If you’re in the market for a treadmill, it’s important to evaluate your fitness goals and the demands you’ll place on your machine. The best time to do this is before you make a purchase.
To help you choose the right treadmill, our Review Team developed the following…
1. How much do I want to spend?
The short answer to this question is: Probably not enough.
Sorry to break it to you, but a good treadmill is not cheap. Most people don’t have any idea what a good treadmill costs. They may have seen cheap treadmills at Wal-Mart for several hundreds of dollars and developed the concept that those are adequate.
Treadmills are complex machines. When used regularly, they take an excessive beating. So if you want a treadmill that will last, you’re going to need to shell out a few bucks.
On the other hand, you probably don’t need to spend $3,000 on a treadmill that you’ll use occasionally for walking. Unless of course you have an obsession for big, expensive toys.
2. What will I use the treadmill for?
In other words, are you training for a marathon, or are you a casual walker? The difference can mean a couple of thousand dollars in cost.
Individuals who are training for a marathon or ultra marathon will need a (more expensive) treadmill that has a longer deck, a more powerful motor and in general is built for abuse. They may also want a variety of challenging digital programs built in to motivate and enhance their performance.
Meanwhile a person that occasionally walks can get by with a (less expensive) treadmill that has a shorter, narrower belt, a medium-sized motor, and an overall design that accommodates moderate use.
3. What are my short-term and long-term fitness goals?
If you’re currently out of shape and plan to get back to your old healthy self, if there was an old healthy self, you may initially plan to only walk several times a week on your treadmill. But who knows where you may go from there? As you progress, you might start jogging 5 or 6 times a week. Will the model you plan to purchase hold up to that level of use?
It’s easier to spend a few hundred extra dollars up front for a more robust model than to have to get rid of your current machine and purchase a treadmill that can withstand your future fitness activity.
4. What is the weight and height of the user(s)?
When you run on a treadmill the impact on your bones and joints is 2.5 times your body weight. The impact from walking is considerably less. Therefore, individuals who weigh in over 200 lbs. need to consider a treadmill that can withstand the additional impact.
Most treadmill manufacturers overstate the weight capacity of their equipment by as much as 50-75 lbs. That means if you’re in the 250-lb. range, you should look for a model that claims to handle at least 300 lbs.
Heavier bodyweight individuals should look for models that have a deck that is around and 1″ thick. One-half-inch decks may break with users that weigh more. But look at the bright side. After finding the right treadmill and using it consistently, your bodyweight will likely decrease substantially.
Taller users need a treadmill with a longer running surface. If you’re a walker and over 6′ tall you’ll probably want a treadmill with a treadbelt length of 52″ minimum. If you’re a runner you should have at least a 54″ treadbelt. If you are a runner over 6′ tall, you may want to consider some of the “stretch” models that have treadbelts in the 60”-62” range.
By the way, some manufacturers advertise the dimensions of the treadmill’s deck. Unfortunately, part of the deck is usually covered by plastic shrouds. So the actual running surface may be a couple of inches shorter than the advertised deck length. You want to go by the treadbelt length, or the running surface size for more precise measurements.
5. What motivational programming do you require?
Many treadmill users are content to manually adjust their treadmill speed and incline, while others rely on motivation programs or technology to achieve their fitness goals. Generally treadmills include a series of workout routines that adjust the speed and incline and are geared towards specific fitness goals.
Over the last several years a number of treadmill companies have made their treadmills interactive with digital technology. For example, some treadmills feature streamed or downloadable videos of famous trails and landscapes around the world. As you walk or run, the video displays the scenery. And on some models, the incline will automatically adjust to reflect changes in the visual landscape.
Digital technology also allows your performance stats to be stored on the machine and/or downloaded onto an app, allowing you to track your progress from workout to workout. If your treadmill will have multiple users, you may want to consider a model that stores multiple user profiles.
6. How many people will use the treadmill?
Think about the abuse a treadmill must go through when it’s used regularly. If more than one person uses the treadmill, that means your machine will get at least double the usage. If all the additional users are runners, then the overall stress on the machine is likely to be more than doubled. This is the main reason why cheap treadmills do not last. This is also why cheap treadmills are backed with short-term warranties.
These are some very general guidelines on how much you can expect to spend based on how much the treadmill will be used:
- For two people using a treadmill for walking, spend at least $800.
- For two people using a treadmill for light jogging, spend at least $1,200.
- For two people using a treadmill for running, spend at least $1,500.
Of course, other factors like weight and height of each individual user must also be taken into consideration.
These 6 questions offer just a few basic guidelines that are important when purchasing a treadmill. Buying the right machine from the start will prevent you from having to upgrade in the near future.
If you still want more, check out this more detailed treadmill buyer’s guide. You’ll find detailed information here that will assist you in becoming an informed treadmill consumer. You’ll also find reviews on over 100 treadmills, including NordicTrack, ProForm, Sole, and Bowflex Treadmills.
This article was written by Lane Therrell and published on Friday, 27 September 2013. The last update was made on Monday, 4 April 2022.
Should I buy a home treadmill?
A treadmill is a great investment to incorporate diverse cardio into your home exercise routine.
What is the best treadmill for home use?
A popular treadmill among consumers and a solidly constructed machine is the NordicTrack 1750.
How long will a home treadmill last?
On average, with proper care and maintenance, a home treadmill can be expected to last up to 10 years.
What is the best home treadmill on a budget?
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7603 treadmill is a great option for those looking to add a treadmill to their home gym while not breaking the bank.