Treadmill Running vs Street Running

Learn the difference between these two methods of running.

Many of us will stick to running on the treadmill due to the convenience factor. We either have one in our homes or have access to one at the gym. We find it convenient because we don’t have to go out of our way to run on one. Whereas if you choose to go on a traditional run, you must go outside. And that takes a lot of effort, especially on extremely hot or extremely cold days. But, just how similar are the two? The answer may shock you!

Running on a treadmill may feel somewhat easier physically because the ground is being pulled underneath you and there isn’t any wind resistance. However, running outside demands more from your body because you’re doing all the work by pushing off with both your feet without the help of the moving belt.

A huge part of why street running is more difficult is because of the simple fact that you are outside. You have to deal with nature and the atmosphere. You have to deal with the wind blowing at you and uneven pavement. This can be harder on your lungs and legs.

You’ll notice that even though you can run miles on the treadmill, you may not be able to even run a mile outside. This is because treadmill running focuses more on getting your heart rate up and burning calories. Running outdoors helps build your endurance and strengthen your lungs because of the wind.

If you’re training for a marathon or something of that nature, try to get as much street running in as possible because that’s the only thing that will help you learn how to breath correctly and get use to the pavement and wind. You may also need different shoes for the pavement. Check out our guide on Choosing the Perfect Running Shoes to get an idea of what shoes you need for your feet type and the surface type of where you run.

Treadmills are a great choice for those who are just focused on shedding a few pounds or those hoping to get a little active. However, for those who want to really break a sweat and physically better themselves, street running is a far more effective option.

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  1. I agree with this! I run treadmill without any struggle..but when I go outside I am having a hard time just making it a mile!!

  2. I totally agree and it's good to know i am not alone in this feeling. I love running outside but its way more difficult.

  3. Thank you for the info! I am starting to train for a half marathon (starting from scratch!) and I thought they would be the same. Whew – that would have been embarassing come race day 🙂

  4. i actually find running outdoors is easier,for the sheer lack of boredom and the amazing feeling of literally watching the world fly past you as you run- what an amazing motivator! plus the smell of nature and feeling of freedom, nothing makes me run faster and push harder despite fatique than the great outdoors ( of course, having a Canadian provincial park in your backyard sure helps! ). being stuck inside on the lonely treadmill is harder than any half marathon i've ever ran … but snow and ice makes it a necessity sometimes. i
    always set the treadmill at a decent incline so when i head back out to the glory of the trails my muscles and lungs can keep up with the adrenaline of the outdoors…

  5. I am completely the opposite – i can go out and easily do 10 or more miles outside but have trouble even doing 3 on the treadmill…

  6. I trained 100% on a treadmill for a half marathon. Ran a 10 minute mile (I am over 40 years old) I didn't have any problems. Half of the training is in the mind! Nothing was stopping me on race day =)

  7. as a marathoner who has to train on a treadmill (due to extreme cold weather) and on the road, I have a very different opinion of which one is harder. Running on a treadmill is much harder! Perhaps not physically, because some elements are obviously different (and let's be honest running at zero elevation is a dream), but when it comes to mental strength, running on a treadmill is much harder. Those of you who can run for miles on a treadmill, I applaud you. I can literally run for hours outside but want to quit after running on a treadmill after 20 minutes. 6 miles on a treadmill feels like 26.2 outside!!

  8. I totally agree…I started running outside and was such a stronger runner…Now starting back again after having a baby and mainly having to run on the “dread mill” it makes my limited outside runs soooo HARD.

  9. Yes. I began C25k in January on a treadmill. Got up to 2 miles treadmill and the second I took my run outside, experienced incredible leg pain and couldn't even run half a mile. I have now re-started C25k outside and am going through my "running growing pains" all over again!

  10. I run every day, I only enjoy running outside if the weather is nice, being in the midwest means I am on my treadmill all winter long with only a few breaks. I set my treadmill to a higher incline and trust me it is doing more than helping me shed a few pound getting slightly active.

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