The Best Treadmill for Walking
The best treadmill for walking has a comfortably roomy belt surface, a sturdy frame that doesn't shake with every step, and an easy-to-read console that lets you hit your stride with minimal button pressing. We tested nine treadmills to see how they felt under our feet and how easy they were to operate. Two of them matched up perfectly with walkers' needs.
A sleek, modern machine with a sturdy build and ergonomic design. We loved the ProForm's simple, easy-to-understand controls.
A couple usability bugs gave us grief, but we liked the Horizon's thoughtful features, like the built-in fan.
The Best Treadmill for Walkers
How you exercise tells you a lot about what kind of treadmill you should buy. Running places high impact on the machine, so runners need to seek out power and stability as top priorities. Walking strains the machine considerably less, so mid-range stats are more than enough to meet the demand. If your primary form of exercise is walking, you can get all the power and programming you need out of a treadmill without shelling out several thousand dollars. While those more expensive models offer greater size and motor power, those things aren’t necessary for a great walking treadmill. In fact, less power means less expense, smaller dimensions, and better storability. We looked for treadmills that offered all of those perks without sacrificing reliability or ease of use.
The ProForm 505 CST exceeded our expectations in just about every area. We loved its slick design, and found ourselves pressing buttons without needing to decipher their function first; we somehow knew what the symbols meant. That smart simplicity carried over into its smooth ergonomics, which made reaching controls and handrails easy. Despite its $599 price tag, this treadmill offered an impressively sturdy ride without any jarring feedback even when we stepped up our walking pace into a jog.
Our runner-up bore a lot of similarities to the ProForm, including a smooth-running belt and a substantial frame, but comes at a slightly higher cost - another 50 bucks. If you prefer a classic console, you'll appreciate the clarity of the Horizon T101's controls. While the overall look may not be as stylish as the ProForm, we found the Horizon’s buttons were explicitly labeled and their functions responded more quickly. We sometimes had to poke the ProForm's keys twice to accomplish an action.
We also found that while walking, we tend to spend a lot more time adjusting and appraising the treadmill console. For that reason, we found the usability, intuitiveness, and overall aesthetics of the controls to be as much of a deciding factor as machine size and power.
How We Found the Best Treadmills for Walkers
Our research told us that reliable walking treadmills should meet or exceed certain criteria for size, motor power, and durability. We rounded up the best models we could find that matched our expectations and were rated highly by customers, fitness experts, and online review sites. Here’s what we looked for:
We wanted a 55-by-20-inch belt area.
Treadmill decks don't vary much between models. The treadmill footprint generally sits at around 7 feet by 3 feet, and roughly three-fourths of that space is taken up by the belt. A good belt size depends on the biomechanics of the user, coupled with their preferred workout style. Runners — or walkers with extra-long legs — may need the belt length to hit 60 inches so they can comfortably extend their legs with every stride. But most walkers will have plenty of room on a belt 55 inches long.
A spacious width, on the other hand, is less about accommodating strides (footfalls don’t generally land outside hip width) and more about avoiding the feeling of constraint. Some budget treadmills have belts as narrow as 18 inches, but we preferred an extra couple of inches for breathing room.
The motor had to be strong.
Treadmill motor power is typically measured in continuous horsepower: the max level of energy the machine can put out over time. Spendier models have an increased range, as they’re designed with runners in mind. Their engines generate 3 to 3.5 CHP, and luxury options climb above 4 CHP — about twice as much as you need if you’re looking to take a brisk stroll or a jog. While 2 CHP was our minimum, we preferred motors hitting closer to 2.5: Extra power guards against inconsistent performance, especially important if the user weighs above 200 lbs. or plans to keep an intense workout schedule.
And we looked for warranties that weren’t measured in days.
Short warranties lasting 90 days or fewer serve as a none-too-subtle indication that the machine will fail after a few months of use. Based on customer reviews, most manufacturing flaws tend to show up around the one-year mark. Machines made by reliable companies offer lifetime warranties on the frame and multi-year warranties on everything else, and both of our top picks have warranties that match that expectation.
Extra features got bonus points.
If you want a treadmill that does a little more than just start and stop, there are dozens of entertainment and programming options available on new machines to keep your workouts interesting and your playlists fresh. Here are a few we think make for an exceptional workout:
- Speakers help keep motivation high and avoid headphone tangles.
- Standard connections like an MP3 input are all but mandatory on exercise equipment. A USB jack allows you to download and upload workout information.
- Fans, even small ones, do wonders to keep you from feeling overheated while working out.
- Media shelves are great for holding a tablet or magazine. We especially liked ones that didn’t obscure buttons and displays when we put them to use.
- WiFi may not seem like a treadmill necessity, but it’s quickly becoming standard. Sync up with your treadmill’s compatible app to connect with extra fitness programming and monitor your progress.
Then we tested them.
Before we could recommend the top treadmills, we had to take them for a spin. We brought in a total of nine treadmills for our larger review, The Best Treadmill. From these nine, we pinpointed options that best suited walkers, runners, and those looking for an immersive entertainment experience. To decide the best for walkers, we paid close attention to the stats to ensure walkers are just paying for the size and power that they need. We also prioritized the holistic exercise experience, from belt cushioning and frame construction to programming and controls. Our favorite walking treadmills were affordable, comfortable to walk on, and easy to use. For more details on our testing, visit the main treadmill review.
Our Picks for the Best Treadmills for Walkers
A basic treadmill doesn’t have to look basic. We first fell in love with the ProForm 505 CST for its sleek, contemporary profile and uncluttered console. It looks like the treadmill of the future. Then we jumped on and hit Start, and found that a ton of those cool design features led directly to a better workout.
The average treadmill console features two vertical rows of speed and incline controls, going up by single-digit integers. ProForm switches this up, setting controls horizontally, meaning that instead of having to jog right up to the console to hit top numbers, you reach forward the same amount whether you’re pressing 2 MPH or 10 MPH. You don’t have to work harder to work out harder. That said, we found we had to tap some of the buttons a couple times before the machine would respond — perhaps because of their flat dimensions. We're guessing there's a learning curve before getting the correct aim.
Still, the console’s button icons are surprisingly intuitive — we knew which buttons to press without having to consult the manual. Adopting app icon design is not unique to ProForm; similar iterations appear on the Horizon T101. We liked ProForm’s take because it doesn’t double up on symbols and words. The images do what they’re supposed to — simplify meaning. But that could be an obstacle for users who aren't as familiar with typical treadmill buttons.
The user-friendliness continues from there, with molded arms that curve organically down from the console, providing a greater sense of security than other models we tested, plus textured foot rails that made us feel secure even when stepping off a fast-moving belt. And it was more than a feeling — the 505 CST is sturdy. We couldn’t get the machine to shake even when we gripped the arms and tugged. We were relieved to not have to look at a shaking console for the entirety of our workout, and could instead focus on pushing ourselves up inclines at a steady clip.
We were floored by this $600 treadmill’s stats, convenience, and smart design. Plus, its iFit compatibility opens up another level in fitness programming and personal tracking. Be warned that it doesn’t come included with your purchase: An iFit subscription will run you an extra $10 a month.
The Horizon T101 couldn’t beat out the ProForm 505, but it did excel in a few areas. It features a shorter, flatter motor cover, which gave us more room to stretch out our legs in the front. That extra space results in a slightly more comfortable walk, which can pay dividends if you have long strides, long legs, or just prefer keeping close to the console. And it comes with a fan. Sure, it’s a small fan, but it does the trick, and the other treadmills in this price range skimped on fans entirely.
The Horizon’s console definitely isn’t as sleek as the ProForm’s, but some may find it more user-friendly. The buttons are conveniently laid out in reach of the user and only need a single poke to take effect — no frantic mid-stride jabbing to adjust speed.
Another thing we liked about the Horizon was the gentle start to our workouts. Most of the treadmills we tested started at a minimum speed of 1 MPH, which might not sound like much, but it’s a surprising jolt forward, even when you’re expecting it. The Horizon T101 earned points for starting at 0.5 MPH and giving us a more gradual entry into our walks.
However, the Horizon had a couple ticks we had a hard time getting past — like a weirdly high-pitched default volume setting and a tendency to stop the belt if you tried to change programs mid-workout. The belt was also noticeably thin compared to the ProForm’s, which led to a less cushioned walk. But if the ProForm looks a little too Space Age for you, the Horizon T101 offers a more obvious console and a solid walking experience.