Should I run on the treadmill or outside? Is there a difference?
Sometimes, life happens and there’s literally not enough daylight to run--especially in the winter. In order to maintain your running schedule, you might need to get your miles on a treadmill.
But does running on a controlled environment provide the same benefits as running outside?
OrthoCarolina Running experts Chris Dollar and Katie White suggest runners keep these important points in mind when running on a treadmill:
- People think that a treadmill is softer and padded. The truth is, your feet actually hit the treadmill harder than they hit on the ground and can cause more impact to your knees as opposed to the ground. Running on treadmills causes passive hip extension shutting down your glutes.
- Treadmills can be good to use when recovering from injury. They provide a consistent environment where you don’t have to engage in hills, turns or pitches so sometimes when runners are getting back into the sport it’s good to use a controlled environment like a treadmill. You’re not introducing anything extra.
- Train for how you fight. Running on a treadmill to train for a race generally isn’t smart. When you’re running on the ground, the foot is pushing off the ground and you are propelling your body forward. But on a treadmill, the “ground” is already moving so you just pick your feet up. You’re not moving the same way. If you know someone who runs only on a treadmill and you take that person and have them try to run on the ground at the same speed, they won’t last as long. Your body doesn’t work as hard. In general, you want to run outside when training for a race since you won’t be running the race on a treadmill.
Katie White, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, Clinical Manager of Physical Therapy and Chris Dollar, PT, DPT, OMPT, FAAOMPT, Executive Director, OrthoCarolina Residency in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Hand Therapy, Coordinator of Clinical Education, OrthoCarolina, are with OrthoCarolina’s Eastover Physical Therapy office and contributed to this article.