Whether you’re new to running and feel more comfortable in the gym, or bad weather has you running indoors, treadmill running is not the same as road running. The treadmill is easier than running outdoors because the surface has more give, creating less impact, and the moving belt assists leg turnover, making it easier to run faster, which is why many runners find that their pace on the treadmill doesn’t correlate to their road pace.
The treadmill can be a great training tool and can be a good way to get in some speed work or tempo runs in a controlled setting. But running on a treadmill is not the same as running on the road, and people can injure themselves if they don’t recognize the differences.
Potential Treadmill Injuries
Running on a treadmill increases the potential for injury to the foot, knee and hip. Even though treadmills create less impact on your body, you can still experience pain. Plantar fasciitis is the most common foot injury associated with treadmill running. Knee pain is a common running injury for treadmill and outdoor running, but if you run on an incline, have bad running posture, or use an abnormal stride on the treadmill you are increasing risk of injury. Incline running or walking puts more stress on the hips, which can lead to pain and injury. You may also develop a hip injury if you are using a different stride pattern when using a treadmill, and may be overextending your legs too much.
A 2% incline helps the treadmill mimic the outside ground and have the same feel as the outdoors. Having the treadmill set on a very flat setting is not good for your feet or legs. Research has shown that running with no incline causes you to run with your knees very straight, rather than naturally soft and slightly bent. The knees cannot absorb shock properly when they are too straight, and this can cause muscle strain.
Preventing treadmill injury:
Running outside requires more attention to your surroundings and uses additional muscles to negotiate obstacles like tree roots and potholes, and changing pace according to traffic patterns or dodging people on the trails.