Can Trail Running Shoes Be Used on a Treadmill?

As passionate trail runners with countless miles under our belt, we’re often asked, “Can trail running shoes be used on a treadmill?” An interesting question indeed.

While we prefer the rugged, unpredictable paths of the great outdoors, we understand that sometimes, you might find yourself facing the monotony of a treadmill run.

Whether it’s due to harsh weather conditions or simply convenient, we’re here to provide an authoritative perspective on this matter. 

But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to establish a clear understanding of the distinct differences between a trail running shoe and a regular running shoe, and how these differences could potentially impact your treadmill experience. So, let’s lace up and get started! 

Quick Summary 

  • Trail shoes can typically be used on a treadmill without getting damaged due to their durability and design.
  • When considering using trail running shoes on treadmill, factors like shoe weight, tread pattern, comfort, and padding should be taken into account.
  • While it’s possible to wear trail running shoes on a treadmill, regular running shoes designed for smoother surfaces are often more suitable.

Will a Treadmill Damage Your Trail Running Shoes?

closeup of a treadmill in an old gym

Wearing trail shoes on a treadmill occasionally is generally fine and won’t cause significant damage. However, using them exclusively on a treadmill can lead to faster wear and tear (both of the shoes and of the treadmill belt) compared to using them primarily on trails.

Treadmill surfaces are smoother and may cause the outsole to degrade more quickly. To extend the lifespan of your trail running shoes, we advise you to rotate them with a pair of dedicated indoor workout shoes and reserve your trail shoes for their intended purpose, which is outdoor trail running.

Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Shoes for a Treadmill

As we tested over seven trail-running shoe models on the treadmill, we noticed that only some worked. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of key criteria that you should consider when deciding if your trail shoes are suitable for treadmill running. 

1. Weight

Most trail shoes are heavier than regular running shoes. This is due to the additional features they possess to handle muddy and uneven surfaces. While this weight provides stability on trails, it could slow you down on a treadmill.

Hence, lighter trail running shoes or road running shoes might be preferable for treadmill use. 

2. Tread

trail running shoes grip

Trail shoes have a more aggressive tread pattern, which provides grip on slippery surfaces.

However, treadmills have a smooth surface, and such an aggressive tread pattern is unnecessary.

This could potentially lead to excessive treadmill wear on both the shoe and the running belt of the treadmill. 

3. Comfort

Trail shoes are designed to provide comfort on hard, uneven surfaces, while a treadmill offers a smooth, even running surface.

As a result, you might find that your trail running shoes are not as comfortable on a treadmill as they are outdoors. 

4. Cushioning

Most trail shoe models have less cushioning than road running shoes. This is because trails are generally softer than hard surfaces like concrete.

When running on a treadmill, your feet may appreciate the extra padding offered by road shoes, as according to this study, the more comfortable the runners feel in the shoes they wear, the less force they experience during impacts.

This means that comfortable shoes may be better for your body when running, both indoors and outdoors.

The Difference Between Trail Shoes and Other Running Shoes

Road Running vs Trail Running Shoes side by side comparison

While you can wear trail running shoes on a treadmill, our tests showed that regular running shoes are generally more suitable due to a few key differences:


Trail shoes are known for their superior traction, built to deal with rugged terrain. They often have sticky rubber soles that provide better traction on muddy trails or rocky terrains.

Most trail running shoes have multi-directional lugs, which are essentially teeth-like structures on the sole, to increase grip. However, treadmills do not present the same challenges as uneven terrain, so this feature may not be as advantageous. 

Shoes Midsole

Trail shoes typically have thicker midsoles to provide ample cushioning against sharp rocks.

They also feature a rock plate for additional protection. In contrast, most road shoes, or lighter road shoes, have thinner midsoles as they’re meant for smoother, indoor running surfaces like those of a treadmill. Treadmill users often prefer shoes with more flexibility and less weight. 


The upper of a trail shoe is designed to withstand the elements, often constructed with durable materials to resist wear and tear from the outdoors. Meanwhile, indoor running or treadmill shoes might prioritize breathable materials for comfort.

Related Articles:

Best Trail Running Shoes for Treadmills

If you are determined to use trail instead of treadmill shoes, we’ve compiled a list of trail shoes that, based on our expertise in the field, work excellently on treadmills. We’ve put these shoes through their paces, so you can trust their performance. Let’s dive in. 

1. Salomon Ultra Glide

Salomon Ultra Glide

The Salomon Ultra Glide proved excellent for treadmill workout routines during our testing thanks to several standout features.

The Contagrip® outsole offered exceptional traction, providing stability and preventing any slips on the treadmill’s smooth surface while the Energy Save midsole delivered a perfect balance of cushioning and responsiveness, reducing impact on joints during high-intensity sessions.

Moreover, while Quicklace™ made adjustments hassle-free, the breathable and lightweight upper, combined with OrthoLite® insoles, effectively managed moisture and maintained comfort throughout our tests.

Overall, the Salomon Ultra Glide’s grip, cushioning, and fit quickly elevated them to the status of the favorite trail running shoes of the entire team.

2. Hoka One One Speedgoat 5

hoka one one speedgoat 5

In our tests, the Speedgoat 5 consistently exhibited durability, impressive grip, and excellent comfort, making it a top choice for treadmill runners seeking both performance and support.

Among its key features, the Vibram® Megagrip outsole provided remarkable traction, ensuring secure footing and minimal slippage on the treadmill’s surface.

The Profly midsole delivered plush cushioning and responsiveness, effectively mitigating the impact on joints during intense running sessions.

In addition, we were pleased with the upper’s breathability but we found the padded collar and tongue a bit too much for indoor training.

3. Nike Pegasus Trail 4

Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 Running Shoes

When we decided to wear trail running shoes for treadmill running, the Nike Pegasus Trail 4 was among our first choices, and we were right.

The shoe’s React foam midsole provided superb cushioning and responsiveness, minimizing impact on joints during intense workouts.

Overall, we found the shoe’s versatility, support, and comfort to be its strong suits, making it an ideal option for both outdoor trail runs and indoor treadmill workouts, catering to a wide range of runners’ needs.

So, Should You Start Wearing Trail Running Shoes on a Treadmill?

In our experience, you can indeed wear trail running shoes on a treadmill. However, understanding the specifics is crucial.

Trail running shoes are designed for outdoor terrains, offering more traction and stability. When used on a treadmill, they may cause more friction, leading to increased wear on both the shoe and the treadmill belt. 

Our thorough examination of this matter reveals that suitability largely depends on an individual’s foot type and personal comfort.

While some trail runners may find their trail shoes comfortable while running on a treadmill, most individuals would likely prefer a dedicated pair of treadmill running shoes designed for smoother, harder surfaces.

If you’re a trail runner thinking about investing in trail running shoes, you can explore our article on the Best Trail Running Shoes to gather valuable insights that will help you make an informed decision.

Ultimately, the aim is to enhance your running experience, whether it’s on a trail or a treadmill.


Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom has been a writer for over 20 years and an outdoor and hiking enthusiast for most of her life. After spending much of her career in the corporate world, she decided to freelance to spend more time with her family and explore new places. You will find her always looking forward to her next weekend adventure and writing guides that help others make the most of their own hikes and time outdoors.

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