Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 26, 2021

If you’re shopping for a treadmill, you have to consider your goals, fitness level, and budget. Treadmills cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars up to several thousand and offer a variety of features. Use these tips to determine which treadmill is right for you.

Personal Considerations

Fitness Goals. If you want to maintain your health and have an option for working out at home, a simpler treadmill may serve your needs. If you have specific fitness goals, you should consider the treadmill features that will help you most.

Budget. Oftentimes, you get what you pay for. A less expensive treadmill may not be as sturdy or may have fewer features. A more expensive treadmill may offer heavier construction. Budget considerations don’t stop there. Be sure to ask about the warranty offered by your treadmill brand. A great warranty can save you money in the future if you have any issues.

Try a Treadmill in Person

If possible, try out treadmills before deciding on one. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Does the deck feel like it absorbs enough shock from your steps when walking and running?
  • Is the tread deck long enough for your stride to be comfortable?
  • Can you stand on the side rails with ease?
  • Is the monitor display easy to navigate and read?‌
  • Do you understand the controls?

General Treadmill Factors

Overall Size. The average treadmill is 77 inches long and 35 inches wide. If you choose a less expensive model, it may be smaller. Consider the space where you’ll set the treadmill up in your home. Do you have room for a full-sized treadmill? Keep in mind that you want to allow space on all sides of your treadmill for safety and accessibility.

Design. Different treadmills are designed for different fitness goals. If you’re an avid runner, you have different needs than someone who just wants to walk. If you run, you may feel more comfortable on a longer treadmill. 

Compatibility. Check to see if a treadmill links with your fitness apps, smartphone, and activity trackers. Many treadmills connect to Wi-Fi. Ensure compatibility before making a purchase if those features are important to you. 

Adjustment Ease. Consider the top speed and incline limits for your treadmill. The average top speed is between 10 and 12 miles per hour. Incline averages between 10% and 15%. If you’re an avid runner or hiker, these features may be more important in challenging your fitness routine. 

Types of Treadmills

Most treadmills are powered by an electric motor. They can be broken down into three general categories, each with its pros and cons. Keep in mind that prices can vary greatly within each category.

Budget folding treadmills. These kinds of treadmills are usually smaller and cheaper. They're a great choice for casual walkers who don’t have a lot of space. Runners need a sturdier machine with a longer tread deck than this style offers. Less expensive folding treadmills don’t usually offer additional features but can track your‌:

  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Activity time
  • Calories

Folding treadmills. These are sturdier than less expensive folding treadmills and offer more features. The tread deck may be longer, but still not long enough for an avid runner. Most have a strap that monitors your heart rate.

Non-folding treadmills. This treadmill stays in place once assembled. It requires more space but offers a longer and wider running space. If you're a runner, you'll probably want to invest in a sturdier machine that falls in this category. These treadmills also tend to come with longer and better warranties.

Treadmill Safety Features

Side rails. A front handrail doesn’t help you if you feel like you’re going to fall. Side rails can help you maintain your balance. They also help you get going as you increase speed after first beginning a workout.

Stop button. If you need to stop suddenly, a quick-stop button is an important feature. Reasons you may need to stop include feeling faint or weak, having sudden pain, or having a non-treadmill-related emergency. You may not think you’ll ever use the feature, but it’s nice to have just to be safe.

Treadmill Safety Tips

Know the controls. Learn how to use your treadmill well before using it. Stand on the side rails while you practice working the controls. Try the start and stop buttons so you know how quickly the treadmill turns on and off. 

Wear appropriate shoes. Don’t wear flips flops or other sandals on a treadmill. Always use close-toed walking shoes that fit well and offer support.

Start and end slow. Stretch before you begin walking. Warm up by going slow before increasing the speed or incline for each walk or run. Increase the pace slowly so your body has time to adjust. This helps prevent injuries. Follow these tips at the end of your workout, too, to cool down. Slowly adjust back down to a flat, slow walk.

Try the features. If your treadmill offers predefined workouts, try them out for a unique challenge. Mixing up your workout can increase your metabolism and keep you from getting bored with your walk or run.

Maximizing Treadmill Workouts

If you are new to using a treadmill, it is important to understand your personal target heart rate and your maximum heart rate numbers. Your doctor can tell you what is a safe zone for you to exercise in. Here is an example of one way to gauge the intensity of your workout:

  • Zone one – 50% to 65% of your maximum heart rate, and it feels easy or comfortable.
  • Zone two – 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate, and it feels slightly challenging.
  • Zone three – 75% to 85% of your maximum heart rate, and it feels very challenging.‌
  • Zone four – 85% to 95% of your maximum heart rate, and you feel breathless.

Show Sources


Arthritis Foundation: “How to Choose and Use a Treadmill.”

Consumer Reports: “Treadmill Buying Guide.”

Harvard Medical School: “Get smart about treadmills.”

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