Running Inside Vs. Outside: Pros & Cons.

Matthew McConaughey getting his outdoor jog on.

I’m in Palm Springs for a few days, enjoying a nice little vacation from winter. The lovely hotel at which I’m staying doesn’t have a treadmill, and so I’ve decided to take my cardio out of doors.

Running outside is a totally different beast, and so it begs the question: Is it right for you? The answer depends on a number of factors, and there are pros and cons for each.

Running Inside (Treadmill)

I love treadmill running for one reason: It’s easy to clock speeds and distances. It’s totally measurable. Nothing is left to guesswork, and if you set the treadmill to 9.5 MPH then that is the speed at which you will run. Moreover, the course is entirely customizable. You can add in hills whenever you want. Treadmills give a lot of control to the runner. And, they can be used any time of the day, any day of the year – rain, sleet, snow or shine.

But treadmill running isn’t all sunshine and roses. Many people find it painfully monotonous, even if running with headphones or watching TV. I actually enjoy the monotony; it feels like a meditation to me. But beyond the repetitive nature of treadmill running, many running enthusiasts will notice that the belt does provide some running assistance – and that there is no wind resistance indoors. If you’re training for a running event, you’ll find it much harder to achieve treadmill speeds outdoors. Adding a slight elevation to the treadmill (even 1%) can help overcome the belt’s running assistance and lack of resistance.

Running Outside

I think the biggest advantage to running outside is the ability to enjoy the scenery. But actually. I had so much fun running up and down the desert streets of Palm Springs, checking out the architecture and viewing the landscapes. It was gorgeous – and my cardio time literally flew right by. When running on the treadmill, time tends to stand still. Outside, it’s quite the opposite. In addition, outdoor courses are the real thing. There are hills, ups, downs, turns and wind resistance. If you’re training for a running event, nothing beats actual pavement experience.

Unfortunately, however, it’s much harder to determine running speed, keep track of distance, etc. Unlike the treadmill, outdoors running isn’t measurable – and the runner has little control. And snow, ice, rain or darkness can make for dangerous running conditions.


If you’re just running for exercise, and provided you are not completely bored by indoors running, then the treadmill is probably your best bet. If, on the other hand, you’re training for a competitive running event, there’s really nothing that can beat actual outdoor training – or at least a mix of indoor and out.

Do you run inside or out? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. I run inside, simply because I live near a densely populated city. The air outside is filled with pollution, and it isn’t healthy for me to be breathing in THAT much of the air.

    Not to mention I love treadmills-being able to control everything, and know exactly how far I’ve run gives me attainable and measurable goals.

  2. Running is the best work out on the planet. Running on a treadmill is good but it cannot duplicate running outside or on an side track. Running outside you get the following:

    variations of terrain
    fresh air (if you live in the country)
    natural running dynamics
    can vary running speed easier
    not as boring as a treadmill
    if you run off pavement then it is easier on your joints

    I know running on a treadmill is good but to me it is boring. I have heard of people solely training on their treadmill. I have even read in Runnersworld people training for marathons on their treadmill. I run only about 3-5 miles on a treadmill and keep it to a speed type workout. I do my longer runs outside.

  3. i love running outside, using my phone with mapmyride apps / the gps and the website i preplan the routes based on what others have recorded around me and the app also helps with speed, can plot it all after the run…

    i live in Vancouver, the sea wall is beautiful, sunrise or sunset, always things to see, the fresh air (at this time of year, the fresh + crisp air) makes the time fly like u said Davey

    I literally hate running on a treadmill, i get bored, distracted…. have this feeling that im almost cattle in a barn… not only that, the recycled air leaves a lot to be desired…

    personal preference of course ๐Ÿ™‚ but yea… for me, its outside, rain or shine… (ill pass on the snow though lol…)

  4. Hi Davey

    Good article and summation. Is it possible to quantify (in % terms) the additional benefit you get from the treadmill in termns of wind resistance and assistance from the belt?



  5. Hey Davey

    (You’re gorgeous!)

    Other than that; I used to be in the Army and was always taught treadmill running is terrible for the knees due to the direction of applied force – something about the force only going down and not radiating in the motion your ankle would make if pushing fully off – any thoughts on that?



  6. I disagree with the statement that outside running/walking is not measurable. There are pedometers as well as sophisticated iPhone apps such as itreadmill or Nike+ GPS. But, you left out the fact that outside air, depending on where you are running can be full of toxic fumes and pollution, so it’s still a toss up.

  7. I run inside, if my treadmill were to break I’d cry. Being in Canada means slushy wet sidewalks/roads, ice = slipping hazards, plus bitter cold. You can never plan a run it seems, at least in doors I know I can run 6 out of 7 days at any time.

  8. My arguments here are not valid since I have never ran on a treadmill, never had the chance to, but would give it a go if it were there, and free.

    I have only ever ran outdoors, and the scenery, view and company is what motivates me. Running by myself is real hard work and when running and chatting with others, get stuck into a good topic and the time flies by. Last week it was politics, and the last few miles just vanished in no time.

    In my city we have rivers and canals, these are the best routes, although in winter its a little too dark to go and enjoy them, so its just road and pavement running, which isn’t so fun, but with varied routes it can be made a little more interesting.


  9. Davey Wavey!

    Great comparison between running inside and out… I’d definitely say I’m an outside runner. It really keeps me running the way I need to for military purposes… Although I am forced to run on a treadmill during the freezing freezing cold days, and those ridiculously hot days of the year, I absolutely try and mitigate using a treadmill at all costs… Almost fell on one because the belt slipped. So, even though I use that little string that stops the belt when you pull it, much rather go outside and be able to fully control my running pace without having to push a button… Just my thoughts on it. Thanks!

    -Scott :0)

  10. I run on a treadmill for a simple reason: running outside in 5 degree weather on ice and snow isn’t fun.

  11. For many years I loved running outside. I did it 12 months a year, in ice and snow at times. The treadmill is a huge bore. Due to a back condition I can no longer run on either. I miss outdoor running very much. I never got a “runner’s high” inside.

  12. I don’t really like running on the treadmill because everything around me looks the same and I get too fixated on the numbers (how long I’ve been running, how far I’ve gone, etc…) instead of just running until I’m about to fall out. Pedometers can be helpful if you want to know how far you’ve gone.

    I do however like the privacy/confines of running indoors on a treadmill, but that’s about it.

  13. I agree with Dennis P. that running outdoors can be easily measured. In addition to his GPS suggestions, which can show time, distance, and elevation changes, I want to point out that wearing a heart monitor during outdoor or indoor runs will give you something very important to measure: time in the target heart rate zone. Hear monitors also calculate calories burned. The reasons many people run is to burn calories and to improve cardiovascular fitness. A heart monitor will help you measure both in a very direct way. Nevertheless, I prefer treadmill running for many reasons that Davey mentioned.

  14. cheers for the tip, but i do that anyway.

    sometimes a change of workout scenery helps motivation plus weather included.
    i dont mind the wind cause when you run the wind will feel fresh not cold.

    Jay xx

  15. I tend to run on a treadmill because I have exercise induced asthma, and running outside triggers it more. I also find that when I “zone out” (as someone else said, like a state of meditation), my breathing is easier to control. Zoning out outside probably isn’t a good idea, lol. Plus, running outside this time of year is easier (60s, 70s, occasional day in the 80s). In a couple months it will be so stinking hot and humid I won’t be able to breathe just walking out my front door! But as I’m training for two races, I guess I’d better get used to it. Any tips for making the transition easier, anyone? I run on a 2% incline on the treadmill (my neighborhood is completely flat, no hills). I find my heart rate goes about 10bpm higher outside too, which is usually when my asthma triggers.

  16. I only run outdoors these days. Two or three reasons.

    1: I find gyms incredibly boring and so do not have a membership for one.

    2: I get cramp very easily on treadmills as I overpronate a lot so on a treadmill I end up overworking a cold achilles tendon or calf and cramp.

    3: I am lucky to live in Bath UK very near to lovely countryside, villages etc. I also have a large selection of hills between 10 and 18% incline, which I have grown to love.

    • Oh also: running 10+ miles on a treadmill will either make anyone zzzz or I would be asked to get off the treadmill by staff!

  17. I started running a few months ago and I run outside. Im not a fan of treadmills I find them so boring. I do wish I could measure my speed and distance like on a treadmill and I live in Scotland where the weather can be really bad in the winter so I probably will eventully have to go on a treadmill


  1. […] great website I found helpful was It gives a brief description of pros and cons for both treadmill running and also running […]