Exercise equipment buying guide
Treadmill buying guide
By Tom Morgan
Article 3 of 6
Lace up your trainers and run or walk away the calories with our guide on how to buy the best treadmill for a home gym.
A foldable running machine suitable for home use is brilliantly convenient and saves you from running in the rain. Our guide highlights the key treadmill features to look out for.
Running has plenty of benefits for both regular gym-goers and fitness newbies – it can help you lose weight, loosen stiff joints and de-stress. But it's important you know what type of treadmill is best to help you reach your fitness goals.
Below, we run through the various types of treadmill and link through to some popular models.
In this article:
How to buy the best treadmill for home use
Before you decide whether or not to buy a treadmill to use at home, consider your budget and the amount of floor space you have. Treadmills can get rather loud when they're operating at top speed, so keep your neighbours in mind as well – especially if you live in a flat that isn't on the ground floor.
If you consider yourself new to home fitness, opting for the priciest, most feature-packed treadmill on the market might not be the best approach. If you put enough effort in, you'll still get a great workout from a cheaper treadmill.
Adding a regular walk, jog or run to your exercise routine will improve your overall health and fitness levels. Running is also one of the most effective forms of exercise for burning calories.
Other running machine benefits include:
- Convenience – running indoors keeps you away from busy roads and inclement weather.
- A soft landing – many treadmills use a cushioned running deck to protect your joints and feet.
- Lose weight – walking and running burns calories even on flat ground; you can get even better results if you own an inclining treadmill.
- Smartphone connectivity – some treadmills let you plug in your smartphone and play music through the built-in speakers.
- Custom programmes – if you don't want to constantly tap speed and incline buttons, select a pre-set programme and have the treadmill change pace for you.
Running machines suitable for home use are available at a range of price points.
These are often non-motorised and powered by your movement. You can easily grab one with a foldable design for around £100.
Budget-priced treadmills tend to have a manual incline which means that, if you want to run 'uphill', you need to prop the front of the treadmill up yourself using the adjustable feet.
Even the most affordable treadmills can usually measure your pulse – this isn't a feature reserved for expensive models.
If your treadmill doesn't come with a pulse monitor, you can try wearing a top-rated fitness tracker. See our Which? Best Buy fitness trackers page.
Spending up to £300 will get you a few more features, such as pre-set programmes or smartphone connectivity, but you may still have to manually adjust the incline.
You're likely to have to invest a bit more for the convenience of an electronically adjustable incline.
As well as more handy features, pricier machines have incline levels that you can control mid-run, without having to stop and get off if you want a harder or easier workout. Expect to pay between £500-£1,000.
As these pricier machines are bulkier, they usually feel more stable at high speeds compared to budget alternatives. Cushioned running decks will add a subtle, joint-saving bounce to your runs.
If you're shopping for the best of the best, costs can easily breeze beyond £1,000. Premium treadmills with large touchscreen displays and bigger running surfaces can go for around £2,000.
With any home gym equipment, you want to make sure you have enough space to use it correctly and safely. The average unfolded treadmill will measure around 1.7 metres in length and around 0.7 metres wide.
Never position your treadmill so the back of the running deck is up against a wall or a piece of furniture. If you lose your footing on the treadmill, you'll be sent backward and may injure yourself. Behind the treadmill, a clearance space of at least 1.2 metres is ideal.
A manual treadmill (one without a motor) doesn't need much clearance space ahead of it. But if you're using an electrical treadmill, allow for around 50cm of space so the motor is properly ventilated.
In terms of how much space you should have either side of the equipment, we recommend double the width of your treadmill. This should provide enough room to prevent you from accidentally striking something with your hands if you stretch them out or lose your balance. If you're using the treadmill in a shared space, it also allows others to walk past safely.
Another factor to consider when placing a treadmill is head space, particularly if your treadmill has an inclining running deck. Obviously, the greater the incline of the running deck, the higher you'll be. You don't want to hit your head while you're sprinting, so place the treadmill carefully if you have low ceilings in places.
When you're deciding where to buy your treadmill from, only deal with trusted sellers online or in-store.
Do some research on the retailer before buying – check the returns policy and read customer reviews for the model you're looking at. In some cases, the retailer will help you set up the treadmill in person. Otherwise, you'll need to build it yourself.
For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty equipment, see our online shopping advice.
Popular retailers that stock treadmills include:
- Argos – offers a range of foldable treadmills. Prices start around £100 and rise to around £1,000. Brands include Reebok, Roger Black and Argos's own brand, Opti.
- Amazon – has hundreds of treadmills in stock, but stick to brand names you recognise.
- Decathlon – stocks treadmills costing from less than £300 up to around £1,500. Brands include Domyos, NordicTrack and ProForm.
- John Lewis – stocks treadmills from brands including Adidas, NordicTrack, ProForm and Reebok. Prices start at around the £600 mark and go up to several thousand pounds for high-end running machines. At the time of writing, most treadmills were out of stock.
- Powerhouse Fitness – offers fixed and folding treadmills from brands including BH Fitness, BodyMax, NordicTrack, ProForm and Reebok. Its running machines are at the pricier end, starting at around £800 and many cost more than £2,000.
- Fitness Superstore – a fitness specialist that serves a similar market to Powerhouse Fitness. It sells folding treadmills costing from around £600 up to more than £3,000. Brands include Horizon, Life Fitness and Matrix Fitness.
Discover the best websites to buy from based on thousands of shoppers' experiences. See our guide on the best online shops and websites.
Here's an overview of key running features to look out for when deciding which one to buy.
The running deck
Always consider the size of a treadmill's running deck (the surface you run on) when deciding whether or not to buy it; taller people may need a longer deck to accommodate a longer stride.
If you've got dodgy joints, look for a treadmill with a cushioned deck that will offer some bounce and reduce the pressure on knees and ankles.
If you want detailed feedback on your workout and its intensity, shop for a treadmill with a detailed information console or screen.
These show you distance covered, calories burned and time spent running. Some of these screens are black and white, while pricier treadmills have large, colour touchscreen displays.
On some treadmills, the console will let you choose between different workout programmes. A programme is a mini course that automatically adjusts the speed (and incline, if available) at different points to simulate the varied landscape of an outdoor run.
Walking or running on a treadmill at an incline will simulate climbing a hill outside. You'll still burn calories if you're running on a flat treadmill, but experimenting with the incline settings can add some extra challenge.
Make sure you don't make the incline too steep to start with, as this could place strain on your back, hips and ankles. Start with a slight incline and build up from there.
A running machine that folds can be tucked away between workouts. This is ideal if you have limited space, or are using the treadmill in the living room, for example.
Most treadmills have a pulse sensor built into the handles. Holding onto these throughout your workout may not be practical if you're running and need free arm movement, but allow you to check in occasionally on how hard you're working.
Nearly all treadmills come with a safety key. The magnetic end attaches to the treadmill's centre console and the other end attaches to your clothing. These are intended to stop the running belt immediately if you lose your balance and come off the back of the treadmill.
If you move too far back on the running deck, the magnetic end of the key will break away from the console. Use the safety key for every workout if you can.
If you're running on a manual running machine, you'll be using your feet to power the speed of the belt. That means the treadmill will come to a halt as soon as you stop moving.
Manual treadmills take more effort to use as the speed of the running deck isn't powered electronically. You might consider this a plus if you want a tougher workout, but there's a chance you'll crave the convenience of an electric machine.
As a manual treadmill doesn't need plugging in, you can use it anywhere as long as you have enough floor space. Most manual treadmills have wheels that let you move them around.
This is the most popular type of treadmill as they're easier to use than manual machines. As a result, expect to pay more money.
Electric running machines plug into the wall and use mains power to control speed (and incline on higher-spec models). Some have large, touchscreen displays, though this is typically reserved for models exceeding £1,000.
Many electric treadmills have built-in speakers that you can connect to a smartphone or tablet via the headphone jack.
These are powered manually and feature a concave-shaped running belt. The process of you pushing down and then backwards with each stride is what keeps the belt turning.
In theory, a curved running deck will be comfier to jog on than a flat running deck. This is because the shape of the curved belt mimics the movements of your legs more closely. You also get to set your own pace.
As you're physically propelling the belt of the curved treadmill yourself, you'll be engaging more muscle groups than you would on a 'normal' treadmill.
Curved treadmills don't come cheap. Fitness brand Curve Runner sells its machines for around £4,000-£5,000.
We don't currently test treadmills but Argos and Reebok are some of the most searched-for retailers for treadmills at the time of writing. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks.
1. Reebok One GT30 Treadmill
- Price: £379.99
- Available from: Argos
- Foldable? Yes
- Unfolded size: Height 118cm, Length 176cm, Width 70.5cm
This is one of Reebok's most popular running machines, combining a mid-range price tag with features including 12 levels of incline, a pulse monitor (through sensors in the hand grips) and a foldable design. There are several storage compartments for your water bottle and smartphone.
The Reebok One GT30 Treadmill has 12 different pre-set programmes for you to try, and you can monitor speed, time, distance and calories burned. There are buttons to quickly adjust incline and speed electronically, mid-workout. This Reebok running machine has a top speed of 16kph.
2. Reebok I Run 4.0 Treadmill
- Price: £599.99
- Available from: Argos
- Foldable? Yes
- Unfolded size: Height 156cm, Length 153cm, Width 75cm
Here's another electric running machine from Reebok to consider, with relatively compact dimensions if you're short on space. It has a top speed of 16kph and 18 pre-set programmes to choose from, and you can electronically adjust the incline mid-run. Once your workout is finished, the handlebars and console fold down flat for easy storage.
The Reebok I Run 4.0 Treadmill has a built-in smartphone and tablet holder in case you want to stream video while you're walking or running; you easily prop up the screen without worrying about it falling over.
Where should I put my treadmill?
Running machines for small spaces
Make sure you pick a foldable treadmill if you're planning on using it in a living room or other shared space. Check the dimensions carefully before you buy to make sure you have enough room, including space around the machine.
If space is tight, an exercise bike might be a better option as these take up less square footage.
Is it OK to put my treadmill in the garage?
Most treadmill manufacturers advise against keeping running machines in the garage or other outbuildings for a number of reasons.
Garages can get chilly and cold temperatures could potentially damage a treadmill's belt, display and motor. Dirt and dust kicked up from the floor of the garage could also find its way inside the motor.
Check your warranty when buying a treadmill and consult the product manual for more information.
Should my treadmill be on a mat?
Again, it's a good idea to check the product manual if you're unsure. Mats are rarely an essential addition, but do have their perks.
If you want to protect a wood floor at home, for example, investing in a mat is a good idea. Treadmills are heavy pieces of equipment and the slightest movement could scratch your floor.
Tips for using your treadmill
If you're new to using a running machine, don't push yourself too hard to start with. As with any new exercise, pushing yourself too hard initially risks injury.
Even if you're familiar with treadmills from the gym, read instructions carefully as there may be some important differences from the machines you're used to.
Stay safe while cutting calories with our top treadmill tips:
For more exercise tips and fitness guides, consult the NHS website.
Get headphones that will deliver the best sound quality for your workout with the help of our expert headphone reviews.
How we selected prices and retailers
Retailers and gym equipment chosen based on popular UK search terms and availability. Prices correct as of 17 April 2020 and obtained from manufacturer's own website where possible; otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.