Treadmill Buying Guide 2021

Kristen NelsonKristen Nelson

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Updated: August 19, 2021

What to look for when buying a treadmill, from the experts at TreadmillReviewGuru.com

If you are in the market for a new treadmill, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve created this treadmill buying guide to help you navigate all the options when looking to purchase a new treadmill. Whether you are a marathon runner, trail runner, a walker with sensitive knees, or just someone who wants to jumpstart their fitness journey, our team here at Treadmill Review Guru can help you find the perfect treadmill to accomplish your goals. Take a look at our buying guide below for some helpful tips.

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Table of Contents: What To Consider Before Purchasing A Treadmill

What Do You Want To Accomplish With Your Treadmill?

There are thousands of treadmills on the market with the features and footprint to fit in any home. Finding the best treadmill for your needs has a great deal to do with how you plan to use it. If you are a marathoner, you’ll need a treadmill with the appropriate deck size to allow for a full running stride. Those who plan to walk can opt for a smaller version. Trail runners or those who want to hike will need a lot of incline options. If you have multiple users in your home, you’ll want something with enough motor power to support several hours of use. Those who prefer interval training will want a treadmill with responsive speed adjustments. Let’s look at a few key features you’ll want to consider right from the start.

Treadmill Motor Size Matters

Motor power is measured in horsepower (HP). Most treadmill motors are direct current (DC) motors, so our ratings below reflect the power needed from a DC motor. Alternating current (AC) motors generate power differently and tend to be stronger at a lower horsepower, but are also relatively rare in a treadmill. When considering what motor size is best for you, we have the following recommendations:

  • 3.0 HP or less: Good for walking, hiking, and light jogging (<6mph). This is enough power for those who plan to walk or hike on an incline. Not recommended for long-distance training; may not support multiple users (more than an hour per day).
  • 3.0 – 3.5 HP: Will support most types of training. You can walk, hike, jog, and run without a problem. Most affordable options are in this range and provide suitable speed and power. However, this may be slightly underpowered for high-speed interval training, longer distances (8+ miles), and multiple users or extended use (2+ hours per day).
  • 3.5 – 4.0 HP: This is the sweet spot for treadmill power. A motor in this range will support most users and most types of training. Only a few motors are higher than 4.0 HP, so this range will support marathon training, walking, or multiple users.
  • Greater Than 4.0 HP: This is a high power output for a treadmill. Anything over 4.0HP is designed for heavy use, long distances, and high speeds.

What Size Treadmill Belt Do You Need?

When considering a treadmill, look at the belt size first since the overall treadmill dimensions aren’t always a good indication of how much space you have on the deck (we’ll talk about dimensions in the next section). Running requires a longer stride than walking, so runners will need a longer belt surface than walkers. Also, users over six feet tall may need more deck length to account for a longer leg span. Our recommendations below are a general guide to help you find the right size treadmill.

Treadmill Belt Size For Specific Users:

  • For Runners: Running treadmill belts should be 20” wide and 60” long. This provides enough span for running and should accommodate users over six feet tall.
  • For Walkers: Walking treadmill belts range from 17.5” wide up to 20” wide and are usually 45” – 60” in length. You can walk on any sized treadmill, but if you only plan to walk, a smaller surface will suffice.
  • For Larger Users: Oversized treadmill belts are typically 22” wide and 60+” long. Premium treadmills often offer more space, which is a nice feature and will support all sizes of users.

Treadmill Weight Capacity:

Each treadmill will list a maximum weight capacity. We recommend not going over this, even if you plan to lose weight. When running, the impact from each footstep can be 2x the user’s weight – this is a lot of impact on your treadmill – so it’s best to stay under the max weight capacity.

Tall Users:

We recommend those over 6 feet tall (182cm) look for a treadmill belt that is at least 20” wide and 60” long. This will provide enough stride length for taller users.

Where Is The Treadmill Going To Go In Your Home?

Treadmill size is an important consideration when evaluating how and where it will fit in your home. Here is a quick list of recommendations:

Measure The Space Where You Plan To Put Your Treadmill

Make sure you have enough room to safely walk around the treadmill to get on and off.

If your treadmill has a touchscreen and subscription content, you may have the option of doing strength, boot camp, or stretching classes off the treadmill. You’ll want enough room to be able to move your arms and body when doing classes so measure first to confirm. Bookshelves, doors, or other obstacles may limit your surrounding space. Many treadmill companies will list the recommended area for their treadmill.

Check Your Ceiling Height

Many treadmills incline, which raises you closer to the ceiling. Measure the top of the deck on the highest incline setting and add this to the height of your tallest user to make sure you have enough clearance. You’ll want to add a few inches for “bounce” while running.

Also, check for ceiling fans. You may have to move your treadmill or remove a fan if it hangs too low.

Check Your Internet Signal

Subscription-based content will require a strong internet connection to “stream” the classes on the touchscreen. To check the strength of your signal, try to stream a NetFlix show on a tablet in the room you plan to use your treadmill. If you have a strong enough signal to watch NetFlix on a tablet, your treadmill screen should work fine.

Other Helpful Tips:

Placing A Treadmill In A Garage
Can A Treadmill Be Used Upstairs?
Tips On Treadmill Safety At Home
What’s The Difference Between Running On A Treadmill vs Outside

What Type Of Treadmill Will Fit My Needs?

There are many different kinds of treadmills and often the designations overlap (you can find a great treadmill for running that also folds). Our list below provides a quick overview of different types of treadmills and what they offer:

Incline Trainers

These are typically large, non-folding treadmills with steep incline options. Some treadmills will incline to a 40% grade! Incline trainers are good for any type of use but especially helpful for those who want to walk or hike on a steep incline for a low-impact, high-intensity workout.

Incline trainers require a significant amount of floor space, and the incline will lift you up close to the ceiling, so verify you have sufficient room before buying.

Folding Treadmills

These days, most treadmills fold. Engineering is so efficient on newer models that even some of the heartiest, strongest treadmills will still fold up when you’re done. Marathoners rejoice! Even serious runners can find a folding treadmill. Folding treadmills are convenient and clear up floor space when you’re not using the treadmill. Many have hydraulic assist to make lifting and folding easier.

Walking Treadmills

Walking treadmills typically have a smaller frame, belt, and motor. They are often less expensive as well. For those who mostly plan to walk, there are some impressive options with nice touch screens as well. While you can find a budget walking treadmill, we recommend looking for one with sufficient cushioning and a large enough surface for a comfortable walking stride.

Running Treadmills

Most running treadmills have longer decks and stronger motors to support faster speeds and longer distances. You can find options with or without subscription content. For those who plan to run regularly, make sure the construction and programming support your training. Running treadmills should include options for HIIT workouts, hill work, endurance runs, and heart rate training.

Manual Treadmills

Beginning with the Woodway in the 1970s, manual treadmills have long been a favorite of professional runners and athletes. These don’t have a motor and usually feature a slat belt that moves by runner power. They tend to be pricey – but are the most similar to running outdoors. Manual treadmills are often extremely heavy (400+ pounds), so we recommend placing these on a main floor, basement, or garage.

How To Find The Right Treadmill In My Budget?

The following is a list of what you typically find in each price range. There are always exceptions, but in general, most treadmills in a similar range will have compatible features.

Under $1000

These tend to be lightweight, walking treadmills that usually don’t have a touchscreen or offer subscription content. In general, we recommend caution when looking in this price range. You can sometimes find a good one here and there (Horizon T202, T303) but check the specs and warranty to verify you’re getting quality and coverage.

$1000 – $1500

A good, budget treadmill is typically priced in this range. You can find something durable and moderate-sized and sufficiently powered. Treadmills in this range usually feature a slightly smaller belt and motor, but they are great for walking and light jogging. Manufacturers have made a lot of headway in this space lately, so you can find some quality options with subscription content and nice touchscreens (Sole F63, Pro 2000).

$1500 – $2000

This is your sweet spot for a good mix of affordable and quality. Our most popular treadmills are typically in this range. You can find options for walking or running and many offer subscription content and nice cushioning. Some of our favorites in this range include the Nordictrack 1750 and Sole F85.

Over $2000

At this price point, you’re getting into premium territory. Marathoners, sprinters, and those who enjoy HIIT training will find many options in this price range. Homes with multiple users may want something here because you’ll be able to run for several hours per day without a problem. Most treadmills over $2000 include touchscreens and subscription content for advanced training.

Over $3000

Manual treadmills, incline trainers, and other high-end models are priced over $3000. This is the luxury space where you’ll find extended cushioning, enhanced incline, ginormous touchscreens, and treadmills for professional facilities. Our favorites in this price point include the Nordictrack x32i or AssaultRunner Elite.

What Is Going To Keep You Motivated (Technology, Apps, Etc.)?

Treadmill technology has taken huge leaps forward in the last few years. Current treadmills include touchscreens at every price point. Subscription-based training content has proven remarkably successful at helping people stay engaged while exercising at home. Below you’ll find a quick overview of different types of training available on home-based treadmills:

Basic LCD Screen, No Subscription

A basic treadmill comes with basic, preloaded programs and usually has a digital LCD display. These models don’t require a subscription and usually don’t require an internet connection. If you like to just hop on, push a button and go, a simple treadmill is the perfect, affordable solution. Sole makes some of our favorite LCD treadmills.

Hybrid Console, Syncs With A Tablet Or Other Apps

Many treadmills come with a basic console that is Bluetooth enabled to sync with third-party apps on a phone or tablet. While all the metrics won’t transfer, you can usually get your heart rate and calories burned to sync with the app. This is a good option for households that don’t want to pay for a monthly subscription but are still interested in using training apps, watching Netflix, or using a tablet during the workout. Horizon’s Studio series treadmills are all hybrid.

Touchscreen Console Relies On Monthly Subscription

Subscription content helps people stay motivated and engaged after they purchase home-fitness equipment. Too often, a perfectly good treadmill ends up relegated to the garage not because it’s broken, but because no one used it. Subscription training apps are regularly updated, allow users to compete against each other and work together, and create a community of fellow exercisers to help you stay motivated. While there is a cost to the subscription, treadmills with touchscreens and app content are a more effective training tool. The graphics and videography of some of the apps is incredible! Our favorite subscription-based treadmills include Nordictrack’s Commercial line.

Subscription Options

Touchscreen treadmills often come with a specific app preloaded in the console. Apps provide integrated functionality like automated speed and incline controls and responsive heart rate training. A few of our favorites include:

iFit

Found on Nordictrack and ProForm machines. Offers indoor and outdoor running routes, trail runs, hikes, walks, etc. Classes are filmed all over the world, everywhere from Tanzania to Zion national park.

Zwift

A virtual reality app you can subscribe to and compete in races with other runners. This is not specific to any treadmill, but a few treadmills will sync with Zwift including Sole and Horizon.

Peloton

Based in an indoor running studio, the Peloton classes feature Peloton’s famous instructors and personal trainers who guide you through various workouts. No outdoor routes are available yet (this may be in the works in the future)

Echelon

While not yet on par with iFit or Peloton, Echelon has improved its training content significantly in the past year. Like Peloton, all classes are currently based indoors, but provide feedback and guidance as you run.

Where Should You Buy Your Treadmill?

Treadmills are available at local sporting goods retailers and online. We typically recommend buying online, straight from the manufacturer. Treadmill warranties are issued by the manufacturer – not the retailer – so even if you buy it at a store, any problems will have to be navigated through the manufacturer directly. In our experience, customers have a better experience when they order online from the manufacturer and register their product initially.

Many sporting goods stores, Costco, and other retailers may also sell products they have on hand that are no longer available from the manufacturer. We recommend buying directly from the manufacturer so you get current products and updated models.

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