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Let's trial impact-absorbing footways in our cities!

Have you ever heard somebody complaining about their knees hurting when walking or running? perhaps you have experienced yourself, just as I have. But imagine for a second that your city is connected by network of walking and running friendly footpaths, in which the concrete pavements have been replaced by impact-absorbing, more comfortable surfaces. You could still enjoy of the access to the city amenities, shops, and other daily life places that you enjoy, but connected through a different type of infrastructure, that perhaps feels like walking on grass, imagine that green spaces in the city are connected too by this networks of "soft paths". Would you for a stroll or a run more often? would you feel safer if you trip and fall?

If you answered yes, then, we're on the right track!

Running and walking are intrinsic characteristic of humans, we have evolved to make it in a very efficient way, allowing us to cover long distances in one go with a relatively low energy expenditure. From an evolutionary perspective, we have being doing this on concrete surfaces for a portion of a second of the human existence. We used to walk on grass, lose soil, sand, and other mixed surfaces that absorb some of the impact that our bodies undergo on each step. So why changing thousands of years of evolutionary advantage.

Could the use of impact-absorbing, more comfortable surfaces in our cities increase the amount of physical activity that we are willing to do?

Could walking on concrete (hard surfaces) be contributing to the epidemic of knee osteoarthritis to some extent?

These are the two of the main questions that I am addressing in my research. The answers to these questions could have an impact on how we look at cities, and more importantly, how we plan future urban interventions and new developments to make cities healthier and more human-friendly.

The results of my research will not be ready soon, but what is stopping us from trialing and start planning a vision with prospective technologies? Pilot studies would help me to answer the question about our behaviour. 


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Miroslava Katsur 11 months ago

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Miroslava Katsur 11 months ago

I have artritis and my knee was injured a few times. I noticed that I feel best when running on grass instead of hard ground, and in shoes adapted for running. Of course, if my knee or back are too painful, nothing would help, but when pain is under control, it is important to keep moving instead of sitting and laying down all day. I start with walking, and when the pain is gone, I return back to running. One needs to exercise to improve the strength of muscles, improve bone density, overall physical and mental health, and promote healing in body. So, having shock-absorbent surfaces and shoes is way forward, in my opinion.

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Octavio Zamudio 11 months ago

Hi Miroslava, I am sure that many of us have experienced musculoskeletal conditions that keeps us apart from moving as we would like. I have also been there, different injuries, that's why my vision of movement is rooted in my general research interests too.
Physicians and therapists recommend to walk on impact absorbing surfaces as grass, sand or gravel when recovering from injuries, or when a patient has osteoarthritis. This is very intuitive, we don't need anyone to tell us that walking on concrete hurts, however there's no medical evidence supporting this yet. This is at the very core my research, how our knee cartilage reacts on the long term to walking on different surfaces (hard vs compliant).

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Georgie Cade 9 months ago

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