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Best treadmills 2020: Plus the top folding treadmills for exercising at home

Best treadmills 2020: Plus the top folding treadmills for exercising at home
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’re looking to run indoors, one of the best treadmills for home exercise will see you right. There are a number of things to look for when buying a home treadmill, starting with whether it folds away after use. This is an important feature if you only have a small space for home gym equipment. Luckily, there are plenty of folding running machines to pick from and they don’t have to cost the earth either.

You can use home treadmills for hiking and incline workouts as well for walking, jogging and running. If you want to get fit with interval training, the best treadmill for you will have a longer deck length. That’s because you’ll need a surface area where you can really stretch out your legs. Plenty of home treadmills will also monitor your heart rate, calories burned and distance covered during your workout. This is a feature worth considering if you don’t own one of the best fitness trackers

We tested five of the best treadmills for home use, from top fitness brands including Bowflex, NordicTrack and ProForm. We also consulted a treadmill expert from LifeSpan Fitness, and looked at hundreds of running machine user reviews to bring you our independent best treadmills guide.

Our promise to you

If you’re unsure where to begin with your running machine search, let your budget lead the way. After all, the cost of the best treadmills for home exercise varies wildly, though you can often pick up a cheap treadmill for around $500. Bowflex is a popular running machine brand, along with NordicTrack. Both make some of the world’s best exercise bikes, as well as versatile elliptical machines for full-body workouts.

We’ve seen a huge spike in the sale of home treadmills since the coronavirus pandemic began, and there was a shortage of running machines a few months ago as people rushed to snap up home exercise equipment following gym closures. We've also seen the arrival of a number of new treadmills, including the Echelon Stride folding treadmill, and the Mobvoi Home, a cheap treadmill for just $450. Ready to find yours? Then let’s take a look at the best treadmills for home now… 


Best treadmills: Our top three picks

What the experts say

Best treadmills: Two people take part in cardio exercise using treadmills for home workouts

(Image credit: Getty)

"Purchasing a new treadmill can be likened to purchasing a car,” says Pete Schenk, President of LifeSpan Fitness. “You should purchase one based on the treadmill's capabilities, first and foremost. Whatever attractive features are built in should be viewed as a bonus.”

Schenk also says that many first-time buyers are initially swayed by a cool feature or two, but are often disappointed when the treadmill needs repairs only a few months down the road. 

“While budget models may look attractive from a price standpoint and may work for a very casual user, an owner will likely run it into the ground within a year or two with moderate to heavy use,” says Schenk.

Working out your budget is important so that you can buy the best treadmill you can afford, rather than just opting for the cheapest. While cheap treadmills with a good build quality do exist, you normally get what you pay for in terms of materials, durability and warranty.

Best treadmill for home overall

Best treadmills: NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill for home

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Home Treadmill

Best treadmill for a gym-level performance at home

Dimensions: 72.25L X 34W X 61H" | Weight: 110kg | Tread belt size: 22x60" | Max user weight: 135kg (21.2 stone) | Display: 10-inch HD Touch Screen Display | Features: Low Impact Cushion, Bluetooth Compatible Dual 3-Inch Speakers, Dual AutoBreeze Workout Fans | Speed: 0-22km/h | Incline: -3%-15% Digital Incline control | Warranty: Lifetime frame warranty, 10-year motor warranty, two-year parts and labour

16,000+ on demand workouts
Low Impact Cushion reduces strain
Built-in tablet holder
Heavy

The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill is a stunning gym-grade running machine for your home, and is consistently among the best rated treadmills in the world. It’s quiet in use and loaded with features to help you develop as a runner, or to progress in your running if you’re a seasoned runner. 

The treadmill comes with a one year’s free membership to iFit Family, which enables you to create profiles for up to four users. iFit Family gives you access to over 16,000 on-demand fitness classes with some of the fitness world’s most popular running coaches and personal trainers. 

The membership is worth $468, so it’s a great extra to have when first buying the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill. iFit Family membership costs $33 a month outside of the free trial period, or $15 for iFit Individual.

What the users say

The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 scores 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon from 1,122 reviews. Many existing customers love the treadmill itself, and how great it is to walk and run on. Others complain that it's very heavy to move around during initial setup, and how you need to hand over your credit card details to take up the free iFit Family subscription, even though you won't be charged.

If you don’t fancy continuing with the iFit membership once your free year’s subscription has ended, use the treadmill in manual mode and devise your own walking or running workouts. Or, to mix up your home exercise routine, use any of the the 38 built-in workout programs.

The treadmill itself is pretty much faultless. The Commercial 1750 is well made and durable, which means it's also heavy, so don’t think about trying to move it around your home unless you have fitted the wheels (rollers) first.

NordicTrack has designed this home treadmill to accommodate a maximum user weight of 300lbs, and have fitted it with adjustable FlexSelect deck cushioning to reduce impact on your ankles and knees as you run. For interval training, there’s digital incline control (-3 decline to -15% incline), plus speeds of up to 12mph.

Like other models in our best treadmills guide, the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 has an EKG grip pulse, and tracks time, speed, distance covered and calories burned during each walking or running workout.  

While the HD touchscreen is relatively small compared to the overall size of the treadmill, the display is clear and easy to view, with two built-in speakers enabling you to exercise along with your favorite workouts. To keep you comfortable while exercising, the Commercial 1750 will blast you with a dual AutoBreeze fan.

Best cheap treadmill

Best treadmills: LifeSpan TR4000i Folding Treadmill for home

(Image credit: LifeSpan)

LifeSpan TR4000i Folding Treadmill

Best treadmill for home on a budget

Dimensions: 73L x 34.5W x 55.5"H (Folded: 40.5L x 34.5 W x 65.5"H) | Weight: 239.5lbs | Tread belt size: 22x60 inches | Max user weight: 350lbs | Display: 7-inch color touchscreen | Features: Contact heart rate sensors, built-in Bluetooth speakers | Speeds: 0.5-12mph | Incline: Two decline levels, 13 incline levels | Warranty: Lifetime frame and motor warranty, five-year parts warranty, two-year labor warranty

Easy to assemble
Has a patented auto-pause safety feature
Not as sturdy as others during sprints
User interface isn’t intuitive

The LifeSpan TR4000i Folding Treadmill enables you to get in walking and running workouts at home whenever you want. The running surface measures 22x60 inches, which is a standard size among most models in our best treadmills guide. There’s also a six-inch color touchscreen display, though it isn’t as high-res as the displays on the more expensive models. 

The LifeSpan TR4000i treadmill utilizes eight compression shocks to reduce vibration as you run. In theory this should reduce impact on your ankles, knees and other joints, as well as helping to keep the noise down as you run on the treadmill. This is vital if you plan on keeping the treadmill in an upstairs bedroom, or if you live in an apartment above another person.

What the users say

The LifeSpan TR4000i Folding Treadmill scores a 4.5 stars out of 5 on LifeSpan's site, and 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Existing customers praised the treadmill for being sturdy and quiet in use, and how easy it is to assemble. Bluetooth connectivity seems to a be a mixed bag, with some customers experiencing no issues, and others having trouble syncing various fitness devices to the treadmill. Another user complained that customer support was patchy, and that the belt seemed to slip on occasion, but overall users seem pleased with the treadmill for the price.

LifeSpan has also designed the TR4000i Folding Treadmill with integrated Bluetooth so that you can sync the running machine with your phone to listen to music or a podcast. Of course you could skip that and use your favorite workout headphones instead. 

There are 21 preprogrammed workouts for weight management, healthy living and sports training, plus contact heart rate sensors. The console readouts give you nine points of workout data, including calories burned, distance covered, number of steps, pace and elevation change.

The max user weight is 350lbs, while the treadmill itself weighs just under 240lbs. An EZfold hydraulic folding system plus four mounted wheels makes for easier folding, moving and storage. We also like the three-speed cooling fan, and how if you step off the deck for more than 20 seconds, the belt automatically pauses for safety reasons.

Best treadmill for features

Best treadmills: Bowflex BXT216 treadmill for home

(Image credit: Bowflex)

Bowflex BXT216 Home Treadmill

Best treadmill for heavier users

Dimensions: 84.5(L) x 38.5(W) x 54.7(H)" | Tread belt size: 22x60" | Max user weight: 400lbs | Display: 9-inch color LCD screen | Features: 11 built-in workouts, | Speeds: 0-12mph | Incline: 0-15% | Warranty: 15-year frame and drive warranty, five-year motor and mechanical, two-year parts, electronics and labor

Supports users of up to 400lbs
ComfortTech deck reduces impact
Folding treadmill design
Belt can be tricky to adjust

The Bowflex BXT216 Treadmill looks and acts like a gym-grade cardio machine, but is priced for home use instead. It's one of the best treadmills for hitting that sweet spot between generous features and a more affordable price tag, and is built by one of the biggest names in home exercise equipment.

The running surface is the same as the LifeSpan and NordicTrack models, measuring 22x60 inches, and the treadmill uses a hydraulic system to make folding and unfolding easier. While we're not mad about the nine-inch color LCD display, we're pleased to see a media rack, within which you can dock your tablet.

What the users say

The Bowflex BXT216 scores 4.6 stars out of 5 on Amazon with over 200 ratings. 67% of reviews are five-star, while 17% are four-star, so the overall user experience is very positive. Existing customers praise the easy and fast setup, and how well the cushioned deck absorbs sound. They also praised how smooth it runs, and that the fan can be programmed for different speeds. Critical reviews complained that the belt stopped working within the first year, and that the built-in speakers are patchy. Less favorable reviews are in the minority on this machine.

The one-touch speed and incline adjustments are super-easy to use, so you won't have to slow down to fiddle around with any incline levels. We also like how the Bowflex BXT216 supports users of up to 400lbs, rather than the standard 300lbs found on many other treadmills. 

This is important because many treadmill brands recommend choosing a running machine than can support 50lbs over your body weight in order to avoid running the treadmill belt into the ground.

Overall, the Bowflex BXT216 is a powerful treadmill for home use, and offers enough to tempt serious runners as well as small families all looking to use the same treadmill - it can be programmed for up to four individual users. 

Wireless heart rate monitoring is here, and the BXT216 will also display your calories burned, distance covered, steps taken and elevation. You'll find these metrics on the Burn Rate console. We also liked the cushioned side rails and variable response deck cushioning, which not only reduced impact and the sound our our feet hitting the deck, but also produced a more realistic run feel. 

Best treadmill for guided workouts

Best treadmills: NordicTrack Commercial 2950 Treadmill for home

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

NordicTrack Commercial 2950 Treadmill

Best treadmill for guided workouts and GoogleMaps runs

Dimensions: 66.9H x 39.3W x 78.3D" (Folded 74.8H x 39.3W x 36.6D") | Weight: 315lbs | Tread belt size: 22x60" | Max user weight: 297lbs | Display: 21.5-inch HD touchscreen | Features: Year's free iFit subscription, Runners Flex Cushioning, | Speeds: 0-12mph | Incline: -3-15% | Warranty: Lifetime frame warranty, ten-year motor warranty, two-year parts and labor warranty

21.5-inch HD touchscreen
16,000+ workouts on demand
Expensive
Heavy

The NordicTrack Commercial 2950 Treadmill has 40 onboard workouts, so there's plenty here to keep you occupied right out of the box. The treadmill comes with a year's free iFit Family membership, enabling you to stream over 16,000 studio level exercise classes in your own home.

You can also virtually run anywhere in the world with GoogleMaps, and get real-time performance stat tracking to see how hard you're working during each of your runs (or walking workouts). The Commercial 2950 Treadmill for home use has pulse grips to monitor your heart rate, and also comes with a wireless chest strap for more accurate heart rate tracking. 

The 21.5-inch HD touchscreen is one the most impressive treadmill displays we’ve seen, but it doesn't beat the newly announced Peloton Tread. Watching guided workouts on this display is so easy, and the screen is big enough that you can follow along with mat-based workouts, including yoga, when away from the treadmill.

What the users say

The NordicTrack Commercial 2950 with iFit has over 1,900 workout reviews on the brand's website, averaging 4.8 stars out of 5 on NordicTrack. It has over 1,100 reviews with an average score of 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Users rated the high build quality of the treadmill but complained about the cost of an iFit subscription after the trial period is over. It's worth noting that you can use the treadmill in manual mode if you don't want to use iFit. While some said its just too heavy, others praised how smooth and responsive it is to run upon.

The NordicTrack Commercial 2950 Treadmill a 4.25 continuous-duty horsepower motor, which is very powerful for a home treadmill, and has a running surface that's the same size as the Bowflex BXT216 and the NordicTrack Commercial 1750. The maximum speed is a standard 12mph, and you can adjust the incline and decline for a varied or more challenging workout. 

The Commercial 2950 is by far the heaviest running machine in our best treadmills guide, so you won't be moving it around too often once it's installed in your home gym space. It does have a hydraulic shock mechanism to help you fold it away, though this treadmill is so stunning, we'd leave it out constantly. 

The Commercial 2950 also has an integrated accessory tray, dual workout fans to keep you cool as you exercise, and digitally amplified speakers so that you can loose yourself in the soundtracked workouts on offer via iFit and the Commercial 2950 itself.

Best treadmill for training

Best treadmills: ProForm Smart Pro 9000 Treadmill

(Image credit: ProForm)

ProForm Smart Pro 9000 Home Treadmill

Best treadmill for interval training at home

Dimensions: 77L x 39W x 70H” | Tread belt size: 22x60" | Max user weight: 300lbs | Display: 10-inch HD touchscreen | Features: Folding treadmill design, built-in speakers, 40 built-in workouts | Speeds: 0-12% | Incline: -3-15% | Warranty: 10-year frame warranty, two-year parts warranty, one-year labor warranty

Automatic incline and decline
Cushioning reduces impact by 28%
Built-in heart rate monitoring
Slow customer service

The ProForm Smart Pro 9000 Treadmill is great for interval training because it has deck cushioning with an air compression chamber designed to minimize impact on your hips, ankles, knees and feet when you switch between sprinting and running.

The treadmill also has balanced 2.5-inch rollers and is built to be stable and sturdy enough for full-pelt sprints. The SmartPRO 9000 has a 4.0 continuous-drive horsepower motor built to work hard without overheating - that's powerful for a treadmill for the home. 

It also has a 22x60-inch running deck, as with four of the other models in our best treadmills guide, and provides you with automatic incline and decline control depending on the workout you're doing. ProForm describes the tread belt as maintenance-free, though we didn't test the machine for long enough to know if that's the case longterm. 

What the users say

The ProForm Smart Pro 9000 Treadmill has 113 reviews averaging 3.9 stars out of 5 on Target, and five reviews averaging 4.6 stars out of 5 on Walmart. Positive reviews praised the cushioned running deck, there to reduce impact, and the ample space for getting in longer strides when running and sprinting. The less favorable reviews, while in the minority, mentioned issues with Bluetooth connectivity, and how ProForm's customer service was poor. The reviews are mostly positive though, with users saying this is a good treadmill for home use.

Like the NordicTrack Commercial 2950 Treadmill above, this ProForm treadmill has 40 onboard workouts. Unlike the NordicTrack, the Smart Pro 9000 won't cost you the earth. However, you also don't get that glorious 21.5-inch HD touchscreen display as you do on the NordicTrack.

The ProForm Smart Pro 9000 Treadmill sports two EKG hand-grip sensors, plus it comes with a wireless chest strap to accurately track your heart rate during each workout. 

The ten-inch HD touchscreen display feels somewhat small compared to the giant NordicTrack offering, but it's actually fractionally larger than most standard treadmill display sizes. Overall, this is a great choice if you want a treadmill for home use but don't want to spend a crazy amount to buy one.

Home treadmill buying advice

How much do the best treadmills for home cost?

Treadmill price points are driven by many factors. These include the quality of the materials and the design components, the type and size of the treadmill's display, and the features it has on offer (such as built-in speakers and onboard workouts). 

If you want to get the most out of a treadmill, you’ll want to consider the size of its running surface, the quality of its belt, the cushioning of its deck, and the power of the motor. It’s also important to determine how many people in your household will use the running machine, how intensely each person exercises, and whether you need in-depth fitness tracking from the machine.

If the stability of the machine is what matters most to you, you might not need to spend additional money on an upgraded console. However, if connectivity is your priority, you'll have to pay more for a larger display and Bluetooth connectivity. 

Investing in the best treadmill you can afford right from the start may save you repair and replacement headaches in the future. You can can expect to pay anywhere from $700 upwards for a good treadmill, though real top-flight running machines can cost thousands. 

These come with lifetime warranties though, so over time they do become more cost-effective than a cheaper treadmill with a small warranty and that constantly needs replacing.

Can you lose weight on a treadmill?

In short, yes, treadmills are a great choice of cardio machine to help you lose weight but only as part of a varied exercise plan that involves both cardio and weight based training, and only if you adhere to eating a healthy diet too. 

For the average person, you will need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories a week to lose one pound of fat. A 30 minute run won’t come close to this, but it will chip it away at your calorie deficit if you are lowering your calorie intake with food too. Just make sure you are doing it sensibly and healthily, and still getting your five-a-day and drinking plenty of water. 

Here are some treadmill exercises to help you achieve different health and fitness goals...

Lose weight
If you’re looking to lose weight, you should use interval workouts. Warm up, and then move to a brisk walking pace for around two minutes. Then, run as fast and as hard as you can for roughly double that time. Repeat this process several times, but always listen to what your body tells you, and slow down when needed.

Build muscle
Use the treadmill’s incline function for an interval workout. Run on a flat surface (0 degrees) before raising the incline to a level where you feel challenged but still comfortable; this will really work your hamstrings. For fast results, alternate between running on a flat surface and at an incline.

Increase endurance
Endurance training is an important part of running for a long time, as in a marathon. On a treadmill, start with a jog for a little less than a mile, and then increase your speed to a full sprint. When you need to slow down, start jogging again to cool down. Continue alternating as long as you can.

Best treadmills: A woman runs on a treadmill in her own home

(Image credit: Getty)

Choosing the best treadmill for you

Picking the best treadmill for your home involves many different factors, including the space available in your home gym, how much budget you have to spend on a new running machine, and how many people in your home will be using it. 

Running surface
When buying a treadmill, don't pick anything with a running surface that measures less than 20x60 inches. A wider and longer running surface is much more comfortable, especially if there's any impact-reduction cushioning to reduce stress on your joints.

Motor power and speed
While the horsepower is important (most treadmills average 3-4), the key factor here is the continuous speed provided. If a treadmill will only achieve your average pace, you’ll quickly end up burning the motor out. Most treadmills have a top speed of 12mph, which is ample for most people.

Incline/decline
To mimic ascents and descents, choose a treadmill with a decline and incline function. Declines are good for feeling as though you are running or walking downhill at pace, while inclines help you feel as though you are climbing. A good range is -3-15%.

Control panel (console)
This is another important factor, with some of the best treadmills for home use offering large, full-color touchscreen displays, giving you swift access to a range of onboard workout and training modes. Some even offer interactive training via GoogleMaps, via which you can virtually run anywhere in the world, with the treadmill replicating the terrain to a point (provided you have an incline mode).  

Best treadmills: A woman walks on a treadmill to keep fit

(Image credit: ShutterStock)

What safety features should your treadmill have?

It’s important to make sure the treadmill you buy has an automatic shut off feature. This means the treadmill will stop running if you lose your footing or need to stop your workout for an emergency.

The automatic shutoff feature on most treadmills is controlled with a small plastic key. In order for the machine to run, the key has to be inserted in a slot on the front of the treadmill, usually toward the bottom and under any kind of interactive screen. 

The key’s location is important because you’ll be able to grab the string and stop the machine if you fall forward. When installing it, make sure you leave enough loose string hanging to get your hand around.

Even with a safety key, make sure there is plenty of open space around your treadmill. If your treadmill randomly shuts off for no apparent reason, this is unrelated to the safety features and usually means there is a problem with the treadmill's belt not being able to move smoothly.

Some of the best treadmills also have an automatic pause function. This means if you step off the treadmill for a given period of time (usually less than a minute) the machine will pause the belt.

How to clean a treadmill to help it run better

Like any piece of home exercise equipment, it’s important to keep your treadmill clean and working properly. Start small with daily cleanings. This can involve cleaning down the treadmill after each use to prevent moisture and bacteria buildup on the handrails and controls. 

Make sure it's running centered without any snags, and listen for any scraping sounds. You should also vacuum the area around the treadmill, as if dirt and dust builds up on the floor, it could migrate to the delicate mechanical parts at the base of the machine and cause problems. 

Every month, double check the bolts, and make sure the treadmill frame is still secure. If you notice any strange noises or the machine feels shaky when you run, stop immediately and check the bolts again.

For the best treadmills, large scale maintenance only needs to happen once a year. We recommend vacuuming the motor compartment carefully to remove any built-up dust and grime. You should also lubricate your treadmill once a year to keep it running smoothly – consult your manual if needed for how to do this.

If the electrical components start glitching, take advantage of your parts warranty and call the manufacturer to service it and make any repairs as needed.

Treadmill glossary

  • Alternating current (AC) motor – powerful motors most commonly found on commercial grade treadmills, though some top-end home treadmills also use them.
  • Accessory tray – where you can place certain small objects such as your phone, headphones and water bottle (if the treadmill does not have a water bottle holder).
  • Belt – the treadmill belt. This is what drives the treadmill and is also the surface you run and walk on.
  • Console – the display upon which you’ll see various fitness metrics such as calories burned, distance covered, and elevation.
  • Cooling fan – a fan or fans built into the treadmill to cool you down during exercise. You often find these on mid to high priced treadmills.
  • CHP – Continuous duty horsepower, with the number indicating the amount of power a motor generates. Most home treadmills’ CHP is 3.0 to 4.0.
  • DC motor – Direct current motor, commonly found on treadmills for home use. These run via a constant power source.
  • Deck – the running surface of the treadmill (also known as the belt). Deck sizes vary, but all of the decks featured in our best treadmills guide are 20x66-inches or larger.
  • Decline – often displayed as a percentage, and indicates the point to which a treadmill will descend to create the sensation of running downhill.
  • Drive train – a mechanical system transmitting power from one place to another, and comprising a drive belt, motor and rollers.
  • Handrail – one on either side of the treadmill, these are the places where you hold onto the treadmill to steady yourself when transitioning between running and walking, or stopping.
  • Heart rate monitor – built-in sensors, usually in the handrails, to monitor your heart-rate as you workout on the treadmill.
  • iFit – a digital exercise program found on many treadmills and exercise bikes. You usually get the first year’s membership for free, giving you access to a variety of workouts.
  • Incline – often displayed as a percentage, and indicates the point to which a treadmill will increase vertically to create the sensation of climbing or running up a hill.
  • LCD screen – Liquid Crystal Display, commonly found on cheaper treadmills.
  • Media stand – while some treadmills have built-in displays, others have a media stand so that you can safely insert your tablet to watch along with workout videos.
  • Power switch – the main on/off button for the treadmill.
  • Pulse grips – usually found on treadmills with heart rate monitoring, these grips have built-in sensors to measure then produce a readout (on the console) of your beats per minute.
  • Safety key – a device designed to stop the treadmill instantly if you stumble or fall.
  • Speaker system – built-in speakers through which you can play music or listen to the exercise video you are playing through the treadmill or your mounted tablet.
  • Tracking – keeps the belt centered on the treadmill. 

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