What's important in a treadmill?

I’m looking into buying a treadmill, so I can still run on the nastiest days of winter.

I’m willing to get a used one, and obviously the cheaper the better, but when I read this ad at my local Craigslist I realized I didn’t know what any of those features meant (except the cupholders) or how important they were.

Can anyone tell me what features to look for in a treadmill? I’d like to spend around $400, if that’s not unrealistically low for a good treadmill.

The ability to support an airplane.

Frictionless bearings?

The ability to speed up to an infinitely fast speed… :wink:

That it gets used.

Definitely the airplane.

It’s been a few hours, so I will attempt a partial answer.

A good treadmill needs to have variable speeds and inclines. It should be wide enough to make it easy to keep both feet on the treadmill. It should have a working and simple shutoff. Usually a cord that you attach to your clothing so that if you slip, it pulls the cord shutting off the treadmill.

I hope this helps a little and that someone more knowledgeable actually answers your question.


You also need to understand that any pace faster than a walk will produce a rhythmic thudding noise, clearly audible throughout the entire house.

And if you live in an apartment, your upstairs (or downstairs) neighbors will always know when you’re running, for the same reason. Thus, treadmills and apartments do not always mix well.

If you’re in a house, put the thing in the basement, on a concrete floor. This also has the advantage of not taking up half the living room. Even the fold-down models take up considerable space in my experience, unless you own a 20 x 20 living room.

Consumer Reports, a few issues back, did a complete survey of treadmills. Check it out at the library.

$400 is probably too low.

You’ll really want to go to a store that has treadmills and walk/jog on a few of them. Then you’ll know how wide and long the track has to be for you to use them. You’ll pay more for wide or long tracks, but if you need them you need them.

You’ll want something with a good motor, with variable speeds and inclines. You’ll want something that has a good feel under your feet. You’ll probably want something that folds. You’ll probably want something with a fan. And yes, get one with a clip for your clothes.

You want one with nice long side rails, so there’s plenty of room to hang laundry on it after you stop using it.

It depends on how much you weigh, how tall you are, and what you plan to do with it.

The treadmill isted in your ad has a decent-sized motor for most people, but 2 hp would be better for large runners. Similarly, it’s a bit narrow and too short for tall runners. A cushioned deck is also great for running.

Speeds up to 10mph and incline up to 10% are standard on most treadmills. Other features I’d recommend have, I think, already been mentioned.

The aforementioned Consumer Reports review had their “best buys” fall in the range of $1300-$1600, so that might give you an idea of a price range. I’m getting that online and I’m not sure when they last had it in a printed issue. May 2007 maybe, if I’m reading it properly.

I know it’s a small thing, but I particularly like the little extra of support for a “telemetry strap” which can wirelessly relay heart rate information to the treadmill. This allows for targeted heart rate training such that the treadmill can alter the belt speed or pitch dynamically to keep your HR in a defined range over the course of a workout. A slightly lower-tech implementation of this same feature can be had by way of models with handrails capable of discerning your HR after you grip them for several seconds, but I find that awkward and rather disruptive to my gait.

For me though, I think the “must have” feature is stability. Nothing is more distracting than a treadmill which obviously shudders along with your footfalls. Something about having the console flopping around in front of me while I run is entirely off-putting. Unfortunately, it seems like there is a pretty strong correlation between overall stability and price…

You’re projecting. I’ve been running for most of my adult life. I’m not a couch potato trying to spend herself out of sloth.

I’d get one at least 10,000’ long and 200’ wide so you can support any type of aircraft.

Stop with the aircraft.

What, is the 0.85** signal-to-noise ratio in this thread not quite what you had in mind?
**SNR = 6 topical posts / (5 airplane gags + 2 veiled insults) =~ 0.85. Come to think of it, I just dragged you down to 0.75… sorry.

Instead of a treadmill, you could look into an elliptical trainer.

I’m going to assume that your running is mostly outside, since you appear to have no preconceived notions about treadmills.

Anyway, after many hundreds of miles on the treadmills at my gym, I must say that for me the most important thing would be durability and robustness, with such niceties as fancy running programs a distant third. Built in fans, cupholders, TV mount are all a plus.

The ones at the gym are solid, and that’s what I like. Considering how light featured they are, compared to ones at sporting goods stores, and considering how expensive commercial models are, I’m afraid to think how flaky the pretty sporting goods store models might be.

Of course, the extra cost might simply be because the machine needs to withstand a hundred hours of use a week, instead of three. Nevertheless, solidity and robustness are my key factors. I typically run ~10mi at a shot on the treadmill, so I would wear out a shaky one in six months.

Post anything you find out from CR about them.

Oh, and one other thing: if you put it in the basement, make sure you measure the highest point your head will ever be off the floor (e.g. full incline in mid stride) and see if your basement ceiling is high enough. It would be a bummer to get your treadmill and find you can’t raise it up much without hitting your head.

I’m joking, actually. It was a general, not a specific, “you.”