Running on treadmill vs. outside: What’s the difference?

Fitness Equipment

Consider alternating between running outdoors and on the treadmill. It’s ideal to switch up your workout routine to prevent boredom and to keep you motivated.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Should you run on a treadmill or outside? 

According to Mayo Clinic, exercising regularly has many health benefits: weight loss, increased metabolism, reduced stress, strengthening of bones, higher energy, the list goes on. Luckily for us, there are two easy ways to reap the benefits of putting your body in motion. Some opt for running on a treadmill while others choose to run outside. Each option has its own pros and cons, but both are great ways to get running and start feeling healthier.

Running on a Treadmill

Treadmills are great for cardiovascular workouts. They can be used for sprinting, jogging, and walking. Treadmills also allow you to adjust various settings, like the incline or your speed, to personalize your workout and reach your fitness goals.

The most common treadmills have a motorized belt that propels you forward. There are also manual treadmills that are less popular. When you use a manual treadmill, you rely on your own strength and determination to move the belt. Motorized treadmills can cost anywhere from $400 to over $1,000. Meanwhile, manual treadmills can cost between $100-$400. If you’re unable to buy a treadmill of your own, try reaching out to your local gym for a membership. They likely have several. 


There are many benefits to running on a treadmill. For instance, there is less stress on the joints compared to running on pavement. The belts on treadmills offer shock absorption that reduces the impact on your joints that you normally feel from running outdoors. Treadmills are also convenient. They’re typically indoors and can be used despite poor weather and time of day. 

Today, treadmills are much more sophisticated than in the past. Because many treadmills include built-in headphone jacks, Bluetooth capabilities, LCD screens and more room to place reading materials, users can multitask while getting fit. You can also track your progress without additional accessories like smartwatches and phones.  


Because treadmills are stationary, the view may become a little too familiar and boring. If you’re training, you likely want to mimic real-world situations like downhill running and lateral movements. You’re much more limited with maneuvers like these on a treadmill. 

Treadmills are also expensive and take up a large amount of space, so they might not be feasible to place in your home. Aside from the cost of buying a treadmill, there can also be significant costs to maintain them. If you’d rather run at the gym, you’ll have to purchase a gym membership. The price depends on where you choose to sign up. 

Running Outside

Exercising outdoors comes with a feeling of freedom that can be difficult to duplicate indoors. It’s an excellent opportunity to explore your neighborhood and meet others in the community. Taking the scenic route can also benefit your mood. It’s hard to beat some time spent outdoors with the sunshine.


good running shoes

Running outside allows you to perform different types of movements that benefit other muscle groups. Jumping over rain puddles or dodging a fellow jogger activates muscles that aren’t activated when running on a treadmill. Being mindful of where you’re stepping can also help improve coordination. Furthermore, running on harder terrain like pavement can strengthen your bones.

Running outside is much more affordable than running on a treadmill — in fact, it won’t cost you anything! Though good running shoes and the appropriate apparel are recommended, running outside rewards you with another type of freedom — being outdoors. Simply stepping outside for a walk or a run can make a difference in how you feel. The scenery alone might be enough to peak your interests and keep you motivated.


Running outside on the pavement can negatively impact your knees, ankles, legs and feet. Even though a good pair of running shoes can assist in absorbing the shock, they might not be enough to prevent irritation and injury. Uneven terrain and slippery surfaces can also increase the possibility of injury. 

Poor weather can keep some from going outdoors to start their workout. There are risks to running in the snow, rain and at night. Extreme high and low temperatures can also ruin workout plans. Deciding to run in extreme weather is risky and should be avoided.  

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside?

Both options allow runners an opportunity to improve their overall health. The choice of which one is better is up to you. Both are a form of exercise that have immense health benefits. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or improve your endurance, both options will help you reach your goals. Ultimately, what it might come down to is cost and accessibility. A treadmill may not be available to you and stepping outside is priceless. On the other hand, if you’re recovering from an injury, prefer to multitask or want to better protect your joints, a treadmill is an excellent choice. 

Whichever option you choose, be mindful of your physical limitations. Always check with your doctor before embarking on a workout regimen. Once you take the proper precautions, the choice is entirely up to you.

Best equipment for running on the treadmill

Best treadmill

Sole F80

Sole F80

This treadmill comes with a 9” LCD display. It also has cooling fans, Bluetooth capabilities and 10 workouts to choose from. The speed levels range from 0.5-12 mph and the incline can be set between 0%-15%. The weight limit is 375 pounds.

Best earbuds

Apple Airpods Pro

Apple Airpods Pro

These headphones offer active noise cancellation. There’s a transparency mode that allows listeners to hear what is happening around them. They’re sweat and water-resistant and fit the shape of your ear. Three different sizes of silicone tips are provided.  

Best indoor running shoes

Hoka One One Mach 4

Hoka One One Mach 4

These shoes were made to go the distance. They’re lightweight and provide extra cushioning for long runs. The collar shape takes pressure off the Achilles to reduce injury. The mesh increases breathability and the PROFLY cushioning helps create bounce.

The men’s version can be found here

Best water bottle

Thermos Hydration Water Bottle

Thermos Hydration Water Bottle

At 24 ounces, this water bottle holds a good amount of water for a workout. It has a locking ring and a push-button lid to make opening and closing the lid more convenient. The ergonomic design can fit in your treadmill’s drink holder and can be operated with one hand. It’s also BPA-free and dishwasher safe.

Best equipment for running outside

Best running belt



There are four openings in this belt that make it easy to slide things in and out when on the move. The belt is both machine washable and can be dried on low. Your belongings will fit snug and not bounce when running. The logo is reflective for those who run at night.

Best fitness tracker

 Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4

This tracker comes with GPS and can track the wearer’s respiration, energy levels, menstrual cycle, sleep, stress and more. It also comes with Pulse Ox that estimates how much-oxygenated blood is in your blood. Battery life lasts for eight days in Smartwatch mode but lasts for six in GPS and music mode. It also comes with animated onscreen workouts for cardio, strength, yoga and pilates. There’s also a built-in Garmin Coach to help train users for marathons.

Best backpack



This durable hydration backpack is made with “superior ripstop material.” It can sustain different types of weather without damage. The backpack keeps your water cold throughout the day. The bladder is leak-proof, BPA-free and doesn’t bounce when moving. It comes with six compartments and three sets of adjustable straps. It also fits snug on all body types. 

Best weighted vest

RUNFAST/Max Adjustable Weighted Vest

RUNFAST/Max Adjustable Weighted Vest 

There are nine different weight options for this weighted vest. Buyers can choose from 12-140 pounds. Shoulder pads can be purchased separately and are highly recommended. The smaller vests have a total of eight pockets (four in the back and four in the front) for equal weight distribution. Bigger vests have 10 pockets. There are two velcro straps that fit around the stomach to adjust to the wearer’s body type.


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Ashley Willis writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.

Trending Stories

get the app

News App

Weather App

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss