Before You Buy a Treadmill for Running

Runner touching treadmill controls
Darryl Leniuk

In the market for a treadmill? Here are some things to consider and tips for choosing the best treadmill for your needs and budget.

Price

It is highly unlikely that you will find a new high-quality treadmill for under $1000. Thankfully, most people can find a treadmill sufficient for their needs for under $1500.

If this is out of your range, you may want to consider buying a used treadmill. It is best to find one being sold by someone who just doesn't use it, as opposed to buying from a gym (where it probably has been used into oblivion).

It is not recommended to buy a used treadmill that is more than one year old or does not hold up to the standards in the rest of this article.

The Motor

Don't buy a treadmill that doesn't have at least 1.5 continuous duty peak performance. (Don't believe any numbers listed as "treadmill duty" or "peak horsepower", and lookout for numbers listed as intermediate duty, as well. These aren't useful to you and are listed to confuse people.) If you want to save money on service calls and new motors in the future, get a PWM (Pulse Width Modulated) motor instead of a SCR(Solid State Control Rectifier) motor. Also, look for high torque at low revs (revolutions).

Control Console

At a minimum, make sure that it displays speed, distance, time, and pace. Consider if you want to spend extra for preprogrammed workouts. Remember, more options equals more money.

Deck

Be sure to look for a long deck to accomodate your full running stride. 52 inches of length is too small for most people. 16 inches of width is too small for most people to be comfortable, as well.

Frame

It is best to buy a treadmill with a high alloy steel frame. These are much more durable than aluminum frames. Stay away from plastic covered wood or painted particle board; look near the belt to decide.

Obviously these are not durable at all.

Rollers

Look for rollers that are 2 inches or larger in diameter. Solid rollers are better than hollow rollers.

Incline

Incline is most important if you are using the treadmill to train for outdoors running or racing. You will need an incline to simulate outside forces. Most quality treadmills come equipped with incline. Be sure to use the incline before buying the treadmill to make sure you are comfortable with its use.

Safety

This is especially important in households with children. There are two main safety features available on treadmills: the safety key and the emergency off buttons. A safety key treadmill requires that the key be in place to turn the treadmill on; it usually also has a way to attach the key to the runner so that if the runner falls or gets too far away the key will pull out and stop the treadmill. The emergency off button is just a button you push that turns the treadmill off immediately.

Warranty

High quality treadmills usually come with longer warranties than their cheaper counterparts.

Heart Rate Monitors

Heart rate monitors come in several forms: a chest strap, finger or ear clips, or hand contact. Chest straps are the most effective, but all of them are fairly easy-to-use.

Don't buy a treadmill if...

  • the motor is not quiet and smooth while running at your top speed
  • the motor is not quiet and smooth when walking very slowly
  • the belt does not move smoothly at all speeds or it skips, slips, or slides off the center of the treadmill
  • the belt and/or deck do not accommodate your size or stride (both running and walking)comfortably
  • it does not feel stable, including when inclined
  • the controls are not easy-to-use while running.

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