Which Is Better, Walking on Dirt Path Vs. a Sidewalk?

Two people hiking on trail  in rocky desert area, elevated view

Walking offers numerous health benefits for your heart, lungs, joints and muscles. It is also one of the most convenient exercises. You can vary your walking schedule to suit your mood or the weather. Walking alone allows to enjoy nature or to listen to music, and walking in a group allows you to spend quality time with your family or friends. Your choice of walking surface can affect your enjoyment of this exercise.

Why Walking Surfaces Matter

Each time you take a step, you put pressure on your ankles, knees and hips. Although the amount of force generated in walking is less than with running, this force does stress your joints and can accumulate over time. Certain types of walking surfaces absorb some of the shock, so that less stress is placed on your bones.

Potential Consequences of Walking Surfaces

Walking on hard surfaces can lead to knee and ankles injuries and might cause your muscles to tire more easily. Another potential hazard of walking surfaces is uneven terrain. Uneven surfaces might cause you to lose your balance or sprain your ankle. These surfaces, however, do offer potential benefits. When coping with uneven terrain, your feet don’t strike the ground in the same position each time. These slight adjustments build strength in your ankles and feet and can lessen your chance of developing an overuse injury.

Best Walking Surfaces

Concrete sidewalks are some of the hardest walking surfaces. If possible, avoid walking frequently on sidewalks. Because soft surfaces, such as dirt paths, absorb some of the force exerted on your joints, they make a better choice. If you do not have access to a dirt path, you can walk on grass or on a track at a school.


The right shoe can compensate for some of the drawbacks of a less-than-ideal walking surface. In general, running shoes make good choices for walking. Choose a type that meets your foot and ankle needs. If you have to walk on sidewalks, choose shoes that provide some cushioning and shock absorption. If you have weak ankles and must walk on uneven surfaces, high-top sneakers can provide additional support to your ankles. Experts at running shoe stores can help you make the right decision for your feet and preferred walking surface.