Treadmill Buyers Guide

Buying a treadmill can be intimidating. There are so many terms and jargon that get pitched around, it makes the whole process seem overwhelming to the uninformed shopper.

Before you dive into my treadmill reviews, take a few minutes and get yourself up to speed with my treadmill buyers guide where you’ll learn all about treadmill construction and design so you know how to compare treadmills on your shopping list.

Treadmill Design Basics

All treadmills are built with the same basic components. There is a motorflywheelframe, rollers, deck, belt, electronics and display console.

In this buying guide, youll get a full laymans explanation of each components function and importance, so you’ll know what to look for in a treadmill before investing your money.

My treadmill buyers guide is a bit lengthy, but if you want to get the best treadmill for your money, its certainly worth a few minutes of your time to get up to speed (no pun intended).

Treadmill Motor, the Heart of a Treadmill

The treadmill motor is the equivalent to the heart in your body. If it stops working, all the other peripheral components dont make a bit of difference youre treadmill will be dead.

So what makes a good treadmill motor? And how much power should it have to be effective?

To answer these questions, well start with the motor basics.

The treadmill motor is what delivers power to the belt system of the treadmill through the rollers. Motors are measured in horsepower and usually range of 1.0 to 4.0 horsepower.

Where the confusion comes arises about treadmill motors, is in the motors horsepower rating. Not all treadmill motors with the same horsepower rating will perform the same, or are suited for the machine they are installed in.

Look for a motor thats at least 2 horsepower continuous duty. A larger more powerful motor will run cooler and provide you with better service over the life of your treadmill.

Larger motors also allow for a higher user weight rating, have a higher top speed, reduce component fatigue and make for a more stable and fluid running experience.

If you buy a treadmill with a smaller under powered motor, youll have more costly repairs and breakdowns due to over heating, motor stress and strain on the components.

Treadmill Flywheel

The only thing you need to know about the flywheel in your treadmill is that it helps to regulate speed and consistency of the belt. If youre treadmill didnt have a flywheel, the belt would come to a grinding halt when your foot impacts the running surface.

A good flywheel (like those found on quality treadmills like the Smooth and Sole models) will help regulate a constant deck speed and eliminate the herky jerky motion youll get from cheap treadmills like low end Proform and Image models.

Treadmill Frame

Most treadmills are made using a steel frame. A steel frame is fine for most purposes and delivers good performance.

When you get into the club quality treadmill price range youll find that many models offer an aluminum frame thats lighter weight and more durable.

The advantages of an Aluminum frame are:

  • superior strength as opposed to steel
  • supports more user weight (some up to 500 lbs.)
  • resistance to rust and corrosion
  • longer life expectancy (more durable)

If youre shopping for a treadmill in the under $1000 price range, you wont find any treadmills that use an aluminum frame so dont worry about it

Treadmill Rollers

Treadmill rollers help keep the treadmill belt moving along and provide power from the motor.

Generally speaking, the bigger and heavier the rollers, the better your treadmill will perform.

Commercial quality rollers like on the Sole F85 are 2.5 and help extend the life of the bearings and and belt. This means less frequent repairs and service for you down the road, which is a definite plus.

As you may have guessed, cheap treadmills use small inferior rollers, and high end treadmills use larger, heavier, longer lasting rollers.

Treadmill Deck and Treadmill Belt

The treadmill decks purpose is to provide shock reduction during use and support the treadbelt while in operation.

If you plan on running on your treadmill, and/or are a larger individual, the more important a good deck with shock reduction becomes.

To get a quality deck with good strength and injury prevention properties, opt for a treadmill with a phenolic deck. The phenolic decks are club quality and reduce jarring impact on your joints and back. A deck thickness of 3/4 is acceptable but a 1 deck is ideal for shock absorption and durability.

Treadmill Belt (running surface)

Most treadmills are made with belts that are about the same thickness. Most of them are also two ply treadbelts. Since the treadmill market has become much more competitive, most manufacturers are beefing up the treadbelts, making their treadbelts stronger and more forgiving.

Sizing of treadbelts ranges from 14 to 24 wide and between 45 to 63 long.

Make darn sure that you get a treadmill with the appropriate belt size for your intended purposes.

If youre planning on running a lot on your treadmill, youll need a larger belt. Personally, I wouldnt recommend anything smaller than 18 wide x 55 long.

If the treadbelt is undersized youll find yourself banging your feet on the machine or tripping. And that can be down right dangerous.

Treadmill Electronics and Treadmill Display Console

A good display console can make or break your treadmill buying decision, but shouldnt be the only factor in your decision.

If youre planning on spending over $1000 dollars for a treadmill (most of you will) youll get a pretty good display. But again, the displays can vary wildly between makers and brands.

Two of the best display consoles for mid level treadmills are on the Sole f63 Treadmill and the Smooth 7.1 Treadmill.

These displays give you all the information about your workout at a glance and provide good feedback. Theyre not cluttered with too many options or windows that distract from functionality.

Take some time to compare and contrast the different features, built-in workouts, heart rate control, interactivity of all the treadmills on your wish list.