There is no better time to buy a treadmill than right now. With all the deals and current technology out there, it is almost impossible to pass up. It can be daunting to filter through all the different options and find the best choice for you and your fitness goals. Treadmills are definitely an investment; the wrong purchase could be a huge waste of money and space.
We looked into a multitude of different treadmills on the market today, and narrowed it to the best five choices based on category. These fitness machines have revolutionized the way people work out today, and can be great when purchased correctly. Once purchased, they can be used to train for a variety of races, or simply to get into better shape without a gym membership.
The Quick Overview
Treadmills have changed the course of fitness history. They are commonly found in people’s homes, community and commercial gyms, and even in some airports around the world! But the basic idea has been around for a very long time. According to LifeFitness.com:
The “tread mill” also known as the “tread wheel” was first introduced in the height of the Roman Empire, around the late first century. When the Romans found they had a need to lift heavier weight, they incorporated the treadmill, replacing the winch in their cranes. The men would walk within the wheel itself and because the treadmill had a larger diameter, they were able to lift double the weight with half the crew.
Treadmills were used in the 1800s when natural sources like wind and water couldn’t be relied on, in fact, our “horsepower” was a literal; a treadmill’s pulling power was measured in comparison to that of an average draft horse.
In Victorian England, treadmills were used for hard labor in prisons:
…these treadmills were designed as a means to usefully employ convicts and use their power to be productive. The prisoner would simply work the wheel to produce power to grind corn and pump water, although some served no purpose at all other than punishment.
It wasn’t until 1952 that treadmills were used medically, and the home treadmill for aerobic exercise didn’t come along until the 60s and 70s. The first Life Fitness electronic treadmill was produced in 1991 and took an entire week to assemble.
In today’s world, treadmills can do a lot more than just take you for a walk or help you train for a marathon. You can check your email, watch your favorite TV show, stream your favorite music, or even have a session with a built-in personal fitness coach.
With all of the technology out there, it can be overwhelming to find the right fit for the right price, so this article will narrow it down.
The first key to finding the right treadmill is to determine why you will be using it in the first place. Are you an avid walker, living in a climate with strong seasonal changes (too cold in winter, too hot in summer, for outside walking)? Do you want fancy features like a television, or do you want more horsepower? Do you value a smoother ride, or more power? These small questions will help you narrow the options.
Finding The Best Treadmill Based On Need
A home treadmill has a lot of advantages, and one of those is dodging expensive gym memberships and crowds that come with such (Even a high-end treadmill can pay for itself in a year or two of gym payments). Many large manufacturers make smaller-grade treadmills for the home, nearly identical to the gym-grade machines. They are just more space-efficient and lower in cost. All of the treadmills in this article were evaluated on the criteria below.
This is one of the big items to check into when looking to purchase a treadmill, because it will either be more suitable for running or walking. A treadmill with little-to-no horsepower won’t help a runner or sprint-trainer; likewise, a walker doesn’t need to waste money on higher horsepower they won’t use. Continuous horsepower (CHP) is where the value lies. The best minimum level to start with is:
- 2 CHP for walking
- 5 CHP for jogging
- 3 CHP for running, speed training, or mixed
The weight of the user also plays a large factor in how much CHP you will need—if you are over 200 pounds it is best to add in another 0.5 CHP to be safe.
Speed and Incline Ability
All of the treadmills we reviewed had a top speed of 10-12 mph, which is equivalent to a 5:30 mile. The average maximum incline on most machines ranges from 10-15 percent (they start at zero percent, or flat terrain), and some high-end machines even offer downhill simulations.
Belt and Surface Space
You’ll find a big difference between a 55×20-inch motion space and a 60×20-inch space—that extra five inches of belt length converts to 100 square inches more—hence a price difference. Shorter belts are the best fit for walking, and the longer belts are better for running, or for taller people with a longer stride. There are even some really nice machines with a 72-inch length option, which is even nicer and more “street like.” If you are looking to buy a treadmill for both a runner and a walker in your family, buy for the runner; it’s a lot easier to adjust settings down than up.
Lastly, pay attention to how thick the belt is; the thinner the belt, the less durable it will be over time.
All basic treadmills come with a simple start/stop button and some form of distance/speed/calories burned tracker. From there, the tech gets more involved, up to high-end models that let you check your email, connect to Bluetooth, and even watch your favorite Netflix series while getting your workout in. Of course, more features means more sticker price, so it is important to know what you will actually use. Here are some of the features we recommend considering in a “standard options package”:
- Metrics: It is important to know how many calories you are burning, your heart rate, your pace, and your mileage. All good machines will come with this basic information.
- Control Panel: This is where it can get a little expensive, but might be worth the investment. Both physical-button and touch-screen control panels should respond easily to touch. There is nothing worse than trying to run while jabbing at a button or screen over and over with no answer.
- Workout Plans: It is always nice to have a few preloaded workouts in the database, so you can quickly choose one.
- Outlets: This includes MP3, USB, and an AUX option. It is always nice to have a multitude of options to choose from.
- Wifi: This is nice to have if you want to stream shows or listen to music without eating your entire data package up!
These basic add-ons to a good solid treadmill are relatively easy to find. To what depth you want your entertainment is where the costs can creep in.
Now let’s look at our picks in each area.
The Best Treadmill For Overall Exercise
When looking into the sea of treadmills that will be both durable, functional, and cost appealing, there were a few options. While on the higher end for cost, we chose the The LifeFitness T3 Treadmill because it is clean and straightforward. The T3 retails at $2599.00, and one of the nice features of this specific treadmill is the simple yet up-to-date design, along with a Go Console which allows effortless entertainment and twelve different pre-programmed workout programs.
The Best Treadmill For Walking
If walking is your primary form of exercise, and still want to be money-conscious, we found the best bang for your buck is the Horizon Fitness Adventure 3 treadmill, priced at $899.00. This treadmill is easy to assemble, use, and store away when you are done using it. It has a quiet Johnson digital drive motor, and a comfy three-zone cushioning system for the best feel while walking.
The Best Treadmill For Runners
There are a variety of running-specific treadmills to choose from, so it’s important to narrow down your wants and needs. If you want a small, lightweight treadmill that packs up easily—though you might forego some performance options—you’ll pay around $300. While not part of our detailed list here, the best-rated of the lightweights is the XTerra TR 150 Folding Treadmill, widely available—even at Amazon.com. (This one would work for walkers, too)
For those who want a more powerful machine with a larger running surface, the Horizon Elite T9 is reasonably priced yet still powerful, at $1899.00. It holds up to 350 pounds, has a 10-inch color LCD console, and a 21,000-mile-tested belt (with no additional lube). It also has a 0.5-12 mph speed range, a 0-15 percent incline range, and a 20×60-inch running surface belt.
The Best Treadmill For Training
Training for a running, walking, or obstacle-course racing (OCR) event? Do you want a machine that caters to many different environments, all in the comfort of your own home? Try the NordicTrack Commercial 1750. This treadmill was one of the top-rated treadmills for versatility. It has a powerful 3.6 horsepower motor that caters well to runners, as well as 38 built-in workout apps that can be accessed from a 7” touchscreen control panel. There are a variety of incline and decline settings ranging from -3 to 15 percent. Lastly, Bluetooth for streaming audio and a 22×60-inch belt that reduces friction and noise. It is priced under $1,500, coming in at $1,399.00.
The Best Entertainment Features On A Treadmill
For pure entertainment features, The Nordic Track Commercial 2950 wins by a landslide, mainly because of its large 22-inch HD touch screen. It also has a large 4.25 CHP Motor, and a larger price tag—around $2,299.00, but for good reason. This treadmill will never leave you wanting more entertainment.
A Recap Of The Best Machines By Category
The LifeFitness T3 Treadmill: $2,599
This machine is the best “overall” purchase as it withstands a lot of miles and offers a nice entertainment package. There are three different incline positions available, a wireless heart rate monitoring system, and a shock absorbing belt to reduce injury.
This reasonably priced machine was the best option for avid walkers because it has 2.5 CHP, is lightweight and has a 55×20-inch belt. It has a simple LCD console which tells the walker how many miles they are going and their speed.
Horizon Elite T9: $1899
This was the best pick for runners, and the mid-range price is a great perk. Not too expensive, but not on the cheap side of things, either. It has a sturdy belt, a 10-inch touch console to track metrics, a 0%-15% incline range, 20×60-inch running space, and 2.75 CHP. It touches all of the marks as far as quality is concerned!
NordicTrack Commercial 1750: $1399
This company has a great reputation in the fitness industry, and this particular treadmill came in as the best for training overall. A mid-range price with 3.6 CHP, it has both incline and decline capabilities. On top of all of those perks, it also has a 7-inch touch screen console, and a 22×60-inch belt for plenty of space.
Lastly, this entertainment “phenom” of a treadmill has a large 22-inch touch screen which will never leave you bored. On top of the obviously large screen, it has a strong 4.26 CHP motor, incline and decline capabilities, and a large 22×60-inch belt.
Each machine comes with a different user experience, but they are all top in their class. In the end it will always come down to the user’s fitness goals, space, technology preference, and budget.
Walk or run, a home treadmill can help you move toward a healthier lifestyle.