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Test Treadmills Yourself – Or Cheat with Reviews

Test Treadmills Yourself – Or Cheat with Reviews

By now you’ve decided what matters in a treadmill. You know your price range, your horsepower requirement, and other treadmill features to look for. Once you’ve identified a few finalists, it’s time for serious scrutiny. Here are some tips about where and how to test a treadmill.

Where to Test a Treadmill: In Person or Online

1. If you have a gym membership, check out the brand names at your fitness club. Although commercial gyms use commercial equipment, their treadmills can usually give you an idea about residential models, especially if you’re interested in an upper-end machine. NordicTrack’s professional gym treadmills can give users a good idea about the consoles, cushioning, and programming on residential models.

2. Live vicariously by reading treadmill reviews. Customer reviews posted on manufacturer websites are likely to be biased, but plenty of independent review options are available.

You can find independent customer reviews on Amazon by searching for a particular product or treadmill brand name. Other websites, like, organize treadmills according to brand names and special features such as portability and incline options. Many include reviews informed by customers and fitness experts.  These provide good overviews of horsepower, track length, workout programs, and other features – plus special notes about any common customer praise or complaints.

3. Visit a retailer’s showroom. It might be cheaper to buy online, but no one can stop you from browsing in person! Of course, the selection will be severely limited in comparison with the many treadmills available online.

How to Test a Treadmill

When trying out a treadmill, be sure to test its “motor skills.” First set the speed to a slow 1 mph. Then step on and feel whether the belt slows down. If it does, you’ve found a dud! Next, slowly increase the speed to your expected maximum. A good treadmill motor will provide a smooth, consistent ride as you make these changes. Finally, test the incline if applicable. Adjusting the incline mid-stride should not cause any inconsistencies in the tread belt’s speed.

Of course, while testing the motor you’ll notice whether a longer track is needed. If you feel at all constrained, then try a machine with a longer track. A shorter track not only restricts your range of motion, but also poses a hazard. Flying off the end of your machine is not part of a healthy
exercise regimen.

It’s also a good idea to compare track cushioning. Treadmill companies have patented a range of cushioning materials in order to reduce the impact of running on people’s joints. Since the lower impact is a main advantage of treadmill running over road running, you should be sure to get your money’s worth. NordicTrack’s Reflex 8500 PRO is especially designed with shock resistance in mind to promote endurance. Yowza and Precor are among the brands offering variable cushioning, which is firmer at the point of push-off but softer where feet land.

Some other features to test out include: the workout programs; the sound system; the ease of folding, if it’s a compact model; and the safety stop, if applicable. Safety stops are available on most LifeSpan and Life Fitness machines and on certain treadmills from other brands.

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