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June 10, 2024 9 min read

In the ever-evolving landscape of fitness technology, curved treadmills have made a mark as a revolutionary tool for enhancing workouts.

Unlike traditional motorized treadmills, these innovative machines harness the power of human movement to deliver a more natural and effective running experience. By encouraging proper running form and engaging more muscle groups, curved treadmills offer a host of benefits that can elevate your fitness routine.

Whether you're an elite athlete seeking to improve performance or a fitness enthusiast looking to maximize your calorie burn, understanding the advantages of curved treadmills can help you make an informed decision about incorporating them into your training regimen.

What are Curved Treadmills?

Curved treadmills are a type of treadmill designed with a curved running surface that is powered by the user's own movement rather than an electric motor.

Also called 'non-motorized treadmills', they are designed to mimic natural human movement. They are responsive to the amount of force the user applies, so the speed of the belt is determined by the user's pace and motion.

This type of running style allows the user to use more muscle groups than a traditional treadmill, with greater emphasis on the posterior chain muscles. The arced shape also encourages a forefoot-to-midfoot strike pattern, which can improve running mechanics over time.

curved treadmill

How do Curved Treadmills Work?

Curved treadmills operate using a unique design that relies on the user’s movement to power the treadmill belt.

Here’s how they work:

  • - Curved Running Surface: The treadmill’s running deck is curved in a shallow arc. This curved surface is crucial for the treadmill's function, as it allows the user to generate motion without the need for a motor.

  • - Self-Propelled Motion: When a user steps onto the curved treadmill and begins to run or walk, their foot strike at the front of the curve pushes the belt backward. This action propels the belt in a continuous loop. The user’s body weight and the forward movement create the necessary force to keep the belt moving.

  • - Gravity and Friction: As the user moves up the curve, gravity helps pull them down, adding to the natural propulsion. Friction between the user’s feet and the treadmill belt also plays a role in moving the belt. The curved shape ensures that the belt keeps moving as long as the user is active.

  • - Speed Control: The speed of the treadmill is entirely controlled by the user. Running closer to the front of the curve increases speed, while moving towards the center or back slows it down. This provides a natural and intuitive way to adjust pace without needing buttons or settings.

  • - Engagement of Muscle Groups: The curved design encourages a midfoot or forefoot strike, which engages more muscles, especially in the legs and core. This design requires the user to exert more effort to maintain their speed, leading to a more intense workout.

  • - No Motor or Electricity: Since the movement is powered by the user, curved treadmills do not require a motor or electricity. This makes them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective, as there are no energy costs associated with their use.

  • - Resistance and Durability: Many curved treadmills have built-in resistance settings to increase the difficulty of the workout. They are often constructed from durable materials to withstand high-intensity training and frequent use.

In summary, curved treadmills provide a more natural running experience, encouraging proper running form and helping to burn more calories. The self-propelled, motorless design makes them a popular choice for fitness enthusiasts looking for an effective and efficient workout.

What are the Benefits of a Curved Treadmill?

According to a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, runners exert approximately 30 percent more effort on the curved, non-motorized running surface of a curved treadmill, bringing cardiovascular benefits and resulting in a higher calorie burn rate.

Using a curved treadmill offers several more benefits that can enhance your workout and overall fitness experience:

1. Improved Running Form

The curved design encourages a more natural running gait, promoting a midfoot or forefoot strike. This can help improve running form and reduce the risk of injuries often associated with heel striking.

2. Higher Caloric Burn

Since curved treadmills are self-powered, users must exert more effort to keep the belt moving. This increased effort typically results in a higher caloric burn compared to traditional motorized treadmills.

3. Engages More Muscle Groups

The self-propelled nature of curved treadmills engages more muscle groups, especially in the legs and core. This can lead to improved strength and endurance.

4. Enhanced Cardiovascular Workout

The increased effort required to power the treadmill naturally elevates the heart rate, providing an effective cardiovascular workout.

5. Speed Control

Users control the speed of the treadmill through their pace. Running faster moves the belt faster, and slowing down decreases the speed. This allows for seamless transitions between different paces, making it ideal for interval training.

6. Environmentally Friendly

Curved treadmills do not require electricity, making them more eco-friendly friendly and cost-effective in terms of energy use.

7. Durability and Low Maintenance

Without an electric motor and fewer moving parts, curved treadmills generally require less maintenance and are built to withstand high-intensity workouts.

8. Natural and Intuitive Use

The curved design and self-propelled nature of the treadmill make it intuitive to use, providing a more engaging and satisfying workout experience.

9. Suitable for All Fitness Levels

Whether you are a beginner or an elite athlete, curved treadmills offer a challenging workout that can be adapted to your fitness level.

10. Reduced Impact on Joints

The natural running motion encouraged by the curved surface can reduce the impact on joints compared to running on flat, hard surfaces, potentially lowering the risk of joint injuries.

In summary, a curved treadmill is a piece of fitness equipment that provides a more intense and effective workout by promoting proper running form, engaging more muscles, and offering greater cardiovascular benefits, all while being environmentally friendly and low-maintenance.

Girl on curved treadmill

What are the Cons of Using a Curved Treadmill?

While manual treadmills offer numerous benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

1. Higher Cost

Curved treadmills can be significantly pricier than traditional motorized treadmills due to their specialized design and durable construction.

2. Learning Curve

Running on a curved treadmill can feel different from running on a flat treadmill or outdoors. Users may need time to adjust to the curved surface and self-propelled motion, and developing the best running technique can initially be challenging.

3. Increased Physical Demand

For beginners or those with lower fitness levels, the self-powered nature of curved treadmills requires more effort, which might be too intense if you're just starting out. It may also be more demanding on the joints and muscles, potentially increasing the risk of overuse injuries if not used properly.

Exhausted athlete on treadmill

4. Limited Features

Curved treadmills often lack some of the features found on traditional motorized treadmills, such as built-in workout programs, speed and incline adjustments, and entertainment options like integrated screens and speakers.

5. Space Requirements

Curved treadmills can be bulky and may require more floor space than some traditional treadmills. This can be a consideration for home users with limited space.

6. Noise

The belt and rollers of a curved treadmill can sometimes produce more noise compared to motorized treadmills, which might be a concern in a home setting or shared living space.

7. Maintenance and Repairs

Although they generally require less maintenance due to the absence of a motor, any needed repairs for curved treadmills can be more specialized and potentially costly, depending on the brand and availability of parts.

8. Not Ideal for All Training Types

Curved treadmills are excellent for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint workouts but may not be as suitable for long-distance running at a steady pace, as maintaining a consistent speed can be more challenging.

Considering these cons is important when deciding if a curved treadmill is the right choice for your fitness needs and environment.

Muscle Engagement

Muscle engagement on curved treadmill running

Running on a curved treadmill engages multiple muscle groups throughout the body, offering a full-body workout.

Here are the primary muscle groups activated:

Leg Muscles

  • - Quadriceps: Located at the front of the thigh, these muscles are responsible for extending the knee and propelling the body forward during running.

  • - Hamstrings: Found at the back of the thigh, the hamstrings work to bend the knee and assist in hip extension, helping to pull the leg backward during each stride.

  • - Glutes: The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are crucial for hip extension and stabilization, providing power and balance.

  • - Calves: The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the lower leg work to push off the ground and provide forward propulsion, especially when running on the balls of the feet.

Core Muscles

  • - Abdominals: The rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis help stabilize the torso and maintain posture during running.

  • - Lower Back: The erector spinae muscles in the lower back provide support and stability to the spine, helping to maintain an upright posture.

Hip Muscles

  • - Hip Flexors: Including the iliopsoas and rectus femoris, these muscles lift the thigh and drive the leg forward with each step.

  • - Hip Abductors and Adductors: These muscles, including the gluteus medius and minimus (abductors) and adductor group, help control the movement of the legs and stabilize the pelvis during running.

Upper Body Muscles

  • - Arms and Shoulders: While not as heavily engaged as the lower body, the arms, and shoulders (deltoids, biceps, and triceps) contribute to maintaining balance and rhythm, especially during vigorous running.

Foot Muscles

  • - Intrinsic Foot Muscles: Propelling the manual treadmill belt using the balls of your feet activates the small muscles within the foot itself. They help with balance and stability, adapting to the curved surface and uneven forces during running.

Curved treadmill running can be more challenging than on a flat, motorized treadmill because it requires greater effort to propel the belt. This increased effort leads to greater engagement of the above muscle groups, providing a more intense workout that can improve strength, endurance, and overall fitness.

Workouts Suitable for Curved Treadmills

Male athlete on curved treadmill

Curved treadmills are versatile and can be used for various workouts, especially those focusing on high intensity and functional training. Here are some types of workouts that are particularly suitable for curved treadmills:

1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Curved treadmills are ideal for HIIT workouts, which involve short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief rest periods. The ability to quickly change speed by adjusting your pace makes it easy to transition between high-intensity sprint intervals and recovery periods.

2. Sprints and Speed Training

The design of curved treadmills allows for effective sprint training. Athletes can work on acceleration and improving their top speed without the need for motorized adjustments, making it a great tool for improving fast-twitch muscle fibers and overall speed.

3. Endurance Training

While more challenging than standard treadmills, curved treadmills can be used for building cardiovascular endurance. Running at a steady pace for extended periods can enhance aerobic capacity and stamina, though it may be more physically demanding than using a traditional treadmill.

4. Fat Burn and Weight Loss

Because curved treadmills require more effort to power the belt while you run, they can help increase calorie burn and aid in weight loss. Combining steady-state cardio with intervals can maximize fat-burning potential.

5. Functional Training

Curved treadmills mimic natural running and walking patterns, making them useful for functional training that translates well to real-world activities and sports. This type of workout engages multiple muscle groups and improves overall functional fitness.

6. Strength and Conditioning

Incorporating curved treadmill workouts into a strength and conditioning routine can enhance lower body strength, especially in the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. It can also improve core stability due to the need for balance and posture control.

7. Walking and Jogging

While often associated with intense workouts, curved treadmills can also be used for walking and jogging. These activities can be particularly beneficial for those looking to maintain a moderate fitness level or for active recovery days, and for indoor running to keep up activities when outdoor running is impossible during adverse weather spells.

8. Rehabilitation and Recovery

For some individuals, curved treadmills can be used in rehabilitation settings to promote natural movement patterns and reduce joint impact. However, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to ensure it's appropriate for specific recovery needs.

By incorporating these various types of workouts, users can take full advantage of the benefits offered by curved treadmills, from improving cardiovascular health and burning calories to enhancing speed and functional fitness.


Curved treadmills represent a significant advancement in exercise equipment, offering a unique blend of efficiency, intensity, and sustainability. Their ability to promote natural running mechanics, increase caloric expenditure, and engage a wider range of muscles makes them a valuable addition to any fitness program.

While they may come with a steeper learning curve and higher initial investment, the long-term benefits of enhanced workout quality and reduced environmental impact make them a worthwhile consideration for meeting fitness goals.

Embracing the use of curved treadmills can lead to more effective training sessions, improved overall fitness, and a deeper appreciation for the simplicity and power of self-propelled movement.

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