What to Look for in a Treadmill

I Don't Really Like Treadmills...

Buying a treadmill.

If I'm being honest, I'm not a huge fan of treadmills, but they are kind of a "necessary evil" for me. I live in Washington and for most of the year it is either raining or snowing. If it isn't, it is probably nearing 100 degrees and I'm not going to want to be outside then either. We do have some nice days, and you'll always see me outside walking on those, but the rest?

A treadmill is a great way to stay active walking, jogging, or running. You can even do it from the comfort of your own home! Most allow you to adjust speed or incline so you can decide how challenging you want your workout to be. They are pretty great, especially if you live somewhere where the weather doesn't like to cooperator or don't have a safe place to exercise outside.

Shopping for a new treadmill can be a struggle because you don't want to spend a bunch of money and feel like it has been wasted. I'm here to help! Here are some of the things you should look for in a treadmill. At the end I'll suggest a few good treadmills of different types.

Image courtesy of Jennifer C.

Motor & Horsepower

How powerful do you want it to be?

Programming a treadmill

A treadmill will either have a CHP or THP motor. CHP stands for “continuous horsepower” and is the one you want when you are buying a treadmill. It means that the treadmill will operate continuously without surging, stopping, or overheating. THP refers to peak horsepower, but this is only reflective of how fast or strong the treadmill is during its “peak” - not all the time.

Serious runners should look for a treadmill with a horsepower of 2.5 to 3 CHP, while joggers or walkers will be fine with much less horsepower. Of course, you should expect to pay more for a machine with higher horsepower, so don’t waste your money if you don’t need it.

Note: There are treadmills without motors that are cheaper but you won't be able to do things like choose your speed.

Image from Depositphotos.com.

Belt Deck

How long is the treadmill?

Be sure to check the belt deck size and see if there is any cushioning in the belt. If you are tall, you will want a long deck of 50 to 60 inches to make sure you have plenty of room for running. If you tend to drift from side to side while you are running, be sure to find a wide belt of about 20 to 22 inches. Some machines come with cushioning in the belt which will help absorb some of the shock while you are running, softening the impact to your joints.

Special Features

Are you looking for a little extra?

Many treadmills come with special features such as preset programs, heart rate monitors, built in fans, and a fancy display screen. You can even find treadmills with built in desks! These are all nice, but they will significantly raise the price of any machine. Take a look and decide which features are important to you before you spend money on things you don’t need.

I usually like a nice digital display but you can get a heart rate monitor that you can use for ALL of your cardio for around $50-$70 so I don't really need one on my treadmill.

Size and Folding

How much room do you have?

Fold up treadmill.

Many treadmills these days are fold-able, but not all are. If you have limited space, you will want to be sure to purchase a treadmill that folds up and locks securely in place for safety.

One thing I have noticed is that ones you can fold up can be broken more easily. I've also noticed that it is easier to put these "out of sight and out of mind" and totally skip actually using them!

If you don't have the space to always have your treadmill out, make sure to read reviews about how easy they are to fold up, how secure they are when folded, and how sturdy the machine itself is. If you do have room, I recommend going for a treadmill that stays ready to use at any time.

Image courtesy of Amazon.

Speed and Incline

How much of a challenge are you going to want?

All treadmills have speed variations and most have inclines, but you will want to double check the extent of these before you choose your next treadmill. Some models have a very limited range and you don’t want any unpleasant surprises after you bring it home.

Ask yourself exactly what you want to use your treadmill for!

Price - Ask Yourself These Questions

How much are you going to spend?

Obviously price is going to be an issue. The more features, the more expensive the treadmill is going to be. The cheapest may not even have a motor and be manually powered. The most expensive ones will have powerful motors and tons of extra features that you may or may not need.

Here are a few things to ask yourself while looking at treadmills.

  • Do I need a built in heart rate monitor or will I be using/buying one for all of my cardio?
  • Will I want to fold up and store my treadmill?
  • Will I be walking, jogging, or running?
  • Is that going to be changing in the future?
  • What extra features do I need and which do I want?
  • Do I want to be able to walk and run with an incline and how much of an incline do I want?
  • How much am I willing to spend?

Recommended Treadmills

Here are some great places to start your search

I've included a few different types of treadmills including a manual one, a fold-up one, a desk treadmill, and some others. These all have great ratings and are the perfect place to begin your search for the perfect treadmill!

Phoenix 98510 Easy-Up Manual Treadmill
Amazon.com: $183.29

This is a manual treadmill. This is the cheapest variety available. This particular treadmill is the best rated manual treadmill on Amazon. Your own walking or jogging will get the belt moving so you can keep going. It has a battery powered digital display to measure distance ran and it even folds up for easy storage. Not recommended for anyone planning to run on a treadmill.

LifeSpan TR 1200i Folding Treadmill
LifeSpan Fitness
Amazon.com: $999.00

This one is a great fold-up treadmill with some fantastic reviews and features. It has a 2.5 horsepower motor, tons of incline options, an LCD display that tracks distance and calories burned, and even built in speakers for if you want to plug your mp3 player into it!

TrekDesk Treadmill Desk
TrekDesk Treadmill Desks
Amazon.com: $499.00

Sitting can be downright dangerous for your health if you spend most of your time in your chair. This treadmill and desk combo is perfect for getting active without even stepping away from your PC. (I'm a writer for a living so if I could, I would probably get this just to keep me moving.)

Horizon Fitness T101-3 Treadmill
Horizon Fitness

This treadmill is known for its quiet motor and extra sturdy frame. The deck has added padding making this ideal for people with weak knees or ankles that may need some extra care.


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Do you have a treadmill? Do you like treadmills?

Like I said, if I could walk outside everyday, I probably would. I love the sun! But sometimes a treadmill is just so much more convenient! What do you think?


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1103 forum posts
Bonita on said:
Great resource for anyone in the market for a treadmill!
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1158 forum posts
Ladymermaid on said:
I have a treadmill (currently buried under my hubby's ever increasing pile of stuff) but I really love having it there for my use in the winter months. Walking indoors saves me the risk of slipping on ice in the winter months. The most important feature for me was to have handrails on the treadmill. I am disabled and when I am not feeling well the handrails are a necessity. Great job on your suggestions.

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