How to Buy a Treadmill

Why buy a treadmill? Using a treadmill is a great way to lose weight, tone your legs and cardiovascular system, and train for competitions. Having a home treadmill makes it easy to stick to a workout schedule; it eliminates excuses! Treadmills can also make exercise more fun. A lot of treadmills can connect to the Internet, immerse you in interactive video, and simulate the rise and fall of real-life routes.

This treadmill buying guide can help you choose the best treadmill for your budget and fitness goals. A number of important treadmill features are explained below.

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Cushioning

Folding Treadmills

Inclines and Declines

Motors

Programming

Track Size

Track Durability

 

Cushioning

Track cushioning is important for joint protection, comfort and stamina. Compared with running on asphalt or concrete, running on a cushioned treadmill track typically reduces the shock of impact by about 15% to 40%.

treadmill cushioning

Sole is a highly recommended treadmill brand that provides 40% shock deflection.

An advanced option you’ll see in 2015 is differentiated cushioning. Tracks with differentiated cushioning have different firmness zones, giving you more support at push-off and more cushioning when you land.

Folding/Fold Up Treadmills

Some home treadmills measure more than 3 feet wide and 7 feet long! To save space, you can buy a folding treadmill; its track can easily be moved into a vertical position.

fold up treadmill

Sturdy folding treadmills are made by many brands. Learn more in our Best Folding Treadmills article.

Incline and Decline

Automated inclines are becoming standard on home treadmills. Generally these have maximum tilts of 10% to 15%. Harder to find are treadmills that have automated declines. Declines usually measure 3% to 6%.

You might use a 1% incline to mimic the effect of wind on your speed. By using a more dramatic 5% or 10% incline, you can make exercise sessions much more efficient because you’ll burn more calories more quickly. The incline and decline also have an impressive effect on muscle tone. They let you target different muscle groups.

Benefits of an Incline Trainer

The steepest inclines are found on Bowflex Treadclimbers. The Nordictrack Treadclimbers are hybrids of treadmills and step machines. They tilt by up to 40%.

Motors

Motors on treadmill models generally range from 2.25 to 4 horsepower (HP). There is an in depth article about treadmill motors here, where you will get all of the information you will need to know about them.

treadmill motor

Tip #1: HP versus CHP

Some treadmill brands advertise their power in terms of continuous horsepower or CHP. Compared with HP, this provides a more accurate representation of power. CHP indicates the machine’s capability under conditions of regular use instead of at peak capability. You’re probably not going to run at 10 or 12 mph for several hours per day, and you probably don’t weigh the treadmill’s maximum capacity.

Therefore, when the discount treadmill line Horizon Fitness advertises a 2.5 CHP motor, they might reasonably liken it to a 3.0 HP motor from other manufacturers.

Tip #2: Walking or Running?

When you’re choosing a treadmill motor or drive, think about your exercise habits. Walkers need less power than runners do. Marathon runners and households with lots of treadmill users need the most power of all.

  • Simpler Power: The most affordable treadmills are made for walkers. If you’ll mainly be walking or jogging, then you can get away with a less powerful drive. Aim for 2.5 HP or higher.

Be sure that your treadmill motor is sold with a lifetime guarantee. Even if you buy a cheap treadmill, in 2015 you can find new models with lifetime warranties. One affordable and durable brand to check out is Smooth Fitness.

  • Extreme Power: One of the most powerful treadmill series is the Boston Marathon Treadmill group by ProForm. It’s officially affiliated with the annual race. Boston Marathon Treadmills include four-month and five-month marathon training programs for runners at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

The ProForm Boston Marathon treadmills have 4.25 CHP motors and the top speed of any home treadmills we’ve seen, 15 mph.

Tip #3: Your Weight and Treadmill Motors: Motor requirements increase with user weight. If you weigh more than 225 pounds, you should probably buy a treadmill with at least a 3.0 CHP motor.

Tip #4: Quieter motors are generally associated with the more expensive treadmill brands. The best motors are advertised as “commercial quality.” Getting a quiet motor will probably be worth the expense. You won’t bother others and you’ll be able to hear your music or other entertainment.

Track Size

Decent treadmill tracks manufactured for 2015 vary from about 18″ to 20″ wide and 55″ to 62″ long.

Track length might not matter much to shorter walkers, but it’s important to users who take relatively long strides.

  • Most walkers will be satisfied with a 55″ long track.
  • Most runners are advised to purchase treadmills that have 60″ long running surfaces.

Track width might be important to larger runners. A standard comfortable track width is 20″. You can also find new compact treadmills with 18″ wide tracks, and high-capacity treadmills with 22″ wide tracks. See NordicTrack for some nice 22″ belt options.

Track Durability

Several factors can help increase the durability of a treadmill track. One of the most important is roller size. The larger its rollers, the more durable a track can be.

For 2015 most rollers measure from 1.75″ to 3″ in diameter. Generally it’s the light commercial and commercial treadmills that have 3″ rollers. A nice example is the TT8 by Sole.

Another factor is the ply. Multi-ply treadbelts are thicker and more durable than single-ply treadbelts.

Finally, keep maintenance in mind. The best treadmill tracks require virtually no maintenance because they’re permanently waxed. Chaper treadbelts require the owner to treat the track every so often.

Programming

Treadmill programming has changed significantly over the past several years. Programs used to be more similar across brands. Now that many treadmills work with wireless Internet, new types of workout programs are made possible. We describe these in the article Best Treadmill Workouts.

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Our Running Guru
Amanda Brooks
Amanda Brooks
Running Guru