The 7 Best Running Treadmills for Serious Runners – High-Performance on Any Budget

It was all-change in this article as we completely revamped our chart and content. We welcomed seven new models, including two high-end performers in the Assault Fitness AirRunner and NordicTrack 1750, as well as the supercool adidas T-19x.

Two ProForm treadmills made the cut – the SMART Pro 2000 and the Performance 300i – as well as the Bowflex BXT116 and affordable Horizon Fitness T101.

The winner after the latest chart update:
Assault Fitness AirRunner - 1
  • Motor: None
  • Speed: Unlimited
  • Incline: None
  • Belt: 17” x 62.2”
  • Folding: No
  • Features: Curved deck, durable slat belt, easily-readable large LCD screen, preset workout programs (target, interval, heart rate), Bluetooth connectivity, lightweight design

At first glance, many new runners assume that all treadmills are made for running. After all, that’s their only purpose… right? Not quite.

Many treadmills, especially lower-budget ones, are optimized for walking or long-distance jogging rather than faster running. Runners looking to burn calories and stay fit on a treadmill need a high-quality, dependable option that offers the speed and comfort to keep up with their running pace.

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.

Top 7 Best Treadmills For Serious Runners:

Pros

  • Perfectly replicates outdoor running
  • No max speed – it matches your natural acceleration
  • Surprisingly lightweight and maneuverable
  • Good control console for a manual treadmill, with a range of preset programs
  • Long belt (62.2”) with up to 150,000 miles durability

Cons

  • The price will simply be too high for many casual users
  • The belt is a little narrower than you may expect

Motor: None
Speed: Unlimited
Incline: None
Belt: 17” x 62.2”
Folding: No
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.

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Pros

  • Excellent 3.75 CHP commercial motor
  • Wide range of incline and decline options
  • Hassle-free stowing, with EasyLift assist
  • Great speaker system
  • Free one-year subscription to the iFit service

Cons

  • If you don’t subscribe to iFit, using this machine can be a bit frustrating
  • 10” screen is smaller than many of its competitors

Motor: 3.75 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12mph
Incline: -3% to 15% (Motorized)
Belt: 22” x 60”
Folding: Yes
Features: Runners Flex cushioning, EasyLift assistance, 10” Smart HD touchscreen, quality speaker system, cooling fans, one-year iFit membership, 50 onboard workout programs, OneTouch controls, EKG heart rate monitors

The NordicTrack 1750 offers runners both power and style. The 3.75 CHP motor allows for top speeds of up to 12 mph, while it’s also one of the quietest motors you’ll find on any treadmill. The tread belt measures 22” x 60”, which is larger than the industry standard in this price range. The 1750 comes equipped with a 10” touchscreen, that’s perfect for watching videos while you run. The treadmill also includes a one-year subscription to NordicTrack’s iFit, which allows you to take guided runs with landscape views. Finally, this treadmill offers up to a 15% incline or -3% decline. Soft cushioning protects your joints, or can be turned off to mimic a harder road surface. There’s more on the excellent 1750 in this review.
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Pros

  • One of the most stylish treadmills around
  • Strong 4.0 HP motor with good top speed
  • Great media center with 10.1” display and entertainment apps
  • Folds and unfolds easily with soft-drop system

Cons

  • Display screen a little smaller than others on this list
  • Lacks a bit of storage space

Motor: 4.0 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12.5mph
Incline: 0% to 15% (Motorized)
Belt: 20” x 60”
Folding: Yes
Features: NRG adaptive cushioning, 10.1” color touchscreen, 5W speaker system, built-in cooling fan, 27 programmed workouts, 3 virtual active programmed running routes, internet capability, hydraulic folding mechanism

While you may know Adidas for its sportswear, the German company also makes high-end treadmills. The T-19x brings outstanding performance and interactive entertainment along with the build quality you’d expect from such an iconic brand.

The T-19x’s motor offers four horsepower, which translates to a max speed of around 12.5mph. The tread belt has generous dimensions of 20” x 60”, while the running belt is equipped with NRG cushioning technology to protect your joints on those longer sessions.

A 10.1” touchscreen display with 27 programmed workouts combines with the 15 power incline levels to help you burn the most calories possible over your run. The built-in cooling fan adds a nice touch of comfort. Check out our full review of the T-19x for all the details.

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Pros

  • Strong 3.75 CHP motor with very quiet operation
  • Stylish, sturdy, comfort-enhancing design
  • Top speed of 12mph and incline up to 15%
  • Excellent console with great controls, color display and media-friendly features

Cons

  • Bluetooth connectivity could have been more flexible to incorporate the speakers
  • One of the more expensive in this range
  • No wheels to move the treadmill around when folded

Motor: 3.75 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12mph
Incline: 0 to 15% (Motorized)
Belt: 20” x 60”
Folding: Yes
Features: Comfort Tech deck, 7.5” full-color display screen, media shelf, USB charging port, Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility, heart rate monitor, three-speed fan, SoftDrop folding system

The Bowflex BXT116 is optimized for above-average home runners, and it boasts high-level amenities to go along with its serious performance specs. The 3.75 HP motor can power the needs of any home runner, while the three-ply tread belt is much more durable than the competition, holding up even for faster runners.

As the full BXT116 review mentions, the color touchscreen shows your workout progress and offers some preset programs for a quick start to your run. The real bonus is the burn rate console, where the treadmill calculates your calorie burn per minute to help motivate you during your run.

The included heart rate monitors give you a convenient way to measure your effort while working out. After you finish, the BXT116 folds up to maximize your floor space.

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Pros

  • Powerful 3.5 CHP motor and solid core performance
  • Convenient easy-folding design
  • Great console with 7” Smart HD Touchscreen display
  • Wide ranging gradient options from -3% (decline) to 15% (incline)

Cons

  • Frustrating to use the treadmill without an iFit subscription

Motor: 3.5 CHP
Speed: 0 to 12mph
Incline: -3% to 15% (Motorized)
Belt: 20” x 60”
Folding: Yes
Features: EasyLift Assist, 7” Smart HD Touchscreen display, iFit compatible (includes one-year free membership), 50 preset workouts, CoolAire fan, heart rate monitor

ProForm’s SMART Pro 2000 is the upgraded version of its classic Pro 2000 model, with a few new features that are sure to enhance your workout. The motor offers 3.5 horsepower, with an industry-standard top speed of 12mph – so there’s plenty of juice for serious runners!

A 7” touchscreen tops the front console, with a one-year subscription to iFit included in the price of the treadmill. Aside from this, there are 50 separate programmed workouts, and the treadmill incline adjusts automatically as you run for maximum calorie burn.

You have access to plenty of workout feedback with this device, from standard mileage, speed, and time metrics to estimated calorie burn and heart rate. A set of 3” speakers offers you another way to inject some excitement into your run!

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Pros

  • Easy hydraulic folding design
  • Comfortable cushioned three-zone track
  • Plenty of modern comfort and connectivity
  • Robust frame and motor, with lifetime guarantee

Cons

  • Not ideal for very tall runners
  • LCD screen is a little small
  • Lower top speed and incline compared to others in this range

Motor: 2.5 CHP
Speed: 0 to 10mph
Incline: 0 to 10% (Motorized)
Belt: 20” x 55”
Folding: Yes
Features: Bluetooth connectivity, rapid-charge USB port, quick controls, 3-Zone Variable Response cushioning, tablet shelf, pulse-grip heartrate monitors, preset workout programs, cooling fan

If you’re looking for fast running performance on a tighter budget, the Horizon Fitness T101 is a great option for you. While it’s not quite as powerful as some more expensive running treadmills, this unit delivers solid specs and amenities at a great price – it’s our top pick for under $1,000.

The motor clocks in at 2.5 CHP, with a top speed of 10mph and the ability to reach up to a 10% incline, which is good for realistic hill running. The tread belt measures 20” x 55”, which is significantly shorter than some of the other models on this list.

Rather than an included touchscreen, the T101 has a built-in tablet holder. Bluetooth connectivity comes standard to connect to the onboard speakers – as mentioned in the full T101 review.

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Pros

  • Automatic incline of 10% is a big plus in this category
  • Good core performance with a jogger-friendly top speed
  • Nicely cushioned belt makes for a comfortable experience
  • Very media friendly with tablet holder and built-in Bluetooth speakers

Cons

  • The display screen is a bit small and not backlit
  • The belt feels a little too compact for taller runners
  • More expensive than others in the sub-$500 price range

Motor: 2.0 CHP
Speed: 0 to 10mph
Incline: 0 to 10% (Motorized)
Belt: 16” x 50”
Folding: Yes
Features: ProShox cushioning, Bluetooth connectivity, built-in speakers, media shelf, EKG heartrate monitors, 16 preset workout programs

The top pick in our list of treadmills under $500, the ProForm Performance 300i is a good choice for runners looking for an entry-level treadmill, or those who need to save space.

Newer models of the 300i include a decent 2.0 CHP motor, which can provide speeds of up to 10mph. The downside here is the belt – at just 50” long and 18” wide, it’s a very small surface to run on. There’s more on this in the complete 300i review.

Still, the 300i includes high-quality ProShox air cushioning to save wear and tear on your joints. Sixteen programmed workouts round out the package. It’s important to note, however, that the warranty only covers components besides the motor and frame for 90 days – not a good sign for durability.

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Shopping for a Treadmill for Running

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:

Design

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.

Core Components

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.

Incline Selection

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

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.

Control Module

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.

Secondary Features

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

The Ver(ve)dict!

While it may not offer the entertainment options of some of its competitors, we settled on the Assault Fitness AirRunner as our top running treadmill thanks to its outstanding performance and eye-popping calorie-burning statistics.

The AirRunner’s manual setup helps you burn 30% more calories than the other motorized treadmills on this list, while the curved running belt promotes proper form as you run. That’s something we can get onboard with!

However, landing yourself any of the treadmills on this page will result in a pretty smooth running experience in the comfort of your own home, office or garage. Keep our advice in mind when shopping and you will find a treadmill that can keep up with even your fastest runs!

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