Over the last several years, I’ve generally avoided mixing treadmills and running. Walking on a treadmill — noproblem. First off, I just don’t enjoy it that much. Reminds me too much of work. But I’ve always wondered if something about the actual mechanics of treadmill running could lead to injury.
The last several months have been hectic at work, and I’ve had more travel than normal, which isn’t always conducive to my exercise routine. This means I’ve spent more time in hotel gyms at night. This past week was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I hit the hotel gym’s treadmill and went running, completing a 5-mile workout. The next morning, I could feel the inflammation in my right foot. It had the tingling, tight sensation I associate with the beginnings of tendinitis, so now I’m worried I may have set up something chronic.
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this after running on a treadmill, and an investigation into this leads me to believe treadmill running alters my normal gait. The normal gait cycle for running includes heel strike, mid-foot weight bearing, and toe push-off. At least one analysis suggests that, since the treadmill is an unstable moving surface, the cycle is abbreviated, thereby increasing the risk of injury.
I’d have to say that for me, it does.
I have another issue that may complicate this problem. Several years ago, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in my right knee. I had reconstructive surgery, but I still don’t think its quite right. When I decided to take up running, I went to a local shoe store that specializes in running shoes. During a gait analysis, they noticed that I have an uneven stride, without being told about the injury.
So, as far as I’m concerned, mixing treadmills and running are like oil and water. I’ve wrestled with this a few times before, and it seems like any time I spend much time on a treadmill, I end up favoring my left foot.
I’d love to hear what other runners think of treadmill running. Do you think it makes a difference in your running, or is this just my imagination?