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Choosing the best shoes for treadmill running

Is running on a treadmill any different to running on road or ‘over-ground’. The answer is clearly ‘yes’. But what are the differences and what effect might that have on the running shoes you should wear?

We spoke to Simon Bartold, International Research Consultant for ASICS, to find out his take on the situation and why ASICS now have a treadmill specific shoe. Simon said that there are a growing number of people who are training on treadmills but are never training on the road. He has looked at the differences between the two and what can be done about this in terms of running shoe design.

He started by explaining, “With over ground running your foot gives a propulsive force which accelerates your centre of mass and propels you forwards. You have got to accelerate it and catch it. You often hear ‘gait’ talked about as a series of linked falls. You are always on the brink of catastrophe. If you don’t catch it you will fall over.
“On a treadmill the centre of mass is static. You don’t manipulate it forwards. So biomechanically it is very different. There is no forward progress – the running surface disappears behind the athlete. This creates an unstable environment. There is a continually moving entity – the belt. The key function of the leg muscles is not to produce propulsive power it is just to keep you up with the speed of the belt. You have got a vertical displacement but not horizontal displacement.”

This is a key difference in treadmill running but there are other differences. Treadmill running is easier due to the fact there is no wind resistance, no variation in terrain and no change in speed. Simon explained that research shows that there is a lower heart rate and oxygen consumption when compared to over-ground running.

Simon continued, “There are biomechanical and kinematic differences. Your stride length is the same at lower speed but as you go faster on a treadmill your stride length gets greater and your stride rate decreases. Your support time increases as you are trying to get yourself on a more stable position. It becomes very important as you are on an unstable surface.”

These are not the only differences found. Touch down position changes as you become likely to strike the ground more to the outside of the heel, there is more need of stability, propulsive power and direction are different on a treadmill and there is more heat generated in the shoe due to the friction of the belt.
What Simon’s research has also found is that the differences between treadmill and over-ground running are greater for women.

These differences have led to the development of the ASICS Gel Treadmill. Simon said: “There is a more lateral touch down [landing is more to the outside of the heel] so we have moved the Gel and high abrasion rubber, the edge is more rounded than a conventional shoe.” Simon continued: “There is more peak pressure on the forefoot when running on the track. There is not as much pressure on the treadmill as it is more yielding. You don’t need forefoot Twist Gel cushioning. That’s a good thing as gel is heavy. If you can make a shoe lighter you make it lighter.” A cooling system allows greater airflow through the midsole and sockliner has also been created.

The ASICS Gel Treadmill is designed for out and out treadmill use. It is fine for some on-road use but is not suited to large amounts of this so is really a running shoe for those who run predominantly on the treadmill.

What are the implications for those of us who mix the treadmill with ‘over-ground’ running?
It would seem that we should be recognising that for taking the treadmill running into account we should be looking for shoes with a more rounded (bevelled) heel strike zone, perhaps slightly more support than we usually would go for and a shoe with good breathability.

Some of these running shoes may suit you if you normally go for a neutral shoe:
Puma Complete Eutopia
adidas Supernova Cushion
ASICS Gel Nimbus IX
Brooks Glycerin 6
Saucony ProGrid Triumph 5
Mizuno Wave Rider 11

If you usually use a support shoe:
ASICS Gel Treadmill
Nike Air Structure Triax XI
Puma Complete Tenos V
adidas Supernova Control
Mizuno Wave Inspire 4
Saucony Omni ProGrid 6


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