The rise of small treadmills and the home gym
The pandemic may have fueled a home workout revolution, but surveys show that the trend is here to stay. A recent study found that nearly three in four Americans plan to keep up their home fitness routine—and for many, their small treadmill is a key part of this daily sweat session. This timeless cardio classic is consistently the most popular fitness tool on the market, according to industry data. But we’ve come a long way from the huge, bulky machines that may have gotten more use as your coat rack than your workout buddy.
Noawadays, there’s a flavor of treadmill for every style, budget, and fitness goal—and they’re sleeker than ever. Whether you’re into walking workouts, jogging, marathon training, or using your treadmill for HIIT and strength training, today’s machines are designed with your living room in mind: they’re compact, functional, and some can even be stored away when not in use.
How to choose the best treadmill for home use
“When considering your options for compact treadmills, there are a lot to choose from,” says Chris Gagliardi, the scientific education content manager for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and an ACE-certified health coach and personal trainer in San Diego. “But one fundamental question you should ask when you begin your research is: ‘Do I want a motorized or non-motorized piece of equipment?’”
Another priority, Gagliardi suggests, is to think of safety first. “Does the belt stop if you fall? How easy is it to stop the equipment once it is in operation? Because you may be using this equipment at home alone, it’s important that you make your own safety a priority,” he says. A key point indeed.
Then there are the specs of the machine itself. Nicole Davis, ACE-CPT, a trainer who reviews fitness equipment for Garage Gym Reviews, suggests you should start by considering these criteria:
- Price: “Mid-range would be about $1,500,” Davis says. You can find treadmills at much lower prices—especially if you keep your eye out for sales when new models hit the market—but “budget treadmills sacrifice on specs, so be aware of that.”
- User Weight Capacity: “Industry standard is 300 pounds minimum, but some commercial-grade machines exceed 400 pounds.”
- Horsepower: “This spec will be based on what you plan to use your treadmill for,” she explains. If you’re a walker, 2.5 CHP (continuous-duty horsepower) will be just fine, she says. But if you’re a serious runner, you’ll want something closer to 3.5 CHP.
- Deck (also called “tread belt”) length: “Again, this spec will depend on what you’ll be doing on the treadmill,” she says. Shorter decks around 50 inches will suit walkers just fine, but runners need at least 55 inches in length. “Tall individuals or serious runners should look for a 60-inch deck for maximum comfort.”
- Warranty: “The best treadmill warranties are 15 years to life on the frame, at least two years on parts, and one year on labor,” she says. “Generally, a better warranty means more faith in the product and its durability.”
Beyond that, the treadmill’s footprint and features—such as a heart rate monitor, programming options, incline, decline and speed range—are important to consider, adds Steve Stonehouse, a certified personal trainer in Orange County, California and a director of education for STRIDE. Within shopper reviews, you may also want to investigate the noise your treadmill might generate, especially if you live in an apartment or want to exercise when others in the house are asleep.
CJ Hammond, a certified trainer with RSP Nutrition in Los Angeles, notes that, of course, you also need to think about what you want from your workout. “If you want to get more of a burn in the legs, running or walking on an incline will deliver that,” he says. Hammond believes the best small treadmills max out at around 10 to 15 miles per hour to allow for sprint intervals. (Fast-paced running is one of the workouts that burn the most calories.)
Bonus tips for selecting the best small or compact treadmill
Once you’ve narrowed your choices for the best small treadmill down to two or three models, Gagliardi suggests you go by the following to select the best treadmill (especially if you can’t test in person):
- Seek out relevant reviews about each small or compact treadmill.
- Watch video-based demonstrations of people using the treadmill.
- Use the chat features on product websites to ask specific questions if you can’t find the answers you’re looking for.
- Call customer service to ask questions. (Customer reviews will often give you great insight into a brand’s customer service, too.)
- Use your social media platforms to solicit feedback and advice from people you trust.
- Ask if there is a nearby distributor of the product or a gym that carries the equipment you’re interested in, and see if you can try it in person.
- Find out if additional equipment is needed or if a specific type of outlet is necessary. Ask: does the treadmill require a plug? What should be placed underneath it? How much space is required? How far should it be from walls, furniture, or other exercise equipment?
- Determine how easy it is to get replacement parts or service when needed.
Read on to learn about the best small treadmills for every budget—and, don’t hop on that machine without reading the 9 Benefits of Stretching That Will Convince You to Do It Daily.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T1407M Manual Walking Treadmill
If you’re about to become a first-time treadmill owner, and especially if you have a limited budget and just want to see how much you’ll use your new gear, this could be a great small treadmill for you. This non-electric treadmill is foldable, compact, and lightweight with transportation wheels so you can easily move it around your home. One thing to keep in mind: the deck length is a bit on the smaller side, at 42 inches.
Yet even though this treadmill is small, some users suggest its effect is mighty. Mom of two, Tac, writes, “It was easy to assemble and 15 minutes in I’m already sweating.” The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T1407M contains an LCD monitor that allows you to track your time, speed, steps, and calories burned. It also allows for up to a 10.4 degree incline and supports a maximum weight of 220 pounds.
(Psst—this is how you can walk more steps per day.)
Merax Folding Treadmill
This affordable option is both electric and foldable (deck length is 43.3 inches), making it very portable. The Merax Folding Treadmill has a large LCD display that tracks the basics, including speed, time, distance, and calories burned.
This small treadmill could appeal to shoppers of every fitness level and intensity, as its 2.5 CHP motor allows you to go up to 6.2 miles per hour (MPH) for when you really want to move. The maximum capacity is 240 pounds. There are also 12 built-in training programs and three incline levels to allow you to switch things up.
One Amazon reviewer writes, “This is a perfect treadmill for a small to medium-sized basement. It’s small, but it has everything we need.”
9 Best Exercise Bikes to Stay Active Year-Round
Weslo Cadence G5.9i
If you’re looking for an inexpensive folding treadmill with Bluetooth capabilities, the Weslo Cadence G5.9i could be it. You’re required to activate an iFit membership (free for one month) to use the treadmill—however, some users, such as Todd & Kricket, discovered you may be able to bypass that “if you hold down the bluetooth button for 15-20 seconds the machine will activate and let you use it.” (We should note we haven’t tried this and can’t confirm.)
This treadmill supports a maximum weight of 275 pounds and has a comfortable 50-inch tread belt. Some reviewers suggest it’s a great treadmill for runners, as it goes up to 10 MPH. Just keep in mind a possible “con”: reviewer R. Reyes found that the noise pollution from this treadmill is roughly equivalent to that of a robotic vacuum running around the house.
GoPlus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill
This treadmill from GoPlus is great for people who love walking throughout their day. It offers two ways to use it: flat, so you can place it under a desk and walk up to 2.5 miles per hour while you work, or with the handles raised for a more traditional workout, up to 7.5 MPH. And with a nearly silent 2.25 CHP motor, it’s possible you can even use it at the office without disturbing your colleagues.
User Ulrike raves, “It is quiet! I can use it in my apartment’s spare room while watching a movie, and no one can even hear me or it move. That’s AWESOME.” Perhaps the best part? It requires no setup and, as some reviewers have suggested, is a breeze to fold up and roll away for easy storage.
GoPlus Under Desk Electric Treadmill
If all you want is a desk treadmill, this is a great option for something discreet, yet effective, during your workday. This GoPlus treadmill features a shock-proof design to limit possible vibrations and noise from walking. Plus, its slim design allows you to store it under the bed or sofa.
The treadmill has three workout tiers and 12 programs built in to provide variety. It goes from 0.5 to 4 MPH and supports up to 220 pounds. Audrey writes, “It’s a great machine, everyone in the office loves the idea, plus it helps keep me focused on my work.” (Make sure you follow these best tips for desk ergonomics.)
9 Simple Chair Exercises That Actually Work Your Whole Body
NordicTrack T 6.5s Treadmill
NordicTrack is known for its high-end treadmills, but with nearly 30,000 reviews, consumers suggest this starter treadmill has all the quality the company is known for, just without premium bells and whistles. This model has a smaller display and a cushioned, 55-inch running belt that goes up to 10 MPH. Again, it requires an iFit registration (and you get 30 days for free), but some users say you can bypass this during setup by holding down the iFit logo on the treadmill for 30 seconds.
Angel writes, “OK, so it doesn’t have fans, or TV screen, [but] … This thing is almost perfect!”
SOLE F63 Foldable Treadmill
Davis says that when it comes to mid-range treadmills, this SOLE F63 Treadmill is her go-to recommendation thanks to its 3.0 CHP motor, nice speed and incline ranges (up to 12 MPH and an impressive 15 incline levels), foldability, and strong warranty.
It comes with the extra perks that make your run all the more comfortable and enjoyable too, like cooling fans, arm-rest controls, USB port, built-in speakers, and bluetooth compatability.
“Lots of bang for your buck,” one reviewer writes. “It’s so sturdy that no vibrations transmit across the floor—where it’s positioned right next to my china cabinet.”
NordicTrack T-Series Treadmill
With many high-end features for hundreds of dollars less, this compact NordicTrack treadmill is a nice mid-range budget option. It comes with 30 days free access to iFit live or on-demand workouts—but again, other consumers suggest that if you don’t want to sign up, you may be able to bypass this during setup by holding down the iFit logo on the treadmill for 30 seconds.
This model has a seven-inch HD touchscreen, a cushioned 60-inch tread belt, zero to 12% incline, 12 MPH max speed, a built-in fan, and a space-efficient folding design. Julie D. writes, “I’m an avid runner … who has run on many treadmills over the years, and this machine is awesome. It has all the features and feel of a gym machine just not as bulky or expensive.” (Here are some other at-home smart gym equipment options to consider.)
NordicTrack Commercial 2450
Yet another awesome NordicTrack machine, this model is geared toward people looking to uplevel their training. “It’s just as powerful as pricier commercial-grade treadmills,” says Jason Lentzke, an IRONMAN U certified coach—but it comes in at a more mid-range price. It allows for up to a seriously sweaty 15% incline and a -3% decline (great for simulating hill work, according to Lentzke). “This model also features smart workouts, so as your program and video show an uphill path, the treadmill will tilt to match.”
You also get a powerful 4 CPH motor and 12 MPH max speed, 14-inch HD touchscreen, 60-inch tread belt, plus bluetooth compatability. And it doesn’t just fold up; it also has a built-in assist system for easy lifting after even your most intense workout.
“For years I put off buying a treadmill for so many reasons I lost count, but the big ones were up-front cost, space, and my fear that I’d lose interest in it,” writes user DKM. “Have had this thing a few days now and am freakin’ in love with it.”
Schwinn Fitness 810 Treadmill
This sturdy treadmill supports up to 275 pounds, reportedly provides a smooth, quiet experience, and still folds up to slide under a piece of furniture. It also has integrated heart rate grips to monitor your beats per minute.
Shoppers suggest the feature that really sets the Schwinn treadmill apart is its 50+ preprogrammed adventure trails that allow you to explore destinations around the world, keeping you motivated and inspired. It also auto-adjusts in real-time to your speed.
As for the user experience, Allen writes: “I can’t say enough about the comfort of this run deck. The hydraulic release takes its time coming down but very nice mechanism. Very nice bounce back running deck, I really love the feel.”
Want to love the feel of your run a little more? Try 4 Runner’s Knee Exercises That May Help Pain Around the Knee Cap.
Horizon Fitness Foldable Treadmill
Trainer Stephanie Thomas, ACE-CPT, points to the brand Horizon for its sturdy, high-quality machines. This compact model is Horizon’s best-seller, possibly thanks to its easy setup, super quiet motor, simple folding system, and intuitive controls.
Its cushioned 55-inch tread belt supports runs up to 10 MPH and with an incline max of 10%. There are also five pre-set programs, bluetooth connectivity, integrated speakers, and a cooling fan.
“LOVE THIS TREADMILL!” writes user Jen, who says she doesn’t really enjoy running all that much in general—but is actually excited to get up and use this machine in the morning.
UREVO Folding Treadmill
One of the highest-rated compact treadmills on Amazon, this model uses an extra-wide, multi-layered tread belt for increased durability. The UREVO treadmill goes up to 7.5 MPH and supports up to 260 pounds. This company is also known for its customer service, an important detail when you’re ordering things online. Gregory writes, “The customer service of the company is EXCELLENT, they responded to my Email enquiries promptly and positively (in couple of days). [sic]”
Follow the Healthy on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Live better—keep reading:
With additional reporting by Charlotte Hilton Andersen and Leslie Finlay.