Is It Better to Run on a Treadmill or Outside For Your Knees?

is running on treadmill bad for knees
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Uhm… Yes and No.

You see, running on treadmill can be good or bad for your knees.

Treadmill running boils down a lot to the treadmill itself…

Some treadmill is great to run on due to the fact that it has a spring/suspension to absorb the impact of each stride.

On the other hand, there are treadmill which has an extremely rigid surface with lack of suspension or spring to absorb the impact of every stride.

In comparison, outside running is affected by the type of surface (grass, tarmac, track), winding road, hillls, etc…

Let’s dive in to learn more about it!

Is Running on Treadmill Bad for Your Knees?

Before I begin, let’s understand how treadmill running works…

Basically, when you are running on a treadmill, you are running similar to running on the spot because of the backward motion of the treadmill.

With each stride, your leg is ‘assisted’ by the backward motion of the treadmill.

is running on treadmill bad for knees

Due to this, you may have the tendency to over-stride during treadmill running.

Over-striding places a lot of pressure on the knee with each stride, on top of that, a rigid surface will surely wreck your knees over time.

over-striding knee pain

In simple words, running on treadmill is not bad for your knees, it’s about your running technique that’s the cause of your knee pain.

Running with a flawed technique is the recipe for disaster (long list of potential injuries).

correct running form

How Does Flawed Running Technique Affect You?

Simple words: It causes a lot of injuries!

Our knee is an extremely complex joint and there are plenty of ways that you can directly and indirectly increase the pressure on the knee.

Common examples are over-striding and hip drop running which may lead to knee injuries.

hip drop running

Our body is constantly adapting to our routine even with a flawed technique, your body initially can cope with it.

It won’t take too long before your body give you signs of ‘pre-injury’, i.e., pain and discomfort.

knee pain after running

When you feel any unusual pain after running (not muscle sore), do give yourself a break from running.

If you are having knee pain after running on a treadmill or outside, then consult a sports therapist to diagnose and fix the root problem(s).

Don’t be shy to get help!

How About Outside Running?

Both outside running and treadmill running has equally the same risk of potential injuries.

You are still running, aight?

If you are used to running on the treadmill and now you want to run outside, do take it slow and steady.

Let your body adapt to running outside before you attempt to run hard.

In my opinion, I personally don’t like treadmill running, but if you can’t run outside nor any other alternative, then go ahead with treadmill running.

Here are the pros and cons of outside running vs treadmill running.

Running on tarmac can be extremely hard on your joints especially knee and ankle.

Try to run on grass or the track to save your joints from unnecessary impact.

In addition, get a proper running shoes before you start running. Using a proper running shoes can reduce the risk of injuries!

Why Does Your Knees Hurt After Running?

Knee pain after running can be caused by many factors such as improper running technique, overtraining, improper running shoes and lack of flexibility.

Even running on hard surface can cause knee pain!

Running is a high impact exercise and it can cause a lot of injuries if you don’t take extra care in preventing injuries from occuring.

If you have existing knee pain, don’t run through the pain.

Taking a few days off from running to let your body recover is better than suffering a severe knee injury.

What Can You Do To Prevent Knee Pain?

Preventing knee injuries is much easier than treating it.

Here are some tips on how you can prevent knee pain:

  1. Take it easy, don’t over-do it during your runs.
  2. Maximum increase of volume/intensity per week is 10%, stick to around 5% to keep it bearable.
  3. Rest day after a hard training session.
  4. Do proper warm up and cooldown session before and after your runs, respectively.
  5. Have a good night’s sleep of 6-8 hours, every night.
  6. Do strength workout to improve your muscle strength.
  7. Try cross-training such as cycling, swimming and yoga.

Difference Between Knee Pain and Knee Injuries


Pain is an indicator of tissue damage…

However, pain doesn’t mean you are injured.

When you have a knee injury, it is usually extremely painful and aggravated by certain movement (walking, standing, sitting, etc).

It will also last more than a week and may get worse if not treated.

When You Should Get Help?

Mild knee pain and knee injuries usually go away on its own.

However, if the pain doesn’t go away or it gets worse, then you need to get help.

You should head over to your local physiotherapist or sports therapist to diagnose your problem and get it treated immediately.

Note: Muscles soreness usually last 3-5 days only, if it last beyond a week, it means you over-worked your muscles.

Don’t be shy/embarrassed to get help before your problem worsen!

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