Exercise Equipment Review

How to Make Accurate Treadmill Comparisons

The Net is littered with treadmill comparisons that are next to useless...

Although there are a few good treadmill consumer reports out there, it's essential that you understand how to make your own treadmill comparisons if you want a truly independent and accurate viewpoint.

Understanding a bit about what makes up a good quality machine will help you find the best product for you and your budget. This article outlines key attributes to look out for when comparing treadmills...

The Motor
Essentially this is all a treadmill is. The motor allows you to set the pace of your workout and is the most expensive part to replace if it breaks down (a separate motor is used to operate an incline facility). Any treadmill comparisons you make should always start with the size and quality of the motor...

The power of your treadmill's motor is called horsepower and can be split into two measurements peak duty and continuous duty. Peak duty is the maximum horsepower a treadmill can generate for a short period of time. Continuous duty is how powerful a treadmill can continually operate without dropping off. When you buy a treadmill continuous duty is what you should look at. If you're a runner look for a continuous duty of at least 2.0HP, preferably 2.5HP. For walkers a continuous duty of 1.0hp-1.5hp is the minimum requirement.

Most treadmills offer a range of speed from 1-10mph. An average walking pace is in the 2-4mph range, while jogging pace for most of us is from 5mph-7mph. Unless you intend to perform short, all-out sprints (not recommended) 10mph is more than enough even for seasoned runners.

Running Surface
The size of the running surface is an important facet of any treadmill comparisons. Treadmill decks vary in length, depending on whether the unit is geared more for walkers/joggers or runners. Belt widths range from about 16 inches to 22 inches, while lengths vary from about 45 inches to 60 inches. If you have long legs a short belt (45 inches or less) won't accommodate you.

Incline Facility
Many modern treadmills offer an incline facility to vary the difficulty of your workout when your legs simply won't go any faster. Most machines with an incline facility will raise up to a 10% grade which is ample.

Control Panel
Most treadmills have some sort of computer programming, ranging from a simple odometer and speedometer to preprogrammed workouts and storage capabilities.

The Five Most Important Criteria

Runners World Magazine carried out treadmill comparisons four years ago (1999) on ten treadmill brands they considered to be the best. It's an evaluation that is still used as a benchmark in the industry today. The treadmill comparisons were judged according to the following four criteria and you would be well advised to do the same...

Cushioning - How well the treadmill's belt and deck absorb the shock of your foot strikes.

Stability - The smoothness of the ride is probably the most important quality of a good treadmill. Is it solid and secure? Or does it flex, jiggle and hesitate as you run?

Actual Pace - This is the pace accuracy based on actual distance covered in 8 minutes compared to the display reading.

Noise - How loud the machine is. Obviously the lower the better.

I would add one more important criteria when making treadmill comparisons...

Servicing/Warranty - If something does go wrong with your treadmill you want it fixed fast and in your home. Does the company provide a help line (preferably toll free) to run a diagnostic there and then? Do they have technicians in your area? And most importantly...

Does the machine come with a good warranty? You must be covered for parts, especially the motor and the longer the better. A good warranty will also cover labor for the first 12 months. And remember it's the obligation of the manufacturer to honor the warranty not the merchant or store you bought it from.

Use these points to make your own treadmill comparisons rather than relying the bias of manufacturers. With that in mind... Click here for our archive of treadmill comparisons and reviews