We Tested 14 Different Treadmills – Here Are the 5 Best for a Killer At-Home Workout

The Folding NordicTrack EXP 7i is the solid choice, no matter your runner status.

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Best Treadmills
Photo: Bowflex

The treadmill can be a polarizing machine — many runners and gym-goers see it as a necessary evil for getting in their training runs or walks in inclimate weather. And it experienced a resurgence in popularity during the 12-3-30 treadmill workout craze. There's no denying the machine can be a great way to get different workouts done at-home. Whether you're looking to train for a race, practice interval training, or want to be able to hit your 10,000 daily steps no matter the weather, a treadmill is the machine to utilize. Another benefit? Being able to hit high mileage without leaving your home.

We tested 14 popular treadmills to narrow it down and help figure out what machine is best for you, depending on how much space you have and what type of goals you're trying to achieve. We broke down the key aspects of a treadmill as well as spoke to experts to make the most of your at-home workout. In our testing, NordicTrack EXP 7i came out on top because of its workout options for every level of runner.

Here are the best treadmills, according to Shape testers.

The Winners

Best Overall: NordicTrack EXP 7i

Best Treadmills
Nordic Track

Also available at Dick's Sporting Goods

Why We Like It: It offers workout options and levels suitable for every type of runner.

It's Worth Noting: It is somewhat difficult to assemble.

Treadmills can be scary to use, especially for someone just starting, but the NordicTrack EXP 7i is our best overall because of how easy it is to use while still performing at a top level. Not only does the treadmill respond quickly to changes in incline and speed, but offers a solid range of up to 12 MPH speed and an incline of 12 percent.

While it is not a compact model, and therefore not great for small spaces, the size allows for the user to feel comfortable and secure when running, no matter the speed. "Having used many treadmills all my life, this was one of the top quality and value treadmills I have used and felt great during use," our tester said. "If I was looking for an at-home workout option, wanted to invest in a treadmill, and had a large enough space to accommodate the machine, I would purchase this treadmill with confidence."

It is a smart device that connects to the wifi and allows you to download an array of features and apps for use on the 7-inch touchscreen. The treadmill is also equipped with "iFit" features, which are interactive personal training classes you can take at home. For just over $1,000, this treadmill has all the bells and whistles at a moderate price for the category.

  • Dimensions: 77.3" L x 35.3" W x 59.6" H
  • Weight capacity: 300 lbs.
  • Maximum speed: 12 MPH
  • Incline: 0 to 12

Best Budget: Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Incline Treadmill With Tablet And Device Holder - SF-T4400

Best Treadmills
Amazon

Why We Like It: It is very easy to use and doesn't involve any extra costs or memberships.

It's Worth Noting: It only goes up to 9 MPH, not making it a great option if you're an advanced runner.

For a compact option, the folding treadmill from Sunny Health & Fitness is a great option that features solid features for its size and price. Our tester described it as being very easy to use. "You don't need Bluetooth or wifi. You just plug it in, choose what speed you want to go, and press start," they said. "On the left handle, you can start or stop the treadmill, on the right hand you can choose the speeds."

When it comes to incline, the options are very limited, and you have to manually set it up. However, the buttons are very simple. Our tester loved the pulse sensors the speed has and described the transaction as very quick. "To go from 4 to 9 mph, it was 24 seconds then going back down to 4.5 miles it was 13 seconds so the transition is very quick."

The treadmill can also fold up when not in use to give your home back some floor space, if necessary. It is also a steal of a price and a nice option for beginner exercises or those looking to build a home gym on a budget.

  • Dimensions: 62" L x 25.5"W x 50"H
  • Weight capacity: 220 lbs.
  • Maximum speed: 9 MPH
  • Incline: 0 to 4.3

Best Splurge: Bowflex Treadmill 22

Best Treadmills
Dicks Sporting Goods

Also available at Bowflex and Amazon

Why We Like It: The wide range of incline, decline, and speed.

It's Worth Noting: The knobs don't increase speed and incline as quickly as other treadmills.

While this treadmill is over $2,000, it is fairly priced for the number of features it boasts, as well as how easy and comfortable it is to use. Not only does the incline go up to 20, but features a decline of -5 percent, allowing for the best range of incline training out of all our options. Our tester said, "it gave you the feeling of being on an actual hike."

The treadmill also features an abundance of workout options, from manual ones to instructor-led classes, though some of the features were not available to you unless you were logged into the Bowflex platform, which does require an extra subscription. There's also the option to choose scenic routes from all across the world or to stream Hulu, Netflix, and more on the spacious 22-inch screen.

Even for taller people, the treadmill belt felt comfortable and steady. There are buttons to quickly toggle to new speeds and inclines on the front of the treadmill as well as two knobs on the side and buttons on the heart rate grips. Overall, our tester felt the options were fairly simple to use.

"However, for the high price tag and additional subscription, this machine is probably better suited to people who are avid runners and would use the machine daily," they said. It's also important to note that the change in speed was slightly slower than other models we tested, so might not be the best model for intense interval speed training.

  • Dimensions: 85" L x 39.6" W x 70" H
  • Weight capacity: 400 lbs.
  • Maximum speed: 12 MPH
  • Incline: -5 to 20

Best Features: Bowflex Treadmill 10

Best Treadmills
Bowflex

Also available at Amazon

Why We Like It: This treadmill has presets and custom features a runner could want.

It's Worth Noting: It requires you to purchase an extra membership for some of the classes.

The Bowflex 10 has practically everything you could want in a treadmill. It has an easy-to-use user interface, located on a 10-inch HD screen that can speak commands to you. You change the speed and incline three different ways: on the number pads, handlebars, or the handrails.

Overall, it is very easy to understand and operate. The belt is spacious and comfortable, offering great shock absorption without getting loud. Our tester described it as feeling "like running on a recently tarred road" and said the machine was also very stable with no rattling or shaking even with high speeds or inclines. This treadmill also has one of the highest weight limits of the bunch — allowing up to 400 pounds to safely use the machine.

Our tester also described it as having everything: automated A.I., preset runs, custom profiles, and the ability for streaming for your Netflix, Hulu, HBO etc account. " I was really impressed by it having a decline feature, which in essence allows you to work on your hamstrings. 99% of treadmills do not offer this," they said. "I also really like that you can change the speed and incline from three separate locations depending on your comfortability. On a bonus note: It also has a fan that is at a position to hit your face, which is ideal for heavy sweaters like me."

  • Dimensions: 85" L x 39.6" W x 65.3" H
  • Weight capacity: 400 lbs.
  • Maximum speed: 12 MPH
  • Incline: -5 to 15

Best Folding: Sole F80 Treadmill

Best Treadmills
Sole

Why We Like It: The user friendly design of this treadmill.

It's Worth Noting: As the speed increased, so did the noise.

If you are tight on space at home, a folding treadmill is an amazing way to get the machinery without giving up precious square footage. Even more rare is a folding treadmill that has all the features, which is why Sole F80 is our best folding treadmill. It has the capacity to reach 12 mph and an incline of 15, plus cooling fans, speed and incline controls on the armrests, and built-in speakers. It also features a versatile tablet holder so you can use your own smart devices to watch shows or follow along with workout routines, and it has a USB port for charging so you don't have to worry about losing any battery.

"The toggles on each side of the arms are very convenient to increase/decrease both speed and incline, and it was very quick and easy to switch both," said our tester. "The console is very straightforward and user-friendly." The treadmill was fairly comfortable with good shock absorption, a rarity for compact models, our tester noted.

  • Dimensions: 82" L x 37" W x 66" H
  • Weight capacity: 375 lbs.
  • Maximum speed: 12 MPH
  • Incline: 0 to 15

Our Testing Process

The in-house testing lab rounded up 14 popular treadmills and had multiple testers – ranging from beginner and intermediate to advanced runners – put the treadmills through their paces including testing max speed, incline (and decline) as well as set-up. The main aspects testers looked at were how easy it was to assemble, ease of use, comfort, features, and the overall value of the treadmill.

The tester walked, jogged, and ran on the treadmill, noting the stability and how quickly it took to get from one speed to another. They also set it between different inclines to see how quickly those changed and to make sure the inclines felt okay. All the testers then ranked the different categories from 1-5 and we tallied the average, with the five highest averages being the picks that made this list for the best treadmills.

What to Know About Treadmills

Dimensions

While you can get a treadmill in different dimensions to best fit a space, the average treadmill is around 78" long x 36" wide. When it comes to width, anything less than 16" wide is difficult to walk, and going up to 20" is ideal for runners. While walkers can do well with a 48-inch long belt, if you're planning to run faster than a jog, more length is better. If you're on the taller side, go for an even longer length. However, keep in mind the width when getting it through the door if it comes already assembled.

Ceiling Height

Most homes will need an eight foot ceiling to comfortably use a treadmill. For reference, most homes have an eight to nine foot ceiling, on average. Tall users or treadmills with a step-up may require more space. A general rule of thumb is 6 inches of clearance above your head when the treadmill is at its maximum incline.

Speed and Incline

Depending on what you want your treadmill for, it's important to think about the speed and incline capabilities a treadmill has. The typical speed for walking is between 3 and 4 mph, and between 6 and 8 mph for running. When it comes to incline, going up to a 15 percent incline would be ideal, especially for different types of training, and if you wanted to emulate running a hilly route. Knowing your running or walking speed and required features can help you narrow down the machine that's right for your home.

FAQs

How long should you run on a treadmill?

"There isn't any length of time that is too long or too short for treadmill use. The most important thing is to start where you're realistically at in your fitness journey and build time and speed from there," says Kim Chinn, a coach at the treadmill-based fitness studio, Mile High Run Club. For beginners, "A good starting point is to incorporate intervals of walking and running. Start with a 20-minute run – the first five minutes are a warm-up of walking or jogging – then do intervals of 2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking for a total of 10 minutes, and finish with a 5-minute cooldown of walking or jogging. From there, continue to increase the time running over the time walking. You can then also start to gradually increase your time."

If someone is a runner but is new to the treadmill, Chinn suggests "incorporating hills into your efforts on the treadmill. The beauty of the tread might be that it will be a flat run but incorporating hills helps simulate an outdoor run. It can be as simple as doing intervals of 2 minutes at a 2.0 or 3.0 incline, then coming back down to the flat ground. This is also helpful if you live in a flat place but need to incorporate hills for an event you're training for."

How much space do you need for a treadmill?

Virginia Preston, an instructor at Barry's, says "The general rule of thumb is to take the dimensions of your treadmill and add an additional 6 feet to the back as well as two feet around the sides and front of the machine. This is to accommodate movements like kickback as you situate yourself far enough from the treadmill's console to drive your arms and knees. It also accounts for getting on and off the machine as well as the machine's ventilation."

Other experts, like Barry's instructor Dilan Gomih and Global Nike Trainer Lauren Schramm, advised that you place the treadmill in a room with at least an 8 foot tall ceiling. "If that sounds high, remember most treadmills have incline capabilities," says Gomih.

How do you clean a treadmill belt?

Most treadmills will have specific instructions for cleaning the belt, but there are a few tips to consider when keeping a treadmill clean. Chinn suggests wiping down the treadmill with a fresh towel after every run to wipe off any sweat. On a less frequent basis, Schramm says that "it's important not to use cleaners directly on the belt, instead you can use water or a non-abrasive cleaning solution directly on a rag and move the belt yourself as you wipe it down."

Another tip? Get a pair of shoes for use specifically on your treadmill. Gomih says that this will help avoid getting excess dirt or particles on your machine. And lastly, "be sure the belt has fully dried before your next run," says Schramm.

Why Trust Shape

Brooke LaMantia is a journalist writing about all things culture, fashion, and lifestyle. She grew up playing sports and rowed at the University of Texas Austin before transferring to New York University. Since then, she's become an avid runner, and while she loves to spend time doing so at the East River Park, spends just as much time on treadmills in the winter.

To create this list, Shape did a lot of research on the top-rated and best-selling models available. The team narrowed those options down to the 14 we wanted to test in our lab and at-home. Our final guide to the best treadmills was based on our in-house tester ratings and quotes. LaMantia also consulted four running experts to weigh in on the best ways to use a treadmill as well as how to keep it clean.

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