Tested: Treadmills

It’s easy to understand why so many of you ask us for advice about choosing a treadmill. Next to good shoes, a treadmill may be a runner’s best friend. You can do practically anything your training demands – hills, intervals, tempo, long distance – on them. Unlike on a normal run outside, your speed won’t drift unless you specifically tell it to. And you can log your miles while watching EastEnders or keeping an eye on your children, without worrying about heat, cold, wind, ice, cars, darkness, pot-holes, rabid dogs or the local low-life.

We tested 11 domestic models and poublished the results in 2001. We asked for models, preferably widely available, that would be suitable for use of as much as an hour a day, every day, with the addition of long runs and speedwork. Most of them fell into the £1000-£3500 range, with one below that chosen as an experiment.

Phil Wattleworth of Gymworld in Oldham echoed the advice that most experts gave us. “It’s hard to buy a bad treadmill over £1000,” he told us. “Above that, it’s like buying cars: a Ford will do the job, but there’s always a Mercedes or BMW if you want the very best materials and build.”

Was he right? We found that you certainly tend to get what you pay for in terms of ride, speed, stability and features. And long-term differences are even more pronounced. “Below £1000 you could be buying a ‘disposable’ treadmill, meaning that if a main component breaks, it may not be worth fixing,” says Wattleworth. “The cheaper treadmills may sometimes have similar features, and may even feel similar to run on as the more expensive models, but they won’t last nearly as long, and even during their lifetimes they’ll be less user-friendly and harder to maintain.” To show us the sort of thing he was talking about, Wattleworth pulled out a motor from the most expensive machine in our test, and set it beside a budget one. It was about twice the size (and featured a huge flywheel for stability). Big machines simply don’t have to thrash themselves to give you a hard work-out.

We’ve put all our reviews, and more tips onto a separate page. Before we set out, though, a word of caution: treadmills are expensive, and they’re complex. A bad purchase could leave you with one more inactive exercise hulk languishing in a corner of your garage. So read on, and buy wisely.

Features that matter
Here's what we discovered about maximum speed and incline; cushioning; belt size; heart-rate control; safety and more

Using your treadmill
Here's what you need to know about installation, maintenance, lifespan, and training on your treadmill

The reviews
All the reviews are on one page.

  • True 500 HRC0 £3608 (*Best big-budget buy*)
  • Tunturi T-Track £2999
  • Bodyguard Champlain £2895 (*Best below £3000*)
  • Life Fitness T5i £2895
  • Trimline 7600 £2249
  • Reebok ACD1-Pro £1999
  • Vision 8200HRC £1799 (*Best below £2000*)
  • Kettler Marathon £1725
  • Trimline 2650 £1449 (*Best below £1500*)
  • JK-Exer 938B £1099
  • Proform 570 £800

6 buying tips

When you’re treadmill shopping, remember that a more expensive machine is likely to perform better for a longer time. A good retailer will be able to advise you honestly, will allow you at least a 10-minute test-run on each machine (do bring the machines up to the maximum speed and incline you plan to use at home), and should offer installation and a tutorial.

Consider these questions before you buy:

  1. How important are the treadmill’s electronic features – readouts, programmable work-outs, heart-rate training capability – to you?
  2. How frequently are you going to use your treadmill? (A factor in how much money you can justify spending.)
  3. What are the details of the warranty? How is repair service provided, and what routine maintenance are you expected to do?
  4. Do you need a folding treadmill? Many of the cheaper options fold, which saves storage space, but can reduce stability.
  5. How powerful is the motor? Most specialists recommend 2HP (horsepower) continuous duty or above for serious running, though it is equally important that the motor works smoothly.
  6. All in all, are you confident that the machine was built with a runner’s needs in mind?