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Treadmills Buying Guide

May 15, 2021 14 min read
Treadmills Buying Guide

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    Why should I buy a treadmill?

    Treadmills are one of the most common and popular types of home fitness machine and that’s not without reason. If you want to improve your general fitness a treadmill can help. If you want to lose weight, a treadmill  can help. If you want to tone up or need to get some mobility back, then you need look no further than a treadmill. It’s these qualities that make the treadmill so popular. But, choose the wrong treadmill and, at best, your workouts will feel like a chore and at worst you won’t meet your fitness goals. This guide is here to help you choose the right treadmill for your needs.


    Why are treadmills so popular?

    • Treadmills help to burn calories fast with most models offering an incline setting to increase difficulty and calorie burn rate.
    • Treadmills tend to be simple to operate and easy to use
    • Running on a treadmill is much kinder to your joints than pounding a pavement
    • Bad weather won’t get in the way of your training schedule

    With those things in mind let’s consider what you need to think about when trying to choose the right model for you.


    How much space will it take up?

    This is a natural question to ask. Many of us don’t want to dedicate a large amount of space to a treadmill on a permanent basis or don’t want to dedicate a room in the house solely to working out. For this reason, the vast majority home use treadmills fold. Some fold more than others into more compact spaces than others, but virtually all models from all manufacturers will fold and take up considerably less space than when in the running position. Most model have assisted folding mechanisms which make raising and lowering the running deck easy and safe even in you’re not physically particularly big or strong. This means that folding and unfolding a treadmill on a daily basis is hassle-free and it also makes it easier to clean around the machine. While virtually all treadmills feature transport wheels that make it relatively easy to move them around, we’d recommend finding a permanent spot for your new treadmill where space is saved through folding it when you need to, rather than moving it completely.

    In addition to models that fold in the standard way which you’ll find on most examples, some models are designed to fold completely flat either vertically or horizontally (and sometimes both) making them easy to keep out of the way against a wall, in a cupboard or under a sofa or bed. These tend to be compact models which are great for tight spaces but aren’t usually good for marathon or event training which tends to involve more intense, faster running/sprinting workouts. 


    How to choose the right treadmill for your needs

    In order to choose the right treadmill for your needs it’s a good idea to ask yourself the following questions in order to narrow down the selection of models to choose from:


    What kind of action is your treadmill likely to see? - Is it just you running 3 times a week to get your heart rate up a bit, or will there be multiple users training daily for half marathons? Or, do you simply want to walk for a bit each day to improve your overal health?


    What’s the most you want to spend? - It’s easy to keep finding a more expensive model so we’d suggest picking a budget and sticking to it. 

    Where is your treadmill going to live? - Decide where your treadmill is going to be located and take a measurement of the available space .

    If your aim is to walk, power walk or get in a gentle jog each day then a treadmill with a small or medium-sized running deck (see the deck size section below) and a top speed of 7.5mph to 10mph is most likely going to do the job for you. Many of this type of compact treadmill will also feature an incline system of some sort helping you to burn calories faster and will be all you’ll need, saving you both space and money. But, if your aim is to train for an event, or you’re planning on training hard 5 days a week,  you’re probably going to need a larger, more sturdy model with a standard or oversized deck, a max speed of 11mph +, and, an motorised incline system that delivers an incline of 10% or more.

    How much do I need to spend?

    The cost of the majority of home use motorised treadmills falls somewhere from about £350 to around £3000. If you look at models less than £350 then most likely you’ll be looking at fairly lightweight, compact models, some of which will not feature an incline system or will have a manual incline system that requires you to dismount, adjust the incline manually, and then get back onboard. Some models may not feature a motor at all (these rely solely on human power to turn the running belt). Conversely if you look at treadmills over £3000 them most likely you’ll find yourself viewing light-commercial or full commercial models, though this is not necessarily the case. 

    It’s not possible to be exact but generally the following holds true in most cases: 

    £350 - £600 

    Models in this category are generally aimed at single or dual users who will exercise a few times a week to get their heart rate up and want to lose some weight and tone up. They generally tend to be suitable for walking, jogging and light running. They also tend to be smaller in size and more lightweight in construction than pricier models. 

    £600 - £1000 

    Models in this price range tend to be much bulkier and more robust than the previous category. If there are one or two people in the household that will be using the machine regularly, even for more intense types of training involving faster running and sprinting, the lower end of this price point will contain plenty of models to choose from that will be suitable. Towards the upper end of this price range the models tend to be well suited to busy households with multiple users that want to run regularly. 

    £1000 + 

    Treadmills in this price category are generally suitable for intense training sessions with multiple users regularly running. They’ll be good for sprinting and high intensity running and also tend to feature steeper incline levels with some models even offering a decline function in addition to the incline function. Machines at this price point are typically much larger than cheaper models and usually feature oversized decks for added safety and comfort.

    As a rule of thumb, the more expensive the treadmill, the more punishment it will take and the more features it’ll have, with premium models often featuring full-colour touch screens, entertainment systems and Bluetooth connectivity. 


    What size running deck is suitable for me?

    When it comes to running deck sizes, it’s always OK to go larger than you need to. Making sure you don’t go too small is the key. If you do choose a deck that’s too small for your natural stride, you are likely to feel restricted in your movement and going for a run won’t feel great.  

    Deck sizes generally fall into the following categories:

    • Extra Small – any treadmill with a deck width of under 40cm or a length of less than 120cm falls into this category. As a rule of thumb, treadmills with deck sizes this small are usually suitable for indoor walking and jogging but not running or sprinting. 
    • Small – Running area of  width of 40cm (15.75”) and a length of 120cm (47”). This deck size is suitable for walking, jogging and running by runners of any height. Shorter users (up to 155cm / 5ft 1in) will be able to run comfortably and sprint.
    • Medium – Usually these models will have a running area that’s 45cm wide and between 125cm and 130cm in length. These are good for for walking, jogging, running and short sprints.
    • Standard – This is by far the most popular deck size. General they’ll measure around 50cm in width and around 140cm in length. This size of deck is good for users of any height to be able to perform fast runs and sprints comfortably.
    • Oversized - Some models feature a deck with a length of up to 160cm and as much as 56cm in width. These are suitable for all users and all types of running and tend to belong to heavy duty models.

    What training functions do treadmills have?

    Within reason, all home use treadmills have workout programs that you can use to work on your fitness goals. These automated workouts automatically adjust the running speed and/or the incline level (and often both) to change the difficulty of the workout as you go through each stage. These programs will typically be arranged into groups with a specific outcome in mind. There are weight loss programs, cardio programs, endurance programs and so on. The way in which these programs are delivered varies a good deal. Here are the 3 most common ways treadmills do this:

    Traditional Treadmills 

    Traditional treadmills are set up, unsurprisingly, in the traditional way. That is to say that they feature a computer console that has a number of different workouts built into it that work on different aspects of your fitness. You simply scroll through a menu to select the workout you want to perform and once you’ve started your workout there’s a graphical display that shows you where you are in the program as you progress through it. It’s usually possible to make the workout harder or easier as you perform it by adjusting the speed and incline levels manually to give you more control. Traditional treadmills do not need an internet connection to work or for you to access the workouts, it’s all done locally on the running machine. 

    Connected treadmills

    Connected models need an internet connection to access all workouts apart from manual mode where the runner is in complete control of when the treadmill starts and stops and the speed and incline levels are manually controlled. However, to access an automated workout you’ll need a WIFI internet connection in order to stream the workout to your machine. Many (though certainly not all) of these models will have advanced consoles with full-colour touch-screen models being common. Rather than your progress being displayed on a graph like graphic, the streamed workouts come in the form of videos that are led by a personal trainer. Like traditional treadmills the speed and incline levels are controlled by the workout which is synced with the video. Common examples of this type of machine can be found in brands such as Peleton, Proform and NordicTrack. With some models allowing you to expand the number of available workouts by subscribing to services such as iFit which then gives you access to literally thousands of video workouts. 

    Bluetooth connected treadmills

    As with connected treadmills, Bluetooth connected treadmills enable you to connect to online services to stream video workouts to your machine. However, they do this via a 3rd party bit of kit such as a mobile or tablet and an app. Many treadmills of this type feature built-in workouts as with a traditional treadmill with the option of you then expanding those by connecting to a service. Some of these treadmills are tied into a particular service (eg Peleton and iFit) so you can only connect to those services, while other models are compatible with a wide range of 3rd party and stand alone services. Examples of these services are Zwift, KinoMap, and BitGym to name just a few. There are lots of apps out there and naturally some are better than others. Some services are free while others are subscription services. It’s usually a good idea to download apps with free trials if you’re thinking of subscribing so you get to try before you buy.


    What else should I be looking for?

    • Motor size - the drive motor powers the running belt and is the heartbeat of the machine. No motor = no running. Look out for a continuous horsepower rating (CHP) of 1.5 CHP and upwards. The harder you’re planning on using your machine, the larger the motor should be.

    • Speed Range – a 10mph (16kph) top speed is likely to be suitable for most people that simple want to walk or do a light jog however more seasoned runners will likely want a model with a higher top speed. Some models offer speeds of more than 14mph (22.5kph).

    • Incline – Incline levels are generally measured in percentage terms so you’ll often see 10% incline or 15% incline (the latter being steep enough to burst lungs!) though sometimes you’ll see them advertised as levels, eg 15 levels of incline. Levels are not percentages as a general rule.

    • Cushioning – All treadmills feature some type of cushioning system that absorbs the impact of landing on each step making running far less taxing on your joints. Some treadmills are set up to be firmer while others softer. Experienced street runners often prefer a deck that’s a little stiffer, while people with sensitive joints or who are just starting out often prefer softer decks. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s just what works best for you. Regardless of whether set up to be stiffer or softer, all treadmills will significantly reduce the impact on your joints compared with road running.

    • Heart Rate Monitoring – Most treadmills will provide a way for you to track your heart rate. Overwhelmingly, this is either in the form of handpulse sensors which you simply hold to get a reading (not very accurate, a guide only) or a chest belt with wireless receiver which is much more accurate and has the benefit of you not having to hold your hands still while running. Many models feature heart rate control programs which adjust speed and incline based on your heart rate and a chest belt is usually required to make these work properly. If you’re planning on heart rate control training make sure you choose a model that features a built-in wireless heart rate receiver for use with a chest belt.

    • Extra Features – Treadmills often come with a myriad of extra features such as speakers, Bluetooth connections, water bottle holders, touch-screens, cooling fans and so on. These types of features are just an example of the ‘bells and whistles that you can find on treadmills. Whilst nice to have, they are often by no means essential. It’s also worth noting that some manufacturers lean heavily on these features to market their machines, while other manufacturers focus on build-quality so tend to feature fewer of these ‘bells & whistles”. 

    Why buy from Sweatband.com?

    We have been involved in treadmills for more than 20 years and over that time it’s fair to say we’ve learned a few things about what makes a good treadmill. We are actively involved in developing actual product and work closely with other brands providing critical feedback that gets fed into their development process. We work closely with factories that produce treadmills for several brands that we stock to help continuously improve product. The way we work here delivers a number of benefits to our customers:

    • Range - our knowledge of treadmills and the manufacturing process means that we take a lot of care to make sure that the models we sell are high-quality tried and trusted machines. This means that when you buy a treadmill from us, you can be sure it will do what it was designed to do. 
    • Pricing – our buying power means we are ability to source products at lower prices than many other retailers and we make it our business to pass these savings on to our customers meaning you’ll always be buying at a competitive price. 
    • Delivery – All treadmills are heavy, bulky items. Even the compact ‘light ones’. We work with industry specialists to ensure that our treadmills are delivered by trained 2-man delivery crews. By using a specialist delivery network we make sure you’re in the best hands for getting your treadmill safely to you. 
    • We work for you – it’s common for retailers to take an interest until the successful delivery of your treadmill. It’s less common for them to take an interest afterwards where in the event of a problem with your machine you’ll find yourself being re-directed to the manufacturer. In contrast we have a dedicated & fully-trained warranty and after-sales team in place so we are the first point of contact for you. We will raise your case with the supplier brand and hold them to account to ensure that our customers are looked after properly. We’ll do the chasing for you and make sure that any issues you report get resolved.

    What next?

    So, you’re now ready to go and find your treadmill and nothing could be easier. Just click HERE to browse our full range of treadmills. The filters will help you to pick out models that meet your criteria. And if you need any further help just let us know and one of our specialist advisors will be more than happy to answer any questions you have and provide advice to match you up with the right model.

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