The Skillmill has the makings of a familiar fitness device, but don’t call it a treadmill. The new apparatus, which made its U.S. debut this spring, features a similar platform and belt designed for indoor running, but the likenesses stop there.
The device’s concave platform curves upward on the ends like a smile, and when you step on the molded slats you quickly discover this machine is missing a motor. To move the conveyor belt-like surface, you need to harness your own energy, similar to a bike, rather than rely on a wall outlet to power the equipment.
As you pick up the pace, you’ll find it impossible to heel-strike, which is a controversial running-style. Though a study published in Gait and Posture reports that this is how most people instinctively run, many experts believe that the sheer force of striking the ground with your heel can create a jarring effect to the skeletal system, and may ultimately lead to injury. The Skillmill’s unique curvature supports a more widely encouraged form of running—short, quick strides where the forefoot hits the ground first to cushion the impact.
With a better stride and no set pace, I was able to easily surpass my usually max speed of a 6.2 minute-mile, and hit a 7.2 minute-mile (well outside of my comfort zone) without the intention to go that fast. Amazingly, my body could handle the stress just fine. It was my cardiovascular system that gave out first, forcing me to slow down t…