I have run on a lot of treadmills over the years but never a curved treadmill. Curved treadmills are nonmotorized and require you to move the belt with your own effort. The “curve” in the treadmill helps makes pulling the belt down easier but running on a curved treadmill is still noticably harder than running on a motorized treadmill. Curved treadmills are starting to become more popular. A lot of Crossfit athletes use them and there are a few of them out there at local gyms. Most of the curved treadmills are very expensive. You really can’t find a good quality curved treadmill yet under $1500. Therefore, buying one for personal use is quite an investment. Most of the quality curved treadills out there are anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000.
Are curved treadmills good and worth it for distance runners? A lot of sprinters and Cross Fit athletes use curved treadmills because you can run fast on them. A motorized treadmill might top out at somewhere between 10 to 12 miles per hour. There are some models that go faster but most do not go faster than 12 miles an hour at the local gym. A curved treadmill has no speed limit. It will go as fast as the person propelling it can sprint. Curved treadmills therefore make for great HIT (high intensity training) workouts.
However, some research out there says a curved a treadmill can be comparable to running on a 7 to 8 percent incline on a motorized treadmill. This means running on a curved treadmill will be more demanding on your legs and body. If you are a distance runner like me, running long runs on a curved treadmill might not sound like a good idea. However, I did some research and read some reviews and then purchased a TrueForm Trainer. TrueForm is a company that specializes in the curved treadmill. They have two main models which include the TrueForm Runner and the TrueForm Trainer. The TrueForm Runner is a little bit bigger, heavier, and the belt is also a little bit heavier. This means it is a little bit more work to run on. Many of the long distance runners preferred running on the TrueForm Trainer (it is also cheaper in cost) because the belt was lighter and thus it was easier to do actual long runs.
I have had the TrueForm Trainer for a couple of weeks now and I love it! It took about three to four runs for me to get completely adjusted to running on the curve/slope and on this new type of belt. I think my mind had to adjust to what my body was experiencing. Like most new things we do, it will feel awkward at first but then become more normal over time. The curved treadmill will defintely help you become a more efficient runner. Running with consistency and good tempo is important on the curved treadmill. I am a midfoot to forefoot runner so the transition to the TrueForm was easy. If you are a heel to toe striker, you will probably have to change your form to run efficiently on the curved treadmill.
I like that the curved treadmill is quieter than a motorized treadmill and the belt will not need to be replaced, adjusted, or need oil lubrication. These were things I had to do on my other treadmills. In fact, the belts should last at least 150,000 miles! My treadmill did come in on freight and it was a bit of a wait but it was worth it. Other credible curved treadmill companies out there include Woodway (very expensive), the Assault AirRunner (decent price), Speedfit(the originator of curved treadmills), and Cascade. There are a lot of other curved treadmills on the market. Most of them are made in China and vary in quality and price. In the end, I chose to buy from a US based company that had great reviews and customer service.
When I was assembling my TrueForm I accidently chopped through a wire that went to the electronics. TrueForm very quickly shipped me a new wire at absolutely no cost. They were quick to respond to my “chat” message and “emails”. I will have a full review of the TrueForm Trainer in my “gear” section soon but I’ll quickly say that I love the quality, build, and performance of running on my True Form Trainer.
I believe the curved treadmill is here to stay. Be patient and give them a shot! You may not like them the first few times you run on one but they can grow on you. I had no problem doing a 2 hour and 21 minute run on my curved treadmill to celebrate New Years day 2021. Note that every curved treadmill out there will probably feel different because each company has their own variations in the curve and length of the running deck. They will all feel different as well depending on the weight of the belt and the bearings that work with the running surface. You might dislike one curved treadmill but love another.
Can you adjust the incline of a curved treadmill? No, but your workout on one will always be harder than running a motorized treadmill set on a zero to three percent incline. It will also be harder than running outside on a clear surface like the roads. My theory is that consistent training on a curved treadmill over a long period of time will help a person become a stronger and more efficient runner. I can run as fast as I want and still also run nice and easy. It is also a nice way to take some impact off of your feet and legs. It has helped my plantar fasciitis by allowing me to lessen my miles on pavement. Many people also love running barefoot on their curved treadmill because the surface never gets hot and the belt is very comfortable. This is why for me, the curved treadmill is likely to stay in my training repertoire.
I predict many gyms will start replacing some of their motorized treadmills with these as the prices go down. They don’t require any maintenance and electricity. They are quieter and perfect for the HIT training that many gyms and clubs are now teaching and promoting with its members. As a distance runner this is a great thing! You have more options. Hop on for a warm up, cool down, long run, interval session, farleks, tempo, or wind sprints. You can do it all on a curved treamill! Well….minus those hill repeats we all love.