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Treadmills Shopping Guide
You’re finally getting into the routine of running: you’ve been running consistent miles outside for the last two weeks, and you don’t want to break the streak. Then, out of the blue hits a five-day rainstorm. While you’d love to get drenched in a summer storm, you’re not exactly that committed just yet. Inclement weather, winter days, and just a consistent running spot are all great reasons to set your home up with a treadmill.
Are you a night owl that prefers to not get eaten by werewolves when you’re running outside at 12 am? We feel that. Get yourself a treadmill.
As with most big purchases, you’re going to want to understand exactly what to look for as you’re shopping. You can easily dole out anywhere from $300 all the way to $1,500. With such a large price range, it can be overwhelming to understand why a treadmill is priced the way it is and what you personally need in your treadmill.
A treadmill can keep you consistent in your running program, whether it supplements those outdoor runs when it’s over 100 degrees outside or you just want to run while watching your favorite TV show. We’ve picked out a few of our favorite treadmill picks, and if you keep reading, you’ll find some things to look out for as you’re choosing your new treadmill.
How a Treadmill Works
Treadmills are the quintessential workout equipment that you’ve likely seen in some home gyms. The basics of it are simple: A belt moves around a set of rollers, and you set its pace based on how fast you want to walk, jog, or run. There are motorized and non-motorized treadmills, each one having its own benefits.
Motorized means that a motor moves the belt forward based on how you control it, typically allowing for higher speeds, more functions, and less resistance since you don’t manually need to move the belt with your strides.
Non-motorized treadmills cost less and involve less gadgetry, appealing to anyone who wants to limit their technology involvement. To use one, you need to manually move it with your footing, which gives users a better workout because of the belt’s resistance. Someone with knee problems will likely want to stay away from a non-motorized treadmill because of the resistance required to move the belt manually.
With motors being at the heart of a treadmill, it’s important to understand how much horsepower your machine will need to perform at the desired level. Recommendations depend on how you’re going to use your treadmill.
For someone intending to mostly walk on their new treadmill, any motor that can perform 2.0 Continuous Horsepower (CHP) or more should meet your qualifications. Joggers should look for a motor that runs at 2.5 CHP or higher, and then runners should aim for a treadmill that runs at 3.0 CHP or more.
Along with CHP, users should take a look at the weight capacity of their treadmill. Aim for a capacity that is at least 50 pounds more than your own body weight. The higher the weight capacity, the less a user’s body movement will wear down the motor.
Anyone looking for a sprint workout on a treadmill will have to find one that costs well over $1,000 to get a machine that lasts longer than a year. Running a machine over 10 MPH (6-8 MPH is usually the speed limit of more affordable treadmills) will beat up the motor, so some treadmills are not ideal for long-term or frequent sprints. To find one that accommodates this kind of use, you’ll be looking at models designed for heavier athletic use, which tend to cost a little more.
Low Impact Absorption for Healthy Knees
For runners who hit the pavement for miles at a time, asphalt and sidewalk can start taking a toll on knees and joints. Coaches and trainers might recommend running on grass, but then you have to consider uneven ground and potholes as a potential risk for tendon strains and tears. Anyone feeling soreness in their knees after days of high-impact running can benefit from both rest days and switching to a more cushioned running surface.
Even if it’s just some runs every few weeks, having a treadmill at home can hugely benefit both your physical health as well as improve your running stride. There’s a difference between having the space to flail around in an open space for three miles or keeping to a straight line where your running platform is only a couple feet wide. The inherent boundaries of a treadmill will keep your stride confined and more efficient, restricting your steps from bowing out.
Two Types of Shock Absorption
The absorption provided by treadmill design differs between each model, but luckily, most manufacturers are tuned into the benefits of treadmills as a softer alternative to hard-surfaced running. Since shock absorption is a huge reason to purchase a treadmill, it’s vital to keep an eye out on the specific specs behind the treadmill belt. If your treadmill is shaking all over the place when you run on it, that means that your movement is not being transferred efficiently. This can happen with thinner belts and less durable frames, which are usually matched with a lower price tag.
Elastomer: essentially another name for rubber, elastomer is included in most treadmill belts. Depending on the polymer used and the quality of the belt, you might find two-ply (or thicker) belts that prevent wear, provide more bounce, and are overall softer on your knees.
You’ll see geometric indentations of different sizes implemented throughout the belt length, the placement of which relies on the physics of a typical running stride. You can picture this like rubber honeycombs that are thicker or narrower depending on where it’s located on the belt. Elastomer provides better energy feedback, feeding your next step as soon as your foot hits the belt.
Suspension: another type of absorption is engineered via suspension, using springs paired with elastomer to create more of an elevated feel. In the Nordic C Series, for example, you can manipulate the suspension system (they’ve dubbed it FlexSelect Cushioning) to find the perfect running experience.
Want to mirror a less forgiving running surface? Reduce the cushioning and you’ll feel like you’re running on the road again. Because a suspension system uses springs, the machine can easily tighten or loosen the tension to give you whichever “cushioning” feel you prefer.
Ideal Treadmill Length and Width
Have you ever run alongside someone who was 10 inches taller or shorter than you? Did you notice how different their stride lengths were from yours? Being a solid five-foot-tall person myself, I can attest to how many more steps I need to take than my taller friends. My requirements for the length of a treadmill are going to be a little different than anyone who is six feet tall.
Along with height differences, you might be planning to use your treadmill for walking whereas someone else might be looking to run longer mileage at eight miles per hour. These are two vastly different exercises requiring a different belt and treadmill lengths, respectively.
You’ll have to do some research into the actual width and length of your treadmill to determine which model is best for you. Ideally, you’ll want 50” of belt length if you’re a walker and 55” if you’re a runner. For taller folks who near that six-foot mark, look for even longer belt lengths of 60”.
Compact, foldable treadmills that can be easily stored away might not be the best option if you’re taller or looking to really get after those faster runs.
You can also relay these same differences to the width of your treadmill belt. Common treadmill width is three feet across, and that includes the frame and belt. Walkers will need less width on their treadmill belt because you don’t need as much room for error.
Runners should keep an eye out for wider belts, something along the lines of 22 inches across or more. Walkers can usually get by with 20 inches unless you simply want more room outside of your arms.
Built-In Workouts and Electronics
As treadmills get more advanced, they start to sync up with the devices that we already have. Or, even better, they’ll have built-in workout apps or trainers that work with the treadmill to truly integrate into your workout.
For someone on a treadmill, it’s likely that you don’t want to think too much about your workout. After all, you’re running on a controlled platform without having to stop at streetlights or avoid cars. Some treadmills work with you to meet your fitness goals, offer workout plans, and indicate your progress as you’re running.
If you’re more tech-savvy and love to sync up your
Bluetooth with your treadmill, you’ll find models that sit around $1,000 or less. You won’t want to sacrifice the quality of the build for some kitschy electronic feature of your treadmill, so make sure that the model doesn’t compromise on performance.
After all, in a worst-case electronics scenario, you simply run with your headphones attached to your smartphone.
Treadmill Features to Avoid
Foldable treadmills are a great way to save space for a machine that is notoriously bulky and takes space. However, make sure that you’re not prioritizing the compact l of the treadmill over the actual function of the machine. Reviewers have noted that because of fold-up features, the width of the treadmill is limited, making it less feasible for users with wide shoulders or users that primarily run.
It’s always valuable to test out your machine to ensure that you love its feel. The second-best thing is to check out real user reviews who have purchases these treadmills and used them for themselves.
Keep in mind that every user differs in body type and will also be using treadmills differently, so a lightweight walker looking for insight into a machine might not find much help in the opinion of a heavyweight runner.
Trusting our Top Pick
Navigating the many choices for every consumer purchase can be challenging. Our team spends hours doing research, combing through forums, and reading consumer reviews on even the most basic of household items, and we summarize that information in clear, precise comparisons.
Join the millions that have trusted BuyersGuide.org to help them make smarter buying decisions. We help our readers spend their money wisely and find the right product to suit their specific needs. Our independent expert reviews and data-driven shopping recommendations empower you to find the treadmill that's right for you.
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We leverage user data to understand decision-making and put the best products in front of each user. We tailor our comparisons to what matters to our user's needs, specific or broad. We keep our content up to date, we are constantly looking for new merchants and products to compare, and we are quick to remove any that are outdated or no longer meeting our standards. Our rankings change day-to-day based on our proprietary algorithms, that crunch data to identify top-performing products and tailor recommendations to exactly what our readers are looking for.
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