Horizon Elite 507 TreadmillA treadmill is a big purchase, but especially in these times of rising gas costs it can be a cost effective one when compared to paying an annual gym membership, driving to and from the gym, and the loss of the time required for going somewhere other than your home to workout when the weather is not conducive to running outside. If you have young children to watch, then you don’t need to find some sort of daycare for them if you want to work out.

What are the most important considerations when purchasing a treadmill? To find out, I had a chat with John Cammidge, who sells treadmills at the Fitness Superstore, a UK based company.

The most important features that you should look for when purchasing a treadmill that you plan to run on are different than if you were just getting one to walk on. Here are some of the most important:

  • Top Speed: If the treadmill can not go fast enough for you to get your workout in, then you aren’t going to use it and you won’t get a good workout if you do use it. A commercial treadmill will usually max out at around 12 miles per hour, which is about 4:50/mile pace.
  • Roller Size: The larger a roller, the longer it will last. Look for a roller that has a diameter of 2 inches, or 2½ inches if you can find and afford it. A 1½ inch roller will have to complete many more revolutions to cover the same distance as a larger roller.
  • Motor Horsepower: If you plan on doing any sort of long run on your treadmill, then you are going to need at least a 3 horsepower motor. If you only plan on going for short runs or don’t plan on using the treadmill very frequently, then a 1.5HP motor will probably suit your purposes.
  • Warranty: If the warranty is short, then the manufacturer has no faith in their product. Be sure to look for a long default manufacturer warranty that covers motor, frame, and labor. You do not want to have to send the treadmill back to the manufacturer for repairs; they should be able to provide on site maintenance through a local contractor.
  • Belt Size: The faster you plan on running on your treadmill, then the larger of a belt that you will need. You will also want to make sure that the belt is long enough for your height, so that you do not step off of the front or back of the treadmill.

Tunturi T85 Folding TreadmillMy wife inherited a treadmill from her grandmother when they sold their house. Despite being many years old, it was basically new as her grandmother rarely used it. Even so, I can’t bring myself to run on it. It is just too slow and too small for me, and I feel that if I were to use it that it would fall apart. When my wife uses it, she only goes for brisk walks.

Based upon my own experiences with treadmills, there are a few other points that you may want to consider when purchasing your treadmill.

  • Decibel Level: How loud is the treadmill when it is operating? Our treadmill is extremely noisy, and one of our prime considerations when we replace it is going to be how loud the new one is. A heavy, stable frame will help to cut down on the noise.
  • Computer: If you like to have programmable workouts on your treadmill, then be sure to purchase a treadmill with an intuitive display. I have never actually used this feature past looking at how long I’ve been running, how far I’ve ran, and how fast I am currently going. I manually use the incline/decline and speed buttons to control my workouts.
  • Max Incline: I never use an incline less than 2 degrees, although I’ll ramp it up as far as 8 or 10 degrees during a workout. If you want to fight boredom and change your workout up, one of the few “terrain” types of changes that you can make with a treadmill is the level of incline.
  • Price: How much your treadmill costs is going to make a big difference in what sort of features you are going to get, although the price of manufacturing has been coming down and treadmills have been getting more affordable. You will probably want to spend a few extra dollars to get a treadmill mat, even if you are not worried about protecting your floors. The treadmill mat will prevent dust and dirt from getting sucked up into the motor, which sucks particles up off of the floor due to the static electricity that it generates as it operates. A floor mat can keep your treadmill operating more efficiently and help it to last longer.

This article has been sponsored by The Fitness Superstore, who recommend the following 2 models for serious runners: Horizon-Elite 507 Folding TreadmillTunturi-T85 Folding Treadmill