There is an ongoing debate as to whether we should prioritize the treadmill or the great outdoors when it comes to running.
Every runner is likely to have a personal preference, but is one really better than the other?
We’ve summarized the pros and cons of both outdoor and treadmill running to help you decide what’s best for you.
If you are working towards a particular goal or event it’s likely that your environment will matter, but there are other factors to consider.
So what are they?
Outdoor Running is Stimulating
For many people, running outdoors takes away the repetitive, and sometimes boring, nature of running.
When we are bored, adherence is harder to come by!
Outdoor Running Supports Competition Prep
If you are training for specific events such as mountain racing or a marathon, running in an environment that mimics real life is crucial.
For example, mountain running requires working in an oxygen deficit to mimic the lack of oxygen at altitude.
Marathons may involve different surfaces such as uneven roads, hills, or grass which treadmills cannot (as accurately) account for.
Outdoor Running Promotes Mindfulness
Training in nature and sunshine can improve mood and wellbeing by helping us to switch off, de-stress, and breathe in that fresh air.
Outdoor Running is Free
Running outdoors is affordable and highly accessible- no pricey gym fees required!
Outdoor Running Helps to Build Strong Bones
While the unpredictability of outdoor terrain does come with risk of injury, the impact of the ground promotes bone loading and can, therefore, improve bone strength!
Outdoor Running Puts Stress on Joints
Investing in a good pair of trainers and managing your stride length can help to mitigate the pressure on joints, but it is thought outdoors running might have more impact on joints than the treadmill.
There’s also that tiny problem of training in winter weather conditions!
Treadmills have come a long way in recent years and are even used by pro athletes as part of their training regimes.
So why do we rate them?
The Weather Doesn’t Matter!
Whatever the weather, the treadmill can be relied on!
It might be the reliable training best friend you need during those cold, dark winter nights.
Treadmills are Better for the Joints
Modern tread belts are now fitted with shock absorption and cushioning for your foot strike and can decrease the risk of knee injury.
This also makes it a great option for injury and illness rehab by removing the issue of road impact.
Treadmills use Advanced Technology
While it still isn’t the great outdoors, many treadmills can now be customized to mimic outdoor terrain with settings for sprint intervals, hill training, anti-gravity, and competition.
You can even collect detailed stats and monitor vitals during training.
Curved treadmills are powered by bodyweight alone, mimicking a natural footstrike and recruiting more muscle activation by encouraging the natural gait of outdoor running.
Treadmills can feel repetitive. You might find your engagement dwindling!
There’s also a factor of cost with your average run-of-the-mill tread costing into the hundreds or the option of paying a monthly membership.
 Van Hooren B, Fuller JT, Buckley JD, et al. Is Motorized Treadmill Running Biomechanically Comparable to Overground Running? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cross-Over Studies. Sports Med. 2020;50(4):785-813. doi:10.1007/s40279-019-01237-z
 Capodaglio P, Vercelli S, Colombo R, Capodaglio EM, del Moro VM, Franchignoni F. Il treadmill in medicina riabilitativa: caratteristiche tecniche e criteri di selezione [Treadmills in rehabilitation medicine: technical characteristics and selection criteria]. G Ital Med Lav Ergon. 2008 Apr-Jun;30(2):169-77. Italian. PMID: 19068865.