Treadmill Buying Guide

Buying a treadmill is a big investment. There are numerous brands on the market and most of them have some unique features and functions. So what should you look for when buying a treadmill?

Buy a Recognised Brand

​Treadmills should be approached with the same regard as buying a fridge or television. You would be very sceptical about buying a brand you have never heard of. Treadmills are no different. By buying a major brand you can be confident that if something goes wrong, you will be able to source parts and have the problem fixed. Buying a no-brand treadmill from places like Ebay is fraught with risk. The machines are cheap and seem to be well featured, however if the treadmill has a electronic or mechanical problem, they are virtually impossible to fix. As the saying goes, we could go into business fixing Ebay treadmills that have broken down, the only problem is, we don't even know where to find the right parts. Always buy a treadmill from the major brands like York, Bodyworx, Vision, Healthstream, Infiniti or True Fitness. At least if something does go wrong, all of these brands have a national customer support centre where you can get your treadmill repaired.


Treadmill horsepower can range from 1HP up to 3HP electric motors. The power of your treadmill is important as it is the heart of your machine. Generally, the horespower rating of a treadmill is directly related to the weight rating of the machine. A treadmill with a small power rating won't be able to accommodate a heavy person. Most treadmills with around 1hp motor size will be rated to about 100kg whereas a commercial treadmill with a 3hp motor may be able to take weights up to 225kg! A point to note here is that treadmill horsepower can be quoted using 2 values - Peak and Continuous Horesepower. Peak Horsepower is the motor's rating at it's peak capacity, say running at full speed with a heavy user. The Continuous duty is the power the treadmill uses at start-up. This is the rating that is important! Being quoted a treadmill's peak horsepower rating is misleading. You should always find out what a the motor's continuous horsepower rating is - so you're comparing 'apples with apples'.
As a general rule of thumb, it is always best to go for a treadmill that has at least a 1.5hp (continuous duty) motor. If you are looking to run on the machine regularly, or are over 120kg, then a minimum of 2hp is recommended. Always check the maximum user weight rating first before buying a machine. Buying a treadmill that isn't rated to your use may save you some money in the short term, however, it will not last long term.

Running Mat Size

The next most important factor in buying a treadmill, is the size of the running area. Usually, small treadmills with short and narrow walking belts are only designed with walking in mind. Even though the speeds of some of these machines could accommodate running, it is not recommended. When walking, your stride lengths are quite a bit shorter than when running, particularly at high speeds and it is quite easy to walk in a straight line without 'drifting' too much from side to side. When running, however, your stride lengths are longer and generally you will drift slightly from side to side, particularly as you get fatigued. When running, it is musch more comfortable to have a wider, longer running belt.
With that in mind, we have made some recommendations on mat sizes for various applications:
  • Walking - minimum 40cm x 120cm mat
  • Jogging - minimum 45cm x 130cm
  • Running - minimum 48cm x 140cm
Obviously, the bigger the running mat, the more comfortably and naturally you can walk or run.

Speed and Incline

The most basic motorised treadmills these days have what is termed 'manual incline'. This means that to change the incline of your deck, you need to dismount the machine and make a manual adjustment to the deck to simulate walking or running up hill. Generally, these machines are amongst the cheapest on the market as they don't require a separate incline motor. It is also an inconvenience if walking up hills is a feature you use regularly.
Walking on an incline is a way of making your workout harder without having to go faster. It is also excellent for strengthening your lower back. Therefore, unless your treadmill is going to be used for very gentle exercise or rehabilitation, it is always best to buy a treadmill with motorised incline. With automatic incline, you can increase the angle of your treadmill deck anywhere from 0 degrees to up to 15% usually in 1 % increments. Perfect for simulating a walk or run outside.

Treadmills generally start from as slow as 0.8kph - which is about a fast as placing one foot in front of the other. A typical walking speed is anywhere from 4kph to about 7kph. From there, most people will be into a jogging or running zone. To put it in perspective, 12kph is the equivalent of 5 minute per kilometer pace which is considered a good pace for a recreational runner. An Olympic Marathon athlete will usually run at about 20kph (for over 3 hours!!). Always buy a treadmill that easily speed up to match your running ability. 


Modern treadmills can offer some incredible features to keep you motivated during your workouts. Treadmills can offer speed based programs - where the machine changes speed intermittantly like running with a trainer; incline based programs where the incline changes to simulate running outside through hills, or a combination of both. Some treadmills even have a 'Heart Rate Control' function, where you can specify the heart rate you wish to train at and the treadmill varies the speed and incline to keep you within a certain range. This feature is great for weight loss!
The most interesting ferature to be released recently is the ability for a treadmill to link with Google Maps, allowing you to go for a 'virtual run' anywhere in the world - complete with scenery and hills! You could go for a run along the Honolulu foreshore this morning followed by a an afternoon run through the streets of Paris! Who knows what will be next...

Other Features to Consider 
  • Does the machine fold away?
  • Does it have a reading rack and water bottle holder?
  • Heart Rate Sensors?
  • Does it have a good cushioning system?
  • Does it have a safety cut off key?
  • What is the warranty of the machine?