The Best Treadmill 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.
A solidly built, high-performing treadmill, though not the quietest. Its beautifully contemporary design brings usability and running experience to the next level.
Horizon Elite T9
A serious treadmill for the serious runner. While we found the training features are better suited for experienced athletes, everyone can appreciate its good-quality touch screen.
NordicTrack C 2950
This treadmill goes big — generous dimensions, gigantic touchscreen, hordes of workout options. It doesn’t provide quite the cushioning and stability of the Horizon Elite T9, but makes up for it with diverse training and entertainment features.
The Best Treadmill 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. 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 it’s the more nuanced features that give certain models a leg up over their competitors.
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 put in your living room, the ProForm Pro 2000 is a perfect fit. It retails at a very manageable $1,299. We loved its smooth-riding stability, ergonomic controls, and attractive design. Sync it up with iFit to beef up its programming, or challenge yourself with hardwired belt adjustments — incline and decline abilities help simulate outdoor terrain changes.
But if you're a runner, pure and simple, 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 ($1,899). The potential to entirely self-design your workout makes the Horizon unique amongst all the treadmills we tested. Other, flashier systems offer a lot more hand-holding and are intended to motivate, or at least distract. The T9 assumes you’re here to crush a run and lets you do just that, thanks in no small part to its excellent shocks and detailed metrics.
Finally, 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 (not to mention its gigantic touchscreen) can guide you through a wide variety of workouts, both with and without cheery personal trainers. All that stimulation kept both our heart rates and our spirits high. The price reflects the power at $2,499, but if you’re craving an immersive fitness experience, this is the total package.
How We Found the Best Treadmills for Runners
We set out to find the best possible indoor running experience. The treadmills that provided that had a few things in common: spacious decks, supportive cushioning, and cool tech features that entertain and motivate. We drew a few hard lines for the stats we needed in a great running treadmill, and then sifted through existing reviews 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.
We prioritized powerful motors.
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.
We looked for a belt surface area of 60 by 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.
Long warranties were a must.
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.
And we sought out high-grade cushioning.
Beneath the belt lives another important piece of a treadmill’s overall value. 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.
Then we tested them ourselves.
Before making any recommendations, we brought in nine different treadmills to do some actual running. 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. Our favorite treadmills felt easy to run on, with smart console designs and a variety of workout programs.
Our Picks for the Best Treadmills for Runners
Best Under $1,500
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 seems worth several times its price. That value continues into the stats. We were impressed with its high motor power and training potential and felt the benefits of both in action.
The console was not just nice to look at; its design made for more ergonomic adjustments. ProForm tends to place its incline and speed options in a horizontal (rather than vertical) grid, upping the convenience factor for making adjustments. It also offers a second, even handier set of controls. A curved bar beneath the console features arrow buttons to let you make quick speed and incline changes without reaching above waist height.
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 by 7 feet. That and its roughly 300-pound weight don’t help any with portability, but it does offer a truly spacious feel. Just seeing available space around us as we ran made us feel freer and more natural in our movements.
The running deck is comfortable, with enough shock absorption to keep the unit settled and your joints happy, but the belt is inexplicably loud. The sound intensifies with speed, and adjusting incline and decline adds another level of grumbling. If loud exercise machines are a pet peeve, we’d recommend the next step up: the quiet and extremely comfortable Horizon Elite T9.
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 nasty 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 Under $2,000
A serious treadmill for the serious runner. 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.
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 is 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.
The Horizon Elite T9’s other training options are a little more utilitarian. Most notable: 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. However, it curiously does not provide total workout summaries, requiring you to keep track of each session yourself.
For exceptional, highly specific training options and stellar belt cushioning, the T9 is an impressive win. We thought it was better-made than its parent company’s “luxury” treadmill line, Matrix. The T9’s 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. If this is you, check out our super-high-tech pick, the NordicTrack C 2950.
Best Under $2,500
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.
The C 2950’s gargantuan touchscreen makes it possible. At 22 inches, the console and the screen are one and the same. 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 is nearly as sharp as a computer screen, about on par with a smartphone. Intuitive swipes bring you through the whole catalog of workout programs and personalization features.
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. 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.
In addition to the C 2950’s giant display, spacious belt, and two-part fan, we were also impressed with the machine’s overall sturdiness. Going for max speed and max incline simultaneously may bring about a little shaking (something we didn’t encounter with the Horizon), but if your workouts tend to stay in the mid-intensity range, you can expect a smooth ride. 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.