Fitness & Rehab Tool Box


Backwards Running

Why People Run Backwards on a Treadmill?





Retro Revolution

At the gym one day I noticed all the treadmills were full, and one person stood out from the rest.  Four people were running straight ahead, and the fifth was running backwards.  I had never heard of anyone doing this before, and thought the person must have read an outrageous article in a magazine and thought it was the thing to do. I did some research and learned that there are a number of reasons to run backwards. 

Why Run Backwards?

Running backwards:


-          helps athletes move quickly in many different directions.

-          burns more calories than regular running because your body is not as efficient running backwards.

-          helps work parts of your legs that regular training tactics dont.

-          helps strengthen hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles.

-          can help prevent or recover from knee injury because the contact of the foot is more concentrated on the forefoot, reducing the impact on the heel.

-          places the back into extension, and may help reverse a herniated disc in the back.

A New Kind of Sport

Running backwards began as a competitive sport with The New York Road Runners Backwards Mile, an event held in New York every April 1 since 1987.  Today there are reverse marathons also held in France and Italy.


How to Start


If you would like to give backwards running a try, start on a grass field. Grass is a soft surface that will not add undue stress to your feet, ankles or knees, and will provide a soft landing if you fall.  Once you are feeling more confident, move to a track and use the lines as your guide.  You can also progress up to intervals; for example, run up a hill backwards and then run down the hill forwards.


Source: Supertraining Forum June 2007 Discussion - SUPERTRAINING discusses the theory and practice of sports science, biomechanics, physiology, medicine and psychology in sport, fitness and general health. -


Additional Resources


Backward fat loss: forget how weird it looks. Running backward will build quad strength, reduce injuries and burn calories. Weede, T., Men's Fitness Oct 2001: Vol. 17 Issue 10. p. 51


Comparative analysis of the kinematics and kinetics of forward and backward human locomotion. Kugler, L.M.; Armstrong, C.W.; Moleski, B., In, Kreighbaum, E. and McNeil, A. (eds.), Biomechanics in sports VI: proceedings of the 6th International Symposium on Biomechanics in Sports, Bozeman, Mont., International Society of Biomechanics in Sports, 1988, p. 451-464.


Comparison of cardiopulmonary responses to forward and backward walking and running. / Comparaison des reponses cardiopulmonaires lors de la marche et de la course en avant et en arriere. Flynn, T.W.; Connery, S.M.; Smutok, M.A.; Zeballos, R.J.; Weisman, I.M., Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Jan 1994: Vol. 26 Issue 1. p. 89-94 (English Abstract Available)

Hamstring strains: could backwards running be a panacea? - abstract. Dawson, B., In, Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport, National Convention Centre, Canberra 7-10 October 1997: abstracts, Bruce A.C.T., Sports Medicine Australia, 1997, p. 96-97.

Hamstring strains: could backwards running be a panacea - abstract. Dawson, B., Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport Mar 1999: Vol. 2 Issue 1 Supplement. p. 46


Kinematics, ground reaction force, and muscle balance produced by backward running. Threlkeld, A.J.; Horn, T.S.; Wojtowicz, G.M.; Rooney, J.G.; Shapiro, R., Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy Aug 1989: Vol. 11 Issue 2. p. 56-63 (English Abstract Available)


Lower extremity joint kinetics and energetics during backward running. DeVita, P.; Stribling, J., Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise May 1991: Vol. 23 Issue 5. p. 602-610 (English Abstract Available)


Mechanical power and muscle action during forward and backward running. Flynn, T.W.; Soutas-Little, R.W., Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy Feb 1993: Vol. 17 Issue 2. p. 108-112 (English Abstract Available)


Patellofemoral joint compressive forces in forward and backward running. Flynn, T.W.; Soutas-Little, R.W., JOSPT: The journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy (Baltimore, Md.) May 1995: Vol. 21 Issue 5. p. 277-282 (English Abstract Available)


Retro runner with ischial tuberosity enthesopathy. Satterfield, M.J.; Yasumura, K.; Abreu, S.H., Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy Apr 1993: Vol. 17 Issue 4. p. 191-194 (English Abstract Available)


Running backwards in a relay race. Brown v. Burlington City board of education. Barrett, K.R.; Gaskin, L.P., Journal of physical education, recreation & dance (Reston, Va.) Jan 1990: Vol. 61 Issue 1. p. 33-35


Running backward may help athletes move forward. / La course "a reculons" pourrait aider les athletes dans la course "vers l ' avant". Morton, C., Physician & Sportsmedicine Dec 1986: Vol. 14 Issue 12. p. 149-152 (English Abstract Available)


Structural characteristics of backward pedalling and the swinging leg and backward pedalling technique in the 100m. Luo, J., Journal of Chengdu Institute of Physical Education 1999: Vol. 25 Issue 1. p. 29-33 (English Abstract Available) 5. Kinematic and kinetic evaluation of high speed backward running Arata, A. W. (English Abstract Available)

About Rick Kaselj

Rick Kaselj is a Registered Kinesiologist and ACE Certified Personal Trainer with a passion for exercise therapy.  Rick designs effective exercise programs that safely and rapidly help one recover from injury, medical conditions and musculoskeletal pain.  Rick presents courses on exercise therapy across Canada and publishes a monthly [FITNESS & REHAB] newsletter for health and fitness professionals looking for the latest information on improving health, fitness, rehabilitation and sport.  To reach Rick or to subscribe to his monthly newsletter, call (604) 532-5248 or visit .




W - (604) 532-5248      F - (604) 677-5425