Do you have enough space for a treadmill? Measure the space you have available, then check out each treadmill's size specifications. If you plan to walk or run at a steep incline, measure the vertical distance, too. Add your own height to make sure you have plenty of ceiling clearance. Non-folding treadmills are the sturdiest option, but a folding running deck can save valuable space in your home.
Can you handle installation and set up on your own? Some of the negative user reviews we spotted complain of assembly and set-up challenges with their treadmill. If you are not somewhat handy, buying a treadmill from a fitness store that can handle all of that for you might be a good idea. Keep in mind that a motorized treadmill can weigh a couple of hundred pounds -- and that many delivery companies will take the box only as far as your door, or in some cases the curb. If you're not sure you can handle a 200- to-300-pound box, consider paying extra for inside delivery, or again, buy from a retailer that will set up your treadmill for you.
How much do you weigh? Each treadmill has a maximum user weight limit. Make sure the heaviest person who will use the machine weighs no more than that limit, and, especially in the case of lower-end treadmills, leaving a healthy cushion is probably a good idea. If you're heavier than the treadmill's weight limit, you'll most likely void its warranty at best, and at worst risk the danger of serious injury should the treadmill structurally fail while in use.
Are you a walker or a runner? For those who plan to walk or, at most, jog, a lower-cost treadmill will likely suffice. However, running subjects a treadmill to much more stress. Look to a non-folding treadmill or a higher-quality folding model to ensure that your treadmill can take what a runner can dish out.
Consider the surface. Runners will often prefer a belt that's firm to simulate the feel of running on the road. However, a firm belt can be tougher on your joints. Most treadmills have a single comfort level, but others allow you to adjust cushioning from road hard to softer than running on grass, or have optional cushioning systems to accommodate different needs.
Are you committed to exercising regularly? A good treadmill can get expensive, and statistics show that far too many wind up as dust collectors or clothing trees. If you are just beginning an exercise regimen, buying an inexpensive treadmill as a starter machine might not be the worst idea. Ignore the fanciest, feature laden options and concentrate of finding a well put-together treadmill that will last long enough for you to be able to graduate to a higher end machine.
No treadmill is completely maintenance-free, and some even require regular maintenance to protect the warranty. Most treadmill maintenance is relatively low-cost. Plan on adjusting bolts to keep the belt in line, vacuuming or wiping down the belt and deck, and occasionally applying lubricant. Some decks are specifically designed not to be lubricated, so check your owner's manual first for maintenance requirements and limitations.
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 Treadmills: For those who take their workouts seriously, non-folding treadmills like those found in gyms and exercise clubs are the best, most durable choices. We name the top treadmills,
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.
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.