Five Best Treadmills for Home Use 2021
|3.5 CHP||0.5 - 12 mph||0 - 15%||$2,799||See Best Price|
|3.75 CHP||0 - 12 mph||-3 - 15%||$1,799||See Best Price|
|3.0 CHP||0 - 12 mph||0-12%||$1,299||See Best Price|
|4.25 CHP||0 - 12 mph||-3 - 15%||$3,599||See Best Price|
|3.25 CHP||0 - 12 mph||-3 - 15%||$1,499||See Best Price|
A Guide to Treadmill Parts and Warranties
Shopping for a home treadmill is easier when you understand the "big picture." Here we describe standards for track sizes, motors and other treadmill features. This article can help you choose the best value for your budget, style and exercise needs.
Size of Walking/Running Area
The size of a treadmill workout surface is a key consideration for careful shoppers. If the workout surface is too small, you won't be able to take full strides. If the workout surface is too large, you'll have paid for unused space.
Health club treadmills typically have track workout areas measuring 20" wide and 60" long. Sometimes they have another 2-inches in one or both directions (22" wide and 62" long). These standard dimensions provide enough room for just about anyone to run at top speed. The best home treadmills for runners have these dimensions too. But if you just want a treadmill for walking, you could opt for a treadmill with a shorter track to save money. Good treadmills for walkers generally have walking surfaces that measure 20” wide and 55” long.
Got limited space? You could still get the benefits of a 60" long track by choosing a folding treadmill. The best folding treadmills are equipped with comfortable cushioning, powerful motors and automated inclines, just like the best non-folding alternatives.
The best home treadmills let you benefit from incline training. Exercising on a slanted track, you can rev up your metabolism and get more intense cardio workouts. Simulated hill training also helps sculpt your lower body because at each different angle, your muscles work in different ways. And there’s a fourth benefit too: Walking or running even with a slight incline removes some pressure from over your knees and ankles. Your weight naturally shifts to allow exercise that's gentler on your joints.
The quality of inclines varies. On the cheapest treadmills with incline, the angle can only be adjusted manually. Typically there are two or three settings. On better treadmills with incline, the angle is power-adjustable and has many settings. The incline can be automated by preset programs and also controlled with buttons on the console. Additionally the best treadmills have incline controls built into their handlebars.
A common maximum incline setting is 15% or 20%. Low-budget treadmills sometimes max out at 10%. The steepest slopes are available on treadmills built specifically for incline training, such as Bowflex Max Trainers. Max Trainers have maximum 40% inclines. With that steep a slope, you can actually just walk to get the same calorie burn rate as a runner.
Finally, shoppers should know that a small minority of treadmills support downhill training too. Their maximum declines are rarely greater than 6%. A popular mid-priced example of a treadmill with incline and decline is the ProForm Pro 2000.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Most treadmills support heart rate monitoring. Some are more accurate than others. With better accuracy you can be sure to exercise your heart within a target heart rate zone, which is important for making the most of each session. Also with better accuracy you’ll be able to track your cardio improvement over weeks, months and years.
The best treadmills have wireless heart rate receivers. These tend to be more than 99% accurate. Usually a wireless receiver works with a chest strap, which could be included with the treadmill price or sold separately for about $50-$100.
Treadmills can also measure heart rate through contact sensors. On cardio trainers at all price points, contact sensors are built into the handgrips. Some contact sensor systems are better than others. Accuracy varies by brand, plus it tends to decrease as you exercise at higher speeds.
The wireless option is of course most convenient for people seeking continuous feedback. Besides that advantage, some of the best treadmills with wireless heart rate monitoring can actually be controlled by your pulse data. In response to your heart rate information, these machines can increase or decrease the speed and/or incline to help you maintain exercise at a preferred intensity.
Treadmill Display Screens and Workout Programs
Treadmills are the most popular home fitness machines in America, but some owners lose motivation to follow through with exercise plans. A treadmill's display and workout programs can make the difference! Even among cheap treadmills, many options support digital entertainment and give you lots of training guidance. An increasing number of treadmill brands have Bluetooth connections for exporting your workout data too - and by tracking your stats, you can see results that keep you moving.
With smaller budgets you might need to choose between getting a great workout console and a powerful treadmill motor. If you spend more, you can get a treadmill that scores well in both areas.
The Display: This year’s most advanced treadmill displays have full-color touchscreens. Screen widths of 7" and 10" are most common. Many of these screens can show the Internet as well as workout programs.
The less cutting-edge treadmill displays use older LCD or LED screen technologies. Some have very small data windows but some have large screens. The best LCD/LED displays have backlighting for easy reading. Although these windows won't support the web or video, many modern treadmills provide a "media shelf" for docking your own tablet computer at eye level.
The Workouts: Treadmill workout programs can make your exercise time more efficient and interesting. They’re designed according to fitness pros' recommendations to automate the workout challenge (speed, incline and duration) to help you meet goals for calorie burn, endurance, interval training and more.
Just about every home treadmill has built-in training programs. The quantity, quality and variety vary greatly. Some treadmills let you design and save your own programs too.
Additionally some treadmills let you add new workout programs, usually through web downloads. Some let you train with virtual reality or mixed reality for simulated outdoor exercise around the world. The best-known virtual video workout platforms in our treadmill reviews are iFit (see NordicTrack and ProForm), Passport Video (Horizon Fitness), and RunFit (compatible with Nautilus treadmills).
With durability in mind, we recommend choosing a treadmill with a two-ply belt or thicker. Low-priced home treadmills tend to have single-ply workout belts. These might be just one millimeter thick. One disadvantage is that these belts wear out quickly. Sometimes they snap or rip. More common is belt stretching, which leads to your needing to recalibrate the machine. A second disadvantage of a thin belt is more potential for noise; when a belt is heavier, it has less opportunity to make a "flappity-flap" sound as it moves. And a third disadvantage is the need for regular maintenance. You might need to wax the belt often to help keep it running smoothly.
Other durability-related components to consider are the rollers, which help move the tread belt. Better treadmills have more rollers and larger rollers. On budget treadmills the rollers might be smaller than 2" in diameter. On better home treadmills they're about 2.5" in diameter or larger.
A third component to consider for durability is the belt motor. Treadmill motors are usually under lifetime warranty, yet a 2.0 CHP motor with lifetime warranty still isn't as durable as one with a 4.0 CHP motor. Our standard is 3.0 CHP for jogging and 4.0 CHP for more than casual running. The larger the user, and the more frequent or intense the training, the more important the motor becomes.
Treadmill warranties can be great hints about durability. They shouldn't be your only reference, but basically a warranty shows how much confidence the factory's insurance company shows in the product.
The most important part of a treadmill warranty is the "parts" section. For some brands, the parts section includes the workout console and other electronics. Electronics coverage is valuable, as a console could cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Here are some general guidelines:
- Very cheap treadmills have parts warranties valid for one year or less.
- Many entry-level treadmills for home gyms are protected for one or two years.
- For treadmills priced around $1000 or more, parts warranties of three years or longer are common.
Most treadmill warranties provide lifetime coverage for the motor and frame. The deck or running surface might also have a lifetime guarantee.
The last section of a treadmill warranty is for labor. Very cheap treadmills are sold with six months or less of free repairs. As prices increase, the labor warranties become more generous but rarely exceed three years. Some manufacturers, such as Sole Fitness, provide labor in-home. Others will require you to ship a broken machine for repairs… so choosing a durable treadmill from a reputable manufacturer can really help you avoid hassles.
Final Word on Finding the Best Treadmill for You
Knowing the parts of a treadmill can help you make a wise buy. Remember though that a treadmill is more than the sum of its parts. To get an idea of how well the components work together, and how they might stand up over time, be sure to check reputable sources for treadmill reviews before you make your choice.