Exercise Equipment Review

Treadmill Buyer's Guide

Buying a treadmill can be intimidating. There's a lot of jargon and buzzwords to learn and remember. I put together my Treadmill Buyer's Guide to help relieve some of the stress associated with buying the right treadmill.

Before you dive into my treadmill reviews, I think a quick lesson on basic treadmill design and construction is in order. That way, when you're comparing different treadmills, you'll know what you're talking about.

Treadmill Design Basics
All treadmills are built with the same basic components. There is a motor, flywheel frame, rollers, deck, belt, electronics and display console.

Trying to weed your way through all of the technical data can be quite confusing if you don't understand each of the basic component's function and use.

We'll go through each treadmill component one-by-one, until you know this stuff like the back of your hand.

My treadmill buyer's guide is a bit lengthy, but if you want to get the best treadmill for your money, my guide is certainly worth a few minutes of your time.

Treadmill Motor
The treadmill motor is what delivers power to the belt system of the treadmill. Treadmill motors are measured in horsepower and usually fall in the range of 1.5 to 3.0 horsepower.

Where the confusion comes arises, is in the motor's horsepower rating. Not all treadmill motors with the same horsepower rating will perform the same.

Some manufacturers use bigger motors to power their treadmills because they have a poorly designed deck and belt, and they need a bigger motor to power it.

That being said, how do you know how big your treadmill motor should be? Look for a motor that is at least 2 horsepower. If you buy a treadmill with a smaller motor, you'll risk more repairs and breakdowns due to over heating and motor stress.

Don't worry whether the motor is rated continuous or peak duty, treadmill manufacturers use this term interchangeably. As of this writing, there's no standardized motor rating in the treadmill industry.

Trainer's Secret - A larger more powerful motor will run cooler and provide you with better service over the life of your treadmill.

Treadmill Flywheel
The only thing you need to know about the flywheel in your treadmill is that it helps to regulate speed and consistency of the belt. If you're treadmill didn't have a flywheel, the belt would come to a grinding halt when your foot impacts the running surface.

A good flywheel (better flywheels are typically found it treadmills over $1000) will help regulate a constant deck speed and avoid the herky jerky motion you'll get from cheap treadmills.

A good flywheel also protects the motor and electronics from getting overly stressed. In other words it helps your treadmill last longer.

Treadmill Frame
Most treadmills are made using a steel frame. A steel frame is fine for most purposes and delivers good performance.

Some of the commercial quality treadmills (Landice & Precor) use an aluminum frame. The advantages of using aluminum are:

  • superior strength as opposed to steel
  • supports more user weight (some up to 500 lbs.)
  • resistance to rust and corrosion

If you're shopping for a treadmill in the under $1000 price range, don't worry too much frame construction. Most of them are pretty similar.

If you're considering buying a commercial grade treadmill like Landice, Precor or Life Fitness, you should opt for an aluminum frame.

Treadmill Rollers
The rollers on a treadmill support the belt, and provide underlying support for the treadbelt.

Here's what you need to know about rollers. Generally speaking, the bigger and heavier the rollers, the better. Good treadmill rollers will help reduce the amount of wear and tear on the treadbelt and motor.

As you may have guessed by now, cheap treadmills use cheap rollers, and high end treadmills (most of them) use bigger heavier rollers.

Treadmill Deck
The treadmill deck's main purpose is to provide support for the running surface and provide the user some form of shock reduction.

The bigger you are, and the more force you apply to your treadmill during a workout, the more important a good deck becomes.

If you're planning to do a lot of running on your treadmill, pay close attention to the shock absorbing qualities of the treadmill deck, as they can vary greatly by manufacturer.

Treadmill Belt (running surface)
Most treadmills are made with a belts that are about the same thickness. Most of them are also two ply treadbelts. Since the treadmill market has become much more competitive, most manufacturers are beefing up the treadbelts, making their treadbelts stronger and more forgiving.

Sizing of treadbelts ranges from 14" to 24" wide and between 45" to 63" long.

Make darn sure that you get a treadmill with the appropriate belt size for your intended purposes.

If you're planning on running a lot on your treadmill, you'll need a larger belt. Personally, I wouldn't recommend anything smaller than 18" wide x 55" long.

If the treadbelt is undersized you'll find yourself banging your feet on the machine or tripping. And that can be down right dangerous.

Treadmill Electronics and Treadmill Display Console
The last thing you should look at when you're deciding which treadmill to buy is the display and electronics package.

It's not that it isn't important, it's that you shouldn't get so wowed by the display console that you turn off your brain and forget about all the other important factors that go into what makes a good treadmill.

A good display console can make or break your treadmill buying decision. If you're planning on spending over $1000 dollars for a treadmill (most of you will) you'll get a pretty good display. But again, the displays can vary wildly between makers and brands.

Two of the best display consoles for mid level treadmills are on the Reebok RX5000 Treadmill and the Smooth 5.0 Treadmill.

Take some time to compare and contrast the different features, built-in workouts, heart rate control, interactivity of all the treadmills on your wish list

Trainers Secret: A good display console should be the icing on the treadmill cake, not the driving force behind your purchase.

Treadmill Buyer's Guide Bottom Line
Read my treadmill buyer's guide until you fully understand everything we covered. If it didn't sink in the first time, read it again!

Then, and only then, are you ready to read my treadmill reviews.

A wise man once said, "A fool and his money are soon parted".

Don't be a fool, get the facts before you make a big investment. You'll thank me later.

Read my Treadmill Reviews

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