Everything You Need To Know About Curved Manual Treadmills
Curved treadmills or manual treadmills have been around for a while now, they were previously only used by elite sports institutions and specialised clinics, but are now moving into garages, schools, gyms and even living rooms. We sat down with Tim Bransdon, founder of The Running Lab and StrongFeet™, the owner of Wollongong Podiatry and Chief Director for Run Like a Boss™ to tell us everything he knows about curved treadmills.
What are the most significant differences in motorised treadmills to curved manual treadmills?
Motorised treadmill running is far removed from running outside in the real world. Your job on a motorised treadmill is to simply lift your feet off the moving belt quick enough to not fall over. This method of running can reward the inefficient running technique and reinforce poor movement patterns. Next time you are around motorised treadmills take your headphones out and listen to the loud pounding these machines cop. Look at how the machines bounce up and down with each crushing impact.
The number one advantage of curved manual treadmills over their motorised rivals is the reward for efficient running technique. Long, heavy, destructive overstriding is not only not discouraged on a curved treadmill, but it is also almost impossible. The curved contact point encourages a more natural sweep of the feet under and behind the body, similar to how I coach running outside on natural terrain, this helps for stronger body position and posture.
Position is Power. Efficiency is Gold
Curved treadmills can be a fantastic way to train a strong position and posture as well as efficient movement patterns and technique.
As there is no motor on a curved manual treadmill, the moment you drift away from sound running posture and efficient turnover of your feet, the speed of the belt changes – just like your speed and rhythm changes when running outside. This constant feedback promotes better running technique even without expert coaching.
Are there negatives to running on a curved manual treadmill?
Like any new active endeavour, good or bad, too much too soon can cause muscle soreness. The curved contact point of these treadmills results in your calf muscle loading a fraction of a second earlier each step, which can contribute to muscle fatigue and soreness. While many promote this early muscle load as burning more calories, my advice is to ease your way into using such a machine so your body can adapt.
Can I run barefoot on a manual curved treadmill?
My life as a Podiatrist is dedicated to training strong, healthy, performance-enhancing feet. Without boring you too much, each of your feet has 33 mobile joints and 20 muscles within them. The potential contained in these joints and muscles are HUGE! However, they are forever incarcerated in stiff, rigid shoes.
I am not an advocate of barefoot running as much as I am barefoot living. Put simply, it is the 23 hours each day you are not running, which create strong, healthy feet. BUT, the controlled environment of a curved manual treadmill is the perfect place to enjoy the benefits of using your bare feet to aid your running posture and technique – Start slowly and build gradually. You will thank me later, but only if you take your time.
Are all curved manual treadmills the same?
No, they all have subtle differences. I owned a Woodway Curve for several years. It was a fantastic tool to develop and build my Running Lab protocols from within the walls of my Podiatry Clinic. The machine is built like a German tank and weighs nearly as much. The most significant disadvantage in respect to usage of the Woodway is the aggressive angle of the Curve. This machine, by far, has caused my athletes and clients the most calf fatigue and issues when used as a regular training tool.
The Trueform priced somewhat less than the Woodway Curve, and with a less aggressive belt angle falls down in respect to having a large "dead spot". A subtle shift from the sweet spot on the curve and it feels like you are running in quicksand. Like any tool, this can be overcome with practice and adjusting your running to suit the machine.
The third curved manual treadmill I have had personal experience with is the Air Runner by Assault Fitness. I was introduced to this machine in May 2017, and I was simply blown away. I have no insight into the research and design of this machine, but it puts to bed the nuances I found with the Woodway and Trueform. The highest compliment I can give the Assault Air Runner is how easy and natural the belt feels under the body. Rather than having to adjust your running technique to suit the treadmill, running on this machine feels as close to real running as I have experienced. The angle of the curve is not overcooked, which is immediately noticeable with the lack of excessive calf load and fatigue when running on it. There is also no dead spot or quicksand either.
My experience and opinions of the Assault AirRunner are shared equally by the elite athletes and regular running enthusiasts I work with at The Running Lab. The price also makes it feasible to become an excellent home training tool.
What's the best running tip you have for our readers?
On your next run, I want you to leave your headphones at home and listen to the sound of your feet. However noisy they are, make them 10% lighter for the whole run. This reduction in impact stress on your body might well keep you out of my Podiatry Clinic and away from the surgeon's knife by not grinding your tendons, bones and knees to dust.
Run Smooth. Run Light. Run Well
See Tim and the AirRunner in action. Featuring the fittest woman on earth, Tia-Clair Toomey!