The Ultimate
Buyer's Guide
to Treadmills

Buying a treadmill is a lot harder than buying a pair of running shoes. You can try shoes on, walk around in them, and tell whether or not they're a good fit. Similarly, if you're are given the opportunity to take a treadmill on a test run to see if it's right for you and your exercise style, you shouldn't pass that up.

However treadmills don't always offer that luxury - especially if they're bought online - and they're a lot more expensive and harder to return than shoes. Since exercise equipment can be a relatively big investment, you don't want to find yourself stuck with tools that aren't going to work out for you. That's why I've compiled this list of things to know before buying a treadmill.
Why Buy a Treadmill?
Running is free! Why should you buy a machine to run on? The truth is, treadmills offer a lot of luxuries that regular running does not – and some features might make all the difference when it comes to helping you stick to your fitness routine.
1. Treadmills are easier on your body.
Running, walking, and jogging are great for your body. The problem is that rebounding against hard concrete or uneven terrain places unnecessary stress on your joints, making you more susceptible to workout related injuries.

The majority of treadmills are padded and specially designed to protect your joints from the harmful shock of running on hard surfaces. While it's still necessary to use a treadmill with properly fitted running shoes (and it's equally as important to be sure that you're utilizing a proper running technique), treadmills still offer a solution to preventable stress injuries.
2. Treadmills will push you
to keep a pace.
When you run outside and get tired, you'll slow down, even if you might not realize it. A treadmill will keep the same pace - and force you to do the same - unless you physically push the button to back off a little bit.

This can help you push your limits farther and faster, from the comfort of your home.
3. Run whenever you want.
This may not seem like an astounding revelation until you think about the weather. If it's too hot, you run the risk of dehydration outdoors. You can't run through snow, and it's dangerous to run in the rain. Running when it's dark outside poses a whole host of risks. When you're able to run indoors, weather won't be able to stop you.

Similarly, running outside or at the gym seems great in theory - you get to go out! See the sights! Meet new people! But for those days you'd rather catch up on Netflix and stay in the house, you know that you're capable of coming up with a whole host of excuses to stay indoors.

Having a exercise equipment at home allows you to get in a quick run, unwashed hair and all. And you can catch up on Grey's Anatomy or keep an eye on your children at the same time as working out. If you find yourself making excuses to get out of your daily workout, treadmills eliminate some of your convenient ways to procrastinate.
4. Treadmills are cheaper than the gym
By having a treadmill in your home, you can work out any time you desire. Eat breakfast, run for half an hour, and hit the shower. You're able to squeeze in a workout before work. And you won't have to wait for your favourite cardio machine to become available.

Also, you don't have to pay a membership fee to work out at home. Even if your gym membership is inexpensive, a treadmill is still cheaper in the long run if that's the only machine that you plan on using. Paying $30 a month for two years is twice as expensive as purchasing a basic treadmill that you can use
for much longer.

What You Should Consider Before
You Make a Purchase?

A treadmill is a major investment. You want to make sure that the treadmill you purchase is going to motivate you to stay active, provide you with the tools you need to meet your goals, and work with your lifestyle.

You'll want to ask yourself a few questions before you whip out your wallet.
What Are My Immediate Goals?
Think about what inspires you to purchase a treadmill in the first place. Do you want to lose a few pounds to fit into that dress you've had your eye on? Are you planning on losing a lot of weight in the near future? How long will this take you? What about toning up and gaining muscle? Do you aspire to run a marathon next season, or a 5km charity run?

The treadmill you select needs to be able to address your immediate goals. All treadmills will work for basic cardiovascular exercise, but specific goals may require treadmills with specifications that will help you meet them. Having your goal in mind when you make your purchase will make you more motivated to stick to a fitness regimen and get more out of your machine.

What Are My Future (Long-Term) Goals?
You might have a pretty good idea about where you want your fitness journey to take you in the long run (HA! Long run! Get it?) Or you might still be a little lost. That's okay! You can get a machine that is flexible enough to meet multiple different changing goals.

Take a second and think. Where do you see yourself in a year? 2 years? 5 years? A good treadmill can be used for a long time, and you and you can incorporate your machine into your long term fitness lifestyle.

Do you want to lose weight and keep it off for years to come with regular maintenance? Do you want to be able to run races around the country? Or do you just want to be able to keep up with your kids and grandkids?

Whatever your goals are, the best way to adhere to your fitness plan is to select the right tools that will carry you into the future. It's better to buy the right treadmill the first time than it is to have to buy another one when you've outgrown your original model. Similarly, it's a waste of money to buy a treadmill that's decked out with features and specs that you'll never actually use.
How Motivated Am I?
It doesn't matter how great a treadmill is - it won't work out on your behalf! You need to be willing to put forth effort develop self discipline. There is no treadmill that takes the physical effort out of working out, but there are some that come with features designed to keep you motivated and even entertained while you run.

If you are already a serious runner, you'll need a machine that not only keeps up with your demands, but can push you to your limits.
Where Am I Going to Put a Treadmill?
There is a fine balance to owning gym equipment, and anyone who works out at home will testify to this:

On one hand, exercise equipment is generally not very pretty looking. You don't want to have it sitting in the middle of your living room.

But on the other hand, you may need to have it in the middle of your living room to be reminded to work out! Having a treadmill out in the open is a regular visual trigger to the brain that says "Use me!" The last thing that you want is for your brand new fitness investment to start collecting dust, barely used and forgotten about in your basement.

Another thing to consider is that treadmills take up a lot of space. You can't get rid of the dining room table, so you may need to make some compromises. A lot of people clear out their garages to create small home gyms. If you live in a small apartment, you may want to get a folding treadmill so that it can be stashed away (but not forgotten about!) when it's not in use.
Who Is Going to Use This Treadmill?
It's a lot easier to shop for a treadmill for yourself. If you're buying a treadmill for your household, that's where things get tricky. If you're looking to run a 6-minute mile and your spouse is more of a slow long distance jogger, you'll have to find a treadmill that can accommodate both of your needs.

Keep an eye out for treadmills that allow multiple user tracking profiles if more than one person is interested in measuring their fitness metrics. As well, if you have kids and pets who might see the treadmill as a shiny new toy, you might want to get a hardier machine that can withstand some abuse.

The Different Kinds
of Treadmills -
What Kind
is Best for You?

There are four main categories of treadmills, based on the different kinds of motors that a treadmill can come with. They all suit radically different needs, although some categories may overlap a little.

When deciding on the type of machine that you want, think about your personal long term and short term goals, your personal fitness lifestyle, and how you plan on using a treadmill on a day to day basis.
Manual Treadmills
These treadmills don't have a motor. The user advances the belt as they run, like a hamster wheel. Basically, the machine will move as long as you keep moving.

This is both a blessing and a drawback. Since they don't have preset guidelines and programmable speeds, it's harder to use the treadmill for guided exercise routines, but you can also go as fast as you like without any fiddling with the buttons. The motor of the average motorized treadmill caps out at 12 miles per hour (although some speciality machines can go faster).

An athletic enthusiast can easily work up to a speed of 15 miles per hour. Without the speed restriction of the motor, you can go as fast as you want. Hardcore trainers or Crossfit enthusiasts will appreciate the removal of these limitations for high speed bursts.

Manual treadmills work best for people who are self-starters - quite literally - especially if they intend to use them in conjunction with a larger workout program. They're great for CrossFit and Olympic style training methods, and are usually not a primary tool for working out so much as a supplementary one.
  • They are the least expensive option.
  • They are better for high speed interval training.
  • Manual treadmills don't consume electricity and are more environmentally friendly.
  • The absence of a motor makes this treadmill quieter.
  • You have to be your own coach, as most manual treadmills do not offer the same tracking or
    guided workout abilities that motorized treadmills have.
  • They are best suited for people who are already accomplished runners. Without the assistance
    of a motor, you'll have to use more of your own energy to keep the belt moving. This may lead
    to early fatigue, which can shorten the duration of your workout.
  • They don't come with any special features.
Walking Treadmills
Walking treadmills are perfect for people with physical limitations that would prohibit them from using a traditional motorized treadmill.

Walking treadmills are similar to other motorized treadmills, but they often come with additional safety features, such as wide belt and large safety rails. Physical therapists often use walking treadmills when working with their patients.

A Note About Walking vs Running Treadmills:

If you're starting a new fitness regimen, you may feel like walking treadmills are the answer. You're not ready to run yet, and you may be afraid that a running treadmill will be too hard for you.

Walking treadmills are much smaller, and designed to handle speeds of up to 4 miles per hour. The majority of them are manual treadmills, though some have small motors. People who work in offices like these treadmills, because they're quiet enough to use during a lunch break without disturbing coworkers.

Walking treadmills are designed for people who want to leisurely walk at a speed of 1 to 2 miles per hour. This makes them a top choice for individuals with mobility issues, or people utilizing a physical therapy program. These lower speeds are too slow for a running treadmill, and cause unnecessary stress on the motor. If you're looking for a really slow stroll, a walking treadmill will provide you with what you need.

The only problem with a speed that slow is that it's actually much slower than the average person walks. Most people walk at about 3 miles per hour, which is well within the range of what a running treadmill can provide. As you build more endurance, it will be easier for you to walk faster. Once you build past 4
miles per hour, a walking treadmill won't do you any good.

Since most running treadmills can also be used for walking at an average speed, it may not be economical to purchase a walking treadmill. You'll outgrow a walking treadmill in very little time, and find yourself on the market for something faster. Rather than making two purchases, it would be a wiser
investment to stick with one.
Casual Motorized Treadmills
The majority of people will find that they're looking for a casual motorized treadmill. These treadmills offer more ease of use than a manual treadmill, since you don't have to get the belt up to speed to maintain a pace. Casual motorized treadmills usually go up to 9 miles per hour, which is the maximum
speed you'll want to train at if you're prepping for something like a charity race or a building up your stamina.

Casual treadmills are great for people who are looking to get to or maintain an ideal body weight, and slowly build up muscle and stamina. If your goal is to live a healthier lifestyle and incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine, this is most likely the tool that you're looking for. They're a simplified version of what you'll find at most commercial gyms, and they aim to make workouts easier and more enjoyable.

Some casual machines may also come with a bunch of deluxe features, depending on the model. They can be equipped with trackers, guided programs, and even entertainment systems that make your workouts easier, more fun, and keep you motivated. You can check out some of these features here.
  • Easiest to use: Generally have a simple interface, and not too many different complicated
    options to choose from.
  • Keeps you moving at a constant pace, allowing you to burn more calories.
  • Choosing a model with deluxe features may help you stay motivated to work out.
  • Like all exercise equipment, treadmills take up a lot of space, unless you purchase a foldable
  • The motor may be loud at high speeds.
  • Caps your speed at 9/10 mph, depending on the model.
Serious Motorized Treadmills
These are motorized treadmills pushed to the max. These are closer to commercial style treadmills in their capabilities - the kinds that you can find at the gym - and they're designed for people who want to train hard.

If you're into Crossfit or some hardcore races (marathons, triathlons, and the like), you're going to need a treadmill with a higher top speed that's designed to withstand rigorous use. If you're involved with an intense training program, you may need to run faster than 9 mph - the average casual use treadmill - for short periods of time.

Serious athletic-focused machines can go up to 15-20 mph. Often times, serious motorized treadmills come with all the same features of a casual treadmill, but they've been amplified. Faster, more durable motors allow you to push your limits, and reinforced frames can tolerate the stress of a hard workout.

The majority of serious athletic treadmills will come with a whole host of deluxe features that will help you index your performance, so that you can track your improvements to even the most minute detail. If you already accomplish this another way - e.g. a fitness tracker - you may be able to save a few bucks by scaling back on the bells and whistles and opting for something that's simple, but can still keep up with your workouts.
  • All the benefits of a casual motorized treadmill.
  • Goes much faster than a casual motorized treadmill.
  • Serious treadmills leave no stone unturned when it comes to deluxe features. They're often fully
    loaded with all of the latest technology.
  • Even larger than a causal treadmill. More complex tracking features, larger running space, and
    bigger motors amplify size.
  • These will cost you a pretty penny. Premium equipment comes at a premium price

What Features
Do I Need?

Now that you have the gist of what kind of treadmill you want, you need to narrow down the features that you require within that category. If you enjoy working out without distraction and already have a system in place for tracking and recording your workout data, a treadmill with only a few basic features will do you just fine.

If you have a problem staying motivated, or prefer to have the machine keep track
of your performance improvements down to the last detail, a deluxe treadmill may help you stay on the right track. Whatever you need, you will be sure to find both casual and serious motorized treadmills that have your feature requirements.
Basic Treadmill Features
Even the least expensive treadmills are equipped with some
of these basic features that will help you measure
your workout progress:
Heart Rate
As a general rule, your age subtracted from 220 is the rate at which your heart should be beating per minute while you're working out, more for a heavy workout, less for a lighter one.

Heart rate monitors allow you to see whether or not you are in the right target zone for your choice of exercise.
Calories Burned
There are general ranges for how many calories a person burns while performing certain aerobic activities, based on age, weight, and heart rate. Many treadmills will tell you a number of calories burnt based on your personal profile information.

Like most calorie counters, however, these are meant to be merely a ballpark, not an accurate estimation. The machines can't know how your unique metabolism works. Still, it is encouraging to watch the numbers go up as your burn off that burrito that you had for lunch.
Distance Travelled
If you're on a workout plan that requires you to run a specific number of miles, the treadmill's distance monitor will help you keep track. This can also help you track your stamina and your speed as you advance to higher level workouts.

Remember that when you run longer distances, avoid pushing yourself to higher speed to avoid injuries, just as you would when running a route outdoors. Marathon runners typically go at an easy to moderate pace.
The American Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise in every week - that's a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. If you're looking to push yourself further, you may wish to exceed that time goal until you're ready to move on to a moderate level of exercise.

Even if you can't work out that frequently, every little bit helps! And what better way to meet your time quota than from the comfort of your own home, where you can hop on the treadmill for fifteen minutes while dinner is cooking? The timer will help you keep track, and can count up the number of minutes of physical activity that you get per day.
Folding treadmills do everything a motorized treadmill will do, but the frame collapses for storage. If you want to be able to put the treadmill away when you're done with it, or you have a smaller apartment or home, you'll definitely want a folding treadmill.

They're easy to set up and take down, and you can stash them in a closet or under a bed when they're not in use. Some folding treadmills collapse down smaller than others - make sure to check the measurements before buying!
Hill Training
Even purist runners - those who train outdoors, and only outdoors - can use a treadmill to get their daily workout fix. The trick is to treat the treadmill workout the same way as an outdoor one.

If you don't happen to live in a mountainous region, you can get a treadmill with a steep incline feature to really shred those leg muscles. Using the incline feature at 1-2% will also help train you for wind resistance when running outside.
Deluxe Treadmill Features
Treadmills have a reputation of being very boring. When people are reluctant to buy a treadmill, they usually cite the reason "I don't want to just run in one spot and stare at the wall!"
You see so many old treadmills pop up at yard sales and thrift stores.

Exercise equipment companies recognize the need to make fitness fun and exciting, and they've designed deluxe models that are a lot more user friendly than their clunky predecessors.
Sound Systems
Some treadmills have speakers built into the dash. Through Bluetooth or a basic auxiliary cable, you can connect your phone or mp3 player to the treadmill. Open up iTunes or Spotify, and play your favorite tunes while you work out.

If you're the kind of person who likes to really feel your music, this gives you the opportunity to boost your focus by playing the songs that keep you going.
Guided Workouts
Not everyone is a self-starter. If you're one of those people who needs a little help staying motivated, some treadmills come with guided workouts.

These workouts will have you switch between running, walking, and jogging, so that you don't tune out during the exercise. Speeds will vary and the durations will change. Guided workouts are typically designed around a core goal, and feature focus points for endurance, weight loss, and even strength training.
Virtual Tours
Luxury treadmills offer a very unique feature powered by Google Earth. The screen on the dash will allow you to select a popular city, such as New York or London. As you work out, the scenery will change, using real visuals to simulate a run through an exotic location.

If you're not a big fan of working out, this feature makes it easy to imagine you're on vacation.
It's a simulation of running outside, and it doesn't involve inclement weather or navigating through crowds of tourists. Workouts are more fun when you can engage your adventurous spirit.
Progress Trackers
Personal trainers are expensive. Comprehensive progress trackers can serve as a digital stand in. Program your stats and goals into the treadmill, and it will store them. Along with tracking your progress, advanced trackers actually offer advice to help you meet your goals.

A few of these require a monthly subscription fee for premium tracking, though some also offer a basic free tracker. If you hate having to write everything down, let your treadmill do the record keeping for you.
Device Holders
You don't have to choose between working out and catching up on the latest season of your favorite show. A lot of treadmills actually provide adjustable smartphone or tablet holders on the dash that will charge your device while you use it.

Combine this with the built in sound system or pair of bluetooth headphones, and you can watch Netflix while you're getting fit. Sure, you won't be as focused on working out - but you'll get that daily exercise quota over with before you know it.
TV Screens
Though this is a feature typically reserved for luxury gym machines, several brands offer treadmills with a fully functioning television screen built into the dash.

Rather than relying on your phone or tablet to watch your favorite programs as you run, you can view them on this dedicated screen that connects to your local cable network.
App Synching and Connectivity
If you're using a fitness app such as Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, or Fitbit, some smart treadmills allow users to transmit their workout details from the treadmill's tracking system directly to their smartphone app. This can improve the accuracy of calorie counting, and help you make sure you're sticking to your plan.

For example, if you're using MyFitnessPal, you can import meal and calorie details with a single click. You'll never have to worry that you've forgotten to input your information, and you'll always have an accurate record.

Make sure to double check if a treadmill is compatible with your current fitness tracker, if you own one.

The Top 5

Some treadmills stand out far more than others. These are well used, well loved, and frequently praised treadmills that fitness enthusiasts are excited to have.
There's a treadmill for everyone.
1. Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill
Low cost doesn't always mean low quality, and this folding treadmill is a testament to that fact. It doesn't come with a lot of bells and whistles, but it's equipped with all the metric tracking that you'll need to monitor your progress.

It's stocked with 6 workouts designed by personal trainers and two adjustable incline positions. The belt is padded, making the treadmill comfortable to use for extended periods of time.

Who It Is Best For:

This is great for people who don't have a lot of space to work out, and people who don't want to spend a ton of money on a treadmill that works. It may not some with deluxe features, but since it's a folding treadmill, you can set it up in front of your TV to keep you entertained while you run and stash it behind the couch when you're not using it.
2. Sunny Health & Fitness Treadmill
This treadmill is a great compromise between a budget model and a deluxe model. It's one of the only inexpensive models that offers a few deluxe features, making it an undeniably great buy.

Along with 9 pre-programmed workouts, you're also getting 3 incline positions, easy-to-use controls built right into the handrails, and a holder for your smartphone or tablet.

Who It Is Best For:

This model will work for fitness newbies and people who arelooking to supplement their workout routine with some extra cardio. It has enough features to keep it interesting, and the price point isn't too high.
3. ProForm 505 CST Treadmill
This folding treadmill was designed with serious fitness in mind. It features the brand's patented ProShox cushioning, designed to absorb the maximum amount of impact and reduce stress on the user's joints.

The dash can be used with any Apple device for streaming audio through the treadmill's built-in sound system. There are 18 built in workout apps, allowing the user to switch between routines and prevent boredom.

Who It Is Best For:

If you're looking for a treadmill that offers moderate level training and workout assistance, this is the treadmill for you.

Since you can manually adjust the incline from 0 to 10%, you're also given the ability to tone and build your leg muscles a lot more effectively than you could with a two or three position treadmill. It's built much sturdier than a budget model, and it can take a little more abuse.
4. NordicTrack T 6.5 S Treadmill
NordicTrack are leaders in the fitness business. This folding treadmill is a little more expensive, but it's designed to make it impossible for the user to get tired of it. This treadmill visually simulates walking tours of various locations around the world using the iFit system.

The dash itself includes a sound system and extensive performance tracking metrics, even allowing users to sync their workout data with their smartphones. It also comes loaded with 20 workouts designed by a personal trainer.

Who It Is Best For:

This is great for anyone who is serious about getting healthy, but may not have enough motivation to reach their goals without a little help and guidance. This treadmill practically serves as a personal fitness instructor, and is loaded with enough gadgets and features to track all of your hard work with the press of a button.
5. Nautilus T614 Treadmill
Nautilus are champions of tech innovation. This treadmill's heft and durability prevent it from folding, but it's worth the investment if you have the space.

The programmable dash offers space for two comprehensive user profiles – a great option for people who intend to share the treadmill. It goes up to 12 miles per hour and up to 12% in incline, offering endless possibilities. You're getting a USB port that will charge your phone while you sync data in real time directly to your fitness app and play your favorite music through the acoustic chambered speakers.

Who It Is Best For:

This is the best for anyone who wants the best. It's nearly impossible to beat the specifications of a Nautilus treadmill, and it will suit a high range of athletes, from beginners to pros. It even comes with a 10 year warranty as a testament to its durability. If you're serious about reaching your fitness goals, you'll find that it's nearly impossible to outgrow this machine.


Now that you know what's out there and you've considered your needs, it's time to make the big purchase. It's important to remember that, while certain treadmills make it much easier for you to reach your goals, you still have to be willing to put in the work. Fitness is an ongoing journey that we embark on for the rest of our lives, and it all starts by taking the first step.

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