Treadmills Versus Running on the Street: Differences and Advantages

Treadmills Versus Running on the Street: Differences and Advantages

Last update: 11 July, 2018

You do not need to be a fitness or running expert to know that they are not the same thing. But are there really differences between running on treadmills and running on the street?

There are certain days where the circumstances make it impossible to run on the street. It could be the weather, or it could be that you do not have the time. In these instances, treadmills are definitely the best substitute. They are valuable tools for running enthusiasts.

Nevertheless, running on a treadmill is different from running outside, where factors like wind resistance or the running surface can affect the amount of effort we expend to maintain a certain speed.

Your stride

Woman running on a treadmill
If the weather does not allow you to run outside, you can always get on the treadmill.

Your hamstring muscles generate the traction needed to propel your center of gravity forward while running.

When running on a treadmill, they are exerted less, and suffer as a result. This is because the movement of the surface itself helps us forward.

Meanwhile, there is also less need for plantar support, where shock absorption is reduced. In this sense, our extensive musculature will be exerted less.

Our stride on a treadmill in not identical to our stride on the street, but it is practically the same. What are the small differences that set them apart?

The change in the way we work out our muscles makes the treadmill the ideal device for improving our stride frequency. In other words, it increases our stride per minute. However, it will not help if you want to increase the length of your stride.

It is common to see regular treadmill users who have a high stride frequency but a short stride length.

Other considerations regarding treadmills

Treadmill users experience a greater risk of decompensation, as the anterior musculature tends to work harder. This can result in an increased risk of suffering a knee injury.

What for some, may be a disadvantage of using the treadmill becomes a positive for others. For example, when used by athletes who have recently suffered an injury. This is due to the fact that it causes less impact on the joints than running on the street.

You can strike a good balance between these two forms of running. Athletes can use the treadmill to begin their training. They can then start running on the street, which is where they will have to compete. They can reserve the treadmill for improving their running technique and performance without experiencing a decrease in stamina.

Perception of speed

Woman running on road

One benefit of running on treadmills is the ability to establish a predetermined pace for constant running without worry (unless we increase the risk of falling by accelerating the pace).

Our perception of the speed we run at will not affect our pace when we are on the treadmill. Conversely, the sense of our own speed can be affected by multiple factors when running on the street.

Your mood

One benefit of choosing to run outdoors rather than in a gym is the effect it can have on your mood.

The University of Glasgow produced a study showing that, although being active at the gym is important, adding outdoor physical activities can have a positive effect on our well-being.

After analyzing data from nearly 2,000 participants of the 2008 Scottish Health Study, researchers found that people who exercised in green spaces surrounded by trees were 50 percent more likely to enjoy better mental health than those who exercised indoors. This resulted in better sleep and a significant reduction in depression levels.

This led researchers to conclude that it is possible to link open-air exercise with a decrease in stress, confusion, anger, and depression–when compared to similar indoor activities.


Treadmills present a greater risk of falling, especially in people without experience using them. This also applies to users over a certain age, given that balancing oneself on the machine is more complicated than walking or running down the street.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.