1. Expert reviews

Top 8 best treadmills of 2021

Daniel Agerhult

Updated May 13, 2021

Top 8 best treadmills of 2021

How we did the test

We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. Our test team consists of both elite and recreational athletes, and together they have evaluated over 100 exercise machines. We retain the models that perform well for longer-term testing, in many cases several years, and continuously add updates to the reviews.

In our assessment we've focused on the following areas:

  • Ease of use: How easy-to-use is the exercise computer? Is the display sufficiently large and clear? Are there shortcut buttons, and if so, where? Is the treadmill easy to move? How clear is the user manual?

  • Quality and design: How well designed is the treadmill? How much stress and wear should the construction tolerate? How good is the shock absorption? How reliable is the measurement of heart rate, calories burned etc.? What guarantee does it have?

  • Functionality: Is there a holder for your tablet? Does it support a wireless heart rate belt? Can you adjust the incline? How many transport wheels are there?

  • Performance: How powerful is the motor? How high is the maximum user weight? How big is the running deck or area? What’s the maximum speed and maximum incline?

We scored each treadmill according to its value for money; in other words how good it is, in each area, in relation to its price tag. We thus have higher expectations of an expensive product than a cheaper one, and vice versa.

1. Sole Fitness F63 – BEST CHOICE TREADMILL 2021

High-performance medium price treadmill with hard-to-beat value

Price class: Medium Speed: 0-18 km/h Number of training programmes: 10 Incline: 0-15% Motor power: 3.0 hp Length: 210 cm Width: 89 cm Height: 144 cm Running deck (L): 152 cm Running deck (W): 51 cm Machine weight: 115 kg Maximum user weight: 147 kg **Display: **9 inch backlit Colour: Blue (Monochrome) Folding: Yes Transport wheels: 4 Guarantee: 2 years (Frame: Lifetime) Accessories included: Wireless heart rate belt: Assembly instructions User manual: PDF Video clip: Product demo

Sole Fitness F63

The Sole F63 is a medium price version of Sole's flagship model, the F85, and is our best in test. Like its big brother, the F63 has a motor power and build quality that few treadmills can match in this price class. Two strengths that guarantee a very long lifetime, even with frequent use. The running deck is wide and unusually long, which makes running more relaxed, especially at high speeds. Most impressive, however, is the fantastic shock absorption, the like of which is unsurpassed in the medium class and which enables comfortable, pleasant running. Like other Sole models, the F63 has a simple yet user-friendly training computer. The control panel is clear with large shortcut buttons for adjusting things like incline and speed. And if we were being fussy we'd have liked those buttons to go all the way up to maximum speed. We’d have also liked a shelf placed above the display, so that this wasn’t hidden by your tablet.

The machine is heavy, which really is just an inevitable consequence of the high build quality and good performance. Despite that weight, however, the F63 is surprisingly easy to move, although the transport wheels could have been wider to spare fragile floors. The treadmill is easy to fold and thanks to a control at hand height, it’s also very easy to unfold again. The Sole F63 is suitable for runners who want maximum performance, build quality and comfort in the medium price class.

Excellent build quality & shock absorptionspacious running deckpowerful motoreasy to moveinstallation videoheart rate belt included
Rather narrow transport wheels

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2. Sole Fitness F85 – BEST PROFESSIONAL TREADMILL

High quality professional machine offering fantastic value & performance

Price class: Pro Speed: 0-20 km/h Number of training programmes: 10 Incline: 0-15% Motor power: 4 hp Length: 207 cm Width: 93 cm Height: 144 cm Running deck (L): 153 cm Running deck (W): 56 cm Machine weight: 144 kg Maximum user weight: 150 kg Display: Type: Backlit LCD Colour: Blue (Monochrome) Size: 9 inch Folding: Yes Transport wheels: 4 Guarantee: 2 years (Frame: Lifetime) Accessories included: Heart rate belt, speaker, bottle holder User manual: PDF Video clip: Product demo: Assembly instructions

Sole Fitness F85

The F85 is a professional treadmill from Sole Fitness, offers first-class performance at a decent price and is therefore our selection for best professional choice. The build quality is excellent and the motor is very powerful, which guarantees a long lifetime, despite a constant, tough load. Sole are so confident in the build quality that they even offer a lifetime guarantee on the frame. The extremely spacious running deck makes it safer to push yourself to the max while running. Shock absorption is fantastically good, which of course spares the knees and joints, but above all makes your run more comfortable. The display is nice and large and is surrounded by practical shortcut buttons for adjusting things like speed and incline. The training computer is intuitive and easy to understand – even for non-technical people – which makes it easy to get started with training.

Despite being very heavy, the F85 is surprisingly easy to move and fold. In truth it’s actually very difficult to find any weak spots with the F85. The one thing we can say is that the transport wheels could have been wider to spare fragile floors.

Hard to beat valueexcellent build quality & shock absorptionvery spacious running deckpowerful motoreasy to move
Transport wheels could have been wider

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3. Hammer Life Runner LR22i TFT

Modern running machine with comfortable cushioning for high maximum speed

Price class: Pro Speed: 0-22 km/h Number of training programmes: 12 Gradient: 0-12% Power: 2.5 hp Length: 199 cm Width: 85 cm Height: 152 cm Running surface (LxW): 152x52 cm Machine weight: 70 kg Maximum user weight: 130 kg Display: 10” colour with touch display Maximum noise level: 67 dB Folding: Yes Transport wheels: Yes User manual: PDF Guarantee: 2 years for private use Accessories: Heart rate monitor purchased separately/Bluetooth

Hammer Life Runner LR22i

The Hammer Life Runner LR22i TFT is an interesting running machine with a modern design and a display equipped with a touchscreen. It has Bluetooth technology, which makes it compatible with various training apps such as Kinomap and BitGym. Through these, you can train in virtual environments and run around the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. It’s also easier to get an overview of your performance and monitor it.

Modern, appealing design for the home

The LR22i TFT has stylish lines and a nicely designed training console. It fits perfectly in an exercise room in a flat or house and can even be folded up to make space when not in use. Once the machine is folded, it’s easy to roll it to the desired location thanks to the four transport wheels. The machine is distinguished by having flexible, comfortable shock absorption, which gives you the feeling of running along a soft forest path. We also give it a big plus for the high maximum speed, which really opens the door to fast interval workouts. Unfortunately, the armrests are somewhat short and we’d have liked them to include shortcut buttons for speed and inclination. At higher speeds, it can be a bit dangerous to try to touch buttons at the front of the console even if, as in this case, they are large and clear.

Beautiful interface with a lot of content

The display is backlit and resembles the interface on a modern tablet. This means the LR22i TFT is very easy to navigate, provided the user is familiar with tablets. The touchscreen further enhances the experience and makes it easier for you to choose exercise programs. In addition, the exercise computer is loaded with various apps such as Youtube, Spotify and Netflix. One question you might ask yourself is whether you really need these apps in the console or whether you’d prefer to use your own mobile phone or tablet? The machine comes with 12 preset exercise programmes of various kinds ranging from power walking to intervals. A fun way to increase your motivation is to compete against the computer, which can be simulated at a speed of your own choosing.

Competitive advantages

The Hammer Life Runner LR22i TFT is a treadmill that delivers excellent shock absorption and a touchscreen with an attractive and easy-to-navigate interface. Bluetooth makes it easy for you to synchronise the machine to different exercise apps and the maximum speed is one of the highest in our running machine tests. We feel the LR22i TFT is a very good buy in this price class, even though we also feel that a heart rate monitor should be included in the price.

Excellent shock absorptionhigh maximum speedtouchscreenbluetooth
Short armrestsno shortcut buttons in the handlesheart rate monitor not included

4. Finnlo Technum IV

Elegant treadmill with excellent shock absorption and USB socket

Price class: Budget Speed: 0-18 km/h Number of training programmes: 11 Incline: 0-15% Motor power: 1.75 hp Length: 179 cm Width: 80 cm Height: 138 cm Running deck (L): 142 cm Running deck (W): 50 cm Machine weight: 82 kg Maximum user weight: 135 kg Display: 5.4 inch backlit LCD Folding: Yes Transport wheels: 4 Guarantee: 3 years Accessories: Heart rate strap purchased separately User manual: PDF

Finnlo Technum IV

The Finnlo Technum IV is an affordable treadmill with several good features such as a USB socket and holder for a tablet. The machine has excellent shock absorption, which helps you avoid injuries. For its price class, the Technum IV has a spacious running deck, which makes workouts easier, especially at higher speeds. The training computer is relatively easy to use and it’s easy to get started with your training. Practical shortcut buttons for adjusting speed and incline are located both on the control panel and the handles. These allow for convenient adjustments during your workout so that you can focus on running. The training programmes are well-balanced and the large maximum incline gives you the chance to take on some really tough sessions.

The Technum IV has four transport wheels, but it’s mainly the two in the front you use, as it’s best to move the treadmill when it's folded. Unfortunately, the treadmill itself is heavy to move, particularly if it’s in a restricted space, as it needs to be tilted forward for the transport wheels to work. Next to the display there are two compartments suitable for storing water bottles. There are two additional compartments, but they are difficult to use as the angle is slightly too steep and the plastic housing makes the surface slippery. Unfortunately, this means that anything you put in them tends to fall out. Thanks to the USB socket, at least you can be sure your tablet won’t run out of charge during your workout. The Finnlo Technum IV is ideal for anyone looking for a cheaper treadmill where the manufacturer has concentrated on a wide running deck and really good shock absorption matter.

Shelf for tablet/mobileexcellent shock absorptionshortcut buttonsUSB socket
Heavy to movesome poorly designed storage

5. Sole Fitness TT8

Top class elite treadmill for the marathon runner

Price class: Pro Speed: 0-20 km/h Number of training programmes: 10 Incline: 0-15% Motor power: 3 hp (AC) Length: 207 cm Width: 93 cm Height: 144 cm Running deck (L): 152 cm Running deck (W): 56 cm Machine weight: 144 kg Maximum user weight: 150 kg Minimum ceiling height: User height + 30 cm Type: Backlit LCD Colour: Blue (Monochrome) Size: 9 inch Folding: Yes Transport wheels: 4 Guarantee: 2 years (Frame: Lifetime) Accessories included: Heart rate belt, speaker, bottle holder User manual: PDF Video clip: Product demo: Assembly instructions

Sole Fitness TT8

The Sole Fitness TT8 is the big brother of the immensely popular F85 treadmill, and is our selection for best professional choice. Although the two treadmills are similar in terms of performance, there are some crucial differences. The TT8 is built for significantly longer running sessions than the F85. This is mainly due to the fact that the TT8 has an induction motor, which isn’t as strong as the F85's but which is better suited to be used for several hours at a time. The TT8's intended application is thus marathon running, rather than interval running. This means the treadmill is primarily aimed at elite runners or gyms where a number of regular users mean it will be used constantly. The TT8 is well suited to this, with its high build quality, its extremely spacious running deck and its very user-friendly training computer. Shock absorption is also exemplary, even if it feels a bit stiffer than the F85. The machine is very heavy, which testifies to how solidly built the TT8 really is. At the same time, the machine is surprisingly easy to move thanks to the transport wheels, although once again these could have been wider to protect fragile floors. The control panel has a shelf for a tablet and there are proper compartments for water bottles, keys etc. The TT8’s steep price tag means that it’s out of reach for most people, but if you can afford it and need a treadmill of "commercial" standard, then this is a very good choice.

Excellent build quality & shock absorptionvery spacious running deckdurable motor
The transport wheels could have been wider

6. Race Runner 2000i

Scaled back treadmill with excellent shock absorption

Price class: Budget Speed: 0-20 km/h Incline: 0-12% Motor power: 2 hp Length: 172 cm Width: 69 cm Height: 133 cm Running deck (L): 135 cm Running deck (W): 42 cm Machine weight: 69 kg Maximum user weight: 130 kg Display: Backlit LCD Maximum noise level: 63 dB Folding: Yes Transport wheels: Yes Guarantee: 2 years for private use Accessories: Heart rate strap purchased separately

Hammer Race Runner 2200i

The Race Runner 2000i is a budget class treadmill with good shock absorption that doesn't take up too much space and is easy to stow away, despite having a decent maximum speed and maximum incline.

The treadmill has an excellent user manual and even for a layman it takes no more than 20 minutes to assemble. The 2000i is also easy to fold and the well-placed transport wheels combined with the relatively low weight make it easy to move. The treadmill doesn’t take up much space, so it’s potentially ideal for anyone with limited space.

Simple control panel

The control panel is basic with only a few buttons, making it easy to navigate. There are two clear and well-placed shortcut buttons for adjusting speed and incline. We would have liked there to be a few more choices than just those two, but at the same time the buttons for manual control are right next to them, which means that it’s easy to fine tune yourself. One positive detail is that there are also shortcut buttons for adjusting speed and incline on the side handles.

The console has two compartments that are suitable for storing a water bottle and smaller accessories. Unfortunately, there’s no shelf for a tablet, which is a clear minus if you want to be able to watch a film during your workout. There’s a connection for a music player, with integrated speakers. Unfortunately, the sound quality is terrible and the sound is much better from your mobile phone's own speakers.

The 2000i supports several different types of training, such as intervals and heart rate training. The training computer supports wireless heart rate measurement, but heart rate straps must be purchased separately. The Race Runner 2000i is best suited for anyone looking for a treadmill that's not too big, has effective shock absorption and good performance, and provided they don’t use a tablet during their workouts.

Effective shock absorption for the price classeasy to moveexcellent user manual
Lacks shelf for tablet

7. ProForm Power 995i

Exciting treadmill with good shock absorption and shelf for your tablet

Price class: Budget Speed: 0-22 km/h Number of training programmes: 30 Incline: 0-12% Motor power: 3 hp Length: 188 cm Width: 91 cm Height: 149 cm Running deck (L): 152 cm Running deck (W): 51 cm Machine weight: 92 kg Maximum user weight: 135 kg Display: 5.4 inch Backlit LCD Maximum noise level: 64 dB Folding: Yes Transport wheels: 4 Guarantee: 2 years Accessories: Heart rate strap purchased separately User manual: PDF

Pro-Form Power 995i

The ProForm Power 995i is a strong, fast treadmill with a large number of training programmes and support for several apps. The maximum speed is high both in absolute numbers but also for the price class. There’s also a generous running deck which makes your training safer at high speeds. Unfortunately, the buttons are of inferior quality and you don't always get an immediate response. In addition, the fan is poor, which is actually the rule rather than the exception in the budget class.

The treadmill comes with an understandable user manual that has clear illustrations. The 995i is easy to fold and, like most other treadmills, has a hydraulic brake, which means that the tread part is braked if you lose grip when folding the machine. The machine only has two transport wheels, so to move it you need to fold it up, which can be difficult given the high weight. All the more so if you’re using it in a cramped space.

The console has two compartments that are suitable for storing a water bottle and smaller accessories. In addition, there is a shelf for a tablet, which is a big plus if you want to use one of the training apps. There are clear and well-placed shortcut buttons for adjusting speed and incline. Unfortunately, there are no shortcut buttons for adjusting speed or incline on the side handles.

The 995i supports several different types of training, such as intervals, hill running and heart rate training. The training computer supports wireless heart rate measurement, but heart rate straps must be purchased separately. The ProForm Power 995i is ideal for runners who are looking for a strong and really fast with reasonably soft shock absorption and software that supports a number of exciting apps.

Powerful motorshelf for tablethigh speed
Unreliable buttons

8. Spirit Fitness CT850

Secure treadmill with strong motor and generous running deck

Price class: Pro Speed: 0-20 km/h Number of training programmes: 10 Incline: 0-15% Motor power: 4 hp (AC) Length: 216 cm Width: 89 cm Height: 147 cm Running deck (L): 152 cm Running deck (W): 56 cm Machine weight: 180 kg Maximum user weight: 200 kg **Display: **6.3 inch backlit Maximum noise level: 62 dB Folding: No Transport wheels: Yes Guarantee: 2 years User manual: PDF

Spirit Fitness CT850

The Spirit Fitness CT850 is an extremely robust treadmill that could almost be compared to a tank. The machine radiates durability and the possibility of many years of use. Something reflected by the extremely high maximum user weight. The CT850 has two stable transport wheels, but unfortunately it isn’t possible to fold it, which together with the substantial weight makes it more or less impossible to stow away. The machine has a strong AC motor, which means that it accelerates quickly between different speeds and can withstand really long running sessions. It’s also incredibly stable when you vary the speed sharply, such as during interval training. Shock absorption isn’t great, which means more of a load on the knees and joints, and this isn’t ideal for inexperienced runners.

The CT850 is equipped with a fairly standard training computer, with ten different training programmes. It’s relatively easy to navigate to the training programme you want and after that you can quickly start your running session. The display is backlit and it’s a reasonable size. The fact that the screen is monochrome, however, feels a bit stingy for this price class, even if it isn’t really important. What's worse is that there’s no shelf for a tablet or shortcut buttons on the handles for regulating speed and incline. These are now common even on cheaper models and their lack makes the CT850 appear a bit outdated. However, there are several practical compartments around the console for placing various small items such as keys and your phone.

The Spirit Fitness CT850 is primarily suitable for someone looking for a treadmill able to withstand very frequent use and who wants comfort and security in their running workouts. And given the price, they must also be prepared to pay for those features. So the target group is likely to mainly consist of corporate gyms and so on.

Incredibly stablestrong & durable AC motorspacious running deckseveral compartments on the console
No shelf for tabletno buttons on the handlesmonochrome display

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Everything to Know about running machine

Running machines and walking machines – more commonly known as treadmills – together with cross trainers, are the most popular exercise machines for those who want to work out at home. This is hardly a surprise, as the human body is built to both run and walk regularly. As many people today have sedentary jobs, this makes treadmills excellent tools for achieving the movement we're built for and need.

It’s easy to think that you can just as easily walk or run outdoors, but the reality is often different. In the winter, for example, it’s often too cold and dark to exercise outdoors. And the further north you live, the more likely it is that the winter months will bring icy ground and snow to increase the risk of slipping. The summer months, by contrast, can be bad for allergy sufferers. You can certainly use treadmills, of both kinds, at the gym, but gym memberships are expensive, often costing £2500 or more per year. In addition, the gym is often packed when you want to work out because most people want to exercise at the same time, which can result in a queue for the treadmills. These are just some of the reasons why treadmills in the home are so popular today and are constantly increasing in popularity.

Running machine or walking machine?

It’s important to think about this difference before buying a treadmill. Will the machine be used for running or walking? How often will you use it? Who else will use it? What level of performance do you expect? What's your budget? These are the most important questions you should ask yourself. A treadmill intended for running is by far the most expensive type of exercise machine and even more basic models mean a significant investment for most people. In the reviews below, you can read our guide on what’s important on a treadmill, so you can choose the right machine for you and your needs.

If you only plan to walk or jog on your treadmill, then a much cheaper walking machine is probably a more economical alternative. Of course, the same also applies if you just can't afford a real running machine. If you think a walking machine would suit you better, you can read our treadmill test results here.

The best choice for you

We have selected the best and most popular treadmills on the market right now. Treadmills are divided into 3 price classes as follows.

Budget class: Less than £1,000
These are simpler, less robust machines. They have a relatively low weight, a less stable frame and a limited running deck. They have more basic shock absorption and less powerful motors, usually less than 2 hp.

Medium class: approx. £1000-£1400
Quiet, heavy, very well-built and stable machines that can withstand regular use for a long time and can cope with a very high user weight. These have more powerful motors that generate very high maximum speeds and a generous running deck that provides a more comfortable and safer run. With their top quality training computers and wireless sensors, they also have special functions such as heart rate measurement or built-in speakers. In addition, they often have attractive displays with easy-to-understand user interfaces and large screens for visualisation.

Professional class: Over £1400
Machines suited to very tough and regular training. These are treadmills good enough for marathon runners and others who require extra high quality and performance. The running deck is often very spacious, the motor powerful and the shock absorption really good. A very high build quality makes the machine robust and ensures that it can withstand intensive use by several users for a very long time. The build quality also means that the maximum user weight is often extremely high.

How to choose the right treadmill

Anyone who wants to buy a treadmill should first ask themselves some basic and important questions:

  • Will I be running or walking on the machine?

There’s a big difference between treadmills for running and those for walking, not least in terms of price. A running machine must be significantly more robust than a walking machine, as running puts much greater strain on the machine's construction. However, many people are content to walk or at most jog on a treadmill, which often means that they can get away with buying a much cheaper machine. If you don’t know whether you want to walk or run, you should buy one that enables you to do either.

  • How often will I use the machine?

The more you use an exercise machine, the quicker it will wear out. This is especially true for treadmills, as running puts such strain on the machine. If you plan to use your treadmill several times a week, you should therefore buy a more durable, more solid machine with higher build quality, as these withstand many more hours of wear. Sometimes several people plan to use a treadmill – for example the entire family might want to exercise. Although this means the machine is used more often, it may also mean you can afford to buy a more expensive and more robust treadmill, as more people can contribute to the purchase.

  • What do I expect in terms of performance?

Treadmill performance differs in several areas. The most important are the running deck, speed, display/training computer, motor power, frame, shock absorption, incline and maximum user weight – but also safety. Of course, a higher performance also means a higher price but it also gives you the opportunity for a more fun, more varied and more effective training regime. At the same time, a cheap treadmill with its lower levels of performance is quite enough for some.

Once you’ve thought through these three questions, it’s time to ask yourself the last and perhaps most crucial question.

  • How much money am I willing to spend on my training

Once you’ve figured out your approximate budget for the purchase of a treadmill, it’s usually pretty easy to say what type of machine is of interest to you. This is because they vary enormously in price. Cheap treadmills for walking are available for just over £300, while a cheap treadmill you can run on usually costs at least £600. The most expensive, most exclusive treadmills can cost over £10,000. The machines we tested cost between £300-£2000 and include both very simple, cheaper walking machines through to exclusive treadmills for elite athletes to run on. To help you quickly see what price class a treadmill is in, we divided them into three different price classes.

19 important properties of a treadmill

In our tests, we took into account a number of important properties, divided into different categories. These are listed below, with an explanation of how and why they are important.

User weight

This feature is especially important for heavier users. You may be heavy due to fat, muscle (muscles weigh a lot), because you’re tall etc. but no matter why you’re heavy, it’s important that you buy a treadmill that can handle the user weight it will be used for. If several people plan to use the machine, you must be sure to buy one that has been designed to handle the heaviest user. Broadly speaking, the more expensive the treadmill, the higher the user weight it can handle.

Build quality

One very important characteristic of a treadmill is its build quality, and there are several reasons for this. Perhaps the most important reason is that a robust machine usually has a significantly longer lifespan. This is because a well-designed treadmill with a solid frame, mechanics and electronics will not only provide more stable running, but will also withstand the long and tough loads a frequently-used treadmill is exposed to. This is especially true if the machine is used by heavy people who do hard running workouts. Likewise, treadmills with better construction quality often have a high user weight. There are some downsides to robust machines, however, in that they normally take up much more space than cheaper machines, they weigh more and they generally cost a lot more.

The quality of the belt that you run on is also part of the overall build quality, as a robust machine will offer a thick and durable belt, tough enough to withstand extensive wear before it needs to be replaced. The thickness of a belt is usually "only" between 1-2 mm, but a belt of 2 mm is actually pretty thick and it should take a long time to wear out.

Design

Although the design doesn’t normally affect functionality very much, it still plays an important role for many people who want to train at home. A cheap treadmill often has wheels and can be moved and hidden away when not in use, but expensive and heavy machines are neither built nor intended to be moved around. As your machine may always be visible, you’ll want it to fit in with the surroundings. Ideally, you probably want a machine to look attractive, exactly like other training equipment and other furnishings. And you could argue that the design affects the functionality, if you look at the design of the display. A well-designed display is normally easy to use and allows you to focus on running than fiddling about with the display.

Display

A treadmill display often has an LCD screen, with numbers as well as text, but often you also have a visualisation of heart rate, incline, distance travelled, time etc. Perhaps the most important feature of a display is that it’s user-friendly so that it’s easy to find the programmes, settings and commands you’re looking for. A good display may also have shortcut buttons with preset speeds and inclines to minimise the need to press buttons during your workout. You really want to avoid being distracted during your run and not to have to focus on trying to find your way around menus and functions.

Guarantee

The average treadmill for running today costs between £700-£1300 (treadmills that only allow walking are cheaper), which for most people is a significant investment. So it’s important to know the machine is durable and will provide faithful service for several years. If for any reason it should break or be defective in any way, it’s also important that the manufacturer or dealer can quickly or cheaply (preferably free of charge) replace or repair the machine. Even cheap treadmills often have generous guarantee periods, which is good, but you should remember that for a repair you usually have to bear all the costs of transporting a machine to the repair shop, or a service technician may need to call at your home and repair the machine on site. This entails a not insignificant cost in terms of time and/or money.

Speed

Speed is a property closely related to the motor, as it’s the motor power that determines how fast a treadmill is. Treadmill speed is usually specified with its speed range, for example 0-16 km/h. Treadmills for walking have a maximum speed of up to about 8-10 km/h and even at 6-7 km/h most people prefer to start running instead of walking. This means that the fastest treadmills for walking are also suitable for jogging.

For a treadmill for running, the maximum speed should ideally be at least 15 km/h. More expensive machines often reach a full 20 km/h, which is fast enough for most people. The higher the speed you run at, the larger the running deck you need.

If you’re going to run at a high speed of, for example, 18-20 km/h, a really large running deck is required for running to feel comfortable and safe.

Noise level

A low noise level is especially important for home users as you won’t want to disturb others in your home more than necessary. Sometimes the treadmill is kept in a TV room too, and you don’t want the sound to disturb the TV, especially if there are several people watching.

A machine's noise level depends mainly on three factors: how robust it is, how quiet the motor is and how good the shock absorption is. A treadmill that’s robust, with a powerful, quiet motor and which also has good shock absorption, can be surprisingly quiet when in use.

If you live in an apartment with thin walls or have noise sensitive neighbours, the thumping noise caused by a treadmill can be a major nuisance. This type of sound can be very disturbing as vibrations from the machine and your running can spread to the floor beneath and be transmitted to the rest of the building. Such noise can be minimised by having a treadmill that’s robust and has good shock absorption, as these properties help to absorb the vibrations more efficiently. To minimise the vibrations even more, you can also buy a shock absorption mat, which are normally available from the same stores that sell exercise machines.

Incline

Most treadmills can be inclined to create a sloping plane and make your workout more strenuous, as an angle of just a few degrees makes any run much tougher. The incline can be adjusted either manually or automatically. Better machines have an automatic incline adjustment and can usually also be adjusted during your run. The angle is up to about 15% on the best treadmills.

Running deck

A sufficiently large running deck is important so that you have the space to move around a little during your workout. The smaller the running deck, the more you have to focus on staying on it rather than concentrating on running. And the faster you run, the harder it becomes to do that. So the faster you expect to run on the machine, the bigger the running deck needs to be. The downside with that is that a bigger running deck is one of the things you normally have to pay extra for on a treadmill, as more space is usually only available on the more expensive machines.

Manual

A good user manual with detailed instructions is essential for you to be able to get the most out of your exercise machine. On the one hand, a manual should contain easy-to-understand instructions for how to assemble the treadmill, and on the other hand it should contain user-friendly instructions and guides on how to use the training computer with all its programmes and settings. Unfortunately, many manuals aren't as good as they should be, even on the more expensive models. We feel that nowadays, in addition to a paper manual you should also get a digital manual, preferably as a PDF document or other standard format that makes it easy to open and read. If nothing else, you should be able to download the manual from the manufacturer's website, which is actually becoming more and more common today. Saving small PDF files of a few megabytes onto your computer is also much less space consuming than storing a paper manual, which have a tendency to get lost easily.

Machine weight

As with frame size, a heavier machine weight tends to offer a more stable and solid treadmill that can withstand heavier loads and heavier users, while a lighter treadmill is generally less durable and less robust. Again, as with frame size, cheaper treadmills (and especially the cheaper walking machines) weigh less than the more expensive ones, which is often fine for those who are short of space and need to be able to move their machine after training. But in general, if you have both money and space, a heavier treadmill is better as it’s usually indicative of a higher build quality.

Mobility

Really solid and heavy treadmills aren’t intended to be moved around, but most machines made for home users are actually foldable, have transport wheels and are relatively easy to move. However, this sometimes assumes that you’re big enough and strong enough, or that two people are moving the treadmill, so you can each grab one side. Walking machines, by contrast, are usually so light that they can be moved around by one person without any problems. One thing most manufacturers seem to miss, however, is that the wheels can easily make marks on the floor if they’re too small, the machine is heavy and the floor is fairly fragile, as for example a parquet floor can be.

Assembly

Assembling a treadmill is normally a fairly simple procedure as the machine is usually delivered more or less ready-assembled. This is especially true for collapsible treadmills that take up as little space as possible when assembled and folded. It’s often just a matter of the installing the handles onto the frame and connecting cables for the electronics. Compared to assembling other exercise machines, it’s all pretty simple.

Motor

Unlike things like exercise bikes or crosstrainers, users don’t actually drive the belt on the treadmill (except on some cheap machines) as this is driven by a motor. The more powerful the motor, the more power it generates. More power also means that the motor is able to drive the belt at a higher speed while also supplying the electronics with power. Acceleration is also very dependent on motor power and if you plan to do a lot of interval training, it’s important that you have a motor powerful enough to handle it. This is because it must be able to accelerate up to speed quickly. A more powerful motor also generally increases the life of a treadmill, not least as it’s gentler on all the electronics under maximum load and thus ensures that the electronics last that bit longer.

Cheap treadmills often have a motor power of just under 1 horsepower (abbreviated as hp) while the best (and most expensive) machines for home use have a motor power of up to 3 hp. When it comes to motor power, it’s important to distinguish between peak power and continuous power. Peak power is often the power specified, as it has a value that’s significantly higher than the continuous power value – usually about 40% or more.

The motor transfers its kinetic energy to the treadmill with a drive belt, and it’s most difficult to prevent wear on this part. This is also the part which, after a number of years, finally wears out, no matter how much or how hard you have used the machine. This is because the drive belt is made of rubber which eventually dries out and thus loses its elasticity, finally resulting in it coming off or wearing out. This phenomenon is the same that causes old elastic bands to break easily, regardless of whether or not they’ve been used.

Price

Of course, price is a very important factor in most purchases of exercise equipment. Especially since the price differs a lot between the cheapest and the most expensive models. The cheapest ones cost about £200-£300, although these are really just walking machines, as we've already said. The types of treadmills that you use in the gym usually cost £5000 and upwards. And £10,000 isn’t an unusual price for such a treadmill. However, these treadmills are built to be used extremely often and for a long time. As a home user, you won’t have to pay that much for a decent treadmill with good build quality, decent functions and a good lifetime.

If you’d like to read more about cheap treadmills, we recommend Pricerunner’s guide to cheap treadmills.

Size

If you live in an apartment or home where space is limited, you probably want a treadmill that doesn’t take up much space. At the same time, a good treadmill must be able to take the space it needs, as it’s the large running deck that enables faster, more comfortable and safer running. So the compromise solution is often a folding treadmill that you only bring out for your workouts or that you put away when you need the space for something else. If area isn’t a limiting factor, a rough rule of thumb is that the larger the frame size the better from a quality point of view. This is because a large and sturdy treadmill doesn’t just have a larger running deck, but is also more stable, robust and lasts longer.

Shock absorption

Another important property of a treadmill is its shock absorption, which makes running more comfortable and gentler on the body, as it creates a softer surface to run on. Good shock absorption also reduces any noise and vibration, which is especially important if you intend to run while watching TV, live in an apartment with neighbours or want the treadmill to be quiet for any other reason.

There are various shock absorption systems, with the most common being pads made of rubber, where more pads generally make for better shock absorption. However, other shock absorption mechanisms, such as spring suspension, are also available and it’s not really possible to say which shock absorption technology is the best.

Safety

Good safety is important for a treadmill, not least because you often get up to high speeds while running. So you don’t fall off your treadmill, it should be equipped with an emergency stop or so-called "dead man's switch". This consists of a magnet which is attached to the treadmill at one end (via magnetism) and at the other end is attached to a string. The string has a clip that you fasten to your clothes. If you’re falling off the belt, the string is stretched and the magnet comes loose from the treadmill, which then comes to an emergency stop.

Another good safety feature is a so-called soft drop system. When the treadmill is unfolded, it is held upright by a lock. When you’re unfolding the treadmill to use it, it’s very important that it doesn't fall down and injure anyone or anything that happens to get in the way. So on better treadmills, there’s hydraulic shock absorption that allows the treadmill to slowly but surely unfold when the lock is released, even you aren’t holding it up. This safety function is especially important on large or heavy treadmills and is therefore most common on these.

Training computer

A good training computer is an important feature of a treadmill. It should have several pre-programmed training programmes, such as interval training, fat burning, marathons etc. Even cheaper treadmills today have a number of different programmes to choose from, but more important than the number is their content, i.e. how good and how varied is the training they provide. A good training computer will also offer the opportunity to enter the user’s weight and age to adjust the various programmes and achieve the best possible training results. A training computer should ideally also have the functionality to allow you to save your own training programmes and settings.

Many treadmills also have heart rate measurement so that you get a better feel for how hard you are actually pushing yourself. Heart rate is usually measured via meters on the handles, but wireless heart rate measurement is also common today. In order for the training computer to be able to receive heart rate information wirelessly, you usually need to buy a heart rate strap to wear during training.

Pulse control is an exercise programme that’s available on the best training computers. Pulse control helps you to maintain the level of effort you're aiming for. This is done by the training computer measuring your heart rate and then continuously adjusting the speed of the treadmill so your heart rate is kept constant at a preset value.

Exercise programmes for running machines

Running on a machine is very different from running outdoors. And this means there are some types of running that work better on treadmills. We decided to find out which are which and how they make you fitter.

On a treadmill, it isn’t you moving forwards – instead a motor makes the belt move round and round and you just need to adopt a running movement that means you move your feet quickly enough not to slip off the back of the belt.

When you’re running outdoors, you often experience wind resistance – which can be substantial when you’re running into the wind. You don’t get this with a treadmill. Nor do you need to watch out for uneven ground, and the speed and incline will be exactly what you’ve chosen. Consequently, running on a machine can be very monotonous. And if you’re only going to run long sessions, you increase the risk of injury because every step is almost identical. This means that the same small parts of the joints and muscles are used both as a shock absorber and to propel you forwards. So treadmills are better for shorter, more intensive sessions, such as interval training, hill running or perhaps a specific tempo session where you maintain a fast pace as a preparation for a race.

Intervals

Intervals are a great form of exercise that effectively improve your condition and lactate tolerance. If you choose shorter, more intensive intervals, you will quickly produce lactate. Lactate is a waste product that forms when your muscles are pushed so hard they become short of oxygen. Lactate isn’t dangerous, but it’s not very pleasant. The more you do this type of interval training, the better your body will get at eliminating the waste products that form, and the tougher the intervals you’ll be able to tolerate. And you can normally expect a relatively quick improvement.

Examples of short intervals:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes at a moderate pace.
  • 5 x 1 min at a pace that’s so fast you get really tired and feel lactate build up at the end of each interval. 30 seconds’ rest between each interval.
  • 2 min rest.
  • 5 x 1 min (in the same way)
  • Finish with 10 minutes at a very moderate pace.

With a little training, you’ll be able to delay the performance threshold (also called the lactate threshold), which means you’ll be able to run for longer before you feel it, improving your running ability with each session.

Threshold intervals

Another popular interval form is threshold intervals. This means that you run slightly longer intervals with an intensity where you’re just on the limit of producing too much lactate. In other words, at an intensity where you’re producing lactate but not so much that your body can’t dispose of it. A guideline for this is that the intervals should produce lactate in the last minute of each interval. By running slightly longer intervals at a sufficiently higher pace, you stress your body and encourage it to dispose of the waste products that form. This improves your condition very efficiently.

Example of threshold intervals:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes at a moderate pace.
  • 5 x 4 min at a pace where you start to get lactate in the last minute of each four minute rep, with 90 seconds’ rest between each interval.
  • Finish with 10 minutes at a very moderate pace.

Hill intervals

Many people have a bit of a love/hate relationship with hill intervals. This interval type is very effective and trains up both leg strength and lactate tolerance. Hill intervals are extremely efficient because you quickly get tired, which means you can’t do so many intervals. When you run these intervals outdoors, it’s common to run up a steep slope for a maximum of 30 seconds with about the same amount of rest. The intensity and incline mean that your muscles quickly get tired and produce lactate. The basic rule is that the steeper the slope you’re running up, the shorter the action time.

Hill intervals are particularly good on a treadmill, because you can easily control the incline and make sure you end up with the right length of rest period. When you run hills outdoors, the rest period is often governed by how long it takes to get back down the hill to your starting position.

Example of hill intervals:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes at a moderate pace.
  • 4 x 90 seconds at 4% incline – rest for 45 seconds, 4 x 60 seconds at 3% incline – rest for 30 seconds, 4 x 30 seconds at 2% incline – rest for 15 seconds. Rest for 90 seconds between each set.
  • Finish with 10 minutes at a very moderate pace.

Fartlek

Fartlek is originally a Swedish word meaning “speed play”, and in running it refers to an exercise session in which you change between different speeds and inclines. In simple terms, this means irregular and unplanned intervals. This makes the running workout challenging and pleasantly varied. Unlike other running sessions, fartlek is based on spontaneity and what feels like most fun at that precise moment. This can be a great complement to the other interval forms, and playfulness can increase your motivation.

Example of fartlek intervals:

As we mentioned above, it’s how you feel that controls the session. On a treadmill it’s really easy to vary both your speed and incline. But you could do something like this:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes at a moderate pace.

  • 20 minutes of varying intervals. Choose “random intervals” if your machine has this function.

  • Finish with 10 minutes at a very moderate pace.

How to maintain your treadmill

In order for your treadmill to give you the best possible training, it needs some love and care. If you look after your treadmill correctly, it will not only affect the life and performance of the machine, it will also be safer to run on and increase any resale value. We explain how best to do this. It will be time well spent!

First of all, it’s important to read the machine’s user instructions. Most treadmills have clear instructions on which service to do and at what intervals. This is often a prerequisite for the guarantee to apply. In most cases, you can perform the services yourself. For advanced and expensive treadmills that can be found in commercial gyms, the manufacturer usually requires the service to be performed by authorised personnel, in which case it will say so in the user manual.

If it isn’t stated in the user manual, we recommend that you create a document yourself that states the service intervals that apply to your treadmill. You can specify what to do each day, week, month and quarter. You could do something like this:

Daily routine: After use, wipe off visible sweat so the band immediately looks cleaner. Remember not to use alcohol-based or corrosive cleaners on the display or rubber parts as they may get damaged. A damp cloth works really well.

Weekly routine: Wipe the entire treadmill, both frame and belt. Visually inspect the belt and make sure it doesn’t have any damage such as tears on the edges. If the belt is damaged it should be replaced, as it quickly risks deteriorating and damaging other parts of the machine. Check that the belt is properly tensioned and that the underside looks whole and clean too. If the underside feels dry and hard, it may be a sign that it needs to be replaced. The underside should normally feel soft and smooth.

Monthly routine: Check the functions of your treadmill and ensure the display works properly. Check all parts to make sure they still fit together properly. Carefully retighten screws and nuts, as an unstable treadmill can cause major and costly damage. Replace any damaged parts, including screws and nuts that didn’t thread properly. This is a cheap way to prevent costly breakdowns in the future. If you want to be extra careful, you could also clean and lubricate all screws included in the assembly.

Quarterly routine: Every quarter, it’s time to lubricate the machine. You will find general instructions on how to lubricate your treadmill here

It’s important to read the user manual first and follow the manufacturer's recommendations. There are different types of lubricants, both with and without silicon. Lubricating the treadmill is an important part of the maintenance and if it’s maintained correctly, it will extend the lifetime and reduce the risk of costly repairs.

Try vacuuming the parts of the treadmill you can access. One tip is to set the machine to maximum incline to make it easier to vacuum underneath. Lift off the motor housing and vacuum underneath, as there’s usually a lot of dust there. With the motor housing still off, you can take the opportunity to check that there are no loose cables. And also check that the drive belt isn’t damaged and that it’s properly tensioned.

Static electricity usually causes a lot of dust to accumulate on both the frame and the electronics. One tip is to place the treadmill on a rubber mat which in turn removes static electricity, and so reduces the risk of your treadmill becoming a dust magnet.

A well-maintained treadmill has the best conditions to last for many years. If you’ve followed our recommendation to create a maintenance schedule, it’s a good idea to pass it onto the next owner if you sell your machine. It also shows you’ve taken care of the machine, which should help you maximise any resale value.

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