Treadmill Buying Tips

These treadmill buying tips will help you evaluate and compare the many makes and models of treadmills on the market today.

There are so many features on treadmills now-a-days that it can be hard to see if you’re getting the most for your money.

The table below compares some of the more popular treadmills and their operating characteristics.

Below the table are some additional insights and treadmill buying tips that look into the pros and cons of various features to help you find the right machine for you.

Treadmill Price Speed Incline Belt (w) Motor HR
BowFlex Series 3 $999 0.5 - 10 mph 0 - 12% 20 in. 1.75 hp Yes
BowFlex Series 5 $1,299 0.5 - 10 mph 0 - 12% 20 in. 2.5 hp Yes
BowFlex Series 7 $1,499 0.5 - 11 mph 0 - 12% 20 in. 3.0 hp Yes
HealthRider R60 $899 0.0 - 12 mph 0 - 10% 20 in. 2.0 hp Yes
HealthRider R65 $649 0.0 - 12 mph 0 - 10% 20 in. 2.0 hp Yes
Life Fitness 9700HR $3,195 0.5 - 15 mph 0 - 15% 20 in. 4.0 hp Yes
Life Fitness 9100HR $1,795 1.0 - 10 mph 0 - 15% 18 in. 2.0 hp Yes
Life Fitness LifeStride 8500 $1,695 1.0 - 10 mph 0 - 15% 18 in. 2.0 hp Yes
ProForm Perspective 1.0 LX $999 0.0 - 12 mph 0 - 12% 20 in. 2.25 hp Yes
ProForm 6.0 GSX $599 0.0 - 10 mph 0 - 10% 19 in. 2.75 hp Yes
ProForm 525X $499 0.0 - 10 mph 1.5 - 10% 17 in. 2.5 hp Yes
ProForm 350 $399 0.0 - 10 mph 1.5 - 10% 17 in. 2.25 hp Yes
Sole S73 $1,699 0.5 - 12 mph 0 - 15% 20 in. 3.0 hp Yes
Sole S77 $1,899 0.5 - 12 mph 0 - 15% 20 in. 3.5 hp Yes
Sole TT8 $2,299 0.5 - 12 mph 0 - 15% 22 in. 3.5 hp Yes
Sole F63 $1,099 1.0 - 12 mph 0 - 15% 20 in. 2.5 hp No
Sole F80      ***Read Review*** $1,499 0.5 - 12 mph 0 - 15% 20 in. 2.5 hp Yes
Sole F83 $1,799 0.5 - 12 mph 0 - 15% 20 in. 3.0 hp Yes
Sole F85 $1,999 0.5 - 12 mph 0 - 15% 20 in. 3.5 hp Yes
Weslo Cadence C72 $449 0.0 - 10 mph 0 - 10% 18 in. 2.5 hp No
Weslo Cadence C44 $399 0.0 - 10 mph 3, 6, 9% 16 in. 2.25 hp Yes
Weslo Cadence G-25 $229 0.0 - 6 mph N/A 13 in. 1.0 hp No
ProForm C500 $499 0.0 - 10 mph 0 - 10% 19 in. 2.75 hp Yes

**Note: Many of these "list prices" are higher than current sale prices (good thing)**

The factors listed above are the primary features of these treadmills and there are many ways to look at them depending on your preferences and planned use. The treadmill buying tips below go into these factors so you can better evaluate and compare units.

Treadmill Buying Tips

  • Treadmill Buying Tip #1: How much Speed do you Need?
    Most of the better treadmills go up to at least 10 mph. This is equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace. And while that’s a quick pace, if you ever want to sprints quicker than this pace, you may want to look at a treadmill that goes a bit faster. Check out this treadmill running pace table to convert mph to 1-mile and ¼ mile times.
  • Treadmill Buying Tip #2: Elevation (mountain or hill?)
    Having a treadmill that can give you a decent hill workout is a real plus. Most treadmills can go up to a 10% incline. The better treadmills can do this smoothly and quickly during your run. This factor only becomes an issue if you have some real hard hill workouts planned and you’re leaning towards one that can do a 15% incline over a 10% incline.
  • Treadmill Buying Tip #3: Evaluate the Belt Width!
    Personally, this is one of the more important factors to me. I’ve run on many different treadmills and I feel much more comfortable when the tread is 18 inches or wider….but that’s just me. With a wider tread width, you’ll spend less anxiety and focus on staying, which will allow you to relax and just run.
  • Treadmill Buying Tip #4: Motor Power is Key
    I know the motor is a behind-the-scenes feature, but of all the treadmill buying tips this is one that you’re really paying for. The bigger the motor, the quicker the unit will accelerate, the smoother the ride, and the more capable the unit will be. Most of the higher-end treadmills, like the ones listed in the table, are 2.0 horse-power or higher. This is a capable motor size that can handle the rigors of long and arduous workouts. If you’ve run on a gym treadmill, most of these are probably 3-4 horsepower, as this sized motor is built to last for multiple users, with many, many, workouts a day. Make sure that you take note of the motor size for the unit that you’re considering.
  • Treadmill Buying Tip #5: How does it Monitor Heart Rate (HR)?
    With all of benefits of heart rate training, most units have incorporated this into their treadmills. And while I listed this as a simple Yes or No in the table above, the method of monitoring can vary significantly. Most treadmills have a set of handlebars or grips to measure your pulse, while others come with a wireless chest strap or corded finger monitor. Of all the treadmill buying tips, this one can be easily eliminated as a factor...especially if you have a separate HR monitor that you run with outdoors.

Some other treadmill buying tips to consider.....

While the above factors are the primary evaluation points, there are many other factors and features that you’ll want to consider.

The treadmill buying tips below address the more popular features, bells and whistles, and other factor that are worth considering:

Other Factors

  • Treadmill Weight / Capacity
    The bigger treadmills can weigh between 300 and 500 pounds. This can be a factor depending on where you want to locate it and how often you want to move it. Treadmills will also usually list their capacity weight for the user. Make sure the treadmill’s capacity can accommodate all of your anticipated users.
  • Ergonomics
    Some treadmills are laid out in a manner that is more pleasing. Personally, I like a console that’s higher than my mid-drift and railings on the side. Look at the pictures of the units and try to visualize the layout when you run or walk on it. It may seem like an insignificant detail, but the right look and feel of your treadmill will ultimately allow you to enjoy it….and use it!
  • Tread Length
    I know I listed this as a secondary treadmill buying tip, but if you have a nice, long stride…you may want to consider this a primary factor. Tread lengths can vary from 40 to 60+ inches long. This can also be a factor when looking for a space to use it.
  • Programs
    Most all of the treadmills come with a built-in program that includes a pre-programmed menu of workouts. You can usually vary the speeds, distances, and elevations based on your inputs. These can be a really handy feature to keep your workouts fun and lively. Many treadmills even have hill, interval, manual, and heart rate modes for their various programs. And while these features are nice, I’ve had just as much fun making up my own variations by manually increasing elevation and speed. Another program feature is the calories burned calculator which many of them will do. This is also a nice “feel good” feature to be able to see the fruits of your efforts in digital lights! Make sure you look at the various features offered as you compare the different units.
  • Shock Absorption
    This can be a very hard feature to compare as every manufacturer has their own system and lingo. You can visually gauge the shock absorption by looking at the base of the unit and how substantial the construction is. I’ve found that the treadmills with less substantial bases seem to absorb less shock. This can be a important factor if you have knee or joint pain and you’re looking into treadmill running to reduce the shock.
  • Space & Power
    Depending on where you want to locate your new treadmill, you may want to look carefully at the dimensions and power requirement. This can be even more of an issue as you look at the top-end treadmills, as many of these could require a dedicated 110V or 220V outlet. These may seem like a secondary concern, but it’s something that you best resolve prior to it showing up on your doorstep ;-)
  • Warranty
    Treadmills have some complex (read expensive) parts. The warranty is often an after-thought, but some of the manufacturers out there include warranties in excess of 10 years. That’s definitely worth something when you consider the complexity and expense of the equipment. You want a maintenance-free treadmill that is going to last. Check to see if the warranty gives you some piece of mind in this department.
  • Bells & Whistles
    Some treadmills have some really neat features that have little to do with running, but are nice to have. Some include visual mapping of a running course that allows you to watch your progress. Others have built-in 7” television screens. And some even have small fans that cool you off as you run. It’s these type of features that usually sell someone on one model over another. Compare all the bells & whistles out there, as you may find a fun feature for your workouts!

I hoped these treadmill buying tips served as a good guide to help you with your purchase. A treadmill is a great piece of fitness equipment to use when the weather isn’t cooperating or if you want to better control and measure your workout.

Click through the product links in the table to learn more about each unit and the features they offer.

And finally, these treadmill buying tips are based on my experiences and what I would look for in a new treadmill. Make sure that you consider your own wants and needs and weigh the factors accordingly.

Happy Running! 

More Info:

Treadmill Running
Sole Treadmill Review - Model Comparison
Sole F80 Treadmill Review

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