What the best stair stepper has

  • A solid warranty. Stair steppers have a lot of moving parts, and a good warranty will ensure that your expensive piece of equipment doesn't turn into a clothes hanger. Also, find out how the piece of equipment will be serviced -- if you have to drive to a service center hundreds of miles away, that may not be realistic.
  • Some feedback options. At a minimum, you will want to know your pace, as well as the distance covered and time elapsed. Calories burned is a nice feature as well, but the more features you have, the higher the price.
  • Varying levels of resistance. This will enable you to challenge yourself over time and ramp up your workout as you get more in shape.
  • A stable base. Since you will be shifting your full weight, be sure it can hold you steadily and comfortably. If you feel like balancing on a basic stepper may be hard, consider paying a bit more for a model with handlebars.
  • An appropriate weight limit. Most steppers can support between 220 and 250 pounds, but there are a few models that have upper weight limits of 300 pounds.
  • Easy assembly. Confusing instructions, holes that don't line up or missing hardware can make assembly frustrating. If a model gets a lot of negative feedback for this issue, you may want to look elsewhere.

Know before you go

How many people will be using the stepper? If more than one, choose a heavier stepper with a more comprehensive warranty. The ability to track the workouts of more than one user is also a nice feature.

How often will you work out? If you only plan to use the stepper a few times a week, you can choose an inexpensive model; but if you want a gym-like routine, look for a more heavy-duty machine. Experts say it's worth the investment if you use it on a regular basis.

Do you want premium features? These may include a towel or water-bottle holder, heart-rate monitor, book or magazine rack. Some even have a built-in television.

Do you prefer dependent or independent pedal movement? On dependent stair steppers, the pedals are linked, so that as one goes up, the other goes down. Independent pedal movement more closely simulates the motion of walking up stairs, because the pedals are not linked.

Do you want an upper-body workout? If so, choose a model with a twisting motion, resistance bands, or moving arms or handlebar so you can exercise your arms or upper torso as you step.

Where will you keep it? A basic stepper can have a very small footprint, and some even fold compactly to store easily in a closet or under the bed. However, some models are very large pieces of equipment that can take up quite a bit of room. In addition to floor space, take the ceiling height into consideration.

Back to top