Whether you have seen it at the CrossFit Games or are just looking for one of the best manual treadmills on the market today, the high-end AirRunner from Assault Fitness is likely to tick a few boxes.
This premium unit promises to deliver everything a traditional manual treadmill offers, but with so much more stability and performance. In fact, it’s touted as one of the best treadmills in the world – regardless of whether you’re talking about a motorized or a manual model.
The catch? It’s more expensive than even a high-end motorized treadmill! Today we’re checking it out to see what it can offer a range of users and – most importantly – whether it’s actually worth the asking price.
Manual treadmills have a reputation for being a little… well, a little ugly. They certainly don’t offer the high-end looks of their motorized cousins. The AirRunner doesn’t suffer from this problem.
With a sleek design, and stealthy black and silver color scheme, this treadmill would look incredible everywhere from a living room to a garage to a CrossFit gym.
Unless you are familiar with it, the first thing that catches the eye is the belt, for a few reasons. One being that it is curved – something we will come onto in the next section. This belt is 17” wide and 62.2” long, meaning you can run with a very long stride, even if the belt is a little narrower than other high-end machines.
The second feature that may have grabbed your attention is that the belt is made up of individual slats as opposed to a standard continuous sheet of material. This slat belt is well textured for superb grip, while the durability is second-to-none. In fact, Assault Fitness themselves insist it will last for ‘up to 150,000 miles of use’ with no maintenance. That’s a lot of marathons right there!
Overall, the build is impressive. It features a rugged powder-coated steel frame and handles, and very sturdy base, supporting users up to 350lbs.
The pair of adjustable feet that sit at the rear of the machine allow you to tweak the incline, although this is more for adjusting the stability and overall level, than to set a workout gradient as you’d find on other manual treadmills.
It may be obvious, but it’s worth pointing out that this machine is not foldable – you can’t fold the base up vertically and reclaim floor space. However, small wheels are fitted to the front of the treadmill, with a handle at the back.
At 280lbs, it’s not a very heavy machine, meaning you can lift it and wheel it off to a different location pretty easily.
While we usually use this section to talk about the motor and controls, there is nothing electrical on the AirRunner. However, it’s worth discussing the belt and how you can use your body to control it.
The curved belt isn’t designed like this for no reason. The slight curve offers you a way to alter your speed while running. There’s no need for a resistance adjustment dial – moving towards the front of the deck will increase the speed of the belt, while running in the middle of the belt maintains your current speed.
As you may have guessed, edging towards the back slows everything down. Although, if you are sprinting at full pace as part of a HIIT session, jumping your feet onto the side panels is an easier way to stop.
This curve system takes a little time to get used to (perhaps you could say there is bit of a learning ‘curve’… sorry), but after a few minutes you will have mastered it.
Behind the scenes a collection of oversized rollers, guide pulleys and sealed bearings keep the ride smooth and almost entirely friction-free.
Sadly – like other manual treadmills – the AirRunner doesn’t feature a storage compartment for a water bottle or smartphone, nor is there a media shelf for a tablet. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but for longer sessions these additions would have been pretty useful.
The main thing this AirRunner does include is a good central console. This 4 x AA battery-powered device features a nicely-segmented and very readable LCD screen that delivers feedback on your performance at a glance – time, calories burned, distance, speed, watts and pace. This is a good system, although not entirely unexpected at this high-end price.
A great feature is the trio of program buttons on the right of the console. Here you can tailor a workout for HIIT or heart rate zone training, as well as specific targets, such as time, speed, calories or distance – great for those training for specific events. The ‘Rest’ and ‘Work’ LEDs signify when it’s time to ease off or really go for it.
This console is also Bluetooth enabled, so you can pair a Polar heart rate monitor to it for readings to be displayed on the LCD screen. Little features like this are not reason alone to purchase this treadmill, but they help increase the appeal and sense of value.
As we’ve discussed, the AirRunner shows off several features that boost the convenience, but it’s the performance alone that makes this treadmill worthy of the expensive price tag.
The operation of the machine is seamless. It’s up to you to determine the pace you run, so you aren’t held back by the max power of a motor or the time it takes for that motor to reach the desired speed. It accelerates as naturally as you do.
So, you want to go instantly from a light jog to channeling your inner Usain Bolt with a 25mph sprint? The only thing stopping you… is you.
Of course, this makes it great for things like interval training, allowing you to flit between high-intensity and recovery with no delay. Even a motorized treadmill can’t match the performance of the AirRunner in this regard.
It’s equally suitable for distance running and will help prepare you for the feel of outdoor races more than a motorized machine, as there’s no belt to aid you. The fact that this treadmill encourages a toe or mid-foot stride is another worthwhile trait that will benefit your outdoors running.
The other important point worth recapping is that the AirRunner requires no electrical consumption, so – in the long run at least – you will save money on your fuel bills, which is better on both the environment and your wallet.