Working out can be a bit of a drag. Sure, afterward you feel great, but during the workout? Minutes can feel like hours and you very well might convince yourself that, “Yup, this training session is, in fact, never going to end.” Some workouts can drag on longer than others, and running is definitely included in that list. Other workouts like barre, boxing or pilates have nice distractions like punching bags and fancy machines to keep our eyes off the clock. Spin class has timed levels and music, and yoga has the whole breathing thing. But running? Running is just hard.
When you’re running, there’s just you, your mind and the sound of your stride. Slowly but surely you’ll tick off the miles, but it’s a long road getting there — physically, mentally and emotionally. However, the best treadmills, while leading to nowhere, can make all the difference.
Whether you prefer running outside on the road and trails, or inside on a machine, you can’t deny that treadmills come in handy. If it’s down pouring or you live in a particularly icy climate most months of the year a treadmill can mean the difference between freezing your buns off or staying on your training program. Treadmills have also come a long way since those sweaty behemoths you used to wait in line for at the gym. Many of them have high-tech responsive beltways that support your body throughout the movements as well as large HD screens that can stream in live workouts from expert fitness instructors. These aren’t your uncle’s garage treadmill, these are computers with runways attached, and we’re excited to describe all the bells and whistles they have to offer.
What To Consider When Buying a Treadmill
The options for treadmills are plentiful, and it can get overwhelming trying to decipher which one is the best option. There are a few factors that can help you narrow down your search including what your space looks like, what type of exercise you’ll be doing and how many features you’re interested in your treadmill having.
If all you’ve got is a corner of your bedroom or a small section of the basement, you’ll want to opt for a more compact model or one that folds up. You’ll also want to consider what flooring your space has — you want your treadmill on cement or hardwood flooring if possible to minimize rocking back and forth with your stride. This will not only save the treadmill from wear and tear, but save you the extra energy that’ll require from your body to stabilize. It’ll also minimize noise as much as possible, but we’ll get into that more later.
They’ve got treadmills from companies like Peloton that come ready to teach you trainer-led sessions where you’re guaranteed to sweat, but these tend to be on the pricier end. If you’re not interested in streaming in classes or a treadmill that offers incline, a simpler model is the one for you. If you’ll mostly be walking on your treadmill rather than running, you don’t need a treadmill with super high horsepower and can save a few dollars that way. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
A note about budget — luckily you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars (although you can!) to get a good treadmill that’ll last you through many a workout. That being said, the general consensus on price is that if you spend less than $1,000 on a treadmill it probably won’t last you all that long. The motor and belt is more likely to wear out after a few hundred runs with the cheaper treadmill models — but maybe you want that! If you’re new to running and just want to dip your toe in the water, a less expensive model is perfect. However, a good rule of thumb is anything $1,500 and above will most likely have gym-level quality and the features you’re looking for. We’ve included models of varying price points on the list below so you’ve got a plentiful selection.
Running on a Treadmill Versus Running Outdoors
This is a tried and true debate in the running community, and the truth of the matter is there is no 100% correct answer when it comes to which is better. They’ve both got pros and cons, both have ways in which they’re potentially better or worse for you, so you should probably get a mix of both.
According to the experts over at Runner’s World, treadmills can cause some people to shorten their stride due to the narrow and potentially short design of the machine, whereas running outside is more conducive to a natural stance. Only running indoors can also potentially weaken some muscles in your legs, so treadmill runners should pay special attention to strength training for their legs if they’re preparing for a big race.
However, the benefits of running on a treadmill outweigh the potential downsides. When you’re running on a treadmill you control every element of your run — the pace, incline, resistance level, etc. This makes them excellent for training purposes, so long as you account for the energy differences between running on a tread versus the concrete. Speaking of concrete, running on a treadmill tends to have a lesser impact on your joints than concrete, so if you struggle with knee or hip problems a tread could be a great solution.
Care and Maintenance
A treadmill is a big investment, both in your health and financially for your wallet. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to take care of it. Maintaining your treadmill shouldn’t require too much work, and a few simple things can help it last for as many miles as possible. Here are a few ways to give your tread a little TLC:
- Wipe it down after each use, especially if you tend to be a sweatier cardio human.
- Vacuum inside, underneath and around the treadmill regularly. This will help avoid dirt or dust seeping into the mechanics inside and eroding them away. Consult your owner’s manual about how to open up the hood of the treadmill where the motor sits,
- Lubricate and tighten the belt regularly as well. The belt moves at very high speeds and is essential to keeping the tread working and you safe.
A Note About Noise Level
Treadmills get a bad rep on the market for their supposed noise level. Sure, some older models had belts that vibrated the whole house and the lack of shock absorption made every step add to the symphony of workout sounds bellowing through your space and right on into your neighbor’s. However, newer models have rectified this problem and made quiet treadmills that won’t make too much noise. Also, if you’ve got particularly thin walls in your building you can always buy a shock-absorbing mat to block some of the noise from traveling too far.
Now, without further delay here are our recommendations for the best treadmills for home gyms and beyond in 2021.
1. NordicTrack Commercial X22i Treadmill
NordicTrack is one of the best treadmills on the market these days for running, walking, working out on an incline and taking instructor-led classes at home. It has a 22-inch HD touchscreen and comes with an iFit personal training membership with access to an extensive library of running, walking, strength and other fitness classes. You can run with expert instructors as well as venture across the world and run in exotic destinations. The treadmill can incline up to 40% to multiply the burn 5x and the treadmill has a built-in push bar and sled grips so you can mimic a sled push and experiment with other calorie-burning methods during your workout. The cushioned deck of the treadmill is also designed to lower the impact on your joints so you can run faster for longer without risking injury.
2. Pro-Form SMART Pro 2000 Treadmill
This treadmill from Pro-Form comes with access to the same iFit personal training class library and similar mechanical specs to the NordicTrack, but has a much smaller 7″ screen which bumped it to second place. Otherwise, it’s an impressive running machine with a foldable SpaceSaver design and EasyLift Assist that makes it easy to raise and lower the deck. The treadmill also has a built-in CoolAire fan that delivers climate-controlleded air throughout your workout so you say cool and collected, and the buttons on the screen easily adjust your speed and incline with just one press. This treadmill also comes with the ability to incline up to 15%, so not as high as the NordicTrack but still a hefty angle when you’re a few miles in. Overall, you get a solid machine for about half the price as the first option — so if your budget is more in the $1,000-$2,000 range, this is a great pick.
3. ProForm 505 CST Treadmill
This ProForm treadmill is also super highly rated and has a slightly lower price tag than its brethren above. It has a slightly smaller 5″ backlit display that tracks speed, distance and other useful metrics during your workout. It can’t stream classes, but it does come with a 30-day iFit trial membership so you can stream their entire library to your go-to advice while on the treadmill. The Mach Z Drive System is self-cooling to keep the motor going strong and it has 0-10 MPH digital QuickSpeed control and Quick Incline Control. The tread belt measures 20″ x 55″ and is recommended for users under 6’2″ for best results. If you’re interested in a solid, high-quality treadmill for a great price, this is an awesome option.
4. NordicTrack Commercial X32i Treadmill
If you’ve got some cash to spend, opt for the bigger screened version of the NordicTrack treadmill above. This one comes with a giant 32″ touchscreen that vividly streams the instructor-led programming of iFit right to your home. You’ll be fully immersed in the class or global destination of your choosing with this giant screen, and the iFit LIVE control makes it easy for the instructors to adjust your speed, incline and decline during the classes without you having to do anything. You can add up to four family members to the iFit membership on the tread, and it comes with a Smart-Response Motor built inside that reduces vibration (and noise) and keeps itself cool. It also has the same sled-push bars and grips, and the same option to incline up to 40%.
5. Horizon 7.4 AT Treadmill
BEST FOR STREAMING
If streaming classes is your thing but you’d like the avoid the Peloton price tag this is a great alternative. This performance treadmill from Horizon has an ultra-responsive motor and has features built-in to keep you in sync with instructor-led classes at Peloton and STUDIO. It has QuickDial controls so you can adjust the speed and incline easily, a 3.5 CHP Rapid Sync motor and large 22×60″ deck that’s cushioned through three zones. It also has a Sprint 8 HIIT program that’s specially designed for burning fat.
6. XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill
On the opposite end of the budget spectrum sits another fine exercise machine from XTERRA that comes with a large 16″ x 50″ running surface as well as a 5″ LCD screen that automatically tracks your speed, incline, time, calories, etc. You can choose between 0.5 – 10 mph for speed as well as choose one of the 12 preset programs that introduce variety to your workouts through hills, intervals, speed changes, etc. There are three manual incline settings you can use to challenge yourself as well. The biggest selling point of this folding treadmill, however, is the price. It’s 1/10th of what the NordicTrack costs and will get the job done.
7. Bowflex 22 Treadmill
BEST FOR TV LOVERS
If you need to watch TV while you workout to pass the time, this treadmill from Bowflex has got you covered. It has a 22″ console built in that can stream all your favorites from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney+. You can also explore routes from around the world in over 40 countries and access 100+ workout programs via the console. It also offers -5% to 20% decline and incline options for killer resistance workouts.
8. Echelon Stride
Echelon just added this Stride treadmill to their arsenal of workout machines and we’re excited about it. It’s a smart treadmill with an auto-fold feature so you can easily store it when you’re done with your workout. It’s got a designated spot for an iPad to stream classes from any fitness app of your choosing. They also offer live classes through their platform with world-class instructors via one of their memberships.
9. Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Treadmill
BEST FOR SMALL SPACES
A huge perk of some treadmill designs? If needed, you can just fold them up and roll them into a closet, corner or up against a wall. This saves you the massive amount of floor space they take up and gives you more room to cross-train with yoga or strength training. This treadmill from Sunny Health & Fitness is easily foldable and doesn’t take up too much space to begin with, at only 60″ x 25.5″ x 50″. You can choose speeds between 0.5 – 9mph and incline levels of 0%, 2% and 4.37%. The treadmill has a soft drop mechanism so you can gently lower and raise the running platform without damage or injury, and there are nine built-in workout programs you can choose from to get started or keep up with your fitness journey. There is a start, stop and pause function available for the belt and the handrails are sturdy and supportive.
10. NordicTrack Commercial 2950 Treadmill
The Smart-Response Motor built into this treadmill combined with the RunnersFlex cushioning that lowers impact and mimics a road running experience makes this treadmill ultra-quiet. The motor reduces vibration while the softer platform lowers the impact of and on your joints, easing the impact on your body as well as the sound produced by your footsteps. This treadmill also comes with an iFit membership like other NordicTrack treadmills and LIVE speed and incline adjustment. You also get access to one touch controls during your workout so you can adjust as needed based on how you’re showing up that day. Because this is one of NordicTrack’s Commercial series treadmills, it’s the same kind of fitness machine you’ll find in many professional gyms.
Looking for more affordable alternatives to the NordicTrack 2950? There’s no doubt that the company makes a lot of the best treadmills for sale in 2020, but they aren’t cheap.
Fortunately, via Amazon, you can order the fitness brand’s much more affordable 1750 Treadmill, which comes with a year of family access to the company’s iFit app. You can participate in live fitness classes and enjoy other perks. This treadmill comes with its own 10-inch screen for streaming fitness courses. The NordicTrack 1750 Commercial Treadmill has many of the same features as the 2950. The main differences? This model was released several years ago, while the 2950 is the newest version. However, the 1750 comes with a great warranty, and besides a smaller screen, most users won’t be able to tell the difference — and it costs $1,000 less.
For an even more affordable NordicTrack machine, also available on Amazon, go with the T series treadmill of theirs. It doesn’t come with a huge fancy screen like the others, but it does come with an iFit membership so you can enjoy the same classes on your go-to device. It has 10% OneTouch incline control and 10MPH OneTouch speed control built in so keeping up with guided classes is easy. With the iFit program, the trainers can adjust your speed automatically so there’s no scrambling necessary. The treadmill has a SMART-Response Motor, like other NordicTrack machines, for effective endurance training and the FlexSelect deck protects your joints with every step. This is a solid treadmill from NordicTrack, with many desirable features and an even more desirable price tag.
11. Goplus 2-in-1 Folding Under Desk Treadmill
If you’re trying to fit your treadmill into an already full space, or want to turn your standing desk into a treadmill desk, opt for this slim jogging machine from Goplus. It has a powerful yet quiet motor and can go at a speed of about 2.5mph max when the handrail is down, and about 10mph when the handrail is up. It has a non-slip running belt with safe cushioning to protect your knees, hips and other joints. This treadmill also has an LED display that pops up in running mode that tracks speed, distance, calories, etc. Treadmills don’t have to be huge and bulky to give you a workout, and this one checks all of the must-have boxes including convenience.
12. Assault Fitness AirRunner Treadmill
Curved treadmills are their own beast when it comes to running workouts, so it’s best to consider them as an option when purchasing one for yourself. The curved shape makes the workout harder, so you train more efficiently than on a flat surface. Treadmills also give you a bit of a boost beyond how a road or outdoor landscape responds to your step, and this curved treadmill accounts for that difference. This treadmill also runs on zero electricity, only your own power, so you burn 30% more calories than on a standard treadmill. That being said, it’s a different stride and experience than a typical treadmill, so do your research before committing.
Please note, this item is currently out of stock. However, it’s one of the highest quality curved treadmills available, so we’re keeping it in the round-up for the day it becomes available once again.
13. LifeSpan TR3000i Folding Treadmill
This is another great folding treadmill option from LifeSpan that includes newly updated features like a full-color touchscreen. The EZfold system makes it easy to fold and unfold for storage and quick setup. The 20″ x 56″ running surface is held in a sturdy steel frame that stabilizes so even your toughest workouts are quiet from the perspective of your family. The treadmill also has Bluetooth capabilities so listening to your favorite music is easy.
14. SereneLife Smart Folding Compact Treadmill
BEST FOR WALKING
Whether you’re recovering from an injury or just prefer walking to running — you can save some $$ by opting for a slower treadmill with less horsepower if you’re only going to use it to walk. This treadmill has a 1 HP motor and adjustable speeds up to 6 mph, so it can’t go as fast as other models but provides a solid platform for slower-paced workouts. The treadmill has preset training modes you can work in as well as an LCD screen with touch buttons that control your speed. This treadmill is also easily portable for storage and links to the FitShow app so you can track your sessions on a smartphone.
15. Peloton Tread+
There’s no doubt about it, 2020 was Peloton’s year, and the company’s brand new treadmill is bound to be under (or next to) some Christmas trees this year. It’s a great gift because not only are you giving someone a great running machine, but the ability to cross-train easily right next to the treadmill with Peloton’s Bootcamp classes which combine cardio and strength into one workout. Like the best treadmills it boasts a wide running area, a modern design, a huge screen for fitness classes and a price tag to match.
The treadmill itself has a shock-absorbing belt with 59 individual slats that support each step, even on your hardest days. The 32″ HD touchscreen is impressively vivid and there’s a subwoofer sound bar built into it for killer audio during classes. There are adjustable knobs on either handrail that can change your speed and incline easily so you don’t have to break stride. The Peloton library of classes is extensive, and each one has a leaderboard with it so you can challenge yourself alongside other members virtually.
16. Sole F80 Treadmill
This treadmill from Sole fitness has a 3.5 HP high powered motor that’ll definitely keep up with you during your toughest sprints, endurance runs and incline training sessions. This treadmill has all the bells and whistles, as evidenced by a higher price tag. It comes with an integrated tablet holder for streaming classes as well as Bluetooth audio speakers. It has a USB port for charging your devices and a cushioned flex deck that’s designed to reduce the impact on your joints by 40%. The incline can be adjusted between 15 different levels and the built-in flywheels and rollers give you a smooth, quiet, consistent run.