Running on a Treadmill vs Outside – What’s the Verdict?

January 13th, 2022

Whether you love the fresh air and the challenge of an outdoor track, or the convenience of the treadmill appeals to you, we all have our preferences when it comes to running.

Here is a breakdown of running on a treadmill vs outside, and some pros and cons of each style of running.

Running outside

Running outside is free, accessible and it allows you to get some much needed fresh air.

Benefits of running outside

running outside

  • You can explore new areas
    When you run outdoors, you are never limited to one route. You can explore many different routes, different terrains and see some really amazing scenery along the way.
  • You don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment
    It is free to run outside. You aren’t locked into any gym contracts, or limited by the constraints of the gym’s opening times and availability of treadmill machines.
  • Running outside is accessible even when travelling
    No matter where you travel, you are always able to find a track to run on outside. This is a fantastic way to sightsee a new destination and get the blood pumping all at the same time. Just make sure you plan your route safely beforehand.
  • Provides you with a challenge
    Running outside is notably more difficult than running on a treadmill. Factors such as uneven terrain, temperature, weather conditions and wind resistance can greatly impact the difficulty of your outdoor run. Being challenged is key to improving both your running capability and general cardio fitness level.
  • An ideal marathon training setting
    Outdoor runs are fantastic for your endurance, and are always recommended if you are marathon training as they provide a more realistic setting to train. You can even choose tracks which mimic the terrain of your upcoming marathon. Running outdoors allows your muscles and joints to adapt to the varied terrains you will encounter during a marathon, and make you more prepared when it comes to adapting to surface elevations and weather changes.
  • The benefit of fresh air
    Being outside in the fresh air has been proven to have positive impacts on mental health, by reducing stress levels. Being able to take in nature provides a good break from the stresses of everyday work life. You also get exposed to vital Vitamin D (but remember to always wear sun protection).
  • Higher calorie burn
    Running outdoors burns more calories, due to wind resistance and uneven terrain, which requires you to exert more effort in keeping up your pace.

Disadvantages of running outside

  • You may be more prone to injury
    The outdoor terrain can be unpredictable, and whenever you run outdoors there is a small risk of injury. These injuries can include ankle sprains and strains, cuts, abrasions, knee injuries and shin splints. It is imperative you have proper running shoes and running accessories to minimise your chance of injury.

running shoes

  • You may be limited by the weather
    The weather can be unpredictable, and not every day can be clear and sunny. It can be more difficult to run in bad weather. Rain can create slippery surfaces and reduced visibility, and on the other hand running in hot conditions isn’t always ideal as you risk suffering from heat exhaustion. For those living in extreme climates, running outdoors is not an option.
  • You may be limited by daylight hours
    It is simply not an option for many people to run at night time, as it is a safety issue. If you choose to do so, make sure to wear reflective clothing (especially if you run on or near a road), and always tell a loved one or a friend your whereabouts.

Treadmill running

Treadmill running is convenient and can be accessed no matter what the weather conditions outside, making it a desirable choice for many.

Benefits of treadmill running

running on treadmill

  • Controlled environment
    When you run indoors on a treadmill you get to control many aspects of the run including incline, intervals and speed. This can be a fantastic option for beginners as you can set the pace slower, and increase it over time, and as your running stamina improves. For more experienced runners, you can do interval sprints, as well as doing longer runs on a higher incline for a more challenging run.
  • You can run no matter what the weather is doing outside
    Hail, rain or shine, you can run on a treadmill regardless. This is incredibly convenient for people living in places where it rains for large portions of the year, or the outdoor weather is less than desirable for running.
  • Convenience and added safety
    For many of us, we have to factor time for running into our work schedule. This often only leaves for evenings and very early mornings when it is still dark outside. As mentioned, this simply is not a safe option for many people. By running on a treadmill at home or at the gym, you are in a safe enclosed and well-lit environment, which is not constrained by daylight hours.
  • Track your progress
    Most treadmills have inbuilt features which will record pace, distance, calories burned and heart rate. This is all helpful information when it comes to tracking your progress.
  • Softer on your joints
    Treadmill runs may be better for your joints as the cushioned treadmill belt provides some shock absorption and padding, which reduces stress on your joints. This makes it a favourable option for those with joint issues, or those getting back into running after recovering from an injury.

Disadvantages of treadmill running

  • Fixed environment
    You miss out on experiencing the great outdoors when running on a treadmill.
  • There is no option to set a downhill incline
    Most treadmills are fixed on being able to adjust uphill incline only. Downhill running helps to strengthen the anterior tibialis muscles located at the front of your legs. By only running on a treadmill, you may miss out on training this muscle.
  • You have to run in a fixed direction
    There is no option on a treadmill to turn, which limits the opportunity to improve your lateral agility while running.
  • Added cost
    Gym memberships or purchasing your own treadmill can be expensive. You need to factor this into deciding the best method of run training for you.

Our final thoughts

No matter what method you choose, running is one of the best things you can do for your body, as it has an array of health benefits. Not only does it keep your cardiovascular health in check, it allows for muscle activation and endurance building as well. Also – the endorphin rush you get post-run (also known as ‘runner’s high’) is hard to beat, and a fantastic way of combating the stresses of everyday life. When it comes to running on a treadmill vs outside, there are pros and cons of each method, and most runners find themselves using a combination of both.

In order to get the most out of your run, we always recommend that you get yourself the right gear. Pure Running stocks the best running sunglasses from Goodr, which are designed for runners by runners. They are non-slip, non-bounce and provide you with UV protection whilst you tackle your outdoor runs.

Goodr running sunglasses

Whether you’re on the treadmill or out in the great outdoors, a good pair of high quality running shoes is imperative. You need good support when you are tackling the track, so you can perform at your best. Shop our range of running shoes here.