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Treadmill Suspension & Cushioning

When running outside each time your foot strikes the ground energy is transmitted back up your leg whereas on a treadmill this force can be reduced by the shock absorption system often reducing joint injuries. To absorb this shock treadmills typically have rubber bushings under a flexible deck. The best treadmill cushioning design is called variable cushioning. In this design the front of the deck has softer rubber for maximum cushioning and absorption since this is where your foot will strike. The back of the treadmill, however, has a firmer stable cushioning made with stiff rubber for pushing off with your back foot and the middle area is the transition zone, which has moderate cushioning.

Recent Treads & Over Cushioning:

There has been a recent trend to provide a lot of cushioning in treadmills to reduce the likelihood of injuries as cushioned belts are said to reduce impact on joints by as much as 19 to 33% compared to road running. Cushioning can be helpful in many situations such as injury rehabilitation or if you have joint problems but if your goal is to train for running outside you may want less cushioning to mimic outside conditions. And, while it may be more comfortable to run on great cushioning, it’s even more important to have a stable ride; you don’t want a treadmill that sags or moves.

In fact, many service technicians hate to see people purchase treadmills with highly cushioned or “Orthopedic” belts due to the fact that they will wear out the motor more quickly compared than regular belts. The fact that the belts are much thicker than regular belts means that they cause excessive heat and wear on the bearings within the rollers. The motor and all other parts must work harder causing the motor to wear out much quicker than normal.

If you want the extra cushion, try instead to purchase a good pair of running shoes with extra support, super cushioned belts are really not worth the additional money unless you have a major physical condition.