There are plenty of benefits to getting exercise on a treadmill. It's easy on the joints, good for the heart and a great way to lose weight. You won't get fresh air and sunshine walking or running on a treadmill, but it does provide the benefit of allowing you to binge-watch shows while working out, and there's never any need to worry about the weather.
Some of the fancier treadmills come with digital courses that simulate real running conditions, complete with inclines, and that instruct you to alternate between keeping a steady pace and brisk bursts of speed in order to get maximum results.
Another selling point is that if you're the type of person who doesn't really like to exercise and for whom athleticism isn't second nature, but you're aware that you should exercise, then treadmills are great because you can start with slower tempos and work your way up. It's much less complicated than, say, yoga or CrossFit. Just remember to find a well-ventilated spot in your house, stretch before and after, wearing sneakers with a lot of support and, as always, drink plenty of water.
We talked to people in the fitness field to recommend the best treadmills for your money, and their top choices are listed below — alongside some other models we like and have been able to find in stock.
As you may have heard, sales of at-home exercise gear have soared since the coronavirus closed gyms, and manufacturers are retailers are still struggling to keep up with the demand. In 2020 and 2021, many treadmills have been periodically sold out or available in very limited inventory, and our choices for the best treadmills you can buy reflects that.
1. Best overall: NordicTrack Commercial Series
If you're all in on treadmills and are willing to spend some cash, Jeff Halevy, the founder of Apex Human Performance, a New York City-based members-only referral fitness club, as well as the founder of HealthLuxe, a gym design, management, and maintenance firm, recommends the NordicTrack Commercial Series of treadmills.
“In my opinion, the best treadmill is the NordicTrack Commercial X32i," he says.
It's especially nice, he says, if you miss running outside, because it has a mammoth 32" screen. If screen size is less important to you, check out the NordicTrack Commercial Series 1750 with a 10" touchscreen. It usually costs under $2,000 at Amazon, compared to nearly $4,000 for the X32i via NordicTrack.
Both of these models have Bluetooth and wi-fi capability and a maximum speed of 12 mph (which is fast — most models top out at 10 mph or less), and the weight limit for the 1750 is actually higher (350 pounds, vs. 300 pounds for the X32i). Nearly 85% of reviewers at Amazon give the NordicTrack 1750 four- or five-star ratings.
As for the Commercial X32i model, Halevy says, "the console itself is very sleek, the screen is high-tech and offers interactive and engaging walks and runs of famous places like Central Park, while matching your speed. It offers a steep incline option for users that are looking to get their heart rate up while preventing injury," he says. "It’s also versatile in the fact that it can convert to concentric exercises like sled-pushes, building muscle, and strength with minimal soreness. It is highly versatile and you are also able to finance this equipment which is a great option."
If you can't decide between the X32i and the 1750, be aware that other NordicTrack models offer a good compromise. There's the Commercial Series 2450 with a 14" screen that generally runs $2,200 to $2,500 and the Commercial Series 2950 with a 22" screen for around $3,200. Compared to the 1750, these two models have a higher weight limit (400 pounds) and a higher maximum incline (15%, vs. 12%).
Most NordicTrack treadmills come with a free trial of the company's iFit subscription service, which features interactive personal trainer services and classes in running, hiking, cycling, rowing, cross-training and more. Be aware, however, that introductory offers vary — some are free for only 30 days, while others are valid for a year — and some people complain that it's difficult to cancel the subscription before the trial ends. Memberships are pricey too, typically running $180 per year for an individual or $396 per year for a family.
2. Best desk-treadmill combo: ANCHEER 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill
Some people like to pass the time on the track by reading or watching TV on a tablet. But if you're really into multi-tasking, then Carly James, a Fitness Authority instructor and nutritionist in the United Kingdom, has a suggestion.
"This ticks all the right boxes for a regular folding treadmill. For completeness, these are decent cushioning, a reasonably-sized deck, and a decent motor," she says. "What’s really neat about it, however, is that you can drop the handrail while the treadmill is in use, instead of just for storage. This means you can put it literally right in front of a standing desk and walk, or run, while you work. Or at least should be at work."
3. Editor's pick: Nautilus T618 Treadmill
Nautilus is one of the most prominent exercise equipment brands and is closely associated with treadmills. According to Dr. Petkov, the company's reputation is well-deserved, and he points to the Nautilus T618 as one of his favorites.
"One of the benefits of this treadmill is having large rubberized start, stop, speed, and incline buttons which make the use of this treadmill very convenient and easy," he says. "Nautilus is one of the better brands so you know that you will be buying a high-quality product which will last. You can sync all your fitness data to the Nautilus trainer 2 app."
4. Best for low prices: Weslo Cadence G 5.9i Folding Treadmill
Jeff Parke is the owner and operator of Top Fitness Mag, an online exercise resource. He recently reviewed treadmills for the site, and concluded that the Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill "ranked #1 as it provides one of the best dollar-to-performance values on the market. While it may be for a beginner to intermediate-level run/walker, this machine is steady and reliable at an affordable price," he says.
"The heart rate monitor and six programmed workouts are useful tools that anyone can use during their workout to provide more data and track their progress."
5. Runner-up best for low prices: Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Treadmill With Device Holder
If the Weslo is unavailable — and it has sometimes been hard to come by — check out this model from Sunny Health & Fitness, which is also usually listed for under $400.
It has a maximum weight allowance of 220 pounds, which is lower than the top models. The Sunny Health & Fitness itself also weighs a lot less than top models (103 pounds, versus over 300 pounds), so that means it's less sturdy yet much easier to move around. It's foldable, too, which is helpful for storage.
The Sunny Health & Fitness treadmill maxes out at 9 mph, which is more than ample for most casual runners, and it has three incline levels, nine built-in workouts and a handy holder for your tablet or phone. Overall, it's a solid if basic option, for a low price.
If you are wavering on pulling the trigger on a treadmill because of the cost, or you're worried it will take up too much space, then Halevy, founder of HealthLuxe, says the sub-$1,000 Horizon T101 is a terrific value compared to models going well over $3,000.
"The least expensive option is the Horizon Fitness T101 Treadmill. This is a great option for someone looking to workout during quarantine and who plans on getting back to the gyms once they open," he says. "It folds for easy storage and does not take up much space when open."
If you're looking to get some reading done during your run, then Dr. Velimir Petkov, a podiatrist based in Clifton, New Jersey and the founder of Premier Podiatry, recommends the Proform Smart Pro 2000.
"This heavy-duty large treadmill is ideal for home use. It includes a large fan which can cool you off after an intense workout and it also has a tablet holder. Proform has a proven track record and the built quality is excellent. It also offers 1-year iFit in-home, trainer-led studio sessions with the purchase."
One advantage treadmills have over other forms of exercise is that if you have mobility issues, you can still get a workout in as long as you take it gentle. If you have sensitive joints, then maybe consider the Precor TRM.
Ed Pryts, a former football player and the CSO for Gym Source, a distributor of premium fitness equipment, likes the Precor TRM because it "is a quality, entry-level treadmill that caters to the needs of runners and walkers," he says. "The treadmill offers your basic speed settings, as well as technology like Energy StrideTechnology shock absorption, which reduces stress on your joints."
Peloton Tread: Recalled, No Longer Recommended
UPDATE: On May 5, 2021, Peloton recalled its Tread+ and Tread treadmills, after one child died and multiple other injuries were reported.
As Caleb Backe, a Certified Personal Trainer and health expert for Maple Holistics in Farmingdale, New Jersey, points out, the company's "treadmill is one to beat too. Admittedly it's on the pricier side but it's well worth it, given that it comes with a 32-inch touchscreen and front-facing camera, along with a few other bells and whistles," he says.
"The best part about this treadmill is that you can join live classes with your very own Peloton community. For anyone who’s training from home — which if you’re looking to invest in a treadmill you probably are — this is an invaluable feature that enhances motivation and accountability. When used in conjunction with the Peloton app, you get more than just a treadmill. You can maximize HIIT runs and floor workouts with one, easy-to-use piece of machinery."