Sunday, June 16, 2024

How to Choose the Best Treadmill

Updated March 2014

Buying Advice: Treadmills

Exercising on a treadmill is a convenient way to stay in shape. You can use it no matter what time of day it is or what the weather is like outside. It's also easier on your joints and lets you tune out by watching TV or reading a magazine so your workout is over before you know it. But, as technology has improved and treadmills have been enhanced over the years with additional features, prices have steadily climbed. In order to make them more budget-friendly and accessible to consumers, treadmills priced $800 or less have started to appear on the market. These versatile treadmills provide a convenient way for consumers to exercise in the comfort of their own homes without spending thousands of dollars on gym memberships and high-tech devices. Generally, treadmills come in three types depending on how much you are willing to spend, how much room you have, and what features you prefer.

Types of Budget Treadmills


On the lowest end of the budget spectrum, manual treadmills work with the natural propulsion of your legs as you walk and don’t have any automatic features. The incline must be adjusted manually when the treadmill is not in use. Some manual treadmills might not feature consoles while others will still show you how far you have gone, the time you have spent exercising, and calories burned. Costing as little as $200, manual treadmills are often harder to use and less sturdy than motorized treadmills. It is important to hold onto the rails while using a manual treadmill, which is why only walking or very light jogging is recommended.


Budget treadmills with a motor offer the most effective and convenient workout, but it is important to purchase one that is strong enough. Motorized treadmills under $500 are less sturdy and feature lower horsepower. Spending a little more will get you a stronger and more powerful machine that can withstand regular light jogging. Another added benefit of a motorized treadmill is the ability to set the speed and incline with the touch of a button and monitor your progress with an electronic console.


Folding treadmills are an appealing option for users who have very limited budgets and storage space. They are generally manual and compact but less than ideal for users looking for more than light exercise.

What to Know Before You Buy


The first most important feature to look for when buying a budget treadmill is the motor. While walkers may be able to use a manual treadmill, most walkers and runners should purchase a motorized treadmill. At the lowest, horsepower should be 1.5 to give you a decent workout. For users looking to make the leap from walking to jogging, horsepower should be around 2.5 or higher if possible. Be sure to look for motors that offer continuous output, otherwise there is no guarantee how long your motor will provide consistent power.

Speed and Incline

A good rule to follow when buying a budget treadmill is that is should go up to 10 miles per hour and reach an incline of 10 percent, which should accommodate most users. Don't assume that incline features adjust automatically. Motorized treadmills priced under $500 may still have manual incline adjustments.

Deck and Belt Size

Budget treadmills need to be large enough to accommodate your stride. Even treadmills that are considered low-budget and compact should still have a deck that is 50 to 60 inches long and is about 16 inches wide. Make sure that the belt doesn’t move around and provides proper traction to keep your feet steady. It should also run smoothly and without any jerky movements. The deck of the treadmill should also provide adequate cushioning and shock absorption to keep your joints properly supported while you exercise. If you can afford to spend a little more, you’ll benefit from sturdier belts and larger decks.


Make sure you choose a treadmill with a solid frame that doesn’t move around excessively while you’re walking or running on it. Good treadmills should provide solid construction and accommodate weights of at least 350 pounds.


It is important to know what you want to get out of a treadmill so you can get the most helpful special features. Maybe you want to count calories, measure your heart rate, or be able to choose from various exercise programs. More features are becoming standard, even on manual treadmills, though additional features will increase the cost of your treadmill. Generally speaking, treadmills that cost about $500 to $700 are the average consumers spend to get a sturdy treadmill that also gives you more advanced readings like heart rate, though probably not all the bells and whistles of higher priced items that come with various pre-programmed workouts.


Not all manufacturers are willing to offer extended warranties on budget treadmills, but you should look for one that comes with at least a one-year service, two-year parts, and three-year motor warranty. Anything less and it may be a good indication that the company doesn’t think their product will last, and you shouldn't either.


Most manufacturers carry warranties of moving parts that, combined with proper maintenance, can extend the life of your treadmill. To care for your treadmill, always be sure to wipe it down after each use as well as dust it regularly. Place the treadmill on a mat to protect dust from accumulating under the machine. Read the instruction manual carefully and only lubricate moving parts if expressly called for in the manual. Doing so unnecessarily could ruin your machine. Also, keep the power cord untangled and away from heavy parts that may damage it.

It's important to consider how you want to use your treadmill when you buy it. More recreational users can afford to skimp on certain features where more serious runners will find it worth the extra cost to get a better equipped machine. If at all possible, it is best to try out the machine you are thinking of getting before you buy it. See if it goes as fast or as steep as you need it to, if it is long enough for your height and stride length, and if the console is a comfortable distance from you when you are on it and provides all the features you are looking for.