Learning Forefoot Running on a Treadmill May Cause Injury

If you are learning forefoot running, the treadmill may not be the wisest place to start off. This is because the treadmill can alter your balance, and therefore if you have weak hips or over-pronate, the treadmill may worsen these biomechanical ailments.

Learning Forefoot Running on a Treadmill May Cause Injury

Treadmill running has been shown to impair balance and is not the place for forefoot running learners.  Some runners have muscle strength imbalances and show less stability while running on a treadmill.

Therefore, the best way to learn forefoot running safely is to do so overground and not on a treadmill.

  • One study even cautioned runners with weak leg muscles to avoid treadmill running and should run outdoors to improve muscle strength.

The Main Source of Strength Imbalance in Forefoot Runners

Muscle strength imbalances are partly due to weak adductors and hip flexors.

  • Weak hip muscles cause gait instability, influencing ITBS, runners knee,and Achilles tendinopathy.

Additionally, many runners have pronation issues and ankle instabilities which also alter balance when running. However, adopting a forefoot strike over a heel strike may reduce overpronation.

Runners should avoid treadmill running as it impair balanceA runner with hip weaknesses and/or excessively pronates, should not run on a treadmill. Here’s why:

  • treadmill running may exacerbate gait imbalances, as it is known to impose balance alterations
  • runners may have a less controlled gait on a treadmill thereby increasing risk of injury
  • the best practices for improving muscle strength imbalances and prevent lower leg injury is to run outside

The Take Home Message

Muscle strength imbalances causes a forefoot running learner to be less sturdy on a treadmill.

If you’re not the most balanced, gait-sturdy runner on the road, the treadmill will be your worst enemy. Not to mention, it is still debatable if treadmill running truly approximates overground running.

Learning forefoot running is synonymous with natural running and doesn’t include running on a treadmill.

More on the Proper Way to Run, with a Forefoot Strike, not a Heel Strike:

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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