Treadmill Types: Finding the Perfect Treadmill for Your Goals

April 9, 2024
  • Kaleigh Ray
    Product Reviewer, Content Writer, Biomechanist

*TreadmillReviewGuru helps consumers find the best home fitness products. When you buy a product we recommend, we may earn a commission.

There are so many different types of treadmills. This list covers the top few types and explains the benefits and limitations of each. As a treadmill expert, I have the inside knowledge to help you find the right type of treadmill. First, make sure you have a clear idea of your goals and account for anyone else who might use the treadmill. You could also try listing out the features and performance settings that you most desire. If you have any limitations due to budget, space, or other factors, determine those to help narrow the scope of your search.

Treadmill Types F80 running close

The Sole F80 is a motorized running treadmill with tons of features and content options.

Motorized

Motorized treadmills (also called electric treadmills) use a motor to power the movement of the belt. These treadmills require electricity and must be plugged into a suitable outlet. Motorized treadmills typically adjust both speed and incline. However, some motorized treadmills may not have an incline or may use a manual incline feature.

Most residential motorized treadmills have DC motors that range from 1 horsepower to 5 horsepower. Some residential treadmills have AC motors. These are typically high-end treadmills with powerful performances. AC motors are more common on commercial-grade treadmills designed for gyms and other high-use places. AC motors of a lower horsepower typically perform on par with DC motors with higher horsepower ratings.

Who Should Choose a Motorized Treadmill

Most shoppers looking for a treadmill for their home will like a treadmill in this category. It’s the most cost effective and traditional option. This treadmill category is great for exercisers who want built-in programs, entertainment content, automatic speed and incline changes, and a large, feature-rich console.

Running

Treadmill Types  NordicTrack 2450  Running Treadmill

The NordicTrack 2450 is a running treadmill with incline and decline features.

Running treadmills are great for new or experienced runners. They have the power and features you need to reach your 5k, 10k, marathon, and beyond goals. A running treadmill is best for users who plan to run at all. Even if you tend to walk primarily, a running treadmill is a good investment to ensure you get a machine with high durability and great performance features. Running treadmills have a few characteristics that help us differentiate them from walking treadmills:

  • 3.0 HP DC motor or higher: A more powerful motor allows your treadmill to handle the high demands of running. While some treadmills with lower horsepower ratings may be appropriate for hard running, this guideline has been very effective at identifying durable running treadmills versus walking treadmills.
  • 20” x 60” running surface or larger: Some users may be able to get away with a smaller running area, but this size is best for most. A longer or wider running surface is great for running but could take up more space in your home.
  • A maximum speed of 8 miles per hour or higher: While it is certainly possible to run at a lower speed than 8 miles per hour, most of the treadmills we encounter for low speed limits are not as suited to running. They typically have weaker motors and constructions.

Who Should Choose a Running Treadmill

Anoyone who plans on running at all should consider a running treadmill. For long-distance runners, a dedicated running treadmill is a must for training indoors. If multiple walkers are sharing a treadmill, a running treadmill is a good option for a more powerful motor capable of handling higher use.

Not all running treadmills are the same. If you want to find one more specific to your needs, check out our best treadmills for runners.

Walking

Treadmill Types  Horizon T101 Treadmill  Walking Treadmill

The Horizon T101 is a highly-rated walking treadmill and a great budget pick.

You can walk on just about any treadmill, but some treadmills are intended only for walking. If you never plan to run, a walking treadmill has a few benefits. Here are a few of their characteristics:

  • More affordable: Buying a walking-only treadmill can save you some money. They are a more budget-friendly option for users who do not plan to run.
  • More compact: Walking-only treadmills are often smaller and more portable. If you have a small space, this type of treadmill is a great option.
  • Lower speed limits: While you might think this is a limitation. It is actually a good safety feature. If you never plan to run, having a treadmill that maxes out at 4 miles per hour ensures that you never get caught off guard by an accidental speed adjustment.

Who Should Choose a Walking Treadmill

Walking treadmills are a go-to machine for anyone who wants to improve their cardio. These treadmills are also a good option for users who rarely train indoors but need a trustworthy machine when the weather gets bad. A walking treadmill with a console provides more content for training or entertainment options and other features. Walkers training at a moderate to high intensity should consider a walking treadmill over an under-desk treadmill.

Check out our best picks for walking treadmills. We break down their features and performance settings to help you settle on the right one for you.

Manual

Treadmill Types Assault Runner Pro  Manual Treadmill

The AssaultRunner Pro is a garage gym staple for anyone who wants to sprint without restraint.

Manual treadmills do not have motors, so they are also called non-motorized treadmills. These treadmills are propelled by your motion. They do not require electricity, so they can be placed in more locations. Manual treadmills are generally more challenging than training on a motorized treadmill or outside because you have to do more work to sustain a certain speed. Because you control the speed of a manual treadmill, there’s no speed limit.

There are quite a few differences between manual and electrical treadmills, and it takes some time to adjust to a manual machine if you have never used one before.

Who Should Choose a Manual Treadmill

If you want less maintenance and don’t care for fancy training content, a manual treadmill could be right for you. Manual treadmills are great for garage gym exercisers because they do not have to be plugged in and don’t require WiFi.

Manual treadmills designed for running and walking are quite different. We review the top manual running treadmills, many of which are also suitable for walking.

Flat Belt

These treadmills are typically only for walking. Some are also good for sled pushing. They are very different from their curved counterparts:

  • Inclined decks: Most flat belt treadmills are placed at a fixed incline or use a variable incline. The steeper the incline, the easier it is to get the belt moving. When the treadmill deck is lowered to a neutral grade, you typically have to sled push rather than walk naturally. You also may not be able to swing your arms and must grip the handles.
  • Small decks: Because these treadmills are designed for walking, their decks are usually much smaller. Even if you could bring the belt up to a running speed, you may not have the room to do so.
  • Low cost: When compared to their curved counterparts, a flat belt manual treadmill is typically much more affordable. Some of them are even more affordable than the typical motorized treadmill due to their simple, motorless construction.

Who Should Choose a Flat Belt Manual Treadmill

Shoppers on a tight budget should consider a flat belt manual treadmill. They are also a good option for anyone who needs a treadmill that can be stored in a closet or other small space.

Curved Belt

Treadmill Types Bells Of Steel Blitz Manual Treadmill Sled Push Curved Manual Treadmill

The Bells of Steel Blitz curved manual treadmill has multiple resistance levels for all kinds of training.

Curved manual treadmills are designed with running and sprinting in mind. The exception to the following information will be curved walking manual treadmills. These are smaller and unsuitable for running. The curvature of these machines allows you to build up your running speed. These treadmills typically have a few other features in common to create the desired performance:

  • Curvature: The steeper the treadmill belt, the more gravity assists you in getting the belt moving. However, steeper doesn’t always mean easier. A heavier treadmill belt or one with resistance will be more challenging to move.
  • Slat belts: Curved treadmills do not use a traditional treadmill belt. Instead, they use rubber slats. Slat belts provide additional cushioning and may be suitable for barefoot running, too.
  • Unlimited Speed: Most curved manual treadmills have truly unlimited speed, so you can sprint as hard as you want.
  • Belt Size: Compared to motorized running treadmills, curved manual treadmills typically have narrower belts. The running area may also be longer than that of motorized treadmills.
  • Console Style: Because manual treadmills do not require electricity, they usually have very simplistic battery-powered consoles. If they have training programs, they are typical interval workouts or target programs.

Who Should Choose a Curved Manual Treadmill

Fast runners, sprinters, and team sport athletes should consider a curved manual treadmill. These treadmills have unlimited speed, unlike motorized treadmills which are typically capped at 12 miles per hour. Manual treadmills are great for anyone who wants to train acceleration, too.

Folding

Treadmill Types SoleF85 Folding Treadmill

The Sole F85 folds and has transport wheels that allow you to push it around.

Typically folding treadmills are motorized. However, some flat belt manual treadmills fold up. Folding treadmills are great options for users who do not have the space for a larger treadmill. There are many different types of folding treadmills and some are more compact than others. There are also different types of folding mechanisms. We have experience with all of these different types:

  • Traditional Folding: This style of treadmill requires you to lift the treadmill deck up to the console. Some fancy treadmills use electricity to fold the deck. A variety of different locking mechanisms are used to keep the deck in place. A traditional folding treadmill is the most common residential treadmill.
  • Flat Folding: Instead of the deck folding up to the console, these treadmills have consoles that fold down to the deck. These treadmills are great for compact under-bed storage. Some may also support vertical storage where you can store them flat against a wall or in a closet.
  • Double Folding: These treadmills fold twice. First, the deck folds in half and then the deck folds up to the console or the console folds down to the deck. These compact treadmills are typically smaller than the average treadmill and are best for walking.
  • Soft Drop: This technology allows the treadmill deck to softly lower to the ground once it is released from its upright position. It uses a gas shock or hydraulics to slowly lower the deck. It also makes it easier to lift the treadmill deck up to its folding position.
  • Manual Folding: Unlike treadmills with soft drop technology, manual-folding treadmills require you to hold the full weight of the treadmill deck when folding and unfolding.
  • Release Levers: The most common folding lock mechanisms and release levers include kick-release, hand-release, and pin and lock mechanisms. Kick-release and hand-release are typically found on soft drop treadmills.

Who Should Choose a Folding Treadmill

Folding treadmills are the solution for users who don’t have a dedicated exercise room or want to conserve space for their other equipment. Folding treadmills are a better option than non-folding treadmills if you need to move the treadmill around even a short distance. Walkers and runners who want a decline may need to consider a folding treadmill because a decline feature is less common on non-folding treadmills.

Slat Belt

Treadmill Types  Sole ST90  slat belt

This is the Sole ST90’s slat belt. They provide a unique underfoot experience for walking and running.

Motorized or manual treadmills can use a slat belt design instead of a traditional continuous treadmill belt. A slat belt treadmill is preferred by many runners for its cushioning. Some exercisers feel that slat belt treadmills are harder than traditional treadmills because they don’t provide as much bounce.

Who Should Choose a Slat Belt Treadmill

Runners and walkers looking for a treadmill that mimics running on a trail with loose dirt, grass, or pine straw should consider a slat belt. These treadmills are great for exercisers who want shock absorption but don’t want the helpful bounce that other cushioned treadmills provide. Slat belt treadmills are also known for being quiet because they reduce foot noise.

Commercial

Treadmill Types - Freemotion T22.9 Reflex  Commercial Treadmill

The Freemotion T22.9 REFLEX Treadmill is a commercial-grade product available for purchase for residential use.

Commercial treadmills are designed for environments where they will be exposed to heavy use. You will typically find these treadmills in a gym or other fitness center. Commercial treadmills are more expensive than residential treadmills. They typically have AC motors and higher weight capacities.

When a treadmill is termed a “light commercial” treadmill. It means the treadmill is intended for commercial use at a facility that sees less traffic. Examples include an apartment gym, a hotel fitness center, a private personal training studio, or a sports team facility. Some light commercial treadmills are also sold as residential treadmills.

You may choose to own a commercial treadmill for residential purposes due to a variety of reasons:

  • Long-distance running: If you are training primarily indoors for long durations or sharing the treadmill with another runner, a commercial gym may hold up better under your intended use.
  • Higher weight capacity: Most residential treadmills are capped at a 300-lb weight limit with some stretching to 400 lbs. Many commercial treadmills have superior weight capacities.
  • As a long-term investment: Commercial treadmills may outlive their residential counterparts long enough to justify the high cost.
  • Superior features: From cushioning to commercial training content, these treadmills may better suit your training needs.
  • A better warranty and customer service: A longer warranty and a more responsive customer service team could save you from months of waiting on a replacement part. The most frequent complaint that any residential treadmill manufacturer gets is the long wait for warranty claims and replacement parts.

Who Should Choose a Commercial Treadmill

Commercial treadmills are more durable than other types of treadmills, so they are an appropriate choice for high-use households and environments. They are expensive, but they make great long-term investments for serious exercisers. Commercial treadmills are a great choice for shoppers who are not restricted to a budget.

Under Desk Treadmills

Treadmill Types Walking Pad A1 Pro Under Desk Treadmill

The WalkingPad A1 is a compact and portable under-desk treadmill that is app or remote controlled.

Under-desk treadmills are a great way to add more physical activity to your day. Most under-desk treadmills are designed only for walking at a desk, but there are a few 2-in-1 options that support fitness walking or even running. Treadmill desks are standing desks designed to work with specific treadmills, often sold as a set. Our best under-desk treadmill list has a variety of options to suit every work and exercise situation. You can find common features on under-desk treadmills below.

  • Slower speeds: Most under-desk treadmills are capped at 4 miles per hour or slower. This design is safer for users who are actively multitasking.
  • Small walking surfaces: Under-desk treadmills are typically narrower and shorter than other walking and running treadmills. They are more compact for better portability and to fit into an office space.
  • Consoles and Remotes: Instead of having upright consoles with buttons, most under-desk treadmills have remote controls or wired consoles that you can set on your desk. Alternatively, they may pair with an app, so you can use your phone as the remote.
  • No incline: Under-desk treadmills do not incline.

Who Should Choose an Under Desk Treadmill

Under-desk treadmills are the perfect choice for shoppers who have standing desks. If you find it hard to fit exercise into your busy workday, an under-desk treadmill is a great solution. Under-desk treadmills are also good for apartment and dorm living. If you don’t have the space or budget for another treadmill, consider an under-desk treadmill.

Less Common Treadmill Types

These less common types of treadmills are typically very expensive and only found in very specific settings. It is a lot more difficult to purchase these types of treadmills for personal and residential use.

  • Rehabilitation Treadmills: These treadmills are designed for physical therapy and other medical settings. Rehabilitation treadmills include anti-gravity treadmills and water treadmills. They reduce the amount of body weight a patient is supporting with each step. Split belt treadmills are another type of rehabilitation treadmill. These treadmills have two belts, so each foot lands on its own belt. This design can help patients work on gait asymmetries.
  • Laboratory Treadmills: Laboratory treadmills are used in exercise science and other research fields. These treadmills are used in conjunction with motion capture systems, force plates, metabolic carts, and other equipment to report advanced health and performance metrics. Many laboratory treadmills are “in-ground” to make them level with the rest of the floor.
  • Omnidirectional Treadmills: This is a growing category of treadmills designed for virtual reality. They allow the user to walk in any direction while strapped into a harness to keep them centered on the treadmill. They are typically round and do not have moving belts, pushing the limits of what can be considered a “treadmill.”
  • Treadmills for Other Sports: If you have ever seen a giant treadmill that could fit multiple people on it at once, you might have seen a treadmill designed for skiing, skating, cycling, or other sports. These treadmills are rare and typically only found in specialized sports training facilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of treadmills are there?

Residential treadmills can be divided into motorized and manual treadmills. There are also commercial-grade treadmills. Treadmills can be further divided into categories such as folding, non-folding, walking, running, under-desk, traditional belt, slat belt, curved deck, flat deck, and more. Our treadmill experts are experienced with all types of residential treadmills as well as some commercial and less common treadmill types.

Which treadmill is best for home?

The NordicTrack X22i Incline Treadmill is our pick for the best treadmill for home. We also like the Sole F80, the NordicTrack Commercial 1750, and the Horizon 7.0 AT treadmills. Our top manual treadmill choice is the AssaultRunner Pro. Our treadmill buying guide provides even more advice for finding the right treadmill.

What is a hybrid treadmill?

A hybrid treadmill is a motorized treadmill with a motor that can be disengaged for manual use. Examples include the Sole ST90 and the Peloton Tread+.

Are slat treadmills better?

Many runners and walkers prefer slat belt treadmills because they have a cushioned surface that feels similar to natural surfaces. However, other runners and walkers do not like slat belt treadmills because they feel more challenging than a traditional treadmill and may not provide as much bounce as other treadmills.

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