Treadmills are packed with a number feature sets and workout options. One feature that often goes unexplained is a treadmill’s cushioning system. Cushioning systems are implemented to reduce joint pain, to better simulate running, and to add extra resistance. Depending on the treadmill brand and cushioning system design just one or all of the latter functions may be possible. We hope to provide readers with a clear explanation of what cushioning systems are and why they are a great addition to any treadmill.
While running on a treadmill, the force created from landing your foot on the treadmill’s deck is about twice your body’s weight. This impact can be severe, unless the treadmill has a cushioning system designed to redirect some of that impact away from you and your joints. Most cushioning systems are spring based, cushion point based, or shock based.
Cushioning systems designs will often use rubberized cushions or springs as impact points. These different points will each act as a shock and absorb a good amount of downward force. Ideally a cushion system will use variable cushion rates, allowing for more absorption at the front, less at the rear, and an average amount in the middle. This provides a very realistic feeling. Poorly designed point cushioning systems end up feeling like mini trampolines and can actually do more harm than good.
Good quality point cushioning systems will have 8 points across the frame. This provides the best overall workout experience and protects your joints. Other cushioning systems will operate with a shock absorption system. Smooth Fitness offers this with the Hydra-Suspension system. This system is designed with user preferences in mind. It provides a high quality level of cushioning and joint protection but also allows the user to adjust the amount of cushioning depending on his/her running style.
Cushioning systems can also be used to increase the intensity of a workout. If the treadmill allows for cushioning adjustment, setting the system to its softest point will create a more intense workout as the treadmill surface will push a lot of your forward force downward into the shocks, making you work harder. This type of configuration would produce an experience very much like running on sand. Alternatively you can set the cushioning to a very hard setting if you prefer a running surface similar to sidewalks or roads.
Cushion systems are a great addition to any treadmill. They promote safer workouts, reduce fatigue, reduce joint pain, and allow for more workout options. If you are trying to decide if a cushioning system is good or bad, first determine if it’s a shock based, cushion based, or spring based system. If its shock based look for adjustability and stability, if its cushion based make sure it has 8 points, and if its spring based make sure the springs offer a sufficient rebound rate.