One of the more exciting innovations in cardio equipment in recent years is the curved treadmill. What makes a curved treadmill different from a traditional treadmill is that it’s self-powered instead of having a motor, and the running surface is shaped like an arc where you run at the bottom of the arc. You speed up by running harder and moving closer to the front of the machine, like a rodent on a hamster wheel!
Benefits of the curved design:
- Allows you to change speed instantly without having to push any buttons, making it perfect for high intensity interval training (HIIT).
- There is no speed limit, making it perfect for all out sprints.
- Easy set up – just get on and start running!
- Burns up to 30% more calories than a traditional treadmill because the user does the work to drive the belt instead of a motor.
- Feels more like real running because the glutes and hamstrings propel the belt backward much like they propel the body forward with real running.
- Can improve running technique through its curved surface which encourages the user to lift their knees as they run and strike with the ball or midfoot rather than the heel of the foot.
- Uses no electricity, so it’s green, costs nothing to operate, and can be placed just about anywhere.
- Requires practice to learn where to position yourself on the machine to maintain your balance and how to speed up or slow down.
- Difficult to maintain a constant speed, if that is your goal.
- Display lacks some features of more traditional treadmills (workout programs, touchscreens, internet connectivity, etc.). Usually just shows speed, time, wattage, and calories.
- Running surface is narrower than traditional commercial treadmills, requiring more care to stay centered on the machine.
The bottom line – should you use a curved treadmill? It depends on your goals! For low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or jogging at a constant speed for a specified amount of time, use a traditional treadmill. Traditional treadmills were designed for that purpose, and they have better displays and are easier to use. However, if you want to do high intensity intervals (HIIT) or sprints or want to mimic the feel of outdoor running, then use a curved treadmill.
Brand Recommendations – The major brands currently for sale at the time of this writing are the Woodway Curve, the TrueForm Runner, and the Assault Air Runner. They are very similar and all receive good reviews from experts and users, however they have some key differences. The Woodway and the Trueform use more steel in their construction, making them more heavy duty but harder to move around and more prone to rust than the Assault Air runner. If you’re an extra large individual, Woodway makes an XL version of their treadmill that will fit you better but costs significantly more. Official CrossFit competitions use the Assault Air Runner exclusively, so if you have plans to compete or trust CrossFit’s choices in equipment then the Assault brand is the one to get. At Spring Hill Fitness, we have an Assault Air Runner in the cardio area of the gym.