“Walking on a treadmill can lead to a sort of repetitive movement related pain” in the ankles, says Asim S. Aijaz, MD, a board certified pain management specialist with Advanced Pain Care in Texas.

“While on a treadmill, you are walking a smooth, unchanging surface, so you are constantly engaging the same muscles over and over again,” continues Dr. Aijaz.

“Compare this to walking on a trail or grass where the surface changes a small amount with each step.

“In this setting you are distributing the work a little more evenly over more muscles.”

Another possible cause of ankle pain while briskly walking on a treadmill is improper footwear. “Always make sure you have great shoes,” says Dr. Aijaz.

“Even if your shoes look beautiful and new, the padding can wear out.  Your shoes do more than just make your feet look fresh in the gym; they absorb the shock that would otherwise be hitting your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back.

“Making a trip to a dedicated shoe shop can help in determining what footwear may be best for you.”

Finally, we can’t rule out the possibility that, if you have the habit of holding onto a treadmill while walking, this is responsible for pain in your ankles.

And here is why: Holding on disrupts the natural gait pattern. The faster you walk when holding on, the more unnaturally your foot strikes the tread surface.

I’ve seen people gripping the front bar at fast speeds while walking, and their feet smack down hard with each step.

Holding onto a treadmill while walking, especially briskly, skewers the kinetic chain—the way the body is supposed to move naturally, right down to the feet.

Holding onto the side rails is no better than holding onto the front of the machine.

So instead, release your hands, swing your arms naturally, straighten your spine, and just walk.

Use a slower speed or lower incline if you get dizzy or fear falling off. Your body will quickly adjust.

Holding on has taught you to become quite dependent on assistance while walking.

If you still have pain in the ankles, then re-evaluate your footwear and the fact that when you use a treadmill, the walking surface never changes and is hard.

You may want to consider walking outdoors on an earthen trail.

Dr. Aijaz has been involved with the Texas Pain Society, Spine Injection Society and the American Society for Interventional Pain Physicians.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/YanLev