Decent treadmill reviews are essential to helping you assess the huge choice of manufacturers and models in this highly competitive market – so what makes a good treadmill?
Treadmills are one of the most popular pieces of home exercise equipment and there are models to suit every budget, exercise and weight loss goal.
However, if you believed the manufacturers’ hype, you’d be guilty of thinking they were all the best products that money can buy!
So if you want to cut through the hype, marketing speak and technical jargon, just what should you look for when assessing the different options in the marketplace?
Treadmill Reviews – What Should You Look Out For..?
The key criteria were established by Running World magazine over 15 years ago and are still the most useful benchmarks to use.Walking and running are impact exercises. So given the potential wear and tear on your joints and the safety aspects of moving quickly on what is essentially a small conveyor belt, there are some key features to look out for when making treadmill reviews and comparisons.
The main advantage of running on a treadmill rather than the street is the fact that a treadmill cushions some of the impact.
A forgiving belt and deck are essential for healthy joints and years of pain-free running.
A solid, heavy, well-built treadmill will give you the smoothest ride. Stability is the feature most compromised in budget machines where build quality often suffers.
If the treadmill moves, rocks or rolls when you run on it, think twice before buying it.
#3. Pace Accuracy
You want to know the distance covered in your workout, so it’s essential that the machine’s display reading accurately reflects the distance covered.
Running World checked this over 8 minutes when carrying out its treadmill reviews. If you get the opportunity it’s a test worth making yourself.
The quieter the better. Higher end models can be incredibly quiet, but you need to be careful when considering lower priced machines – they can sound like a maxxed-out hairdryer!
If you can’t hear your TV at a reasonable volume, or hold a conversation without shouting, the noise will become a problem with regular use of the treadmill.
In addition to these four criteria, here are some more that we suggest you use when making treadmill reviews for yourself…
A treadmill is quite simply a short conveyor belt powered by a small electric motor.
The power of the motor is essential to a good workout.
The power is measured in HP – horsepower, sometimes quoted as CHP, cubic horsepower.
Under 2.0 HP is fine for walking, but the minimum to consider if you plan on running on a treadmill is 2.5 HP of continuous duty – the constant power the motor can pump out over a period of time. This is often not quoted by manufacturers or in treadmill reviews.
Peak duty is the maximum power. Look out for continuous duty when making treadmill reviews.
Many budget machines have motors around 1-1.5 HP.
The motor’s horsepower determines the…
10-12mph is around the maximum speed that you can run on most treadmills. Anything much faster than that is unsafe and not recommended.
Given that a jog to a quick run is around 5-9mph, 10mph is sufficient for most runners.
#7. Belt size
The length and width of the actual running surface is crucially important. There’s a great deal of variety in belt size, with those built for more serious runners having the greatest surface area.
You can find belt lengths of as little as 40-45 inches on budget machines, which won’t accommodate taller users. A belt length of 50 to 60 inches is the ideal.
Again, belt widths vary ranging from around 15 inches up to the mid 20s. Around 20 inches is ideal and will accommodate most people.
As the belt size will largely determine the overall size of the machine, for home use you may want to balance belt size with the space you’ve got to house the treadmill.
If you’ve the room to leave your treadmill in situ, this may not be a factor. However, if you want to stow the machine away when not in use then consider a fold-away machine.
Higher end machines take away the hassle of folding up a heavy machine with power fold features – simply press a button and the machine folds itself up!
Another factor is weight, heavy machines are more stable, but may make it harder to move. Many machines do come with wheels, though, making them easier to shift.
#9. Incline feature
Some treadmills raise the front of the running deck by as much as 10 degrees, which can make your workout harder as you’re effectively running up hills.
It’s not an essential feature for most people, as running on the flat is hard enough, but may be useful for serious runners to vary their workout.
Treadmills with pre-programmed workouts will raise and lower the running deck randomly to simulate hilly sections of a run.
#10. Controls and programs
You really need a computer controlled display panel with speed, distance covered and calories burned as a minimum.
Manual programming is fine, although some pre-programmed workouts are a useful extra, eg fat burner, hilly run, etc.
I would also look out for a heart rate monitor, which is a useful guide to keeping you in the zone appropriate to your workout goals.
These can either be handles you grab for a few seconds, or a monitor you strap to your chest, which will provide a continuous readout.
The latter is in my view is the better option as it’s less disruptive to your workout.
A word of caution – don’t let flashy controls con you into thinking the treadmill is better than it is. Power, belt size, stability, cushioning, etc are all far more important factors to consider.
The old adage, “you get what you pay for” applies. As far as treadmills are concerned, budget machines are a false economy and will break in little time with regular use.
Expect to pay around $1,000 and upwards if you’re a reasonably serious runner.
However, there are a few machines under $1,000 that are worth considering for walkers and joggers.
Treadmills are quite complicated, have lots of moving parts and can and often do break with regular use.
The motors are particularly prone to wear and tear as are the running decks on cheaper machines.
When conducting your own treadmill reviews, look for a minimum one year parts and labour warranty.
Also consider an extended warranty if one is offered as treadmills can be expensive to fix and new parts are often pricey.
Ok, that’s the key features sorted, now where do you buy your treadmill?
Treadmill Reviews – Where’s the Best Place to Buy a Treadmill…?
There are really two main options.
I hate shopping, so for me the best bet is online as you’ll generally get the best deal.
As there’s no middleman with a shopfront to maintain, you’ll typically get around 20% off the list price of a treadmill, sometimes even more.
The online store takes your order, which is then shipped direct from the manufacturer. Many manufacturers sell direct to the consumer online. Smooth Fitness uses this method exclusively and promises greater savings as a result.
Shipping is often free – well it’s built into the price of the machine! – and delivery is generally within a couple of days, a week to 10 days at most.
The downside is that you can’t try your treadmill before you buy it, although a visit to a retail outlet may enable you to do so.
The second option is to buy your treadmill from a retail outlet.
Specialist fitness stores can offer you some expert advice and of course you can try the various models first.
General retailers typically stock budget brands and models and offer little expert advice.
Treadmill Reviews – Time for Some Reviews…!
Ok, now you know what you’re looking for and having read our home exercise equipment review page you’ll appreciate why investing in fitness equipment to use at home is a good move for busy people. So, let’s check out some treadmill reviews!
For an overview please take a look at Sole treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Sole’s current treadmill models:
Nordic Track Treadmills
For an overview please take a look at Nordic Track treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of some of Nordic Track’s current treadmill models:
For an overview of ProForm Treadmills, please take a look at ProForm treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of some of ProForm’s current treadmill models:
For an overview please take a look at Bowflex treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of some of Bowflex’s current treadmill models:
For an overview please take a look at HealthRider treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of some of HealthRider’s current treadmill models:
For an overview please take a look at Image treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of some of Image’s current treadmill models:
For an overview please take a look at Epic treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of some of Epic’s current treadmill models:
For an overview please take a look at Spirit treadmills
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of some of Spirit’s current treadmill models:
Spirit Z8 Treadmill
Spirit Z88 Treadmill
Spirit Z9 Treadmill
Spirit Z100 Treadmill
Spirit Z300 Treadmill
Spirit Z500 Treadmill
Spirit Z700 Treadmill
Spirit Z900 Treadmill
Spirit XT8 Treadmill
Spirit XT9 Treadmill
Spirit XT10 Treadmill
Spirit XT200 Treadmill
Spirit XT600 Treadmill
Spirit XT800 Treadmill
This is very much a work in progress and we’ll be adding more treadmill reviews over the next few months as we finish them.
I hope you find the various treadmill reviews useful and a handy guide to finding the right model for you.