Bad weather, busy schedules, overcrowded trails, and COVID-19 are all real hurdles that keep a runner from getting outside for their daily runs. That’s when it’s helpful to have one of the latest home treadmills, which offer many workout programs and entertainment features to keep you motivated and moving. Running inside might not bring the same rush as getting outdoors, but you can’t beat the convenience and safety of jumping on a good machine in your own basement or garage, especially during times of social distancing.
Best Treadmills for Runners
- For The Virtual Runner: NordicTrack Commercial 1750
- Bargain Pick: Horizon 7.0 AT
- Amazon Steal: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7603
- Cheap Coaching: Pro-Form Carbon T7
- Best For Runners Who Love Simplicity: Sole F80
- The Space Saver: LifeSpan TR5500i
- Best For Walkers: Pro-Form City L6
The treadmills on this list are all typically best suited for light home use—perfect for somebody just getting started running or for occasional use when you can’t otherwise run outdoors. But if you plan to put in more miles and use it regularly in training—or share it with multiple runners in your family—then check out our guide to premium treadmills. Those models, which typically cost more than $2,000, have sturdier construction that withstands heavier use, plus advanced training features and interactive screens that make long runs more enjoyable.
Why Run on a Treadmill at All
Why would you want to get a treadmill for your home or climb onto one in a gym when you can just run outside? Well, there are several key benefits.
Treadmills are safe and convenient
Treadmill sales skyrocketed a year ago, when the world went on lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. During the stay-home period, there’s no safer way to get your workout in than from the comfort of your own house or apartment. Plus, you don’t have to deal with rain or muddy surfaces.
You can better simulate your race
If you live in a flat region but have a hilly race coming up, a treadmill can help you mimic the course by adjusting the machine’s incline setting. Some newer treadmills even allow you to preload real course profiles and will automatically adjust up and down to follow the incline. (Some with larger screens even show the entire route as a course preview.)
It may help your form
Some research shows that runners have reduced stride lengths and higher stride frequencies (turnover) on a treadmill as compared with ground running. You could also use the treadmill on speed workouts to hit intended time goals, since you have no choice but to run at the speed that you’ve punched into the machine. (Just be safe and attach the key to your clothing so that if you slip the treadmill will stop automatically.)
Five Things to Know Before You Bring Home a Treadmill
Even a light-duty folding treadmill is a very large piece of equipment—one that isn't going to go unnoticed in the corner of your living room. While most can be tipped and rolled by one person, actually setting one up or moving it to another room (or floor) of your home can be a real challenge. So we spoke with Ed Pryts, Chief Sales Officer at Gym Source, who has been selling treadmills for over 30 years, to learn the most important considerations before you purchase a new treadmill for your home. (And once you have a treadmill, check out these great workouts that help you increase speed, build strength, and burn fat.)
- Check your ceiling clearance by adding 15 inches to your body height. So, if you are 6'0", you need at least a 7'3" ceiling. Behind the treadmill there should be at least three feet of unobstructed space.
- Make sure all four contact points of the treadmill are solidly on the floor and that the floor is stable. Positioning a treadmill close to a wall can increase stability.
- If there’s another apartment or bedroom below the treadmill’s room, adding a treadmill mat will significantly deaden the transmitted noise in these situations.
- If you’re moving a treadmill into a basement or smaller room, hire experts. But if you insist on DIY, move and install the deck first, followed by the uprights and console. Either way, check the dimensions of the base and make sure you have clearance for tight corners.
- If possible, dedicate an electrical circuit to the treadmill. Additional appliances plugged into that circuit can lead to a power overload and an inadvertent shutdown.
And once you have a treadmill, check out these great workouts that help you increase speed, build strength, and burn fat.
How We Tested
Every treadmill on this list has been thoroughly evaluated and tested by our team of editors. We research the market, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience running on treadmills for extended sessions in our offices in Pennsylvania to determine the best options. And, during the pandemic, we continued to test the available models by having them set up at the homes of our test editors and staff, so we could live with and use them full-time, just as you will when you purchase one. Our team of experienced testers skipped their daily runs outdoors to spend many hours assessing all the features of these machines. We’ve done easy runs while listening to music, long runs watching movies, and even workouts to test the machines’ interactive and studio class functions. We evaluated them on performance, price, comfort, durability, value, reliability, and fun factor to come up with this list of treadmills that will best serve your needs when you can’t get outside.
—FOR THE VIRTUAL TRAVELER—
NordicTrack Commercial 1750
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: 3% | Programs: 38 | Motor: 3.8 HP
When it comes to bang for your buck, the 1750 has always been hard to beat. The newest iteration is even better, with a faster touchscreen console and a quieter, faster incline motor. It still features all of the convenience options you find on NordicTrack machines—like quick keys to jump to a particular speed or incline with a single tap. “They let me adjust speed instead of pounding the arrows while at times holding on for dear life,” said Furrer.
But now you’re less likely to need those speed adjustment buttons thanks to a larger touchscreen and the ever-growing library of trainer-led workouts. The 10-inch screen offers double the real estate of the earlier model, though testers still felt it was a tad too small. But it’s large enough to see the countryside in Germany, for example, where one tester virtually followed pro Lucy Bartholomew on a gentle trail run.
Underfoot, we found the 22-by-60-inch running surface spacious enough for high-speed intervals, and the machine’s deck remained stable as we cranked up the speed. The cushioning underfoot is just slightly bouncy, though it’s adjustable so you can make it a bit firmer, and the machine responds quickly to changes in speed and incline. The iFit training workouts are great but don’t let you adjust duration or intensity on the fly.
Horizon 7.0 AT
Running Surface: 20 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Motor: 3.0 HP
Instead of focusing on entertainment, Horizon keyed in on features to give you greater control of your workout. Like the T800, the 7.0 AT has limited training options but connects easily to an iPad or Android tablet so you can take Peloton classes or run using Zwift. We liked the thumb dials mounted chest-high on the hand grips that let you quickly make big jumps in speed and incline—it feels way more fluid than trying to stab at buttons on a console. While we don’t often recommend ’mills that cost less than $1,000 because they generally have small motors and inadequate frames for the pounding that runners inflict, the 7.0 AT is surprisingly steady. We set it up in the home of one of our lighter, faster testers, and he found that the deck didn’t shake during intervals. The belt is narrower and shorter than we’d prefer, but you’ll appreciate the small profile if you’re setting it up in a tight space.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7603
Running Surface: 16 in. wide x 49 in. long | Max Speed: 9 mph | Incline: 3 adjustable settings | Programs: 9 | Motor: 2.2 HP
We don’t typically recommend treadmills that cost less than $1,000 simply because they don’t hold up. The frames and motors usually can’t handle the abuse that running inflicts. This low-budget model on Amazon is an exception, however, because so many people buy and love it—over 1,000 five-star reviews. Of course, to hit such a price, there are a lot of compromises—the belt is the skinniest we’ve seen, the motor tops out at 9 mph, and to adjust the incline you have to get off the machine and flip a lever under the deck. But, if you need something for an occasional jog when you otherwise can’t get outside, or want a machine for walking on your rest days, it’s hard to argue with what this delivers at this price.
Pro-Form Carbon T7
Running Surface: 20 in. wide x 55 in. long | Max Speed: 10 mph | Max Incline: 10% | Max Decline: N/A | Motor: 2.6 HP
We have always appreciated the value a Pro-Form delivers. The sibling brand to NordicTrack, Pro-Form shares much of the same technology, like the iFit interactive coaching and training program—you get a free year subscription when you buy a tread. But, this machine is dialed back just a little to keep the price in check. You get only a 7-inch touchscreen console, and it tops out at just 10 mph, so you won’t be using it for elite-caliber speed intervals. But, a 2.6-horsepower motor and cushioned deck make it plenty capable of handling a few easy runs a week.
—BEST FOR RUNNERS WHO LOVE SIMPLICITY—
Running surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max speed: 12 mph | Max incline: 15% | Max decline: N/A | Programs: 10 | Motor: 3.5 HP
—THE SPACE SAVER—
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 13.5 mph | Max Incline: 13% | Max Decline: -2% | Programs: 50+ | Motor: 4 HP
The TR5500i has been updated this year with a new touchscreen console, but still has the plain-Jane look that we’ve long loved and the small stance that won’t take up much space in your basement. The refreshed console is a nice upgrade, even if it doesn’t bring you live coaching or Google Streets views. But, when you’re preprogramming a workout, you can simply slide bars on a chart up or down to adjust the speed and incline for each segment. That console also sits quite low—taller testers had to look down more than when running on other machines, but we like that it would be out of the way if you were watching a TV while running.
Though the TR5500i is a bit slow to respond to speed changes, it’s on par with treadmills in this price range and can go as fast as 13.5 mph, which isn’t typical for a budget model. And when you’re really cranking along at your top speed, there’s a slight bounce in the deck to help cushion your stride.
—BEST FOR WALKERS—
Pro-Form City L6
Running Surface: 17.5 in. wide x 45 in. long | Max Speed: 8 mph | Motor: 1.6 HP
Folding treadmills don’t really disappear—you’re not sliding one into a closet when you’re done with your jog. But, the City L6 collapses nearly flat and could slip under a bed. With its small motor and low top speed, buy this one if you want a machine only for walking. But it still packs a lot of training tools you find on the company’s running treadmills: If you have an iPad or tablet, you can connect to the iFit interactive training platform to get coaching, workouts, and virtual walks through scenic locations.