Is running on a treadmill bad for your knees? Although we all have heard stories about people who damaged their knee from treadmill running, the truth usually is the treadmill was not the real problem…
Either you are running on concrete, asphalt, in the terrain – or on a treadmill, your form and technique play a MAJOR role to avoid knee injuries.
Today I’ll tell you the why’s, and how’s – to keep you safe while doing your treadmill runs.
Let’s get to it:
- 1 Is running on a Treadmill Bad for Your Knees?
- 2 When Will Running on a Treadmill be Bad for Your Knees?
- 3 So, What is Proper Running Form?
- 4 Does Warming up and Stretching Make a Difference on Your Knees?
- 5 How Often Should You Run?
- 6 Final Words: Running on a Treadmill Will NOT Directly Cause Knee pain
Is running on a Treadmill Bad for Your Knees?
Medically speaking, running is not bad for your knees.
Here’s the thing:
When people do not implement a good form into their running, it is common that their joints will gradually start to feel painful. Not knowing better, they will assume that it is the running itself that is causing their pain.
The truth is:
Running on concrete, dirt roads, or even a treadmill will not necessarily cause problems for your knees. That is, as long as you use a healthy form and technique as you stride across the surface.
When Will Running on a Treadmill be Bad for Your Knees?
Okay, before we answer this question, we need to talk a little about treadmills.
So, here are the basics:
A treadmill is a machine that is designed for running. The person who uses a treadmill will remain in a fixed position during their run – staying at the same spot throughout the whole session. That is what makes a treadmill practical for indoor use.
Keep in mind that there is a giant moving belt at the bottom of the machine. This belt is what keeps you at the same spot while you’re moving. The belt will continuously rotate to keep you stationary while running.
If you want to read more about treadmills, check out these articles:
- Walking on Treadmill Everyday Benefits: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
- What Muscles Does a Treadmill Work? Using Treadmills for Strength Training
- Treadmill Pace vs Road Pace: What Is The Difference?
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s discuss why running a treadmill COULD be bad for your knees:
If you jump on a treadmill and start running without rhythm or your body form is inspired by Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons – you will definitely stress your knees.
In other words:
Don’t get on a treadmill and start running wildly, flailing your body while having bad posture, or running awkwardly. This will, in time, cause your leg problems. Your ankles, knees, and other joints will feel the pain – and suffer.
You should neither think you are the next Usain Bolt and start running at a super-fast pace… You should always start off slow – and steadily increase your speed. If not, your legs (and knees in particular) will make you sorry! Make sure you know how to operate the machine you’re using and get to know the speed settings – and how to operate them.
You can also hurt your body by not operating the treadmill the right way. Many treadmills will allow you to create an incline that resembles running uphill. Be aware: This type of motion is not recommended if you are a newbie to treadmills and have not yet mastered the art of running technique. Get used to treadmill running before playing with incline and high speeds. And read the instructions and the treadmill safety sections!
So, What is Proper Running Form?
Here is a quick breakdown of proper running form:
- Your body should be long and straight. Do not bend your back forward or backward. Try not to slouch.
- Your head should be positioned firmly in the middle part of your shoulders.
- Keep your hands near your waist and make a relaxed fist.
- Your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Rotate your arms from the shoulder to avoid tension.
- Keep your knees slightly bent and don’t keep them straight. Bend your knees, and keep an angle while you take a stride. Again, don’t ever keep your knees straight while you run – you will seriously increase your chances of injury!
- Your feet should point straight and not turned either out or in.
- Keep your leg cadence (your stride) at a reasonable rate.
- Try to run in a circular motion. Most people move their legs back and forth like a pendulum while they stride. Avoid this as much as possible. Smooth is the key!
- Do not bounce your body while you run. Avoid bouncing at all costs; you are not doing a skipping rope. Your feet should strike the ground from heel to toe.
This might seem like a lot to take in, but it’s not.
Once you start to develop these mechanics, believe me – you will improve your running ability within a short amount of time. You will then be able to reduce injuries to any part of your body, including your knees.
The good running form will be useful on a treadmill and any other surface you will be running on.
Does Warming up and Stretching Make a Difference on Your Knees?
Yes, warming up and stretching do make a difference on your knees.
Hear me out.
When you stretch your legs and knee joints, you’re preparing them for strenuous activity. By doing so, you’re gradually preparing your body for action. And your body really appreciates being prepared before being thrown into physical activities.
People who run on a treadmill should use a warm-up routine before they start. Actually, either what kind of exercise or workout you plan to do you should do some form of warm-up first.
Doing so will reduce the risk of muscle injuries, and you don’t want to get injured, right?
How Often Should You Run?
You can run as little or as much as you desire.
Do not over-exert yourself. You should run at least twice a week. However, some people run three or four times, and some even run every day.
Rest days prevent overuse injuries, allow for restoration of glycogen stores, give the body time to heal and repair any soft tissue damage, and prevent mental burnout. When rest follows training, the body becomes stronger.
Reference: runnersworld.com – How many days a week should I run?
No matter how often you choose to run, just be careful:
Focus on your running form and technique; take it slowly until you’ve gotten the hang of it. Also, make sure you use shoes with good shock absorption. Most treadmills have shock absorbers integrated into the machine – but you should have a decent pair of shoes anyway.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to run on a treadmill for hours without suffering from knee pains.
Treadmill running is not hard on your knees as long as you use it wisely!
Final Words: Running on a Treadmill Will NOT Directly Cause Knee pain
It is not the treadmill itself that causes knee injury and pain – it is how you use the treadmill.
Whether you are running outside or using a treadmill, you need to take precautions to prevent injuries. Spend time learning good running technique and form – and also, be sure to use a good pair of running shoes! And of course, investing in a treadmill equipped with a low impact, shock-absorbing treadmill belt will also help your knee health.
I have previously reviewed several of the best treadmills around. All of these are excellent choices both for running and walking:
- What Is The Best Treadmill for Home Use? Reviews and Top Picks
- What is the Best Manual Treadmill? Reviews and Top Picks
- Best Affordable Treadmill for Runners: Reviews and Top Picks
- What is the Best Treadmill with TV Screen? Reviews and Top Picks
- What is the Best Treadmill for Heavy Person: Reviews and Top Picks
If you want to learn about other ways of doing cardio other than running, check out my MASSIVE cardio exercise archive – LOADED with workout routines, weight loss tips, and actionable fitness tips!
See you there.