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A treadmill is a great way to stay active in the comfort of your own home. Whether you’re using it to just get in some extra steps throughout the day or to help you prep for your marathon, a treadmill has many different use cases. That said, with any type of physical activity, including using a treadmill, there is a chance of injury. Certain types of injuries are more common on treadmills, but just because there is a risk doesn’t mean you should skip the treadmill altogether.
Our team has been using and test the best treadmills for years, and we’ve endured our share of injuries related to running, so we’ve put together this guide of common treadmill injuries to look out for and how to avoid them.
Common Treadmill Injuries
Even though, yes, treadmills can be dangerous especially if they’re used improperly, knowing what risks and injuries can occur is a great way to help keep you aware so you can better prevent an accident or injury. After all, knowledge is power, right?
Getting the most scary of injuries out of the way – falling off a treadmill. Motorized treadmills have moving belts that require you to keep up with the set pace. Because the surface is moving, there is a chance to slip, trip, and even fall while using a treadmill. I’ve tripped on non-moving ground, so adding the fact that the belt is moving while you’re running on it, definitely increases the risk of falling. Falling can sometimes result in a couple of bruises or so, or it can cause serious injuries.
Running is a high-impact activity so feeling some aches and pains in your lower body, especially in your knees and ankles is fairly common. Hip pain can also occur. Sprains, twists, and tears are common injuries. Pain and injuries in the joints can happen from improper form, over-training, or just misstepping.
Treadmills mainly work your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. As with any exercise, muscle strains and pulls can occur when using a treadmill. Things like poor form, overuse, and overtraining are common causes of muscle strains on treadmills. Because the belt keeps moving, you might not notice if you struggle to keep up with the set pace. This could mean you start over-striding or sacrificing your form in other ways to stay at the treadmill’s set speed.
Lower Body Pain/Injuries
Other common injuries from treadmills can happen in the ligaments and tendons, as well as other parts of the lower body. The most common are Achilles tendon injuries, ligament sprains, and foot pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Foot pain, especially in the arch and heel is common from treadmills.
How To Avoid Common Treadmill Injuries
There’s of course no way of completely avoiding an injury, sometimes accidents just happen, but you can do the following to help lower your risk of injury while using a treadmill.
The safety key is designed to immediately shut off the moving belt when pulled. The safety key on a treadmill plugs into the console and has a string attached with a clip at the end so you can clip it to your clothing. In case you were to fall, having the safety key clipped to yourself will shut the belt off to help prevent you from being thrown to the back of the deck. If you were to fall and the belt keeps moving, this could result in even more injuries than just the fall itself.
Make Sure The Belt Is Off
This might seem obvious, but whenever you step on and off the treadmill, the belt shouldn’t be moving. It’s common to hop on the side rails on either side of the belt while the belt is moving, but if you completely step off the belt it shouldn’t be moving. Even if you were to just briefly pause your workout to answer a phone call or go to the bathroom, we recommend completely stopping the belt. If you were to leave the belt moving while you hop off the treadmill briefly, you risk the chance of forgetting the belt is moving and stepping on the back and falling backward. Turning the belt off completely is the best way to avoid this.
Warm-Up and Cool-Down
With any type of physical activity, it’s important to make sure your body is properly warmed up before working out and cooled down after. Jumping right into a sprint while your muscles are cold and not warmed up, increases your chance of getting hurt. You can warm up on the treadmill, off the treadmill, or both. The important thing is to focus on gradually increasing your heart rate and getting your muscles warm. Dynamic movements like walking lunges and high knees can be great exercises to incorporate in your warmup as well, although it’s a good idea to perform these off of your treadmill.
Cooling down is important to let your heart rate gradually lower. It’s also a good idea to stretch after using your treadmill to help prevent injury. Stretching also helps aid in recovery. We recommend stopping your treadmill’s belt and stepping off the treadmill entirely to properly stretch your muscles.
Wear Proper Footwear
Foot pain, as I mentioned, is a common treadmill injury. One way to help prevent this, as well as pain in other parts of your body is by wearing proper footwear. Running shoes provide arch support and cushioning that is meant to help give your feet and body more support.
Check out our best treadmill running shoes, to find the perfect pair for you.
Your running position can contribute to treadmill injury prevention, too. Proper running mechanics are always a good idea when you’re running, whether that’s on a treadmill or outside. Keeping your body in proper alignment and your posture correct is a great way to help avoid injuries and to help you keep your balance.
Know Your Limitations
With any exercise, you should know your limitations. It’s also important to consult with your doctor before beginning a new training program, especially if you’re new to exercise or are coming back after an injury. This means that you shouldn’t use a treadmill at a speed you can’t keep up with. You also shouldn’t incline or decline (if applicable) the deck at a grade you’re not comfortable with.
Another aspect of a treadmill to consider is the deck cushioning. This is the amount of give in the deck when your feet land while walking, jogging, and running. Some treadmills have more forgiving cushioning than others. For example, NordicTrack has some of the most cushioned treadmills that we’ve tested. This means that they feel softer underfoot and can be better if you have lower body discomfort and sensitivity while running. Firmer treadmill decks, like Sole Treadmills, on the other hand, are great if you’re a road runner looking to simulate the experience of running outside, but if you are prone to discomfort, you might want to consider a more cushioned deck.
Overall, treadmills are very beneficial and a great way to be active while at home. To help stay safe and avoid injury, it’s important to use a treadmill properly, know your physical limitations, and listen to your body. Yes, treadmills, as with any form of exercise and workout equipment, come with risks, but the benefits of physical activity far outweigh these risks.
If you want to learn even more treadmill safety tips, check this out, and if you’re ready to purchase a treadmill, make sure to check out our best treadmills list to find the perfect model for you. All of these models have been hand-selected as well as thoroughly tested by our team.