Top 10 Tredmills in 2020
“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. If this description of our long-suffering postal delivery men and women sounds like how you feel about your outdoor running routine, good for you, and keep it up! However, if you are the type that runs back indoors at the sight of a cloud, maybe it’s time to invest in a treadmill.
Treadmills represent an excellent way to get the cardiovascular results from a walking, jogging, or running program without being subjected to the extreme elements of outdoor exercise. Many models have capability to fold up for storage, and wheels to move them to pretty much anywhere in your house. We’ll talk about features a little later in this article, but first, let’s look at how and what a cardiovascular exercise program, or cardio, could look like.
There are many important health benefits to a cardiovascular program. Cardio can help you in weight loss efforts, improve your mental sharpness and focus, and help you reduce stress and block anxieties and depression symptoms. You can see from the name itself, a cardio program is used to improve your cardiovascular health and function – your heart, circulation, and lungs.
As noted, a good cardio program can help you lose weight. Weight loss is easy – just burn more calories than you take in. You can lo just diet – eating less – but it’s more effective in a program of diet and exercise. Any exercise burns calories, but cardio is one of the most effective exercises in calorie burn. Some studies indicate that you can burn up to 60% more calories via cardio than in a resistance or weight training program.
There are two different kinds of cardiovascular exercise – aerobic and anaerobic. Bicycling and running are examples of aerobic exercises; they require your lungs to take in more oxygen, and accelerate your heart rate to pump this oxygenated blood through your body to support you during your exercise period. Sprinting would be an anaerobic exercise, as it uses up more oxygen than your system is able to provide; simply put, it’s being “out of breath”. Either type of exercise will help you expend oxygen, but aerobic exercises allow you to keep up that pace for a longer period of time.
So, we now know you want your heart to work harder, but how hard do you want it to work? In a cardio program, you want your heart to work at a certain percentage of your maximum heart rate. One simple way to calculate your maximum heart is to subtract your age from 220; if you are 40, your maximum heart rate is 180. Your physician can help you to set your optimal percentage based on your overall health and fitness condition, and your fitness goals, but typically your percentage will be 50 – 80% of maximum.
Now, with the science out of the way, all you need to do to get started is start moving. Park a little further away from the mall. Take the steps instead of the escalator. Take a walk every day. Simple things, right? But somehow, life will find an excuse to get in the way of your best intentions. Think about the cost of joining a health club or gym, and the time investment to get there, exercise, and then drive back home. Think about the weather where you live in January or July. Are you going to want to go out and exercise in those conditions? The bottom line is that there will be barriers put up, no matter how well you are committed to improving your cardio.
One way to remove some of these barriers is to invest in exercise equipment that can be used in-home. There are several types available – exercise bikes, rowing machines, stair climbers, ellipticals, and so on. For our purposes here, however, we are going to focus on the treadmill.
First question – why a treadmill? Quite simply, they are an excellent tool to help you with your cardio improvement program. It’s pretty simple to get started; get on the machine and start walking. Treadmills are available with a wide range of features, and prices, but more on that later. The important thing is that you have instant availability to an exercise machine; no driving to the gym, no worries because it’s raining. Have fifteen minutes to kill before you go pick up the kids? Get on the treadmill.
Before we get to the details, let’s take a quick look at the history of treadmills. They were originally used as much as 4000 years ago, where walking power was used to turn a wheel to move water or grind grain. Not surprisingly, in early 1800s England, someone had the bright idea to use this same concept of treadmill as punishment in English prisons. The first patent on a treadmill was granted in 1913, but they didn’t gain significant use until they entered the realm of medical exercise machines for heart testing in the 1950s. Commercially developed treadmills began to sprout up in the 1960s, and today they are the largest selling piece of exercise equipment in the US. One recent innovation has been treadmill desks, so people can exercise during work, in what would normally be a sedentary period.
All things considered, a treadmill, whether motorized or manual, can be an excellent addition to help you with your cardio. An example of a treadmill is pictured below.
Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table
In this section, we’ll take a look at ten different treadmill models – two manual, and eight motor-driven. For each model, we’ll identify a couple of the key features, a consumer rating of the treadmill, and a price indication. The rating comes from the web site reviews of actual buyers of the treadmill. Further on in this article, I’ll add my comments on each of them, their overall functionality, and pick the “best of the best”. Also to be reviewed are key features of a treadmill; the functionality and specifications that may or may not be important to you and your buying decision.
|Number||Product||Best Feature||Rating||Price Category|
|1||Jaketen Electric Folding Treadmill||Folding for storage, features 12 preset training programs and Bluetooth capabilities||(5 / 5)||Basic|
|Manual, non-motorized treadmill. Your body weight provides momentum and resistance.||(5 / 5)||Elite|
|Also manual, supports phone apps for cross-fit and interval training||(4.6 / 5)||Elite|
Endurance T10HRC Commercial Treadmill
|Extra thick belt for cushioning and durability, large running area, steel frame, incline capability||(4.5 / 5)||Advanced|
3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill
|Large motor and running surface, pre-programmed courses, incline, entertainment console||(4.4 / 5)||Elite|
Sole Fitness TT8 Light Commercial Non-Folding Treadmill
|Shock absorbing system, large motor, 10 programmed workouts||(4.1 / 5)||Advanced|
NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
|7” full color display, iFit enabled, 50 pre-set workout apps, lifetime frame and motor warranty||(4 / 5)||Basic|
Goplus Folding Treadmill
|5” LCD display, cushioned to reduce noise and vibration, 12 programs, folds for storage||(3.8 / 5)||Basic|
ProForm 905 CST Treadmill
|30 preset workouts, iFit compatible, Bluetooth heart monitor, incline capability||(3.8 / 5)||Basic|
Nautilus T616 Treadmill
|Bluetooth to connect to fitness apps, incline, foldable storage, 26 programs||(3.8 / 5)||Basic|
You’ve reached the stage where you are ready to buy a treadmill. But given the ten models here, and the blizzard of options and features and specification, which are the ones that are really most important in the buying decision? When you are looking for a new car, some models will not have features which are very important to you. Others will have equipment options that you really don’t care about. Treadmills are going to be exactly like that, just at a smaller price scale. Here we will outline some key features and specifications with the aim to providing you enough information to decide which are absolutely critical, which are nice to have, and which are “bells and whistles” you don’t really need or want.
A heavy-duty treadmill can weigh three hundred pounds or more, so consider the overall weight of the unit as you are reviewing specifications. If you don’t have a dedicated floor space for the treadmill, and have to move it around, this will be an important characteristic to you.
Much like weight, the amount of floor space the treadmill takes up may or may not be a factor. However, with some of the larger, wider models, they can take up a lot of space, and a fold-up type for easier storage might makes sense for you. If you have a dedicated exercise room, footprint might not be a critical measurement.
Running surface size
This will be the length and width of the platform deck on which you’ll be running. Too narrow, and you increase the risk of accidentally stepping on the rails and falling. Too short, you can actually fall off the back end of the treadmill, or run into the front post, if too close to it. This is a very critical part of the buying decision, and the sizes of all the potential household users should be considered.
The available horsepower of the drive motor will determine at what speeds the treadmill will operate. The higher the horsepower, the higher upper end speeds of the treadmill. This will, of course, also be affected by the weight of the user; the belt will turn with less resistance with a lighter user than a heavier one.
There are a fair amount of moving parts on a treadmill, many have sophisticated electronics, and, as mentioned, the motor. With a lower priced treadmill, it could be, in essence, a throwaway if it fails after a couple years. But some of the higher priced models here will most likely make sense to repair. The purchaser should review the warranty with this in mind. The warranty will typically cover major components, life frame and motor, for one period, with a secondary, shorter warranty for parts, such as the electronics, and, in some cases, the warranty will cover the labor of replacement and/or assembly.
In earlier model treadmills, you pretty much got on it, stared straight ahead, and ran. Hence the name “dreadmill”; it got old fast. Today’s models offer many more features to keep you entertained while you exercise. These include speakers, fans to cool you, Bluetooth and wireless capabilities, even streaming hookups from your television. Storage for towels, tablets, and water bottles is also important.
As noted earlier, part of a good cardio program is keeping your heart rate within a targeted range. You may also have personal goals around speed, distance, or time. A digital display will track your performance metrics, and, in some cases, record your measurements to memory so you can track progress improvements.
As we noted in the discussion of motors above, speed will be influenced by motor size and user weight. Each unit will list a theoretical upper and lower end speed as part of the specifications. If you plan to use the treadmill for walking, top end speed will not be a major consideration for you. But if you want to run intervals, with short term speed bursts, then it matters.
We’ve discussed the impact on motor and speed capabilities already. In some cases, however, a heavier user will exceed the capabilities of the treadmill, so this feature needs to be validated if you or someone in your household using the machine are in that category.
Several treadmill models feature the ability to raise the running ramp to an incline, which simulates running on hills for the user. This allows you to expend more calories in the same period of time, as you are stressing your body and cardiovascular system more. Incline will also factor into motor size, as the motor will have to work harder to sustain an uphill run versus a horizontal one.
We discussed this a little in the footprint section. Some of these models have a hinged running area. At the end of your run, the ramp can be raised to a near vertical position, and locked in place for storage. Many models also have wheels to that they can easily be moved into a storage area.
Programmable training programs
There are two approaches to programmable training programs. Some of these units will have one or the other, some will have both. The first approach is pre-programmed exercises as part of the treadmill training regimen. The motor will automatically adjust speed and incline to increase or decrease your heart range. Programs may also include interval training, which is adjusting to temporary higher speeds then dropping back to a lower rate. The second approach is using technology to tie to training programs available through your phone, tablet, or the Internet. iFit is a popular internet-based program, and it simulates actual runs from around the globe. One minute you could be running the hills of San Francisco, the next the Boston Marathon course.
This is a bit of a subjective measure. While running on a treadmill will have a lot less shock and impact on your knees and body than on concrete, there will still be some shock. The treadmill deck and belt will give some level of cushioning, but it is difficult to quantify it. A test run is recommended to get a feel for the amount of give in the treadmill.
Some of these units will be almost fully assembled, some will come in a box full of parts. Some time estimates are as much as four hours to assemble and adjust the machines. Depending on your mechanical aptitude, it might be worthwhile to pay a premium and have the unit assembled in your home, in the spot where you want it. This could include leveling for that spot, and may also be covered under warranty.
The frame will in some cases be made of tubular steel, in others aluminum, and occasionally you will see units with a majority of plastic parts. The frame will have a major impact in the durability of the treadmill, and should be covered by the longest part of the available warranty.
Safety key/emergency stop
This feature is installed to immediately stop belt rotation in the event you fall. There is a “deadman’s key” inserted into the machine, with a rope and clip on the other end to attach to your shirt or shorts. If you fall, the key is pulled out of the slot and the machine immediately shuts down. This is an excellent safety feature and is highly recommended.
Rollers and belt
The rollers and belt are the other part of the drivetrain of the treadmill. The belt should be made of a durable engineered plastic material, and may be single ply up to triple ply. It should be firmly stitched to prevent fraying and stretching. The rollers are under the belt to generate movement and at the same time keep the belt adjusted, so it does not move side to side. The rollers should be made of a durable material, as extensive roller wear can cause the belt to lose friction and increase slippage of the belt.
Price can cover a wide range in buying a treadmill, from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. As with any major purchase, price is only a small part of the overall value of the object – that combination of features, price, and usability – that make the treadmill attractive to you or not.
In the case of these ten treadmills, the price range is very extensive, and difficult to categorize as a range. So, I’ve sorted the ten into three groups:
- Basic – a treadmill with features and pricing for a first-time user, not wanting to spend a ton of money, but still wanting decent performance. This level of treadmill will typically be priced at under $1000.
- Advanced – This is the next level up, running between $1000 – $3000. They will have better electronics, wider and longer running areas, and so on. This is likely the machine you will buy when you’ve worn out your basic model treadmill.
- Elite – This level of treadmill will appeal to only the most serious of runners. They will have been running for longer periods, and use their treadmill to supplement their outdoor training. It may also be used as a cardio cross training tool by an elite athlete. The treadmills for this group should closely simulate the feel of running outdoors.
Making your decision
After this section of the article, you should have a pretty good feel, at least at a high level, which features and specifications are most important, as you make your treadmill choice. So now let’s go one by one, and take a detailed look at every model. Following this, we can recommend some of the best treadmills for each user from this group of ten.
Top 10 Best Tredmills
The first of our basic treadmill category, this unit has a five-layer EVA belt for long life, cushioning, and non-slip design. The folding treadmill, with Bluetooth capability, allows access to the GFit program through Google. It has twelve preset training programs, and a hand pulse grip hear trate monitor. A dampening system prevents extra shock to knee and ankle joints.
Features and Specifications:
- A 2.25 HP motor powers a 48” x 16.4” composite belt.
- A five-function LCD display allows you to track heart rate, speed, distance, calories burned, and time.
- The treadmill has a 70” x 40” footprint, but folds for storage. It is wheeled for easy moving.
- It has safety hand rails and a built-in safety key emergency stop system.
- This treadmill has built in speakers, and Internet-based training programs (GFit) can be controlled from your smartphone.
- It features an automatic lubricating system, and easy side to side belt adjustments.
- Overall capability is small – maximum 200# user, 8.4MPH maximum speed, and 3 and 5% incline settings must be manually adjusted.
- 5.0 review, but this is based on only fifteen customer reviews.
This treadmill fits the definition of a basic machine quite completely. It has a decent sized running area, but is powered by a smaller motor, and not suitable for heavy runners. The electronics are solid, particularly with the ability to run Internet-based fitness programs. There is no warranty information available on the web site.
This is the first of two manual treadmills on our product list. This model is available in two styles, one geared for rehabbing runners of those needing handrails of extra balance; the other is designed for concentrated, high-speed training. Both systems use the running motion to propel the belt; there is no motor to drive it, so you your speed is set solely by your effort.
Features and Specifications:
- The Trueform Runner features a curved running surface, to better simulate the effect of running on pavement.
- This is an elite treadmill, designed to help runners develop proper form and style to optimize their speed and performance.
- It has a 54” x 17” wide running deck, and, even without a motor, weighs in at 325 pounds.
- Two tread options are available – one to simulate turf, the other to simulate a track.
- Designed for commercial use, it should last the individual user for many years.
- Comes with a ten-year frame, tread, and component warranty, and five years for belts and display, two- year labor warranty.
- With this unit, the user dictates pace and effort. No limitations on speed.
- This unit is priced in a range that effectively eliminates most individuals from purchasing it. It could be a good fit for an elite athlete in training, or in a commercial setting like a gym or health club.
- The 5.0 rating is only based on two reviews. Checking other web sites did not reveal additional, more in-depth reviews.
- The display to track your speed, distance, etc. is a rather expensive optional purchase for the treadmill.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see paying big bucks for this treadmill unless you have very specific circumstances that a regular treadmill would not help with. You can buy a lot of years at a health club for what you would spend here. It’s well built, solid, with a great warranty, and will probably last a lifetime in an individual use setting.
The second of two manual treadmills, the Air Runner offers some nice functionality at a lower price than the Trueform. It has a solid steel frame and handrail system, corrosion–resistant hardware, a fairly compact footprint, yet weighs 280 pounds and will support a 350# user. It has built-in target heart rate and interval training programs.
Features and Specifications:
- Built for all skill levels, this treadmill has a built-in handle and transport wheels for easy movement.
- The treadmill can integrate with an Internet-based cross-training program, and also has built-in training programs.
- The curved platform simulates outdoor running.
- The unit is sold with a limited lifetime warranty for the frame and belt, with a three-year warranty for other parts.
- The treadmill is Bluetooth capable for interaction with Internet-based training programs.
- The running surface belt has been shown to last up to 150,000 miles.
- Display for tracking exercise metrics is integral to the unit, and included in price.
- Some users note that the speed conversions from the display panel don’t appear to be accurate when they compare to their outdoor times.
- This is still somewhat pricey, but certainly is designed to last even in commercial settings. The pricing may serve to keep the average runner out of the target market for this machine.
A well-built manual treadmill, where the only speed constraints are the ones the user puts on himself. The six-function display monitor is integrated to the machine, and standard equipment. This is a fitness club quality machine, and will help the serious runner improve his times, speeds, and endurance given all the training program options.
This is the first of two advanced level machines, and is a great one to start the review. It has a large running deck, strong motor, incline capabilities, and looks like it could survive for years in a commercial setting. Over 25 built-in fitness programs to help train for endurance and speed. It has a lifetime warranty – period.
Features and Specifications:
- A 3 HP motor drives a 20” x 60” belt driven running area, with a top speed of 10 MPH and an elevation of up to 15% incline, with a maximum user weight of 350 pounds.
- An LED tracks all the normal performance metrics, and features a separate wireless heart rate monitor to keep you in your target zone.
- A heavy-duty belt and deck, with a shock-absorbing system, give you a smooth run with less impact on your joints.
- Given the no questions asked warranty, you basically get a lifetime machine by purchasing this model.
- The multiple workout programs, along with the speed and elevation capabilities, give you a great variety in your exercises, avoiding the “dread mill” repetition.
- Steel frame construction makes this a commercial quality machine, yet still within the budget of a dedicated runner.
- The overall rating is based on a small cross section of reviews.
- Given the price, some convenience functionality is missing, like iPhone dock, cooling fan, etc.
A very solid machine that should deliver quality workouts for a long time. While missing a couple amenities you would expect on a higher end treadmill, it is still a good overall value. The great warranty removes some risks in spending this level of cash. Seeing some additional ratings would be better, but this is a fairly new manufacturer.
The third of three elite rated machines, this one is motorized and comes with a large 22” x 62” deck. It has a commercial-level shock absorbing system to make life easier your knees. Connect your tablet or phone to the built-in speakers, and you have entertainment, while you work out. Residential warranty is ten years for frame and motor, five years for parts.
Features and Specifications:
- The 4HP motor supports users up to 400 pounds, and handles belt speeds up to 12MPH, and has a 15-degree incline range.
- A large console shows a variety of exercise metrics, and built in speakers, tablet connectivity, and a cooling fan give you an entertainment experience while you work out.
- This treadmill has eight pre-programmed workouts, and capacity for two custom programs. It has fast acceleration boost for interval or high-intensity training.
- It has all the basic functionality, and enough bells and whistles to keep pretty much anyone happy while working out.
- This is a commercial level machine, yet still priced for individual, in-home users.
- A large 84” x 36” footprint and 386-pound weight give you a solid machine, but one you will not likely be moving around very much.
- Typical assembly time is listed as four hours, so you may want to consider supplier assembly.
- Two 1.0 reviews moved the overall rating to 4.4, but both reviews were price complaints relative to the equipment.
The 1.0 reviews aside, this appears to be a very solid machine, with a lot of functionality and capability. The reviews on the running comfort and capability of the treadmill are all strongly positive. It is marketed toward the elite-type runner, given the price, but, if you know you will use it, it would be a great machine for anyone with the long warranty and expected lifespan of it.
The second of the two advanced level treadmills. Big motor, big base, big belt, big weight, big capacity. It has a decent-sized LCD display with integral speakers. There is a nice tray for holding water bottles, phone, and so on. The deck is shock-absorbing, and the belt is two-ply for durability.
Features and Specifications:
- With a 3.5HP motor, and capability to reach 12 MPH and 15% incline, this is a powerful machine, supporting up to 425 pounds.
- 60” x 22” wide belt gives a nice, large running surface.
- The treadmill comes with six programs, two heart rate programs, and has capability for two user defined programs.
- Residential warranty is lifetime on motor, deck and frame; five years on electronics, belts, rollers, and wear parts.
- Heart rate monitoring can be through pulse grips, or wireless chest strap.
- The console measures seven exercise features, and has graphics for performance monitoring.
- Only a 4.1 rating on a fairly expensive treadmill. Ratings are driven down by a couple very low scores, but most reviewers are happy with the machine.
- The treadmill does not fold, and, given the 300-pound weight, won’t be moved around very much.
Like the other advanced level machine, this one is on the bubble between being a commercial or residential treadmill. It is built for the long run, as evidenced by the very solid residential warranty. By all accounts, the machine is stable and runs quietly, with the cushioning system helping reduce wear and tear on the joints. Power capabilities are impressive.
Time to move back to the basic level machines again. Nordic Track is known for their skiing machines, and from there has moved into other fitness products. This folding treadmill comes with a 7-inch interactive display screen, touch capabilities, and iFit capable. The specifications are comparable to some higher priced models.
Features and Specifications:
- The treadmill has 50 built-in exercise programs, fan, pulse grip heart rate monitoring, and supports a 300-pound user.
- The iFit interface gives you access to over 16000 workouts, including classroom and outdoor simulations.
- Speed runs up to 12MPH, and a 3HP motor supports a 12% incline.
- No boredom with this machine. You can simulate running through the mountains of Peru and the beaches of Thailand on the same day.
- The 78” x 35” footprint is reduced to 39” x 35” by the folding capability for storage.
- There is a lifetime frame and motor warranty, with three years on parts.
- With a high-end price for the basic market, and a 4.0 quality rating, the treadmill seems to have a love/hate relationship with users.
- Most of the lowest ratings related to damage to plastic panels, likely during shipping, and iFit cost and functionality.
This unit has very good functionality for a basic level treadmill. Users will have to decide if the extra training toys are worth the additional cost over some of the other basic models. Most reviewers felt the assembly was pretty straight forward and did not consume a lot of time. Specifications are solid, and the warranty should give you some piece of mind for the extra money spent.
This is the lowest price treadmill of the basic models, so functionality and specifications are somewhat lower than the other unite reviewed. The unit is cushioned for noise and vibration reduction, and it has a safety key for automatic shut-off. It has twelve exercise programs, and a five function LCD display.
Features and Specifications:
- With a 16’ x 47” rubber tread deck, it can reach a top speed of 7.5 MPH with its 2.25HP motor.
- It has a three level, manually changed, incline level capability.
- The treadmill has Bluetooth capability to access Google fitness programs via the Internet.
- The footprint reduces from 62” long to 32” long by folding the deck for storage.
- Very easy assembly, with just a few screws necessary to get it ready to go.
- Accessibility to Google fitness programs will give you a large variety of workouts.
- There are many complaints about the electronics, and also about useful life. Some users state the unit stopped working after just a few months.
- Based on numerous 1.0 and 2.0 reviews, customer service and support are extremely lacking for this product.
Walk into buying this treadmill with eyes open. While there are several satisfied customers, there are almost as many dissatisfied ones. The level of support appears to be lacking, and there are apparently many operational flaws with the machine. For me, this would be too big a gamble, even for the low investment cost.
While still meeting the scale of a basic machine, this treadmill has many of the same features as higher priced units. It has several niceties such as integrated holder for a tablet, iPod compatible speakers, a workout fan, and a 5” backlit display panel. It has a foldable steel frame, and at just over 200-pounds it should be fairly simple to move around.
Features and Specifications:
- With thirty built in workout programs, and the diversity of the iFit programming, you should never have a boring workout with this treadmill.
- The 3HP motor drives a good-sized 20” x 60” belt at speeds up to 12 MPH. Incline goes up to 12%.
- Heart rate can be monitored by pulse grip handles or by wireless heart rate belt.
- This treadmill has a good combination of standard functionality, with a few “nice to have” features sprinkled in.
- The unit has a lifetime frame and motor warranty, and a three-year parts warranty.
- Several complaints about the iFit functionality, which apparently will not work without a paid subscription and special software on your tablet or phone. There is a fix so you don’t have to subscribe, but it is not detailed in the operating instructions.
- Assembly time is listed at four hours, so you may want to consider the assembly option.
You get about what you would expect in a basic treadmill here – some good things, some bad. Overall a fairly low 3.8 rating, but a lot of the lowest ratings had to do with the iFit application, and poor customer service on the part of the manufacturer. So, in summary, a decent functioning machine, but don’t expect a lot of support if things go wrong.
The last of our five basic level models, this is a foldable treadmill which makes wide use of technology. With Bluetooth capability, it works with both Nautilus training apps and many other Internet based training apps, plus 26 built-in programs. It also has RunSocial, with 19 locations and 27 real-life routes to run through the large display screen.
Features and Specifications:
- With both pulse sensor and telemetry heart rate monitoring, you can make sure you stay within your heart rate targets, and monitor them on the backlit LCD screen.
- The treadmill has a 20” x 60” running area, with a two ply, 2.0MM thick belt.
- A 3HP motor supports a top speed of 12MPH, and incline settings of up to 15%.
- It has a great variety in workout programs and interactive exercises to keep you entertained while exercising.
- Special cushioning properties give you a smooth, quiet operation, with reduced stress on your joints.
- The 215-pound weight makes it easy to fold up, move, and store.
- Several issues about the longer-term operation of the unit, including the belt freezing up, electronics not working, and poor customer service and support.
- Ten-year motor and frame warranty, and three years for parts and electrical, but the warranty excludes damage due to “normal usage and wear and tear.”
Overall, a fairly low rating for a machine scratching at the upper tiers of the price range. It has some good electronics functionality, and by most reviews, this unit gives a stable, comfortable run. However, there appears to be some design issues, and comments about the machine just stopping in the middle of exercise should, be worrisome. About 80% of the total reviews are 4 or 5, so the overall odds are in your favor.
Before we get to the recommendations, let’s look back at what we’ve covered so far. We started with a little of the science behind cardiovascular exercise, and the benefits of it. Then, we looked into how a treadmill can be a valuable part of a cardio program, and identified ten models. We seeded these models into three ranges – basic, or entry level users; advanced, or intermediate level users; and, elite, or high-level athletes or professionals.
We looked at about fifteen features available on treadmills, and discussed their use, and why they are important. We talked some about how they would fit into your buying decisions – are they gotta have, wanna have, or don’t really need features? Finally, we went model by model, and looked at overall impressions of each, and examined the pros and cons of the machines in the context of total purchasing value.
As far as categorizing the best, we’ll use the three sorting criteria of best, advanced, and elite, and pick ,what I feel are the three best value units, one from each group. So let’s start by talking about the three elite models:
- TrueForm Runner
- Assault Air Runner
- 3G Cardio Elite
The TrueForm and the Assault Air are manual treadmills. There is no motor; the running action of the user supplies the power and speed of the run. The TrueForm professes to be a training treadmill, specifically designed to concentrate on form, speed, and acceleration, and has a model with hand rails to provide a workout for people (not just runners) in rehab situations. As such, this model is more geared to commercial and institutional establishments, rather than individual owners. It also bears a serious price tag; almost $2000 more than the next model, and even the display monitor is optional equipment.
The Assault Air is also manual, but comes with more features, including a standard performance monitor, built in programming, and the ability to interact with Internet-based training programs. It features similar design features as the TrueForm, has a strong warranty, but again positions itself as more of a commercial treadmill.
The third treadmill, the 3G Cardio Elite, is a powered treadmill. The price is similar to that of the Assault Air, but the features are superior. You get a large-sized running area, and a powerful 4 HP motor to drive up to 12 MPH and 15% inclines. This is an almost 400-pound machine, so durable enough for commercial use, but at a price the serious runner or cross-training athlete might find acceptable.
So, which of these three units make the most sense from a purchase value perspective? For me it’s a pretty easy decision; your results may vary. If I get on a non-motorized treadmill, it’s up to me to set the speed. I have to have the internal drive to push myself to the utmost, and get the most out of my training run. With a motorized treadmill, I can set the speed to 5 MPH, and I know I will run at 5MPH, without dogging it, or I’ll end up in a crumpled heap behind the treadmill. I need the motivation of a treadmill telling me how fast to run, not me telling the treadmill how fast I will run. So put a check mark next to the 3G Cardio Elite as the elite machine I recommend.
Let’s look at the two advanced treadmills from our list, the Sole Fitness TT8 and the Endurance T10. At first glance, these two machines are virtually identical. The prices are within $1 of each other. The Sole Fitness has a larger motor (3.5HP vs 3HP), and wider belt (22” vs. 20”), resulting in a higher top end speed (12 MPH vs. 10 MPH). Both treadmills have a lifetime warranty. The Endurance has a higher customer rating (4.5 vs. 4.1), but neither has a strong review base (total of 16 reviews between the two). The Endurance offers 25 different exercise programs, the Sole Fitness ten programs.
There really are not any clear differentiators between these two models, so it’s basically a coin flip on which one to buy. If you feel the need for speed, and like to just run, the Sole Fitness is probably your machine – bigger motor and wider belt, and you can live without all the extra programming. If the exercise programs and slightly better rating are more important to you, go with the Endurance. In either case, you are getting a near-commercial level machine with a lifetime warranty, so both give you a decent value. Final decision – You call it!
That leaves five basic machines to choose from for our first-time treadmill buyer. They are:
- Jaketen Electric Folding
- Nordic Track T7.5S
- Goplus Folding
- Proform 905
- Nautilus T616
Let’s start with two similarly priced machines, the Proform and the Nautilus. Again, two very similar machines in functionality. Both have a 20” x 60” belt, driven by a 3HP motor, and fold up for storage. Each has almost limitless programming through interfaces to Internet running and training programs. The Nautilus goes up to a 15% incline, the Proform 12%. The Proform has a 12 MPH top speed; surprisingly, the top speed is not shown for the Nautilus.
One thing worries me here. Both Nautilus (Bowflex) and Proform has been making fitness equipment a long time. When I see two identical 3.8 ratings on these machines, I start to wonder, if some corners haven’t been cut to get them priced for this market segment. Both are in the upper end of the range, so, at this stage, I’m dropping both from the list. I don’t think either are inherently bad machines, but the inconsistencies in the customer reviews don’t give me a warm cozy feeling about them.
Let’s contrast these two with the Goplus Folding Treadmill. This is the lowest priced treadmill from the list, which carries over to some design and feature issues. The unit has a 2.25HP motor, much smaller than the others. The narrow, 16” wide belt is also a concern if you are a runner; maybe not so much for joggers or walkers. Top speed is 7.5 MPH. There are twelve built-in exercise programs.
I don’t have an inherent issue with the features, as they should be an expected outcome of the price. The issue with this unit is some absolutely blistering reviews, not only about the machine quality, but also about customer service and support. Unless you are totally constrained by budget, I would stay away from this treadmill.
This leaves two treadmills – the Nordic Track T7.5S, and the Jaketen Electric. The Nordic Track is the more expensive of the two, barely staying under the $1000 cap for this range of treadmills. It has solid features – 3HP motor, 20” x 60” belt, 12MPH top speed and 12% incline capabilities. Nordic Track has been making fitness equipment since the 1970s, so the odds are good they will be around for a while. Overall, a good machine, bordering on the advanced level qualified. The quality ratings come in at 4.0, but if you go through them, most of the complaints deal specifically with the iFit programming and cost of it. Overall use reviews seem solid.
The Jaketen drops down a notch from the Nordic Track in overall features and functionality, but also in price. It’s just over half the price of the Nordic Track, but some of the performance features are not at the same level – 2.25HP motor, 9 MPH top speed, 16.5” belt, 3% and 5% manually adjusted inclines, 12 built in programs. It does, however match up with Google Fitness technology, which gives you Internet access to hundreds of exercise programs. It gets a very solid 5.0 quality rating,
So, we come back to user preference again. Both are top quality machines. The Jaketen is going to have some upper end constraints on speed and incline settings. The Nordic Track is the more powerful of the two, and the wider belt will make it easier for running than the Jaketen. You will get plenty of programming options with either one. Both fold up for storage.
It really comes down to one simple question – Where do you see your fitness level in two years? If you expect to grow, run longer and faster, push yourself with incline running, then you should spend a little extra now and get the Nordic Track, a machine better positioned to support that growth. If you expect to do some light jogging or power walking only, save yourself some money and get the Jaketen.
You will get good quality and warranties with either machine, so pick your future exercise path and choose accordingly.
Hopefully this review has been helpful in helping you choose an appropriate treadmill. Happy running!