Is running on a treadmill easier than running outdoors?

A common discussion among runners and general fitness enthusiasts is whether it’s easier to run on a treadmill or outdoors. “Easier” is rather a vague term but for the purpose of this article let’s phrase it like this: “Which is perceived as¬†easier – a 25 minute 5k on a treadmill or a 25 minute 5k on the road?”


A group of runners first ran at a self-selected pace on a track for a few minutes, then immediately got on a treadmill and were told to adjust the speed of the treadmill to what they thought was the pace they were running on the track – BUT – they were not allowed to see the pace on the treadmill.

After running for a few minutes on the treadmill, they went back to the track and were told to run the same speed again.

The runners were able to run the same pace on both occasions on the track.  However, their perceived speed on the treadmill was dramatically different.

The runners averaged about 6:50 pace on the track but when they adjusted the treadmill to what felt like the same pace it was actually two minutes per mile slower.


In can be inferred from the research that a 25 minute 5k on the treadmill will seem a harder than a 25 minute 5k on the road, therefore it may be beneficial to incorporate pace-matched treadmill running so that when it comes to running on the road, it seems easier. This could help to break through plateaus and improved PBs.


Unmatched perception of speed when running overground and on a treadmill.

Dan Sroda

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