If you’re looking to get in shape and would rather exercise at home than join a neighborhood gym, establishing a home gym with a new treadmill is a terrific way to achieve your goals. If the space in your home is limited or you want the flexibility to move your treadmill to different areas of your home, a compact treadmill may be the perfect solution.
There are many things to consider when shopping for the best compact treadmill, such as its size and weight, the materials from which it is made, and the type of motor it has. Other important things to think about are which, if any, extra features the treadmill has (including safety features), and how noisy it is to operate. More details about these important treadmill considerations follow, as do recommendations for some of the best compact treadmills on the market today.
- BEST OVERALL: NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
- RUNNER-UP: OVICX Q2S Folding Portable Manual Treadmill
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Best Choice Products 800W Folding Electric Treadmill
- UPGRADE PICK: NordicTrack Commercial Series 1750 Model Treadmill
- BEST FOR WALKING & SENIORS: Sunny Health & Fitness Walking Treadmill
- ALSO CONSIDER: MaxKare Folding Treadmill Electric Running Machine
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Compact Treadmill
Before shopping for the best compact treadmill, you must make a few key decisions first. Think about how the equipment will be used—if you’ll be running on the treadmill, for example, you’ll need a longer one than you’d need if you were only using it for walking. (Taller users will also need a longer unit.) Next, prioritize the features that you really want in the treadmill: Some might want their treadmill to monitor their heart rate and sync with smartphone fitness apps, and others might prioritize a cushioned walking surface. A compact treadmill’s materials and motor, of course, also have a huge impact on its quality and price.
Size and Weight
Most treadmills built for home use weigh between 200 and 220 pounds. Because the motor is the element that weighs the most, it stands to reason that manual treadmills are considerably lighter than motorized ones—they weigh about 62 pounds. Other factors that contribute to a treadmill’s weight are any additional features and the quality of the unit.
A compact treadmill’s average track is 58 to 60 inches long and about 20 inches wide. Portable treadmills are about half their length when folded.
When calculating the best size compact treadmill for your space, allow for ample empty floor space on all sides so you can safely use and dismount the equipment. We recommend factoring in an additional 4 to 5 feet of space around the width of the machine and adding 6 to 7 feet to its length.
Treadmills are made of an ensemble of durable materials: Most treadmill frames are made of steel, with PVC running belts and padded foam handrails. The screens that measure distance, speed, and incline are typically battery-operated LCDs.
Quality treadmill decks are usually made from medium density fiberboard (MDF) with a durable, duo phenolic resin coating. Some treadmill decks are made of solid wood or metal, though these materials are not used as frequently. When contemplating which compact treadmill might best suit your needs, it’s a good idea to look for models made of quality, noise-minimizing materials. Their running belts should be flexible, not bouncy, and smooth to reduce friction.
The motor is the heart of a treadmill—it’s the source of the power that puts you in motion. Treadmills have either an alternating current (AC) motor or a direct current-driven (DC) motor. AC motors have more horsepower and are more durable than DC motors, but they’re often noisier, require their own power line, and use more power. Most home treadmills are equipped with DC motors, which start slower than their AC counterparts but are also more consistent when it comes to speed and incline. DC motors contain fewer parts which, thankfully, usually means fewer repairs down the road.
It’s also important for shoppers to understand the difference between peak- and continuous-duty horsepower: Peak-duty horsepower allows the machine to reach maximum power for a short time, whereas continuous-duty horsepower maintains power level throughout an entire workout. Though serious runners might prefer peak-duty, continuous-duty horsepower is sufficient for most users, including leisurely walkers.
A basic treadmill comes with a 1.5-horsepower motor, which is typically adequate for most people. A good rule of thumb for shoppers is to look for a compact treadmill with at least a 2.0 horsepower continuous-duty motor, which is likely to last longer than a 1.5-horsepower motor. The average user—one who walks at a pace of 2 to 4 mph, speed walks or jogs at 4 to 5 mph, and jogs quickly or runs at 5 mph or over—will be well served by following these horsepower recommendations. Avid runners should consider a 2.5-horsepower motor.
There are a few basic features that a new treadmill should have: One of the most important is an easy to access control panel, which allows the user to easily switch settings mid-walk or run. A track with ample cushioning is also key because it reduces the impact on one’s body and joints, especially over the long term.
A treadmill’s incline is important because it allows the user to vary his or her workouts and make them more challenging. (To increase the intensity of a workout, increase the incline by about 1 to 2 percent.) For walkers or runners who plan to transition to outdoor exercise down the road, setting an incline also simulates the hills one might encounter on an outdoor jaunt.
Before purchasing a compact treadmill, don’t forget to check the machine’s maximum weight rating. This figure will tell you how much use and pressure a treadmill will be able to withstand over a long period of time. Lower-end treadmills are generally suited to withstand 200 and 300 pounds, while higher-end models can usually hold 300 to 500 pounds. Stability is also key: When it is moving, a treadmill shouldn’t shake and the frame should remain firmly in place. Lighter, cheaper models sometimes shake and rattle, which does not make for an enjoyable, productive workout.
Some treadmills are equipped with features that are above and beyond the basic features described above. These options can transform a home workout experience.
- Some treadmills are integrated with different workout programs (and come with associated memberships) through interactive fitness platforms accessed through a single login.
- Various types of heart rate monitors are available on treadmills. Some clip to the ear or finger. Others are gripped on the handrails during a workout or strapped to one’s chest and use an EKG signal.
- Treadmill fitness-tracking apps conveniently save workout preferences, settings, and individuals’ progress.
- These apps often provide access to fitness trainers and coaches, offer group encouragement and friendly competition, and introduce new courses to motivate the user.
- Those who enjoy streaming a TV show or reading a book during their workouts will appreciate a treadmill with a device holder or shelf. These hold a tablet or phone in position, which helps pass the time while exercising.
The amount of noise a treadmill makes correlates to a pleasant workout experience, not to mention the sanity of other household members, so pay attention to this when shopping.
The noise level of a typical treadmill is between 70 to 90 decibels, which is pretty loud (and could bother neighbors with whom you share a wall). Quieter treadmills have noise levels of around 54 decibels. A machine at this sound level has reduced or eliminated motor noise, or minimizes the sound created by the impact of feet. Some of these machines are designed with overall sound reduction as one of their main features; in addition to quiet motors they often have curved surfaces that help reduce sound when feet hit the belt.
Sometimes it’s necessary to stop a treadmill very quickly—if, say, you’re short of breath or you trip and fall. This is when a treadmill’s emergency stop system, which shuts the machine down instantly, comes in handy. These systems can be in the form of a panic button, a tether with a clip that you attached to your body, or both. Other safety features worth researching for this purchase include:
- A tense deck belt, because loose belts can skip or jerk around and be tripping hazards.
- Hidden power switches that completely shut the machine down when not in use.
- Pressure sensors that shut the treadmill off when no one is using it.
- Warning signals that sound when a walker or runner exceeds their target heart rate range.
Our Top Picks
Here are the top picks for a variety of compact treadmills. Whether you’re a seasoned marathon runner looking to work out at home, a senior citizen beginning a gentle walking regimen, or at a level in between, there’s a compact treadmill here to suit your needs.
This NordicTrack T Series treadmill has a lot of cool features: It comes with a one-month individual iFit membership with purchase, which provides access to interactive workouts in which online trainers coach users and adjust their speed and incline via a smart Bluetooth connection. The treadmill’s auxiliary music port and dual 2-inch speakers are great for blasting some tunes to keep motivation high during a workout.
The T Series treadmill’s OneTouch feature allows walkers and runners to adjust their incline up to 10 percent, and the speed up to 10 miles per hour, at the touch of a button. This treadmill has a 20-inch by 55-inch belt, which provides ample leg and elbow room while exercising, and its FlexSelect deck cushioning protects users’ joints. With its SpaceSaver design and EasyLift Assist, this compact treadmill is easy to fold and stow after each use. Its 300-pound capacity accommodates most users.
With a spacious running belt that’s approximately 17 inches wide by 50 inches long, the OVICX Q2S treadmill offers ample room to maneuver while running or walking. Its Silkworm Slow Rebound Shock Absorption Technology helps avoid too much pressure on joints that commonly causes knee injuries when running. Its motor is quiet compared to some competitors; though the motor can achieve 3.0 horsepower, the manufacturer recommends running it at a lower horsepower to avoid damage.
Runners can monitor real-time workout data on the Q2S’s LED display screen or download it to the Fitshow app. As an extra safety measure, tuckered-out users can push a “Fatigue Slowdown” button to decrease their speed to 2.4 mph. Once they’ve caught their breath, they can push the button again to increase speed. After the workout is over, this treadmill folds to approximately 65 inches long by 26 inches long to just over 8 inches high. The machine weighs about 95 pounds, however, so stowing it might be difficult for some users.
This folding electric treadmill from Best Choice Products offers very good value for money. It has a maximum speed rating of 7.5 miles per hour, and users can easily switch between six preset speeds or manually adjust it for a custom option. This machine offers preset workouts at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, and a safety key that stops a workout immediately if you lose stamina or balance—both features are unusual in a treadmill at this price range.
Other useful features on this folding treadmill are a digital display screen showing distance, speed, time, and calorie counts, and handles that have start-stop buttons and heart rate sensors. For those who like to multitask while exercising, this equipment has storage space for two water bottles plus a shelf for a tablet, phone, or book. One of this treadmill’s best features is its portability: It easily folds down, and it has built-in wheels that make it easy to move from room to room. On the downside, it has a weight capacity of just 175 pounds.
The NordicTrack Commercial Series 1750 treadmill is a next-level exercise machine and a great option for running enthusiasts with deep pockets.
There’s ample leg and elbow space on its 22-inch by 60-inch belt, and users can adjust its incline from -3 to 15 percent with the touch of a button. Runners, rejoice: This NordicTrack has a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour. Its SMART-Response motor has self-cooling technology, making it ideal for all types of cardio training, like HIIT workouts and endurance runs.
The NordicTrack 1750 includes a one-year iFit family membership, which allows users to stream live, studio, and global workouts with iFit trainers who will adjust the user’s speed and incline. (The membership allows for up to five individual workout profiles that track exercise history, personal metrics, and fitness scores across all iFit-compatible equipment.) Watch sessions—and track stats—on the treadmill’s 10-inch interactive HD touch screen. The Series 1750’s weight capacity is 300 pounds, and it folds up easily after use.
Sunny Health’s treadmill is a top pick for seniors or those who are looking to walk up to 5 miles per hour during their workouts. With thick, padded handrails at the top, middle, and sides of the belt, there’s always a grip bar within easy reach. Its low treadmill deck is easy to step on and off and has shock-absorption technology that reduces impact on joints.
Users can easily track the duration and distance of their workout and the calories they’ve burned on the integrated console; the “mode” button allows them to customize their exercise goals. This treadmill has a 2.5-peak horsepower motor and a 5 mph maximum speed. Moving this treadmill from room to room isn’t a chore either, thanks to its front-mounted wheels; its low-profile design makes it easy to stow away when it’s not in use.
With its four LCD displays and 15 preset exercise programs users can access with one touch, this MaxKare treadmill is workout equipment worth considering. It monitors your workout data, including speed, time, calories, and distance, in real time. Its handrail conveniently checks heart rate as you exercise and has controls that can change running speed and start and stop the machine. The entire machine has an anti-shock system and holds a maximum weight of up to 220 pounds.
With a minimum speed of 0.5 miles per hour and a maximum of 8.5, walkers and runners alike can exercise on this machine at a pace speed that suits them. Even at its highest speed, the MaxKare has a noise level of less than 60 decibels. Post-workout, this machine has wheels that make it easy to move, and it folds for easy storage. Its soft-drop system ensures safety and ease by locking automatically.
FAQs About Compact Treadmills
If you’re still curious about the best compact treadmills and have some questions, we’ve provided answers to some common ones here.
Q. What is a compact treadmill?
A compact treadmill is a treadmill with a small footprint that can easily fold and be stored away.
Q. What is the average size of a folding treadmill?
On average, they are 77 inches long by 35 inches wide—half that length when folded and stored.
Q. How do I choose a treadmill?
Consider your budget, desired features, material and motor quality, expected usage (you can even get treadmill desks), and space.
Q. Will a treadmill damage my floor?
Heavy treadmills can make indentations in carpet or wood, and can tear vinyl flooring.
Q. Where should I put my treadmill in a small house?
If possible, create a workout room. Otherwise, your living room or bedroom are good options.