Bad weather, busy schedules, overcrowded trails, and COVID-19 are all real hurdles that keep a runner from getting outside for their daily runs. That’s when it’s helpful to have one of the latest treadmills, packed with powerful training tools, cool interactive elements, and more performance features than ever. Running inside might not bring the same rush as getting outdoors, but you can’t beat the convenience and safety of jumping on a good machine in your own basement or garage, especially during times of social distancing.
Take a look below at quick info on five of the best treadmills, then keep scrolling for buying advice and more in-depth reviews of these and other high-performing models.
A quality treadmill with a variety of programming and interactive features can set you back a few thousand dollars, but that investment will pay dividends for many years as you bank miles and workouts you might otherwise have skipped. We put 37 of the newest models through their paces in the RW Test Zone to find the top performers based on their quality, features, and affordability. Whether you’re upgrading an older version or searching for your first treadmill, one of these will suit your needs. (And once you have a treadmill, check out these great workouts that help you increase speed, build strength, and burn fat.)
Why Run on a Treadmill at All
Why would you want to get a treadmill for your home or climb onto one in a gym when you can just run outside? Well, there are several key benefits.
Treadmills are safe and convenient
Treadmill sales skyrocketed a year ago, when the world went on lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. During the stay-home period, there’s no safer way to get your workout in than from the comfort of your own house or apartment. Plus, you don’t have to deal with rain or muddy surfaces.
You can better simulate your race
If you live in a flat region but have a hilly race coming up, a treadmill can help you mimic the course by adjusting the machine’s incline setting. Some newer treadmills even allow you to preload real course profiles and will automatically adjust up and down to follow the incline. (Some with larger screens even show the entire route as a course preview.)
It may help your form
Some research shows that runners have reduced stride lengths and higher stride frequencies (turnover) on a treadmill as compared with ground running. You could also use the treadmill on speed workouts to hit intended time goals, since you have no choice but to run at the speed that you’ve punched into the machine. (Just be safe and attach the key to your clothing so that if you slip the treadmill will stop automatically.)
What’s New for 2021
Connected fitness has been widely adopted in home gyms, allowing you to closely replicate the studio class experience. That’s a boon during the COVID-19 pandemic, as you’re still able to participate in group workouts without stepping foot inside a studio or gym. And, with new high-definition consoles, the experience is far more immersive than every—you don’t have to trudge along watching a little blinking LED slowly make its way around an oval track. The newest treadmills, even at the budget level, are packed with entertainment and virtual coaching options—usually delivered via touchscreens embedded into the consoles or via tablets you can connect using Bluetooth.
At higher prices, you’ll find larger displays that let you take advantage of video workouts. Manufacturers are increasingly using live trainers in fitness studios or real-world footage of exotic locations, sometimes with a coach serving as tour guide, to help you beat the boredom and get a high-intensity workout. Even Woodway, which in the past has focused on equipment built to handle fast, high-level training, has upgraded its lineup to include consoles that let you stream video and get interactive coaching.
The biggest change in 2021 remains availability: Many treadmills sold out quickly when stay-at-home orders early in the pandemic limited our ability (and, sometimes, determination) to get outside and run. Those supply challenges persist into 2021, even if some manufacturers are catching up from the huge surge in demand. But expect a wait for a specific models, or shop around for another that has similar features you seek.
How We Tested
Every treadmill on this list has been thoroughly evaluated and tested by our team of editors. We research the market, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience running on treadmills for extended sessions in our offices in Pennsylvania to determine the best options. And, during the pandemic, we continued to test the available models by having them set up at the homes of our test editors and staff, so we could live with and use them full-time, just as you will when you purchase one. Our team of experienced testers skipped their daily runs outdoors to spend many hours and miles assessing all the features of these machines. We’ve done easy runs while listening to music, long runs watching movies, and even workouts to test the machines’ interactive and studio class functions. We evaluated them on performance, price, comfort, durability, value, reliability, and fun factor to come up with this list of treadmills that will best serve your needs when you can’t get outside.
—PUT IT ON AUTO-PILOT—
NordicTrack Commercial 2950
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: -3% | Programs: 40 | Motor: 4.3 HP
Testers loved the 2950’s enormous 22-inch touchscreen display and broad range of coaching options. “It actually kept me engaged in the running rather than droning music and TV,” said Pat Heine, Runner’s World video producer and ultrarunner. “The trail climb I did had a lot of speed and incline variation that felt natural.”
To accomplish that, the treadmill taps into the iFit programming platform, where you can get video lessons from coaches like elite runner Tommy Rivers Puzey. His guided run through Patagonia leads you along scenic trails, while the machine automatically adjusts the incline and speed to make the experience feel realistic. Is it? Well, no. But the large display helps you forget that you’re stuck in your basement. We just wish you could use it to stream Netflix, too.
“I liked that I learned random facts along the way, as I ran different paths around the world,” said one tester. “It’s engaging: The first time I looked down at the time, 18 minutes had already passed.”
Other testers were impressed by the two powerful console-mounted fans, one that points at your upper chest, while the other aims at your torso.
—ROAD-LIKE RUNNING SURFACE—
Running Surface: 20 in. wide x 68 in. long | Max Speed: 15 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Programs: 50+ | Motor: 2 CHP, 5 HP peak
This tank has long been the gold standard at some of the best gyms around the country. Credit that to its rock-solid build. The 4Front is hefty. And it uses a heavy-duty belt that resembles the caterpillar track on construction vehicles but delivers the most realistic road feel you’re going to find on any treadmill. The boardwalk-like slats flow smoothly underfoot, thanks to a ball-bearing design, and will last your entire running life.
Don’t be fooled by the big, modern entertainment system on the newest 4Front, this machine is still a serious training tool at its core. “I could have continued running on this for seven miles—if I had a fan,” said test editor Amanda Furrer. “My steps were so quiet on the belt, and the transitions were smooth.” There are no quick keys that allow you to jump from one speed to another, but you can program your workouts ahead of time and the machine adjusts speed and incline exceptionally quickly.
The big, 20-inch touchscreen lets you stream video from services like Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube. You can also opt to run in “real” locations, like San Francisco, or virtual worlds. But there aren’t any speakers or fans, so you’ll need to supply your own.
—BEST STUDIO EXPERIENCE—
Running Surface: 20 in. wide x 67 in. long | Max Speed: 12.5 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Motor: 2 HP
Peloton has elevated indoor running. From the sharp, 32-inch touchscreen display to the sleek, stylish all-black frame, everything about this machine is beautiful. It’s a work of art. Thankfully, it runs just as great as it looks.
Of course, the biggest reason you buy the Tread+ is for the studio classes and to connect with other runners in real time, in your own home. Classes are typically held before and after work (caveat: those are East Coast times), though you can follow along to prerecorded classes and race the other runners who’ve previously completed the class—a leader board shows your position, based on your total energy output over the duration of the class. Since I have a bit of a competitive streak, I was pushing harder during an interval class than I intended. To stay atop the standings, I nudged the incline of our Tread up to 2 percent, so I’d burn a bit more than other class participants.
Beyond the programming, the machine has a premium build. That starts with the slatted belt—like on Woodway machines—that gives you a realistic ground feel and a smooth rolling surface underfoot. And, when you want to tweak speed or incline, you just roll forward or back on the dials that are conveniently located on the side rails—no more jabbing at console-mounted buttons mid-workout.
—FOR THE VIRTUAL TRAVELER—
NordicTrack Commercial 1750
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: 3% | Programs: 38 | Motor: 3.8 HP
When it comes to bang for your buck, the 1750 has always been hard to beat. The newest iteration is even better, with a faster touchscreen console and a quieter, faster incline motor. It still features all of the convenience options you find on NordicTrack machines—like quick keys to jump to a particular speed or incline with a single tap. “They let me adjust speed instead of pounding the arrows while at times holding on for dear life,” said Furrer.
But now you’re less likely to need those speed adjustment buttons thanks to a larger touchscreen and the ever-growing library of trainer-led workouts. The 10-inch screen offers double the real estate of the earlier model, though testers still felt it was a tad too small. But it’s large enough to see the countryside in Germany, for example, where one tester virtually followed pro Lucy Bartholomew on a gentle trail run.
Underfoot, we found the 22-by-60-inch running surface spacious enough for high-speed intervals, and the machine’s deck remained stable as we cranked up the speed. The cushioning underfoot is just slightly bouncy, though it’s adjustable so you can make it a bit firmer, and the machine responds quickly to changes in speed and incline. The iFit training workouts are great but don’t let you adjust duration or intensity on the fly.
—TAKE ANY CLASS YOU WANT—
Horizon Fitness 7.8AT
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Programs: 10 | Motor: 4 HP
A lot of treadmill makers now offer custom training content and, in a way, lock you into their ecosystem. But Horizon is trainer-agnostic, even though it wants you to take advantage of the studio-class experience. Its goal with the 7.8AT is to give you a machine that responds quickly to inputs and lets you choose whichever training program you want to stream—just bring your own iPad, there’s no way to display workouts on this mill’s console.
To let you keep up when the trainer says it’s time to sprint, the 7.8AT has quick-access controls mounted chest-high. “The thumb dials to adjust speed and incline were great,” said tester Kristen Parker. “They were very easy to use and much more fluid mid-run than trying to stab at buttons.” But those same dials are extremely sensitive and you have to be careful you don’t make huge jumps in speed or incline. Plus, they’re easy to bump inadvertently as you’re running. Tip: Don’t run so close to the console, there’s plenty of belt behind you.
And when you command the 7.8AT to go faster or raise up, it moves quickly. Horizon says its “Rapid Sync Motor” responds 33 percent faster than other treadmill motors. We found going from recovery jog to interval speed—six mph to 10 mph—the 7.8AT reached the top speed faster than most of the other models here, though not as quickly as the Technogym Skillrun (below). Even so, it’s impressive for a machine that costs less than $2,000.
One little feature that was appreciated: music control buttons built into the console. When your phone is connected via Bluetooth, songs play through the treadmill’s speakers, and you can easily change tracks without having to unlock your phone or swipe the screen with sweaty fingers.
—FOR COMPETITIVE ATHLETES—
Technogym Skillrun Unity 7000
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 68 in. long | Max Speed: 18.6 mph | Max Incline: 25% | Max Decline: 3% | Programs: 45 | Motor: 10 HP
Technogym machines are more commonly found in high-end gyms, but you could put one in your house if you’re truly committed to the sport. The Skillrun is much more than just a treadmill. Sure, it’ll do the basics—hit start and go—but this ’mill is designed to maximize power and performance. For starters, during your running workouts, a “Biofeedback” screen shows you data about how you’re moving, including stride length, ground contact time, left-right balance, and even your running power measured in watts. Such info can help you identify imbalances in your stride and work on your form, which may help prevent injury.
And since you’re going to be doing some high-performance training on this machine, it’s built to handle the abuse. The frame weighs a ton—figuratively, but it did take four men to deliver it to our office—and it doesn’t budge when you’re at a full-out sprint. The belt, made of slats, rolls smoothly underfoot and gives you plenty of space to really lengthen your stride. And the 10-horsepower motor cranks, making speed changes faster than on any other machine we’ve tested. If you’re committed to doing intervals on a treadmill, this rig is for you.
You can also use the Skillrun to build functional strength. It has the ability to add resistance to the belt so you can simulate sled pushes and parachute training. At the heaviest end, the 300-plus-pound “sled” wouldn’t budge for our skinny distance runners. But you can dial the resistance down all the way to 11 pounds, then choose the distance you’ll push and the number of reps. Likewise, for parachute training, you can select the resistance—basically, the size of your parachute—and strap a waist belt to the machine’s arms. The Skillrun gradually adds resistance as you push farther and faster. After a set of parachute drills and sled pushes, we had sore hamstrings and glutes for a couple of days.
—MADE FOR ENTERTAINMENT—
Running Surface: 20 in. wide x 61 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Motor: 4.0 HP
Unlike Peloton and NordicTrack machines, which lock you into their own training ecosystems—both jam-packed with workouts—Bodycraft allows you to bring your own platform. Want to run in a Zwift virtual world? The T800 lets you do that. Want to binge Cobra Kai during your long run? You can do that, too, with Netflix—plus Hulu and YouTube—pre-loaded on the machine. It even has an HDMI port, which Special Projects Editor Kit Fox used to hook up Apple TV while testing the treadmill in his garage. When streaming, the monitor hides metrics like distance and time, so you can blissfully zone out without watching every second and hundredth of a mile endlessly tick by. If you want to keep it simple, leverage the machine’s 30 built-in training programs and its firm, bounce-free platform. Our testers also liked that the T800 makes it easy to quickly draw your own workouts: Just drag your finger along the speed and incline charts on the touchscreen display to add hills and speed surges.
—BEST FOR SPEEDWORK—
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 12.5 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Motor: 3.0 HP
The T75 is sturdy—like machines from Woodway and Precor here—but it lacks the ability to adjust cushioning. The heavy steel frame is steady and doesn’t bounce, even when pushing the pace or under heavy footfalls. It boasts a 1-inch-thick deck and is rated for runners up to 400 pounds. “Lower-quality treadmills really shake when running at high speeds, but this is smooth and quiet,” noted our tester who put in more than 20 training runs ranging from 7:45 to 8:45 pace. This Matrix marries that robust build with a slew of entertainment options, which is rare even among higher-priced treadmills. It comes with Spotify built into the console and speakers that sound great, which is uncommon on noisy equipment. You can choose from three consoles—the top-of-the-line XIR has a 16-inch touchscreen, the best for watching Netflix. The XIR also displays scenic destinations to watch while you run, and the video playback speeds up and slows down to match the pace of your belt. Worth noting: The motor is smaller than most in its class, but we didn’t experience any troubles.
—THE SPACE SAVER—
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 13.5 mph | Max Incline: 13% | Max Decline: -2% | Programs: 50+ | Motor: 4 HP
The TR5500i has been updated this year with a new touchscreen console, but still has the plain-Jane look that we’ve long loved and the small stance that won’t take up much space in your basement. The refreshed console is a nice upgrade, even if it doesn’t bring you live coaching or Google Streets views. But, when you’re preprogramming a workout, you can simply slide bars on a chart up or down to adjust the speed and incline for each segment. That console also sits quite low—taller testers had to look down more than when running on other machines, but we like that it would be out of the way if you were watching a TV while running.
Though the TR5500i is a bit slow to respond to speed changes, it’s on par with treadmills in this price range and can go as fast as 13.5 mph, which isn’t typical for a budget model. And when you’re really cranking along at your top speed, there’s a slight bounce in the deck to help cushion your stride.
—EASY TO OPERATE—
Precor TRM 445
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 56 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: -2% | Programs: 23 | Motor: 3 HP
Much like its little brother, the TRM 223 (below), this treadmill has a sleek, stripped-down aesthetic that encourages you to hop on and hit go. The console doesn’t have a slew of buttons or a big touchscreen to distract you, but buried under the hood is a suite of 23 pre-programmed routines to help you reach your training goals, plus the option to save your workouts. (It records changes you make during your run, so you can perform the same session again later.)
Our test team, however, really liked this machine for its simplicity and realistic running feel. The belt is two inches wider than the one on the 223, so it doesn’t feel cramped, and the platform is sturdy underfoot. Another winning feature is just how quiet the machine is when changing incline. It drops to 2 percent decline or rises to 15 percent incline, but the only way you’ll be able to tell is by how much harder or easier your effort feels.
Landice L8 Cardio
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 63 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Programs: 20 | Motor: 4 HP
This thing focuses on what’s important: the feel of the run. In testing, the L8 proved to be the quietest, and its thick four-ply belt made for ninja-like footfalls. It’s also fast to respond to speed changes; runners were shocked at how quickly it reacted to big variations during intervals. Incline changes, on the other hand, are a little slow but happen so smoothly you don’t realize the deck is rising (plus the display flashes until the belt reaches your desired slope). You’ll need to set up your own fan, though, because this machine doesn’t have one built in.
Unlike some other machines, the L8 lets you hit top speed and incline at the same time—the potentially dangerous combo would tax even the world’s best mountain runners in just minutes. Our test model came with the new version of Landice’s “cardio console,” which prioritizes heart rate-based training programs and allows you to set up your workout and dial in on particular heart rate goals—the machine adjusts speed and incline to keep you working at that effort.
—GREAT FOR HIIT TRAINING—
Woodway Curve FTG
Running Surface: 17 in. wide x 67 in. long | Max Speed: N/A | Max Incline: N/A | Max Decline: N/A | Programs: 50+ | Motor: None
Get ready to sweat. This curved treadmill doesn’t have a motor—you power the belt with every stride. It takes some time to get used to, as you have to engage the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings to keep the belt moving smoothly. But once you get the hang of it, you can accelerate quickly for high-speed interval workouts.
Mounted on the left handrail are plus and minus buttons that let you dial in 20 levels of resistance. At the toughest setting, you’ll need to be a sled-drill-loving linebacker to get the belt to budge; at the lowest, the belt spins more easily, but distance runners might still find it too taxing for their easy days. Set it somewhere in between for HIIT workouts.
The entertainment options are the same as on the 4Front. You can watch videos from Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube or surf the Internet. Though given the Curve has just a 10-inch display, you might be better off setting up a separate television for your viewing.
Running Surface: 17 in. wide x 64 in. long | Max Speed: N/A | Max Incline: N/A | Max Decline: N/A | Programs: None | Motor: None
The TrueForm Runner looks much like the Woodway Curve, and is powered the same way—you are the motor that drives the belt by engaging your backside muscles. It’s hand-built in the U.S. with a rock-solid frame and realistic running surface that lasts far longer than a typical treadmill belt. Plus, with no motor or electrical components, there are fewer parts to break down over the life of the machine.
Our test model had a running track surface, which allowed us to train in spikes for a mile race, but it’s also available with a rubberized belt or a turf surface (football and soccer players can warm up in cleats rather than by pedaling a bike). Just stay focused—the 17-inch running surface is the narrowest of the models we tested.
Precor TRM 223
Running Surface: 20 in. wide x 57 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 15% | Max Decline: N/A | Programs: 9 | Motor: 3 HP
The sleek, black console is free of clutter and extra buttons, which should appeal to task-focused runners. “It has a simple design,” said tester Derek Call. “It doesn’t have an overwhelming number of options—just what you need, like hill and interval workouts.” The straightforward LCD screen and its Tetris-like display of blocks shows you the workout underway, while the most important metrics like time, distance, and pace are always displayed in big, easy-to-see digits.
There’s a lot to like about this treadmill, but the 20-inch-wide belt is on the narrower side, which may be a concern for some runners.
—FOR MOUNTAIN GOATS—
True Fitness Alpine Runner
Running Surface: 22 in. wide x 60 in. long | Max Speed: 12 mph | Max Incline: 30% | Max Decline: 3% | Programs: 38 | Motor: 4 HP
This is a dream machine for runners who loves the steeps. The obvious reason to buy this True Fitness is because it tops out at 30 percent incline, but all of our testers were wowed by its rock-solid build: The nearly 600-pound frame doesn’t wobble a bit, whether level or fully raised. The incline motor cranks out enough power to travel from one extreme to the other in as little time as machines with half the incline, yet it did so smoothly.
Our test model came with the Transcend 16 touchscreen console with a built-in HDTV tuner and a bunch of workouts, including climbs up famous monuments like the Eiffel Tower and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Just give yourself room. With the deck raised to 30 percent, your feet will be nearly level with the console and your head will be in the rafters—you need at least 10-foot ceilings.
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