Treadmills consistently rank as the most popular piece of workout equipment, but they’re also responsible for tens of thousands of injuries every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Whether at home or at the gym, it’s important to observe basic operation guidelines to keep yourself and others safe.

Pick Proper Placement

If you’ve purchased a treadmill for home use, don’t place it too close to a wall, particularly one that’s behind the treadmill rather than to its side or front. If you lose your balance, a wall that’s too close to the treadmill can turn an awkward fall into a dangerous one.

As a rule of thumb, leave a minimum of 6 feet behind your treadmill and 2 feet on either side of it.

Face Forward, Look Forward

Always look forward while running on your treadmill. If you’ve never used a treadmill before, it may seem natural to look down at your feet as you run, but doing so can actually throw off your sense of balance and make it more likely you’ll lose your footing.

Similarly, looking off to the side while using the treadmill can cause your feet to drift off the treadmill’s center. Partially stepping off the belt while the treadmill is in motion is very likely to cause you to fall.

Use the Right Footwear

While using a treadmill, it’s best to avoid running barefoot, as you’re likely to develop slight burns and blisters from the treadmill’s belt. Flip-flops or other poorly fitting shoes should also be avoided, as they’re more likely to make you trip.

The best approach is to wear the same shoes you’d choose for a traditional outdoor run. Properly sized running shoes work well to protect your skin and absorb repetitive impacts to your joints.

Don’t Overexert Yourself

Avoid the temptation to always set the treadmill at the highest speed you can handle. You’ll get the best long-term effects through a consistent stride to stay on rather than a constant scramble to avoid falling off.

That said, though, never deviating from the same speed can cause repetitive stress injuries. It’s important to mix up the tempo throughout your session.

Disembark Carefully

If you’re not used to the sensation of being on a treadmill, you might find yourself with a bit of motion sickness upon stepping off. Always turn off your treadmill before getting off it. In addition to decreasing the risk of tripping as you transition from a moving surface to a static one, it helps ensure that the treadmill is only on while being operated. Unattended, active treadmills pose a danger to pets and small children.

Disembarking carefully also means not disembarking accidentally. Avoid resting any objects on the treadmill’s control panel, as they can fall off during operation. Even if they don’t land anywhere near your feet, the simple act of reaching out to catch them while running in place can cause you to lose your balance.