I commonly get asked if it’s okay to learn forefoot running on a treadmill. I personally don’t like the idea and I believe a new running style should be learned over-ground.
Can You Learn Forefoot Running on a Treadmill?
Donoghue et al. (2008) noted that treadmill running may influence injurious kinematics, such as prolonged foot contact. Hutson (1996) also found that long foot contact occurred on unstable surfaces, such as a treadmill. In this case, the calf musculature might contract more in attempt to control pronation and prolonged contraction increases stiffness in the gastrocnemius or soleus, increasing the risk of Achilles injury.
The data implies a significant downside to learning forefoot running on a treadmill: injury. This is perhaps not surprising, given that humans did not evolve to run on a treadmill. Because of this, learning forefoot running overground is the smartest move because it provides a better indicator of true motion.
On the flip side, when modifying their form, runners tend to behave a little different on a treadmill, mostly by exhibiting impaired balance and exaggerated kinematics which may theoretically increase injury occurrence.
More From Run Forefoot:
Donoghue et al. Lower limb kinematics of subjects with chronic achilles tendon injury during running. Res Sports Med, 2008;16:23-38.
Hutson MA (1996) Sports Injuries: Recognition and Management (2nd ed) New York: Oxford University Press.
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.