky enough to have one of these newer tracks near you, I highly recommend checking it out. You may find your SI joints (as well as some of your other joints) hurt a lot less. I’ll explain more in a bit, but first, my other favorite walking surface

2. A gentle nature trail

There’s really nowhere I’m happier than in the woods, walking over a bed of soft pine needles.

Now, you’ll notice that this path is relatively flat, and free of rocks and tree roots. If you can find a place near you that’s smooth and easy to walk on like this, I highly recommend it.

Why is walking on softer surfaces easier on your joints?

Think about it. Every time you take a step, your foot hits the ground with a certain amount of force. Some of that force goes into the ground, and some of it travels up your leg, and on into your pelvis and up your spine.

When you’re walking on pavement, well, it’s rock-hard. You’re not going to be able to transmit much force into the concrete, so instead, more of that total force is going to end up travelling up your leg.

When you’re walking on a softer surface, by contrast, whatever it is– the track, or the dirt beneath your feet– is going to be able to absorb more of that force created by your foot striking the ground. So, in turn, much less force is going to end up travelling up your leg.

And remember, one of the main functions of the SI joint is to absorb some of these forces that are travelling up your legs.

You may be totally fine walking on concrete when your pelvis is relatively stable, however once the ligaments have been sprained, the joint is not going to be able to transmit force as optimally as it was intended.

This is why you may benefit from walking on softer surfaces– you’re simply sending less force up your legs for your SI joints to deal with, in the first place.

With SI joint dysfunction, you may also experience pain in other joints.

When your pelvis is out of alignment, it can potentially change the angle at which your foot hits the ground, every time you take a step.

This means that the joints in your foot, your ankle, your knee, and even your hip are not necessarily hitting the ground at the angle they were intended to.

This is why foot and knee pain, in particular, seem to often go along with SI joint pain (check out this post for more info).

At times, I’ve had pain in my ankles and my knees that I’d notice walking on concrete, but would totally vanish once I was in the woods.

Please remember— The information on my blog is not meant as a substitute for medical advice. It is, however, meant to empower you with information to make the path forward a little more clear!

So if you are thinking about walking for exercise, or if you’re able to go for a walk around the block in your neighborhood but still find you have some pain, I highly recommend you try out one of these softer surfaces, and see how you do!

For further reading:

How SI joint dysfunction can affect the rest of your body

The SI joint is like a shock absorber

How the SI joint affects movement efficiency

Published by Christy Collins

Hi, I'm Christy! I'm a health coach who helps people overcome SI joint dysfunction and chronic pain.

6 thoughts on “How walking on softer surfaces can reduce joint pain

  1. Hi christy I learned something new today and didn’t know if you knew or tired it but Recently had a Procedure gone yesterday and it’s intramuscular stimulation or dry needling for short and I found it works especially from my piriformis, sciatic nerve ,and gluteus maximus. It relaxation my muscles and relieves my nerves and helped me stop two of my medications it’s not perfect but it’s a start the procedure is painless but your muscles are a little sore for the day but for me it was a lot better for me to have sore muscles the the nerve pain😃


  2. I find gentle rebounding Very helpful it is very easy on the joints and it’s a very low impact way to get some exercise without any pain


  3. So what about using an elliptical bike instead of walking? It provides very smooth movement and not applies any shock to the joints.


    1. Hi Ahmet, that’s an interesting question. Personally, when I used to use the elliptical, I did feel that there was some impact– less than running, but still more than walking. So I personally don’t do it now. But if you don’t experience any pain from it, then perhaps it’s okay for you.


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