How To Buy A Treadmill: The Ultimate Treadmill Buyer’s Guide

Treadmills are among the most popular pieces of home exercise equipment, which makes sense given the popularity of running and walking for exercise and the convenience and versatility of a treadmill as a cardio machine. 

However, there are so many treadmills on the market these days that it can be really difficult to decide which treadmill is the best one to buy based on your needs. Knowing how to buy a treadmill takes some research.

In this guide, we will provide tips on how to buy a treadmill.

Finding A Treadmill That Meets Your Needs: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself


  •  How often do you plan to use the treadmill?

When you are buying a treadmill for home use, durability is one of the chief factors that separate a poor-quality treadmill from a robust machine that will last a long time.

One of the primary differences between a commercial-grade treadmill that you would find at a gym and a budget-conscious home treadmill is in the quality of construction and overall durability.

However, this is not to say that you can’t buy extremely high-quality home treadmills that rival those found at a gym. It will just take a little bit more of a refined search and a higher price point, in most cases.

The more often you plan to use your treadmill, or the more users in your home, the more rugged and durable the treadmill should be.

If you are only planning to occasionally run on it when the weather is particularly bad or you have a packed schedule with just a small window of time to train, you might not need the most robust treadmill nor the longest warranty.


  •  Do you plan on running, walking or jogging? 

This question piggybacks well on the previous question, as it also points to the durability of the treadmill you plan to buy.

If you’re planning to use your treadmill for walking, it’s best to buy a walking-specific treadmill – you’ll save a lot of money and find a product that better meets your needs.

Dedicated runners who plan to be logging running mileage on the treadmill will certainly need a treadmill that is designed to withstand running and support the higher speeds of runners versus walkers.

Furthermore, if you are a competitive runner, you’ll need a treadmill that can reach fast maximal speeds, probably at least 10 to 12 mph or faster.


  • How much space do you have?

The available space you have for the treadmill is an important consideration because even treadmills that are marketed as space-saving designs take up a significant amount of room.

You need to look at the specifications of the treadmill before you buy it to ensure that your height plus the height of the running deck is still at least 6 to 8 inches shorter than the floor-to-ceiling height in the room you plan to place the treadmill; so that you will not hit your head as you bounce up and down while you run.

Finally, another factor to consider when it comes to space for the treadmill is whether it is important to you that the treadmill can be folded up or folded flat when not in use.


  •  What is your budget?

Lastly, it should come as no surprise that your budget will greatly impact the best treadmill to buy for your needs. 

But, how much should you spend on a treadmill? How much does a treadmill cost?

How To Buy A Treadmill


  • Choose Your Workout Space And Treadmill Size

How much room can you offer a treadmill in your home, and where are you going to put it? 

To save time before shopping, measure the floor space you plan to put your treadmill. If you’re considering a folding treadmill, also measure any space (L x W x H) you have to spare for storage. 

Treadmill dimensions are usually published, and keeping this information handy makes you a more efficient shopper. 

Keep in mind that the required running space, which you can work out via the treadmill belt size, can also impact the overall footprint of the treadmill. We recommend a 22″ wide belt for runners and 20″ for walkers. Although a 20″ belt is sufficient for runners, it just leaves a little less room for error.

As a general rule, a minimum of 50″ in belt length is recommended for walkers, 55″ for runners and 60″ for runners over 6′ tall.

Once you have worked out how much space you need in your home to have a treadmill, you can start thinking about treadmill size. 

Standard home treadmills are about 7′ long and 3′ wide. Although there are many folding treadmills on the market which are significantly shorter, they still require lots of room when they’re in use.


  • Decide Which Features You’ll Use

Most treadmills have special features. Such features aren’t necessary for cardio training, but they can improve the exercise experience and help keep you motivated. 

Examples are preset workout programs, Bluetooth speakers and TVs. You should assess which treadmill extras will actually help you meet your fitness goals and which ones will go unused. 

Here Are Some Of The Most Practical Special Features Treadmill Shoppers Should Consider:

1. Automated Incline

Treadmills with inclines make exercise more interesting by varying your ride. They also have three very practical benefits: they make treadmill exercise easier on your joints, allow faster calorie burn and support better muscle definition.

You may be thinking about how much incline you would actually use on your treadmill and how much incline you should be using to maximize calorie burn. 

Most home treadmills today have maximum inclines of 10, 15, and 20%. Incline trainer treadmills have maximum inclines of 40%; these allow you to burn calories at a runner’s pace by simply walking.

2. Workout Programs

Most home treadmills today offer built-in workout programs that control their speed and incline. Keep in mind that the cheapest treadmills only work in manual mode and that treadmill workout menus vary in size and variety. 

Often this programming justifies a price hike, so be sure that you would take advantage of the additional workout guidance before you sacrifice the extra dollars.

Beyond the preloaded workout options, you can now choose to add extra workout technology to your purchase with many treadmill brands. 

Here are a couple of options you might want to pursue:

  • iFit offers users unlimited personalized workouts through their monthly membership, which often comes free with certain brands’ treadmill purchases for a limited time. 

As well as access hundreds of video workouts delivered by personal trainers from fitness studios around the world, the iFit Google Maps app lets you draw any route in Google Maps and virtually experience it with your treadmill.

Besides being immersed in a Google Street View of your choice, you’ll experience the rise and fall of terrain as the treadmill incline/decline responds to the programming.

The treadmill brands that currently offer iFit are NordicTrack, HealthRider and ProForm.

  • Passport Virtual Active workout programs are delivered through interactive videos. 

A Passport player works with your home TV to immerse you in scenic settings with ambient sound, and as your workout speed changes, the video and audio adjust accordingly. 

Passport is compatible with most treadmills by Horizon Fitness and Vision Fitness.

  • Wireless Pulse Monitors can help you exercise more efficiently by providing accurate heart rate data. Wireless heart rate monitors offer the most accuracy, and some treadmills with wireless monitors also offer heart rate control; their preset workout programs will adjust to help you stay in your target heart rate zone.


  • Take A Test Run And Read Treadmill Reviews

It’s wise to try a treadmill before inviting it home for good. You can test various brands in sporting goods stores and in some department stores such as Sears. 

However, if you do decide to test in-store and find your perfect match, be sure to buy your treadmill online. 

Usually, the manufacturer’s website offers the best deal once you consider online discounts, sales tax, treadmill delivery and consumer protections. 

If testing a treadmill isn’t feasible, then it’s especially important to read honest reviews featuring feedback from real customers; this is something we take seriously in our review process. 

Understand The Elements Of A Treadmill

Treadmills are advertised with lists of their “specs” or specifications. Whether these features are fantastic or you could get better value elsewhere, marketers manage to make them all sound pretty great. Read this section to get a better understanding of how to buy a treadmill with elements that honestly fit your needs.


  • Motor

A treadmill’s motor powers the track. Treadmill motor power is described in terms of horsepower (HP) or continuous horsepower (CHP). 

CHP is the most useful thing to take into consideration because it indicates how much power a motor can put out continuously versus just at its peak. Most home treadmill motors have somewhere between 2.25 and 4.25 CHP. 

You can find some treadmills with 1.5 CHP or 5.0 CHP motors, but this is a minority.

How much treadmill motor power do you need? That depends on the type of exercise you plan to do on your treadmill and your body weight. For people weighing up to 200 pounds, here are our general recommendations:

  • Walking: Choose 2.0 CHP or higher
  • Jogging: Choose 2.5 CHP or higher
  • Running: Choose 3.0 CHP or higher

If you weigh over 200 pounds then it’s a good idea to add another 0.5 CHP, because a motor running at nearly full capacity will wear out faster than one with more power to spare. 

Most treadmill motors today are under lifetime warranty, but cheaper models offer much shorter motor warranties (anything from 2 to 25 years of coverage), so it’s best to check with a sales representative what’s offered on the machine you’re looking at before purchasing.


  • Track Size

Track length isn’t of great importance to petite walkers, but it’s important to treadmill users who take longer strides and is especially important to runners. 

Today’s standards for treadmill track length are 55″ for walking treadmills and 58″ or 60″ for running treadmills. 

Some treadmills for runners have tracks up to 63″ long; see the brands Landice and BodyCraft for this option.

As for track width, the industry standard is 20″. Extra-wide treadmill tracks are becoming more common and are key for larger trainees; these tracks are usually 22″ inches wide. 


  • Tread Belt Durability

Three main factors determine tread belt durability: thickness, metal rollers, and lubrication.

Regarding belt thickness, a two-ply or four-ply tread belt is more durable than one with a single layer. 

Thicker tread belts also tend to be quieter during use. Most home treadmills that are budget priced or mid-priced have one-ply tracks. 

This feature might be omitted from the specs list as advertisers boast about thick tracks but tend to keep quiet when tracks are basic.

Another important factor is the metal rollers that propel a track. Rollers with larger diameters put less stress on the treadmill motor and help to extend belt life. 

A good roller diameter for home treadmills is about 2.5′.

Lubrication is another important aspect of tread belt durability. Treadmill belts must be lubricated for smooth performance. Sometimes this job falls to the treadmill owner, who you’ll treat the track to every few months. 

The best treadmill tracks are maintenance-free; these are usually infused with silicone or another lubricant. Precor treadmill tracks are a good example of these.


  • Track Speed

Treadmills that support top speeds of 10 mph are adequate for most trainees, but runners who are training for a 5-minute mile will want machines with higher top speeds. 


  • Track Cushioning

Track cushioning helps protect your joints from the impact of exercise. 

Compared with road running, cushioned treadmill running typically reduces impact by about 15-40%. 

Although cushioning is most important for runners, it reduces the impact on anyone’s body by minimizing the risk of injury and promoting stamina. 

Some treadmills feature adjustable cushioning so that runners can choose their preferred level of support. Advanced treadmill decks have differential cushioning, where you get firm support as you push off the track and more cushioning on landing.


  • Weight Capacity

Treadmill user weight capacities generally range from 250 to 400 pounds. 

We recommend choosing a treadmill that can handle at least 50 pounds more than your body weight to help ensure that you don’t strain the motor. 

If you weigh more than this, you may need to invest in a higher-end product. There are treadmills out there capable of handling up to 500 pounds, but you’ll have to pay more.


  • Safety

Auto-stop is an important safety feature for many treadmill shoppers who are elderly or infirm, or for those with pets or young children. 

Auto-stop is usually controlled with a key. When you’re exercising, the key is attached to your body with a lanyard and if you slip, the key will disengage and the treadmill will turn off. 

What’s more, the key can be removed after each workout session to prevent accidental treadmill activation.



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