Running on the road, track, or trail is always first prize. But what about those times when you’re unable to get out of the house? Or those nights when you just can’t sleep and wish you had something constructive to do?
Enter today’s review topic – the best cheap treadmills. If you understand the advantages of having a treadmill in your running gear arsenal and you’re willing to sacrifice some of the fancier features (that you may never use anyway), it’s not hard to find decent options.
Coming in at number one is the NordicTrack T 6.5 S. It’s space-saving, comes with FlexSelect cushioning, and has a 1-year free iFit membership.
Here are the best affordable treadmill choices that we believe would be a super investment for all runners.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
NordicTrack T 6.5 S
Horizon Fitness T101
1. NordicTrack T 6.5 S
The Nordic Track series has three options – the 6.5, 8.5, and 9.5. We’ve chosen the 6.5 as our top choice for its decent price, but be aware that some of these features will differ if you choose another, more pricey model.
The 6.5 S has a 5-inch screen which displays all the necessary info you need to see while you’re running, including time, distance, and speed. Next to the screen it sports two 2-inch speakers so you can play your music on the go, as well as an auxiliary music port so you can plug into a system or use earphones.
Something we like a lot is the use of FlexSelect cushioning on their belt. This makes the running experience easier on the joints as it absorbs shock and dampens impact.
The dual-grip heart rate monitor helps you keep track of your performance without needing to stop or move too much. You can also train on an incline of up to 10 degrees, and when you’re not using it, it folds up to fit in a corner.
The 6.5 comes with a free month of membership to iFit, which you will need to activate before you can use any of the features.
There seems to be some confusion over whether or not the treadmill needs to be activated with iFit before you can use it. Some users report that the treadmill wouldn’t start until they had handed over credit card info, but you do NOT need to sign up to iFit for it to work. Just press and hold your iFit logo button for 30 seconds and it should unlock.
If you do want to use iFit, other customers report that you don’t have to enter your credit info to get your free membership. Just be careful to follow the activation instructions to the T (you should receive a promo code), and you should be good to go.
All in all, the treadmill’s features (whether or not you use iFit) make it quite worth the buy, and it comes in top spot.
- Comes with a 1-month iFit membership
- FlexSelect cushioning
- Earphone port and speakers
- Some customers have trouble with iFit – be aware of the potential issues discussed above
- The side bars are not adjustable and may be too short for tall users
2. Horizon Fitness T101
This offering by Horizon Fitness is our runner-up, and has nice features that are simple and easy to use.
Something we quite like is the built-in device stand, which is useful if you plan to watch a show or listen to music while you run. It also has a USB charging port, so there’s no need to worry about your device dying halfway through your run.
These two features are helpful if you want to run with earphones in – the built-in speakers don’t have volume control, so they may not be effective if you’re running full-tilt.
The belt is well-cushioned in a unique three-zone design. It’s also 20 inches wide, providing ample room to run as wildly as you’d like to!
With a sturdy steel frame (that folds with the assistance of hydraulics) a 10-degree incline, plenty of space for water bottles, and a heart rate monitor, the value for money is impressive.
- 10-degree incline
- Hydraulic-assisted folding
- USB charging port
- Quiet operation
- No volume control on speakers
Top Incline Treadmill
3. Nautilus T616
The Nautilus is somewhat more pricey than the first two we reviewed, but it’s great for runners who want more versatility in terms of incline. A 15% incline is the selling point, which comes in increments – 2, 5, 8 10, 13, and 15.
Something that gives it a thumbs-up is that you receive a chest strap with the purchase, so you can monitor your heart rate with the grips or the strap.
The StrikeZone deck provides a more cushioned foot strike than most, keeping your joints safer than less-padded treadmills by absorbing shock.
Download the Nautilus Trainer 2 app to keep track of your workouts. If you like the idea of running with others in real time while watching some beautiful scenery, Nautilus pairs with RunSocial to provide virtual reality running experiences.
Be careful, though – RunSocial is a free download but may require payment to access the scenic runs.
All in all, if you enjoy training on an incline and keeping track of workout, we can highly recommend this treadmill.
- Up to 15% incline
- Features 26 different programs
- Syncs with many fitness apps, including Nautilus app
- Comes with a chest band for heart rate monitoring
- Non-adjustable sidebars may be too low for tall runners
Best Lightweight Treadmill
4. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7603
This minimalist-style treadmill has a strong steel frame but is still lightweight. It also features a soft-drop system which makes it incredibly easy to fold and unfold, and wheels for easy moving around.
The handrails are shorter than average, so they won’t get in anyone’s way while running. They also feature easy-to-reach speed adjustment buttons on the handles, so you don’t need to throw yourself off balance to make a change.
There’s nothing fancy about this treadmill, but it does the job quite well. With 3 incline levels and 9 programs, you’ll get a decent workout and be able to keep track of all the important stats while you’re going.
Being extremely lightweight is considered an advantage if you want to move it around the house. But it may be too light or small for runners who are taller or larger.
- Minimalist and lightweight design
- Quick-reach buttons on handrails
- 3 incline levels
- Easy to move around
- Smaller footbed and lightweight frame may not be sufficient for taller or larger runners
Top Folding Treadmill
5. XTERRA Fitness TR150
A folding treadmill is always a great idea. It’s easy to run in front of the TV and simply fold it up and move it if you’re expecting visitors.
This one is another non-complicated design, which is all a runner really needs to get a good exercise in. You’ll be able to choose from 12 different presets and 3 manual inclines to suit your every mood.
The manual incline function may feel less stable than a digital one for heavier or harder runners, but it works well for those who are lighter on their feet.
With a speed range of between 0.5 and 10 miles per hour, runners of every fitness level will be able to improve their cardiovascular health on this machine.
The easy folding design makes it quick for users of all sizes and strengths to fold and move, which is a bonus.
- 3 inclines and 12 preset programs
- Easy folding design
- Speed range of 0.5 to 10 mph
- One-year motor warranty
- Manual incline may feel less stable
Best for Weight Loss
6. Reebok Jet 200
Runners who are on a weight loss mission, this treadmill could be your new best friend. Reebok is known more for their apparel than their exercise equipment, but this product has a few helpful features included.
First of all, the inclusion of body fat analysis is unusual and helps keep track of progress. Also, 24 fitness programs give you a wide variety of workout sessions to choose from depending how you feel on the day.
It also has an impressive 15 different incline levels and a top speed of 18 miles per hour. No matter how fast you run or at what incline, the Air Motion cushioning technology keeps your joints from being jarred.
The Reebok Fitness app adds an extra element of fun to your runs, using Google Maps to make you feel like you’re running in all your favorite spots, wherever they are on earth. This works wonders for keeping you patient and focused on your weight loss journey.
- Body fat analysis built-in
- 24 preset fitness programs
- 15 incline levels
- Air Motion cushioning tech
- The body fat analysis can be inaccurate and should be used for comparison purposes in addition to other measures of testing
- Max user weight of 264 pounds, less than others
Top Space-saving Treadmill
7. LifeSpan TR1200-DT3
This is a fantastic investment for those of us who spend an extended period of time behind a desk. It’s definitely best for desks that are adjustable – those designed for sitting only may be too low to work on while walking.
It looks a little different to the traditional treadmill, with no handrails or chest-height consoles. The console is entirely separate from the belt portion, allowing you to place it on your desk and keep an eye on your numbers while working. It also has a USB charging port.
It’s not as in-depth as others, with no heart rate monitor or built-in programs. But it does track your steps and how many calories you’ve burned, which is quite motivational when you’re at a desk all day.
Two wheels underneath make it easy for a single person to move and store under a bed or in a cupboard.
It doesn’t come with an incline option for safety reasons, and the top speed is 4 miles per hour. It’s definitely not suited to runners who want serious training, but amazing for those who want to burn some calories and keep moving even while working in an office environment.
- 0.4 to 4 mph
- Separate console for easy reading
- Tracks step count and calories burned
- Comes fully assembled
- No Bluetooth
- No incline functions
Are you undecided as to whether or not you should get a treadmill? It may seem like a big investment, but it has some definite benefits that you can’t get from running on the road.
Here’s some more information to help make the decision a little easier for you.
What are the Benefits of a Treadmill?
Using a treadmill for running or walking may seem like a cop-out, but it’s actually an excellent exercise. You’ll work all the same muscles and reap the cardiovascular benefits, but it puts a little less stress on the body than doing the same on a flat surface outdoors would.
As well as a more controlled surface, most treadmills also offer heart rate monitoring. Some even offer blood pressure monitoring. While this is helpful for all runners, it’s fantastic for runners who suffer from heart or blood pressure issues.
You can keep an eye on your numbers while running, and you’re also in the safety of your own home if something does go wrong. A huge benefit is that you can create and control your own running environment, which is helpful for safety, as well as things like:
- Keeping a smooth surface
- Placing a water bottle nearby but not having to run with it
- Choosing which type of training you want to do, eg. uphill or downhill
Why are Treadmills So Convenient?
The convenience a treadmill offers is one of the biggest reasons every runner should have one. Here’s why it’s such a convenient tool:
Is it raining outside? Maybe you live somewhere that gets snow. Perhap you’ve just had a bit of a cold and aren’t keen to breathe in that cool air. No problem! The treadmill awaits, in a warm, cosy room down the hall.
Suffering from a bout of insomnia? No need to arm yourself with pepper spray, reflective gear, and a torch so you can get out for a run. Simply get on the treadmill. You don’t have to worry about other runners, vehicles, accidents, or muggers. Just make sure not to wake your partner with your foot pounding!
No matter where you live, sometimes breathing in the outdoor air can be a hazard to your health. Whether you’re simply inhaling cold air or breathing in pollution from car exhausts, running indoors can be healthier for you than outdoors.
Owning a treadmill means there’s no time of day that you can’t run. There’s no excuse – your running machine is just in the other room. If you can’t find a solid hour or so to go for a run, then you can do several shorter sessions throughout the day. Perfect to re-energize and stretch, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting behind a desk.
Find yourself getting bored on long runs? The treadmill is the perfect way to eliminate that. Read a book, watch a movie, or listen to loud music without the need for earphones while you’re running.
What Workouts are Usually Pre-Installed?
Most treadmills (even the more affordable ones) come with a variety of workout programs pre-installed on them. These usually include:
- Interval training
- Hill runs
Some may have more, and some may have less. But most of them have at least some basic training workouts installed so you can quite literally just get on and go.