The UK treadmill buyers guide for 2017-2018
So it might be the dark nights drawing in, perhaps you prefer the fair weather for lacing your shoes up and heading outside or maybe you live somewhere totally flat like I do, and want to be able to get some uphill training in without having to drive for hours across the country. Maybe you can’t leave the house for a few reasons – I was thinking minding the kids or working on call, not suggesting you’re lying low for any reason! It could be that you’re a bit nervous to get started and go outside running in public at the moment and you’d rather build up your fitness in the comfort of your own home, and let’s be honest, there’s not much room for excuses if you can put your favourite TV programme on and get on the treadmill to get fit whilst you’re watching TV.
Whatever your reason is for looking to buy a treadmill there are of course many benefits to owning a treadmill. Here in this guide we’re going to look at all the points you need to consider so you can make the best choice for your circumstances and hopefully enjoy many miles and a new level of fitness and motivation!
So let’s start by saying that there are of course various brands, like with anything, they range in price from £100s to £1000s and depending on what your requirements might be, whether you want one for occasional use through the winter or you want the best of the best to rival the nearest commercial gym. Let me list the key considerations for you right away, then we can go into a bit more detail on each one!
Space available – Where are you going to put it, does it need to fold up?
Intended user – Who will be racking up the miles, how tall/fast/fit are they?
Intended usage – Running/ walking, uphill?
Power – Measured in HP from about 1.5 upto 4
Speed – Will it go fast enough? Seriously!
Functions – Smart phone pairing, speakers, built in fan, heart rate monitors etc
First things first, if you buy a treadmill and it doesn’t fit in your house, garage, home gym or whatever space you have available then it doesn’t matter how good it is, if it doesn’t fit, it’s not going to work! Measure the space you have in case you’re not sure, most manufacturers will give the dimensions of their treadmills. If you do have the space but perhaps it’s a shared space, then buying a treadmill that easily folds away would be a good option. You don’t want to be dragging a heavy treadmill across your lounge when you’re knackered from that interval session and hurting yourself because you were wrestling it behind the couch isn’t cool either.
Next it’d be wise to think about the main user. If it’s just for you, that should be easy enough, if you’re sharing it with others, or maybe it’s for use in a gym or a club then it’s worth just having a quick think. Treadmills come in different shapes and sizes as do people. Some of the lower priced treadmills tend to have smaller spaces to run. If you’ve got long legs, you might find it difficult to stride out on a small treadmill. Likewise if you’re running faster on your treadmill, perhaps in intervals, having a bigger area to run on allows you to relax and run more naturally than if you’re struggling to balance on a narrow belt and need to change your stride to stop falling off the back or kicking the front. Plenty of treadmill fail videos online if you want to know what happens next!
Also consider how fast the runners can and will run. You might be struggling to do 5km in 35 mins at the moment or you might be quite speedy and want something that can cope with your 30 second sprints up at 18kmh. For a sustained speed that might sound way too fast but a low 20 minute 5km runner might want something to cope with sub 6 min mile intervals. When I started running I was around 1 hour for a 10km race whereas now I’m under 36 mins, had I got a cheap treadmill it would have become limiting. A lot of treadmills are measured in kilometres rather than miles so as a rough guide…
8 kmh = 5 mph = 12 minute miles
16 kmh = 10 mph = 6 minute miles
Once you know the user you’ll probably be able to have a good guess at the intended usage. Would you like an ‘incline’ feature allowing you to practice running or walking uphill? Apart from the very basic treadmills most go up to 12-15% incline. There are some which are more commercial sized ones that get up to 30%. This basically means that if you go 1000m forwards you would also gain 300m of elevation, that’s steep for running! A typical road marathon might have about 50m of elevation in the whole 26 miles/42 km. A local gym had a couple of those installed and they were great for hiking practice or hill sprints.
A good time to point out that many treadmills also have a ‘power’ quoted in their information, This is usually measured in HP, horse power, this is the power of the motor that will be driving the running surface. Generally speaking a more powerful treadmill will work better particularly on inclines or higher speeds, if you have a low powered treadmill of 1 hp then it will be working a lot harder than a 3 or 4 hp motor at the same speed. It’d be like a small car having to rev it’s engine harder to keep up with a bigger engined car, so it could be noisier at high speeds – IF it actually does do higher speeds.
Finally we want to look at the juicy functions! Most treadmills will have some sort of screen to display stats like speed, distance, time, gradient, incline, calories and perhaps heart rate (if yours has a built in heart rate monitor such as handles with HR sensors) Many of the newer models have some sort of pairing ability with a smart phone or an app so you can track your fitness and improvements and log your miles. It’s surprising how motivational it can be when you can easily see your stats without having to scribble everything down on scraps of paper or trawl through your phones albums and albums of photos of the treadmill display.
Good sized buttons are helpful when you’re running fast and want to hit the correct one, just makes it easier to use and saves you firing yourself off the back because you hit speed up instead of down. There are some treadmills that have memory buttons so you could set 2 speeds for example, if you were doing 1 minute at 6 mph then 1 minute at 8 mph, you could simply hit the relevant button to resume the speed rather than having to push speed up and down manually through the speed ranges. Some of the top range models have a touch screen which is ideal although costs more so it depends on your budget.
A good treadmill will also have some programmes for you to follow where it will adjust the speed and incline automatically for you and display a profile of the route you’re doing. It might replicate running up and down a series of hills or have you running between some set heart rates. All great for enhancing your motivation and giving you a good workout.
So what can you get in the various price brackets.
You just want the best, easy to use, all the functions accessible on a touch screen, no messing about. You shouldn’t be limited by the speeds unless you’re knocking out a sub 30 minute 10km run, plenty of space to run on the 22 inch wide 60 inch long deck, a good range of incline up to 15% and a solid unit that feels great to run on and would rival your local gym.
The Spirit ST800 treadmill over at Fitness Options is commercial standard and built to last. You can make the most of the 20 workout programmes on your fitness journey. With a price tag of £4999 it will probably be overkill for many home users. If you’re looking at the other end of the market...
Best for BUDGET
There are a few cheaper treadmills under £250 but they’re more suitable to walkers due to the speed and size of the belt. For runners. here at the low end is the Bodytrain Strider treadmill at £249.99. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, whilst this might be ok if you only plan to use your treadmill occasionally, it’s going to be a bit limiting if you want to be running fast or getting some interval training in as the max speed is only 14kmh. Buying a cheaper one to ‘see how you get on’ is a possibility but if it’s not the best to use then it might put you off using it. You’ve got a fairly small running area of 121cm X 42cm but can still benefit from the incline up to 15%. Personally we’d go for the Powertech pacemaker plus if you don’t mind the deck size but want a higher speed at £379.99. You might also want to consider the JTX treadmills which have 0% finance too!
Best MID RANGE
You want great functionality and a good space to run without it costing more than your car. A great standard for your home use that will allow you to easily train year round when you just can’t face another cold dark run on the roads this winter. You’d probably look between either the JTX Sprint 5 treadmill at £699 or the evenly priced Powertech Master 8008b. Whilst most of the spec is the same between the two, we prefer the display and user interface of the JTX. The Powertech is marginally wider although if you’re a taller runner over 6ft and want a longer deck to run on along with a little more speed the Sprint 7 XL at £999 would be worth a look with a top speed of 20kmh/ 12 mph.
Best SPACE SAVER
This will fold up and stow away nicely without upsetting your family who’s lounge you’ve just taken over with your home gym set up. We’re going to have to go with the JTX Sprint 5 again. The 0% finance and free next day delivery would sway us over along with that user interface
For a runner it’s probably not worth looking under £250 unless you stumble across a second hand deal somewhere, checking the local buy and sell forums after New Year you might get lucky. Spending between £400 to £700 will cater for most home users although if you want a great experience and perhaps more motivation to use the treadmill, looking £999 and above will get some impressive and long lasting treadmills. Amazon could be an option, or even eBay just remember the criteria we’ve talked about above to ensure you choose a suitable option. Below are a couple of places you might want to try with links to access the relevant page. They've got all the details and even some videos about the various treadmills available.