Can Running on a Treadmill Cause Injury?

Women exercising on a treadmill

By Simon Gould

Running on a treadmill isn’t bad for you. If you already run outside then exercising on a treadmill is better for your joints because of the cushioning. If you’re thinking of starting to run on a treadmill, you will need to build up slowly. You won’t be able to run for 30 minutes straight away. But the benefits of running outside can be found on the treadmill too. I’ll go through this in detail below.

Treadmills compared to outside

Fifty million Americans use a treadmill every year so it can’t be that bad. But people who run outside often look down on those who run on a treadmill. It’s like they’re inferior and you can’t be exercising properly. That it’s boring, hence the term “dreadmill”. I find a good TV in front of my machine gives me far more entertainment than an outside run.

Sometimes the weather is bad. If you live in the center of town, traffic and people get in the way. You just don’t get this on a treadmill. A concrete side walk is heavy on your joints whereas I appreciate the advanced cushioning my running machine gives me. So ditch the reputation because all the benefits of exercising outside can be had in the home on a treadmill.

For those who don’t want to exercise outside because maybe you’re looking to lose weight, a treadmill is perfect. You can lose weight quickly and safely in the privacy of your own home. The incline can help speed up your weight loss even quicker. Using a treadmill is easy, it’s easier than an elliptical or rowing machine. We walk and run at an early age.

Athletes train on a treadmill

Professional athletes have found uses for a treadmill. The Olympic 10,000 meter champion Mo Farah says he goes on a treadmill a lot. If you are an experienced runner, you may be worried that a treadmill may change your running style and gait. That it will affect your running when you go outside. This research from the National Center of Biotechnology concluded this is not the case.

I have seen hobby runners and the new and experienced get benefits from a treadmill. Speed training is something that can help make your normal runs feel easier and quicker. These are often done on a track but most of us don’t live near one and a treadmill is just as good. The console displays such detailed and thorough information like speed, distance and calories burned that make it ideal for this.

Can a treadmill cause injuries?

If you’re careful and build up slowly then the answer is no. And maybe even less so than running outside. Treadmills are often used by seniors and the injured for rehabilitation, and more. Some people fear that it could be bad for their back or their knees. This is just not the case. The knees are protected to some degree by the cushioning compared to outside. If you use the correct posture, you won’t hurt your back.

There is still some impact as you walk or run. Your feet striking the surface has more impact than an eliptical for example. But as I’ve mentioned before, this is still far less than a concrete side walk. People with existing injuries in sports and the rest of us, can use a treadmill to gradually get us back into walking or running in a safe and predictable way.

One concern many people have is that a treadmill can cause overuse injuries. Their reason for this is because you’re exercising in the same spot with no change in terrain and the belt moves beneath you. The answer is that a treadmill causes no excess of these types of problems than running outside. Injuries like shin splints can happen on a treadmill as well.

If you’re starting an exercise routine and whether it’s walking or jogging/running. If you’re overweight you’re better off doing it on a treadmill if you have the choice. You can lose weight in such a controlled and safe way by walking and using the incline. There are so many reasons why they’re not bad for you. Don’t let a scare of possible injuries put you off.

Take it slowly

If you’re new to exercising, the secret is to build up gradually. This is the case even if you’re walking for weight loss. Whether you’re walking or running, don’t go too fast, and build up 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes. The World Health Organization says we should walk for 2 hours and 30 minutes per week or run 1 hour and 15. This is a lot but it can be divided throughout the days of the week.

If you’re totally new you may want to consider a couch to 5k. This is a way of walking and running slowly over 9 weeks till you’re exercising for 30 minutes per day, 3 times per week. I have devised a treadmill version which has proven very popular. I’ll link to it here: Couch to 5k on a treadmill. There are thousands of visits to that page every month, so do consider it for yourself.

Treadmills compared to other fitness equipment

When it comes to fitness equipment being bad for you. I’m thinking of an eliptical, rowing machine or exercise bike. The treadmill does have the most impact on the knees and joints compared to the others. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, they’re just different. Treadmills are the most efficient equipment. You will burn more calories on a treadmill than any other machine.

I used to do spin classes on an exercise bike and while they are enjoyable, I just don’t feel I’ve had enough of a workout. I get a good feeling after a workout on my treadmill and running feels so natural. The act of running forces you to expel more energy, more than other fitness equipment and I find it more motivating. I can very accurately keep track of my progress.


Running on any surface brings its challenges and can injure if care isn’t taken. This is true of the treadmill as well. Just build up slowly and don’t run too fast without experience. If you’re thinking of starting a running routine or already run outside, running on a treadmill is not bad for you. As with any exercise, pay attention to how you feel and if you get any aches and pains then take it slower.

The treadmill is not a scary machine, running on one is really no different than running outside. There’s nothing special about one that can injure you any more than outside. They are very popular machines because they’re effective and convenient. If they were bad for you there would be scientific research saying so, and there isn’t any. The benefits are great so I would advise anyone to use one.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

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