Treadmill Buying Guide

Kudos for taking the first step towards a fitter and fabulous you! Research shows that you are more likely to stick to your workout regime with a treadmill at home. The hassle-free experience of working out in the luxury of your home is absolutely incomparable. Then the question arises, why hassle yourself with finding a needle in a haystack a.k.a “your quest for that one ideal treadmill fitting all your requirements, budgetary and space constraints, in the maze of thousands of models, brands, configurations and specifications”. Cutting to the chase, I’m delighted to help all you avid fitness shoppers, with this easy, step-wise Treadmill Buying Guide.

Step 1: Understand the Components and Working of a Treadmill.

OK, so you don’t need to get into hardcore technical details, but a certain knowhow is a must. Here are the basic components that constitute any treadmill.

  • Deck/Belt- This is the rotating surface area of the treadmill that you are working out on, partially or fully cushioned for minimal joints impact.
  • Motor- The heart of your treadmill that powers the rollers for smoothly rotating the deck.
  • Rollers- Present in the rear and front, running in sync for moving the deck based on the speed settings.
  • Handrails- Grab Bars for sturdy support while jogging/running, often cushioned for comfort.
  • Crossbars- The skeletal framework of the treadmill that supports the deck from below.
  • Elevation Mechanism- Manual or Automated Mechanism for creating the slope gradient.
  • Console- The Display Panel that could be buttoned or touch-screen, and vary from basic to super-advanced and user-friendly.

Step 2: Ponder over Space Specifications, Comfort and Ergonomics.

The biggest mistake you could commit, is to order a nice, flashy-looking treadmill online, and then realizing that it doesn’t fit in your room! Of course the treadmill dimensions are always mentioned, but you always need to calculate an additional clearance space both length-wise and breadth-wise for the sake of safety and comfort. Here’s some ready reckoning.

  • Calculate requirement of 20 to 22 inches deck-width, with addition of at least 2 to 3 on both sides. So that warrants a total width requirement of 24 to 28 inches in your room, the upper limit being for low-stride walkers and the upper limit for high-stride runners.
  • Now add the average deck length of 50 to 60 inches, with a minimum of 6 to 8 inches space behind for safety purposes and at least 2 to 4 inches in the front for the console. Adding up, your room space should be able to accommodate at least 58 inches to 72 inches as far as total length is concerned. Once again, 58 inches would be for walkers and 72 inches for hardcore runners.
  • Yet another important factor to consider here, crops up in case of a folding treadmill. A lot of low and mid-budget (also comparatively lightweight) home treadmills allow the option of folding for compact storage. Make sure you read its folding dimensions and measure your intended storage space by adding at least 2 to 4 inches in length as well as width.
  • Clutter in the immediate vicinity of stationing your treadmill is not a good idea. Clearance space is crucial for a safe and effective workout.

Step 3: Identify your Workout Objectives.

This is quite simple. Identifying your workout objectives, could range from shedding that holiday weight, to general health and fitness, to training for the marathon, to increasing your stamina for your first tournament or even enhancing your performance as an established athlete. Every treadmill caters to a certain set of workout requirements. The beginner’s, budget-friendly models are most suited for walking and jogging, while the more advanced, hi-tech versions are specifically designed for high speed running. So it makes sense to list down yours prior to checking out various treadmills models.

Step 4: Enlist the Basic Treadmill Features/Parameters required vis-à-vis your Budget.

Based on your space constraints, fitness levels and workout objectives, some of the features and parameters of a treadmill would be a must-have for you, while others can be passed. In this section, I have compiled a list of all probable ‘basic purchase parameters’ for treadmill shoppers. Since these requirements are purely user-specific, it is up to you to go ahead and pick which ones matter the most you!

Motor Power – Without a properly functioning and robust motor, you are in for one bumpy ride! This is why an electric motor has become a norm, even for the most cost-effective treadmills. Having said that, you need to glance at the workout objectives in Step 3 for adjudging the right motor power. Simply described, the heavier your exercise regime, the higher should be your treadmill’s motor power. Your weight as a user is also an important criterion, because the motor needs to exert that much power to rotate the belt with you on top. As opposed to regular Horsepower (HP), the functionality of a treadmill motor is measured in Continuous Horsepower or CHP. Any figure between 2 to 3 CHP is considered acceptable for users weighing up to 200 pounds, the lower limit being for walkers and upper limit for runners.

Adjustable Speed and Incline – The adjustable speed of the rotating belt goes hand in hand with your workout speed. An average of 10 to 12 miles per hour is the maximum speed expected from a treadmill of any reputed brand. On the other hand, incline is basically the sloping gradient of the deck, to create the effect of going uphill. Many low-cost treadmills either don’t offer incline adjustment or have manual incline. Intermediary and Advanced Models offer Power Incline which can automatically alter incline setting from anywhere between 10 to 40%. The advantage of raising incline settings is that you can burn higher calories even at a lower pace. Also, it can spruce up and create new challenges in a workout regime that’s become monotonous over time.

Stride Length – We have partially discussed this in the space considerations of step 2. Stride is nothing but the distance you cover with a single footstep on the treadmill belt. Of course stride length varies from user to user, but we can consider two important dimensions here:-

  • Stride length required is lowest for walking, medium for jogging and maximum for running.
  • Your optimal stride length is directly proportional to your height, build and foot size.

The thumb-rule for required treadmill stride would be a lower limit of 55 inches for beginners/walkers/short-heighted users and an upper limit of around 63 inches for professionals/runners/tall users.

Track Cushioning – Reducing the risk of injury and overall stress on joints, is a vital parameter that most home treadmill purchasers have in mind. In terms of cushioning index, anywhere between 20 to 40% is acceptable based on your age, fitness levels and any specific medical condition.

Folding Type – As mentioned earlier, space constraints may necessitate it for you to buy a folding treadmill for your home gym. Folding Treadmills might have the upper edge in terms of compactness and portability, but usually offer basic to intermediate features only. Athletes and professional trainers will need to opt for a feature-rich, rugged and heavyweight model. Do checkout the Space Calculation in Step 2, if you haven’t already!

Console and Add-on Basics – There are unbelievably hi-tech console features that we will gape at in step 6. But for now, you should understand the bare minimum expectations from any console. Firstly, it needs to be well-lit and legible, even in dim light or without your glasses. So it need not necessarily be a touch-screen, but a readable, LCD backlit screen is important. User-friendly navigation is also equally crucial. It’s of no use if you get home a hi-tech treadmill with a console that you cannot decipher. Next, if the room is kind of stuffy, you definitely need an in-built fan and a water bottle holder as add-ons. Lastly, a heart-rate monitor is a must-have for tracking the progress of your workout. Mid-priced treadmills offer chest strap-on monitors, while advanced ones have in-built sensors in the handrail or integrated wireless heart rate detection.

Weight Capacity – Once again, an area that many first-timers tend to ignore and repent later. Not only do you need to opt for a treadmill that accommodates your weight, but you need to calculate a margin of at least 50 pounds in order to avoid undue wear and tear on crucial parts such as the motor. Most treadmills can handle user weights ranging from 200 to 400 pounds, so I would urge you to choose wisely.

Step 5: Check for Essential Treadmill Safety Features, along with Assembly, Maintenance and Warranty Stipulations.

  • Another big mistake that most online shoppers commit is to neglect the aspect of treadmill assembly. Given that even the most lightweight home treadmill would weigh at least 150 pounds, you need to give ample thought to how you are going to assemble the components or even carry it to the designated room. Do check on this with the delivery services renderer prior to placing your order.
  • Next in line are the safety features. Many advanced treadmills boast of hi-tech safety features, but the most basic (and mind you, compulsory) requirement is an emergency auto-stop key. Not only does this prevent accidents during workout, but also helps prevents accidental starting off by kids or pets when the equipment is idle. Also essential are comfortable and stable hand grips, skid-resistant finish along with cushioning of deck, accessible controls and no obtrusive parts.
  • While spending a sizeable chunk of your hard-earned money on a piece of fitness equipment, you would ideally want it to last for a lifetime. Therefore, foreseeing Maintenance and Warranty is as important as checking out the essential features. The basic expectation from any best-selling treadmill brand is as follows:-
  • Lifetime Frame and Motor Warranty (or at least 10 to 25 years)
  • Parts and Electronics Warranty (ranges from 90 days to 5 years based on the price)
  • Labor Coverage-Barring a few, most treadmills brands shy away from providing Labor Warranty. And those who do, have 1 to 2 years covered at best.
  • Construction Superiority and Durability of any Treadmill is directly proportional to its price(although we’ve narrowed down on several low-cost, high value models for your benefit when you zoom down to step 7). Still, what you pay for is essentially what you get. So a budget treadmill would usually have a wobbly frame, flickering displays, shorter stride, noisy motor and belt. As you spend more, the durability of each part and finesse of construction is evident. This would imply lower maintenance costs in the long run.

Step 6: Take your pick from the Advanced Features

As far as enhancing your overall workout experience is concerned, sky is the limit. What I mean to say is that once your ‘mandatory features’ checklist is through, there is absolutely no dearth of advanced treadmill features if you can afford the luxury. The most popular ones include:-

  • iPod Docks and USB Ports for plugging in your Smart Phone, Tab or Flash Drive
  • Touch Screen Console and In-built Speakers
  • Audio/Video Display, Wireless Internet Connectivity and Web Browser
  • Wireless Syncing with Health and Fitness Tracking Apps on your Smartphone/Tab
  • In-Built Workout Programs– These could be of two categories- the pre-set ones that have all the parameters such as speed, incline and timers set for you to burn a specific number of calories at a specific heart rate, or customized programs that let you feed in the parameters as required by you, in a given range. The biggest advantage of working out on a treadmill that has in-built workout programs, is that you never run the risk of getting bored. There is ample variety and escalating challenges to keep you hooked to your fitness regime. Yet another popular trend observed nowadays, are pre-set interval training programs. Basically, you have high intensity and low intensity workout time periods alternating each other, to avoid tiring out the user, yet ensuring a rigorous workout.
  • User ID Settings– A number of intermediate and advanced treadmills work on multiple user format. This proves to be an advantage when several members of the family are using the same fitness machine, and each of their workout histories and fitness data need to be stored separately. After all, a well-tracked workout regime is the best way to measure your progress and scale greater challenges.
  • Personalized Workout Options– Further down the lane of customized programs, we have truly reached the zenith of fitness technology with comprehensive apps such as iFit and Passport Virtual Active. While the former syncs with Google Maps to virtually create and run on any running track you identify on the map (replete with terrains, incline, decline etc), the latter can sync with your TV for stunning audio-visual effects.

Step 7: Finally, do check out the Best-Voted Treadmill Brands we’ve shortlisted for your convenience!

A well-informed consumer always makes the best purchase decision. Now that you’ve assimilated everything you need to know about buying a home treadmill, it is but logical to shift your gaze to the best-voted treadmill brands. Over the years, many renowned fitness equipment brands have come up with highly innovative and feature-rich treadmills to suit all kinds of budgets. Here’s a list of noteworthy names you’d definitely be interested in checking out!

  • ProForm Treadmills
  • Weslo Treadmills
  • Horizon Treadmills
  • Sole Treadmills
  • Nordictrack Treadmills