The Difference Between Running on a Treadmill and Track

Man Running on a Treadmill

By Simon Gould

There aren’t many running tracks around. If you live near one, then you’re very fortunate. Running on a treadmill or track is quite similar. This is in terms of the amount of impact on your joints. With both you have a definite guide on the distance you’re running. Here I look at both the track and the treadmill in detail, to determine which is better.

Advantages of the track

The track is designed to be the ideal running surface. It has to be able to have their runners run at the best of their ability. Running events are held on the track. If you want to see how fast you can run a certain distance, you’ll do it on the track. There’s a reason why athletes use it to train and run on because it’s the best surface.

You can do all kinds of training on the track because the distances are measured. You can do interval work where you run fast for a 100 meters then slow for a hundred. You can add hurdles and exercise different muscles in your legs. You can do this by driving the knee high over the hurdle. You are nearly unlimited by the variation of training you can do on the track.

Disadvantages of the track

Running in a circle round a track. Whatever distance you run, whether that’s a hundred meter sprint or 5,000 meters, you are just running in circles. People say treadmills are boring, but I think that’s nothing compared to a track. There’s not even a view to look at, because it’s usually surrounded by seating.

When you’re running outside you can be governed by the weather. If you’re in a place where it snows a lot or is very cold. This can affect whether you can get a run in that day. Maybe the track is very busy with other runners, athletes and their coaches. There may be lights which would enable you to exercise at all times.

Treadmill compared to the track

Where boredom is concerned, with the treadmill, you’re running in one place. Therefore a TV can be installed in front of you. You can see any show and your run will fly by. If it’s too hot on the track? Why not run on a treadmill with a fan in front of you keeping you cool. You can get all sorts of statistics about your run from the console.

When it comes to speed work, the treadmill is ideal. Interval, tempo and fartlek training can be measured with time as well as distance. You can also see your speed which can help you asses how fast you can run. This is readily available in miles and kilometers per hour. Many calculations can be made using this data. Plus you can use the incline.

Which is better?

Did you know, you run slower on a treadmill than on a track. If you’re an athlete, or you run races that are competed on tracks. Then the only advice can be is to do all your running on a track. You clearly don’t find them boring. You enjoy them and like to improve your times. You should always train on the surface you use in competition.

If you’re looking to get fit and healthy, or you may want to lose weight. Then you could take your pick. A track or treadmill would be good for you. With the treadmill though you do have the cost and maintenance. They’re not cheap but can last up to 10 to 12 years if they’re well maintained. You could join a gym or health club and get your treadmill running done there.


I personally use a treadmill. I would even if I lived near a running track. I do enter races and like to improve my time, but I don’t enter competitions where a few select runners race around a track. Running tracks can often be found in universities and schools. This is where people can see and realize their potential. A track is ideal for this situation.

A treadmill is ideal for the home. Maybe the traffic is bad around where you live or the weather makes it inconvenient. You don’t live near a track and get the benefit of working out at home. Deciding which is better, I think a treadmill and a track have their own unique benefits. So my conclusion is to use both. Get the best of both worlds and use them both for your workouts.

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

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