The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Can Running On a Treadmill Hurt Your Feet? Yes!

Posted by on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012


I knew I was driving people at the gym crazy. I had an injury that wasn’t healed enough for me to run for more than short periods at a time, so I was using the elliptical a lot. But the elliptical bored me to tears and I felt I was not getting that hard of a workout. So I started alternating between the elliptical and the treadmill–ten minutes on the elliptical, jump off, and do five hard minutes on the treadmill, then back to the elliptical, over and over again. In other words, I was kind of hogging two machines at once. Well, not really, I moved all my things off each one each time I got off, but that’s not the point of the story. This is: one day I jumped off the treadmill, raced to the elliptical, then jumped back on  the treadmill. Bang! I flew off, and found myself on the ground, with bruises rapidly forming on my forearms. Apparently some idiot had left the treadmill on. When I got on without noticing the machine was one, the fast moving belt threw me off. Idiot! Oh wait, that idiot was me.

So yes, you can certainly get hurt on a treadmill. I’m sure it’s easy for people to imagine how falling off, missing a step, tangling your feet as you become transfixed by an episode of “The Doctors,” can lead to some nasty injuries. But how about when you are staying upright on the treadmill and seemingly doing everything right? Well, yes, you can still get Injuries of the Foot Kind.

It’s not uncommon for people who run or walk on treadmills frequently to develop foot injuries. I know, you’re thinking, “Wait one second, I bought a treadmill to protect myself from injuries. This one is supposed to have cushioning to save my knees and feet. Are you saying I’ve been defrauded?” Calm down, Drama Monarch, your treadmill is what it is. The real culprit? Repetitive motion. Podiatry Today notes that people typically walk at a rate of 90-120 steps per minute. On a treadmill, though, they walk at a much higher rate of steps per minute and keep that pace up steadily for an unusual period of time. Walking or running on a sharp incline can lead to wear and tear on the knees as a result of a shortened stride. Moreover, all of this takes place on a constant, unvarying surface. As a result, people who run frequently on treadmills can develop plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis or ruptured Achilles tendons, and neuromas.

All of these conditions should be treated professionally, so if you find yourself experiencing foot pain after running steadily on a treadmill, you should seek help from a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). In addition to treating the pain and helping you heal properly, a podiatrist may be able to give you orthotics or padding for your shoes that can prevent some of the problems. Podiatrists also will likely recommend that you make sure you’re stretching properly before working out on your treadmill, especially your Achilles tendons. Podiatry Today suggest lowering the incline of a treadmill when you run; you may think it’s awesome an workout to run up that 15% incline for a half hour at a time but in the long term you may be doing the kind of damage that will knock you out of the running game for a while. It’s also important to control the speed you use while you’re on a treadmill. Don’t set it at a pace you can’t handle; also try varying the speed.

On a personal note, I will say this: get outside, or do something else. There are a lot of pros and cons to running outside vs. running inside on a treadmill, but one huge pro for outside is that the ground is constantly varying. Even the tiniest change in level or direction will give your feet a break that they don’t get when you run on the treadmill. That actually increases the benefits of your workout too, as your body is constantly in action, adjusting to the variations in the environment.

I understand, though, that when it’s pouring rain or the ground is covered with ice, you may not want to run outside so the treadmill is fine then. However, if you find yourself stuck indoors for a long period of time, try alternating other activities. If you belong to a gym, take a class–spinning, in the hands of the right instructor, can be a great workout and it will give your feet a nice break. Don’t worry if you hate the environment of spin classes (“Umm, excuse me, that’s the bike I always use. I can’t function if I don’t use that bike.”) or if they don’t fit your schedule. You can create your own spin class with a routine such as this one or use one of these general interval training plans that can be adjusted to any kind of cardio activity. If you don’t belong to a gym, try one of the many home workout plans that will offer you a treadmill break. You don’t want to wear your feet out, do you?

If you have a foot issue that’s hurting you or just generally flummoxing you, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.