Treadmill Buying Guide: How To Feel Sure Choosing

Shopping for a treadmill but have no idea what to look for? There are so many different treadmills, it can be very difficult to select one and pick one that’s right for you. In this article I’ll outline the most important things to look at when selecting a treadmill. 

Which treadmill is right for you depends on your budget, space constraints and which features are necessary. Important features to look at include; top speed, incline, belt size, build quality, warranty conditions and more. 

Below you can find a list of all the factors that are important for choosing a treadmill and some guidance on what to look for specifically. 

Treadmill Buying Factors

Here are the things you should really look at and consider when shopping for a treadmill. These are things that are important for everyone buying a treadmill to think about. 

1. Budget

The first thing you should decide is how much money to spend on a treadmill. They are available in a wide range of prices. For more money you get a better treadmill that is bigger, smoother, has more functions, higher build quality and the company will likely provide beter customer service. 

When looking at all the features, brands and other factors we’ll go into below, it can be easy to think; oh, a little bit more money gets me xxx extra. Or at least I tend to fall into that trap if I don’t set a hard budget for something. 

Set a realistic budget that gets you the best you can comfortably afford but doesn’t put a huge strain on your finances. At the bottom end, expect to pay about $600 for one while on the other end you can pay $6000+. There are treadmills available under $600 but I can’t really recommend any of them. 

Most people are best off with a treadmill that costs between $800 and $2500. That’s still a pretty wide range but you can find models that are good value for money and just good all around in that price range. Of course towards the upper end of the price range you’ll get higher build quality, a smoother ride, more features, etc. 

Commercial grade treadmills like you would see in a good gym cost $4000+. 

Also read: How much does a treadmill cost & How much should you spend?

2. Size and Available Space

How much space do you have available in the spot you’ve got in mind? Treadmills can differ in size quite a bit and if your space is a bit tight, getting a large model could mean it doesn’t fit in there. 

So measuring how much space you have available as well as keeping an eye on the dimensions of the treadmill you intend to buy is a very good idea. Also keep in mind that you need a little bit of space around the treadmill for comfort and so it doesn’t rub on anything. 

Also read this article on the best spot to put a treadmill at home.

3. Belt Size

Besides the outside dimensions of a treadmill, the belt size is also important but for a different reason. The size of the belt dictates what you can use the treadmill for and if you fit on it. Of course bigger people need wider belts and taller people need longer belts. And also, for running you need a longer belt than walking.

A treadmill with 20” by 60” belt is suitable for walking and running for most people around the average weight and height. Read this article for more information on treadmill belt sizes.

4. Cushioning

Cushioning on a treadmill is how much the deck flexes when your foot hits it. Good damping reduces the impact on your joints. This is great for people with ankle, hip and especially knee issues but it can also prevent injuries in the first place. 

Cushioning is usually done by having slightly pliable materials connecting the deck to the frame. Higher end models tend to have better cushioning which results in a smoother, more comfortable workout. 

Even with good cushioning, wearing good running shoes is still important since they are also responsible for a large part of reducing the impact on your joints. 

By the way, the type of mat you put under the treadmill can also provide a little bit of damping. Especially compared with a concrete, tile or wooden floor this can help improve the damping a bit. 

5. Speed

How fast do you want to be able to run on your treadmill? If all you do is walking and light jogging, don’t worry about it, pretty much all treadmills can handle that. However, if you like running and especially sprinting (although sprint training on a treadmill isn’t great), keep an eye on the top speed of the treadmill you want to buy. 

Just for reference; a 5 minute mile means you have an average speed of 12 miles per hour. So for casual jogging and running, a treadmill with a 12 MPH top speed is more than enough. Even 10 MPH is plenty fast for the majority of people. 

If you’re a very serious runner, you might need more than 12 Mph but if you’re at that level, you likely already know what you need anyways. You can find the treadmills with highest top speeds here.

6. Motor HP

Closely related to the top speed of a treadmill is the motor power. Just like in a car, a more powerful motor can maintain higher speeds easier. They also have more power reserves to keep the belt running smoothly. 

If you’re a heavier person and/or like to run fast, you’ll need more power. For more in-depth information about motor HP and what you need, read this article.

If the motor of a treadmill is underpowered for what you’re trying to do, it will run hotter and this combined with the extra stress will cause it to fail sooner. Also, the movement of the belt won’t be as smooth with a low powered motor. 

The impact of the foot on the belt tries to slow the belt down. The motor has to suddenly provide a spike of power to keep the belt running at the same speed. If there is not enough power in reserve this will lead to a short slowdown of the belt which will feel as a ‘jerky’ motion which is not comfortable. 

Of course higher powered motors do come at a cost. On average treadmills with more powerful motors will be more expensive and their potential electricity usage is higher as wel. However, in some cases it’s just necessary to have more power. 

7. Incline

One of the most important features of a treadmill is the incline setting. And especially a power incline that’s adjustable from the console. (Some treadmills have to be manually adjusted which is a pain). In fact, it’s often recommended to always use a 1%-2% incline on a treadmill to match the energy expenditure of what it would cost to run outside. 

Suggested: Affordable Treadmills With a Power Incline.

Incline settings can also make your workouts much more varied, difficult and helps target different muscles. Aside from having power incline, the maximum angle is an important factor. Most treadmills have a maximum incline of 10%-15%. What’s enough depends on your training style of course. Cheaper treadmills usually top out at 10%-12%. 12% is enough for the vast majority of people but advanced runners that are practicing could get some use out of steeper inclines.

Watch out: Sometimes the maximum incline is listed in degrees while other times it’s as a percentage, those are not the same. A 100% incline is 45 degrees. 

8. Weight limit 

If you’re a bigger person, take a look at the user weight limit of a treadmill. Many treadmills have a 250 lbs. weight limit but there are also many that can handle more. There is usually a smal safety margin in there but you can’t really count on that to be really there. 

Overloading a treadmill can damage the frame and put extra stress on the deck, rollers and motor it’s not made for which can wear them out quicker.

In general, treadmills with a higher user weight limit cost more but in the long run you’ll pay less in maintenance and repairs so it’s likely worth the extra money. 

To find some good treadmills with a high user weight limit, click here.

9. Handles

Most but not all treadmills have handles next to the bar. These are pretty much always good to have whether you need to hold something for balance or just in general. They’re not in the way (if you get a treadmill with a belt that’s wide enough) so they don’t negatively impact your workout.

Treadmills that have a folding deck are the ones which are often missing the handles so you might have to make a choice there. Most treadmills with a folding deck still have some handles but they’re much shorter. So if you really need the full length ones for rehabilitation for example, going for a non-folding treadmill is likely a better choice. 

10. Quality 

Quality is hard to asses for most people and can be described in different ways. Some people view quality as something that feels and works well when new. But for most people, that has to be combined with longevity.

Especially the longevity is hard to guess since models change and specific models could have specific faults that its predecessor doesn’t have. However, there are some things you can do to get an idea of the quality of a treadmill. 

Here are some ideas to get a good impression of which treadmills (brands) are good and which aren’t:

  • Read reviews.
  • Go see and touch it in real life.
  • Call a local company that repairs treadmills and ask them what they recommend. 
  • Check the second hand market. Brands that retain value are likely better.
  • Go for a brand that’s well-known and established.  

None of those are guarantees that the treadmill you buy is of high quality but if you follow a few of the points above, your chances of picking a good one go up a lot. Since models change quite often, you’ll likely decide on a brand that works for you instead of a specific models. 

Of course regular maintenance also plays a big role in how long a treadmill lasts. If you’re not sure how to maintain a treadmill, click here to find out.

11. Warranty

Something related to the quality of a treadmill is the warranty. There are big differences in warranty conditions and especially the duration of that warranty. Some only cover the frame for 2 years and other parts for 1 year while other brands offer a lifetime warranty on those parts. That difference is very important and a good warranty can give you a lot of peace of mind. 

The warranty conditions are largely dependent on the brand but often more expensive models come with better warranties. Going for a warranty that’s at least 5 years on frame and motor is advisable. Also read the fine print of what is and what isn’t covered sometimes there can be hidden exclusions for things that break often. 

Also read: Which treadmill comes with the best warranty?

12. Features 

Besides speed, motor power and incline (which are the most important features IMHO), treadmills can have plenty of other features. Some of which are pretty cool while others are useless to me but they could be useful to other people. 

Here is a list of possible features on a treadmill. You can decide if they’re necessary and important to you: 

  • Display: Displays on a treadmill go from digital 80’s Casio to large HD touchscreens. You want to be able to monitor at least: Speed, duration, incline. 
  • Heart rate monitor: Many treadmills come with a buit in heart rate monitor. In my opinion this is a useless option since you have to hold the metal pads for the machine to measure which is not practical while running. Also, they aren’t accurate at all in my experience. Nowadays there are cheap fitness wearables that do a much better job. So for that reason, Bluetooth connectivity is much more useful. 
  • Bluetooth connectivity: For linking fitness trackers and sometimes for audio.
  • USB charging port: Charge your device while working out.
  • Speakers: Listen to music, watch a video or follow an online workout without the need for headphones or external speakers. 
  • Phone/tablet holder: A place to put your device.
  • Fan: A little fan that blows air to your face to keep you cool.
  • Digital (streaming) workout subscription: Some treadmill companies have their own online workouts. However, you can also get that kind of subscription on your phone/tablet so in most cases this isn’t something to select for.
  • Built in workouts: Just running at a single speed is OK but there are benefits to varying speeds and inclines. Built in workouts do this for you without having to push a button after starting them. 
  • Custom programmable workouts: At some point you might want to have a more varied workout but don’t want to follow something pre-programmed. The option to create your own is nice to have. Being able to save your own workout also helps with tracking progression. 
  • Bottle holder: For a water bottle. 

For me personally, a bottle holder, bluetooth connectivity, custom workouts and a phone holder are the most important. Other features can be nice but I probably won’t use them all that often however, a bigger (touch)screen makes making custom workouts a lot easier. 

By the way, treadmills, especially the ones with many features have a lot of electronics. Click here to find out how to protect the.

13. Deck Height

One final thing to look at is the deck or step up height. This is how high the belt is from the floor. This is important for two reasons:

A lower deck height is easier to step on. If you’re a little less mobile or have certain issues this can mean the difference between being able to get on the mill and not. Obviously the best treadmill is the one you use so if this is a concern, keep it in mind. However, for most people that are able to walk and run, even a high step up height is not a problem. 

Suggested: 6 Best Treadmills With Low Deck Height.

The other reason is for people with low ceilings. If the ceiling is low, for example in a basement or attic, a low deck height can mean the difference between hitting your head or not. Even if you can stand on the treadmill without hitting your head, keep in mind that while running, you push off the belt and get actually a bit higher than when standing. 

Also, using the incline setting will push you even higher. If your ceilings are under 8’ tall, it’s worth reading this article. 


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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