Getting the right treadmill for your body and budget!


What Kind of Treadmill Shock Absorption is Best?


There are several options for treadmill shock absorption across the major brands.  It’s important to find a machine with the right level of cushioning to match your running style.  Quality shock absorption will help protect your joints and save you from a great deal of pain over the long term.

Elastomer Shock Absorption

Most models out there are going to use elastomer shock absorption with rubber grommets positioned underneath the running surface.

These marshmallow looking grommets can vary in size along the length of the treadmill.  For example, some Horizon Treadmills have larger grommets in the front to absorb the foot fall and smaller grommets in the back to provide a solid and stable push-off point.

We recommend the following brands for best shock absorption systems.

Shop Now at NordicTrack

Shop Now at Sole Fitness

Shopw Now at Horizon Fitness

If you prefer a stiffer running surface using this technology you might prefer Sole Treadmills.  Our tests show that these machines are quiet comfortable.  They are perfect for road runners who are taking a break from the pavement.  Our favorite Sole machines are the Sole F80 and Sole F85.

Bowflex is relatively new to the treadmill industry, but they break into the game with their 5-Cell Comfort Tech Cushioning.  These machines are designed to be low impact and allow for a surface 25% softer in the front to absorb your footfall.  Honestly, this is similar to the variable cushioning that you’d find on the Horizon and  Sole machines.

Runner's Flex

Runner’s Flex

“Suspension System” Shock Absorption

NordicTrack and ProForm are built by the same parent company called Icon Fitness.  Their shock absorption acts like the suspension system on your car with external springs and an internal elastometer.  The deck cushions each step and then propels you into your next step with energy return.

Some of these machines can simulate both road and off-road running surfaces.  For example, the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 has Runner’s Flex cushioning with six dampeners along the running surface.  You can turn this on or off depending if you want a softer or harder surface for training that day.

Shock Systems to Avoid

Cheaper treadmills are going to have decks that angle outwards.  This causes your foot to twist slightly with each footfall.  Avoid this type of deck as it can cause injury over time.  Many of the cheaper brands also skimp on overall cushioning.  The machines are so lightweight that the entire frame shakes while you run.  The impact of your footfalls isn’t properly absorbed.  We always recommend that you stay away from these cheap machines.  You’ll be doing your body more harm than good.

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72 thoughts on “What Kind of Treadmill Shock Absorption is Best?”

  1. robert j simmons

    So which would you recommend for a 50 year old man with flat feet and achy joints. I mainly walk but occasionally jog. My main consideration is less pain. Looking at nordic trac vs bowflex. I have a sole 80 that I wore out but it always seemed to hard for me. Thanks!

    Reply

  2. farhan

    hello, i have 110 kg weight i need treadmill for my house which is the best for running and best in cousion please advise me thanks my budged is maximum £1800

    Reply

  3. Kim

    Hi. Thank you for this valuable article. I need a treadmill with shocks as I have nerve blocks in my spine and injuries to my knees that have been repaired. I am over 50 years old. What kind should I get?

    Reply

  4. Gee Rod

    I can’t decide between the Nordic Track 11 or the commercial 1750. I like the incline but I also want the reflex cushion on the commercial series. I haven’t heard anything about the cushioning on the i series. Your thoughts?

    Reply

  5. Jacqueline

    Hi…great article! I am 52, and am trying to get back into shape. My knees and back sometimes hurt, so I’m looking for a treadmill which won’t impact my knees as much. I am debating between the NordicTrack X11i or 2450, but I am unsure of the differences between Reflex cushioning or Runners Flex Cushioning. I plan to start out walking and hopefully move on up to running w/inclines. Thank you!

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Jacqueline! Either are a great choice, but I would personally recommend the x11i. The 2450 has more of a firmer running surface, which isn’t the best for knee/back pain.

      Reply

  6. Janet B

    Hi and thanks for the great article! I’m a 59 year old woman who lived the Orangetheory fitness treadmills because they didn’t hurt my knees. They are crazy expensive so I’m looking for something in the $1000-$2000 range that won’t hurt my knees, the way that cheaper gym treadmills do. Thank you!!!!

    Reply

  7. Elizabeth Bowen

    Hi there. I absolutely love the orange theory treadmills. Any idea which ones they are or what would be most equivalent? Thank you!

    Reply

  8. Braja

    What are the differences between Reflex Cushioning or Runners Flex Cushioning with NordicTrack Treadmills? I am trying to choose between X22i and 2950. I train for marathons and on extremely hot/cold days I have to run on treadmill for 5-6 hours with a few breaks in between.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Braja there is little to no difference between Reflex Cushioning and Runners Flex Cushioning. I would probably recommend the 2950 because it has a slightly more powerful motor to keep up with your long running workouts. Hope this helps

      Reply

  9. Ruth

    I am a 60 year old woman and recently tore my acl and meniscus. Dr has given approval to start running again. Need a treadmill with cushioning for my knees Was running quite a bit before my injury Which treadmill would you recommend. Price range would be between 2-3 thousand. Thank you

    Reply

  10. Ram

    Hello,
    I am unable to decide between Precor 631, Life Fitness Activate Series, NordicTrack 2950 and Technogym treadmills. It will be used by multiple (6) members of the family, youngest 20 yo and oldest upto 75 yo (for walking). All have great cushioning and respective features. Kindly suggest and explain why.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Ram. I would suggest the NordicTrack 2950 out of those options. This treadmill has a 4.25 HP motor, so it will hold up for all members of your family (walking, running, jogging). It also has a 22″ x 60″ treadbelt which is 2″ larger than what we typically see, so it will also give ample room for users of different heights. I hope this helps!

      Reply

  11. Susan Thompson

    Hi, I am 61 years old (Female) with Plantar Fasciitis and knee pain. Is there an excellent treadmill in the price range of $600.00 to $1500.00. I do not care about all the other features as far as the computer on it goes. I run around 5 to 6 miles per hour and am working up to my 4 to 5 miles per day workout.

    Reply

  12. Khushbu Thakkar

    Hello ,

    I am looking for treadmill which has low impact on back/spine and knees. I am considering NC 1750,sole 80 and proform smart 5000. Please advise which is the best. I am open to other suggestions as well. I have read lots of customer support complaints for NC.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Khushbu. I would recommend the Sole F80 out of those 3 options. Unfortunately we do hear customer support complaints often about NordicTrack as well. Sole is known for their great customer service. Hope this helps

      Reply

  13. Robin

    I have ran for years. Starting to experience foot injuries and try to be careful with my knees. I am a 5’2” woman, weigh 115 lb. Need to stay under 2k. Which tread would you recommend? Thank you!

    Reply

  14. roger

    Hello, I’m 51, only do walking and a rare jog. I get occasional front of the ankle pain, so I can’t do inlcine too much.
    Is the horizon 7.0 AT better or the Cole F63 ?
    Is there another treadmill you would recommend ?
    thanks.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Roger. Either are great options. When we are asked for a “go-to” treadmill recommendation we typically suggest the Sole F63. It is a quality machine with a warranty to match. Hope this helps.

      Reply

  15. Lillie Yee

    Hi! I love to run and had an old commercial Precor, which I gave away when I moved. I occasionally have knee pain but not from running. I do get shin splints from running too hard. I usually run 3-4 miles. I tried the Sole F80 once and found it really stiff. A friend recommended the NC X22i. I saw that you recommend NC1750 for knee pain. What do you suggest and open to suggestions? Thanks!

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Lillie. Either the Nordic Track x22i or Nordic Track 1750 are both great options. Both machines have built in cushioning to protect your joints. We have been told the NT 1750 mimics running on road surface, so if you’re looking for something a little bouncier than that I might suggest the x22i. But again, you really can’t go wrong with either here. I hope this helps!

      Reply

  16. Lillie

    Thanks for responding. I read up on the NC 2450 while waiting for your response. I like running on a treadmill and not so much on a road surface. Is the NC 2450 also a good option to consider. Appreciate your help.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Lillie, yes! The NT 2450 is a great option as well if you prefer the treadmill feel over road surface. However, due to the pandemic there is a pretty significant shipping delay on the 2450. It doesn’t ship out until 11/20/20. In the interim, we have been suggesting the Horizon 7.8 AT to folks if you are needing a treadmill that’s available sooner.

      Reply

  17. Grace McCann

    Hi there. Could you please tell me what you would recommend for a 56 year old who just walks – doesn’t run on the treadmill. I have had the same treadmill for about 20 years and find that my knees and hip hurts when I use it yet I am fine to walk outside. I am hoping that the newer treadmills would be better on my joints. Thanks so much

    Reply

  18. Beatriz

    Hi there, I am looking into buying a treadmill that has a great shock absorber for knees and lower back issues, but at the same time, that I can fold since my space is very small. I am 5’6 and 115 pounds.
    Any suggestions?

    Thanks a lot!

    Reply

  19. Gina

    Hello,

    Which of the two treadmills do you recommend? ProForm Smart Pro 5000 or Nordic Commercial 1750.
    I too have semi-bad knees, so cushioning is important. Also, the treadmill will be used by family of 5.
    Thank you

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Gina, will you guys be using the treadmill for more walking/jogging, or running? They both have decent cushioning, but the SMART Pro 5000 has a slightly stronger motor so if your family will be using it for running at all I might would suggest upgrading to the Pro 5000, as it will withstand running better and for longer. I hope this helps you.

      Reply

  20. chary

    Hi Team,

    I am 35 years old, 5.6 height, mostly I am looking good treadMill with good cushion for my back pain and joints pain. I am also looking for Run and walking purpose for all type of ages.

    My Budget is 800 to $1500. Please give me your suggestions.

    Thanks,
    Chary

    Reply

  21. chary

    Thanks For your response. Due to the busy, Sole F65 needs to wait at least 45 days to deliver and F80 is store pick up. Just want to know which is the best between F65 and F80?

    Reply

  22. Tony

    Hello,

    I’m slowly getting back into fitness after dealing with off and on lower back issues for a couple of years due to heavy weight lifting. I’m trying to gently ease into things with more core work and cardio. I’ve started to walk around more, go on hikes, very lightly jog for 10-15 mins. My wife also enjoys jogging but her knees hurt often. Her doctor told her to walk or lightly jog at an incline angle. I weigh about 230 and she’s about 160. So I’m looking for a treadmill that can shock absorb better so that it doesn’t impact my lower back and her knees. Back in the day, about 15ish mins of moderate running on a regular treadmill would start raising tension in my lower back so I’m hoping to avoid that altogether now that I’m looking to get back into it. So far, I’m trying to compare proform pro 9000 or as per some of your recommendations, sole f63 or f65 or finally norditrack commercial 1750. So would love to understand some of the pros/cons as we get back to our fitness journey.

    Thanks in advance and happy holidays.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Tony. All the machines that you listed are great options. It sounds like your main concern is deck cushioning to protect your joints. For this reason, I would probably suggest choosing the ProForm Pro 9000. They just released their 2021 model of this machine and it has their new ReBound Pro Cushioning which they are advertising as their most advanced cushioning. I hope this helps you. Best of luck in your journey. Happy holidays!

      Reply

      1. Tony

        Thank you so much for the reply. I read briefly about the “Rebound Pro Cushioning”, which states the following – With less stress on your feet, ankles, knees, and hips, you’ll be able to enjoy a longer workout and faster recovery time. Should I assume this doesn’t put stress on lower back, which is actually my biggest concern. Sorry for the noob question, still learning and being very cautious as I’d like to avoid any further injury and continue to improve my wife and my health. Thanks so much again.

        Reply

        1. Site Admin

          Hi Tony. It’s not a “noob question” at all! We have not personally tried out the new Rebound Pro Cushioning, but it seems that the goal of ProForm’s new technology is to reduce overall joint impact and I would also assume this includes your back, too. Hope this helps.

          Reply

          1. Tony

            Thank you so much for all your help, really appreciate it. If you do end up trying it out in the upcoming days, can you please let me know; would love to see/hear expert reviews as all recent entries seem to be of older versions of the proform pro 9000. Thanks again and have a great new years to you all.


  23. Nicole

    Hello,

    My husband and I are in the market for a new treadmill. I’ve always enjoyed running on the treadmill at our old gym as they always felt pretty stiff. We have an older treadmill (NordicTrack EXP 1000X) that I find difficult to run on because it feels as if I am running on sand. I want to make sure the treadmill we purchase does not feel the same way when running. I believe it is due to the cushioning. Can you recommend a treadmill that still provides some support/cushioning, but doesn’t feel as if I am running on sand, please? We have been looking at the XTERRA TRX3500 and SoleF80.

    Thank you and happy holidays!

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Nicole! Happy holidays to you as well. NordicTrack has certainly made some improvements since your treadmill, but out of the two you listed I would suggest the Sole F80. It sounds like comfort is really important to you and Sole is a brand that is known for having less “bells and whistles” but focusing on the quality and durability of their machines. I hope this helps!

      Reply

  24. Emily

    Hello, I’m looking to purchase the most cushioned treadmill available with a budget of $5,000. I’ve had a home gym treadmill before that made joint pain worse. The treadmills at LA Fitness seemed to be a lot better. I’m not interested in fancy screens or fitness programs.

    Reply

      1. Emily

        I called the gym I use to go to and they use Matrix treadmills. Are any of these options comparable to Matrix? If not, do you recommend the Matrix brand? Thank you for your advice!

        Reply

  25. Moira Speed

    I am looking for a treadmill that is comparable to the Freemotion 11.3 (the one’s they use at OrangeTheoty). My budget is $2500. My husband and I both find the deck cushioning of the free motion to be the most comfortable we have used.

    Reply

  26. Gar rosen

    Happy new year I hope. What would you recommend for a 48 yr old woman who is a little over weight and walks hard. I need to protect my joints with really good shock absorpation. Also as silly as it sounds I’m concerned about the impact I’m having on my really old houses foundation. I walk really hard and in order to feel comfortable I need know that the I’m not putting extra stress on it. Sounds strange I know but when I walk you can feel it throughout the entire house. I would like to keep it to around two thousand, less is better but I can be a little flexible for quality if needed. Thank you.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi there. Happy New Year. If shock absorption is really important to you I would suggest the Sole F80 or F85. The quality of both of these treadmills is top-notch and they have the Cushion-Flex Running Deck. Hope this helps

      Reply

  27. Jen Longoria

    Hi – I’m looking at either a Sole F80 or Horizon 7.8. I use the Peloton app and enjoy interval runs, incline runs and boot camp run classes. I would prefer a deck that has more cushioning. Which do you recommend? Also open to other options. Thank you!

    Reply

  28. Gill

    Hi, thanks for this post. I used to be a big cross country runner until I snapped my ACL and MCL skiing 22 months ago. I’ve had surgery and they’ve said I’m not to run on uneven surfaces anymore. So was thinking of a running machine. I’m 50 and used to be fit but not very fit any more but sure it’ll come back. What do you recommend, I’m in the Uk and looking at Sole F80/85 or DKN Endurun. Also it’s worth saying my very tall 6’5” son will want to use too. Thanks for your help. Gill

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Gill! I’m sorry to hear about your injury. Either the Sole F80 or F85 are great choices. The treadbelts on both are an extra 2″ longer than the standard, so he should feel comfortable on them. If you or your son will be frequently running, I might suggest going ahead and upgrading to the F85 because it has a slightly larger motor, so it will be able to hold up longer to long term running use. But, you can’t go wrong with either. I hope this helps!

      Reply

  29. Tony

    Hello, this is a follow up question to my thread above from Dec 19. The suggested treadmill was the proform pro 9000 with it’s Rebound Pro Cushioning but I have been reading up on the Sole F80 which has “Cushion Flex Whisper Deck”, which supposedly reduces joint impact by upto 40%. How does this compare to the ProForm? Other thing that stood out for me was the lifetime warranty on the Sole.

    So while I like the fancy features with the ProForm, it’s really the joint impact that I’m concerned about for the wife and I. Ofcourse the warranty aspect does help put things at ease. And my co-workers keep mentioning about the subpar customer service with ProForm or Norditrack.

    Any guidance here would be super helpful. Thank You.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Tony! Good question. Both of the decks on these machines are designed to minimize joint impact. If you aren’t super concerned with the iFit programming on ProForm/NordicTrack, I would probably suggest the Sole F80 as you do get the lifetime warranty and free shipping right now. Hope this helps!!

      Reply

  30. Running in Beligum

    Hi Tony,

    The gyms are closed in Belgium due to COVID, so I want to buy a treadmill. Some models and brands are sold out, but I have found a LifeSpan TR5500it that looks promising. How is this treadmill compared to the NordicTrack 1750 regarding shock absorption?

    Thanks for your time!

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi, LifeSpan builds their treadmills with 8 built in compression shocks in the deck to reduce joint impact. The TR5500i is a good treadmill. The NordicTrack 1750 has good cushioning as well – if you’re between the two, I would consider the technology side. NordicTrack comes with iFit fitness technology while LifeSpan does not. If you’re interested in the technology side with your machine, I would go for the 1750.

      Reply

  31. Greg

    Hello, looking for a good treadmill to get back into shape. I am currently looking at the norditrack 1750 vs the sole f85 or f80. Current weight is 308lb, however I know I will not start out running at first. I use to do HIIT on treadmills along with powerlifting. But due to injuries over the years have fallen out of shape. Dropping below 300lbs, will not be a problem. Just wonder which would work best for support of both joints, and initial weight (walking until below 300). Would like to know also future benefits based on price value.
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply

    1. Site Admin

      Hi Greg! The biggest difference between NordicTrack and Sole is NordicTrack’s interactive iFit technology. If you are interested in utilizing that, I would probably suggest the NordicTrack. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the Sole F85 – it’s a monster of a machine and has a great warranty. I hope this helps!

      Reply

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