Not everyone wants to be a sweaty mess in public or at the gym, which is why having your own treadmill or running machine can be a convenient way to work on your fitness in the comfort of your own home.
Types of treadmills
A manual treadmill requires the user to manually get the belt moving with your feet before starting to run.
- Doesn't require electricity. You can use it anywhere as you don’t need to depend on a power socket - this also means a lower energy bill.
- You provide the power. For most products, this wouldn’t be considered a pro, but because treadmills are designed for fitness, needing to burn calories just to get the treadmill started is a big plus.
- You set the pace. Rather than keeping up with a preset pace, you can walk or run as fast as you want to without needing to push buttons.
- Less expensive. Flat-belt manual machines are cheaper than their electric counterparts.
- Stops when you stop. The belt of a manual treadmill will stop moving when you stop running, so you don’t have to wear a safety cord to stop it if you slip as you would with an electric treadmill.
- Can be stressful on joints. Straining against the belt to get it moving when you start your workout can stress out your joints, which may make it more difficult to use for those with arthritis or joint pain.
- Can only adjust incline by stopping your workout. To change the incline, you have to stop and get off the treadmill to manually adjust it - so you’re stuck with one slope per run.
- Lacks features. You won’t be able to see the details of your run or be able to access any additional features to personalise your workout - you’ll have to figure all that out yourself.
- Less durable. Generally speaking, manual treadmills are less sturdy than motorised ones, which is why they have lower user weight limits.
- Not great for running. Because they’re not as durable and thus can’t take as much impact, manual treadmills are better suited for walking and light jogging rather than runs.
A curved treadmill is a manual treadmill with a concave belt. Because of its curved shape, you have to run on the balls of your feet and thus expend more energy to move forward - this is thought to better mimic outdoor running than flat-belted treadmills.
They’re self-pacing, and are generally great for running at constant speeds, but aren’t completely up to scratch when it comes to acceleration - meaning runners looking to do sprint interval training may not find it suitable for them.
They’re generally sturdier and higher quality than flat-belt manual treadmills, however significantly more expensive.
A motorised treadmill will get to your desired speed in a matter of seconds, and generally has a lot more advanced features than a manual machine.
- Has special features. Most motorised treadmills have a display showing the time elapsed, the distance you’ve run, calories burned, speed, and heart rate. Some will have more advanced features, such as built-in workouts, online workout plans, and apps.
- Can adjust incline during workout. You can easily adjust the incline at the push of a button while you walk or run.
- Well-suited to runners. A longer belt and better durability mean you can run as fast and hard as you want without your machine excessively shaking.
- Less straining on body. Because the belt is moved by the motor rather than by your feet, you don’t place as much pressure on your joints as you would with a manual.
- More suitable for longer sessions. Their high build quality makes motorised treadmills suitable for longer workouts.
- Requires electricity. Your treadmill will need to be placed near a power outlet in order for you to operate it.
- Can be a safety hazard. If you trip or stumble then you could fly off the back as the belt keeps moving whether you’re running or not - you can however attach a safety cord to yourself for automatic shut off in the event of a fall.
- More expensive than manual machines. Expect to pay at least $1300 for a sturdy motorised treadmill.
Questions to consider before you shop
What are you planning to use your treadmill for? Do you need a walking treadmill, a running treadmill, an incline treadmill, or a machine that lets you do everything?
Is it worth getting a treadmill? A treadmill is a big investment and a cheap treadmill can be hard to come by, so some people may find that they’re better off renting a treadmill from a gym equipment hire business.
It may also be worth looking into buying a second hand treadmill - if you’re considering this, ensure you find out information about the machine’s service history and remaining time left on its warranty.
Should you invest in a gym membership instead? If you want to diversify your workout and use a variety of machines, joining your local gym may be a better option for you. They also have more heavy duty treadmills that are durable enough to take high-impact runs.
Factors to consider when choosing a treadmill
Added features can help you achieve your fitness goals while keeping you safe and comfortable. Note that it is unlikely you'll find these features on a manual treadmill.
- Safety key: This is a cord you clip onto your clothes - if you trip, the key will be pulled from the treadmill and the belt will stop moving.
- Heart rate monitor: A heart rate monitor can be found either as a sensor on the treadmill’s hand rails that you grip or as an external strap - often a wrist or chest strap. If your treadmill doesn’t have this, you can also buy your own .
- Programs: Some machines can plan fitness sessions for you - these often take your height, weight, heart rate, and desired workout intensity into consideration to create an optimised program that creates a custom distance, speed, and time for your workout. Some also alter the workout to suit your target, whether it’s weight loss, improving your cardio, or something else.
- Fan: A fan can help you keep your cool during a sweaty run.
- Self-lubricating belt: A self-lubricating belt means you don’t have to perform any maintenance on the running deck.
- TV screen: A treadmill with a TV lets you watch your favourite show (or even browse the internet) while you work out, but these are usually only found on high-end models.
- Speaker dock: Some treadmills will have built-in speakers and Bluetooth connectivity or a dock to connect your smartphone, so you can do away with fiddly earphones that keep falling out during your run.
Getting a durable model ensures you can run full tilt if that’s how you exercise. A sturdy frame that won’t rattle when you run at higher speeds and a resilient, cushioned running belt that won’t wear out easily with someone regularly walking all over it are two things that you should try out in store.
Generally, a powerful motor, a high load limit, and a long warranty indicate a good quality product.
A powerful motor with at least 2 continuous horsepower is recommended for runners, while walkers and joggers can usually get away with 1.5 continuous horsepower for a treadmill for home.
When reading product descriptions, note whether the horsepower is listed as continuous or peak - peak power indicates the maximum power level a motor is capable of in short bursts while continuous power describes a motor’s sustained output. While the higher numbers next to peak power may seem impressive initially, they aren’t a reliable indicator of motor performance.
Different machines have different maximum user weights - exceeding this limit could damage your treadmill or cause some kind of injury to yourself. While many have a load limit of up to 150kg, some more lightweight models can’t take more than 100kg.
A longer warranty often indicates a manufacturer’s faith in the durability of the treadmill. While longer warranties for all aspects of the treadmill are better, look out especially for the warranty of the motor - it’s the most expensive part of a treadmill and should have a longer warranty (aim for around 10 years) than the frame and other parts of the machine.
You’ll have to measure up the fitness space in your home to see if the model you’re considering will fit. Ensure you leave some room around your treadmill - particularly behind it - so that you don’t crash into any furniture if you fall off.
If you’re particularly tall, or have an especially long stride or wide gait, you may want to try getting a treadmill with a longer or wider running belt size. Regardless of your height or the way you walk, try before you buy your treadmill.
Ensure you check whether or not the treadmill price includes delivery and installation - unless you’re particularly handy and think you can tackle the challenge of assembling your treadmill yourself, you may need to fork out a couple of hundred dollars to get someone else to do it.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have a dedicated fitness room for your home gym and you want a machine that can fold away when you need to entertain or need a little more breathing room, then you might want to consider buying a foldable treadmill or a compact treadmill.
Generally paying less will get you a light, small machine that’s easier to fold.
Cleaning and maintenance
A treadmill is a big investment in your health and fitness, but it’s one that will last you years if you properly maintain it.
With the build-up of sweat, dirt, and other things you don’t necessarily want sticking around on your machine, it’s important that you regularly clean your treadmill to prolong its lifespan. Usually this is done by dusting your treadmill and wiping it down with a dampened cloth, as well as lubricating the running belt.
Most treadmill brands will have their own specific cleaning and maintenance instructions, so refer to the product manual before purchasing a treadmill to ensure you’re able to keep up with these requirements to keep your machine in tip top shape.
If you’re worried about your treadmill damaging your floorboards or carpet, consider also buying a treadmill mat or fitness equipment mat to put underneath the machine.
Treadmill costs vary considerably, but most are priced between $1500 and $3000, with some being as much as $5000 and over.
Treadmills under $1000 are available, but these will usually either be manual ones or entry-level electric ones with little to no features. While they may be suited to you if you’re mainly wanting to use your machine for walking, they usually don’t provide the desired versatility for a range of running workouts.
With so many treadmills on the market, it can be difficult deciding what suits your fitness routine, however careful shopping can ensure you’re getting your step count up and your heart pumping in no time.