A recent study found ‘no difference’ between indoor and outdoor running – but do we agree?
If the cold, wet and dark winter months challenge your motivation to run outside, or if your outdoor running options are limited, you may turn to the ‘dread-mill’ to get your training miles in.
A recent study has shown little difference between outdoor and indoor running, but many runners would disagree – or certainly have a preference for one over the other.
Here we explore just how different running is on a treadmill, compared with running outdoors.
Research shows ‘no difference’ to outdoor running
A recent review of studies comparing the biomechanical differences of running on a motorised treadmill compared with overground running showed similar results. This is great news for runners who struggle to get outdoors.
But, what about those coming back from injury? Research says treadmill running puts less force through the tibia and can help with lowering the risk of tibia stress fractures. However, the flipside is that running exclusively on a treadmill will not help strengthen the tibial bone.
Runners tend to adopt a shorter stride length on a treadmill, which can have an impact on the patellofemoral joint and Achilles tendon. Therefore, for those with calf tightness or Achilles tendon issues, it might be better to stick mainly to softer, outdoor surfaces.
However, your choices need not be limited. A gait analysis can help to detect issues that may be affecting you, and customised footwear can help with comfort, whatever your preferred running surface.
What are the benefits of indoor running?
Let’s be clear, running on a treadmill feels very different to running outside. The feeling of running on a belt continuously moving beneath your feet can be disconcerting, taking time to get used to. There are also mental health benefits to running outside, or running in a group – but this is not always possible, or convenient with other life demands.
As well as overcoming wet, icy or cold conditions, there are other benefits to treadmill running. These include:
- Simplicity – it’s a great place to start, when you don’t feel ready to run outside – or when you can’t
- Control – the ability to change the speed, incline and duration to suit your training needs
- Training/Assessment – allowing a movement specialist, physical therapist or coach to give feedback and advice on running technique to help with retraining gait strategies, training drills or as part of rehabilitation.
Helping with your footwear choices
At Profeet, one of the key ways we assess your feet and lower body movement is by doing an analysis on a gait treadmill. Unlike typical gym treadmills, our professional gait treadmills have minimal bounce, to help simulate how the body responds to running on roads and pavements. This allows us to assess your running technique so we can give advice, help with footwear selection and custom insoles for enhanced performance.
The good news is that customised running footwear based on your individual needs will be suitable for running both indoors or outdoors – so you don’t need to fork out on extra shoes. However, if you prefer the soft, rocky or muddy outdoor terrain, then trail shoes with more grip will help to keep you upright.