A cushioned treadmill reduces the amount of energy and shock that travels up your legs after impact. The benefit is less wear and tear on your body, including to your ankle, knee and hip joints, which can become injured with repeated stress. The best treadmills will provide a high quality variable cushioning system, which maximizes the protection where it’s needed most.
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The cushioning layer on treadmills is located between the belt and the frame. Basic cushioning systems will have just a single layer or the shock absorption will be in just one area of the deck. The best cushioning will provide variable protection and absorption with three different cushioning points; the front impact zone, middle transition zone and the back push-off zone. The front zone, where your foot lands should provide maximum cushioning. Moderate cushioning is best for the middle zone and a firm platform in the back zone allows for an effective push-off.
Cushioning can be beneficial for protecting your joints and preventing injuries, however, if you are training for a road race, a cushioned treadmill may not be adequate preparation for competition since the two surfaces can greatly vary. The best treadmills for this purpose will allow you to disengage the cushioning system to train on a road-like surface.