Our expert advice and complete buyer’s guide will help you find the best treadmill for home. Whether looking for a budget pick or an interactive powerhouse, we’ve got you covered.
Buying a treadmill is not an easy task. For starters, all treadmills look virtually the same — dark-colored, oversized, mechanical conveyor belts. Trying to decipher between makes and models is all but impossible for most. Digging into some of the specs requires nothing short of a degree in mechanical engineering.
To help sort through the options, we tested multiple treadmills, completed hours of research, and reached out to four experts for advice on what people should look for in a treadmill.
Our staff is stocked with experienced runners, and we’ve collectively logged years running both on treadmills and outside, on road and trail, garnering context and perspective in the category.
We know that the best treadmill for home use needs to fit your space, perform consistently, and stay within budget. And depending on your fitness goals and style, it’s important to find a treadmill with the proper speed, incline, and power.
Plus, the growing market of connected fitness has turned even ordinary treadmills into online fitness studios. While there isn’t a single treadmill that fits every user, we’ve broken this list into useful categories to help you find the best option. Below you’ll find:
- The Best Overall Treadmill
- The Best Budget Treadmill
- The Best Folding Treadmill
- More Great Treadmills for Home Use
- How to Choose a Treadmill: A Buyer’s Guide
The Best Treadmills for Home Use
Best Overall: NordicTrack T 8.5 S ($1,599 on Sale)
For general use walking and running, the NordicTrack T 8.5 S is our top pick. For starters, NordicTrack is among the most trusted brands in fitness equipment. Its parent company, ICON, is the largest producer of fitness equipment worldwide, making up 67 percent of all sales.
The T 8.5 S has a 3.5 CHP (continuous horsepower) motor with NordicTrack’s Smart Delivery Drive System. This delivers plenty of power for smooth belt motion and a maximum speed of 12 mph.
This is a lot of motor for the money and really makes the T 8.5 S standout. Move down one price point, and you’re looking at a 2.6 CHP motor, a significant drop in power.
A great feature is the one-touch speed control. Instead of having to hold down the up or down speed button to adjust, you can quickly ramp up or down with the turn of a dial. This is a welcoming feature when changing paces.
And in terms of connected fitness, NordicTrack’s iFit is hard to beat. With Bluetooth connection and a 10-inch HD screen, you can stream more than 16,000 on-demand workouts, take live interactive workouts from world-class trainers, and even map out custom street-view routes via Google maps.
NordicTrack trainers can even auto-adjust your speed and incline during the classes. You get a one-year iFit membership included with the purchase; it’s $39 per month after that.
Runner-Up Best Overall: Sole F65 Treadmill ($1,200 on Sale)
If you’re not overly interested in the connected fitness experience, this is hands-down the best price-to-performance treadmill. The specs for a $1,200 treadmill are phenomenal. It has a 3.25 CHP motor with a maximum speed of 12 mph. And what really surprised us was the 22-inch-wide running deck. Most treadmills, by contrast, offer just 20 inches.
Sole treadmills aren’t the most technically advanced, but this one does offer some cool features. Atop the 7.5 LCD console sits a tablet-holder with USB charging capabilities. The console comes standard with Bluetooth speakers that give you the ability to connect your tablet or phone to listen to your music directly off the console. Another strong selling point is Sole’s rock-solid lifetime motor and frame warranty.
Best Budget Pick: Schwinn 810 ($799)
Schwinn is part of the Nautilus and Bowflex family, so it has corporate support behind it. As an entry-level treadmill, it features a 2.6 CHP motor that maxes out at 10 mph. Serious runners may want more power and speed for some workouts.
It comes standard with 16 preloaded workouts in its built-in blue backlit LCD screen. For an additional $10 per month, you can gain access to Nautilus’ Explore the World app.
Using a tablet or phone, you can virtually run routes anywhere in the world. And the integrated Bluetooth data streaming means you can connect to popular third-party apps — allowing you to ride or run with trainers from Peloton, for example. You can also interact, train, and compete against others on Zwift.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a solid, budget-friendly treadmill for walking or jogging, this is the one.
Best Budget Treadmill Warranty: Sole F63 Treadmill ($900)
When it comes to standing behind its equipment, no other brand offers more in terms of warranties. Backed by a lifetime warranty on frame and motor, 3-year deck, parts and electronics, and one-year labor warranty, the Sole F63 is a reliable choice for walking to moderate-use running.
It features a solid 3-horsepower motor that tops out at 12 mph with a 15-percent incline. It also folds up for easy space-saving storage. It’s not the most feature-rich treadmill on the market, but if all you’re using it for is to put one foot in front of the other, it’s more than capable.
Best Incline Treadmill: NordicTrack Commercial x22i ($2,999)
Training for your next trail run, mountain traverse, or big hike? Then you should consider an incline treadmill. NordicTrack owns the market when it comes to incline treadmills. With inclines from -6 to 40 percent, there’s no other treadmill with more range.
Outfitted with a powerful 4CHP motor, this treadmill delivers a smooth, continuous ride even at the steepest of inclines. Just like our top overall pick (the NordicTrack T 8.5 S), the Commercial x22i comes with one-touch speed control for easy speed adjustments and the full suite of connected fitness from NordicTrack. Plus, it has a huge 22-inch built-in HD screen.
Best Folding Treadmill: Life Fitness F3 Folding ($2,599-3,049)
Not everyone has enough space to dedicate solely for a treadmill. If that’s the case, a folding treadmill is a great option. Unfortunately folding treadmills often sacrifice frame stability for compactness. But not the Lift Fitness F3 folding treadmill. As one user review noted, “I’m beyond impressed with its sturdiness and how quiet it is.”
In terms of power, the F3 puts out 3 horsepower continuously with a peak of 6 horsepower, making it a great option for both walkers and runners. One downside is the maximum speed tops out at 10 mph, which is a 6-minute-mile pace. This presents a limit for the fastest runners.
Life Fitness gives you the choice to pick between two consoles depending on how many preloaded and custom workouts you want. The more expensive one, Track Connect, will connect with a mobile device for real-time tracking. Both consoles are clean and uncomplicated, making it very user-friendly. But if you’re looking for an HD screen and fully featured connected experience, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Most Durable: TrueForm Trainer ($3,995)
It’s no coincidence that the most durable treadmill also happens to be the one without a motor. As one user review so aptly said, “It’s built like a tank.” Non-motorized treadmills use a curved belt and the power of your feet move the belt. This means fewer parts and less chance of repair.
It uses replaceable batteries for its control panel but no power outlet is required, letting you put this unit anywhere.
It’s a different kind of running workout. Some of your effort is put toward moving the tread. TrueForm claims you’ll burn 44 percent more calories than with a motorized treadmill.
A downside is the lack of programmability of workouts and no connected fitness experience. Besides a Bluetooth-enabled heart-rate monitor, you’re on your own for workouts. Regardless, running on a non-motorized treadmill is certainly a different experience. And some love it.
“I’ve had my TrueForm Trainer for about a month now, and it has changed the way I run and I feel great,” one tester noted.
Best Ultra-High-End: Woodway ELG ($29,950)
If I ever win the lottery, this is the treadmill I’d put in my new beachfront mansion. Designed for top commercial settings and athletic performance labs, the Woodway ELG is the ultimate high-end treadmill.
The top speed is an astonishing 2-minute, 24-second-mile pace. This clocks in well below the quarter-mile world record pace and is plenty fast enough for Olympic-level sprinters.
Underfoot, the running surface is a massive 27 inches wide and 96 inches long, practically large enough to run with your training partner on it. Its incline range is just as impressive as its speed, with a range of -5 to 35 percent.
Popular Connected Fitness Model: Peloton Tread ($4,294 + $39/mo)
If live classes by fit, attractive, world-class instructors motivates you to put on your running shoes and get it done, then check out the Peloton Tread. More commonly known for its Peloton Bike, the company launched the Tread model to bring it connected-fitness concept to running.
Broadcast through a beautiful 32-inch 1080p HD screen, the Peloton model is one of the best-looking treadmills we found. Access to a full suite of live and archived classes is an additional $39 per month on top of the cost of the treadmill.
The hardware story is less impressive. Of all the treadmills here, the Tread has the lowest horsepower rating at 2 horsepower. That’s below even our budget options, which cost a quarter of the price.
This raises some longevity and performance concerns for heavy use users, fast runners, and bigger runners. And if issues arise, Peloton’s limited warranty is the shortest of all the treadmills we researched (5 years on the frame and one year on parts and labor).
Still, plenty of runners have a positive experience with the Peloton Tread. The content is fun and motivating — just know there are better-built treadmills out there for a fraction of the cost.
How to Choose a Treadmill: A Buyer’s Guide
Walking vs. Running
Before you do any research, you’ll want to have an understanding of how you’ll be using the treadmill. The main thing you need to know is whether you’ll be walking or running. Walking places considerably less strain on the mechanical parts, allowing you to get away with more of an entry-level treadmill.
The faster the speed and heavier the use, the higher-class treadmill you’ll need to keep pace without the likelihood of having issues. If you have multiple people using the treadmill or are a larger-bodied user, you’ll want a higher-class treadmill to handle the additional load.
Start With the Specs
Once you’ve answered the above questions about how you’re going to use the treadmill, it’s time to dig into the ever-intimidating treadmill specs. Don’t worry – you don’t need to look at all of them, just a few key ones.
Entry-level treadmills that are more suited for walking will be on the lower range of the below specs, while runners and heavy users want to stay on the upper range. I recommend going directly to the manufacturer’s website to find the specs rather than a middleman like Amazon or distributor to assure they are accurate.
Size: Greater Than 8 Inches Overhead
This may seem obvious, but before you even start your research, make sure you measure out the entire space you have for your treadmill. Perhaps the biggest unknown when determining if a treadmill will fit is head height from the ceiling.
In general, most runners will bounce around 5 inches above standing height when running, so ideally aim to have at least 8 to 12 inches of space between your head and the ceiling to be safe.
Motor: 2.6 to 4 Continuous Horsepower
The motor powers the treadmill. Pretty much every treadmill expert I spoke with recommended a 3- to 4-horsepower motor for runners, and at least 2.6 for walking only. Runners will start to see performance issues and premature mechanical problems on anything less than 3 horsepower.
Walkers can afford to be tad under 3 horsepower, while heavy-use runners want to stay closer to 4. Make sure the horsepower rating is for continuous duty, not absolute horsepower, meaning the motor puts out the rated horsepower continuously versus at its peak. If the specs don’t list horsepower in either CHP or HP continuous duty, odds are it’s not rated for continuous duty.
Rollers: Greater Than 2 Inches
Rollers are what the belt is wrapped around on either end. Generally, the larger the roller the better. The higher diameter means less tension is created. This results in a smoother, longer-lasting belt and motor.
Belt Size: Greater Than 20 Inches Wide
The belt size determines your running surface, or how much ground you’ll have under you. Small belts can make your run feel cramped or even cause you to step off the belt. Larger, taller people require wider and longer belt sizes because their strides are longer and wider. An average person’s foot stance width is roughly 16 inches, so choose a belt size no smaller in width than 20 inches.
Generally speaking, 20 x 55 inches is considered the entry-level ideal for walking and light jogging, with 22 x 60 inches being a standard size for the average-height runners. Extra-tall runners with a long stride may need even more than 60 inches, such as the Landice L8, which has a 22 x 63-inch belt.
Choosing Between Brands
Stick with the name brands. It’s not that smaller brands are necessarily bad, it’s just that larger brands offer more features and will be easier to repair if something breaks. Two brands we recommend are NordicTrack and Nautilus. Others include Sole, Life Fitness, Precor, Spirit Fitness, and Landice.
Buying New vs. Used
Buying a used treadmill can be tempting due the lower price, but in general I would avoid buying used treadmills if possible.
Unlike a car, where the odometer clearly identifies how often it’s been used, it’s not as clear to tell how much a treadmill has been used. Furthermore, manufacturers’ warranties are only valid to the original buyer — they don’t pass through.
Connected Fitness Is the Trend
A big trend in home fitness is a move toward a “connected fitness” experience — the ability to participate in coached workouts on a screen or virtually run routes all over the world. In some cases, the treadmill speed and incline automatically adjust based on the virutal terrain or on your workout or heart rate.
Some treadmills have preloaded workouts or courses in the console. But in most cases, access to the full content is an additional subscription fee on top of the purchase of the treadmill. Usually, the more expensive the treadmill, the more you get bundled with the purchase price.
The content accessible nowadays virtually is pretty impressive — so much so that GearJunkie’s founder, a diehard outside trail runner, became a convert.
If you skimp on cost upfront, there’s a good chance you’ll spend more on repairs or end up with a shortened lifespan. Generally speaking, a quality entry-level treadmill will retail around $800. And a higher-end treadmill will reach above $2,000.
Entry-level treadmills are most suited for light usage walking and light single-use jogging. As the treadmill gets used more or the pace run on it increases, the more you should spend on a treadmill.
I would highly recommend buying your treadmill directly from the manufacturer to assure it doesn’t get broken in transit. Given the large size, weight, and number of mechanical parts, treadmills are not an easy item to ship and require special handling care.
I know Amazon’s one-click buy is tempting, but if something breaks in transit from a third party delivery service, responsibility for fixing it can be tricky.
Another thing to think about it is setting up the treadmill. Treadmills are extremely heavy and large, making them difficult to set up. Standard delivery in most cases means delivery to front door, leaving you responsible to set up the treadmill.
For a small fee, most manufacturers offer “white-glove” delivery options wherein a certified delivery person will set up the treadmill for you. It’s worthing paying a bit more for this.
Treadmills Rule Home Fitness Equipment
Despite the rise in popularity of Peloton bikes, treadmills still rule home fitness equipment. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, treadmill purchases accounted for 54 percent of all home fitness equipment sales in 2018.
On an instinctual level, this makes sense. As Colleen Logan, vice president of marketing at ICON Health & Fitness, explained, “Treadmills are a natural motion. We are human, we are upright, walking, jogging, and running. These are all natural motions we do. Other fitness category equipment is great (i.e., rowing, cycling, elliptical), but it’s not how we walk down the street. Treadmills are the most popular for that reason.”
Moreover, in terms of accessible home fitness, running remains one of the highest calorie-burners per hour.
Cory Smith is a Santa Barbara, California-based athlete, online running coach, and freelance journalist specializing in running- and climbing-related content and gear reviews. He draws from over 25 years as an elite runner and rock climber for ideas, inspiration, and expertise.
His work has been featured in Outside Magazine, Trail Runner, GearJunkie, Gear Patrol, Philadelphia Magazine, and Gear Institute. Check out his portfolio at www.storiesbycory.com.