Best Treadmill Running Shoes + A Podiatrist's Top Picks
Running is a proven way to increase your lifespan1. In warmer months, you can supercharge your well-being by reaping the additional benefits of outdoor exercise2—but treadmills have benefits of their own. Of course, you'll need the best treadmill running shoes to ensure comfort, support, and peak performance.
Julia Stern, NYC-based fitness trainer and founder of Show Up, agrees that "Specifically for women, maintaining muscle mass as we age protects bone density, increases our immune system, and most importantly, keeps us from getting injured when performing functional movements throughout our day."
Running on a treadmill provides a convenient and efficient way to maintain a consistent exercise routine, regardless of weather or time of day. The best treadmill running shoes are designed to support indoor exercise, with a few key differentiators compared to road or trail running shoes.
What to look for in treadmill running shoes
Unlike outdoor running where the ground can vary in hardness, treadmills offer a consistent and relatively cushioned surface (if you're using the best treadmills for running, that is).
That means you'll need less cushioning and shock absorption in treadmill running shoes than you might for road or trail running—unless you have an existing foot condition, such as high arches.
Podiatrist Dina Gohil says, "Some runners benefit from the extra cushioning, if they have lost some of their natural fatty patty from the sole, requiring more shock absorption from ground impact for their joints (ankles, knees, back, and even up to their necks)."
Below are a few features you should look for:
Lightweight and breathable
Treadmill running is all about efficiency and smoothness. Having lightweight shoes makes a significant difference.
Lighter shoes allow you to move your feet quickly, leading to a more natural stride and reduced fatigue during longer treadmill sessions.
Breathable shoes with mesh or perforated uppers help keep your feet cool and comfortable during treadmill workouts. Proper ventilation also prevents unpleasant odors and foot-related issues.
Podiatrist Robert Kornfeld says, "Running shoes need to fit true to size. They shouldn't be so long that the foot pistons inside the shoe, causing toe/toenail injury. And they shouldn't be so snug that they cause chafing and blistering and crowding in the toe box."
Board-certified podiatrist Anne Sharkey adds, "I see [my patients'] foot pain improve as they are fitted with running shoes appropriate for their foot type."
The shoe should provide a secure, snug fit, but you'll want to make sure there's enough room in the toe box to accommodate natural foot swelling during long runs.
Sharkey recommends a three-step process to determine whether a shoe fits properly:
- Trace your foot with a pencil on a piece of paper.
- Set any running shoe you are considering wearing on top of the paper.
- Your foot should fit within the outline of the shoe. If your foot overlaps the shoe, this shoe is not a good shoe for your foot shape.
Treadmills have a moving surface, so sufficient traction is vital to prevent slipping.
While you don't need aggressive tread patterns like those found on trail running shoes, look for shoes with a rubber outsole that provides adequate grip on the treadmill belt. This will reduce the risk of accidents.
Our picks for the best treadmill running shoes of 2023:
- Breathable mesh upper
- Great stability
- Lightweight feel with great cushioning
- Limited wide sizes available
Sharkey says for high arches, cushion is key. "High-arched feet are less flexible and more rigid than flat feet, which translates into needing more shock absorption of the weight of activity occurring in the feet," she explains.
With the APMA Seal of Acceptance and the endorsement of the podiatrists we consulted, the Puma Deviate Nitro II stands as an excellent option for treadmill runners with high arches. According to Kornfeld, it offers a cushioned forefoot and a consistent fit, both of which provide a sense of security that can greatly benefit runners.
Mindbodygreen commerce editor, Carleigh Ferrante, has been testing these sneakers for the past three months while marathon training. She loves how they support her feet outdoors or on the treadmill, noting that she runs significantly faster in these than the shoes she used to wear.
- Great cushioning and bounce
- Absorbs impact from hard surfaces underneath
- Some find them bulky
Boasting plushness, an incredibly light build, and most importantly, resilience, this shoe guarantees an abundance of rebound with every stride. Sharkey affirms that when it comes to running on treadmills, these rank among her top choices for shock-absorbing footwear.
This shoe promises an ample bounce due to its elevated stack height, expertly designed to absorb the impact of each step while keeping your feet feeling featherlight. The lofty stack height excels at cushioning the impact, rendering high-impact activities like running considerably gentler on your knees and other leg joints.
I, the writer, swear by the Hoka Bondi 8’s for my daily treadmill workouts. They’re just cushioned enough to absorb shock and keep my joints happy while providing stability and support and still feeling light on my feet.
- Standard and wide widths
- Neutral colors for versatile wear
- Soles wear quickly
Materials::Bio-based and/or recycled materials
According to Kornfeld, this treadmill running shoe boasts exceptional cushioning and stability, which is helpful for runners with knee issues. Its remarkable comfort is a noted feature and to runners of all ages and experience levels.
These shoes come equipped with a removable insole, so you can use custom orthotics if needed. What’s more, the midsole foam incorporates approximately 3% bio-based materials, making it a more sustainable choice for environmentally-conscious runners.
- APMA seal of acceptance
- Recycled materials
- A bit heavy
- Shorter laces
Materials::FoamRubberRecycled water bottles
Sharkey recommends the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 as a treadmill running shoe with exceptional stability. It’s also one of the best shoes for knee pain thanks to its patented GuideRails technology, which ensures your foot maintains proper alignment.
This model has specifically earned the APMA Seal of Acceptance, meaning podiatrists agree it is beneficial for foot health. Whether you’re new to running or a seasoned sprinter, this running shoe is a solid choice for runners across all proficiency levels.
Notably, this footwear incorporates eco-friendly practices by utilizing recycled materials, including repurposed plastic water bottles. Additionally, the company has set ambitious goals to attain net zero carbon emissions by 2040.
- Plenty of forefoot support
- Combats overpronation
- Heel is slightly narrow for some
Sharkey recommends this shoe for individuals with flat feet. She emphasizes that Hoka's Arahi model stands out in the market for its ability to provide enhanced stability to those with flat or fallen arches.
According to Sharkey, the active foot frame of this shoe is purposefully crafted to cradle the foot, ensuring both stability and comfort. The incorporation of a mesh lining, compression-molded foam insole, and an integrated meta-rocker mechanism contributes to a smoother and more comfortable wearing experience while bolstering support for the forefoot.
The Arahi is also featured in our selection of the best shoes for flat feet, based on the guidance of podiatrists who advocate for the mitigation or prevention of overpronation.
- Four width options
- Contours to your foot
- APMA certified
- May need to size up
Materials::Partially recycled materials
If you happen to have high arches and wide feet, Sharkey highly recommends considering this particular pair. It has earned the coveted APMA Seal of Acceptance due to its notable improvements in cushioning, seamless transitions, and an enhanced upper that actively promotes foot health.
Plus, the 3D Fit Print upper and DNA BioMoGo technology work in tandem to adapt to your foot's contours, elevating stability and comfort to the next level.
These treadmill running shoes come in plenty of widths, including medium (1B), wide (2E), extra wide (4E), and narrow (2A), ensuring a suitable fit for everyone with wide feet.
- Distance runner-approved
- Not great for wide feet
Materials::Partially recycled materialsEngineered meshBio-based cellulose nanofiber
We've highlighted these ASICS running shoes for their outstanding cushioning, comfort, and support. ASICS' gel technology is meticulously designed to reduce impact, making these shoes an excellent choice for runners who are going the distance on the treadmill.
Our commerce editor previously endorsed the Nimbus Gel 25 for long runs, as they’re breathable and lightweight. She attests that these shoes provide a softer landing when compared to other models she has assessed, all without adding undue weight to your feet.
We love that at least 30% of the shoe's upper is constructed from recycled materials.
- Durable heel
- Ideal for road runs
- Tighter fit around the toes
Materials::Partially recycled materials
The podiatrists we consulted hold a strong affinity for the Brooks brand, albeit with a caveat that only select Brooks models adhere to APMA standards and align with their particular recommendations. For new treadmill runners embarking on their fitness journey, the Brooks Trace 2 is an excellent choice.
This beginner-friendly treadmill running shoe features breathable materials that offer a secure fit without compromising on airflow and ventilation. Plus, its dynamic cushioning technology seamlessly adjusts to your unique running pace and stride, which is just one reason why we’ve called it out in our roundups of the best running shoes for women and best cushioned running shoes.
How we picked:
We took our experts' insights and direct recommendations into account. We also sought out shoes with the APMA Seal of Acceptance.
Arch support, cushion, stability, weight, and breathability were all considered when selecting the best treadmill running shoes.
Treadmill running shoes can get expensive (especially when you're replacing them every 300 miles), so we included a range of products to fit various budgets.
We always keep Mother Earth in mind when reviewing products. There are a number of brands on our list that make an extra effort toward using sustainable and recycled materials.
How to choose the best treadmill running shoes
It's important to note that, while there are distinctions between treadmill running shoes and outdoor running shoes, many runners use their outdoor running shoes on the treadmill without any issues.
However, if you plan to run regularly on a treadmill, you may benefit from shoes designed specifically for indoor running, as they can provide a more comfortable and efficient experience.
Here's a step-by-step guide to help you select the perfect pair:
- Understand your foot type. Do you have high arches, flat feet, or neutral arches? Knowing your foot type will help you find shoes with appropriate arch support, stability, or flexibility.
- Visit a specialty running store. If possible, our experts recommend visiting a running specialty store where experts can analyze your gait and recommend suitable shoes based on your foot type, running style, and any specific requirements you may have.
- Consider your running style. Are you a casual jogger, long-distance runner, or sprinter? Your running style influences the type of running shoes you need.
Remember, everyone's feet are unique, so what works for one person may not work for another. It's crucial to prioritize comfort and fit when choosing treadmill running shoes, as these factors greatly affect your running experience and overall foot health.
How running impacts our health and longevity
If you've ever wondered how a 101-year-old neurologist attributes his longevity, look no further than the treadmill.
Howard Tucker, M.D., told mbg he used to run outside frequently, but it's too rough for him at his age of 101—so now he runs on the treadmill, 3 miles a couple of times a week.
In case you missed it, Zone 2 cardio is an exercise performed within a heart rate zone that represents 60% to 70% of the maximum heart rate (MHR). Your heart rate is typically split into five zones, so zone 2 will feel like a light exercise that you can continue for a prolonged period of time.
With the best treadmill running shoes, you'll have a smaller risk of injury, which can help you keep running for your longevity.
Benefits of treadmill running shoes
Treadmill running shoes are designed with specific features and benefits to enhance your treadmill running experience.
First, treadmill running shoes are primarily designed for running on the smooth, slightly cushioned surface of a treadmill belt. In other words, you won't be landing on rocks, sticks, or hard surfaces found on outdoor terrain.
That in mind, treadmill running shoes have slightly less cushioning than outdoor running shoes, which gives the benefit of being more lightweight. This offers a more natural and efficient stride that doesn't weigh you down.
Do running shoes matter on a treadmill?
Yes. According to our experts, running shoes matter wherever you run. The right pair of running shoes can still significantly affect your comfort, performance, and overall experience on a treadmill.
Is it OK to wear trail running shoes on treadmill?
Our experts don't advise wearing trail running shoes on a treadmill if the treadmill is your primary place to run. Instead, invest in a pair of proper treadmill running shoes.
Is it bad to run on a treadmill with flat shoes?
Experts agree that running shoes should offer arch support and cushion to avoid injury.
Is it better to run on a treadmill or on a trail?
Both running environments have their benefits. Treadmills offer convenience, a controlled environment, cushioning, safety from hazards, and more.
When choosing the best treadmill running shoes, podiatrists recommend considering factors such as cushioning, support, fit, weight, traction, breathability, durability, and arch support. The right pair of running shoes can drastically enhance your treadmill running experience, keep your feet comfortable, and help you achieve your fitness goals.