So you’ve thought about adding a treadmill to your home, you understand the benefits that owning a can bring, through treadmill workouts right from your home. Now you’ve entered the brain-sweating phase of trying to figure out which of the dozens of treadmill brands to choose from and which of the hundreds of models to finally pick.
If you’re like most people you can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer variety of choices. Luckily, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to help walk your through the entire decision process to really nail down exactly which treadmill design features suit to your specific needs; read on to discover more!
Buying a treadmill, or any product for that matter, shouldn’t be a stressful or confusing experience! Luckily, we have your back! We’ve put in the hard hours of research and brain-frying so that you don’t have to!
“Definitely get a treadmill! I bought one a little over a year ago. It has MORE than paid for itself - it saves me gym membership fees and the regret of not running when I'm feeling lazy. Keeping it in a visible, desirable place will prevent the lawn art problem. Mine is in front of a TV so that I can watch movies; I also use my Kindle to watch Dancing with the Stars while I run, which is a great motivator!”– Dani A., Fitbit Community
As with many products, when you buy a treadmill you absolutely get what you pay for with the quality of components ranging from ‘will break after first use’ to Rolls Royce-like quality. So let’s jump into the main components and what you should consider in your decision-making process.
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Which is Better, Folding Treadmills or Non-folding Treadmills?
Do I want a folding treadmill or a non-folding treadmill?
What’s the difference and how do I decide?
The debate over folding vs non-folding treadmills has been ongoing since their invention, however you can’t compare apples to oranges, both styles have their place and both are excellent for their target use.
The key benefit of a folding treadmill is clearly it’s ability to save space and reduce its footprint when not in use. This can be particularly useful for people living in apartments, or with small home gyms, garages or other areas where the need for space-saving is high. Many folding treadmills also have wheels, allowing them to be moved, another major advantage.
Another important factor to consider is the quality of the folding mechanism. The mechanism can result in a less stable frame overall compared to a non-folding frame, particularly at the lower budget price points. However, folding treadmills in the middle price range can be just as stable as those with non-folding frames so it pays to spend a bit more on a machine with a high-quality folding mechanism.
There are two good reasons why all treadmills you see in the gym are non-folding. Stability and durability. It's no secret that the more moving parts you introduce into something, the greater the risk that a component will eventually break or fail. Not only that, by having one solid, welded steel frame, you greatly increase the overall stability of the machine.
If you have the space for a non-folding treadmill, it’s an easy choice to make as you’ll get a more stable running experience and get a longer life out of your treadmill. The down-side of non-folding treadmills is that once it’s in place and set up, it’s very difficult to move; make sure you put it in the right place!
Treadmill Motors Are Important, Here's Why
Treadmill Motor Horsepower
The horsepower of your treadmill motor determines the ability of the motor to rotate the belt to a particular running speed; the faster you want to be able to run, the more horsepower the motor needs to achieve that speed. Even more critically however, horsepower determines your treadmills ability to continue to provide the same belt speed when your foot makes contact with the belt surface and creates pressure, friction and therefore requiring the motor to work harder to achieve the same speed.
It’s important to note the two types of horsepower that you’ll see with treadmills: Peak horsepower or ‘Peak Duty’, and Continuous Horsepower (CHP), also called ‘Continuous Duty’. We’ll explain the differences and what to look out for.
Peak Horsepower or Peak Duty Treadmill Motors
Peak horsepower motors, or peak duty motors, are generally weaker and tend to be found in budget treadmills. These motors will provide up to their stated horsepower as a maximum range, but will generally be unable to achieve consistent power output when under load and will in fact perform much worse.
These motors could result in a jerky running experience, restrict your running speeds, be slow to get up to speed, create more noise under load, and wear out quicker as a result of having to work harder under load. As a hard rule, we strongly recommend avoiding any treadmill if it lacks a Continuous Duty motor.
Continuous Duty Treadmill Motors
The greater your bodyweight, and the faster you run, and the steeper incline you run at, the more pressure and more friction that the motor has to be able to cope with while still providing a smooth, unrestricted running experience. This is where continuous duty motors come in.
Continuous duty motors are designed to be able to provide a constant and stable level of power output, ensuring that you receive a smooth experience whilst running. You’ll see Continuous Duty motors range from 1 CHP all the way up to 5 CHP; which CHP you need is entirely dependent on your weight and the speed you want to be able to run at.
At a minimum, we recommend a 1.5 CHP motor as a starting point. Generally, if you’re budget is over $1,500, you’re just about guaranteed that every treadmill will be continuous duty.
If you want a treadmill for walking then a continuous duty motor between 1.5 CHP and 2 CHP will be sufficient for most people; if you’re a jogger then go for a motor between 2 CHP and 3 CHP, and finally if you’re a runner, a 3 CHP motor or greater. Also, if you’re over 90 kg, then lean towards the higher end of the spectrum and add 0.5 CHP; this will ensure that the treadmill can handle your weight without compromise, even at full running speed, and also extend the life of the motor substantially.
The Treadmill Deck, It's More Than Just a Running Surface
Treadmill Deck Sizes For Different Types Of Use
The size of the treadmill track is possibly the most important reason you need to do your research before buying; just like a pair of shoes, one size does not fit all. A key factor in finding the right track size for your needs is your own body size, combined with what you intend to use the treadmill for.
If you’re a taller person with longer legs and therefore likely a longer stride, you’ll probably need a longer track length compared to someone shorter. Similarly, if you intend to use the treadmill for walking or light jogging only, you probably won’t need a long track. However, if you intend to run at pace with a full stride, you’ll absolutely be wanting the additional real estate that a longer and wider track provides.
Tracks can range from 13 inches (33 cm) wide, all the way up to 22 inches (56 cm) on some models. In terms of track length, treadmills can range anywhere from 40 inches (1 m) to 60 inches (152 cm).
There are a couple of general guidelines we recommend sticking to when deciding on the right size track:
- For walkers – Anything over 16 inches wide is best but preferably you want an 18 inch width to give you a bit of breathing and wiggle room. For length, a track length of 48 inches is fine, as long as walking is all your doing.
- For joggers – Aim for a width of 20 inches; you’ll be moving faster so anything narrower will feel claustrophobic and cramped. For length, this will depend on your height and stride length, but 54 inches is a good middle ground.
- For runners – You’ll want space an even a 20 inch width can feel cramped; a 22 inch wide track is better, particularly if you’re tall. In terms of length, 54 inches should be your minimum, with a 60 inch deck giving you ample room to stretch your legs to the fullest.
Don’t forget that the bigger the track, the more floor space your treadmill will take up so keep this in mind as well.
“It's well known that heavier people are at higher risk for arthritis. For every kilogram of weight a person carries – whether it's in their body or they put it on in a pack – they have three kilograms on the knee when running. In other words, if you weigh 45 kilograms, there are 180 kilograms of force on the knee with each foot strike.”
There are many factors that go contribute to the impact of running on joints, such as weight, body structure, shoe selection, technique and running surface. One of the most effective ways to reduce the effect of this force on your joints is by running on a treadmill with cushioning technology in the running deck; this is particularly beneficial for anyone suffering from joint issues.
Shock absorption systems within the deck structure itself, are designed to further reduce impact by using shock absorbing components. For example, the Landice Orthopedic Shock Absorption System is touted as being seven times softer when compared to running on grass.
The slightly higher price for such technology is well worth the investment, so keep this in mind if you’re thinking of going for a budget treadmill; a few hundred dollars more could save you a world of joint pain and health issues down the road.
Sole’s Cushion Flex technology is another example of this, and can reduce the impact on your joints by up to 40% compared to running on asphalt, giving you peace of mind knowing that your joints aren’t taking a beating with every step. An even more advanced technology is the True Soft System by True Fitness. This system gives you the unique ability to tailor your treadmill running surface to your desired feel, allowing you to adjust the firmness of the belt to suits your running style (1 – softest, to 8, firmest).
Treadmill Incline & Decline Capability
The majority of treadmills on the market are more than capable of providing a steep enough incline for general users, for instance, even our budget recommendation the York T700 Treadmill, is capable of a 15% incline!
However, if your training regime demands both incline and decline features, you’ll need to look at the more up-market models such as the Sole TT8 which offers both a 15% maximum incline as well as a 6% decline.
Check out this in-depth overview at TreadmillReviews.net!
The Treadmill Control Panel
When comparing treadmill control panels, you should always keep in mind ease of use. A good control panel should be intuitive and simple, with the most important components within easy reach, such as the incline and speed settings.
The number of programs available can vary widely between brands however it is important to note that having more programs does not necessarily make one treadmill better than others. For instance, one treadmill might be marketed with 21 workout programs (such as the Landice L9 Club Treadmill).
When we delve deeper into the specs of this model, we see that seven of these are user-defined while 14 are built-in. User-defined programs are excellent for those looking to create truly custom workouts, but are simply unnecessary fluff for those who will only use a handful of settings.
Many of the higher-end treadmills also have programs curated by fitness experts and may offer professional-grade fitness tests.
Ultimately, you need to decide what programs you feel are best for you and short-list your choices accordingly.
If technology is a priority, or you’re looking to future-proof your purchase (don’t forget treadmills are +10 year investments), then you will want to consider a model with a full colour LCD display. Many brands offer models with optional console screen upgrades that can range from 9” LCDs to 21” widescreen HDTV touchscreens with full entertainment capability.
Treadmill Entertainment Options
As you move into larger screen territory, you enter the world of premium and cutting-edge treadmill features. Want to browse the internet, watch YouTube, Netflix and chill workout, or watch the game on Foxtel? The vast majority of models with larger screens offer the ability to do this; many even integrate with the popular virtual reality running apps we mentioned earlier.
In today’s world of interconnected devices such as fitness trackers and smart watches, it’s perfectly acceptable to demand connectivity to your treadmill as well. Thankfully, many manufacturers now have this functionality built into their treadmills. From Bluetooth audio, charging ports, tablet holders, set top box connectivity and web-browsing, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to entertainment options.
Many brands also have their own fitness apps or integrate with popular virtual reality running platforms such as Outside Interactive, Treadmill Trails or Zwift. These platforms offer virtual reality simulations of real-life locations, bringing some of the greatest locations on the planet to your treadmill, or let you match up with others to compete in virtual races.
As always however, more functionality and more entertain inevitably comes with a higher price tag, so don’t be surprised to see the best tech only in higher end models.
As you have now seen, there are numerous features that you should consider in your decision making and research process. This can be overwhelming sometimes and that's completely understandable!
As a general rule of thumb, the more features and design elements included, the more expensive the product is going to become. Check out this article on choosing the right treadmill for your budget; it'll really help you narrow down your shortlist of options.
If you have any questions let us know! We're happy to answer any and all queries. Reach out to us via the comments, email, live chat or call us!
As always, keep pushing towards your goals and unleash your potential!