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Published Nov. 15, 2021

I have been informed by the running influencers of Instagram that the world is full of scenic paths, breathtaking views, and effortless strides bathed in golden sunrises. My experience has been different. Most of the running I did in the Marine Corps involved some combination of scorching heat, suffocating humidity, freezing cold, and downright hostile drivers. And a reflective belt. Always a reflective belt.

For die-hard runners, that’s all part of the charm, but for people who run because they have to, not because they want to, the proposition of running indoors is very appealing. Whether you need to knock out a few miles before work or rehab an injury, you can take care of business right at home.

Consumer-grade treadmills offer most (if not all) of the perks of the commercial treadmills at the base gym right in your own home. They can be small enough to fold into an apartment closet, and affordable enough to be offset by the money you’ll save driving to the gym. Hell, they just might make you want to add a few miles or a creative new workout to your weekly routine.

Best Overall

If you want the same amenities you’d enjoy at a fitness club, the NordicTrack 1750 should top your shopping list. This might be the best way to transform your garage or spare bedroom into a training facility.

For starters, the 1750’s large belt lets runners of all heights stretch their legs and hit full speed. Incline is adjustable from 15 percent to -3 percent to train running uphill and downhill. A selection of 50 running programs is included, and thousands more are available online with the purchase of an iFIT subscription.

Built-in speakers and fans make even the most challenging runs more comfortable. The carefully-designed deck reduces joint strain caused by impact, so your knees don’t have to be the limiting factor in your progress. Keep in mind that this is a big, heavy treadmill. Plan on setting it up once and making that room your workout area.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 300 pounds
  • Belt size: 60 inches long, 22 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 12 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: 15 percent
PROS

Build quality and features are on par with commercial treadmills

Access thousands of virtual runs with an iFIT membership

Run on an incline or decline for well-rounded training

Advanced cushioning reduces knee pain

CONS

This price should buy a bigger screen

At 346 pounds, installation will be its own workout

Folds vertically, but it’s not moving anywhere

If the idea of spending thousands of dollars to run inside seems excessive to you, the Xterra Fitness TR150 could be the ideal solution. This little treadmill is easy on the wallet and doesn’t require a bunch of space in your home.

The simple LCD display delivers only the most basic information, like speed, distance, calories, and run time. There are 12 pre-programmed runs included, or you can control speed on the fly. Incline is manually adjustable with three settings. You’ll need a tool to make changes, so it’s not something that can be changed mid-run.

Sure, the belt is on the small side, features are limited, and there aren’t even cupholders––but this treadmill isn’t about amenities. The TR150 sells because it’s affordable and it gets the job done. That might be just what you’re looking for.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 250 pounds
  • Belt size: 50 inches long, 16 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 10 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: Not specified, although three manual settings are available
PROS

Easy to set up and move at only 108 pounds

Simple, easy-to-use controls

Folds vertically for compact storage

Punches above its bargain-basement price

CONS

Manual incline adjustment requires tools and is very limited

The small belt will be restrictive for taller runners

Bare-bones features deliver only the essentials

Honorable Mention

Peloton spin bikes have created a rabid following, and now the company is getting into the treadmill game. The Tread brings Peloton’s build quality and intuitive features alongside a massive collection of classes and group runs.

Runners can use the Tread’s nearly 24-inch touchscreen to view thousands of fun runs and classes. Guided runs with professional instructors can be accessed live or on-demand. Take advantage of strength training, high-intensity interval training, stretching, and even meditation classes. Interact with other runners on the live leaderboard and chat with friends using the built-in camera while you run. Detailed metrics let you track your progress and see results as they develop.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a treadmill with more features and better customer support than the Tread. All this comes at a hefty price, though: $2,500 for the treadmill and $39 per month for the all-access membership.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 300 pounds
  • Belt size: 59 inches long, 20 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 12.5 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: 12.5 percent
PROS

Thousands of live and pre-recorded running classes

Guided stretching and strength training routines

Incredibly detailed run analytics

Outstanding customer support

CONS

Premium product, premium price

Overpriced if you don’t take advantage of the classes

Obligation to slip “I have a Peloton” into every conversation

Best for Home

The Nautilus T618 can bring the features and durability of a commercial treadmill into your home for half the price of many premium treadmills. In many ways, it bridges the gap between entry-level fitness equipment and high-dollar alternatives.

Instead of a large color display, the T618 uses individual LCD displays for essential information and connects to your own device via Nautilus’ Explore the World app for virtual runs and social interaction with other runners. With this treadmill, your money goes toward advanced impact absorption and a large belt that lets you run as hard as you want without weaning out your knees or the treadmill.

This isn’t the most technologically advanced option, but it’s a quality treadmill that’s sufficient for casual and hardcore runners alike. Years of development have led to effective run programming, intuitive controls, and useful features. Being backed by a reputable company like Nautilus is reassuring, too.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 350 pounds
  • Belt size: 60 inches long, 20 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 12 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: 15 percent
PROS

Explore the World app adds 27 interactive virtual runs

Rugged, three-ply belt promises years of use

Wireless heart rate monitor included

Exclusive Rebound Cushioning System reduces joint strain

CONS

LCD displays are a little surprising at this price

Oversized belt and hefty frame could make storage an issue

Tracking tools and virtual runs require a separate, compatible device

If your style of running involves hitting your workout with maximum intensity, a manual treadmill like the SB Fitness Equipment CT400 is about as good as it gets. This treadmill is strong, stone simple, and sure to get your heart rate up.

The CT400’s LCD display tracks time, distance, speed, pace, calories, and electrical output, but there are no online classes or guided runs to be found. It’ll just be you and your thoughts. That’s fine, because this treadmill is intended for high-intensity sprint workouts rather than lengthy endurance runs. It isn’t adjustable for incline, but three levels of resistance let you crank up the difficulty on the fly.

This is also one of the strongest treadmills out there. Its maximum weight limit of 375 pounds is impressive, and the lack of an electric motor means there’s very little to go wrong.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 375 pounds
  • Belt size: 60 inches long, 18 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: Not limited
  • Maximum incline: Not adjustable
PROS

Fantastic for high-intensity workouts and building muscle

Curved belt reduces impacts and creates a smooth stride

Low-maintenance and very reliable

Highest weight limit on this list

CONS

Added resistance isn’t good for distance running

No built-in programming or virtual capability

Takes up a lot of space

Best Smart

Eschelon packs many of the features you’d find in premium treadmills into the much more accessible Stride. This smart treadmill works with your phone or tablet to deliver scenic runs, live classes, and on-demand guided runs.

The treadmill itself features a full-size belt, two cup holders, and a large digital display to monitor your run even without a separate device. When you finish your run, use the Stride’s electric motors to fold it down to a height of 10 inches with the push of a button.

The Stride’s features put it right in the sweet spot between premium and entry-level home treadmills, and it’s priced accordingly. That makes it a damn fine smart treadmill in our book, and quite a bargain, too. Memberships can be billed monthly, yearly, or every two years with price discounts for longer terms.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 300 pounds
  • Belt size: 55 inches long, 20 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 12 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: 10 percent
PROS

Save money with membership pricing options

Can be used with or without an external device as a screen

Automatically folds down for easy storage

Premium features at a mid-level price

CONS

Separate device required for interactive runs and data tracking

Cushioning could be better

Can be stored vertically, but weighs 156 pounds

Best Budget-Friendly Smart

When the ProForm Pro 2000 goes on sale, it’s one of the best buys on the smart treadmill market. For less than $1,000, you can get a color display, virtual classes with instructors and other runners, and high-end features that make running a lot more comfortable.

This full-size treadmill ups the ante with built-in fans and a shock-absorbing design. The iFIT membership is the same experience offered by NordicTrack on higher-priced fitness products. This is a great option for serious runners who want to train with inclines, declines, and sprints with the incline-adjustable, 60-inch belt.

When discounts aren’t available, this starts to look like less of a bargain. The 10-inch screen is underwhelming and the rest of the features can be found elsewhere. When it’s on sale, though, this one is hard to pass up.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 300 pounds
  • Belt size: 60 inches long, 20 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 12 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: 12 percent
PROS

Hand over speed and incline adjustment to virtual instructors

Folds vertically to save space

Practice running on a decline

Built-in fans and advanced shock absorption

CONS

Hard to justify at full MSRP

Small screen size feels like a downgrade

Membership rates are not locked in

If you like the price of the ProForm Pro 2000 but want something smaller, the Cadence Compact 500 is the way to go. This treadmill optimizes small spaces to make running more accessible to people with limited room for fitness equipment.

Space-saving starts with the smaller belt. At 50 inches long and 16 inches wide, the Cadence Compact 500 takes up less room than most treadmills, but it also might restrict taller runners’ strides. When folded vertically, it’s about as compact as a treadmill can be and still accommodate running.

The interface is limited but functional. A single display keeps track of time, and physical buttons make speed and incline adjustments easy. Plug your phone into the treadmill’s auxiliary port to play music through its speakers and download the iFIT app to access virtual runs and online classes with a monthly subscription.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 300 pounds
  • Belt size: 50 inches long, 16 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 10 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: 10 percent
PROS

Use this treadmill with or without an iFIT subscription

Built-in speakers are a nice touch

Great balance between usable size and space savings

One-touch commands for speed and incline are ideal for intervals

CONS

Very basic amenities

Relatively small belt might not fit larger runners

Assembly required; download the BILT app for instructions

Best for Small Spaces

This folding treadmill from Goplus is ideal for people who want to stay active without dedicating a whole room to fitness equipment. It’s not large enough for running, but it’s a great way to get your blood flowing or rehab an injury.

This treadmill’s maximum speed is 12 miles per hour, although the 40-inch belt might put that speed out of reach. The good news is that, with its five-inch collapsed height, you can tuck it under the couch or into a closet when you’re done with it. The tower can be raised to provide handrails and a place to keep water and a tablet, or you can fold it flat to use this treadmill with a standing desk.

While this isn’t going to be the first choice for die-hard runners, it’s great for people who are just starting to exercise or need to stay limber between strength training workouts.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 265 pounds
  • Belt size: 40 inches long, 16 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 12 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: Not adjustable
PROS

Easy to fold up, move, and store in between workouts

Remote control allows use without raising the tower

Only weighs 74 pounds

Seven-ply belt makes the most of limited size

CONS

Extremely limited size is too small for running

Shock absorption isn’t a priority

No incline adjustment

Best for Walkers

Sometimes we don’t need to gut-check ourselves with a hardcore run, we just need to get our steps in. In that case, the WalkingPad A1 Pro is just the ticket.

With no virtual classes, preprogrammed runs, or high-tech features to pay for, your money goes to quality steel construction and user-friendly design with this treadmill. This treadmill stands just 2.5 inches tall and can be folded in half to be stored where no other treadmill can go. There’s also no assembly required.

With the small belt and a maximum speed of less than four miles per hour, running and jogging aren’t an option with this treadmill. It’s strictly for staying active while you work or binge-watch your favorite TV show.

Product Specs
  • Weight limit: 220 pounds
  • Belt size: 42.2 inches long, 16.4 inches wide
  • Maximum speed: 3.72 miles per hour
  • Maximum incline: Not adjustable
PROS

Steel construction is very durable

Folds in half, making this the most compact treadmill here

Control speed via a remote, an app, or your stride

Narrow enough to use with a standing desk

CONS

Speed and size make this a walking-only zone

Charging more than $800 for a walking treadmill seems high

LED display indicates speed, and nothing else

Why you should trust us

Like any Marine, I logged my share of miles in go-fasters. I ran sprint repeats at the base track in preparation for the CFT and woke up in the middle of the night for long-distance trail runs. Because I’m a gym rat, I also suffered deep emotional trauma with every step. I know what it’s like to put in the work, whether it’s in the form of a boots and utes formation run or a quick training session in a hotel gym. My goal now is to make getting those miles in as efficient as possible for you because, while running is mandatory, being constrained to your neighborhood sidewalks is not. 

Types of treadmills

If you’re a little bit shocked by the number of treadmills available, you’re not alone. The options can be overwhelming. By determining how much you want to spend, how many features you expect, and how much space you have available, you can narrow down your search significantly. We considered a range of different uses and picked what we think are some of the best treadmills for this gear guide.

Smart treadmills

Smart stationary bikes took the fitness world by storm, and smart treadmills aren’t far behind. These machines tap into massive online resources like social interaction, live classes, guided runs on-demand, and detailed fitness analytics.

These extra features are awesome, but they come at a price. Plan on budgeting about $40 for a monthly subscription to take advantage of everything a smart treadmill has to offer. The good news is that everyone in your household can set up a profile and use the same account.

Are these treadmills worth the extra money? I think so. If you plan on running regularly to stay in shape, they make a world of difference. The only time I wouldn’t encourage you to consider one is if you plan on using your treadmill for walking or to stay active when the weather turns bad.

Manual treadmills

Unlike other treadmills, manual treadmills don’t need electricity to operate. It makes sense—you’re turning the belt as you run or walk, so why not use your body as a power source?

That small electrical output is enough to power a basic LCD display that tracks basic functions like time and speed. Don’t expect a lot of features from a manual treadmill; you’ll still want to have those earbuds and a carefully selected playlist handy.

The manual treadmill we chose for this list uses a curved belt that reduces the strain put on your joints. This is somewhat useful for walking, but it’s extra helpful at an all-out run. No, you won’t get motivational instructors and programmed workouts, but there’s a reason this type of treadmill is so common in professional training facilities. 

Folding treadmills

For many people, space is the biggest limiting factor when shopping for fitness equipment. Maybe the garage isn’t as tidy as you’d like it to be, or maybe you live in a small apartment. Either way, I’m willing to bet there’s a treadmill that will work for you.

Folding treadmills can be collapsed for vertical storage out of the way. Some are so thin they can be slid under a couch or bed. People even use them under standing desks to keep moving while working from home.

Because of their limited size, folding treadmills offer very few features and creature comforts compared to full-size alternatives. Their belts are often smaller, making it difficult to reach full stride. If that could be a deciding factor for you, pay special attention to belt length and factor in your stride length.

Key features of treadmills 

Programming

Even the most basic treadmills are likely to have some kind of programmed running. Predetermined runs aimed at fat loss, cardiovascular health, and endurance are designed to push your fitness toward a specific goal and keep you on the right track.

These days, many manufacturers are upping the game with massive screens and group classes led by professional instructors. With their help and an impressive amount of detailed analytics, you can track your performance and measure your progress over time.

This kind of thing has always been possible, but coaches are hard to come by and there’s huge room for error when you’re pacing yourself and relying on the terrain available in your area. 

Size 

Odds are, the treadmills at your gym are big old beasts that you wouldn’t want to store, let alone move and set up. That’s because they’re built to endure far more abuse than you’re likely to dish out and they’re kept in gyms with plenty of space.

Home treadmills are designed to work with your living area. By making components lighter and more compact, you can often get the same size running surface you’d have at the gym in a much smaller package.

Foldable treadmills can be tucked away in a closet or under a bed when not in use. They often give up a few features to their larger competitors, but the convenience is hard to beat. If you live in an apartment where space is limited, you might be surprised just how easily a treadmill can fit into your routine.

Impact absorption

One aspect of treadmill selection that often gets overlooked is impact absorption. Running is notoriously hard on your knees, so this is something you definitely need to consider.

When designed properly, treadmills can significantly reduce the strain on your joints compared to running on concrete sidewalks or asphalt roads. If this is a priority for you, look for treadmills that offer vertical and horizontal cushioning. You’ll likely be shopping in the mid-level or higher price ranges, but your knees will thank you.

If you have healthy knees or only run short distances, this doesn’t need to be as big of a factor in your buying decision. If you plan on using your treadmill for walking, you can probably forget about it entirely and focus on price.

Benefits of treadmills 

Run on your schedule

The obvious advantage of owning a treadmill is the ability to run on your schedule. With one of these in your apartment or garage, there will be no more need to check the weather, drive to the gym, or fight through crowded sidewalks. 

All my best runs have been outdoors, but so have my worst. There are plenty of days when summer heat can make you tap out long before your cardiovascular system gets a workout. If you live up north, you might not want to put screws into your running shoes to get traction on ice (it’s a thing, ask me how I know). A treadmill of your own lets you avoid all that and save time that you’d spend driving to the gym.  

Use measurable data

Heart rate monitors are nothing new, but some modern treadmills provide a comprehensive report on every single run so you can track your performance objectively. By accessing this kind of information, you can make adjustments and stay on track to work smarter, not harder.

Running programs thrive on this kind of data, whether you look up a training regimen online or use remote classes that come with your treadmill. If you’ve ever slogged through months of grueling runs only to end up with the same result on your annual fitness test, you’ll be shocked (and thrilled) by how much more efficient smart training can be. Get ready to fall in love with graphs.

Join a broader community

In addition to live virtual classes and pre-recorded guided runs, many home treadmills tap into worldwide communities of runners. While you’re working up a sweat, you can compete against other runners in real-time, or enjoy virtual meet-ups with friends.

Some of my best memories from my time in the military involve working out with my fellow Marines. I would love it if I could have them join my gym sessions remotely. With a smart treadmill, you can. Hold each other accountable and stay in touch with occasional group runs—and maybe sneak in a few speed workouts in between to surprise your friends.

Having access to coaches is another story altogether. Ask anyone who uses guided spin bike classes, and they’ll tell you how beneficial it is to learn from world-class instructors. With huge backlogs of recorded runs, you can learn from the pros on your schedule and at your pace.

Treadmill pricing considerations

Entry-level treadmills

Any treadmill that costs less than $1,000 can safely be considered entry-level. These machines get the job done and save money, but they tend to be very basic in terms of features, size, and durability. Most of them are also very compact, which makes them a great option for people who need to log an occasional run in their apartment. 

You aren’t likely to find options from the biggest names at this price, but there are a few serviceable treadmills that pack a lot of value into an accessible price. Entry-level treadmills aren’t what I’d recommend for regular training sessions because features are so sparse and both the treadmill and your knees will get tired of each other pretty quickly. They are a helpful backup during nasty weather or when you just need to get your steps in.

Home treadmills

Most of the treadmills you’ll encounter probably fall into the home treadmill category and cost between $1,000 and $2,500. These treadmills hit the sweet spot of features, build quality, and size.

Manufacturers are getting creative with technology and many home treadmills offer access to a catalog of live and archived online classes that not only make your training more enjoyable, but also more focused on a specific goal. There’s also a social element because many treadmills let you interact with friends and fellow runners during your runs. Some even include strength training and stretching classes for a well-rounded workout.

On top of that, these treadmills tend to use larger belts and more powerful motors so you can really hit your stride and push yourself. They aren’t cheap, but the extra features are hard to turn down.

Commercial treadmills

Commercial treadmills are what you’ll see at your local gym. They’re built to a high standard and work very well, but they’re also incredibly expensive, easily breaking $3,000.

Expect a selection of pre-programmed workouts like sprint repeats, hill climbs, and paced endurance runs. Heart monitors built into the handles are standard. Interactive displays may or may not be included. Remember that, unlike a personal treadmill, these have to be strong enough to handle dozens of workouts every day. That means that durability is a high priority.

The price alone is going to put commercial treadmills out of reach for most people, and that’s fine because I’m guessing they’re going to be overkill in most cases. Still, if you fell in love with the treadmill at your gym and want to have one of your own, go right ahead.

How we chose our top picks

When someone says they want to buy a treadmill, that can mean a lot of different things. Are you training for a marathon or trying to shed a few holiday pounds? Do you want to work on high-speed ascents or just take care of your health with a daily walk?

For this guide, we tried to find enough variation that anyone can find something that works for their needs. Hardcore runners will be delighted by the interactive runs and rigorous workouts offered by treadmills like the NordicTrack 1750 and Peloton Tread. More casual runners can get everything they need from the SB Fitness Equipment CT400 or Echelon Stride. If you just need something compact that won’t break the bank, we found budget-friendly options like the Xterra Fitness TR150, too. In each case, we sought out treadmills we’d actually want to use ourselves.

FAQs on treadmills

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: How much do treadmills cost?

A: At the time of writing, the least expensive treadmill on this list cost $365. Premium home treadmills can easily reach $2,500, and commercial machines cost far more than that.

Q: Is a treadmill as good as walking or running outdoors?

A: There’s no replacement for running outdoors. Still, treadmills can absolutely improve your running. They give you more control over pace and incline, and likely offer far more versatility than the terrain outside your front door. It’s also worth considering all the times the weather causes you to skip running altogether.

Q: How much does a treadmill weigh?

A: Most treadmills weigh around 200 pounds. There’s a lot of variation depending on materials, features, and electric motor size, so the heaviest treadmills can break 300 pounds while the lightest are less than 100 pounds.

Q: Don’t treadmills take up a lot of space?

A: All treadmills require a considerable amount of space, but they don’t necessarily need it all the time. Some can be folded vertically when not in use to help you make the most of a small living space.

Q: I live in an apartment. Will a treadmill be too loud?

A: Ah, so you’ve escaped the barracks, then. Good for you. It’s possible to get a treadmill that’s quieter, lighter, and more compact than in the past. If you prioritize noise levels when shopping, you can end up with a treadmill that’s just as neighbor-friendly as your TV.

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Scott Murdock is a Marine Corps veteran and contributor to Task & Purpose. He’s selflessly committed himself to experiencing the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.

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