Treadmill running

Hi other new runners,

Can you advise if running on treadmills is really as bad as some of the articles I have read. I am new runner (since May) and am in my mid forties - I have never run up until now and having run on both road and cross country - the latter is definitely less painful for me. Road running causes hip and lower back pain. I invested in good trainers and my gait measured but to no avail. The current wet weather  and dark nights does it make it difficult to cross country run. I have looked at my running posture, foot position and cadence but it is still painful. So much so that I would not be able to run two consecutive days. 

I have therefore tried treadmill running (at 1% incline) and this has leaves me with no pain at all. I can run 3 days in a row with no issue. I also use a spinning bike which is I also find pain-free. 

Therefore my question is that if I am currently to use treadmill for running - for the main aim of getting fit and increase my stamina - is it really as bad as all that if I find it less painful that road running? I am looking at purchasing a treadmill soon hence why I am asking as it is a lot of money to spend. 

Once I am able to I will get our and restart cross country running - but I don't want to continue with road running as the pain is telling me that really isn't that good for me. But then I read conflicting articles telling me that treadmill running is worse and to get outside and run.....

Any helpful advise and similar experiences would be greatly appreciated. 

Many thanks,




  • Hi Lucy - I travel a lot with work, and end up doing a lot of running in hotel gyms as a result image

    My experience is that they are 95% as good as running. Excluding the ones that are too 'bouncy' and the ones that are unstable & wobble (both of which I think encourage injuries), then I find treadmills give me a good cardio workout. They're good for long intervals and for threshold runs, where you want to run to a set pace.

    I don't find treadmill running dull, so that's not an issue for me. However, by their nature treadmills are very flat. The real world isn't. So I do find that I get a few weeks of aches and pains when I transition back to road running and my body gets used to all the small ups & downs, the adverse camber, etc of the real world. All those small muscles in the feet, ankle, hips & core need to get up to speed.

    I also think that the running mechanics are a little different on a treadmill. It feels like the quads work harder and the hamstrings work less than running off the treadmill. I'm sure other people can clarify if that is the case.

    But, all in all, I find treadmills give a workout that is very close to the 'real thing'.
  • I can't really comment on treadmills but If I were you I'd be trying to establish why you get back pain running on the roads. See a good physiotherapist could fix things. The obvious difference is the hardness of the surface but it might be something you could fix early on.

    As an alternative you could buy a head torch (a lot cheaper) and run off road all year round. Depends on the area and what's available I guess, in terms of parks, grass & non scary trails!

  • Hi,

    Thank you for the advice. 

    I have visited a chiropractor as have had back problems before - helped with the slipped disc pain but I still get twinges. I do have and have used a head torch but I do live out in the sticks and although was happy doing runs with the dog at dusk I am not so comfortable running at night. Plus  it is very muddy and puddly right now. Happy when the weather is better to go back to cross country but think possibly what I need to try and do is gradually ease my body into road running. I am conscious of my running technique on the treadmill and try and keep to smaller strides without too much pounding or bouncing. Then I will do 1 smaller  road run a week and longer ones on the treadmill and gradually increase my road runs.  Maybe I am expecting too much too soon. Having not done it before I guess my body needs time to adjust. 

    I do look with envy at all you  runners that I see who appear to run with lightness, speed  and ease......I would so love to be like that but think this old bod will need some time, effort and TLC  in order for this happen. 

    Thanks again. 


  • I almost always run on roads and do about 40 miles a week over 5-6 runs. But this week, due to having to travel for 3 days for work, I ran on a hotel treadmill. I was only on it for 30 mins but I woke up the next day with really achey calfs. I figured it would be OK to run with this (since both legs ache, so it's DOMS rather than an injury), so have run yesterday and today. But would be interested to know if this is normal?! I ran 17 miles on the road last Sunday and the next day my legs felt absolutely fine!

  • never heard treadmill running to be bad, that sounds odd.

    I've been using them recently at the gym for short runs and really like how you can run the next day knowing you are repeating the run under exactly the same conditions so can make better judgments about changing fitness.

  • Well surely treadmills must be better than tarmac if you still burn the calories, get fit and avoid injuries. The only plus point I can see of running outside v treadmill is a more interesting view
  • Hi. I run on both depending on weather! Actually find the treadmill harder because of the lack of a cooling breeze! Surely any running is better than none x
  • booktrunkbooktrunk ✭✭✭
    They are fine, run outside when you can, but really it's way better than not running, I'm recovering from a bad knee so doing most of my running indoors to lessen the impact. Don't worry about it :-) just keep doing what you want. As other say it's not perfect, but it's better than nothing.
  • booktrunkbooktrunk ✭✭✭
    Oh, and I'm one of them that find it harder on the treadmill than outside.
  • I don't like them as I like being outside. I don't like the fact I can't just run at the pace I want. When outside, I just run, on a treadmill you have to pick a pace - or a programme. As a result I'm sure I don't push myself as hard on a treadmill as when running outside. They're also usually in an atmosphere of lots of sweaty people - very different from running outside in the fresh air. I like seeing the sea and the hills and the birds and the trees... But all of that said, I don't think it's "bad" to run on them, I just don't like to.
  • I think you can buy treadmills that have an adjustable bounce so you could set that closer to a road surface as you get stronger. Also vary the run with inclines.
  • runner27runner27 ✭✭✭
    i always found it much hard on treadmill than outside. i could cover miles out side and barely anything on treadmill.
    i found it translated over from treadmill to outdoors running
  • I find it difficult to pace myself when running outside. Treadmill gives me more of a structure for now, as I'm just new to running.
  • rodeofliprodeoflip ✭✭✭
    Lucy, I don't know if you ever got yourself a treadmill, but if not, consider buying a second-hand one. There are loads of people who buy treadmills with great intentions and then end up not using them for whatever reason. They usually end up as glorified clothes horses taking up space in people's spare rooms. You can pick them up very cheaply off ebay, gumtree, whatever.
  • I think they are quite useful to determine our pace and also when weather don't support us to run outside all the time(me new to running outdoors!)
  • First post on here, I've been away (in prison) for 2 years and not had much choice other than a treadmill during that time. An officer (Gym officer) told me that it's best to make sure you have an incline of 1.5 (at least) to avoid damaging your knees because of the hard board under the treadmill. I'll say that since release I've just done my first 10k run (chuffed to bits, sub 50 minutes - hilly course) and road running is harder because you have to pace yourself but treadmills still get your body in better shape than sitting on your backside, I've been able to transition to road fairly quickly. I was 15 stone when I went away, now under 12, running has replaced my other addiction and I'm looking at a half marathon in the next year.
  • MrM2MrM2 ✭✭✭
    Congrats breham!   
    Not a fan of treadmill although I did 5km yesterday. You should be well pleased with that first 10k result; looking good for working your way up to a half marathon. Don't be in too much of a hurry; consolidate your 10k, experiment with some faster 5k, keep it varied and fun. And don't forget to take some rest days! Happy running!

  • GipfelGipfel ✭✭✭
    breham, well done - definitely a time to be pleased with! When I first started running a few years ago, I trained almost exclusively on the treadmill for a long time - one advantage for me (which you have probably found too) is that I was so used to running at an even pace that I did find it easier to pace myself outside, and didn't shoot off at a crazy pace at the beginning of races like a lot of people do! Running outside is a pleasure, though, and the miles (especially for longer runs) go by so much more quickly. Good luck for working towards your half marathon next year.

    I've actually gone back to the treadmill more regularly over the last few weeks - I'm following a marathon training plan that requires weekly interval sessions, and I find it much easier to do those on a treadmill, where you can set the interval pace and the recovery pace, then just toggle between the two.
  • Thanks mrm2 and gipfel.  I went for my first run today after the 10k on Sunday and it was a hard 20 minutes, I didn't realize how much it had taken out of me.

    I'm glad to say that having looked up the Oxford half marathon and found out it is this weekend, I won't be doing it - this time.   I will take your advice and get some 5ks in to speed things up and more 10s but I'm worried about turning up to some road races where everyone si a club runner.  I'd rather stick to the bigger events with more novices I think.

    Back to the subject of treadmills - I do think they got my body used to running at a steady pace but my mind is still trying to rush off too quickly.   One big advantage of running on a treadmill is not having to work out whether a car that's not indicating is really going to turn or not. 
  • breham said:
    I will take your advice and get some 5ks in to speed things up and more 10s but I'm worried about turning up to some road races where everyone si a club runner.  I'd rather stick to the bigger events with more novices I think.

    I shouldn't worry about going to races where there are club runners breham. Running clubs have a large mix of ages, shapes and abilities. In my club there are those who run sub 40 for a 10K right up to those who are pleased to just get round (and all sorts in between). So definitely don't feel intimidated because there are people in club vests. 
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