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Treadmill Buying Guide: The Features That Really Matter for Your Workout
There are a ton of reasons you might want to get your steps in at home: Overpriced gym memberships, unpredictable weather, the simple but relatable feeling of not wanting random strangers on the street to witness your first attempts at getting in shape. The solution, of course, is to invest in a treadmill, but be sure to do your research first—say, by reading this handy treadmill buying guide, which will cover all the features, bugs, surprises, and pitfalls of investing in such a large and pricey piece of equipment.
What to consider before purchasing a treadmill
With so many fitness brands and individual models available, finding the right treadmill can seem intimidating at first. However, if you take a moment to think about your budget, a list of must-have features, and other important factors, it becomes much easier to discover the best treadmill for your exercise needs. Whether you need a rugged, high-tech model to track lengthy runs from start to finish, or an affordable device to fold away after your regular jogging session, here are some of the most important factors to consider.
A treadmill’s motor power is determined either by horsepower (HP) or continuous horsepower (CHP), and it’s a worthwhile stat to consider when evaluating treadmills. The difference between these two measurements is that CHP shows the power level a treadmill is capable of holding for a continuous period, while the maximum horsepower is simply its peak limit.
- 2.0 CHP – Best for walking and light jogging.
- 2.5 CHP – Best for regular jogging.
- 3.0 CHP – Best for regular running.
- 4.0+ CHP – Best for regular, extra-long and high-speed running.
As a good rule of thumb, plan on buying a treadmill with a weight capacity at least 50 pounds above your current weight, as this will put less strain on its motor and extend its lifespan. Generally speaking, pricier and more durable treadmills include a higher weight capacity, so if you need a treadmill that was built to last, look for a model with a weight limit of between 300 to 400 lbs or higher.
One of the key considerations to keep in mind when comparing treadmills is to note their respective deck lengths. While a treadmill with a 50 inch deck is perfectly suited for walking or jogging, runners will need a much longer deck—at least 60 inches—to accommodate their lengthier stride. Taller users with a naturally large stride may also need to buy a premium treadmill to comfortably accommodate their height.
Although the difference may sound inconsequential, runners will need a treadmill with a belt at least 22 inches wide to stay comfortable while working out, while a 20 inch belt is a solid pick for power walkers.
Wi-Fi connectivity, USB, auxiliary, and smartphone ports are common connectivity features found in all but the cheapest of treadmills. Runners who want to take full advantage of their favorite health and fitness apps, or enjoy streaming entertainment throughout their workouts, should look for treadmills with multiple connectivity options.
Treadmills tend to have a maximum speed of 5-12 miles per hour, so if you need a model capable of maintaining a high top speed, plan on purchasing a pricier treadmill. Some treadmills feature an adjustable incline from 5% to upwards of 40%, or the ability to modify the cushioning for runners who prefer a firmer platform to push off from,or a softer landing as their sneakers hit the belt.
Apps & Subscriptions
Manufacturers of pricier treadmills may incorporate a sizable HD touchscreen into their designs, and although some may simply stream videos while they work out, others will want to take advantage of the many premium fitness apps and paid subscription services available for=l health tracking and other personalized training features. A few of the most popular options include:
iFIT With hundreds of training classes available, the ability to automatically adjust compatible treadmills to match the requirements of selected courses, and an appealing and user-friendly interface, it is easy to see why iFIT is such a popular treadmill app. Whether you’d prefer running through its massive collection of pre-recorded scenic locales from around the world, or tracing your unique paths via Google Maps, iFIT is an attractive fitness app for runners who want to experience something new every day.
Peloton Although Peloton features plenty of running classes, this comprehensive fitness app covers a range of programs from yoga and cycling, to boxing and stretching.
Zwift One for those with a competitive streak, this subscription-based app turns your daily run into a virtual race against other active runners. All you need to compete is a sensor for your foot, treadmill, or smartwatch, and you’re ready to take on the world.
A solid understanding of what you need from a treadmill is essential to keep in mind when shopping around—you don’t want to buy a barebones treadmill designed for casual walking unless that’s literally all you’re looking for, but you also don’t want to pay through the nose for an expensive model loaded with features that you’ll never use. Here’s what to expect from each price range:
Under $1,000: If you need an affordable, lightweight, and simple treadmill for walking and light jogging, these budget-friendly treadmills may be all you need. While they may seem like a deal at a glance, treadmills priced under $1,000 tend to have far fewer features, unimpressive warranties, and are less durable than more expensive models.
Some of the best features to look out for in this sub-$1,000 category include an LCD panel that counts distance traveled and calories burned; an auxiliary port for a music player; an incline mode of up to 12%; and the ability to easily fold the treadmill up for storage. Be sure to shop around, as discontinued and heavily discounted premium treadmills are sometimes seen at this budget-friendly price point.
$1,000 to $2,000: These treadmills are geared towards people who want to run on a regular basis, sport a sturdier construction, and contain a variety of useful features that fitness enthusiasts will appreciate. Expect to see models with subscription services, sharper incline options, and premium cushioning at this price range. If you plan on taking a run every day from the comfort of home, and appreciate the perks of a sharp display with Bluetooth speakers, a higher top speed, and a large running deck, all without completely breaking the bank, there are plenty of high-end treadmills to choose from in this category.
Over $2,000: If you’re searching for a premium treadmill with plenty of running space, a high weight limit, blazing-fast maximum speed, and a design that was made to last, expect to pay $2,000 or more. These high-end treadmills are best reserved for dedicated runners and athletes, but perks such as a large, high-definition touchscreen display, access to an array of fitness apps, and a particularly sharp incline feature may be worth the investment if you run for a few hours every day.
No matter what your budget may be, please do not overlook discontinued treadmills, as they’re often just as solid as the latest models. Adopting one may land you a treadmill that would have normally been out of your price range.
Weight and assembly
A treadmill can weigh from as little as 50 pounds to over 300 pounds, depending on the model. Since manual treadmills tend to be made of lightweight materials and lack heavy parts, such as a motor and a thicker belt, they usually weigh between 50 and 60 pounds. Foldable treadmills tend to weigh between 200 and 250 pounds, which is why a hydraulic folding feature and wheels are handy options to consider when buying a treadmill you’re planning on moving around a lot. Due to their reinforced frames and large sizes, premium, commercial-grade treadmills start at 300 pounds and may weigh as much as 500 pounds or more.
Many manufacturers offer free delivery, and opting for a convenient assembly service may be worth an additional fee for some buyers, especially if you’re inexperienced with putting together exercise equipment. If you plan on saving money by setting up your treadmill yourself, note that some brands offer free assembly-related customer service via phone or online support, if you need assistance.
A treadmill’s manufacturer warranty starts the day you purchase the equipment, and its coverage may be split into multiple areas, including parts, labor, frame, and its motor. Many treadmill manufacturers include a lifetime warranty on its frame and motor, but this varies by brand.
Expect the average treadmill to include a year or two of labor coverage in its warranty, however there are exceptions: Inexpensive models, for example, may not feature a labor warranty, and if your home is particularly far from the manufacturer’s service area, you may be issued a shipping charge to have it repaired.
The warranty for a treadmill’s parts can vary wildly, but expect to see an average of between one and seven years of coverage. Pricier treadmills tend to include a more comprehensive and longer-lasting warranty for replacement parts, and the best models come with a lifetime warranty.
Sometimes your first choice doesn’t work out. While every online and physical shop has their own return policy, unfortunately, some sellers may charge return or restocking fees, so it’s worth looking closely at their return policy before you buy.
How to choose where to set up a treadmill in your home
There are a few important considerations to take into account when you’re setting up a treadmill in your home, to ensure that you have the best workout experience possible.
Wide open rooms such as your garage or basement will provide the space for an extra-large piece of exercise equipment, as well as the privacy you may want while working out. On the other hand, setting up a treadmill in your bedroom or living room gives you a comfortable, climate-controlled, and well-lit space to run or walk while watching television.
Wherever you plan on setting up your new treadmill, you should have plenty of overhead space to accommodate the natural bounce in your step, and ideally an area around the treadmill for stretching and exercises. Consider orienting the treadmill so you’re watching a TV or looking out of a window, so you have something to focus on while you work out. If you need to choose a busier area of your home to set up the treadmill, you might be better off buying a folding model and deciding on a place to store it between runs, to free up additional floor space.
Affordable Folding: Optimized for walking, these treadmills are fairly priced, and usually sport a few convenient features, such as a cup holder, a display that notes distance traveled and calories burned, and the ability to fold up its deck when your workout is done.
Folding: A quality folding treadmill will have a sturdier design for light running, additional features such as hydraulic assistance to easily fold it down for quick and easy storage, a convenient heart rate monitor, and compatibility with a wider range of health and fitness apps.
Non-Folding/Commercial: With their longer and wider running surfaces, these large, rugged treadmills are optimized for real runners. Non-folding treadmills tend to be feature-packed to cater to hardcore fitness enthusiasts who would value an LCD display, an inclining deck, an array of health-tracking apps, and the ability to run faster and harder on a machine designed to last.
Manual: A manual treadmill relies on your walking or running movements to get its belt moving, rather than electricity. While this allows you to place a manual treadmill wherever you want in your home, users need to maintain a steady stride and speed to smoothly operate one of these models. Manual treadmills range from pricey curved-belt models geared towards professional athletes and hardcore runners, to inexpensive flat-belt models made for brisk walking.
There are many treadmill manufacturers on the market, but some of the best and most popular brands include: Horizon Fitness, NordicTrack, Spirit Fitness, True, Peloton, Precor, ProForm, LifeSpan, and Sole.
Where Should You Buy Your Treadmill?
While we highly recommend stopping by your local sporting-goods store to test out multiple treadmills, you should plan on actually buying your treadmill online.
Trying out multiple treadmills in a store will give you the opportunity to get a feel for how each treadmill performs, and how user-friendly their console interfaces are, but remember that floor models will have experienced a bit of wear and tear, and in-person selection may be limited.
While you may not get same-day delivery, the benefits of buying your treadmill online far outweigh a brick-and-mortar option. Not only will you have a massive range of treadmills to choose from and the convenience of having your new treadmill delivered, those who shop around online are likely to find attractive discounts.
Before you order your dream treadmill online, though, research the online retailer’s return policy and warranty so you aren’t surprised by additional fees if you change your mind, or the treadmill malfunctions.
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