Treadmill Safety


In 2014 there were 24, 400 treadmill accidents reported.  The official number for 2016 is still undetermined, but I will be one of those numbers.  I rang in the New Year with a crash, bang, and a giant hematoma when I lost my footing climbing back onto a moving treadmill (Treadmill Safety Commandment Number Four).  It had been one of those runs where I just wasn’t really feeling it, after a week of treadmill runs, this one felt particularly monotonous.  I had propped open the side door to my garage to get some air moving through and it was getting too cold.  So instead of pausing my treadmill, I held onto the handrails, hopped off, closed the side door, and got back on.  I used the side rails and held onto the hand rails, but somehow when I got on the already moving belt I just lost my footing and crashed.  It was the kind of crash where you do the body pat all over to check for your limbs, and that’s when I saw the hematoma that had formed immediately on my left shin,  there was also a pretty good sized belt burn on my left arm, and some smaller belt burns on my stomach and upper right thigh.  I quickly got ice on the hematoma and texted a picture of the injury to my older sister, who is a college literary professor not a medical professional, yet somehow big sisters always know what to do.  I asked her if she thought I should go to the ER, her mono-syllabic response, written in all caps, with five exclamation marks said “YES!!!!!” Thankfully at the ER, the X-rays showed that the bone was completely intact and they sent me home to rest, ice, compress, and elevate.

Treadmills are the most popular piece of exercise equipment.  More than 50 million Americans use them, and according to federal statistics, they’re also the single most dangerous piece of exercise equipment.  Here are some important safety procedures to remember for staying safe.

Look Forward

It’s very common for runners to want to watch their feet, especially if they are new to using a treadmill. Runners who look down or to the side while they are on a treadmill are likely to lose their balance and fall.


Start by Straddling the Deck

When beginning a workout, it’s important for runners to straddle the deck and not start the machine with their feet on the belt. Most machines start at a slow pace regardless of what setting they were set on when they were turned off, but even if you are planning to do speed work, start slowly and increase your speed gradually.

Use the safety catch

It’s the string that attaches you to the treadmill so that if you fall, the string will bring the machine to an immediate stop.  Additionally, know where the kill switch is, so you can press it if you start to slip or so that the treadmill can be stopped quickly if you become injured or a piece of clothing gets caught between the moving parts.


Don’t EVER Step on or Off a Moving Treadmill

Ever, ever! I learned this one the hard way.  While it’s tempting to leave the treadmill running for a few minutes, say while you are shutting a door, a moving treadmill is a danger to anyone in the area and should be shut off completely before you step on or off the machine.

Leave Plenty of Space

Falls can happen to even the most experienced treadmill users. It’s important to make sure there is nothing behind the treadmill that you could hit your head on if you fell off the back of the machine. Treadmill belts move quickly and there is a lot of force behind them, a fall off of a moving treadmill is the equivalent of falling off a bike at 10 miles an hour without a helmet or knee-pads on to protect you.

While treadmills are generally safe, it’s important to remember they deserve 100 percent of your attention, focus, and concentration when they’re being used.  My Dad is a former helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard, and they had a saying among the flight crew that “complacency kills.”  After doing this research and reading about horrible accidents and even, on rare occasions death, I realized that I was complacent that day and that complacency resulted in a painful and expensive injury.  This is a lesson I’ll only have to learn once, let my story be your cautionary tale of treadmill safety and remember these tips to avoid injuries and accidents.  Understanding the risks, being safety conscious, and staying alert around the treadmill is an important part of running our lives.

Have you ever experienced a treadmill crash?


9 thoughts on “Treadmill Safety

  1. Crescent says:

    As I become more comfortable on the treadmill and don’t crowd the front anymore, I’m realizing that my 36.5″ inseam (I’m 6ft tall) might be too long for my condo buildings treadmills. Yesterday I felt my foot catch the end and a few weeks ago I fell off because of that. Luckily I managed to pull the emergency cord on my way down. I’ve started doing my TM runs at the YMCA. Their TMs are longer. Great tips of which we all need to be reminded.

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      I’m so glad you didn’t get a more serious injury! That is so interesting about that the length of treadmill and how it relates to height. Those treadmill incidents/accidents are really scary. I’m so glad the tips were helpful and happy running my friend!

  2. Leah Hoffherr says:

    Yes! It was awful! I have fell on the road and trails plenty of times. BUT my fall on the treadmill was the WORST. I stepped on a moving treadmill. I bit through my lip and had horrible burns. It was awful! I had a friend who had her treadmill near a wall and fell off and was pinned between the wall and the treadmill and she suffered terrible burns from the belt. She tells everyone to not put treadmills near walls now.

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry for you and your friend! I have tried to be so much more aware when running on the treadmill, it’s a great training tool, but there are some serious risks. Thank you for sharing your experience, I know it helps everyone when we can learn from each other. Happy running!

  3. Brooke says:

    Adana’s amazing 3rd grade teacher last year was out for half the year because of a treadmill accident. In January, she fell off a moving treadmill & her leg got stuck on it (still moving – she didn’t attach the safety latch). It completely shredded her hamstring, which required extensive surgery and complete immobilization for 3 solid months. So sad!
    I’m so glad that your injury wasn’t too serious!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      That is so scary. Reading about treadmill accidents this week has raised my awareness to be more alert when I’m using it. I hope she is recovered! I am so thankful my injury wasn’t worse, but it was a good wake up call.

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Thanks Jennifer! It’s been a week of ups and downs, but I have gotten two green lights from two different doctors to get back into running. I hope the tips helped. This injury and research has raised my awareness of the dangers surrounding treadmills. I know this is a lesson I’ll only have to learn once. Happy running!

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