The Zero Runner: A Whole New Breed of Running Machine

Not an Elliptical, Not a Treadmill

Octane Fitness

The Octane Zero Runner is best defined by what it's not. It's not an elliptical, and it's not a treadmill. It's a running machine, and it's awesome.

Truth be told, I'm generally not a cardio equipment kinda gal (hence, my role as the Alternative Fitness expert), but I've been known to do marathon sessions on steppers, ellipticals, AMT trainers, stationary bikes, and even the dreaded treadmill. Usually I'll use equipment if there's bad weather, or if I'm traveling - hotel gyms leave a lot to be desired - and I'll tell you, I'm a picky equipment user.

In fact, I turn up my nose completely at most of the equipment on the market. If a facility doesn't have one of a select few pieces of traditional cardio equipment (specifically, a Precor AMT Trainer, Cybex Arc Trainer, or a Woodway Treadmill), I'll find another way to get active.

That's why I was so intrigued by Octane's latest machine, the Zero Runner. While it looks more like an elliptical machine than a treadmill, its function is more closely aligned to that of a treadmill. And once you get the hang of the movement, it's actually exactly like running outside, but without the corresponding impact.

The Zero Runner Basics

The Zero Runner is a residential piece of self-propelled fitness equipment that enables the user to run indoors without the impact of a treadmill or a track. The truly unique design of the equipment is its two "leg joints" that bend at the location of the hip and the knee.

This means that unlike traditional elliptical machines that have a pre-determined elliptical "track" for you to travel through, or treadmills, with belt movements that slightly alter the natural running gait and still place impact on your knees, ankles, and hips, the Zero Runner allows you to run freely and naturally without impact.

To actually see a comparison of the running movement on a Zero Runner, treadmill and elliptical, check out this video.

Testing the Zero Runner

I tested out a Zero Runner at my local Fitness in Motion store, and really enjoyed the experience. Here are the highlights:

  • The Machine Takes Getting Used To. Even an expert like me needed an intro to the machine before trying it out myself. The guys at Fitness in Motion gave me an overview and had me start by just shifting my weight from side-to-side before working my way up to a jog, then a run. Even though the movement is a natural running movement, it feels somewhat unnatural at first because you're not coming in contact with the ground to help "push off" and kick back like you would when running outside. The fact that I've done quite a bit of deep water jogging (I'll get to that in a minute) actually helped me pick up the motion fairly quickly.
  • It's Completely Self-Powered. One of the things that surprised me was that the machine was completely self-powered. This is a big step away from elliptical machines, where you control the resistance and the incline mechanically to alter intensity. In this respect, the Zero Runner is once again much more like running outside than it is other cardio machines. Just like you would pick up your pace and lengthen your stride to increase your intensity when running, you simply pick up your pace and lengthen your stride to increase your intensity on the Zero Runner.
  • It Offers an Incredible Stride Length. One of the main reasons I hate elliptical trainers is that their pre-determined stride lengths are generally terrible. I'm tall (6'0"), and I have long legs - I hate feel like I have to alter my gait to short, choppy steps when using an elliptical. The Zero Runner's moveable hip and knee joints make it possible to extend your stride up to 58-inches - a crazy-long stride length.
  • It Feels Really Good. Once you get the hang of the motion, it feels really good. Because you're not experiencing the impact of the ground, and because you're able to move with a natural stride and gait, the experience is much more pleasant than other machines.

    Additional Benefits of the Zero Runner

    Beyond the benefits I personally experienced, the Zero Runner makes it possible for individuals training for long-distance events to reduce the total impact on their joints during training. Anyone who's ever done a marathon or ultra marathon knows that the body takes a beating during training. While the Zero Runner shouldn't completely replace outdoor running while training for races and events, it's an excellent tool to use to reduce the total impact during training. For instance, if a runner has an eight-mile run planned, the first four miles could be done outside, with the last four miles done inside on the Zero Runner, essentially reducing joint impact by half.

    Maintenance of Fitness During an Injury

    Years ago I experienced pretty devastating shin splits. I had been doing a lot of running, and had to stop all training to give my shins a chance to heal. I did a lot of research and discovered that individuals who participated in deep water jogging while injured were able to return to running at the same level of fitness and conditioning post-injury because the underwater jogging motion is the exact same as land-based running. I took my workouts to the pool and spent lots of time enjoying zero impact running while suspended in deep water.

    When I hopped on the Zero Runner for the first time, I had an "Aha!" moment. Once I got going, the motion felt incredibly similar to the motion of running while suspended in water. You still experience resistance, and you can still make the exercise more difficult by working harder and increasing your pace, but you're not experiencing the injury-instigating impact of traditional running. And frankly, the Zero Runner feels a lot better than deep water running - it's not easy to stay afloat and focus on running form as you're trying to avoid inhaling water.

    If you're taking a break from running due to an injury, the Zero Runner might be a good solution for you to continue training while maintaining your current level of running prowess.


    The Zero Runner costs $3,300 and comes equipped with cross-circuit training points and a set of cross-training resistance bands so you can also perform total body strength training. The frame has a lifetime warranty, while the parts come with a five year warranty and labor is covered for one year.

    Final Thoughts

    All-in-all, I wholeheartedly believe in this product and the benefits it offers to runners and fitness enthusiasts alike. The only drawback is its price could be a limiting factor for many. Even though it doesn't require an electrical hookup, cutting down on ongoing electricity expenses, $3,300 is out of reach for most people.

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