Even before the pandemic sent most of us scurrying into our homes, treadmills represented a great way to maintain at-home fitness during the cold winter months, or on rainy days. They’re always there, calling you to get up off of the couch, even if there’s too much snow on the ground to go to the gym, or a forecast full of torrential downpours is messing with your planned trail run.
A few years ago, getting your cardio in on a treadmill was a pretty standardized experience. The main differences between models were limited exclusively to things like bed size, motor strength, and available inclines. Now, the market has diversified like never before. Built-in fitness platforms, complete with on-demand and live classes alongside running decks with multi-part cushioning made of shock-absorbing materials for specific portions of the stride, and programmable incline level can simulate virtual runs with real-time visuals on a massive, built-in screen.
Given the major investment a good-quality treadmill represents for budding athletes, it’s important to prioritize the features and components that are best for your personal fitness plan. This list will help everyone from the novice runner to marathoner find the best fit for their needs, without wasting money on pointless features or overpriced hardware.
A solid, all-around option that should suit just about any walker or runner without breaking the bank
- Motor: 3.75HP
- Size: LWH 81.25in x 39.25in x 62.75in
- Incline: -3% to 15%
- Running area: 22in x 60in
- Top speed: 12mph
- Weight capacity: 300lbs
NordickTrack is a name that’s been well-known in fitness circles for decades. Despite its age, the company continually remains on the cutting edge of where exercise is going, and the Commercial 1750 is an excellent example of that pedigree. The unit focuses heavily on its built-in, 10-inch touchscreen for both on-device stats and controls, and for the its heavy integration with connected fitness service iFit.
Its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity allows users to run along with professionally created programs and live classes, while listening to their music or coaching via wireless headphones of their choice. Runner can even recapture a bit of that wind-through-the-hair feeling with the 1750’s “Dual AutoBreeze Workout Fans” that can adaptively simulate the airflow a runner would experience while in motion at their current speed.
All of this technology sits atop a solid, highly-capable treadmill. The 1750’s 3.75HP motor can carry athletes at up to 12 MPH, with a 15% incline for extremely demanding workouts. It also features a sizable 60-inch long deck, and foldable bed with a power-assisted lift to help fold the entire running deck easily, despite the 300ish pound weight of the bulky unit. Even with all of these features, NordicTrack’s entry is far from the most expensive one on the list, coming in at an extremely impressive price point for all that it offers.
Super-connected hardware provide trainer controlled speed and incline programs
“Runners Flex” cushioning reduces impact and simulated road running
iFit platform compatibility
Takes up more room than most folded treadmills with deck in upright position
300lb weight capacity is on the lower end
Full warranty coverage only lasts one year
- Motor: 4HP
- Size: LWH 85in x 39.6in x 70in
- Incline: -3% to 20%
- Running area: 22in x 60in
- Top speed: 12mph
- Weight capacity: 400lbs
Like NordicTrack, Bowflex is one of the best-known names in the personal and commercial fitness game. Its Treadmill 22 would be right at home in a high-end gym thanks to its beefy build quality, powerful motor, and top end connectivity. This high-end construction combines with features that make the unit an excellent addition to any runner’s home, including a power-assisted folding deck, access to Netflix and Disney+ via its 22-inch touchscreen, and “Comfort Tech” cushioning for softer, quieter landings.
The machine’s connectivity with the JRNY app platform provides access to a massive number of on-demand and adaptive workouts for users at all fitness levels, while the intuitive, knob-based controls lets users easily set their own pace and go. If they’d like that pace to be a demanding one, the grueling 20% maximum incline and 4HP motor can provide a strenuous workout for even the most elite athletes.
All of these capabilities do come at a cost, however. The Treadmill 22 is not only one of the most expensive options on our list, it’s also one of the largest and heaviest at 336lbs and 85 inches of total length. That said, serious runners and those that want a treadmill that will grow with them on their fitness journey should definitely consider clearing a little extra space and getting a friend to help set up this beast of an exercise machine in it.
Commercial-grade build quality
Highest incline on the list
Built-in streaming services to keep boredom away
- Motor: 2.5HP
- Size: LWH 70in x 34in x 55in
- Incline: 0 to 10%
- Running area: 20in x 55in
- Top speed: 10mph
- Weight capacity: 300lbs
If you weren’t aware before reading this list, you’re very well aware now that treadmills can be a major investment. For those that don’t necessarily want to make a four-figure outlay to get started on their fitness journey, the Horizon Fitness T101 provides an excellent, solidly-built option for acquiring just about everything you could ask for in a cost-effective treadmill.
While it doesn’t include a touchscreen, and only sports a 2.5HP motor, the unit can still provide you speeds of up to 10MPH and inclines of up to 10%, more than enough for all but the most serious runners. The built-in device shelf makes it easy to drop in a tablet or smartphone to run alongside a pre-programmed pace, but users will have to manually adapt their speed and include using the simple pushbutton controls.
Small extras like Bluetooth-connected, built-in speakers to pump out device audio and a three-zone cushioning system push the T101 above its counterparts in the budget treadmill space.
Provides all the basics for an excellent price point
Three-zone deck cushioning is designed to adapt to your stride
Built-in Bluetooth speakers
- Motor: N/A
- Size: LWH 63.25in x 25.5in x 50in
- Incline: N/A
- Running area: 17.1in x 62.2in
- Top speed: Yours
- Weight capacity: 350lbs
As mentioned in the intro, manual treadmills can be just as useful as their motorized counterparts for the right purposes. The Assault Runner Pro is designed to hold up to the most demanding of those purposes. Its curved deck mimics the human stride’s range of motion, providing low-impact support for everything from intense sprints to long distance jogs.
Assault Fitness designed the machine to last just about forever, as well. Its steel construction, precision ball-bearing deck rollers, and shock absorbing belt are rated to survived 150,000 miles. Thankfully, the burly design was created with easy transportation in mind thanks to its built-in transport wheels and complete lack of electrical needs. Despite the lack of a plug, this unit’s battery-powered control panel still provides Bluetooth connectivity for tracking progress and keeping track of runs via its compatible apps.
The Assault Runner Pro is indoor running boiled down to its most basic, most focused form. It won’t excite you with connected screens or companion classes, but it will let you hop on and run as fast and as long as you want without ever needing to do a single thing more that pump those legs and get going. There are, of course, far cheaper manual options on the market, but none of them will last through the equivalent of multiple trips around the globe the way this one will.
No power requirements allow it to be used anywhere
150,000-mile lifespan provided by commercial-grade construction
Curved deck reduces stride impact without feeling mushy
- Motor: 2.75HP
- Size: LWH 56in x 39in x 8.9in
- Incline: N/A
- Running area: 30in x 40in
- Top speed: 2MPH
- Weight capacity: 400lbs
When standing desks first became prevalent as a way of improving one’s health by avoiding the negative impacts of sitting at your desk all day, some decided to take it a step further, creating the concept of a “walking desk.” For many early adopters of the concept, this was typically just their existing treadmill with a laptop placed on its device stand, or a traditional treadmill shoehorned under a standing desk. But, as the concept became more popular, companies began to make their own, purpose-built versions specifically to allow employees to walk while they work.
The InMovement Unsit Under Desk Treadmill represents the most advanced evolution of the concept, with a short, wide deck that is specifically designed to allow owners enough lateral stride movement to reach every bit of desk space they need to when completing their work. It also comes with a manual speed control box, and is compatible with the company’s Un Sit app, which allows tracking of stats like distance, pace, and more.
It’s important to note that this unit is not designed for runners, its 2MPH maximum speed should make that clear. It is, however, a high-end, laser-focused product for those that don’t want to waste time at their desk by sitting still. Its use may be limited, but it will help you advance your fitness goals by supporting your personal journey for years to come with its commercial-grade construction, 2.75HP motor, and minimalist design.
How we chose these products
Each treadmill in the list is among the best in a given sub-category of fitness technology. Whether that’s the best network connected model, the best manual machine, or simply the best for those with the deepest pockets, each entry represents the ideal solution for a specific type of buyer or a group with a common motive for purchasing a treadmill in the first place.
What are the health benefits of treadmills?
The treadmill remains a top choice for people opting for a piece of at-home gym equipment for its wide-ranging health benefits. These include:
- Cardiovascular health: A treadmill is a form of cardiovascular exercise. This type of exercise can contribute to overall heart health.
- Weight loss: Calories in and calories out is the name of the weight loss game. Treadmills can help burn calories more quickly than other types of aerobic exercise.
- Muscle tone: Treadmill exercise works out multiple muscle groups at the same time. It truly is a full-body workout as core muscle groups are constantly engaged.
Is a manual or motorized treadmill right for me?
When someone mentions a manual treadmill, you likely get a vision of some flimsy, tube-steel monstrosity that collected dust in your grandparents’ basement whenever you weren’t messing around on it as a kid. In reality, manual treadmills have come to fill their own, very serious niche within the market. Everyone from casual walkers to elite athletes can enjoy the instinctive control of speed provided by your own feet setting the pace. That said, they aren’t the right fit for everyone. Those that have very specific time or pace goals will want to opt for a motorized model. Similarly, those looking for a budget model may actually want to consider a motorized option as good quality manual alternatives are often just as expensive, if not more so, than their powered counterparts.
Do I need a fitness class subscription to make the most of my treadmill?
This is entirely up to you. If you’ve never set foot on a treadmill or laced up a pair of running shoes before, it’s obviously a good idea to seek some expert guidance. But, that guidance need not be a pricey subscription. Many free or low-cost apps are available that help you keep track of your runs, make plans to advance your fitness level, and even provide pre-designed programs for meeting long-term goals like running a 5K or completing a mile run in under a certain amount of time. That said, if you’re the kind of person that will actually feel more motivated by the presence of a persistent subscription that might hold your hand a bit more and keep you from turning your new treadmill into a coatrack a few months later, then, by all means, consider one of the companion services mentioned here, or an alternate option that better suits your budget and fitness goals.
Can treadmills really replace outdoor running?
This is a long-standing question, and one that’s been around since treadmills were extremely rudimentary machines. The short answer is, yes. For nearly all purposes, they can meet or exceed the ability of the great outdoors to help you on your fitness journey. Of course, none will precisely match the bounce of the soil on a good trail, or the atmosphere provided by ambient nature sounds. However, they will do things like reduce strain on your legs from running on less-than ideal-surfaces or provide you extremely precise feedback on pacing, speed, and heart rate. Most importantly, they will always be available, regardless of weather, available transport, or childcare. It doesn’t matter how superior an outdoor run is if it never happens, and there are many, many obstacles that can easily turn a planned 5K into a Netflix binge instead.