Treadmill Buying Guide: How to Pick the Right Treadmill for Home Use

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Several aspects play an important role in deciding which treadmill serves you well. When you invest a large amount of money, you should make sure that you put it into the machine that best serves your interests.

Users have various requirements, from mild activity to serious running, and even hundreds of treadmill varieties are available to suit their needs. This guide helps you find a perfect match to your requirements from among those tons of options.

Here is a clear and comprehensive guide that covers all aspects of a treadmill by breaking down the subject into useful sections. These sections are further broken into concise yet informative parts that enhance your knowledge as you ready.

When you try to gather information from various places, you may waste a lot of time researching yet end up clueless. This buying guide gives you all the necessary information along with suggestions that you will not find elsewhere. Also, Ryan at HomeGymMag recommends choosing your treadmill by dividing its features and functions, which is also great and adds some new dimensions to the buying process.

By the end of this article, you will be confident enough to shop for your treadmill, where you will be capable of checking every facet thoroughly. Get started with the treadmill buying guide for home use and enjoy the fitness journey like never before at the comfort of your home.

Space Consideration: How Much Space Do You Have in Your Room

Before considering anything else, space comes first because even if you can afford to buy a treadmill, you should have enough space to place it.  As the treadmill is considerably bulky, you can’t just fit them into a corner or make space after it arrives.

Their structure helps add stability to the treadmill and keeps them stable when you are working on them. So, it is a standard you need to expect from every machine, making it important to have enough space.

Treadmill machine’s sizes range anywhere from 34” x 70” x 55” to 37” x 83” x 57” for the most commonly used equipment at home. Even an inch of difference is all that matters to make it impossible to fit it in.

So, measuring the designated space thoroughly using a measuring tape for length, width, and height is essential. Then you can compare the specifications of a treadmill’s dimensions provided on the manufacturer’s website and check which machines fit there.

Make sure to have little wiggle room and not go with exact measurements, as there can be some design element or anything that can throw you off the measurements. When you have ample space for a big treadmill, you can consider non-folding treadmills as they have a longer life than the folding ones due to the excellent durability of the heavy-duty frame they come with.

Usually, folding machines need to be light, so they are made up of lighter-weight frames and come with a hydraulic system for effortless folding. You can consider them when you have lesser space and need to free it up after using it.

There are many more factors to consider further, and some of them are based on your needs.  For instance, if you are a walker, a 20” belt is sufficient for you, but a 22” width is a must if you are an elite runner.

You can roughly say that a treadmill occupies 7’ long and 3’ wide space for a standard home machine. Few treadmills come shorter than that, but variation is not much.

Your Budget

When you fix the budget, you will considerably narrow down the list of treadmills you can buy. Otherwise, you end up spending your valuable time on models that do not fit your budget, and you will have to start from the beginning again.

There is a wide range of machines from the basic to ultra-modern variety, which comes with great sophistication. Once you set, your budget taking things from there will be easier.

Here we have classified a few price ranges for purchasing treadmills and what you can expect in each range in general. By checking this information, you will get a broad idea of each range, which helps you understand if you are getting what you need or need to step up your budget or tone down a bit.

1. Under $500

Treadmills under the $500 range are usually flimsy and come with a warranty of as little as 90 days to none. You don’t want to buy something not so useful while trying to save few bucks.

It is better to save up a little more and buy the machines in the next range than to invest in a non-standard product that breaks easily. If they last for a year, then consider yourself lucky.

Even the highly discounted machines are to be vetted properly for noisy belts, shaky frames, minimal training programs, narrow exercising areas, and cheap quality screens. Having said all these, if you do not need it for a daily workout and use it only once in a week or so that too for a short time, this might be an option but still not advised.

2. Under $1000

This is where you find the most varieties of treadmills as they vary widely as they move from the lower end of the range to the upper end. These machines have a better frame and options in comparison to the above classification.

Most beginners and light joggers or walkers can choose from the lower end, say $500 to$800. Whereas those who prefer little action with more cushioning and other facilities can opt for upper-end models with the range being $800 to $1000.

They come with at least 10 MPH speed and 0% to 10% incline facility. Though warranties are still not so great, the improvement in the quality of the material makes them desirable.

Since the price balance needs to be maintained, machines in this category can offer either good quality with minimum features or many features with flimsy quality. So, choose wisely and do not go for what you do not need, which makes sure that you spend on what you absolutely require.

While nearing the higher value, you get some really good treadmills which even have patented technologies. Even the speed increases to 12 MPH and comes with standard LCD monitors of up to 7 inches in size.

Few of them provide extra features such as an AUX port for entertainment and even wireless transmission for heart rate monitor or streaming. Though they may seem attractive regrettably, they last only a year or so when you use them regularly.

3. Under $1500

This price range is the sweet spot for many active users of the treadmill as they are capable of accommodating many kinds of needs even if you have several users. The fitness cautious people find them suitable for both walking and running along with keeping up with their energy.

In comparison to under $1000 treadmills, they offer greater comfort and higher power. They even come with larger screens, advanced cardio workout programs, steeper inclines, chest straps with the wireless facility, and other enhanced features.

You will also usually find machines under $2000 when they go for sale in this price range. So, make sure you also keep an eye on such great deals that can give you a much better machine at the same price.

4. Under $2000

These cardio trainers are equipped with advanced features such as touch screens, an excellent incline range of 15%, and 35+ exercise programs. Most home users are perfectly satisfied with what this range of machines has to offer as they are both features filled and durable.

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They come with a good warranty and are made of high-quality material which can last for years to come. This price range is the best when you have multiple daily users with different uses such as walking, jogging, and running.

Avid runners opt for these impressive performance-capable treadmills not only for their cutting-edge technologies but also for the excellent cushioning comfort they provide.  Though they are expensive, you will appreciate the health club range of quality this machine offers, which also helps in better endurance.

Another thing to consider is that though they seem very much similar to the under $1500 in their specifications, under $2000 machines’ worth lies in the higher quality materials used. Also, they come as maintenance-free where the belts are self-lubricated, which keeps you worry-free as well as the machine in shape for years to come.

5. $2000 Up

When it comes to this price range, you will find them to be of the light commercial range quality, which can serve a small hotel gym, office gym, or a health club. Though they are not fit for high-traffic areas such as commercial gyms and hospitals, they do serve smaller groups at an amicable price range.

Not only is it high quality, but it also comes with other facilities such as customization of console type and add-on programs. Also, rehabilitation suitable kind of specialty equipment is best in this range which can further serve your needs even after your recovery.

These premium treadmills have great incline options and very high speed, which aids in excellent calorie burn. You can get a greater intensity workout and accommodate several users who work out daily without any issues.

When you say $2000 and up, the prices can go up to $3500+, and you can get anything from marathon running training to all kinds of luxury features along with the best commercial warranties or extra-long residential warranties.

Apart from standard workouts, they come with fitness tests, interactive touch screens with online connectivity, integrated TV, very large monitors, excellent shock absorption, very high maximum speeds, and a great sound facility. Another mention-worthy feature is the reversible deck with maintenance-free tracks, which offer double the lifetime of a usual treadmill.

You need to remember that you get what you pay for or sometimes a little more but nothing more than that. The bottom line is that if you observe the features are too good for the price, check for quality and understand its performance if the price is high with good quality and nominal features.

Your Needs

Once you fix your budget, it’s time that you start cross-checking your needs with the available models to get a smaller list of treadmills for you to purchase. Here we come up with one or more requirements in this category, especially when you have more than one user.

So, your treadmill must fall into all those categories making this section a significant one as it helps in encompassing everyone’s needs. A regular runner cannot opt for a basic model which does not offer anything higher than walking.

Similarly, one who needs only gentle walking does not require a high-end treadmill with all bells and whistles. I hope you see the point we are trying to make here as we categorize based on the user’s needs.

1. For Seniors

Elderly people can opt for a lesser speed treadmill as they prefer low activity, and so the speed of 6 MPH is enough and does not need challenging inclines. So, they can go for $600 – $1000 range machines which can keep them safe and allow them to work out with suitable speed.

Also, these senior walking treadmill machines come with basic options without the need for fiddling with sophisticated settings, which essentially means hop on and get going. While this is true for most senior people, few of them have maintained excellent health and fitness routine throughout their life and are still capable of maintaining high activity levels.

They can level up a bit and go for $1000 to $1500 machines, giving them the required intensity. Also, the better comfort with cushioned belt is suitable for both jogging and running which gives ample enough activity with safety as the first concern.

2. For out-of-shape People

Usually, people are out of shape as they do not work out or are irregular in their activity. When these people plan for regular activity at home, they are not sure of following up on their resolution and trying to opt for the lowest possible budget machine.

This itself is a self-sabotaging thought as it does indicate that they are not confident about their intentions. Moreover, when you invest better, you will try to make the most of it subconsciously, leading you to get many regular workouts.

When you invest nearly $1500 on a treadmill, you will get excellent performance that will keep your workouts smooth. Also, these machines come with interesting features along with comforts to keep you entertained while you work out.

As these treadmills come with high durability and a variety of workout programs, the users will have plenty of reasons to look forward to their workout routine. Finally, if you need the treadmill for out-of-shape people, you can go for options offering 300 lbs. to 400 lbs. weight capacity.

3. For Rehabilitation Training

Coming to rehabilitation training for people who were active previously and needed post-injury training, they cannot go back to their previous level of training immediately. As the injury will prevent them from doing so and the recovery stage does not support vigorous exercises.

Your new limitations might also require you to work out with extra caution requiring special moves which may not be available in all treadmills. This renewed activity after you receive the approval of your doctor can be initiated using specifically designated treadmills for rehabilitation purposes or treadmills that provide extra cushioning along with low to high-speed variations.

Most users agreed that under $1500 treadmills range and above is suitable for this purpose, and lower budget machines than that are not much of help in this regard. The superior cushioning is easy on your legs and due to several challenging features, and they will be useful even after recovery to keep up your fitness.

4. For Serious Runner

Though running without any equipment is possible when it comes to certain weather conditions, you cannot go on with the activity regularly. If you need to keep up with your training, you need a way to keep running without interruptions, no matter the weather conditions.

If the user requires to run 50+ miles every week, then treadmills of range $2000 and above are capable of delivering such high mileage. Since the machines in this range are of light commercial quality, they are highly durable for such wear and tear.

Sometimes the user requires to have a cardio workout as a supplement to their main sport. For instance, a weight lifter might need to improve their cardio workout for optimal results. As the user is capable of vigorous activity, they will need a better treadmill than an average user.

So, they can go for a price of $1500 to $2000 range machines which come with sturdy frames, extra challenges, and great warranties. With a higher number of workout programs, these treadmills can prove to be challenging enough for highly active people.

5. For Tall Runner

A user’s height becomes important if it is more than 6’, meaning a tall person. When a person has a tall body, they have long legs, and their stride requires a greater stepping place. This implies that they need to opt for treadmills of at least 60” belt length. Anything shorter than that, you cannot run comfortably.

6. For Low-Ceiling Room

If you plan to place your treadmill in a low-ceiling room, check the step-up height and add your height to it. You need to have a minimum difference of 6” when the result is subtracted from the height of the ceiling.

When you have a 14” gap, it is safer, and does not forget to measure your height with your shoes on. This goes for general settings, but if you are looking for incline settings, you will need a 16” clearance.

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If you need extreme incline, then it is best not to place it in a low-ceiling place. When I say low-ceiling here, it is around 7’ whereas 9’ and above high ceilings are considered normal.

In this aspect, if you are taller than 6’, you may not have a proper low-profile treadmill to accommodate in low ceiling areas. You might need to consider super stripped-down treadmills for light jogging or walking, which are very low to the floor.

7. For Apartment

If you live in an apartment, there isn’t much space to spare for large machines, so you should choose from foldable machines, which save you a lot of space when not in use. It does not occupy any space when you can fold it easily and tuck it under the bed.

Similarly, portability is another great use where treadmills can be moved effortlessly from the most used place to the storage area. These models come with lightweight frames and wheels where maneuvering becomes a breeze.

Even sound is another factor to consider when shopping for exercise machines for apartments as they are so close, and you might annoy your neighbor at odd times. Finally, if it fits your needs, budget, and physique, even a compact treadmill is also a great option.

As we are done going through the needs you must take into account, and which kinds of treadmills are better suitable for each requirement, we can move on to the next discussion, i.e., features.

What Features Do You Need?

Once you have determined what range of treadmills you are interested in, you will still likely have a large variety to choose from. To help you narrow down that list, consider what treadmill extras are worth it to you.

Most treadmills have special features. Although these features aren’t necessary for cardio training, they can improve your exercise experience and help you finish your fitness routine.

1. Automated Incline

Incline range provides the much-required challenge through its various levels ranging from 0% to 15% on most treadmills with adjustable incline. You get this feature for all treadmills costing around $1500.

However, if you are looking for a higher challenge, you can go for the NordicTrack brand, which offers anywhere from -6% to 40% incline. They have programs based on the incline to give you excellent calorie burn in a short time using their wide range of incline facilities.

You get several other benefits from the varied incline, apart from faster calorie burning, such as the low impact on your joints, and help in better muscle definition. In short, when you use a higher incline level, you can burn calories at the pace of a runner, even if you are walking.

2. Workout Programs

Most of the lower-end treadmills have only a manual function, and as they move towards the higher-end, you get workout programs capability. These workout programs allow you to go through a well-planned routine without the need for you to make settings each time.

The pre-set workout programs support various goals such as endurance training and weight loss. They work by controlling the speed and incline automatically as required by the chosen program.

They also allow you to push yourself to a better challenge or act as a virtual in charge of your workouts. Below mentioned are few such programs that come with various treadmills, or you can purchase them separately.

iFit

This paid app is compatible with many treadmills of popular brands as it is made by ICON. Several types of gym equipment producing top brands such as NordicTrack, Freemotion, ProForm, HealthRider, and so on utilizing this app to give personalized workout coaching to their users.

Their programs add better value to your workouts as you get advice and training from professionals all over the world about nutrition and exercises. You can get tailored workouts that help you get closer to your goal quickly.

On-demand workout videos and partnership with Google maps for various uses such as virtual competitions or terrain experience along with view are all mention-worthy features of iFit.

You can take up a monthly membership, or sometimes you get limited free access to iFit with certain brand treadmills.

Sprint 8

It is a reliable HIIT program usually found on few treadmill models belonging to Matrix, LifeSpan, and Vision brands. Sprint8 program is 20 minutes long, comprising 3 minutes warm-up and 2.5 minutes cool down periods along with 30 seconds of a sprint and 90 seconds active recovery period in between.

This program is popular for delivering excellent results in a short span as the anaerobic interval working out optimizes your efforts. It is simple, user-friendly, accomplish more using cardio, helps in weight loss, includes warm-up as well as cool-down times, and gives visible results within a maximum of 8 weeks.

Passport

This innovative workout technology-friendly media player is available with few treadmills as default. Even if you do not get it with your treadmill, you can still purchase it separately if your treadmill has compatible technology.

You can use this player to take simulated runs through the beaches of New Zealand and the coastlines of the French Riviera’s scenic views coupled with the ambient sound.

Johnson Health Tech, one of the top fitness equipment manufacturers globally, has introduced this technology into its brands such as Vision, Matrix, AFG, LIVESTRONG, and Horizon.

Passport Virtual Active

Passport Virtual Active works using the Passport media player to deliver interactive workout videos and realistic picturesque views of famous places worldwide. You can utilize your home TV or home entertainment system for viewing the places, and it is capable of adjusting the audio and video to match your pace.

Though this facility is expensive, it offers you a high-definition exercise experience which aids greatly in enhancing your cardio workouts. Serious runners find it highly useful. The equipment interactivity technology that communicates wirelessly between the treadmill and the screen for speed matching takes your experience to a whole new level.

You get two programs by default with your treadmill if it is offered during purchase. These programs comprise Northern Italy and American Southwest region trails, including Italian countryside, Venetian cityscape, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas Strip, and more.

There are several other programs available for purchase separately which feature many other landscapes from all over the world.

Zwift

Zwift is capable of modifying the speed of your treadmill according to the program, and it works using your treadmills device connectivity capability from your smartphones or tablets. The iOS or Android devices are capable of running this app, and your treadmill should have a 20kph top speed (that is 12mph) to work with this application.

Though most commercial treadmills are compatible with Bluetooth connectivity, few smart treadmills in the home range are capable of running with Zwift. A Zwift-certificated treadmill makes treadmill training more fun and removes the boredom of working indoors.

3. Treadmill Accessories

Treadmill accessories allow you to personalize your equipment as per your needs. The most important of them is the treadmill mat which helps in increasing the durability of both your treadmill and the flooring below it.

Also, when you place your treadmill on the carpet, a mat keeps it from slipping or damaging it. Mats are handy in minimizing the noise from the treadmill caused by the vibrations while you work out. They also make it easy to clean the floor around the treadmill.

Next comes the cleaning-related materials such as brushes and cleaning solutions. Always remember that you purchase them according to your treadmill specifications mentioned in the owner manual.

4. Entertainment options

Options such as interactive touchscreen, workout fans, tablet holders, bottle holders, on/off cushioning, and HD TV is considered entertainment options. These special features are not essential for the workout directly but aid you in making your exercise routines more interesting or add to your comfort.

5. Heart rate monitoring

Handlebar grips are present in most treadmills for monitoring your heart rate. However, wireless chest straps are more accurate than EKG heart rate monitoring. These chest straps are adjustable to your size and are comfortable to wear.

Since they operate wirelessly, they do not cause any inconvenience while using them. Some treadmills offer them along with the equipment, but most of the time, treadmills only offer compatibility, and you need to purchase them separately.

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6. Bluetooth

Bluetooth compatibility allows you to sync your treadmill with fitness apps on your smart devices. This arrangement helps track your fitness journey more accurately and helps keep a record of your activity that allows you to have a comprehensive understanding of your progress.

Fitness apps such as Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, and other similar ones can be synced in this manner.  Sometimes you get the manufacturer’s own tracking apps such as ViaFit and SOLE Fitness to use with your BT.

Treadmill Warranty

Treadmills are subjected to wear and tear based on your usage, maintenance, and their make quality. Having warranty backup to cover for the repairs that occur over time is an important factor to consider while buying a treadmill.

When you understand what all types of warranties are offered and what does an apt coverage looks like, you can know if the warranty offered by a treadmill is enough or if you need to purchase any additional warranties.

Frame: A lifetime warranty is the standard for the frame and is offered the same in most low-end and almost all high-end treadmills.

Motor: Lifetime warranty is usually found in high-end models and from 2 years to 25 years in low-end models, depending on the price range.

Electronic parts: Though a 5-year warranty is considered an apt period, you find very few high reputed treadmills offer this kind of protection. Low-end models come with a none to 90 days warranty, and most of them in the average range come with a year or two.

Labor: A 2-year warranty is a required period in this aspect. Though most decently priced models do offer this period, there might be some unexpected costs when it comes to reality. A few companies offer this free only for a certain distance, say within 60 miles radius of the dealer. Some may ask you to ship the equipment for repair at your own expense.

Essential Treadmill Specifications

Specifications of a treadmill are very useful in figuring out the machine that suits your needs using the technical aspect. This section gives you a better understanding of what each specification delivers and which value is suitable for what kind of machines.

1. Motor

Treadmill’s motor power is indicated using HP (Horsepower) or CHP (Continuous Duty horsepower). CHP is a more reliable measure over HP as it indicates the motor strength over a stretch of period.

You can find treadmills within a range of 2.25 CHP to 4.25 CHP for most treadmills. Sometimes you might even find a 1.5 CHP rated or 5 CHP rated treadmill. Now that you understood the range and meaning of the units, let me tell you how much motor power is required for different activities for a person weighing 200 pounds in general.

If the user prefers walking, a 2.0 CHP or higher is recommended. For jogging, 2.5 CHP and above is an apt value of motor power. Running requires 3.0 CHP or more.

While these values are good for a person weighing 200 pounds, anyone who weighs above that needs to add 0.5 CHP to the motor power for achieving the required values. If you need a treadmill for many users of varying fitness levels, a 3.0 CHP is a good one to choose.

Users with high physical demands, such as serious runners, find 4.0 CHP very useful. If you are looking for a treadmill for high-traffic areas such as health clubs or commercial areas, a 5.0 CHP is great as you do not have control of the user parameters there.

When you follow these values guide for your activity, you can keep your motor from wearing out quickly, which helps in keeping your treadmill intact for longer periods.

2. Max Speed

The standard maximum speed is between 10 to 12 MPH. Though special treadmills run faster than this, an average consumer never runs out of the aforementioned top speed.

Check out how much speed is useful for what action below for an average user:

1-3.9 MPH – Most users walk at this speed, and a brisk walk at this pace is considered moderate exercise, which can burn fat.

4-5.5 MPH – Brisk walking to light jogging falls in this category as you advance the speed. It is still in a moderate activity zone and does burn fat.

5.6-8 MPH – This is the limiting range of most treadmill users and offers aerobic activity and falls in the vigorous exercise category.

8.5+ MPH – Body reaches anaerobic territory if you can keep up with this speed. It is good only for a short time, but many users cannot maintain this level of speed.

Except for the runners who want to train for the 5-minute mile, the machines with a top speed of 10 mph are more than enough. Even under the $1000 category, most machines for home use are available with 12 mph top speeds.

3. Running Area

Track length is an important consideration for runners, especially for those who are tall as they have a longer stride length. Standard treadmills come with a track length of 55” for walking, 58” for jogging, and 60” for running.

There are also 63” long tracks for taller users from brands such as BodyCraft and Landice. Running area also comprises the width of the belt where the standard ones come with 20” wide, 22” is designated for larger trainees.

4. Incline

Incline gives you faster calorie burn and an efficient workout with reduced stress on your joints. Make sure the incline-capable treadmills come with enough belt length to support this feature.

A 10% incline-capable machine’s belt should be at least 60” long. You get motorized incline on average to high-end models and manual types of the incline in cheaper models.

Few of them might even come with a decline facility. Usually found maximum incline values are 10%, 15%, and 20%, whereas the highest incline value available is 40%.

5. Deck Cushioning

Patented cushioning technology-based machines offer superior comfort while you work out on the treadmill. Few models feature manual adjustment for keeping the cushioning to your required level.

The deck cushioning of a low-impact treadmill reduces the impact and the risk of injury while improving your stamina. Differential cushioning kind found in advanced models offers you firm support when you push off and higher cushioning when you land.

6. Durability of the Treadmill Belt

Most treadmill belts come in 1-ply and 2-ply qualities, where 1-ply is used for home treadmills and the 2-ply, or sometimes 4-ply, used in commercial machines. It should be of non-stretch quality to keep it from slacking.

Also, rollers are responsible for treadmill belt durability. The larger diameter of rollers of about 2.5’, causes lesser wear on the belt. Maintenance-free treadmill belts last longer as they receive adequate lubrication from time to time.

7. Stability of the Frame

Overall weight, crossbars, the width of the base are responsible for keeping a treadmill steady. The curved uprights are responsible for keeping the console in place.

8. Safety Features

The clip-on safety key can be plugged into the console and serves the purpose of keeping you safe in case you slip by dislodging the key, which stops the machine immediately. As it will be clipped to you in the other end, it detaches automatically from the treadmill when the distance increases, and this is useful as you might not be in a state of reaching the console to operate the treadmill in such situations.

This auto-stop feature is highly useful for the elderly to prevent accidents and for preventing it from starting accidentally by children or pets as the machine does not start without placing the key in the designated area.

9. Weight Capacity

The general weight capacity of treadmills ranges from 250 pounds to 400 pounds. It is recommended to choose a treadmill with 50 pounds more capacity than the user’s weight. This margin keeps the strain minimal on your motor and keeps your treadmill durable. If you require a higher weight capacity than 400 pounds, then there are few 500-pound capacity treadmills in high-end products.