Treadmill Buying Guide

Treadmill Buying Guide: How to Choose a Treadmill

Table of Contents

It’s late afternoon, you’ve just got off work for the day, and you’re craving a solid run to unwind and re-energize. As you get to the gym and hit the cardio floor, however, you’re dismayed to see every single treadmill occupied and a lineup of hopefuls waiting to get on next.

Like many in the same situation, you’re considering canceling your membership and investing in your own treadmill. In fact, at-home treadmills have become so common that they now account for over a quarter of all privately owned exercise equipment.1

If you’re going to buy a treadmill, however, you need to know about different features, price points, and styles. In this treadmill buying guide, we’ll exercise our in-depth knowledge of these popular cardio machines to help you decide which to purchase for your home gym.

Understanding Your Exercise Needs

The most pertinent factor when purchasing an at-home treadmill is, above all, your exercise needs. What types of exercises will you use the machine for? How hard will you push it (and yourself) during your cardio sessions? Are you casually strolling to keep your muscles loose or working toward a marathon?

First things first: set your exercise objectives and start from there.

Define Your Fitness Goals

How fast and hard you want to push your treadmill will be a major determining factor in what kind you buy. For instance, are you:

  • Rehabilitating an injury and only need a way to move your muscles and keep limber?
  • The kind of person who likes to walk or lightly jog for exercise?
  • Trying to get some steps in as you work, watch TV, or perform other daily tasks?

If so, you’d be fine with a compact-style treadmill that maxes out around three miles per hour (MPH). Such units are small and don’t require much effort to set up, move, or use.

If, however, you have grander fitness goals—such as training to improve your maximum speed or endurance—you’ll want a larger model akin to the kind you’d find in a gym. These will generally have top speeds of 10 to 12 MPH, though you may be able to find models capable of reaching 15 MPH.2

Whichever treadmill you decide to go with, first and foremost, ensure it's capable of handling your exercise needs. 

Assess Your Budget

If burned calories could buy exercise machines, you’d soon be able to afford whichever treadmill your heart desires. For now, however, you’ll have to establish a budget and shop for models that fit your spending limit.

Compact models designed specifically for domestic use generally cost less than larger, commercial machines and can start around a very attainable $300. Going bigger and tacking on more features, however, will begin to drive up the cost. Full-size units that boast all the bells and whistles can easily run over $4,000.3

With a range so large, it’s important you have a set idea of how much you want to spend before pressing Go on a treadmill purchase.

Consider Your Space and Accessibility

From compact models designed to fit under desks to bulky behemoths larger than what you’d find in most commercial gyms, there’s a vast spectrum of different treadmill sizes. Measure out the space you plan to exercise in, and determine what will and won’t fit.

Remember, just because there’s enough space for a full-size unit doesn’t necessarily mean you need one. You may want to preserve that area for other exercise equipment such as elliptical machines or adjustable dumbbells, so we recommend purchasing the most compact treadmill model that still meets your exercise needs. Check out our blog on the treadmill vs elliptical machine if you’re having a hard time deciding what’s best for you.

Understanding the Different Types of Treadmills

There’s more that goes into understanding how to choose a treadmill than just determining your exercise needs. This is because there’s actually a diverse range of stationery walking and running machines on the market, and their sizes, features, and price points distinguish them from each other. 

Some of the most popular types of treadmills include:

  • Mini walking pads – This compact style of treadmill is often utilized under desks and in front of TVs to get some steps in as you work or watch. They’re small enough to tuck into a closet or corner when not in use, yet powerful enough to get your legs moving up to three MPH. Learn more about a walking pad vs treadmill, and which is best for your needs.
  • Folding treadmills – As their name suggests, folding treadmills or foldable treadmills can be doubled over and stored away after your exercise. When unfolded, they’re generally a bit smaller than full-size models so, if you have a longer stride or wider stance than most runners, you may find foldable treadmills a touch petite for your purposes.4
  • Full-size treadmills – This is the ubiquitous style that you’ll find in most fitness centers, sports complexes, and home gyms worldwide. They take up a lot of space, but also produce the most power and can turn their belts faster than other types of treadmills. If you’re training for a marathon or love hitting all-out sprints, you’ll want to give full-size treadmills heavy consideration. 
  • Motorized treadmills – These types of treadmills encompass both full-size treadmills and mini walking pads. Basically, they are treadmills that use electricity. Offering a variety of features, such as adjustable speeds and inclines, motorized treadmills cater to a wide range of fitness levels. They're a staple in homes and gyms for their convenience and for facilitating diverse workouts.
  • Manual treadmills – Perfect for those who like to control their pace naturally, manual treadmills operate without electricity. Many manual treadmills are also curved treadmills, which can lead to a more engaging and intense workout by promoting a more natural running posture and better engagement of the leg muscles. They're lightweight, easy to store, and typically more affordable. Ideal for straightforward walking or running exercises, they encourage more effort, which can lead to increased calorie burn. However, they lack the automated features of motorized treadmill versions. 

Assessing Treadmill Features

If you’ve been using the treadmills at your local gym or fitness center, you’re probably used to having a plethora of different programs and features at your disposal. While having set hill courses and cardio-burning regimens is nice, there are more important options to keep your eyes on when purchasing an at-home machine. 

To assess your potential treadmill’s features:

Pay Attention to Motor Horsepower

The strength of a treadmill’s motor dictates how fast it will turn and, ultimately, your running speed. Compact at-home models can utilize smaller, less powerful engines to spin their belts, and they often don’t need more than 1.75 horsepower. Small engines also mean less noise so, if your treadmill is going in a shared space, a compact unit may be beneficial.

If you’re hoping to run fast, however, you’ll need to select something with a larger motor. Just remember: the bigger the engine, the greater the potential for sound—so carefully consider the tradeoff between power and peace before making a purchase.

Evaluate Incline Adjustment Options

Smaller units you can use at your desk may not necessarily come with inline options. Oftentimes, these units will be fixed to a moderate, yet challenging slope of seven degrees.

If you want to go steeper, make sure your treadmill of choice has the ability to ramp up the action. Many commercially available units top off around 8.5 degrees, but you may be able to find loftier options if incline training is a top priority.4

Check Out Treadmill Safety Features

With under-desk treadmills, you can simply lift your feet or step aside if you need to abruptly end your exercise. If things start going wrong on full-size models at high speeds, however, you’re going to want robust safety features to protect you.

First of all, you’ll need a sturdy handrail to grab onto in case you lose your footing. Secondly, there should be sufficient space at the sides of the belt to jump off and rest should you suddenly need to. Finally, there should be a large and easily accessible killswitch that can quickly cut the motor’s power in case of emergencies. 

For added protection, consider treadmills with a safety key attached to your body that disconnects the machine’s power if you stumble and fall. 


Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Treadmill

Those planning to purchase a treadmill should likewise plot out how to use it once they’ve pulled the trigger. To get the most out of your machine, consider these savvy tips that’ll work with any treadmill model.

Monitor Your Performance

Set benchmarks for how you want to improve your performance once you’ve gotten into an exercise routine. Since everyone starts from different fitness levels and has different end goals in mind, these benchmarks will be personal and varied. They may include:

  • Increasing your range of mobility
  • Rehabilitating an injury and gradually regaining your former strength
  • Building and toning muscle
  • Improving your top speed and getting better at sprinting
  • Increasing your endurance and cross-training for races

Whatever your goals are, monitor your progress toward them as you spend more time on your treadmill. Then, as you enhance your overall exercise knowledge and capabilities, you’ll be able to tweak your routine to better support your goals. 

Tailor Your Workouts

Cater your exercises to suit the goals you want to achieve. If you want to become more flexible and mobile, you may want to try dynamic treadmill movements such as side steps and jogging backward.

If pure speed is what you’re after, keep a log of your top MPH from every exercise and how long you spent running it. Then, as you become increasingly fitter and stronger, push yourself to beat your previous records by running even faster and for even longer.

Participate in Treadmill Challenges

Whether it’s on social media or amongst friends and family, a little healthy competition never hurts anybody! Push yourself and those close to you to participate in treadmill challenges that test your upper limits and force you to be faster and better.

Running at home skips the crowds of packed gyms, but it also means missing out on the positive reinforcement you can receive from fitness friends and group classes. So, establish your own structure and support group to help recreate the benefits of full fitness centers from the privacy of your own home.

Choose Lifepro for Your Treadmill Needs

Lifepro’s at-home treadmill models make it easy to get a workout in while you get work done by fitting perfectly under your desk to keep your feet moving. Gone are the days of waiting at a crowded gym to get your turn on a treadmill—by the time you clock out for the day, you’ll already have gotten your steps in.

If you’re looking for a compact, lightweight, and storable at-home treadmill to help you achieve your fitness and exercise goals, look no further than Lifepro. Browse our treadmill selection today. 


  1. Gitnux. Home Fitness Industry Statistics [Fresh Research].
  2. LiveStrong. How Fast Is 10 on a Treadmill?
  3. Consumer Reports. Treadmill Buying Guide.


Joel Gottehrer

Joel Gottehrer is the Co-Founder of Lifepro Fitness and has dedicated his life to helping people transform theirs. With over 12 years of experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and owner of two personal training studios, Joel has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping transform lives. After suffering from physical injuries, Joel and his business partner, Abraham Brach, came together with a common goal to alleviate the pain caused by their injuries.

They continued to find themselves disappointed with the results stemming from various products promising to relieve their pain, and with that – Lifepro Fitness was born. Joel's mission is to have a positive impact on millions of lives with the Lifepro brand. Whether it's finding new and innovative ways to help people recover from injuries or developing products to improve overall wellness, Joel is always looking for ways to push the boundaries. Thanks to his commitment to help people live their lives free of pain, Lifepro has been able to do this for thousands of people since its founding in 2017.

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