Is The Treadmill Like Running On Sand? (Explained)
By Simon Gould
If you live near a beach and run on it, there's a great sense of fulfillment and the scenery is beautiful. Depending on how wet the sand is, means your run can be easier, or on dry sand, very hard. There is less impact and it really works the leg muscles. The treadmill has low impact compared with the ground, but not as much as sand.
Regular treadmills can't compare to the impact of sand. That doesn't mean they have the high impact of running on a path or concrete. But impact is still there, even though the deck can feel bouncy. Running on sand, you sink with every stride. It's far harder to run on sand than a treadmill. Anyone who's done this will be able to testify to this fact.
The only way you could replicate the difficulty is by increasing the incline by a significant amount. Of course wet sand and dry sand is different to run on. Wet sand is more firm to land on with less displacement. We don't need science to tell us this, it's obvious as we leave our footprints as we run. The sand can get everywhere in your running shoes.
99% of people live nowhere near a beach so how do they get the feeling of running on one? And do they really want that feeling? Well there is a "treadmill" that has been out for a few years that is claimed to be like running on a beach. That is it's major selling point. The deck is very soft and it claims to have the same impact as an elliptical.
Sproing Fitness treadmill deck
Sproing Fitness treadmills
The picture above is the deck of a special treadmill by Sproing Fitness. It's claimed that exercising on their treadmill is just like running on sand. That was the inspiration behind the making of the treadmill. As you can see the deck is visibly soft. But it doesn't move, you're running on the spot.
There is a cable behind you pulling you back so you have resistance there. This causes you to lean forward which is a far more natural way to run than normal treadmills. Normal treadmills have the deck moving beneath you. At the moment these new treadmills are pricey. They should pay for these to be installed in state of the art gyms.
Then Sproing Fitness may create a market by people testing these treadmills and liking them. They cost around $6k each. They do represent something you could do all kinds of exercising on them. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is something these treadmills would be very good at. At the moment the market is apprehensive for this equipment.
Benefits of running on actual sand
Your feet sink with every step making it harder. Therefore you burn more calories. Your muscles get stronger because you have to stabilize yourself more. Muscles in your feet and ankles get a workout like they would never have on a treadmill. The impact is less, so your joints experience less shock and less injuries.
If you've tried to run on sand dunes, you know how hard it could be. Walking or running uphill on sand is tough work when the sand is deep. It's a very exhilarating experience and worth a try during your exercising career. So next time you're on holiday, near a beach, take your running shoes with you. You won't regret it.
Advice for running on actual sand
Start on wet sand first. It is harder and will be slightly easier to run on. The thrill of running on the beach can not be underestimated. You get an amazing view of the ocean. Unfortunately some beaches aren't usually very long, so you may have to turn a few times, back and forth, if you want a long run.
I would advise that you avoid the busy times of the beach but you'll know when that is if you live near one. The benefits of running on sand are enormous. There all kinds of different muscles that get work, from the foot and above to your legs and butt. On dry sand you will sink as you try to run, making far more effort needed.
You have a choice as to run barefoot or with your normal running shoes. Obviously if the sand is too hot, you'll need shoes. But otherwise it doesn't matter. With shoes you might get a lot of sand in them but that can easily be emptied when you've finished. Finally, if you live near a beach, I advise you count yourself lucky and take advantage of it.
Running on sand is a unique challenge and I'm not surprised a company came to try and replicate it on a treadmill. There are many benefits to using this terrain including the calorie burn and variety of muscles used. Whether these specialist treadmills will succeed is for the people to decide, at $6k they may need to come down in price.
New technology always costs more money due to the research and development investment. They're certainly very innovative and new workout equipment is always given a chance by the fitness community. To summarize walking or running on a treadmill is nothing like sand. There are better ways of comparing what a treadmill feels like. But this new one may come close.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here's my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*