Buying a treadmill is a big investment—maybe not as much as buying a puppy or a new SUV, but there’s still substantial commitment involved. Here are a few things to consider before bringing home your first (or next) treadmill:
Dimensions: Most home gym equipment takes up significant floor space. That’s doubly true for treadmills. Check the dimensions of any treadmill you’re currently shopping. Be sure to add at least 1-2 feet in every direction and three feet or more behind the treadmill (the area you step on to the machine from) for maximum safety.
One thing buyers also tend to overlook is the height. You’ll want at least 15” inches above your own height when standing on the treadmill. So, if you’re 5’10” (70 inches), make sure your ceiling height is enough to accommodate 85 inches, plus the height of the treadmill belt. This is especially important if you’re planning to use your treadmill for running.
Deck size: Looking for a treadmill suitable for running? Or maybe you just want a reliable machine to walk on while you watch T.V. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll want to ensure the deck size suits your activity preferences (and your height).
The industry standard for a walking treadmill deck is 55 inches by 20 inches and is at least 60 inches by 20 inches for running. You may be able to get away with running or walking on shorter decks, but this means altering your stride length, which means you’ll have to think about every step you take.
Stability: This might seem obvious, but double-check that all four corners of the treadmill are firmly in contact with the floor after setup. Many home floors aren’t 100% level (you’d be surprised). You want to make sure that your treadmill is well-planted to minimize the risk of slippage, shifting, or tilting.
Noise: Treadmills can—and often do—make a lot of noise, especially for your downstairs neighbors (if you live in an apartment) or housemates (if you live in a multistory house). If you think this might be an issue, consider a treadmill mat to help minimize the noise. As the name implies, they’re simple and usually affordable mats designed to deaden the sound and vibration underneath a running treadmill.
Transportation: Moving a treadmill into a confined space, like a small bedroom or basement, can be challenging. Often, it makes sense to hire experts to do it for you.
If you’re the handy type, you can opt to disassemble the treadmill. Start by moving, then reassembling the deck, then the uprights, then the console, in that order. Just be sure to allow the minimum recommended clearances we mentioned above.
Power required: Treadmills—especially large and commercial models—can draw significant power. If your home’s electrical setup allows, dedicate one circuit to just your treadmill. This will help ensure that other power-hungry devices potentially on that same circuit don’t blow a fuse.
Motor: Most brands are transparent about their motor’s horsepower but some (cough, Bowflex) don’t disclose on the treadmill’s spec sheet. For reference, you should look for at least a 3.0 CHP motor if you plan to run or sprint regularly.
Safety features: Treadmills might not look all that dangerous and, when used properly, they’re some of the safest pieces of gym equipment. Still, some danger exists. Understand the safety features of the treadmills you’re shopping. At a minimum, you’ll want fixed handrails and a stable surface that ensures your feet are properly planted and your stride is reliable. Many modern treadmills also feature an auto-shutdown clip that immediately cuts power to the machine in the case of a fall emergency.
Other features: Many modern treadmills offer a solid list of bonus features. Consider things like incline and decline to add variety to your workouts. Some add extra shock absorption to minimize the impact on your knees, ankles, and joints. The best treadmills also offer touchscreen displays with web-connected features like interactive, trainer-led studio classes. Just know that, in most cases, these require an ongoing subscription that could add up over the years.
Budget: There’s no getting around the fact that treadmills aren’t cheap. Some of the best treadmills can run north of $5,000 while the most elite models, like Technogym’s Skillmill, cost as much as a used Toyota. But you don’t have to spend a small fortune to land a decent model. The best budget to mid-range models are priced between $1,500-$3,000. While that’s not chump change, it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re planning to integrate jogging or running into your regular fitness routine. One more piece of advice: While there are a few sub-$1,000 treadmills on our list that are decent, don’t expect them to last beyond five years or so.
And if you’re currently balking at those prices, don’t worry. Many companies (NordicTrack and ProForm come to mind first) offer financing on their treadmills to make them more accessible to the general public.
Warranty: The industry standard for a treadmill frame warranty is 15 years to life. This is the standard for mid- to high-dollar treadmills, but if you’re buying some random machine off of Amazon for $200, don’t expect this type of guarantee. We also recommend immediately registering your machine on the brand’s website after purchasing to make sure you’ll be able to cash in on the warranty if you ever need to do so.