3 Common Mistakes when Walking or Running on a Treadmill

One of the hardest things I find in winter is to maintain a good, regular exercise regime.  I love spending time outdoors, running or hiking or going for a nice morning walk.  Yet when the rain is pouring and its cold and gloomy outside, it is the last thing I want to do… so the treadmill becomes the next best thing. 

Without even realizing, the treadmill can change our walking or more commonly our running style, which can lead to unwanted pain and injury. 

Below are the 3 common mistakes we make when walking or running on a Treadmill. 

The 3 Common Mistakes when Walking or Running on a Treadmill1.  Speed of the Treadmill

When running on treadmill, the typical movement patterns and biomechanics of our lower limbs and feet get impacted.  The ground is moving from under us, so we naturally slack off and use the speed of the treadmill to encourage us to take a step.  Not only does this result in less activation and firing of the muscles used in a typical running pattern but can significantly alter the biomechanics of our feet in the way in which we generate a step.  

When we think about the way our feet and ankles work to propel us in a forward motion, we first strike our foot with our heels, followed by a smooth transition into pushing off through the balls of our feet.  The treadmill generates the forward motion for us, with the speed placed at a certain level without the control of us to change and monitor it naturally as we would running on a path.  The increase in speed and inability to naturally adapt the speed reduces the need to use these biomechanics which usually results in flat foot running. 

This reduction in use of our natural biomechanics can lead to various other alterations in our gait pattern as well as reduce the shock absorption when running leading to increased tension and pain not only in your feet but in your lower legs, knees, hips and lower back.  So think about how you are using the treadmill next time you go for a run, check your speed and make sure it is appropriate for you.  Remember, the treadmill is there to give us the opportunity to run in bad weather, not do the running for us!

The 3 Common Mistakes when Walking or Running on a Treadmill2.  Over Angling the Treadmill

People often like to walk or run on a treadmill at some degree of incline.  This is great as it increases the workload along with leg muscle activation and raises the heart rate increasing the overall intensity of the workout. 

A common mistake is people over exaggerating the incline of a treadmill and staying at this level of incline for the duration of the workout.  Over angling the incline again contributes to an altered gait pattern and changes in the biomechanics of our lower limbs, resulting in our stride length to be reduced. Over long periods of time this can lead to pain and injury due to the ankles, knees and hips being repeatedly over flexed.  So bring that incline down to minimise potential injuries.

The 3 Common Mistakes when Walking or Running on a Treadmill3.  No Arm Swing

The cause of this one typically stems from the two points above. People commonly hold onto the supports of the treadmill, and therefore do not swing their arms back and forth like they would in a typical walking or running pattern.  When the speed is placed too high, or you are on a significant incline while the treadmill is moving from under you, it is understandable you don’t feel safe, so you hold on. 

An arm swing assists in balancing the body as it moves through space and allows for a more efficient running style, reducing overall energy expenditure and taking part of the load off the lower body.  An arm swing helps to propel you forward and improve running rhythm, helping your body transfer power from one side to the other.  It’s an important part of running mechanics and should be included in your treadmill run.

Next time you’re on the treadmill, think about these 3 common mistakes and make yourself aware of your own running style.  You may be surprised at the goals you can achieve through making simple changes to your style of running to ensure it is efficient and pain free. 


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