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 reveal the best and worst treadmill brands according to the people that own them, run through the various types of treadmill, and link through to some popular models.
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.
In October 2020, we asked treadmill owners about the equipment they'd bought within the past five years, to help us uncover which brands impressed customers and which brands disappointed.
Our survey results give every brand a customer score as well as star ratings for ease of use, build quality, and value for money.
|Brand||Customer score||Ease of use||Build quality||Value for money|
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:
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.
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 with 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.
Popular retailers that stock treadmills include:
Here's an overview of key running features to look out for when deciding which one to buy.
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, Nordic Track and Reebok are some of the most popular treadmill brands at the time of writing. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks.
Which? members can take a look at our brand satisfaction table, above, to find out what treadmill owners thought of each brand.
This Argos treadmill folds up when not in use, which is handy if you’d like some extra floor space when you’re not working out. It has 10 user programmes and a console that tracks speed, distance, time, calories burned and pulse. You can experiment with three manual levels of incline – 2.8%, 5% and 6.5%.
Like the T300 Treadmill (below), this cheaper rival has a built-in tablet holder.
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 programs 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Always warm up with a few minutes easy walking before starting your workout in earnest. Jumping straight in at full tilt risks injury.
Alternate longer, slower sessions with shorter, faster ones. Mixing up your treadmill workouts in this way can help get results and improve fitness faster.
Adjusting the incline will allow you to use slightly different muscles, and better replicate the outdoor experience. If bad knees mean you prefer not to run, you can increase your workout intensity by walking uphill.
They're sweatproof and use a wraparound design to stay in place while you jog. Listening to your favourite tunes will help you push harder on your workout.
Retailers and gym equipment chosen based on popular UK search terms and availability; we've only selected models from brands that achieved decent scores in our survey. Prices correct as of December 2021 and obtained from manufacturer's own website where possible; otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.