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Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes on A Treadmill?

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You have decided to make treadmill runs a part of your routine, but you’re wondering what the best shoes are? Trail running shoes are great on the trail, but how do they fare on a treadmill? “Can I wear trail running shoes on a treadmill” is a common question, we’re going to dig into it below.

Yes, you can. Trail running shoes and road shoes are different in their design, materials, and ultimately what they are used for. Think about the differences between the road and a trail; trails are rocky and uneven and roads are generally pretty flat. However, trail running shoes will work fine on a treadmill.

On the trail, sharp rocks, sticks, and other hazards are commonplace while less protection is needed while road running. These differences are what drive the difference in design between a trail shoe and a road shoe. That doesn’t mean, however, that a trail shoe can’t be worn on a treadmill.

The whole system from treadmill to shoe to ankles, knees and hips needs to be taken into account. Treadmills can get a bad rap for things like being hard on the knees or not being “real running.” A little knowledge can help combat all of this nonsense.

Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes on A Treadmill

trail running shoes

Many trail shoes can do just fine on a treadmill. While it is a little unconventional, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wearing trail shoes on a treadmill. There may be a few benefits and, naturally, a few drawbacks.

One of the disadvantages of running on a treadmill is that there are no obstacles or change in surface – this is the opposite of what a trail shoe is designed for.

As discussed, the drawbacks would be even lightweight trail shoes are heavier than running shoes. They also offer less cushion, however, this may not be a deal-breaker considering running on a treadmill provides cushion itself.

The tread on a trail shoe is overkill on the smooth surfaces of a treadmill, and the sticky rubber could cause issues with the treadmill belt, but some additional stability features of trail shoes may help.

Trail shoes feel different at first when treadmill running, but you get used to it. That said, trail running shoes may not be the best shoes on a treadmill if you have an option. Other running shoes, like road running shoes, are likely a better choice. Road running shoes on the treadmill is really the best way to go for optimal performance.

The Difference Between Trail Shoes and Other Running Shoes

Trail shoes and running shoes are different in how they are made due to the environment they are normally used in. They both have different requirements to excel in their respective areas. Some may be beneficial when looking to use trail runners on a treadmill, but others may not be ideal.

A few key differences are the sole of the shoe, the upper, and the midsole.

Shoes Midsole

Most trail running shoes have a harder midsole than road shoes. This is by design. On a trail, the shoe needs to protect the foot from sharp points, uneven terrain, and other obstructions that are natural on a trail.

Road running shoes, on the other hand, are more concerned with comfort and cushioning the foot as it pounds down on a hard surface like asphalt. Road shoes are also designed to be light. A lighter road shoe is almost always going to weigh less than light trail running shoes.


One other aspect of the sole is the grip. A trail shoe is going to have more grip on the sole of the shoe as opposed to a road shoe. When wearing trail running shoes on the trail, the grip is critical. They often have a stickier substance and deeper grooves to grab on uneven or potentially slick surfaces.

The actual rubber used in trail shoes is going to be slightly softer than road shoes. While this may seem counterintuitive at first, it makes sense when you think about it. Trail shoes primarily traverse pointy and jagged surfaces.

Tip: The softer rubber allows the object to sink into the rubber, therefore, increasing the grip and reducing the likelihood of a fall.


Another difference is the upper of the shoe. Trail shoes offer more protection in the upper area than road shoes. Trails are rugged terrain. Good trail shoes need to be able to stand up to the elements better than standard running shoes.

Road shoes, on the other hand, prioritize breathability and cooling much more than a trail running shoe. Preferring mesh uppers, a standard running shoe will be cooler when running on a treadmill than a trail runner would be.

Do Trail Running Shoes Wear Out Faster on a Treadmill?

While one might think trail running shoes are more durable and will hold up better on a treadmill, that isn’t the case. Trail shoes are softer and have more grip, but they are designed to be utilized on soft ground with the occasional hard rock.

They don’t have the same abrasion resistance as a regular running shoe with a harder sole. Lighter road shoes are better designed for treadmill work than trail running shoes.

If you already have a pair of trail shoes and you’re looking to save money, it isn’t the end of the world to wear them. Treadmill wear should be relatively minimal and it won’t affect their on-trail performance unless it gets really bad. As you use them on a treadmill, the lugs on the bottom will start to wear down.

Another popular option would be to walk barefoot. There are many benefits of walking barefoot on a treadmill that just may help move the needle in that direction.

How to Pick the Best Treadmill Running Shoes

Running Shoes on the Floor

The best treadmill running shoe is going to be very similar to the best overall running shoe. You want something that can help you maintain your pace and optimal speed whether you’re a beginner or a veteran.

When running on the treadmill, the same basic requirements are needed to have a great experience:

  • Lightweight
  • Soft and cushioned
  • Supportive

Let’s break down each one and offer a suggestion for each.


Lightweight shoes are all the rage, and it’s no different on a treadmill. Who wants to carry around extra weight when it isn’t necessary? I don’t. It’s actually pretty common for people to run slower on a treadmill already. A lighter shoe designed for speed will help bridge that natural gap.

Speed shoes are usually going to be great options for treadmill running due to their weight. The Saucony Kinvara 13, for example, comes in at 7.2 oz and is built for speed. It’s a great lightweight shoe that would be perfect for intervals or tempo runs on a treadmill to help build up some more speed.

Check pricing on the men’s and women’s shoes.

Soft and Cushioned

I normally don’t recommend getting a shoe with too much cushion when running on a treadmill since treadmills are already cushioned, but if you like a soft midsole on a shoe there are some good options.

Related Reading: Can You Use Road Running Shoes on Treadmill?

Anytime we talk about cushioning, one brand comes to mind: HOKA. The HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 7 is a classic example of supermax cushioning. HOKA is a French brand that carved out its niche by making super-cushioned midsoles for running shoes.

HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 7 (men’s and women’s) – HOKAs are not the cheapest shoe, but they sure are comfortable if you like some extra spring in your step. You’ll notice a huge difference between wearing HOKAs and trail running shoes.


Here the trail shoes have the advantage. Trail runners are going to offer a greater amount of lateral stability due to their design for walking on even surfaces. This may not be necessary when running on a treadmill, but if it’s something you’re looking for, there are some quality trail running shoes that offer great support and are relatively lightweight.

Salamon is a household name in trail running shoes and for good reason – they are a great shoe.

The Speedcross 5 is a solid shoe that will work well on the trail and on the treadmill. It’s relatively lightweight and has a mesh/synthetic upper so it should allow for good ventilation throughout the shoe.

All in all, if you’re looking for an excuse to wear a trail running shoe on a treadmill, go for it. It isn’t the end of the world, but you would be better served to get an actual running shoe designed to be lightweight, fast, breathable, and with a harder sole to get the most out of the experience.

Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes on A Treadmill? Sure, but it isn’t optimal. I wouldn’t let it stop you from running on a treadmill, however. There are so many benefits to treadmill running, not the least of which is the ability to build muscle and endurance when you can’t run outside. That said, do is safely and comfortably. You only have one body – take care of it.

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About the author

Jasper loves to write about fitness, running, and anything else that gets him moving outdoors. He's an avid hiker, backpacker, and climber who loves to stay fit so he can make sure he's healthy enough to enjoy his favorite hobbies. He also spends time writing about his true passions in life.