Best Treadmill of 2021
The XTerra TRX3500 ran away from the competition and proved to be our tester's favorite treadmill. At 60-inches long and 20-inches wide, it has the largest running surface in the test, making for easier strides with less chance of snagging the edge. It has a massive speed range of 0.5-12 mph, making it suitable for all fitness levels, from casual walkers to fast 5-minute milers. Incline adjusts automatically with 12 levels from 0-12%. It comes with 30 program workouts and the integrated heart rate sensors allow you to do targeted heart rate training. The 6.5-inch blue backlit screen is bright, easy to read, and displays all of your pertinent workout information including speed and incline profiles of your manual or program workout. The controls are intuitive with quick-jump speed and incline buttons on the console as well as easy-to-reach handlebar-mounted adjustment buttons. It also has Bluetooth FTMS connectivity and can be synced to a number of apps like Zwift, Peloton, Runkeeper, and Strava (paid subscriptions may be required) for interactive, live streaming, or on-demand workouts and activity tracking. The console also has additional features like a device shelf, integrated fan, speakers, auxiliary input, and two cup/bottle holders to enhance your workout experience. The running deck has XTRA Soft cushioning and a lift-assist and soft-drop feature for easier folding/unfolding. The TRX3500 is also impressively sturdy and stable with a robust construction and a 350 lb user weight limit.
The XTerra TRX3500 was one of the most involved treadmills to assemble. It comes with all the tools you need and detailed instructions that are easy to follow, it just takes a bit of time and a couple sets of hands for several of the steps in the process. We put our test model together in about an hour with little difficulty. It is also the largest and heaviest of all the models we tested. We suggest assembling it in the location you plan to use it, as moving it anywhere you can't roll it can be a bit of a challenge. The running deck does fold up when not in use, but it still takes up a fair amount of space with folded dimensions of 51.2-inches long x 35.5-inches wide x 65.8-inches tall. When set up for use, those dimensions change to 77.2-inches long x 353.5-inches wide x 56.1-inches tall. Despite those concerns, we feel the XTerra TRX3500 is an excellent treadmill that can help you take your home workouts to another level.
The NordicTrack T6.5 S was one of the best treadmills we tested. With a large 55-inch long by 20-inch wide running surface, a speed range of 0-10 mph, auto incline, and connected features, it put up a serious fight for the top step of the podium. This model's large running surface and 10 mph top speed make it a great option for all fitness levels, including hardcore runners. The belt runs smoothly at all speeds, and transitions feel seamless. It has ten levels of auto incline (up to a 10% grade), Flex Select cushioning, and 20 pre-programmed workouts. This smart treadmill can sync to your device with a Bluetooth connection or an auxiliary plug to play music through its integrated speakers. It can be operated manually, and it also works with the iFit app where there are loads of training programs, hikes, and runs to follow along with and keep you motivated. When used with iFit, the T6.5 S adjusts speed and incline automatically with the chosen trainer and program. Your iFit subscription gets you access to 130 trainers with programs for walking, running, cycling, strength training, yoga, and more. The large console features heart rate sensors, quick-jump buttons for incline and belt speed, and an easy to read 5-inch wide LCD screen that displays all of your workout information at a glance. The belt folds up easily when not in use, with a soft drop system and transport wheels that make it relatively easy to move around. It has a 300 lb weight limit and it comes with an excellent warranty.
The NordicTrack T6.5 S is one of the heaviest and largest of all the models we tested. It takes up a fair amount of space, even when folded, and it is quite awkward to move up or down stairs or fit through doorways once it is assembled. It also had the most involved assembly, taking 1.5 hours to complete and requiring two people for several steps in the process. While the iFit app is a great at-home training tool, it does add an additional monthly or yearly cost to the machine ($15/mo or $180/yr for an individual or $39/mo or $396/yr for a family subscription) that is hard to overlook. The T6.5 S doesn't come with a fancy screen to stream the iFit workouts, but it does have a device shelf so you can follow along on your own smartphone or tablet. Regardless, we feel this is an excellent treadmill that would make a great addition to anyone's home workout space.
We think the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T4400 is a solid choice for those on a budget. Although this affordable model might not boast all the bells and whistles of its pricier competition, it can still provide a great workout. The running surface is 49" L x 15.5" W with a speed range between 0.5-9 mph that's suitable for both walking and running. There are three levels of manually adjustable incline and nine pre-programmed workouts to choose from. The console has quick-jump speed buttons, program, mode, and start/stop buttons, and the handles have supplemental buttons for adjusting belt speed or starting/stopping more conveniently. A bright LCD screen clearly indicates time, speed, distance, calories burned, and heart rate (when using the heart rate sensors on the handles). You can also select time, distance, or calorie goals for a manual workout. The console features two water bottle holders and a device shelf for a phone or tablet so everything you need can stay within arm's reach. If space is limited, the SF-T4400's belt can fold up or down easily via a soft-drop system, and there are transport wheels to make moving it around less strenuous.
The running surface is relatively narrow, just 15.5-inches wide, so attention is required to avoid stepping on the side rails while running. We found the SF-T4400 works best for walking and running at slower speeds. While it is nice to have three manually adjustable incline levels, the need to adjust it by hand means that doing any sort of hill workout is a complicated process. There is also a weight limit of just 220 lbs. Despite these issues, we believe this is a good, affordable option for walkers or moderate pace runners.
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7515 impressed with its auto-incline and smart features. This treadmill boasts a whopping 12 incline settings from 0 up to a steep 12% grade. It has a 49.5" L x 16.5" W running surface and a speed range of 1 to 8 mph. While it doesn't have the fastest top speed, we found it suitable for walking and for runners who average 7.5-minute miles or slower — in other words, most users. It comes with 12 program workouts where it automatically adjusts speed and incline as you go, or you can set time, distance, and calorie goals to countdown during a manually controlled workout. The console has an LCD screen that shows speed, time, calories, program, incline, and heart rate info at a glance. There are quick-jump buttons for both incline and belt speed, as well as incline and speed adjust buttons on the handles by the heart rate sensors. The SF-T7515 also has Bluetooth and an auxillary input to connect to your device to play music through its integrated speakers or take phone calls as you exercise. It comes equipped with a soft-drop system that makes it very easy to fold up and lower the belt, along with transport wheels to help move it around. Its maximum user weight limit is 250 lbs.
While we love that the SF-T7515 comes with 12 program workouts, they are not shown on the console or the display, so you need to keep the manual on hand for reference. The programs are also mostly on the slower side and geared more towards walking than running. We also found the belt's 16.5-inch width to be a bit narrow, and a careful, attentive approach was required to not catch the side rails while running. The 8 mph top speed will probably be adequate for most users, but super fit runners or those looking to push their limits may be left wanting.
The MaxKare Folding is a decent value treadmill that could be a great choice for shorter users due to its lower handle height and shorter belt length. Although its 42" L x 16.5" W tread surface is shorter than most, for those with a shorter stride, we found it to be more than adequate for walking or running at a moderate pace. Its 8.5 mph top speed is suitable for a range of fitness intensities, from casual walking to speedy 7-minute miles. A cushioned belt also reduces the impact for all types of workouts. There are 3 different incline levels, but the adjustment mechanism is not automated. It comes with 15 pre-programmed workouts, as well as a manual mode that can be set up to countdown time, distance, or calories burned. The console includes two water bottle holders, quick jump speed buttons, 12 program profiles, and an LCD screen that displays current workout information. The handles add extra start/stop and speed buttons, along with heart rate sensors.
The MaxKare looks and feels like it was designed for shorter folks, and it has a weight limit of 220 lbs. Not only is the running surface relatively narrow and short, but the console handles are also quite low. Our tall testers were forced to hunch over a little to reach the button controls or heart rate sensors on these handles. There is little margin for error on the smaller running surface, so we found it best to limit walking or running to a moderate pace with a shorter stride. Additionally, there are 15 pre-programmed workouts, but only 12 of them are displayed on the console. That means you have to keep the manual on hand to keep track of the remaining three. Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of this mighty—yet small and affordable—treadmill.
The Goplus SuperFit is an impressively compact and convenient 2 in 1 treadmill. It can be used with the handrail folded down as a walking treadmill or in the upright position as a jogging treadmill. In walk mode, it has a speed range of 1-4 km/h and can be used anywhere, including under a desk in your home office. In run mode, the speed range increases up to 1-12 km/h (7.5 mph max), making it suitable for moderate running speeds. The handrail has a quick-release lever, making it easy to switch between modes. When the handrail is folded down, the SuperFit is very slim and small, and it can easily be stored under a couch, bed, or in a closet when not in use. Its integrated transport wheels and smaller size and weight also make it easier to move around than the competition. It has a small LED screen at the front of the tread belt that displays time, distance, speed, and calories burned. There are no controls on the handrail; instead, it uses a small handheld remote to change speed and start/stop a workout. It also has a small Bluetooth speaker and a phone holder so you can listen to music while you exercise. Despite its diminutive size, the SuperFit has a weight limit of 265 lbs.
While it is very convenient and storable, the SuperFit is not without its faults. The 40" L x 16" W belt surface is the smallest of all the models we tested. The belt's size limited it to walking and running with a relatively short stride and at moderate speeds. Taller users, those with a long stride, or anyone who wants to run fast may find the belt to be a bit too small. The folding handrail is a nice feature, but if you attach the handles to it, you will need to remove them to fold it into the down position, which requires the use of a tool and is somewhat inconvenient. Additionally, the display only provides speed and distance information in km/h and kilometers and can't be changed, which can be very confusing for those used to miles and mph. Otherwise, we feel the SuperFit is a good option for the user who values convenience, versatility, and storability for walking and light jogging.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our treadmill review was led by our Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor, Jeremy Benson. Despite an addiction to long rides on two wheels, Benson mixes his fitness routine up with weekly trail runs and has been known to jump into the occasional 10k running race. His home gym includes a treadmill, which he uses during the long winter months to stay fit and break up the monotony of skiing every day. GearLab review editor and photographer, Laura Casner, also tested and provided feedback for this review. Casner is a seasoned marathon and ultra-marathon runner. While working in the running industry in NYC, she began road running and racing marathons. In 2010 she qualified for the Boston Marathon but quickly traded city streets for trails after running her first of many ultra-marathons. For over a decade, Laura has supplemented her outdoor training with indoor workouts on treadmills at home, commercial gyms, and hotels.
After researching the most popular and highly regarded affordable treadmills on the market, we purchased 6 for testing. At GearLab, we don't just regurgitate manufacturer's specs and consumer reviews, we rigorously test each product to identify their strengths and weaknesses for ourselves. After assembling each treadmill, we took our own measurements before testing them for two weeks on walks and runs of varying lengths and intensities. While testing, we analyzed the controls, features, ease of use, and the quality of the exercise experience each model offered. At the end of our test period, we compared notes and zeroed in on our favorites.
Analysis and Test Results
In order to compare the treadmills in this review, we focused on several key performance attributes. Since exercising is the primary objective when using a treadmill, we feel the quality of the exercise experience is the most important element of its performance. During testing, we also analyzed each model's ease of use, features, ease of assembly and storability, and noise level.
All of the models we tested could qualify as being relatively affordable, although there is still a sizeable range of prices. Price and performance often go hand in hand, as is the case with the NordicTrack T6.5 S and XTerra Fitness TRX3500, our top-rated models. At the other end of the price spectrum, the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T4400 costs significantly less and can still provide a good quality workout.
Our analysis of exercise quality is multi-faceted. It primarily includes objective measures like the dimensions of the running surface, speed range, program workouts, and incline levels. It also includes the quality and smoothness of the belt at various speeds, the difficulty of the workout programs, connected features, and the ease of reaching the controls while using the machine. All of these elements play a role in the overall quality of the exercise experience.
The NordicTrack T6.5 S and XTerra TRX3500 were head and shoulders above the competition with excellent exercise qualities. We feel the XTerra TRX3500 takes the lead here with a larger running surface, higher top speed, and better connectivity and compatibility with training apps. The 60" L x 20" W tread surface won't limit your stride, and the huge 0.5-12 mph speed range ensures you can run as fast as you want. It also has 12 levels of auto incline from 0-12%, along with 30 program workouts that automatically adjust belt speed and incline as you go. The XTerra's Bluetooth connectivity is one of its best features and allows you to use a variety of workout apps for interactive, on-demand, and studio workouts or fitness tracking.
The NordicTrack T6.5S was close behind with the second-largest tread surface at 55" L x 20" W, making it much easier to walk and run without fear of catching the edge or needing to adjust your stride. It also had the second-largest speed range, 0-10 mph, making it suitable for everything from walking to running 6-minute miles. Add to that 10 levels of auto-incline from 0 to 10% and connected features that allow you to use the iFit app or play music through the integrated console speakers, and it was a pleasure to use the T6.5S.
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7515 was our next favorite model in this metric. It had the third-largest running surface at 49.5" L x 16.5" W, as well as a speed range of 1-8 mph and 12 levels of auto incline. It comes with 12 programs that adjust speed and incline automatically, plus it can connect to your device through Bluetooth or an auxiliary plug so you can listen to music through its integrated speakers while you exercise. Not far behind was the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T4400. This model had a long but somewhat narrow tread belt with dimensions of 49" L x 15.5" W, and a speed range of 0.5-9 mph. It required a little more attention to foot placement, especially when running, to avoid catching an edge. That said, it was suitable for a large range of fitness levels, from walkers up to sub-7-minute milers, plus it comes with 9 workout programs.
The MaxKare Folding has a nicely padded belt, 15 workout programs, and a speed range of 0.5-8.5 mph, but it lost a little ground to the competition for its relatively small belt size, specifically its short, 42-inch length. While it was fine for walking or running with a short stride, we found that extra care needed to be taken when running at higher speeds or with a long stride. Likewise, the Goplus SuperFit was also a little underwhelming. Its shortest in the test, 40-inch, belt length was its biggest drawback, leaving little margin for error when running, although its foldable design makes it possible to use under a desk for walking while you work. The location of the LED display at the front of the belt was also somewhat challenging to see, and the belt had a somewhat inconsistent, jerky feel at lower speeds.
Ease of Use
In general, the treadmills in this review are all relatively easy to use. They all have main power switches near their power plug that need to be switched on before use and turned off when not in use. Starting a manual workout is straightforward, and each model has its own subtleties in its operation. During testing, we found that features like quick-jump speed buttons, controls on the handles, and auto-incline improved the overall ease of use of some of the models.
One of the easiest treadmills to use was the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7515. It was simple to start a manual workout by pressing the start button on the console, and adjusting speed and incline was a snap thanks to the quick-jump incline and speed buttons on the console and the convenient controls on the handles. Choosing a program workout or setting a time, distance, or calorie goal was a snap, and you also have the option of creating three custom user programs. Connecting your device through Bluetooth or an auxiliary plug allows you to use the integrated speakers to listen to music or take a phone call, with easy to reach controls on the console.
The XTerra TRX3500 also proved to be impressively easy to use. Starting a manual or program workout is quick and intuitive, and quick jump speed and incline buttons, along with handlebar controls make it easy to make adjustments while running. Of course, using Bluetooth to connect to fitness training apps like Zwift, Peloton, etc., adds a step at startup, but we found it to be very quick and easy to pair a smartphone or tablet with the treadmill through supported apps.
The NordicTrack T6.5S was also quite user-friendly, although connecting to the iFit app and choosing a workout adds an extra step in the process. This is only a concern if you choose to use the app, as manual and program workouts are quick and straightforward to start. Should you follow a trainer-led workout on the app, however, the machine automatically adjusts speed and incline for you. Otherwise, the large console has quick-jump speed and incline buttons, and volume controls for the integrated speakers.
Both the MaxKare Folding and the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T4400 were generally quite easy to use, although they lost a little ground to the competition with their manual incline adjustments. Both models had quick-jump speed buttons, as well as speed and start/stop buttons on their handles. The Goplus SuperFit was a bit of an outlier in this metric, as it relies on a remote to control it. The small Bluetooth remote is used to start and stop a workout and adjust the speed when in use. While it is easy, you need to keep the remote in hand if you intend to adjust speed while running or walking. The fact that speed and distance can only be displayed in km/h and kilometers also made it more challenging to understand for those used to non-metric speed and distance units.
All of the models we tested come with a variety of features intended to enhance the exercise experience or their user-friendliness. These features vary from model to model and include things like integrated speakers, Bluetooth, bottle holders, heart rate sensors, and more. Most models have at least a few basics, while our favorites come with all the bells and whistles. All of the models we tested fold to reduce their footprint when not in use and have transport wheels to facilitate moving them around. Most of them also have soft-drop systems to lock the deck in the raised position and lower it slowly to the ground.
Not surprisingly, the most expensive models we tested, the XTerra TRX3500 and the NordicTrack T6.5 S, were the most feature-packed. The XTerra takes the cake here with the largest running surface and widest speed range of all the models we tested. Additionally, it has 12 levels of auto incline and 30 program workouts that adjust speed and incline automatically. The console is large with a bright 6.5-inch blue backlit screen, quick jump speed and incline buttons, a small fan, integrated speakers, a device shelf, and two bottle holders. The handles have easy-to-reach integrated heart rate sensors and speed and incline adjust buttons. It also works with Bluetooth to play music through its speakers or connect with a variety of fitness training apps.
The NordicTrack T6.5S has a large belt surface and 0-10 mph speed range, and its large console has an easy-to-read 5-inch wide LCD screen, heart rate sensors, a device shelf, two bottle holders, and integrated speakers. It can connect to your device through Bluetooth or an auxiliary plug, and it works with the iFit app to access thousands of trainer-led workouts. You will need your own screen to view the iFit workouts, but the machine adjusts speed and incline on its own when connected to the app. Additionally, it has 10 levels of auto-incline, quick-jump buttons for incline and belt speed, Flex Select belt cushioning, and an excellent warranty.
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7515 also comes loaded with a wealth of features. This model's console has a large LCD screen that displays relevant workout information, along with quick-jump buttons for incline and speed, integrated speakers, and speaker controls. It also has Bluetooth and an auxiliary plug to connect your device to the speakers to listen to music or take calls. There are two bottle holders, heart rate sensors, and speed and start/stop buttons on the handles. It's also got 12 levels of auto-incline, as well as 12 program workouts, 3 custom user programs, and 3 countdown modes for manual workouts.
Both the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T4400 and the MaxKare Folding have similar feature sets. They both have LCD screens, quick-jump speed buttons, and heart rate sensors. Both also include 3 levels of manually adjustable incline, 2 bottle holders, and a handful of workout programs. The SuperFit has the least features of all the models we tested. Perhaps its best feature is its unique folding design, 2-in-1 versatility, and super small collapsed size. Beyond that, it has a phone holder, a Bluetooth speaker, and a small LED screen.
All of our test models arrived in a large box with some assembly required. After removing each treadmill from its box and protective packing materials, we finished the remaining assembly ourselves. All of them came with adequate assembly instructions, and most come with all of the tools required to complete the remaining tasks. Most models were relatively easy to prepare for use, with a couple exceptions. Once assembled, all of these treadmills can be folded to reduce their footprint by more than half when not in use, and all have integrated wheels to facilitate transport.
The Goplus SuperFit arrived almost completely assembled. The only remaining steps to finish the job included attaching the phone holder to the top of the handrail, attaching the handles, lubricating the belt, and pairing the remote with the treadmill. It took approximately 15 minutes to finish the assembly. Once complete, it is up to you whether to fold the handrail up or down depending on how you wish to use the machine. It should be noted that you will have to remove the handles to fold the handrail down for storage. Once folded down, the SuperFit measured 52" L x 27" W x 5" H, the smallest of all the models we tested. This small treadmill could easily be stored under a couch, bed, or in a closet when not in use.
Both of the Sunny Health and Fitness models and the MaxKare Folding required slightly more assembly. All three of these treadmills took about 25 minutes to assemble once removed from the box and their packing materials. The remaining steps involved folding up the front support arms and securing them, folding the console into place and securing it, and lubricating the belt. The tread deck on each of these models is easily folded up or down thanks to a locking soft-drop system. Their footprint is reduced by more than half when the deck is folded up. Lowering the deck is as easy as releasing the soft-drop mechanism with your foot, then allowing it to lower to the floor.
The NordicTrack T6.5 S and the Xterra TRX3500 were the most complicated and time-consuming to assemble, and by a significant margin. Both are very heavy and large, and moving them in the box and removing them from it is definitely a task for two people. Due to the weight and size of these models, we recommend assembling them in the space where you plan to use them, as it can be difficult to fit either through average size doorways or move up and down stairs. Of the two, the XTerra TRX3500 was slightly easier to assemble, and it took about a full hour to complete the process. The NordicTrack T6.5S took just a little bit longer, right around 1.5 hours to complete. For both models, much of the assembly can be completed by one person, although the assistance of another person is helpful for tasks like feeding the cables through the support arm and installing the console.
To analyze the noise that each treadmill made, we used a sound level meter to record the decibel level at varying speeds. We positioned the meter 24-inches above the floor and diagonally 18-inches away from the motor next to the tread deck. We recorded the decibel readings at 1, 4, and 7.5 mph with a tester walking or running. Interestingly, all of the treadmills were quite close in this test, with only a few decibels separating them. Oddly enough, despite the close meter readings, a few of the treadmills were perceptively louder to the ear when in use.
Most of the models we tested were in the low to mid-40-decibel range when running at 1 mph, which increased to the low 50s with a user walking on it. One exception was the NordicTrack T6.5 S, which was 49 decibels at 1 mph that increased to 56 with walking footfalls. At 4 mph, nearly every model was in the mid 50 range, with an increase to the low to mid-60s with a user walking at a very brisk pace. When increased to 7.5 mph, or 8-minute mile pace, the decibels increased into the 60s with no runner and the upper 60s with a runner on the belt. According to our meter readings, the MaxKare was the quietest at 7.5 mph, followed closely by the SuperFit. Despite the results of this test, both testers agreed that the SuperFit sounded the loudest when in use. That said, none of these treadmills were particularly loud to begin with.
There is a lot to consider when searching for a new treadmill, but finding the right one can truly enhance your at-home exercise experience. There are loads of excellent options on the market, and we hope this detailed comparative review helps you find the right model to meet your needs, fitness goals, and budget.
— Jeremy Benson, Laura Casner