Gyms are slowly opening back up across the country after many shuttered following the outbreak of Covid-19. But consumers are increasingly interested in working out at home in the interim, investing in stationary exercise bikes, for example. While recreating at home the experience of attending boutique cycling studios such as Peloton, Soul Cycle and Flywheel is growing ever more popular, I’ve never been into bike riding and the idea of being chained to a stationary bike in a tight space (even if that’s my living room) is unappealing to me. Instead, the easiest way for me to destress is to throw on my Beats headphones and go for a long walk down Manhattan’s Hudson River Greenway. When the temperatures soon begin to dip with the approach of winter or it’s just unbearably humid during the still-far summer months, I’ll hop on a treadmill and zone out to one of my many high-octane Spotify playlists such as “Didn’t die on the treadmill,” “It’s Brit knee, betch” and “Big Bobby Energy.”
However, if you’re on the cautious side like I am, you may not feel 100 percent comfortable heading back to your local gym, even when the urge strikes. After accepting that I’ll be sheltering in place for the foreseeable future, I decided to try and make my new-ish apartment as clean, minimal and Marie Kondo-worthy as possible to accommodate a future treadmill. The only problem? I live in a small New York City apartment with roommates, so bringing home a sizable treadmill and storing it in our living room likely wouldn’t be a welcome addition, no matter how much my roomie misses frequenting the gym. After spending a couple of weeks on and off comparing different models against my limited budget and constrained space, I decided to give up my search for a treadmill. That is until I was in a black hole during our coverage of Amazon Prime Day and realized foldable treadmills exist. They’re designed specifically for me, and to help consumers stay healthy without taking up a ridiculous amount of space in their homes, of course. And the best part is that these treadmills (as well as treadmills at large) are available everywhere: There are superstores like Walmart and Target as well as Dick’s Sporting Goods. However, you can also purchase fitness must-haves from Best Buy, QVC, HSN and directly through various DTC brands like NordicTrack, Bowflex and Horizon Fitness.
To help me hone in on a genuinely worthwhile piece of workout equipment, I hit up three in-demand fitness experts — a strength and conditioning coach, a co-founder of a gym frequented by Victoria’s Secret models and a master boxing trainer — to learn how to shop for the best treadmills in 2020. The pros share expert guidance and answer everything from what’s the best treadmill for the money to tips for beginners looking to maximize their new piece of at-home gym equipment. They also touch on whether you should unplug your treadmill when not in use, offer their honest thoughts on top-rated treadmills across various price points and more. Before you commit to your fitness journey, consider these expert tips and top-rated treadmills to help you make an informed shopping decision.
According to the pros we consulted, the few factors to consider when shopping for a treadmill apply to other substantial at-home gym equipment, Rhys Athayde, founding trainer at DogPound said to consider pricing above all, then how much space it will take up, its functionality, and finally the warranty and maintenance of your potential new treadmill.Treadmill specs
When it comes to functionality, Athayde recommended watching the length of the treadmill, whether it offers shock absorption, its potential speed and stability and its maximum weight capacity.
“When purchasing a large piece of equipment like a treadmill, we often forget the weight impact it has on your floors and surfaces,” said Anthony Crouchelli, master and founding trainer at Grit Bxng. He agreed with Athayde on looking for shock-absorbing tracking for your runs, as well as balance. “I have often found at times that some treadmills are constantly shaking and rocking while in use, making the workout extremely difficult,” Crouchelli said.
Jason Antin, a certified strength and conditioning coach and Merrell athlete ambassador added “the primary focus for anyone in training, especially those new to training, should be focusing on form” rather than quantity.
Antin, who said he ran a total of 4,000 miles in 2014, only clocked 100 of those miles on the treadmill and doesn’t have a treadmill in his home. However, as an avid outdoor trail runner and rock climber, he advised his fellow mountain athletes to consider the incline options and compatibility with pairing devices, such as a heart rate monitor strap.
We’ve previously mentioned the Echelon Stride in a recent installation of our weekly New and Notable column. Beyond a touchscreen monitor with Bluetooth connectivity, the machine folds up automatically with the push of a button. Once folded up, the Stride has a depth of 10 inches and its wheels will help you store it with ease. Crouchelli described this space-saving treadmill as “extremely light” and offers an “awesome” on-demand option, which he said allows you to compete and challenge your friends and family in workouts. Echelon created virtual fitness classes specifically for the Stride treadmill, and Crouchelli is a fan of the community, calling it “world class.” “Echelon offers an extended outreach and connection from their instructors to members daily,” he said. The Echelon United subscription is $39.99 per month.
Crouchelli called the Sunny Health foldable treadmill “a great shock-absorbing treadmill” that has the ease of saving space and noise in your workouts. He noted the shock absorption aspect is “ideal for runners working to create a low impact on your joints from start to finish in your daily runs.” There’s also a user mode allowing you to set runs to distance, time and or a calorie-specific goal. You’re able to select speeds between .5 to 9 miles per hour and three preset incline levels. There are also 49 inches of running surface for anyone up to 220 pounds can walk, jog and run on. An LCD screen displays your speed, distance, time, calories burned and your pulse.
“The best treadmills for home use are ones that are compact or the ones that have immersive run experiences, such as Peloton or NordicTrack,” said Athayde. “This is because you are either saving space in your home for other gym equipment or you’re getting the most out of your purchase with interactive features that make the runs more challenging and engaging.” We selected this highly-rated Nordic Track treadmill for a few reasons, including that it comes with a backlit display screen and a one-month free trial of iFit, Nordictrack’s interactive fitness membership, allowing you to follow along with guidance from a personal trainer — after the trial, the membership will run you $39 per month.
“Nordic hands down has some of the best on-demand trainers in the business, as they provide no stop top-tier programs across the board,” said Crouchelli. He’s a fan of the Bluetooth technology because it allows the on-demand trainers to connect with clients in workouts. The adjustable incline goes up to 10 percent and you can run up to 10 miles per hour on the machine, which can support up to 300 pounds.
The Xterra Fit offers three manual incline settings and 12 pre-programmed runs, allowing readers to have variety in their home workouts, which the treadmill tracks, keeping an eye on incline, calories burned, distance, pulse and speed. “The price point [just under $400] is perfect for a budget-friendly individual who wants to get into running without breaking the bank,” said Crouchelli. You get variety with your speed range – half-a-mile to 10 miles per hour, all indicated on the 5-inch LCD display screen. Storing the TR150 is simple too — just pull the treadmill’s knob and you can fold it up with ease.
Crouchelli described the ProForm as the “top of the line” when it comes to your at-home treadmill. Why? The machine boasts interactive training sessions and connected fitness tracking. “This treadmill is also spatially friendly — with the best motor on the market — and includes a heavy duty drive system that cools itself to handle the constant incline and speed changes from your training,” he said. You can run up to 12 miles per hour on the machine, which can hold someone up to 325 pounds, comes with a 10-year warranty and one month free trial of iFit membership and.
If you’re not into treadmill bars and risers then you’re in luck, as this offering from Goplus allows you to fold the riser up and recreate the outdoor jogging experience indoors. The quiet machine has a five-layer, non-slip running belt offering extra cushioning for your joints, shock absorption and durability. If you don’t already own a smartwatch such as a FitBit or Apple Watch, then you can track your metrics — speed, time, distance and calories burned —on the LED display screen.
For a commercial-grade treadmill, consider the NordicTrack X22i, which boasts a 22-inch touchscreen where you can stream exercise classes through iFit. The X22i features Bluetooth tech, two speakers and fans which help self-cool the machine. It also offers versatility — hold onto the built-in push bar and sled grips to switch things up for a sled push at home. NordricTrack says X22i’s deck offers low-impact cushioning and is more gentle on your joints. Additionally, you can run up to 12 miles per hour on the machine and increase the incline up to 40 percent for an uphill climb at-home.
Shopping for a treadmill with a variety of workout routines already built into the system? Consider this Bluetooth-enabled machine that comes with 26 workout programs and dual screens so you can track your metrics, like your heart rate and weight management. Nautilus also has a free smartphone app called Explore the World, which allows you to choose from 27 routes in 19 locations, so you can workout alongside other Nautilus owners in real time. The durable treadmill also has a 350 weight capacity, heart rate strap and an accessory bar to hold your towels and smart water bottle.
“Start with small steps for big strides — work on building your foundation of running from the ground upwards,” said Crouchelli. For the former soccer-player-turned-personal-trainer, slower and easier-paced beginner runs “are an excellent way to get your program intact, and allow you to grow with form instead of sprinting with failure consistently,” he continued. Crouchelli also coaches runners and typically spends the first two weeks of the program to help clients reach “stride excellence” where they “take the barebones of strike patterns, and work on building your muscular endurance for your long term run goals.” Additionally, he encouraged readers to take time out and warm up with a foam roller or functional movement system before working out on the treadmill. Doing so will “elevate your workouts and allow you to feel free every step you take in your runs.”
According to Athayde, “beginners should always begin with a proper warmup and finish with a cool down.” He encouraged readers to utilize the safety clip that typically comes with a treadmill and start at a walking pace with no incline, and “gradually increase the speed to a slow jog and finish with a light run for the last minute of exercise,” he said. Another non-negotiable for the LA-based trainer is to stretch after your cooldown session.
Athayde recommended 20 minutes a day, calling that timeframe “a simple, realistic goal to get for any fitness level.” Crouchelli typically suggests his runners focus on speed-based programming for 35 to 45 minutes, while clients who use the incline can walk for 60- to 70-minute per session.
At the end of the day, do what makes you feel comfortable. If you’re willing and able to, consider virtually working with a personal trainer to help you build up your comfort level and confidence while using a treadmill.
Above all, Crouchelli said pacing is the most important factor and advised beginners to take their time when entering the running world. “Not everything is about the finish line, but more importantly, about your own pace. Open your mind to programs that build your foundation, rather than ones that only care about the calories burned in the workout,” he added.Should I unplug my treadmill when not in use?
According to Crouchelli and Athayde, yes, you should unplug your treadmill after each use. Crouchelli noted he’s had to deal with multiple surge issues personally, and has had both clients and family members experience problems, as well. It’s essential to do so because “unplugging your treadmill also allows for people’s safety not tripping over wires or bumping into them when not in use,” he said.