Treadmills

Different types of treadmills

Published 29th December 2022
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Treadmills are one of the most popular pieces of home gym equipment for people who want to stay fit and healthy. They provide a great way to get in some cardio exercise, without having to leave the comfort of your own home. But buying one for your home can feel like a complicated process. With so many different types available, you can often be left with more questions than answers, so it's worth doing your research first.

Need a hand understanding treadmill terminology?
Click here to read our jargon buster!

While most people imagine running machines to be the large, expensive types you'd find in a gym, they actually come in various shapes, sizes and powers to suit your budget, workout goals and household size.

To help you find the perfect treadmill for you, we've broken down each type below.

Manual treadmills

manual treadmillManual treadmills require no electrical power source. Instead, the running belt is powered entirely by the movement of the person on the machine, meaning they demand more physical effort. 


Benefits of manual treadmills: 

  • Cheap to run: As the treadmill’s energy is generated entirely by you, you won't have to worry about electricity costs.

  • Encourages more efficient exercise: With only your legs propelling the machine, this type of treadmill can provide a more intense workout. A scientific study found that users expend 30% more energy running on a manual treadmill than they would running at the same speed on an electric equivalent.

  • Wide choice available: Manual treadmills tend to come in two designs: curved or flat-belt.

    Curved treadmills benefit from an unorthodox, U-shaped frame and curved running belt, which makes generating the momentum required for high-speed running easier.

    Flat-belt treadmills are better suited to walking and light jogging, with the flat running belt making it more difficult to propel the treadmill to higher speeds.

While manual treadmills offer many benefits, they do have some downsides, including:

  • Inability to set speeds or workout programs 

  • A complicated starting rhythm that needs practice to get right
  • No emergency stop feature, should you trip or fall 
  • Self-generated belt can be limiting for beginners 

Having said that, if you want an affordable treadmill that’ll help to get your daily steps up, a manual treadmill could be perfect for you!


Electric or motorised treadmills

electric treadmillElectric treadmills (aka motorised treadmills) are perhaps the most popular choice for both home and commercial use, offering a wealth of easy-to-use features and functions that allow you to create your own personalised workout plan. They give you a more varied exercise experience than manual treadmills offer. 


Benefits of motorised treadmills: 

  • Variety of features: Electric treadmills usually come with a computerised screen that enables you to adjust the running belt’s speed and view key stats like heart rate, distance covered and calories burned. Many also feature an adjustable incline, allowing you to raise the intensity of your workout by mimicking uphill conditions.

  • Program-setting on offer: Some models go even further, giving you the ability to select pre-set programs that automatically change your speed and incline - perfect for interval training!

  • Enhanced customisation available: Premium electric treadmills tend to offer a greater variety of speeds, inclines and programs. While some of the more standard offerings may have speed limits of 10mph or 12mph, higher-end models can have limits as high as 25mph.

  • Larger belt: These treadmills tend to have larger belts than their manual cousins, which means they're more suitable for tall runners.

  • Kinder to joints and muscles: A reduced muscular force is required to run on an automatically-moving belt, compared to one solely powered by your own motion.

Typically, electric treadmills for the home are considerably smaller in size and width than the commercial treadmills found in most gyms, so there's no need to worry if you're tight on space.

The electric treadmill treadmill does have its weaknesses though:

  • They're more expensive than a manual treadmill because of the motor
  • You need to position them near an electrical outlet
  • It's easier to fall off a motorised treadmill because of the moving belt


Folding treadmills

folding treadmillFolding treadmills are an increasingly popular choice for people with limited workout space at home.

Unlike standard electric running machines, this type of treadmill can be folded up and stored away after use. 

Benefits of folding treadmills: 

  • Super convenient: This efficient style is perfect for those who don't have access to a designated exercise room.

  • Ease of movement: Many folding treadmills are lightweight and/or come with wheels, making them super easy to move around and store away as you need. 

  • Variety of styles: They’re available in both electric and manual designs, depending on which you prefer. 

Many folding treadmills come with safety locks that secure them in place once in the upright position. Always use the safety locks, especially if you live with small children and/or pets.

Sadly, no treadmill is perfect. The downsides of folding treadmills include:

  • Being less sturdy: Their frame is not made out of a single solid piece.
  • Being more expensive: A folding treadmill will cost more than a non-folding one with the same specifications.

Commercial treadmills

commercial treadmillCommercial treadmills are the large running machines that you’d usually find in a gym. They tend to come with thicker frames and running belts than standard home treadmills, offering higher levels of performance and variety.

Benefits of commercial treadmills: 

  • Greater shock absorption: In addition to catering for more intense workouts, commercial treadmills also provide greater shock absorption. This is due to their thicker running belt, which helps reduce the threat of muscle and joint injuries.

  • Faster speeds: While many home treadmills have maximum speeds of 8-10mph, there are some commercial treadmills on the market with speed limits of over 20mph!

  • Enhanced features: Commercial treadmills tend to offer higher inclines, more workout programs and a greater range of workout information than standard running machines. 

  • Entertainment: As well as the performance advantages, it’s also common to find commercial treadmills with additional entertainment benefits, such as built-in speakers and Bluetooth connectivity, to enhance your home workout experience.

Commercial treadmills are ideal for serious runners with a designated home workout space. However, despite their many benefits, commercial treadmills may be an impractical choice because:

  • They're much larger than regular treadmills

  • They're often much more expensive than other types of treadmills
  • Their powerful motors can be too much for inexperienced runners, unless they have variable speed control

Lacing Up

Hit the ground running with OnBuy's treadmills

With a variety of different treadmill types available, it’s important to find one that has the features you need to help you achieve your workout goals.

While functionality is key, you should also look for a treadmill that provides you with great value for money. After all, while that top-of-the-range commercial treadmill might be ideal for the fanatical runner, it may be an excessive purchase for someone who simply wants to do some basic exercise at home.

To help you make the best choice for you, check out our guide on everything you need to know before buying a treadmill.

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