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 investing in a top model if you use it on a regular basis.
Do you want premium features? The top stair climbers have interactive LCD screens, built-in preset workout programs, heart rate monitors, Bluetooth connectivity and more. Of course, the more you get, the more you pay, but if you love all the bells and whistles, it may be worth making the splurge.
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.
Do you want to run? Stair climbers just offer an up and down motion, with an upper speed limit of about 4 miles per hour, there is no option to run (although they are good for incline training if you're a hiker). If you need something that gives you the option to either walk or run at speeds up to 10 miles per hour, see our report on treadmills.
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. Still, they do take up less room than a treadmill.
Elsewhere in this report: