A better treadmill

By November 23, 2019 Health and Fitness

Movement and gait are more natural on a non-motorized treadmill, especially if you’re barefoot.

Today’s fitness enthusiasts use treadmills more than any other exercise device. But are all treadmills created equally?

For years I steered people away from popular motorized treadmills because they were unnatural, something the body immediately senses. The brain is very aware and sensitive to a flat, moving tread dictating the workout, speed and movement. This increases the risk of an imbalanced, distorted gait.

What’s more, on a motorized treadmill, most people typically employ a pre-programmed generic workout.

This is much different than going out for a walk or run where you control the movement, speed and must adjust to the terrain.

However, a non-motorized, curved-deck treadmill allows for a much more natural workout and can actually improve gait mechanics, and even be therapeutic. Non-motorized treadmills have no motor, and rely on the user’s desire and energy to move the belt, so you move more free and natural while personalizing your workout and not stressing balance.

When I first ran on the non-motorized TrueForm treadmill, I immediately felt that natural running feel with a relaxed gait. I almost didn’t realize it was not motorized. It also was quiet like a run through the woods.

Last year, a study published in the journal Sports by Andrew Hatchett and colleagues at the University of South Carolina, showed that running on a non-motorized treadmill had a significantly positive influence on gait versus being on a motorized treadmill. (The study compared a traditional motorized treadmill with a curved non-motorized TrueForm treadmill.)

Combining the benefits of an improved gait while on a non-motorized treadmill when walking or running barefoot can further add mechanical advantages. Being barefoot whenever possible helps the foot maintain the barefoot benefits even when you have to wear healthy shoes. (Of course, never wear unhealthy shoes ).

About 75 percent of runners who wear popular shoes heel-strike, versus being barefoot when forefoot striking is the norm. Coincidentally, about 75 percent of runners are also injured. Striking heel-first bypasses the body’s natural shock-absorbing capacity and instead transfers the impact straight up through feet, legs, back and even the neck and cranium.

It may be the curved front tread on the TrueForm that helps with the more mechanically efficient gait due to improved foot-strike pattern, stride length, stride angle and physical balance.

Owners of the TrueForm Treadmill company are Jeff Vernon and Robin Desjardins, longtime MAF users. “We have embraced MAF for our workouts and training programs because, like the TrueForm, it’s simple and it works,” says Jeff. “Promoting health AND fitness is the core of our program and MAF helps our community achieve great results in fitness while improving health,” added Robin.

You can read more about TrueForm here, and Jeff and Robin have offered MAF members a 10 percent discount on their new home version of the non-motorized TrueForm. And, if you want the commercial treadmill the discount still applies. (Use code: MAF 10)

A non-motorized treadmill at home (or ask your gym or club to get one) not only can help with exercise training but can be a safe and invaluable therapeutic modality for those who require it. It can also be helpful for those who find it difficult to exercise in the winter or in other bad-weather conditions.



Hatchett A, et al. The Effect of a Curved Non-Motorized Treadmill on Running Gait Length, Imbalance and Stride Angle. Sports (Basel). 2018;6(3). doi: 10.3390/sports6030058.


  • Floyd Fisher says:

    Dr Phil needs to check out Brooks Mach 19 spikeless running shoes….by design they discourage heel strike completely.

  • Vincent M Casiano says:

    Literally stunned at the price tag. I naively thought that since it did not have a motor it may be affordable. $7,000 for a non-motorized treadmill? How much disposable income does one need to earn to spend that much on a piece of fitness equipment? Almost as ridiculous as the price on my Specialized Hard Tail Epic S Works, but at least I can take that baby outside! The only people considering buying these treadmills are the uber rich and perhaps organizations that train high end college runners and professional athletes.

    How about providing some recommendations on fitness equipment for the ordinary folk?

  • Barefoot Ted says:

    Thanks Dr. Phil – I’ve been wondering about these types of treadmills are better (or not). I’ve always been very hesitant to encourage treadmill use both because they felt so unnatural to me and because I know how important it is to be outside for fresh air, etc. Your article inspires me to reconsider. Perhaps we can get one of these treadmills for the LUNA Sandals factory retail shop in Seattle. I’ve always wanted something for people to run on in the shop, but just could not agree to a treadmill. I am now reconsidering. Thanks for taking the time.

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