A reshuffle was in order for our chart on the best running treadmills to bring it up to date for 2021.
We removed three older models and replaced them with excellent alternatives. These new additions were the manual TrueForm Trainer, the popular NordicTrack T 9.5 S, and the more affordable T202 from Horizon Fitness.
At first glance, many new runners assume that all treadmills are made for running. After all, that’s their only purpose… right? Not quite.
Table of Contents
This article offers our thoughts on seven of the very best treadmills for running on the market, along with some brief reviews to help you recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each model.
After breaking each one down, we run through what makes each treadmill on this list good for running, and the things you should look for in a running treadmill.
Motor: 4.0 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12mph
Incline: 0% to 15% (Motorized)
Belt: 22” x 60”
Features: FeatherLight folding system, 3-Zone Variable Response cushioning, accessory tray, aluminum side rails, 9.3” TFT display screen, audio jacks, USB charging port, Bluetooth speakers, cooling fan, multi-position media shelf, built-in workout programs, 350lb weight capacity
The 7.8 AT is branded by Horizon Fitness as ‘the ultimate runner’s treadmill’ – and we would be inclined to agree! This premium machine boasts some excellent features that serious runners will find very difficult to pass up.
It is powered by a huge 4.0 CHP motor, providing top speeds of up to 12mph and incline up to 15%. There is ample room to run, with a generous 22” x 60” belt featuring 3-Zone Variable Response cushioning for a comfortable ride.
There are plenty of secondary features to get excited about too, with the highlights being a 9.3” TFT display screen, Bluetooth speakers, and a multi-position media shelf. Sure, it demands a higher price, but in this case the 7.8 AT is worth every penny.
Motor: 4.0 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12mph
Incline: 0 to 15% (Motorized)
Belt: 22” x 62”
Features: Ortho Flex Shock suspension system, Orthopedic belt, multiple LED screens, multiple preset workout programs, hand pulse heart rate monitors, heart rate belt, multi-speed fan, built-in speakers, safety key, lifetime frame and motor warranty, 400lb weight capacity
The 3G Cardio Elite Runner is hands down one of the best consumer treadmills you can buy at the moment, although the price tag is understandably high. Still, your investment will be rewarded with an exceptional at-home running experience.
It features a 4.0 HP motor powering an excellent oversized (22” x 62”) Orthopedic running belt with a commercial-grade Ortho Flex Shock suspension system for lasting comfort. The top speed of 12mph will appeal to serious runners, as will the option of adding up to 15% incline.
Workout feedback is delivered via multiple LED screens, while a multi-speed fan and built-in speakers keep you cool and comfortable. Other features include heart rate monitors, multiple preset programs, and a speed boost for HIIT.
Motor: 3.0 CHP
Speed: 0.5 to 12mph
Incline: 0% to 15% (Motorized)
Belt: 20” x 60”
Features: 3-Zone Variable Response cushioning, FeatherLight folding system, 7” LCD display, Bluetooth speakers, quick controls, media shelf, pulse-grip heart rate monitors, preset workout programs, cooling fan, 325lb max capacity
Now, the Horizon Fitness 7.0 may not be as high-end as some of the other picks on this chart, although it combines excellent performance for runners along with a price tag that is quite easy on the wallet.
The 7.0 features a powerful 3.0 CHP motor for a smooth performance which remains very quiet in action. There is plenty of space to run, with a 20” x 60” track, and up to 12mph of speeds to choose from, along with up to 15% incline.
In addition, there’s an intuitive modern central console, boasting a 7” LCD screen with several workout programs built in. This is flanked by nifty Bluetooth speakers and a nearby media shelf for the full modern treadmill experience!
Belt: 17” x 62.2”
Features: Curved deck, durable slat belt, easily-readable large LCD screen, preset workout programs (target, interval, heart rate), Bluetooth connectivity, lightweight design
In contrast with many of the other models on this list, the AirRunner is a manual treadmill – there’s no motor, and you set the speed yourself as you move your feet. This is the perfect option for runners, as the manual setup can burn up to 30% more calories than a motorized treadmill.
Unlike motorized treadmills, which can’t go above a certain speed, you can push the AirRunner as fast as you can run. As we mention in the complete AirRunner review, this treadmill’s curved design is very ergonomic, with a shape designed to encourage proper running form and prevent joint pain.
Meanwhile, the LCD console offers all the workout feedback you need, including Bluetooth connectivity for accurate heart rate monitoring.
Belt: 17” wide
Features: Commercial-grade steel build, Responsive Belt Technology, shallow running curve, LED screen, heart rate monitor compatible, floor levelers, transportation wheels, 400lb weight capacity
The TrueForm Trainer is a higher-end manual treadmill in the same category as the likes of the Assault AirRunner, making it ideal for high-intensity training, CrossFit and pretty much any other kind of running you want to do.
The biggest difference of this popular machine is that the curved slat belt is more shallow, which results in a slightly more natural gait. It’s a very sensitive machine, responding well to your acceleration, foot placement and posture.
Of course, as you would expect for the higher price, the build quality is commercial-grade, with a sturdy steel frame and durable components, meaning it will last for decades with the right care. Meanwhile, the simple but effective LED feedback computer is a welcome addition.
Motor: 3.6 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12mph
Incline: 0% to 12% (Motorized)
Belt: 20” x 60”
Features: SpaceSaver design, FlexSelect cushioning, EasyLift Assist, 14” Smart HD touchscreen, integrated speakers, Bluetooth audio connectivity, iFit compatible (free one-year membership), heart rate monitor, 300lb weight capacity
The highly-rated T 9.5 S from NordicTrack has loads to offer runners of all abilities, combining a commercial-grade performance with an excellent multimedia experience.
Under the hood, the T 9.5 S features a formidable 3.6 CHP DurX motor that runs smoothly and quietly, and brings the machine up to speed very quickly. There’s a full 12mph on offer here, as well as up to 12% of motorized incline to challenge you.
Comfort is a theme of this popular folding treadmill, with the running belt offering enough space (20” x 60”) and the FlexSelect cushioning helping to reduce impact on your joints. You also have plenty of scope for entertainment, with a superb 14” touchscreen HD monitor that is compatible with the impressive iFit system (a year’s subscription is included in the price).
Motor: 2.75 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12mph
Incline: 0 to 12% (Motorized)
Belt: 20” x 60”
Features: 3-Zone Variable Response cushioning, quick controls, LED monitors, built-in speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, rapid-charge USB port, media shelf, pulse-grip heart rate monitors, preset workout programs, cooling fan, 325lb max capacity
The T202 is another Horizon Fitness treadmill to make this list, although one that is considerably more affordable than the others. Yet, despite the more economical nature, it is still loaded with everything a runner needs.
This includes a generous 20” x 60” running belt that sits on top of the 3-Zone Variable Response cushioning for extra comfort at whatever speed you are going. On that note, the T202 has a top speed of 12mph, which is driven smoothly by the strong 2.75 CHP motor.
In addition to the performance, this popular treadmill is stocked with some nifty features to keep you comfortable and entertained as you run. This includes a cooling fan, USB charging capabilities, media shelf and built-in speakers.
Compared to walkers or joggers, runners have different goals in mind for their workouts. Accordingly, they need to look for different features when considering which treadmill to purchase.
A wide variety of factors, from design and motor power to cushioning and amenities, all add up to create your perfect running experience.
Here are some key features you should be looking for when doing your research for a new running treadmill:
Depending on your priorities when looking for a running treadmill, design may or may not be an important factor for you. However, there are a few key features you should keep in mind regardless of your tastes.
Runners should look for treadmills with a sturdy, durable design. The faster you run, the more force you put into the treadmill – it’s therefore important to purchase a machine that can stand up to hard running.
Steel frames are standard in many higher-end running treadmills, and the heavy-duty material holds up much better than cheaper plastic models. However, plastic frames are much lighter – which may be helpful if you ever need to move the treadmill!
A few models, like the Assault Fitness AirRunner, include a curved running surface. This is designed to optimize your stride mechanics as you run, and can help protect you from accidentally slipping off the back of the belt.
Side rails are another important aspect to look out for. In fact, the faster you run, the more critical strong side rails are. If you slip while running or can’t keep up with the pace of the belt, grabbing the side rails is the safest method to ease yourself off the treadmill.
A great treadmill requires a great motor, especially for runners. If you’re looking for a machine that can help you burn lots of calories and push your pace, you’ll need one with a powerful motor.
Motors that provide between 3.5 and 4 CHP are the most common for higher-end running treadmills. Some lower-budget options feature 2.5 or 2.75 CHP motors, though these may suffer from lower top speeds.
Around 12 miles per hour is a good top speed that should push you, but won’t overpower your running. Some higher-powered treadmills may go up to 15mph, while cheaper ones may only reach 10mph.
Depending on your running style, incline selection may or may not be important to you. If you’re looking to get some hills in on your workout, you’ll need a treadmill with a wide available gradient.
Higher-end running treadmills will offer up to 12% or 15% gradient; some also feature a -3% decline for more realistic real-world runs.
In the budget category, 10% incline is the standard. While it might not mimic a mountain, 10% still offers enough slope to force you to shorten your stride and dig in harder – you’ll certainly burn some extra calories!
Belt size may be one of the most important aspects of any treadmill, especially for runners. While it’s easier to stay on the ‘sweet spot’ of a treadmill’s belt when walking, running forces you to move faster and can create issues with undersized belts.
The industry standard for most treadmills is 20” wide by 55” long. However, many running treadmills come equipped with roomier belts to make high-speed activity more comfortable. Some belts measure 20” x 60”, and a few models are even 22” x 60”.
Cheaper models may feature the shorter 55” length. These can be great for saving floor space, and make the treadmills lighter and easier to fold up. However, if you’re looking to run at high speed, you should test small belts out beforehand to make sure you can stride comfortably – especially if you are taller than 5ft.
A treadmill’s control module is central to your workout experience. This is where you’ll adjust your speed and incline settings, select programmed workouts, or blast some music to pump you up through the home stretch of your run.
Running treadmills feature many different types of control models depending on their price point. For example, basic running treadmills will usually offer a simple LED screen with buttons to toggle all the adjustments for the belt itself. The LED readout is where you can view your calorie burn and feedback on your run.
Higher-end models typically feature a color touchscreen – in fact, the best ones can measure over 14” from corner to corner!
These screens grant you access to filmed workouts in exotic locales as well as your workout stats. Some even offer internet connectivity, allowing you to watch TV shows or movies without stepping off the treadmill.
While the best running treadmills are optimized for burning the most calories and giving you a fantastic workout, some models come equipped with a wide variety of secondary features to keep you relaxed, safe, and motivated to run.
As noted above, many treadmills with touchscreens offer a free subscription to workout services such as iFit.
These platforms allow you to select from a wide variety of pre-stored workouts, as well as upload and track your scores to measure your improvement over time. If you have other friends with home treadmills, these apps can even let you compare your statistics. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone!
Bluetooth connectivity is another big factor in the entertainment section. Treadmills with Bluetooth let you play your own music directly from a playlist on your phone through the speakers on the treadmill.
Talking about speakers, some treadmills are built with a set of speakers on either side, while others include much smaller speakers tucked into vents. Generally speaking, larger speakers translate to more volume and clearer sound for your tunes.
Heart rate monitors are a secondary feature included in some models. Set into the handles or the side rails, these give you a pretty accurate way to measure your heart rate throughout the course of your workout.
Of course, chest band sensors are the most accurate way to measure your heart rate. You will usually need to supply your own, although some of the premium treadmills may come with one.
Finally, storage space on your treadmill is another thing to consider. Certain treadmills are built with rather spartan steel bars for frames, while others offer a full deck of space for cups, bottles, phones and snacks. For long programmed runs, having the storage space to keep some snacks within arm’s reach can be a lifesaving feature.
Many runners new to treadmill workouts may assume that all treadmills are optimized for runners. In reality, however, runners require a specific set of features to make the most out of their equipment.
Running treadmills should ideally offer at least a 60” belt. While more expensive treadmills generally do, budget models often only extend to 55” long. This can cut your stride short as you speed up and put you in danger of slipping off the treadmill or hurting yourself, especially if you’re over 6ft tall.
If you plan on running fast, look for a model that offers a top speed of at least 12mph. While you may not sustain 12mph for long during your workouts, having the extra speed available gives you the freedom to push yourself harder through a run and won’t hold you back if you’re working on an all-out sprint.
Some running treadmills can touch 15mph, which is even better for HIIT running sessions. If fast running is your goal, keep in mind that higher-end manual treadmills don’t tend to have a speed limit.
Great running treadmills can also change speeds and incline quickly. There’s nothing more frustrating than a cheap treadmill that takes forever to get up to speed – especially if you’re trying to burn calories with a short, intense running session. More powerful motors adjust more quickly, so look for a model with 3 CHP or more to get the full benefits.
Finally, running treadmills should offer great cushioning. The faster you move on a treadmill, the more important the cushioning becomes.
While you may not stress out your joints by walking, daily treadmill running can shred your joints if your treadmill lacks proper cushioning. Higher-end treadmills often feature more comprehensive cushioning systems to better protect your joints and bones from damage.
It’s possible to find running treadmills at a wide variety of price points. If you’re not constrained by a tight budget, your choice will likely come down to how many bells and whistles you want on your treadmill.
If you’re a serious runner looking to get in plenty of miles, you should start your search in the treadmills under $1,500 price range. Going much cheaper will force you to sacrifice on important features like motor power and belt cushioning.
Many outstanding running treadmills are available for under $2,000. Once you climb above two grand, you’re paying more for aesthetics and added features than for core performance.
That’s not to say that a $4,000 treadmill is no better than an $1,800 one – however, the cheaper one will still offer enough features to satisfy the needs of most runners. As long as you have the basic performance measurements covered, let your budget and your preferences decide which treadmill to buy.
Treadmill running is often regarded as much easier than outdoor running, and some outdoor runners even look down on treadmill runners because of the perceived difference.
Yet while treadmill running is easier than running on harder terrain, the lower difficulty doesn’t prevent you from getting in a great workout on a moving belt.
Motorized treadmills take some of the work out of maintaining a high speed by assisting your leg turnover and enabling you to keep moving faster.
Treadmills are also much easier on your joints than road running, and can help prevent a significant amount of the wear and tear many outdoor runners experience.
Finally, treadmills offer easy access to those amenities that make your workout more palatable. You may be able to listen to music while running outdoors, but can you surf the internet or watch Netflix while pounding the sidewalk? If you’re looking for a more relaxed and enjoyable run, you may find treadmills easier in that regard.
In a word: very. Treadmills allow you to run for longer periods and at higher speeds than you could when running on outdoor surfaces. However, if you’re not careful, that extra mileage can easily lead to injury or additional wear and tear on your joints.
Treadmill cushioning is designed to prevent those unwanted effects by softening the surface of the treadmill underfoot. The idea is to absorb some of the shock of each strike to lessen the load on your joints and alleviate cumulative damage caused by excessive running.
Unfortunately, a lack of proper cushioning on your treadmill can have the exact opposite effect, building up stress on your joints and bones, and causing myriad health problems over time. When buying a treadmill, it’s important to consider the cushioning system to preserve your joint and bone health.
More expensive treadmills often feature adjustable cushioning systems, which allow you to dial the cushioning level up or down to either protect your joints or simulate harder outdoor running.
Naturally, cheaper treadmills tend to have less cushioning, which can create unnecessary strain on your joints.
Whether you have an unlimited budget and big aspirations, or simply want a decent treadmill for those times when running outdoors is not an option, we hope this article has given you some inspiration.
Truth be told, landing yourself any of the treadmills on this page will result in a pretty smooth and enjoyable running experience in the comfort of your own home, office or garage.
Check out our chart, but don’t be afraid to browse further afield. Keep our advice in mind when shopping and you will find a treadmill that can keep up with even your fastest runs!