The Pros and Cons of Treadmill Running

Attis Fitness
4 min readMar 24, 2022

There’s always a debate to be had between runners about what’s better — running on a treadmill or running outdoors.

With most discussions, you’ll find the same arguments — it’s not as fun to run on the spot or that it can feel more monotonous running indoors.

On the other hand, some find that it’s easier to stick to a structure when all the controls and help you need is right in front of you, while you also don’t require the greater amount of gear that running outdoors in all weather conditions can often demand.

As with most decisions in running, it comes down to the individual to decide for themselves what they like and to work with what they enjoy. So, to help you find out a little bit more about the differences between indoor and outdoor running, we’ve put together a list of the pros and cons of treadmill running.



Of course, a big reason that people love running is that you can do it from literally anywhere at any time. Just lace up your trainers and get on out there, right?

Well, sometimes outdoor running isn’t the best option, being a more comfortable, accessible and safer option. For example, if you want to avoid running in the dark, or if the weather is too cold and the ground is icy, then a quick session on the treadmill might just be a better option.

Control your workouts

Some might also argue that a treadmill gives you more control over your runs.

For one thing, you can set your own pace and even add an incline to help you train for a particular goal pace before a race, or allow you to get used to running a consistent speed over long distances and times too.

Effective running

Some runners will argue that treadmill running is also easier than running outdoors — but that it perhaps lacks the effectiveness in terms of training and gains that regular outdoor running can provide.

That said, research into treadmill running has shown that heart rate is slightly lower at any given pace on a treadmill than it is outdoors — but can be counteracted simply by running at a 1 per cent gradient on the treadmill, meaning you don’t have to sacrifice the effectiveness of your running when you switch to the treadmill.


Being Indoors

For many runners, it just comes down to the fact that heading outside for a run is better than anything else.

With no treadmill, you can lace up your shoes and head on out the door to enjoy the weather, manually set your own pace without the need for a machine, and, arguably best of all, you can go wherever you want, across all kinds of terrains and surfaces.

Muscle Activation

You also expend more energy than you would on a machine, with a particular focus on your muscles.

That’s because there’s more muscle activation outside. After all, your feet have to grab the ground to propel you. A treadmill can only do some of that work by feeding you the belt when the real deal is found by making contact with real ground outdoors.

You’re also going to activate more muscles when you’re running outside because you don’t have to run in a strictly linear pattern or have to react to certain obstacles like running past pedestrians or pavements.

This repetitiveness can therefore have an adverse effect on your running if you’re only ever running inside, with certain muscles could becoming weak and de-conditioned. This can lead to potential injuries if you ever do go back to running outside — or even lead to an injury from overworking specific muscles in the same manner.

Natural Gait

Research has found that biomechanical patterns don’t change when someone runs on a treadmill versus when they run outside, impacting your natural gait.

That’s because running outside is more suited to a natural gait cycle, and when you consistently run on a treadmill, you’re not working your muscles as hard by limiting yourself to the parameters of a single linear run, which can cause some runners to inadvertently shorten their stride.

Resistance Training

Running on a tougher surface provides more ground reaction forces, which can help to reinforce your bones a little more than the soft belt of a treadmill.

Treadmills are designed to absorb ground reaction forces, meaning that your joints are eased from the impact of hitting harder surfaces as you do when running outside. While this may seem good, in the long run, it may hurt your overall performance.

Outdoor runners know that strength training is important to build stronger legs muscles. Running outside can help to provide this on a basic level, as you build up resistance to running on tougher and rougher surfaces.



Attis Fitness

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