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With a recent increase of Covid-19 cases across the country, you might not be ready to work out at your local gym or boutique fitness classes quite yet. However, you can kick your 2021 fitness goals into high gear and invest in a splurge-worthy treadmill to help bolster your cardiovascular endurance while working out from the comfort and safety of your home. Treadmills are available everywhere: There are superstores like Walmart and Target as well as Dick's Sporting Goods. You can also purchase exercise equipment from Best Buy, QVC, HSN and directly through various DTC brands like NordicTrack, Bowflex, and Horizon Fitness.
SKIP AHEAD Best treadmills of 2021
To help simplify your treadmill shopping experience, we consulted three in-demand fitness experts — a strength and conditioning coach, a co-founder of a gym frequented by Victoria's Secret models and a master boxing trainer — to learn how to shop for the best treadmills in 2021. The pros share expert guidance and answer everything from the best treadmill for the money to tips for beginners looking to maximize their new piece of at-home gym equipment. They also touch on whether you should unplug your treadmill when not in use, offer their honest thoughts on top-rated treadmills across various price points and more. Before you commit to your health journey, consider these fitness expert tips and top-rated treadmills to help you make an informed shopping decision. And while you're here, don't forget to bookmark our other home gym equipment content. We previously consulted personal trainers on everything from recommendations on kettlebells, TRX suspension devices and dumbells to what to consider when shopping for ellipticals.
How to shop for a treadmill
According to the pros we consulted, the few factors to consider when shopping for a treadmill apply to other substantial at-home gym equipment, Rhys Athayde, founding trainer at DogPound said to consider pricing above all, then how much space it will take up, its functionality, and finally the warranty and maintenance of your potential new treadmill.
When it comes to functionality, Athayde recommended watching the length of the treadmill, whether it offers shock absorption, its potential speed and stability and its maximum weight capacity.
“When purchasing a large piece of equipment like a treadmill, we often forget the weight impact it has on your floors and surfaces,” said Anthony Crouchelli, master and founding trainer at Grit Bxng. He agreed with Athayde on looking for shock-absorbing tracking for your runs, as well as balance. “I have often found at times that some treadmills are constantly shaking and rocking while in use, making the workout extremely difficult,” Crouchelli said.
Jason Antin, a certified strength and conditioning coach and Merrell athlete ambassador added “the primary focus for anyone in training, especially those new to training, should be focusing on form” rather than quantity.
Antin, who said he ran a total of 4,000 miles in 2014, only clocked 100 of those miles on the treadmill and doesn’t have a treadmill in his home. However, as an avid outdoor trail runner and rock climber, he advised his fellow mountain athletes to consider the incline options and compatibility with pairing devices, such as a heart rate monitor strap.
“Start with small steps for big strides — work on building your foundation of running from the ground upwards,”
Anthony Crouchelli, master and founding trainer at Grit Bxng.
Best treadmills of 2021
Crouchelli called the Sunny Health foldable treadmill “a great shock-absorbing treadmill” that has the ease of saving space and noise in your workouts. He noted the shock absorption aspect is “ideal for runners working to create a low impact on your joints from start to finish in your daily runs.” There’s also a user mode allowing you to set runs to distance, time and or a calorie-specific goal. You’re able to select speeds between .5 to 9 miles per hour and three preset incline levels. There are also 49 inches of running surface for anyone up to 220 pounds can walk, jog and run on. An LCD screen displays your speed, distance, time, calories burned and your pulse.
The Xterra Fit offers three manual incline settings and 12 pre-programmed runs, allowing readers to have variety in their home workouts, which the treadmill tracks, keeping an eye on incline, calories burned, distance, pulse and speed. “The price point [just under $400] is perfect for a budget-friendly individual who wants to get into running without breaking the bank,” said Crouchelli. You get variety with your speed range – half-a-mile to 10 miles per hour, all indicated on the 5-inch LCD display screen. Storing the TR150 is simple too — just pull the treadmill’s knob and you can fold it up with ease.
“The best treadmills for home use are ones that are compact or the ones that have immersive run experiences, such as Peloton or NordicTrack,” said Athayde. “This is because you are either saving space in your home for other gym equipment or you’re getting the most out of your purchase with interactive features that make the runs more challenging and engaging.” We selected this highly-rated Nordic Track treadmill for a few reasons, including that it comes with a backlit display screen and a one-year free trial of iFit, Nordictrack’s interactive fitness membership, allowing you to follow along with guidance from a personal trainer — after the trial, the membership will run you $39 per month.
“Nordic hands down has some of the best on-demand trainers in the business, as they provide no stop top-tier programs across the board,” said Crouchelli. He’s a fan of the Bluetooth technology because it allows the on-demand trainers to connect with clients in workouts. The adjustable incline goes up to 10 percent and you can run up to 10 miles per hour on the machine, which can support up to 300 pounds.
If you’re not into treadmill bars and risers then you’re in luck, as this offering from Goplus allows you to fold the riser up and recreate the outdoor jogging experience indoors. The quiet machine has a five-layer, non-slip running belt offering extra cushioning for your joints, shock absorption and durability. If you don’t already own a smartwatch such as a FitBit or Apple Watch, then you can track your metrics — speed, time, distance and calories burned —on the LED display screen.
For a commercial-grade treadmill, consider the NordicTrack X22i, which boasts a 22-inch touchscreen where you can stream exercise classes through iFit. The X22i features Bluetooth tech, two speakers and fans which help self-cool the machine. It also offers versatility — hold onto the built-in push bar and sled grips to switch things up for a sled push at home. NordricTrack says X22i’s deck offers low-impact cushioning and is more gentle on your joints. Additionally, you can run up to 12 miles per hour on the machine and increase the incline up to 40 percent for an uphill climb at-home.
Crouchelli described the ProForm as the “top of the line” when it comes to your at-home treadmill. Why? The machine boasts interactive training sessions and connected fitness tracking. “This treadmill is also spatially friendly — with the best motor on the market — and includes a heavy duty drive system that cools itself to handle the constant incline and speed changes from your training,” he said. You can run up to 12 miles per hour on the machine, which can hold someone up to 325 pounds, comes with a 10-year warranty and one month free trial of iFit membership.
Shopping for a treadmill with a variety of workout routines already built into the system? Consider this Bluetooth-enabled machine that comes with 26 workout programs and dual screens so you can track your metrics, like your heart rate and weight management. Nautilus also has a free smartphone app called Explore the World, which allows you to choose from 27 routes in 19 locations, so you can workout alongside other Nautilus owners in real time. The durable treadmill also has a 350 pound weight capacity, heart rate strap and an accessory bar to hold your towels and smart water bottle.
We’ve previously mentioned the Echelon Stride in a recent installation of our weekly New and Notable column. Beyond a touchscreen monitor with Bluetooth connectivity, the machine folds up automatically with the push of a button. Once folded up, the Stride has a depth of 10 inches and its wheels will help you store it with ease. Crouchelli described this space-saving treadmill as “extremely light” and offers an “awesome” on-demand option, which he said allows you to compete and challenge your friends and family in workouts. Echelon created virtual fitness classes specifically for the Stride treadmill, and Crouchelli is a fan of the community, calling it “world class.” “Echelon offers an extended outreach and connection from their instructors to members daily,” he said. The Echelon United subscription is $39.99 per month.
ProForm, another well-liked brand among Shopping readers, created the T10 treadmill featuring handlebars with EKG sensors to keep tabs on your heart rate. Beyond the 10-inch HD touchscreen display, dual speakers and one-year complementary membership to iFIT (if you order from Dick's Sporting Goods), this ProForm treadmill sports a cooling fan along with a self-cooling motor to prevent it from overheating. The treadmill is also relatively compact and can be folded up for easy storage when not in use.
UPDATE (May 5, 2021, 6 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article included the Peloton Tread+. After Peloton announced May 5 it was voluntarily recalling all of its treadmills due to safety concerns, mention of it has been removed from the article.