The Best Treadmills for Runners
The best treadmill for runners has the power, speed, and programming to give you a satisfyingly strenuous home workout. We tried nine top-performing treadmills for ourselves and found three excellent running machines at three different price points.
How we chose the best treadmills for runners
Treadmills allow you to get a good cardio workout no matter the time, weather, or season. While just about any moving belt will serve to get your feet moving, the impact and speed of running demands a quality machine. We set out to find the best possible indoor running experience by researching the hallmarks of a great running treadmill: spacious decks, supportive cushioning, and smart tech features that entertain and motivate. Then we sifted through existing reviews of top rated treadmills from fitness websites and exercise blogs, tracking down the models that met our baseline expectations and that proved long-lived in the homes of real customers. For a more detailed look at our larger treadmill testing, which included both running and walking picks, check out our review of The Best Treadmill 2018.
If you’re more of a jogger than a runner, you probably don’t need more than 2.5 CHP (continuous horsepower). But if you expect to run your treadmill near top speeds, you’ll want an energy output that matches your own. Most runners will want treadmills with at least 3 CHP, although the Horizon Elite T9 managed to impress us despite its 2.75 CHP motor.
Belt surface area of 60 x 20 inches
A spacious belt allows for freedom of movement. Runners take longer strides than walkers, which is why running treadmills are usually classified by their 60-inch belt length — 5 inches longer than standard walking treadmills. To avoid feeling cramped during your run (and losing out on the benefits of elongating the leg muscles), you’ll want those extra inches.
Cushioning and shock support systems improve user comfort in two ways: First, they absorb the momentum of footfalls, preventing the creaks and bounces of flimsier machines. Second, and more importantly, they distribute impact that would otherwise ricochet back up through your joints. Most manufacturers brag about their shock-absorbing technology, but not all models deliver.
Running puts enormous impact on the deck and motor of a treadmill, so it’s crucial that components like the belt (which is prone to cracking after a couple years’ worth of wear and tear) come with coverage. The most dependable machines from respectable manufacturers come with lifetime warranties on the frame and motor, plus several years for parts and labor. We only looked at running treadmills with warranties of those lengths.
Before making any recommendations, we brought in nine different treadmills to do some actual running. Motor power, belt surface area, warranty lengths, and other hard stats can tell you a lot about how well a machine will hold up against a rigorous fitness routine, but when we brought in top-performing models for our own testing, we found that the more nuanced features give certain models a leg up over their competitors.
While different runners have different priorities, we decided to focus our testing on answering some essential questions: how natural our stride felt, how intuitive the controls were, how the programming improved our workouts, and how the overall design impacted our experience. The best treadmill feels easy to run on, with a smart console design and a variety of workout programs.
The 3 Best Treadmills for Runners
Why we chose it
If you’re new to running or consider yourself more of a jogger, and are looking for a piece of equipment you’d be proud to have in your home, the ProForm Pro 2000 is a perfect fit. ProForm knows how to make a beautiful treadmill. With its luxurious console — a glossy black expanse of digits and symbols — and roomy dimensions, the ProForm Pro 2000 boasts an attractive design and seems worth several times its manageable price. That value doesn’t stop at looks alone: While the console was nice to look at, its design also made for more ergonomic adjustments.
We also loved the Pro 2000’s smooth-riding stability. The running deck is comfortable, with enough shock absorption to keep the unit settled and your joints happy. The other element of ride quality is a powerful motor, and this treadmill’s high motor power equals high training potential. Upgrade your terrain training by adding decline to the mix, a cutting-edge feature that is tough to find in treadmills under $2,000. Treadmills that offer it tend to be bulkier, and the Pro 2000 actually had the largest footprint of all the machines we looked at: approximately 3 x 7 feet.
Sync it up with iFit to beef up ProForm Pro 2000’s programming, or challenge yourself with hardwired belt adjustments — incline and decline abilities help simulate outdoor terrain changes. Like most ProForm and NordicTrack treadmills, you’ll need to sync up the Pro 2000 with iFit to get the most out of fitness programming. Not many workout options appear on the treadmill without it. A subscription to iFit will run you around $10 a month, a bit of a surprise if you thought that the 32 programs the company brags about were preloaded. Still, iFit opens up so many training and tracking features you may ultimately decide it’s worth the upcharge. No matter which treadmill you choose, nearly every modern design depends on an app to flesh out its functionality.
Best for dedicated runners
Why we chose it
If you’re a frequent runner, you need a machine with a little more strength and cushioning to help you hit max speeds and max times. Look to the Horizon Elite T9. In addition to a truly supportive belt, it offers a major step up in entertainment and programming for a moderate step up in price. Despite the Horizon Elite T9’s sub-3 CHP motor, the most dedicated runners among us named this model their favorite. Because of the depth of its customization options and the pure comfort of the running surface, this model is perfect for experienced runners with lots of personal preferences when it comes to how they train.
The Horizon Elite T9’s most notable training feature is a fully customizable plan that allows you to set speed and incline preferences for different time increments, building up to a fully DIY workout. That level of detail shows up in the way it tracks your health metrics: You can find heart rate and calorie-burning stats for specific portions of your workout, which allows you to be attentive to every phase. The potential to entirely self-design your workout makes the Horizon unique amongst all the treadmills we tested.
One feature most people can appreciate? The high-quality 10-inch touchscreen, which comes standard on the T9 console. Since you access programs, metrics, and adjustments via the touchscreen, the rest of the console is surprisingly blank — just a few toggle buttons for quick speed and incline changes. Though the touchscreen is small, it’s well-organized and offers some stunning visuals. Our favorite is the virtual trail-running experience, which transports you along scenic paths from an almost surreal soaring perspective. You’ll even startle a couple tourists along the way. The pace of the video adjusts to your actual running speed, and for that natural feel, we preferred the quality of the visuals on the T9 to other, more expensive machines, including the NordicTrack.
Points to consider
Best for the dedicated runner
The T9 curiously does not provide total workout summaries, requiring you to keep track of each step of each session yourself. These features are great for a runner accustomed to micromanaging his or her workout plans, but that autonomy may be a little overwhelming if you’re just starting out and need guidance. Other, flashier systems offer a lot more hand-holding and are intended to motivate, or at least distract. If this is you, check out our super-high-tech pick, the NordicTrack C 2950.
Impressive overall footprint
Disappointing trail run visuals
Why we chose it
If you want tough workouts but have a hard time finishing them on your own, look to the NordicTrack C 2950. Its high-tech features can guide you through a wide variety of workouts, both with and without cheery personal trainers. The C 2950’s gargantuan 22-inch touchscreen makes it possible. The only controls that exist outside of the screen are two rows of incline and speed buttons and a set of arrow toggles for easy access below. The image quality is about on par with a modern smartphone. Intuitive swipes bring you through the whole catalog of workout programs and personalization features.
One runner told us that the NordicTrack C 2950 changed her life, or at least changed her workouts. And we can see why — this is a next-level treadmill. You don’t just run on it; you experience it. Choose from a library of personal trainers, all leading you through running and cross-training workouts in picturesque locations around the globe. We went on a trail run with one trainer in Australia, and then jumped off the treadmill to do some weight-training exercises with another in Greece. All that stimulation kept both our heart rates and our spirits high. The price reflects the power, but if you’re craving an immersive fitness experience, this is the total package.
Impressive overall footprint
In addition to the C 2950’s giant display, we were also impressed with the machine’s overall function. A spacious belt and two-part fan takes a lot of the treadmill out of treadmill running. Broad foot rails and elongated handles make climbing on and off feel safe, even while the belt is in motion. The NordicTrack C 2950 is powerful enough for a seasoned athlete, instructive enough for a novice runner, and motivational enough to make even the tortoises among us feel like pressing up that incline for another… five… minutes.
Points to consider
Disappointing trail run visuals
While the personal training options blew us away, the NordicTrack’s version of virtual trail running left a lot to be desired. Unlike the T9’s gliding footage, the C 2950 uses a stop-motion zoom. It reminded us of the Google Maps Street View, where you click forward on the street and, after a hiccup, it transports you 20 feet. It was nothing like the smooth, first-person-video-game perspective we got from the T9. But, of course, it’s a trade-off: The T9’s screen is less than half the size.
Guide to Treadmills for Runners
How to find your best treadmill for home
Zone in on your wants
While we found a handful of solid treadmills that checked all the right boxes, there is no one perfect treadmill. Stand-out elements exist across our favorite picks, so ensuring you bring home the one that will suit you best means deciding on your non-negotiables before you buy. A dedicated runner? Horsepower, speed, and incline are going to be key. A jogger who likes to be entertained? You can skimp on the horsepower, but will want to go with a model that offers rich programming.
Find out how much space you have
Runners want a more powerful treadmill and have longer strides than joggers or walkers. These two facts ladder up to one thing: the need for a bigger treadmill. Because treadmills need to be planted on level hard floors and are just too heavy to be moved frequently, check your home for the best place to keep it and find out how much space you can actually make. While a large treadmill may seem less than ideal, you might feel differently when you climb aboard. A spacious treadmill that lets you stretch your legs is much more likely to be a treadmill you’ll actually use.
Care for your treadmill’s components
Because runners require more of their treadmills than walkers, you are making a larger investment in a more powerful machine. Ensure its longevity by keeping the belt and motor clean and clear of debris, keeping it away from outside and pet stressors, and paying attention to overheating. The boon of an expensive machine is a long warranty, so call the manufacturer for troubleshooting rather than potentially voiding that warranty by tinkering yourself.
Treadmills for Runners FAQ
How can you get the most out of treadmill training?
Make the most of the programming available. Slow, uphill running, fast, flat sprints, and intervals all challenge your fitness in different ways, and all are available to you on even the most basic of treadmills. Exploit the power of having speed at your fingertips to hone your fitness and keep your workouts interesting.
Does cost really equate to quality in treadmills?
We’d love to tell you otherwise, but when it comes to treadmills, you pay for what you get. That said, there does seem to be an ideal zone of price and power, beyond which is sheer luxury. Our price bracket (between $1,500-$2,500) encompasses this ideal zone. You can find solid treadmills for three digits, but not many have the power runners need. You can find beautiful treadmills for 3K plus, but their capabilities appeal more to aesthetic senses than training needs.
The Best Treadmills for Runners: Summed Up
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A great workout at home can come in a lot of different packages. We spoke with physical therapist and fitness trainers in our quest to surface the most ergonomic, challenging cardio equipment. Find the best format to reach your best health in the reviews below.