A Pro Look at the Lever Running Treadmill Device
Professional triathlete Dede Griesbauer reviews a new treadmill attachment that can reduce the wearer's weight and impact while running—for far far less than other similar devices.
The Lever running system is a patent pending body weight support technology that allows runners to reduce impact in order to run lighter, stronger, longer, and faster.
Highly affordable price-tag when compared to other impact reducing systems
The company offers a rental program for short-term use, and also offers a “rent to buy” program
Lightweight and easy for travel
Easy, straightforward assembly/disassembly
New app on the horizon to offer run programs, content, and Bluetooth connectivity to the Lever for more precise weight control
Current model has less precise bodyweight reduction than competitors.
45-pound maximum weight reduction
Inability to change weight while running
Until now, athletes looking to minimize impact while running had to pay for access to an AlterG treadmill (or similar competitor) at a PT office or rehabilitation facility, sometimes traveling great distance and paying significant fees to gain access. A lucky few could afford the strong five-figure price tag to have a system like that at home.
Enter Lever running!
This lightweight, easy to assemble system helps runners minimize impact while running. Runners can return to running more quickly after injury, can reduce impact during high volume running blocks in training, and can perform “over speed” work at reduced weight, all for far, far less than other gravity-reduction setups. Bear in mind, of course, that you’d still need to purchase a treadmill or belong to a gym with a treadmill that you could attach the device to.
Lever Running: The Device Itself
The Lever comes in a lightweight, convenient carry case measuring 32 inches long and 16 inches tall. It’s approximately 3 inches thick.
I traveled with the Lever on a plane, and it fit snugly into the bottom of a large duffel bag (try doing that with an AlterG!). I asked the company if they knew if airlines would consider it “carry on” because it is quite flat and would fit in an overhead bin. Their answer, based on their experience was “it depends on the airline.” Worst case, you could try it as carry-on, but might be forced to gate check it at the gate. Since nothing in the bag is fragile, it’d be worth the “risk” checking it if it came to that. In short, though, this system is highly portable, entirely unlike other impact-reducing running systems.
Assembly of the Lever is quite simple even without reading the instructions, but you should read them anyway just to be safe: The two base bars lay flat on the ground, and the cross bars attach easily with push pins that lock into place. You then use the rubber straps to connect the base bars to the treadmill arms.
The device fits most treadmills, but some require an adapter, also available through Lever. Check with them to make sure your treadmill is compatible.
When attaching the Lever the first couple of times, I found that I did not tighten the rubber straps securely enough and that the Lever would “bounce” a bit. It was easy to jump onto the side rails and tighten the straps appropriately and carry on with my run. Said adjustment took less than 30 seconds and was my own fault to begin with, but you’ll want to make sure the straps a firmly tightened.
Once the treadmill is attached and you’ve installed the “Cam Jam,” you’ll need to put on the specific shorts that come with the device. Of note, I’d worn the first generation shorts and found the hip pulley, where the support bungee feeds thru would “ride up” and cause chafing on my hip. The company noticed the same and the second generation of shorts wisely adjusted the location of the pulley to slightly lower on the hip, eliminating the potential for chafing. have since worn the second generation of shorts and voilà! No chafing.
The bungee itself is delineated with white markings. Each mark indicates approximately 8 pounds of off-loaded weight. This is approximate because the height of the athlete will impact where the white line feeds thru the Cam Jam. Also, over time, the tension of the bungee may give slightly, so for precise weight, the company suggests using a bathroom scale for greater accuracy.
Lever Running: How Does It Work?
Running on the Lever is seamless. The first generation of the system had some issues for some runners where the eyelet placement on the cross bars forced the bungee close to the body, limiting arm carriage. Lever responded immediately and the second generation of the Lever has a “sliding” eyelet you can adjust it with an included Allen key to the appropriate width for your personal arm swing.
Also very cool: Owners of the first generation units can easily swap out the fixed eyelet with the adjustable one by simply sliding the adjustable eyelet onto the cross bar when the unit is disassembled.
When compared to other impact-mitigation running systems, I found it much easier to run with a natural gait on the Lever. Other systems “lock you in” and your hips feel rigid and limited. Running on the Lever felt much more natural. I could move around the treadmill bed more freely and with a natural arm carriage—in other words, I felt like myself running, only lighter, as opposed to running on competitor impact mitigation treadmill where I would feel significantly more limited and unnatural.
I first used the Lever when I had some tiny soreness pop up in my calf just two weeks before Ironman Lake Placid. Using this device, I was able to continue running, while simultaneously allowing the calf to settle down. I missed only two days of running, as compared to two weeks when I’d suffered similar issues in the past.
While the Lever is great for managing oncoming injuries and/or returning to running after injury, it is also a great tool for a healthy runner. I was able to return to running much more quickly after Ironman Lake Placid using the Lever. I would typically wait at least a week to return to running after an Ironman, but with the Lever, it was a matter of days before I was doing some light jogs on it, with minimal impact. Getting the body moving across all three sports helped significantly with my race recovery.
Lever also offers significant benefits when increasing mileage for a particular event or training block. Using the Lever for easy jogs, or supplementing long runs by doing a portion of them on the Lever is a great way to stay healthy and minimize the risk of injury that comes with increasing run mileage. Lever is also great for athletes who can’t run as many miles as they used to, due to knee, foot, ankle, hip issues.
Lever Running: Some Notes
To me, the approximate weight measurement is the only downside of this system compared to its competitors. Competitor impact-mitigation systems enable you to dial in more precise weights as a percentage of body weight to within 1%. In other words, you can run at 82% body weight—or at 83%, with the press of a button. The Lever is not quite as precise nor as seamless to adjust. You have to stop running to adjust the bungee in order to change weight, but again, when you are paying barely four figures for the Lever and would have to shell out multiples of five figures for a competitor system, these are minor issues! (Also, Lever says that their next generation will have more precise and easier adjustments, so stay tuned.)
Also of note, there is a 45-pound limit of weight you can off load with the Lever. This may be an issue for a heavier athlete coming back from significant injury, but for a majority of athletes, there is significant benefit of “only” 45 pounds of weight reduction.
Lever Running: The Future
The company also offers a generous rental program—for $100/month, you can rent a system and try it out. If you decide to buy, as I’m told most do, your rental fees go toward the purchase price.
Coming down the pipeline for Lever is a sleek new app which they say will include content and training recommendations on how and when to use the Lever for your running goals. More significantly, however, the new App will connect to the Lever via Bluetooth and will enable the Lever system to show precise weight/percentage of bodyweight the user is running on. To me, this technology will level the playing field with competitor impact mitigation treadmills. This “Scale” version of the Lever will be an add on for current customers and for new customers and will be accurate to ~1% of bodyweight, according to the company.
Lever Running: Conclusions
Whether you are an injured runner looking to return to running safely, a healthy runner looking to add miles with lower risk of injury, or a veteran runner who thought your best running days were behind you, it seems like the Lever running system offers a simple, elegant, and relatively affordable solution to help athletes ensure that their best running days are still ahead.
I was super impressed with the ease of use of the Lever with easy assembly and disassembly. I also liked the way it felt to use the device. And I appreciate the many ways the Lever can help me in my run training to stay healthy, run longer, and run faster all because I can conveniently run lighter. The affordable price tag, and flexible rental program puts impact-mitigation running into reach for many, many more triathletes than it competitors.