Are Treadmills Bad for Your Knees?: A Complete Guide

It’s a perfect Friday morning, and heavy rain suddenly pours down.

That means no more early morning outdoor running or road running for you.

Then, your gaze met your treadmill. One thing led to another, and you are now running on the treadmill to meet your daily exercise needs.

While running, a thought popped out: Are treadmills bad for your knees?

Well, that is maybe why you are in this article! Worry not, because, in this write-up, we will lay out all the facts for you to help answer your question.

Are you ready?

Are Treadmills Bad for Your Knees?

On the contrary, treadmills are GOOD for your knees.

In a study, experts say that walking on treadmills is helpful for knee pain, specifically if you have knee osteoarthritis.

It keeps healthy knees by strengthening the bones and muscles, especially when using a treadmill’s incline levels and speed appropriately.

Moreover, you will find yourself on the pro end of the bargain when running on a treadmill.

Why? Treadmill running helps you lessen the impact on your knees and other lower body parts.

Yet, this will only work if you are on a treadmill workout focusing on achieving the perfect cadence, including constant speed and constant pace, with a steadier stride.

Nevertheless, a treadmill workout is not only limited to improving your knee health. It can also give you these benefits:

  • Weight loss from faster calorie burn
  • It makes multitasking easier; working while working out
  • Running or walking without road risks
  • Enhances cognitive health
  • Improves overall mood and energy

How Does the Treadmill Impact the Knees?

It is not a secret that your relationship with a treadmill (running or walking) is a love-hate one.

So, there are two sides to the coin in how the treadmill impacts knees – the positive and negative impacts.

Starting with the POSITIVES, having a treadmill workout will give you these benefits:

  • Enhanced strength in the lower body, such as the gluteus maximus, hips, and knees.
  • It helps improve the stability of lower limb muscles with lesser pressure and load.
  • Treadmill running is suitable for individuals recovering from any knee pain because of its less stiff surface.
  • Treadmill belt running provides a low braking force and better heel strike encounter, which benefits multiple joints.

To balance things out, here are the DOWNSIDES treadmill runners should be wary of:

  • Higher treadmill belt intensity equals higher musculoskeletal system pressure
  • Wrong posture while treadmill running may harm your back and can cause muscle strain
  • Escalated knee stress can be caused by wrong foot landing on the treadmill

Nevertheless, the cons of running or walking on a treadmill belt can be lessened by consistently improving your running style and running form.

You can do this by consulting a personal training coach or your doctor. This will help you achieve your desired goals swiftly.

How to Avoid Knee Pain When Running on a Treadmill

Running on a treadmill belt can sometimes lead you to experience knee pain if you do not have the proper gear, proper form, and a consistent treadmill workout.

But, do not beat yourself too much as we have here tips on avoiding knee pain when treadmill running.

1. Practice Proper Posture

Practicing proper posture will save you from bad knees and even shin splints. It will also lessen unnecessary back pains and body pains.

Moreover, the correct treadmill stance can be your walking or running form. With this, always remember to:

  • Keep your heads up and always look to the front
  • Engage your core
  • Feet apart and directed towards the front
  • Relax your shoulders and arms
  • Keep your back and spine straight

Aside from that, there are also other considerations needed. These are the things you need to AVOID when walking or running on the treadmill:

  • No hunching
  • No looking down unless needed
  • Do not overdo leaning your body forward

2. Choose Your Running Shoes

The right running shoes will not make you feel pain.

You will know if it is the right one if you get fitted in official shoe stores or through these measurements:

  • Half-inch space between the running shoe and the longest toe
  • Snug midfoot and heel in length and width fit

Moreover, you need to be aware that aside from the sizing, there are other factors to consider, too:

  • Ensure more cushioning from the shoe so you can comfortably run on a treadmill belt
  • A flexible running shoe, especially on the heel, is excellent for your conditioning
  • Assure that the running shoe has good shock absorption properties

Visit running shoe-fitting stores in the afternoon as feet tends to get wider during that time

3. Know Your Treadmill Belt

The top priority in your treadmill running lifestyle is the right treadmill belt with the appropriate thickness that translates to impact and grip that will help your leg and knee health be in the most relaxed state.

Here are the three categories of treadmill belts you can choose from:

  • Single Ply – This means the treadmill belt was designed with one piece of rubber, which is not that comfortable when running or walking.
  • 2-Ply – Treadmill belt was created to have upper and lower sides. The upper has PVC rubber, while the lower has cotton, mono-filament, and polyester for extra relief on your stride.
  • 3-Ply – For this treadmill belt, the thickness lies on a three-part layer. The two are similar to the 2-ply, but there is an added PVC rubber for cushioning.

In choosing the right thickness for your treadmill belt, we recommend using the 2-ply belt.

Unlike the single-ply, the 2-ply belt is thick enough to have an excellent grip.

It is also not too thick, contrary to the 3-ply that exaggerates the traction in the treadmill upon a stride affecting how it performs because of the extra layer of rubber.

4. Listen to Your Body

Aside from the technical side of what a treadmill should be composed of, another thing needed of consideration is your physical health.

In your treadmill workout, especially if you have problems with knee joints (e.g., elderly people), always listen to your body.

Do not push it to the point that it will add pressure, more strain, and negatively affect your knee health.

After all, you use the treadmill for therapy or for the good of your knee health.

You can do slower walks or runs until you find the right balance that your body can cope with. Gradually increase your pace after that.

However, if you are a runner and want to practice on a treadmill, you can do your usual running routine.

Yet, always make sure to still listen to your body and not push too hard if your body is not that conditioned at the moment.

5. Appropriate Treadmill Workout

Sure, you can just run on a treadmill if you like. Yet, some routines can improve your runner’s knee apart from that single activity.

With this, you can have a cross-training workout. You will benefit from this workout through the following:

  • Increase muscle and knee strength for running and other activities
  • Give time for knee joints to recuperate while still training
  • Help in avoiding injury on the knees and legs
  • It makes the recovery period faster
  • Variation enhances motivation to workout consistently

The most important thing to remember is to always do warm-up exercises before getting your groove with a treadmill and always cool down after a workout.

Are There Any Differences Between Outdoor and Treadmill Running?

Are you wondering why people tend to like their knees running on a treadmill rather than knees running outdoors?

Are there any differences between these running surfaces?

Yes, there are minimal differences between treadmills and road running, which favors the former while the rest of their characteristics are similar.

Here is a list of what sets treadmill apart from road running based on a study comparing treadmill to overground running, including 33 participants:

  • Running on a treadmill has lower knees impact and higher forces on calf muscles
  • The less stiff surface on a treadmill helps knee rehabilitation rather than an outdoor hard surface
  • The treadmill produces a lower impact on the foot and hip flexion at foot strike

Yet, some differences do not favor treadmill belt running stride, like:

  • Increased knee flexion at foot strike
  • Higher ankle bending

How to Choose the Best Treadmill for Your Knees

Now that everything has been set, you are left with one thing: getting the best treadmills on the market. But how?

In buying your treadmill of choice, make sure you consider the following features as suggested in an article:

  • 2-ply treadmill belt
  • A running surface that fits your size (full standard size)
  • Complete handrail (front and side) for balance
  • Incline option for lesser knee impact
  • Accessible stop button for sudden knee or other emergencies
  • Slatted belts for better running surface and shock absorption
  • Easy-to-assemble

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the treadmill bad for my knees? Is the treadmill good for my knees? We know you have a lot of questions to ask. With that, we answered some in this section!

Is Walking on a Treadmill OK for Bad Knees?

YES, walking on a treadmill is alright for those with bad knees, especially if you have knee osteoarthritis, as it gives you a chance to exercise and improve your knee strength.

Yet, it would help if you have a proper workout routine approved by your doctors.

This routine will include low-impact workouts for your legs and knees to prevent injuries that can alleviate your current knee problems.

Is It OK to Walk on a Treadmill Every Day?

YES, you can do it every day for low-impact running or walking.

However, it would be best if you vary your speed, incline, and running or walking intensity so that you don’t stress your knees, joints, and muscles too much.

For those who are used to a high-impact treadmill workout, you should do cross-training and skip a day between extreme treadmill activities to give your knees time to recover.

Does Treadmill Incline Hurt Your Knees?

YES, it can hurt your knees, particularly if you have existing injuries or excessive unguided workouts.

A higher incline will cause pain in your knee, joints, and patellar tendon.

However, you can prevent this with proper workouts and guidance from your doctors or training coaches.

Does a Person’s Weight Affect the Knees When Using the Treadmill?

Yes, it can affect the knees as the weight impacts the pressure on the knees when running on a treadmill.

However, it is essential to remember that regularly doing this can help with weight loss as it burns more calories.


After all these, we go back to this point: Is a treadmill bad for your knees?

The straightforward answer is NO.

Treadmills are not bad for your knees as it helps with knee strength, rehabilitation, weight loss, overall health, lesser knee impact, hand foot and hip flexion.

However, you can only achieve these benefits if you follow these:

  • Appropriate speed for running as advised by doctors and personal training coaches
  • Have the most comfortable running surface for an efficient stride
  • Use the proper incline for knees running on a treadmill
  • Have the appropriate running shoes that have a shock absorber
  • Take warm-up and cool down seriously before and after running on the treadmill
  • Assure the proper posture while running on a treadmill

What are you waiting for? Get your treadmills now if you do not have one, and get your healthy knees journey started indoors!