5 Tips on buying a home treadmill for running in 2016

by Jack on January 29, 2016

We received a question(s) on buying a home treadmill for running in 2016 from a person who visited our site. We emailed this person a response and thought we would share our it here for others who also might be looking for the same type of advice.

The person wanted a quality home model he could run on but was concerned about price, as to whether or not they would be able to afford a quality model for their home.

While we don’t “set” the prices, we can offer our opinion on the top rated models in the different price ranges for 2016 and also provide tips on the most important areas to examine when buying.

Rule #1: How much should you expect to pay

Don’t expect to buy one for under $500 and think its going to perform. In 2016, to get something of decent quality for running, expect to pay at least around $1000. And this would be entry-level, not the best.

With 500 bucks, you may be able to get something sufficient for walking, maybe light jogging but machines at this price point are not built to withstand the pounding a runner’s workout will put on them.

Running treadmills are more expensive for many reasons. These require larger, more durable motors, longer and wider running platforms (tread belts), better cushion systems and usually provide longer warranties on the motor and frame.

So if you are planning on buying something quality to run on expect to pay extra compared to basic, less durable models made for walking.

Rule #2: The Motor and speed

The motor is what delivers the power to turn the belt that a person runs or walks on. All treadmill motors are powered by direct current (DC). The power of the motor is measured in horsepower (hp). Different treadmill models will have motors of different sizes or horsepower. Running treadmills require larger motors compared to a basic one only used for low impact walking.

Tips when looking at the motor

Understanding which type of motor is the best. There are three common types of motors found on treadmills:

  • Continuous Duty Horsepower (CHP)
  • Peak Duty
  • Treadmill Duty

By far, the continuous duty horsepower or CHP motor is the best. In fact, we would not even consider buying any model that didn’t have this type of motor. Simply put, CHP motors the most powerful, efficient and durable. This means it’s going to provide a smoother ride and is much less likely to breakdown.

How much horsepower do runner’s need?

It is very important you by a model that runs on a CHP motor! But these do come in many different sizes and horsepower output. They very commonly range from 1.0 – 4.25 horsepower. For running we would not recommend buying any treadmill that doesn’t have at least a 2.5 CHP motor.

Cheaper smaller vs larger motor

When we say smaller vs. larger, we are essentially referring to the amount of horsepower output. For instance, say you are comparing two different models, has a 2.5 (horsepower) CHP, the other a 3.25 CHP.

Since it’s important to runners, then you might read both are capable of produce a 12 MPH top speed. The model with the smaller motor costs $300 less. So which one do you choose?

The one that costs $300 less? After all it can produce the same 12 MPH speed as the more expensive model, right? Well, if you are on a budget and can only afford the less expensive option then that might be the most appropriate choice for your situation.

However, there is something you should be aware of when comparing smaller vs larger motors. Have you ever heard of RPM’s (revolutions per minute)? There reason you will find many smaller and cheaper motors being able to produce the same type of speed as the larger more powerful motors is because these small motors are running at higher RPM’s.

Running at higher RPM’s will decrease the lifetime of a motor. If you do choose to go with a smaller motor for running, like a 2.5 CHP as mentioned above, make sure you take a close look at the warranty and make sure you are getting at least a 10-year guarantee on the motor.

Rule #3: The Frame – steel vs. aluminum

This isn’t too complicated to understand but it is very important. Frames are made from both steel and aluminum. Both are strong materials, they are about equal in durability and how long they last. However, there’s a noticeable difference in the feel when running on a steel vs. aluminum frame.

A steel frame tends to put a little more bounce in your step compared to the more rigid feel of an aluminum frame. Also, steel frames, fit together tighter and tend to be quieter.

The one negative in this comparison about steel is it has a tendency to rust, aluminum doesn’t. However, most companies apply a rust resistant coating. If not, you can always do this yourself.

Another thing to watch out for is whether the steel frame is welded or bolted. A welded frame is definitely the better option.

When buying a running treadmill you want a solid metal frame. You don’t want a model with a frame that’s multiple pieces because each area you need to connect is a potential area that can break.

Rule #4: Tread belt 

Dimensions of the belt

The tread belt will be what you are actually running on. As we all can imagine, as a person goes from walking to jogging to running, stride length increases. So tread belts of running models need more length.

A 60 inch long tread belt will accommodate the stride length of probably 99.9 percent of the people on the planet. The majority of people of average height or even 6 ft or a little taller can probably feel comfortable running on a slightly shorter belt.

For someone who is buying a model for the purpose of running, what’s the shortest tread belt we would buy? In our opinion, a belt 55-inches long should also be able to satisfy the stride of the majority of people on the planet earth

You know who you are, if you are a monster at like 6-4 then you are definitely one who will want to buy a model that has a longer 60-inch tread belt.

What’s a tread belt made from? 

For running, cheaper models will have 1-ply belts which is basically a single layer of nylon-polyester. These are cheap but will not impede your running. However, if you are running on a consistent basis these 1-ply belts will wear out. They can be replaced but it will cost you money and the time to install the new belt.

Models with a 2-ply belt are much more durable, these consist of a layer of nylon-polyester and a top layer of polyurethane.

To save money, if you foresee buying a treadmill but never using it then we would recommend a model with a 1-ply belt. If you know you will be running on your model multiple times a week buying a model with a 2-ply will be well worth it.

Rule #4: Cushion System

Have you ever ran on a hard surface in your bare feet? If so, then you know this can be painful. Every time your foot hits down an enormous amount of force is created. Since there is no cushion to dissipate this force the energy is sent straight back to the bottoms of your feet to your ankle joints, up your leg and to your knee and hip joints. This is definitely not the ideal way to exercise and over time would have disastrous effects on your body.

Thankfully, treadmills have been designed with cushion systems that are able to dissipated this force.

Every major company usually has their own patented trademark cushion system. Of course each company claims their system is the most comfortable, the best at reducing impact and stress on joints.

There are definitely some very good systems, the best of these dissipate over 40% of the force created when running. Which company produces the best system?

We have tried to compare some of the top systems by running on them ourselves and have also asked others for their opinion on the comfort provided by different models. From being around treadmills, we have noticed there is not a #1 absolute winner in this category.

The reason? This is our theory, while there are some very good cushion systems produced by different companies the reason it is hard to gauge and name an absolute best system is because each person is unique in their running mechanics, many other differences also exist (weight, foot size) even the different types of shoes we wear.

We think all the different variables between individuals, influences which system feels the most comfortable to that individual.

We have probably complicated the issue here with our personal theories. There are many good systems out there that will work no matter who you are. The only reason we went into an explanation was to explain why we can’t give an answer to which system is the absolute best.

A general rule: More expensive models have better cushion systems.

If you have looked over our list of the best running treadmills to buy in 2016, we do approve of the systems provided by all models listed. Companies such as:

  • NordicTrack
  • LifeSpan
  • ProForm
  • PreCor
  • Sole
  • Yowza

These types of companies do provide high-quality cushion systems.

Rule #5: The warranty 

Let me ask you a question. If you owned a company would you provide a lifetime or even a 10-year warranty on your product if you knew it was absolute GARBAGE!?!

If you knew on average, your product would break down in 3 years, would you be providing the customers who bought your product with a lifetime warranty? Knowing that you will have to replace 1000’s! Free of charge!

Not to be cynical, but a smart business owner, who knows his product is garbage, definitely wouldn’t provide a lifetime warranty.

There are so many treadmill choices on the market, how can you feel confident you are buying a quality model? A good place to start is the warranty!

Think about it for a second. If a business owner is willing to provide a lifetime warranty on their product, this means they are very confident in the quality of their product.

If you are buying a very cheap model, like under $500, honestly, you probably aren’t going to get a very good warranty. But if you are spending around $1000 or more, the warranty should be a bit more beefy.

This is our advice. If you are spending around $1000 or more the warranty better provide a lifetime guarantee on both the motor and frame. At the very least a 10-year guarantee.

All treadmills are NOT made equal

Whether or not you decide to purchase one of our recommended 2016 home running models, we do believe you will benefit by following the advice given on this page on the five most important areas:

  • Motor/Horsepower
  • Quality of frame
  • Tread belt dimensions/size and structure
  • Cushion System
  • Warranty

These are the areas you must examine if you want to buy the highest quality for the money. Remember, as far as price goes, treadmills built specifically for running vs. more simpler models for walking, the price will be more expensive.

Compared to something that is made for walking, running requires a larger more powerful motor, a stronger frame, a lager tread belt, a more extensive cushion system and a better warranty.

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