Treadmill. The word and the device it names can conjure up a wide range of emotions in runners. From fear and boredom to relief that you don’t have to run in the cold and rain. The treadmill has been a staple in every runner’s arsenal for years. Recently, a new type of treadmill has gained popularity: the curved treadmill. In this article, we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about curved treadmills, including what they are, how they work, and who they are best for.
By the end of the article, you’ll know what benefits you can get from a curved treadmill and whether it is a good fit for you.
What is a Curved Treadmill?
In brief, a curved treadmill is a treadmill that has a curved running deck. Rather than a traditional flat deck that mimics the ground, a curved treadmill is built to follow the arc your feet travel through your stride.
How Does a Curved Treadmill Work?
Curved treadmills have two distinctive features: the running surface is curved inward, and it is unpowered. In other words, the treadmill only moves when you are running on it; your feet provide the drive. The idea is to mimic how you might run outside. There is no top speed, and no constant, machine-driven pace. Curved treadmills therefore fall into the category of manual treadmills.
By using the balls of your feet, you push the treadmill belt forward, which also pushes your body forward too.
Why Should I Use a Curved Treadmill?
As with everything in running and life, there are pros and cons. Here are a few notable ones:
Incorporating curved treadmill workouts in your training regimen has clear benefits. It will give you a great workout and work your muscles differently than the same, tried-and-true daily run.
Use More Muscle Groups
You engage more muscles when you run outside as compared to on a treadmill, because you have to push yourself forward. Curved treadmills are much more like running outdoors. If you want to get started, you have to drive yourself forward.
Similarly, you can’t just automatically increase your speed by pushing an arrow like on a powered treadmill. You’re going to have to run faster. Plus, you’ll expend more energy as you run.
You’ll specifically be working your glutes and hamstrings more during your run on a curved treadmill. If you’re looking to tone up for swimsuit season, you’ll get more for your workout running on a curved treadmill.
Helps You Improve Your Form to Run More Naturally
While it can be somewhat awkward to get used to, a curved treadmill will help you improve your running form. The curve forces you to run on the balls of your feet. Because of this, you have to engage your core more, which forces you to maintain better posture. All of this helps build good running form.
Additionally, this form will help you with injury prevention. Proper running form reduces the impact on your joints. The curved deck also lessens the impact by meeting your feet along the path the naturally travel. Remember to open up your chest slightly, stand tall, and take short, fast strides.
In fact, curved treadmills can be even easier on your body than running outside because the rubber surface is designed to help absorb the shock on your joints and tissues, which helps to alleviate injuries that come from pounding the pavement.
Gives You a Harder, Increased Calorie-Burning Workout
Research has shown that athletes tend to run about 30% harder on a curved treadmill. That converts to burning 30% more calories than running on a traditional treadmill. If you live in a flat area, a curved treadmill can be a great way to work on incline training.
On the flip side, since you’re going to be working harder, you need to remember that you’re likely going to be slower even after you get used to the treadmill.
It is suggested that you should plan for a 20% percent difference in pace. This means that if you normally run 6:45 minute-mile reps, you should plan for 8:00 minute-mile reps.
Safe and Simple to Use
Because a curved treadmill is self-powered, you don’t have to worry about setting the pace wrong. Instead, you adjust yourself. If you want to run harder for the last bit, you just have to pick up your pace. No buttons needed.
You don’t have to decide that you want to run harder and then adjust the speed on a traditional treadmill to account for that. In this way, it’s exactly like running outside. Plus, all you have to do is start running to get the treadmill moving.
Finally, a curved treadmill is a fraction of the size of a traditional treadmill, so if you’re short on space in your home, you’ll still likely be able to fit one in your living room or office.
Related: Stairmaster VS Treadmill – Which is a better cardio workout?
Expensive to Buy
If you live in a larger city, there’s a good chance that a gym nearby has a curved treadmill. However, if you live in a smaller town, you’ll likely have to purchase one yourself, and they are not cheap.
For this reason, it might be cost-prohibitive for you to buy a curved treadmill unless you can talk some family members or roommates into contributing in exchange for being allowed to use it. If you come from a family of runners or run with your roommate, this might be an option.
Can’t Be Used for Long, Slow Runs
Unfortunately, a curved treadmill is really best for sprints and HIIT training, just based on its designs. So don’t think that you can kill two birds with one stone and get a machine that will also give you an option for those days when it’s really cold outside and you need to do a long run.
How Do I Run on a Curved Treadmill?
After you get used to its curvature, you’ll run like you would outside, and the design of the treadmill will help you to keep proper form.
How Fast Can I Run?
As noted above, you will be slower on a curved treadmill, so you should be prepared for this difference. Probably the best way to figure out how fast you can run is to go as hard as you can for several minutes on the treadmill and see what your pace is. It’s likely going to be significantly slower than what you can do on a traditional treadmill.
Types of Runs
While you can use curved treadmills for tempo training, they are really ideal for sprints and HIIT training.
Curved treadmills are great for sprints because you can speed up quickly without having to wait for the treadmill belt to catch up with you. Anyone who has done sprints on a treadmill knows that there is a slight lag between hitting a particular number and actually getting to that speed.
For this reason, you can slow down and speed up easily like you would be able to do outside, but you are on a more stable surface with a curved treadmill than running outside.
Some athletes like curved treadmills when they can run faster than the highest speed on a traditional treadmill because a curved treadmill allows them to go however fast they want to/are able to.
Because you’re getting a higher intensity workout on a curved treadmill, it is great for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). You’ll be able to bring up your heart rate faster and ensure that it stays up, helping you burn lots of calories by increasing your need for oxygen and making your body work harder.
Remember that a curved treadmill isn’t going to come with workouts that you can choose from on the screen. You’ll have to be prepared and know what you plan to do just as if you were running outside.
Additionally, running or walking on an unpowered treadmill is equivalent to having an incline of 6% to 8%, which means that you’re going to be doing some hill/incline workouts. We all know that it’s harder to run uphill, so you’ll want to be mentally prepared.
How Much Does a Curved Treadmill Cost?
It’s going to cost you a pretty penny to buy a curved treadmill—you’re looking at several thousand dollars, maxing out at around $10,000 for the really nice models. While that might be a lot to spend, you should keep several things in mind.
If you think you’ll use the curved treadmill a lot, figure out how much it will cost you over several years (compared to joining a gym for example). Remember too that maintenance is pretty low on curved treadmills, so it should stay in tip-top shape for a while.
Also, don’t forget that you won’t be using any electricity, so it’s just the cost of the machine itself. The sticker shock is higher than a traditional treadmill, but you also don’t have to factor in less obvious expenses like your monthly electric bill.
In the end, a curved treadmill is a great option to change up your workout routine. It will help you improve your form, engage more muscle groups than a traditional treadmill, and increase the number of calories you burn.
It’s definitely worth looking into to see if you have a gym that has a curved treadmill nearby, or if you’re feeling confident enough, look into purchasing one. And if you want to see how fast one person has run on a curved treadmill, check out this YouTube video. Maybe that will be you someday!