Treadmill Running vs. Ground

When the temperatures drop, some of us start taking our running training inside on the treadmill. But do you ever wonder whether it would be the same workout as you would have if you ran outside? Besides minimizing foot injuries, being warmer and not needing to wear gloves, would treadmill running change the way we run?

Here is what Alice learned from the latest research on running mechanics. Scientists Fellin et al., Willy et al and Noerhen et al. in 2008 and 2009 wanted to find out whether treadmill running deviated from over-ground running. Results from their data and experiments would validate or invalidate the use of treadmills for Gait Analysis and Gait Training.

Their methods were to measure kinematic angles of the hip, knee and ankle joint during each phase of gait – from strike to push-off. Using special equipment they also measured the position of the body in space, along with over-treadmill and over-ground forces during the foot’s landing. To measure over-ground angles and forces, they used force plates placed in the middle of running tracks for their subjects to run over. What they found was this:

  • Hip angles of bending/straightening, rotation and side-to-side motion was overlapped each other on the treadmill and over-ground graphs.
  • Knee angles had a difference of 2 degrees in the side-to-side motions, but this is still statistically insignificant. Angles of bending/straightening and rotation overlapped each other.
  • Ankle and foot angles of rotation and side-to-side motion also overlapped each other on the two running modes; but the foot landed with less bend (meaning a flatter foot-strike rather than a more angled heel strike) and runners tended to land with a shorter stride between each step.
  • Ground reaction forces were essentially the same, though with slightly increased medial-lateral forces (side forces) on the treadmill. The scientists interpret this as increased side-to-side drift on the treadmill (ironically it is hard to run perfectly straight on a treadmill!). There were very little differences in braking force upon foot-strike, and they were deemed statistically insignificant.

The scientists and and orthopedic specialists attribute the small differences between the two modes of running as psychological effects of running on a treadmill. Runners tended to run shorter strides because of a perceived shorter runway, and on average, their feet tended to land flatter on the treadmill because runners tend to be more psychologically cautious when running on a moving belt. When the barriers of fear and cautiousness are coaxed down, runners run very much the same as if running on ground. Their results show that analyzing a runner’s gait on a treadmill would be kinematically the same as analyzing over-ground.

So, aside from the environmental factors such as wind-resistance, trails, Oregon rain, and smell of the evergreens you pass on your favorite run, you can be assured that your body is doing the same on treadmill belt in your neighborhood gym as it would as running on the Springwater Corridor.

(For more information on Stride Strong PT clinic visit our Home Page or for more articles written by Dr. Holland DPT on common ailments click here.)

By Alice Holland, DPT.
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Ana Lucia Pinheiro
Ana Lucia Pinheiro
02:18 20 Oct 17
This place is amazing. I am so happy I found Stride Strong PT. Alice pays attention to all of the details, she watches every single move I make, my posture, and the way I move through every exercise. She is very knowledgeable, she was able to pin-point the problems in my back and she has a plan to help me become stronger where I need. The place is brand new, huge, and has nice exercise machines. I tried a few physical therapists in the area, and Alice is TOP, second to none, and I feel super lucky to have found her. Highly recommended!!
Prashant Gupta
Prashant Gupta
01:00 02 Oct 17
Dr. Alice at Stride Strong is one of the best PTs I have come across. Her attention to detail and assessment of the root cause of injury is very good. She is excellent in evaluating pain patterns and giving a training schedule for a rehab & injury prevention, she is extremely knowledgeable. I would strongly recommend Stride Strong to anyone looking for PT. It is easily the best PT clinics in Hillsboro area.
steven zollin
steven zollin
20:57 14 Sep 17
Highly recommend Stride Strong Physical Therapy , Alice showed me proper form to assist in recovery with my shoulder and is very knowledgeable.
Lindsay Nied
Lindsay Nied
23:33 18 Dec 17
I recently had a massage from Joel at the Hillsboro location. He was able to work on an ongoing issue I have been experiencing with my back after a sports injury, and I left feeling so much better. The whole facility looked incredible, and everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. I would highly recommend Stride Strong for massage and physical therapy.
JoAnn Hatch
JoAnn Hatch
08:20 08 Nov 17
Dr. Sydney is by far the absolute best physical therapist I've worked with ever! Her expertise in designing highly effective and efficient exercise plans is beyond compare. I feel so much better as my strength and function increases. She comes up with the most brilliant and fun ideas to motivate. To my delight she even offered to come to my home in Vancouver and work with me on my own equipment including a Stott Pilates Reformer. Talk about going above and beyond! Couldn't be more grateful I found her!!!
Clare Perry
Clare Perry
21:58 23 Oct 17
A full hour of a dedicated PT professional's time without aides or techs? That's just one of the things that sets this clinic apart from others. Competent, professional, and amiable, Dr. Alice Holland and her team are the best in the area. While I generally see them at the Cedar Mill Clinic on Cornell, situational constraints took me to their new Hillsboro clinic today near Intel Jones Farm. Beautifully furnished, spacious with easy parking and access. May you continue to grow and thrive, Stride Strong!
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