Treadmills are staples of every commercial and home gym and are great investments that help people achieve their health and fitness goals.
However, with the many different treadmill models on the market, knowing the right one for you might take a lot of time and effort.
In addition, choosing the right machine can be more challenging, considering factors like speed, incline, and horsepower. But don’t worry. In this treadmill buying guide, we will take you through the journey of finding the perfect treadmill.
There are different types of treadmills on the market today. Here are the four main treadmill categories:
These treadmills are often found in commercial gyms, and they are exactly what their name suggests—an electricity-powered motor powers the conveyor belt.
Additionally, motorized treadmills usually have fancy features like preset treadmill workouts, touchscreen displays, tablet holders, and water bottle holders.
Also known as manual treadmills, non-motorized treadmills are the opposite of motorized treadmills; no power is moving the belt.
Running on a manual treadmill is almost like running outside, especially if it’s a curved treadmill.
In addition, these treadmills don’t have a cord, meaning you can place the treadmill anywhere without being concerned about outlet location.
One main drawback of a manual treadmill is that its workouts feel “harder” than on an electric treadmill. Also, manual treadmills are very large and heavy and lack the option of foldability.
Hybrid treadmills tend to kill one bird using one stone. These exercise machines feature a combination of a treadmill and an elliptical or other cardio gym equipment.
One of the drawbacks of these machines is that they are not common and deliver results that are below their cost—they are jacks of all trades and masters of none.
A foldable treadmill is perfect for anyone conscious of space. After working out on this machine, you just fold it and store it under the bed, behind the door, or in a place of your choice.
One thing to ask yourself when buying a foldable treadmill is whether it will fold at the press of a button or you will have to lift the heavy machine manually to lock it in place.
How to Buy a Good Treadmill
Before buying a treadmill for your home gym, it is important to consider the following questions to narrow down your search:
- How often do you intend to exercise on the treadmill?
- Will you mostly run on the treadmill, jog, or walk?
- Do you have ample space in your house for the treadmill?
- Are certain features particularly essential to you, such as foldability, incline, fast maximum speed, app integration, or technological features?
- What’s your budget?
Although there are many other factors you need to consider when buying a treadmill, which we shall discuss later, the above basic questions are what you need to consider in your initial stages of buying the machine.
Let’s now expound on the above five questions:
1. How often do you intend to exercise on the treadmill?
If you plan to use the treadmill more often or have many users at home, then your device will likely get rugged quickly. In this case, you will have to shop for a more durable treadmill that can stand lots of use. So, check out a treadmill that rivals a commercial treadmill.
On the other hand, if you intend to occasionally run on the machine when the weather outside is terrible, or you have a tight schedule with little time for exercise, you might not need the most robust machine nor one with the longest warranty.
2. Will you mostly run on the treadmill, jog, or walk?
Like the previous question, this also points to a treadmill’s durability. If you intend to use the treadmill for walking, it will be best to go for a treadmill specifically made for walking. This way, you will save money and get an excellent machine that will help meet your fitness needs.
Devoted runners who want to record and monitor their running mileage on the treadmill will obviously require a treadmill that can withstand running and higher speeds. On top of that, if you are a competitive runner, you’ll need a running machine that can reach fast max speeds, at least 10 - 12 mph or faster.
3. Do you have enough space in your house for the treadmill?
When planning to buy a treadmill, you will need to set aside some ample space where you will place it since even the treadmills marketed as space-savers still use significant space.
When choosing this space, there are several factors you will need to consider:
● The footprint area where you will place the machine
● Enough space around in case you want to move the machine. Also, having no objects around can minimize your risk of injuries.
● The ceiling should be high enough to ensure you don’t hit your head on it when working out on your cardio equipment. Ensure that your height combined with the running deck height is at least 6 to 8 inches shorter than the height between the floor and ceiling.
For the foldable treadmills, it’s important to note that they still need some space. Some exercise machines don’t fold completely and assume a “V” shape when folded. Yet others fold entirely, and you can keep them under the bed. Either way, consider the dimensions of the machine and its space needs.
4. Are certain features particularly essential to you?
This is another vital question you should consider before buying a treadmill. You could be particularly interested in technological features, app integration, incline, foldability, or fast max speed.
So think about what will keep you motivated on the cardio equipment.
For example, do you want a machine with Bluetooth capabilities that seamlessly integrates and uploads workout stats to running apps like Apple Health and Strava?
Are you excited about having an integrated tablet that will allow you to stream running workouts that you will follow along with?
Or do you prefer a simple piece of equipment with no advanced treadmill technology and one that doesn’t require monthly subscription fees for streaming exercise content?
Do you love pre-programmed workouts, or are you okay with manual controls whereby you can adjust the incline and treadmill speed according to your preferences?
Think about what you would be interested in on the treadmill console or interface of the gym equipment and the option of creating a workout program.
Other essential treadmill features to have in mind include transportation wheels, auto incline & decline capabilities, and integrated fans for controlling temperature and heart rate monitoring.
Most higher-end exercise machines have an automatic maximum incline between 6 - 15%. Consider your needs around this area.
On the same note, some home treadmills may lack decline capabilities. This capability allows you to replicate running downhill. Many high-end treadmills have this capability.
If you intend to do lots of training on your fitness equipment or train for races that have notable downhills, the decline capability can be a crucial feature to consider when buying a treadmill.
5. What’s your budget?
Your budget will dictate the type of gym equipment you will buy. In the following section, we shall look at the different price ranges of cheaper treadmills (up to $1,000) and examples of treadmills in each price range.
These are low-end treadmills with shorter warranties. These treadmills are ideal for walking, jogging, and running during bad weather or amidst your tight schedules.
Using these residential treadmills regularly or intensely can cause breakdowns within a few months.
Other common shortcomings of treadmills within this price range are that some of them lack features like incline, smart workout apps, heart rate monitors, cup & phone holders, and generous weight capacity.
Here is an informative review of our 10 Best Treadmills Under $500.
Some of the amazing features of the popular home treadmills in this category are their generous weight capacity, automatic inclines, foldable options, silent operation, and durable construction.
Common cons of exercise machines in this price category are that many lack HR chest straps, handrail buttons, and smart mobile applications.
Here is a detailed review of our 10 Best Treadmills Under $1000.
What to Know Before Buying a Treadmill
Above, we have discussed some of the basic questions you need to ask yourself when planning to buy a treadmill. Let’s now look at some key treadmill specifications you need to consider in order to buy a machine that best suits your needs.
A treadmill’s horsepower (HP) or continuous horsepower (CHP) refers to a treadmill’s motor power. CHP is better since it indicates how much power the electric motor produces continuously versus just at its maximum.
Most home treadmills range between 2.25 and 4.25 CHP. Others will rate 1.5 or 5.0 CHP, and these represent the minority.
How much treadmill motor power will you need? That will depend on the type of workouts you plan to do on the machine and your weight.
For individuals weighing up to 200 pounds, here is what we recommend:
● Walking: 2.0 CHP or higher
● Jogging: 2.5 CHP or higher
● Running: 3.0 CHP or higher
● Fast, frequent running: 4.0 CHP or higher
● Health club or commercial treadmill for gym: 5.0 CHP
If your weight is above 200 pounds, consider adding a 0.5 CHP since a motor running at almost its full capacity is more likely to wear out faster than one with more spare power.
If you are a fast runner, you may find it hard to find a good treadmill under $1000 since most residential treadmills within that price category have a maximum treadmill speed of 10 mph (six minute mile) or lesser. But a few quality treadmills under that price can go up to 12 mph (five minute mile).
A good home treadmill can even go to 15 MPH, which is often unnecessary for recreational runners.
As discussed earlier, most cheap treadmills, especially those under $500, do not have incline capabilities. Others will have a manual incline adjustment option offering just a few different levels.
Some treadmills under $1,000 have an automatic maximum incline range of 0 - 10% or even 0 - 15%. An automatic incline treadmill will be a great choice to stimulate walking or running uphill.
In addition, an automatic decline is recommended for serious runners who want to stimulate downhill running. On that note, some treadmills feature declines of up to -3%, like NordicTrack 1750.
Many treadmills under $1,000 have weight capacities of between 250 to 300 pounds or even less than that.
Therefore, check the treadmill's weight capacity before purchasing if you are heavier or intend to have more intense workouts. Also, be ready to spend some more in that case.
Conveyor belt size
The belt size of a treadmill determines the available surface area for workouts. Unlike budget treadmills, more expensive treadmills have generous belt sizes.
If you are a petite runner, belt size shouldn’t be an issue. On the other hand, taller runners, with their long strides or even wider people, may find small belt sizes problematic.
Commercial treadmills, like those in gyms, often have belt sizes that are 20 to 22 inches wide and 60 inches long.
If you use gym equipment for walking, a conveyor belt size 18 to 20 inches wide and 50 inches long will be enough. The belt size should be at least 20 to 22 inches wide and 55 inches long for running. And if you are tall or have long strides, a 22 inches wide and 60 inches long treadmill belt will be sufficient.
A smaller belt equates to a smaller footprint which is great for a limited space.
Track cushioning helps protect your joints against impact when you are working out. Running on a cushioned deck reduces impact by about 15 - 40% compared to outdoor running.
Some treadmills have adjustable cushioning enabling runners to choose their preferred support level.
Some treadmills from premium treadmill manufacturers feature advanced decks with differential cushioning to give you more cushioning on landing and firm support when getting out of the treadmill deck.
Adjustable cushioning is also a plus if you are training for outdoor running that won’t have shock absorption.
Every treadmill user has different preferences on levels of cushioning. As a rule of thumb, buy an electric treadmill featuring cushioning technology if you prefer superior cushioning.
As we have discussed above, it's good to determine the length, width, and height of a treadmill when folded or not when buying.
Ensure you have at least six inches of additional floor space for either side of the treadmill and 18 to 24 inches of free space behind the device to accommodate your running strides.
Many residential treadmills feature some pre-programmed guided workouts. These can be great for beginners or anyone who wants to continue their workout routines.
Fancier home treadmills usually have subscription-based streaming content for on-demand or live workouts and app integration. These programs can be very motivating and engaging, making your treadmill workouts more fun.
A treadmill is an investment, so ensure a good warranty backs it. The warranty can even tell you how long the manufacturer thinks the machine will last.
A treadmill warranty includes four components: motor, frame, parts, and labor. The motor and frame should have a lifetime warranty; if not, you could be taking home an inferior product.
Extra features and accessories
As a treadmill buyer, think about your workouts and how additional features can support your training. Here are some common additions that can make a significant difference.
● Water bottle holder - staying hydrated is paramount during workouts. So, consider a treadmill with a water bottle holder to ensure your water bottle is within reach during workouts.
● Accessory tray - this keeps your small items close as you carry out your workout program.
● Device holder - if you plan to bring your phone or tablet when working out, choose a treadmill with a place to hold your device with its screen correctly facing you.
● Speakers - listening to music or some good audio can help eliminate boredom when exercising, and many residential treadmills have built-in speakers; thus, you don't need headphones.
● USB port - many treadmills have USB slots for USB cables to ensure you get uninterrupted entertainment.
● Bluetooth - an electric treadmill that can connect to your Wifi through Bluetooth can enable you to play your favorite music or audio from your smart gadget.
● Heart rate monitoring - handlebars often feature EKG heart rate monitoring, though they are known for being inaccurate. Instead, you can get a chest strap heart rate monitor since it gives a more accurate representation.
● Fan - a treadmill fan helps cool down your body when working out.
Most residential treadmills allow personalization. Therefore, as you shop for the best treadmill, remember that there are some unique accessories that can give you better workout experiences. These extras include:
● Treadmill mats - a treadmill mat protects your floor from being damaged by your heavy workout equipment. There are different types of treadmill mats depending on the type of floor, for example, treadmill mats for hardwood floors and treadmill mats for carpets.
In addition, a noise reduction mat for the treadmill ensures your workouts are quiet and not interfering with your family's or next-door neighbor's peace.
Also, the mat improves the durability of your machine as it keeps foreign objects like dust, hair, or carpet debris from getting to the treadmill motor.
● Treadmill cleaning materials - Do you want your electric treadmill to stand the test of time? One of the ways to boost your treadmill’s durability is by buying suitable cleaning and maintenance materials, including treadmill lubricants and brushes.
● Entertainment accessories - Maybe you don’t want to buy an electric treadmill with a built-in screen. Or you already have the machine and want to incorporate some latest additions or use the technology you already have. In this case, you can consider getting a tablet holder to hold your tablet or iPad while you exercise or a treadmill book holder to enable you to read a book or magazine as you exercise.
● Other accessories include a treadmill safety key, cover, surge protector, and workout app.
Where to Buy a Treadmill
You can either buy an electric treadmill online or from a local sports goods retailer. But we often recommend buying online directly from the manufacturer.
It’s the manufacturer and not the retailer who offers the warranties. So, if you buy from a store, any issues on the device that may arise later on will still need to be navigated to the manufacturer.
In our experience, we found that many customers prefer to order online from the manufacturer.
When buying a treadmill, it’s also good to learn about the leading treadmill brands out there. Here are the brands:
● Sole Fitness
● Horizon Fitness
● Lifespan Fitness
● Life Fitness
● Matrix Fitness
We hope the above treadmill buying guide has been of great help, though it may be a lot to take in at once. To sum it up, buying a home treadmill involves:
● Identifying intended use
● Determining the most important features that will help you achieve the results you desire from a treadmill
● Selecting an affordable machine with most/all these features factoring warranty and longevity.
Happy treadmill shopping!
Treadmill Buying Guide FAQs
1. Which treadmill should I buy?
Buy a treadmill that will meet your intended use, has essential features for the desired workout results, and, of course, a machine whose price you can afford. You choose from our treadmill recommendations above or our Top 10 Merax Electric Folding Treadmill Review.
2. What is the average lifespan of a treadmill?
According to treadmill manufacturers, a treadmill can last ten years. However, the machines can live longer with proper care and maintenance. Some parts may still fail, but this doesn’t mean you need a new device.
3. Should I turn off my treadmill every day?
Yes, it’s important that you turn off your treadmill after use; this will not only help you save on electricity but also ensure your device lives long.