Everything You Need to Know About Treadmill Running

Jeff Baldelli
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Treadmill Running over Outdoor Running

Although it’s fun to run outside, it’s generally not the most efficient form of running. Not convinced? Check out the infographic below for more information about indoor vs. outdoor running.

Indoor running gives you peace of mind. No more scheduling your workouts around bad weather. No more forgetting to bring your sneakers. No more driving to and from the gym after work.

Running on a treadmill also gives you options. For example, you can control the speed at which you run, so you can choose how hard or easy you want your workout.

One of the best parts of indoor running is the ability to change up your running environment. With a treadmill, you can run in the mountains, on a beach, on thick snow, at night, on a dirt track, on hilly terrain, or in the city. No more excuses of not having an ideal running environment.

Another big advantage of treadmill running is that most treadmills allow you to compete against a pre-programmed virtual race, which can be more fun than the majority of people you would otherwise be racing. Running against a pre-programmed virtual race will give you a similar feel to that of a real race, without any of the potential risks of an actual race (i.e. having to battle with other runners at start, or having to dodge cars and improper road conditions).

Are Treadmills Safer Than Running Outdoors?

No matter if you run outdoors or on a treadmill, you will inevitably run into obstacles and accidents that can be very dangerous: sudden changes to your running speed due to sharp turns and hills, tripping over your own feet, getting cut off by a car or a careless driver, being hit by a random flying object in someone’s yard, or having a health emergency while running. The only way to avoid this is to not run at all.

Still, the fact remains that you will be safer if you run on a treadmill rather than running outside. While runners are much more vulnerable to some threats than others, no runner is completely safe from everything.

By running on a treadmill, you close the door to these sudden obstacles that would stop you during a run if you were outside. Cars and random objects are way more likely to be outside, after all.

The catch is that, at least in the United States, you cannot leave your treadmill unattended. As a result, you can’t just jump onto a treadmill whenever.

More and more research, however, is showing that the health and fitness benefits of running on a treadmill are equivalent to outdoor running. While not recommended, you must be able to run on a treadmill safely if it is your only means of exercising.

So let’s go over how you can safely and effectively run on a treadmill.

Are Treadmills Boring?

Running on a treadmill looks easy. You just put one foot in front of the other, and the treadmill does all the work for you, right? Well, no.

If you don’t do anything different from your treadmill runs, then you’re effectively training yourself to run the same way: a short burst, then take a break. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well when you’re running outdoors.

There are many treadmill training techniques that you can learn to help make your treadmill runs more effective and more interesting. Here are some of the best:

Match Your Cadence

Cadence is the speed at which you hit the ground with each step. Each stride neither has to be too short and choppy, nor too long and flowing.

Different sports have slightly different cadence speeds. For example, tennis or basketball athletes tend to have a shorter stride, while swimmers have a much longer stride.

Each athlete’s stride length should match his or her natural pace and capabilities, and not be forced. However, you should try to aim to have the same rhythm and cadence when running on a treadmill and when running outdoors.

What Kind of Shoes Should You Wear?

The first thing you should figure out is what type of running shoe would be ideal for you. This is easy to decipher once you know the three main categories of running shoes available on the market today.

Motion Control

The motion control active running shoe is ideal for larger runners and those who do more frequent training sessions. If your foot roll is a bit more on the severe side, these would also be the shoes for you. As the name suggests, motion control running shoes attempt to control the amount of pronation that your feet give out with every stride. This type of shoe also does quite well with runners with foot drop. The support of a motion control running shoe will allow for proper impact on the feet, ankles, and legs.

Stability

Stability active running shoes are for those with midfoot or neutral pronation. These shoes eliminate excessive pronation across the midfoot. This is the setting that most people need. It keeps most people from experiencing more pain or injuries. Neutral hip roll or pronation is not always a given, though. Those who already have excessive pronation may also fall under this category. The stability running shoe is a midsole for midsized runners.

How Much Should I Spend on a Treadmill?

Let's assume you've already picked out your next great treadmill. And, as you've probably already mentioned to yourself, you want to spend a little more than your average treadmill cost.

Let's talk about budget. While it may be tempting to run out and purchase the treadmill with all of the bells, whistles, and glamor, it may not be worth it in the long run.

Here's what you should consider first:

  • The minimum features that you need for the treadmill to be effective
  • If it's going to be more than just a treadmill
  • Any additional equipment that you’ll need

And remember the most important thing: the maximum amount of money you're willing to spend

Factors aside, you may want to consider the following before you start looking:

If you're going to be using the treadmill just for walking, then it's probably not necessary to spend a ton of money on a one-speed model.

If you're a runner, however, you should probably spend more money on an incline model that allows for you to push yourself physically.

Some treadmills allow you to control the incline yourself, which is a great feature, considering it can help you run longer and harder than ever before. This is especially useful for runners or athletes at the pro level, but it won't hurt amateurs.

What Should I Look For In a Treadmill?

Not all treadmills are created equal. While you could buy a cheap treadmill that includes a small LCD screen and an incline setting, most people spend a lot of money on their treadmills because they’re a great investment that they can use for decades to come.

While some people use their treadmills for cross training purposes, such as jogging and kickboxing, others will use their treadmill primarily for running. In this situation, features such as a responsive and accurate speed and distance tracker and a strong running belt are really the most important features to look for.

Speed

The speed and incline should be accurate and responsive, making adjustments with little to no lag.

Look for a treadmill with a long running belt. A long enough belt will make it easier for you to reach your target running speed. Of course, you may need to step on and off of it to adjust the speed.

In general, look for a treadmill that allows you to vary the speed up to 10mph, depending on your goals.

Incline

If the treadmill has incline settings, then you need to make sure that they work well and feel stable.

Again, this is not a compact flat-based treadmill like you’d find in most gyms. This is a powerhouse of a machine with high torque and the ability to run at high speeds.