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The best treadmills offer smooth, powerful, stable performance

When it comes to the top treadmills for home use, the name Landice usually surfaces somewhere in the conversation. The company makes two similar models, the Landice L7 (Est. $3,700 and up) and the Landice L8 (Est. $4,500 and up). Reviews are split between the two as to which would be the best choice for most buyers. One independent reviewer puts the L7 at the top of its list of non-folding treadmills. Runner's World looks at both models and gives the nod to the L8, adding "This is the treadmill you need if you're training to race up Mt. Washington." Michael Jackness at Pulse by Treadmills.com also looks at both and he rates them similarly. Jackness notes that the L8 is, for the most part, the L7, made bigger, with a larger deck, rollers and frame. He adds that the L8 is "basically a commercial unit for the home and it is priced in line with that theory." In light of that, we are giving our nod to the L7 as the Best Reviewed treadmill for runners, though with one caveat. The L7 has a 58-inch deck -- just long enough to accommodate most runners' strides. However, Landice suggests that those runners over 6-feet tall might be more comfortable with the L8, which features a super-long 63-inch deck.

Best treadmill

Landice L7
Landice L7

Regardless of whether you select the Landice L7 or Landice L8, construction quality is close to bullet-proof, earning top marks in one round up and compliments all around. Landice backs these treadmills with a lifetime warranty on parts, including wear parts, though there is a catch -- your treadmill has to be dealer installed and you need to live within 60 miles of a Landice dealer.

Buyers can customize their Landice treadmills in a variety of ways. Most important, perhaps, is the choice of four different control panels. The base version comes with the Pro Trainer control panel and it's pretty basic, with five built-in programs, two user defined programs and not much else. Step up versions add additional programs, jazzier displays, and options such as a heart monitor. The top of the line Executive Control panel adds an LED display that simulates various activities, such as road scenes and a track for running. Feel like climbing instead? The screen can show your progress as you scale six landmarks, like the Washington Monument or the Empire State Building. How basic or fancy a control panel you want is a matter of preference or budget, but step up panels add to the bottom line -- as much as $1,400 for the Executive panel. Jackness suggests that you be "be truthful with yourself" regarding what you really need, and adds that "many users are actually better off with a simpler screen and adding a tablet mount or tv mount instead to the unit based on what they will use while working out."

There are many other options for the Landice treadmills as well. Those include the aforementioned TV and tablet mounts, as well as an integrated 15-inch LCD TV/DVD combo system. The VXF Shock Absorption system is standard and well regarded, but if you need a softer run to minimize impact to your knees and other joints, an optional Orthopedic Shock Absorption system is offered. The company claims that with the latter installed, running on a Landice treadmill is seven times softer than running on grass, and reviews indicate that the difference is noticeable. Medical handrails are available to assist older users or rehabilitation needs.

These Landice treadmills can be pricey -- especially when loaded up with extras such as the Executive Control panel -- but they are the closest thing you can get to club-grade exercise gear without really opening up your wallet. For example, Runner's World testers gush over the Woodway 4Front (Est. $10,000 and up). It's a tank, says Jeff Dengate about the Woodway, adding, "Its belt even resembles a caterpillar track found on heavy-duty vehicles." The Woodway also does a better job than any other treadmill of creating an experience that feels like you are running on a road. "It isn't a treadmill–it's an indoor road-running simulator," says Mark Remy, Runner's World editor at large.

The downside to the Woodway 4Frong, of course, is the price, which is described as "huge" by the reviewers at TreadmillDoctor.com. However, they add "Given that, this is one of the few treadmills that can claim to be the last treadmill you will buy." Runner's World agrees that the price will be hard to swallow for many individuals -- and keep in mind that options can drive it even higher. "But if your neighborhood health club owns one, it's worth the cost of membership," Dengate says,

If you are looking for a non-folding treadmill that's a little easier on the wallet, we saw some good feedback for the NordicTrack Elite 9700 Pro (Est. $2,200). It finishes right behind the Landice L7 in one large comparative review and earns a Best Buy rating from TreadmillDoctor.com.

Construction quality on the Nordic Track Elite 970 is again excellent, though a step behind the treadmills mentioned above. The frame, deck and motor are covered by a lifetime warranty, the electronics and other parts for six years. One reviewer that looks at durability over the long haul reports that with both the L7 and the Elite 9700 Pro, tests to simulate a half year of usage produced very few signs of wear. TreadmillDoctor.com concurs that build quality is excellent. "The cushioning is fantastic, component quality is very high, and you gain a stable running platform in this design from NordicTrack," they say. One negative is that TreadmillDoctor.com has a very poor view of the customer service provided by Icon Health and Fitness, NordicTrack's parent company. However, they add that the quality is high enough on this treadmill that you are unlikely to need it very often.

The NordicTrack Elite 9700 Pro backs its excellent build quality with a plethora of features. iFit Live (Est. $100 per year) is an interactive training tool that keeps track of your workouts and connects to an online community. Google Maps' driven workouts let you select a route to "run" anywhere in the world and have the treadmill incline (up to 15 percent) or decline (up to 3 percent) to simulate the terrain. The 10-inch touch display is a powered by an Android operating system, letting you read email, watch videos and more. Cushioning level is user adjustable -- down to 24 percent compared to running on the road, the company claims.

Elsewhere in this Report:

Best Reviewed Treadmills: Editors name the top treadmills for serious runners and casual walkers. The features that will help you pick the best treadmill to reach your fitness goals are also discussed.

Best Home Treadmills: Folding treadmills bring the gym right to your home. The very best models can perform on a par with non-folding, club-grade models.

Best Cheap Treadmills: Can you find happiness in a sub-$1,000 treadmill? The answer is yes … if you choose wisely.

Best Manual Treadmills: Manual treadmills are the cheapest you can buy. But are their low price worth their trade-offs? We look at the considerations and render a verdict.

Buying Guide: Not sure where to start to find the perfect treadmill for you? We discuss key points to help guide you to making the right decision for your exercise needs and budget.

Our Sources: These are the expert and user reviews we relied on in researching this report. Those, combined with the expertise of our editors, are used to find the best treadmills, and the best values, for walkers and runners.

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