When looking for a treadmill for running, keep in mind that running treadmills need to be held to higher standards than walking treadmills due to the greater impact of the exercise involved. Here are some of the main things to look out for when on the hunt for a new running treadmill.
The Need for Speed
First, decide on how fast you plan to run right now and in the future; think of your long-term fitness goals. Could you see yourself running at 9 mph? 10 mph? Don’t forget to factor sprinting into the equation. The last thing you want to do is invest in a treadmill only to soon find out it’s not going to support your workout efforts as you advance. A typical treadmill designed for running can go up to 12 mph, (whereas walking treadmills typically have a max speed of 10 mph). Keep in mind this is the max speed and not the speed it was designed to be used at for extended periods of time. So even if a walking treadmill is built to go up to 10 mph, that doesn’t mean you can run on it continuously at 7 mph every day. If you are an ultra-fast runner, you might need to look at higher end treadmills for serious runners that can handle speeds up to 15 mph or more. Keep in mind that these higher end treadmills will come at a price, so if you don’t need to go that fast you probably don’t want to bump up to that level. Choosing a treadmill that can accommodate your top speeds will benefit you in both the short and long term; not only will it perform better for you on an everyday basis, it will also reduce the chances of having to carry out maintenance work on it too.
A Commercial Motor
The motor is not something you should cut corners on when you’re looking for a new treadmill. You want your treadmill to have at least a 3.0 continuous horsepower (CHP) motor to ensure it can handle long-term use. That said, anything that puts additional strain on the treadmill such as running at faster speeds, using the incline, or being a heavier individual will increase your CHP needs. Some people may find that they need to go up to 4.0 CHP or even higher, so don’t think that 3.0 is automatically sufficient. Another factor to keep in mind when thinking about the treadmill motor is how noisy it is and the cooling system it offers. CHP is not the only thing to consider; keep all these tips in mind when thinking about the right treadmill motor for your weight and workout needs.
You know the feeling of running on pavement? That’s precisely what you want to avoid when purchasing a treadmill. You’re paying for the user experience, so why not make sure it’s luxurious? Good deck cushioning is a must on any treadmill you’re considering, especially for runners; they need to look for more deck cushioning than walkers. The good news is that treadmill training in general can help to minimize impact and keep your joints feeling comfortable and healthy. The best treadmills on the market all come with decks that reduce impact by up to 30% compared to running outside on grass or asphalt. The precise amount will depend on the particular brand, so if you’re someone who regularly experiences joint issues, this is something you should look into. You can even find treadmills now that offer the ability to turn their cushioning system on or off. This is ideal for runners who are training for an outdoor event and want to mimic how it feels to run on the road; it allows you to build a competitive edge and ensure there’s no nasty surprises on race day.
A Low-Maintenance Belt
It’s also important to consider the belt on your treadmill. The belt has a huge influence on how it feels to run on any machine and how well it operates in the long term. Ideally, you want to look for a belt that’s self-lubricating or requires very little lubrication so you aren’t always having to tend to the belt. Cheap treadmills typically do require lubrication on a regular basis, so unless you are willing to commit to regular maintenance sessions, don’t buy one of these treadmills. When a belt is described as ‘prelubricated’, this means it’s infused with silicone and has been designed to be used for running on an ongoing basis. These are the belts that you can virtually forget about once purchased. Another thing to think about here is belt thickness. Generally, the thicker the belt, the better the treadmill, as it reduces total wear and tear and the possibility of having to replace it. If you opt for a commercial treadmill you’ll usually get around 15,000 miles of training before requiring a new belt. Some top-of-the-range lines last about 150,000 miles before requiring a change; on an average of 3 miles per workout this means that the treadmill can be used 50,000 times before it requires a belt change. What’s more, the best treadmills make changing out the belt a breeze, and will take around 20 minutes.
A Power Incline
Want an extra challenge and the chance to mix up your workouts? A power incline is a really useful feature to have on your treadmill. This allows you to raise your treadmill up on a ‘hill’, mimicking that of real life hill training quite effectively. Hill training offers many training advantages, from strengthening and conditioning benefits to the option of taking your calorie burn up a notch without forcing you into high impact running. Most experts recommend that you set the incline to one or two percent to mimic the wind resistance you’d experience outside and to help reduce the amount of impact on your body. Beyond that, you can always set the incline higher for an extra challenge. The best treadmills have incline capabilities up to 15 %, and may also offer the ability to simulate decline as well.
Monitoring the Ticker
Treadmills are also called cardio trainers, and the best treadmills make it easy to get accurate data about your cardiovascular performance. While treadmills in all price categories monitor pulse through grips on the handlebars, the best treadmills have wireless pulse receivers too. Wireless heart rate monitoring is more accurate than grip monitoring, especially at speeds above 4 mph. When purchasing a treadmill, note whether a wireless chest strap is included with your purchase as often these are sold separately.
Keeping a Profile
These days all treadmills are equipped with training programs regardless of the price point, from the cheapest machines to the most elite treadmills on the market. Yet only the best treadmills let users save their profiles. One huge benefit of having a profile is getting better data, especially in terms of estimated calorie burn. Another key advantage is the ability to save custom-made workout programs. In general, only higher-end treadmills support user profiles. However, treadmills with wireless iFit programming are sold at all price points. With an iFit family subscription, you can add up to four secondary users to your account, so this is something to look into if there will be more than one person using the machine.
Find Your Best Treadmill for Running
You can use the tips above to start searching for your new running treadmill; keep them in mind to know what to look for and what features are important.We’ve listed our favorite treadmills for runners to help kickstart your search, but they’re not the only winners. For more options, see our lists of the best treadmills on the market categorized by price and treadmill type to find your perfect match.
June 29, 2021: Numerous specs have been updated for accuracy and to reflect changes made for 2021 models.
July 27, 2021: The Runner-Up Treadmill has been changed to the NordicTrack 2450, and the Premium Pick has been switched to the Landice L7 in light of upgrades to those machines made this year.