The fitness industry has seen a huge shift in 2020 mainly due to the inability of people to visit local gyms and train with all the equipment there. That has pushed many people to look for home-workout alternatives. While running outdoors is allowed and even advised, a lot of people prefer getting a treadmill for their home. Until very recently, though, treadmills were bulky and took a ton of space in your apartment. Nowadays, companies are battling each other to manufacture the best folding treadmills they can since demand is at an all-time high.
Below we will take a look at some of the top foldable models on today’s market and see which are their strongest and weakest aspects when put side by side and compared. Later on, we will go through a deep-dive on all of the important features that define what a good folding treadmill should be so that you can choose the perfect fit for your home gym.
NordicTrack T-Series 6.5S Treadmill
The 6.5S Treadmill by NordicTrack is one of the best deals for your money currently for a couple of good reasons. First, it is very well-built which translates in smooth operation and low-noise use. It has a good dampening system and the belt is thick enough to provide enough comfort to your feel. The width of the belt is also superior to most other foldable treadmills measuring 22 inches. The built quality also helps with the weight capacity, allowing the treadmill to work with people of up to 300 lbs. One thing that isn’t that great is that the 6.5S model caps at 10 mph top speeds.
Another thing that makes these models a suitable option for beginners is that they come with NordicTrack’s coaching system built into them. The world-class trainers there will guide you through your first steps in the world of running. The treadmill and app will also track your stats, give you daily workout goals, offer live interactive training sessions, and will give you access to 16,000 on-demand workouts. All that costs a monthly subscription fee, though, so have that in mind. The 6.5S comes with one month of free iFit Membership and after that, it costs 15$ per month. Without it, the treadmill doesn’t work, so once again make sure that you include that in its running costs when you consider it.
There are a few model variations within the 6.5S model version which are mainly differentiated by their main display sizes. The standard version comes with a 5-inch screen, while the other two come with 10 and 14-inch colored screens that bring a lot more functionality to the treadmill’s interface but are also much more expensive. Outside the 6.5S there are 3 more versions – the 7.5, 8.5, and 9.5. These are bigger, more functional, and more expensive which, in my opinion, doesn’t make them a better value for your money compared to the 6.5S. In terms of practicality, overall performance, and dimensions, this is perhaps the best model out there currently.
- Excellent value for your money
- Highly functional control panel
- Has built-in HR sensors
- 300 lbs weight capacity
- Easy to fold
- Fairly difficult to assemble for the first time
- The treadmill comes with a mandatory subscription that costs additional money
- The customer support isn’t good
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T4400 Folding Treadmill
Sunny Health & Fitness is a well-known brand due to their overall quality and budget nature. They provide all sorts of fitness equipment and are generally a good bang for your buck. Their SF-T4400 folding treadmill is one of the best options for people that are on a tight budget but still want the full treadmill experience.
In terms of its dimensions, the treadmill is fairly compact and has a decent running surface, especially compared to other treadmills in this price class. Its running surface measures 49 inches in length and 15.5 inches in width, making it just as long and wide as the average person needs. And it truly is meant for the average person with a weight capacity of 220 lbs. Remember, you should always pick your treadmill to be able to hold 20-50 lbs more than your actual weight. That way, you can ensure that it won’t be pushed to its limits every time you workout on it.
The belt here is powered by a 2.2 peak HP motor that can work with speeds from 0.5 to 9 mph. While that is great for walking and casual jogging, it isn’t ideal for people that want to extensively train their cardio by pushing themselves to the limit with interval sprints.
The computer here is a fairly simple one, shared across most of the products from this company. It gives you basic information such as speed, calories burned, pulse (if you hold the handles), time, and distance. It is an LCD screen and is easily readable even in bright conditions. You also have 9 built-in workout programs that control the speed, workout time, and incline. Speaking of the incline, you can toggle between three levels here – 0, 2, and 4.37 degrees).
- Simple design
- Practical dimensions
- Three incline levels
- 9 built-in running programs
- Perfect for beginners
- Low weight capacity
- Not a lot of controls
- Low top speed
Schwinn 810 Treadmill
If you are looking for a mid-range foldable treadmill, the Schwinn 810 is quite a good contender and offers a ton of functionality to back that claim up. First of all, from all the models on this list, this is perhaps the best-built model. Everything from the running belt to the dampening system, controls, and display here is of top quality. The frame is also quite good, allowing the treadmill to hold up to 300 lbs. The folding mechanism is also solid and surprisingly easy to use.
In terms of performance, you get a running belt that is 55 inches long and 20 inches wide. This is more than enough, especially since the treadmill cannot go higher than 10 mph. The bigger 870 version can go up to 12 mph and has 2 more inches at the sides of the running strip. You also get a 10-degree maximum motorized incline which helps with your cardio workouts.
The on-board controls and features here are surprisingly rich here. On top of the normal computer features such as speed, incline, and various other metrics, you have built-in speakers and an actual built-in fan. All that is controlled through the buttons around the screen which are easy to use when you’re running. The screen is also quite readable, although there is a tablet holder ontop which will be more convenient. The treadmill also has 2 running profiles if you want to share this with your partner. On top of that, there are also 16 different pre-installed workout programs that focus on various aspects of your running routine. The treadmill can connect and give you more information through its “Explore the World” app. Everything here is as noise-free as possible and the SoftTrack cushioning system keeps training sounds low and your joints healthy.
If you want to go for something a little bit better but also stay within the same brand, Schwinn also offers two higher model versions – the 830 and 870. They offer more programs, higher motorized incline, longer running paths, telemetry HR sensor, better display, and higher top speeds. In terms of the noise, cushioning and materials, they are largely the same which is why I think that the 810 is the best value for your money, assuming that it is big enough for your needs.
- Great bang for your buck
- Up to 10 degrees incline
- 10 mph top speed
- Very well-built
- Built-in speakers and fan
- Big LCD screen
- SoftTrack cushioning system
- Even the smallest model is a bit bulky
- Top speed isn’t ideal for sprinting
Bowflex BXT216 Treadmill
The Bowflex BXT216 treadmill is a sharp contrast to all other models on this list and I have included it here exactly for that purpose. It is a high-end foldable treadmill that has all the bells and whistles that one might want if they are spending that much. Everything in this treadmill is solidly built. The belt is thick, quiet, and cushioning. It works well with the additional dampening system of the treadmill to create a noise-free running environment. The motor, albeit powerful (3.75 hp) isn’t as noisy as you’d imagine. It allows you to go up to speeds of 12 mph and the motorized incline goes up to 15 degrees which is the highest on this list. The belt surface is also 20 inches wide and 60 inches long, again being one of the biggest here. If you want more than that, you can upgrade to the BXT216.
The on-board computer here has a ton of features mainly surrounding that 7.5-inch full-color backlit LCD screen. Apart from the countless of controls and built-in programs, there are also additional control units next to the heart rate sensor handles. Those control the incline and speed only. Above the screen, there is a tablet holder with two built-in speakers on both sides. Below the screen, you can find a built-in fan system that cools you down. Further below, there is a tray where you can place your phone or other belongings. As a whole, this treadmill checks all the boxes but makes you pay for it all.
If even all that isn’t satisfying your needs, there is an even bigger and more powerful version – the BXT216. It has a higher weight capacity, bigger screen, more workout programs, and a more powerful motor. It is, however, more expensive and isn’t as good of a bang for the buck as the BXT116 is. Both models have a weight capacity of around 400 lbs. Still, it goes without saying that none of those two are budget-friendly and should only be considered if you’re looking for something high-end that is packed full of features and outperforms other foldable treadmills.
- Packed with useful features
- Built-in speakers and fans
- Large full-color LCD display
- Tons of storage options
- 12 mph top speed
- 15-degree max incline
- 20-inch wide belt
- Very expensive
- Customer support isn’t great
XTerra Fitness TRX3500 Folding Treadmill
The TRX3500 by XTerra Fitness is a good all-rounder that does everything okay. If you’re wondering why it is so down on this list, it is by no means the best deal out there and is actually quite expensive, especially compared to a Schwinn foldable treadmill.
The features that justify the price to a degree are the screen, preset options, top speed, and incline options. The belt is turned by a 3.0 HP motor that allows you to go up to 12 mph which is the highest on this list on par only with the Bowflex BXT216. The incline can go up to 12 degrees in increments of 1-degrees. The Screen is a blue-backlit LCD that is quite large and very easy and convenient to use. The computer tracks all your normal metrics but also gives you the option to use any of its 30 workouts presets. It also has 2 custom program options. Next to the on-board controls, you also have a 3.5mm jack if you want to plug in your phone or another device to listen to music through the built-in speakers of the treadmill. They aren’t the loudest nor the clearest, though.
In terms of weight capacity, the TRX3500 can hold the most out of all model versions at 350 lbs. It is also the biggest both folded and unfolded. The running surface is 20 by 60 inches which is on part with other big and expensive treadmills in this class. Still, the running belt is dampened by the XTRASoft deck cushion system that prevents loud noises during your workout and keeps your feet healthy in the long run. As a whole, just like I said – this treadmill is quite decent and checks a lot of boxes but it is more expensive than it should be.
- A lot of control options
- 30 pre-installed workout programs
- 3.5mm jack for listening to music
- Built-in speakers
- 12 mph top speed
- Up to 12-degrees incline
- Easy to fold
- Build quality isn’t stellar
SereneLife SLFTRD18 Smart Folding Treadmill
SereneLife is another brand known for their cheap fitness equipment. However, cheap doesn’t always equal good and I will get to that in a moment. That being said, the main advantage here is exactly that – it is cheap and actually great for smaller people that won’t require too much from the treadmill. The build quality is acceptable and the small footprint actually makes it very practical and easy to store in tight spaces.
The LCD display is quite bright and large enough to give you all your basic stats – elapsed time, distance, speed, calories burned, heart rate, and more. It also has a tablet holder right below it, making it easier to use the treadmill while watching your favorite show or listening to music. There are heart rate sensors in the handles but they aren’t quite reliable.
This is just about where the good things about this treadmill end, however. There are a few major issues here that I want to discuss. The first one being the motor. While it is a fairly quiet one, it puts out just 1 hp which isn’t enough at all. It won’t work with larger people, resulting in a weight capacity of around 250 lbs and it also doesn’t have a high top speed. It allows the belt to go from 0.6 to 6 mph which is only as good as a brisk jog and nothing more. The belt’s size is also not enough for most people. I constantly say that 15 inches is the lowest you should go in terms of the belt width but the one here is 13.4 inches wide, making it quite narrow for people that want to have more room to work with and avoid accidental injuries or trips.
All that stems from the budget nature of this folding treadmill. Still, despite it being cheap, that isn’t an excuse to be that much under-performing compared to the competition. I’d recommend this only for people that want to use the treadmill for walking or slow jogging and won’t put it under heavy stress.
- Very cheap
- Excellent for small spaces
- Good for beginners and smaller people
- Fairly quiet
- Folds and transports easily
- Narrow running band
- Weak motor
- Average weight capacity
- Inaccurate HR sensors
Folding Treadmills Buyer’s Guide
Buying a folding treadmill isn’t always easy, especially due to the abundance of models out there. As you already saw in the models that I recommended in my top 8 list, there are quite a lot of similarities between most of them, especially the ones that are in the same price class. This is why I wanted to create this guide section which is carefully laid out in order to give you the best in-depth look into what to look for in your first treadmill.
If you’re wondering how often should you run, click here!
Now, let’s go through some of the most important features in a folding treadmill that will define how practical it is and how useful it will be in the long run for you and your health. These aren’t placed in a specific order but are rather just listed so that you can create your own systematic approach when cross-shopping between two specific treadmills that have ended up being on top of your buying list.
Features To Look For
- Running surface size and belt material
- Practicality & Folding
- Build Quality & Durability
- Connectivity and tech
- Weight capacity
Running surface size and belt material
If you’re set on getting a foldable treadmill, you shouldn’t allow that to get in the way of its practicality. How practical a treadmill is mainly depends on how easy it is to run on it. Apart from the belt material, the thing that determines comfort is the actual real estate you have on the treadmill. The running surface of different treadmills ranges wildly so you should figure out a preferable width of the belt before you start shopping. The easiest way to do that is by marking an area on your floor both in terms of width and length that would be comfortable for you to run on. Then, look for treadmills that are the closest to that. Don’t overthink the length as it isn’t that important unless you want to run really fast. Anything above 16 inches is easily good enough for most people to run safely.
The longevity of the treadmill also heavily depends on the material of the belt line. Folding or not, the belt of the treadmill is most commonly the first part of the whole treadmill that gives out and has to be changed. Belts are made from a front and backside. The front side is most commonly PVC-coated, while the backside is a polymer or a blend of different materials. The front sides always outlast the backsides of the belt so make sure you choose a treadmill with a monofilament belt. Poly-blend belts will be quieter and will run smoother but are generally easier to wear out. The more expensive treadmills use polyurethane mix for their belts which is again noisier but much more durable and long-lasting. Another thing to consider is belt thickness. Thinner belts heat up slower making them last longer. They are also easier to turn by your treadmill’s system, hence they can reach the same speed as the thick ones with a smaller motor, consuming less energy and costing less. Their trade-off is mostly in comfort.
Practicality & Folding
The practicality will be determined by a few factors – how easy it is to fold and store, how quiet it is, and how easy it is to set up. Most treadmills out there feature a locking mechanism that is operated through a lever or a button. These typically require less than 10 seconds to fold. Once they are folded, most models have wheels for you to move them to the desired storing locations. The models that don’t have wheels are meant for a more stationary use and are good if you are a specific pre-set place for the treadmill and just want to fold the bottom part to clear up more floor space when it isn’t used.
Build Quality & Durability
The built quality is largely determined by the mainframe of the treadmill and the dampening system. Aluminum is a material of choice for a lot of companies since it is lightweight and durable, although some manufacturers rely on steel to strengthen their models. The dampening system is also important as it takes a bit of the load from the frame. The long-term durability of these treadmills is typically good if we don’t count the normal wear and tear on their belts and computers over the course of a few years of continuous use.
Connectivity and tech
In terms of tech, there are three things you need to look for – the display, connectivity capabilities, and the HR sensor of the treadmill.
The choice you will have with displays is what size you want them to be and whether they are LCD or LED. Obviously, the bigger display will be able to give you more detailed information on your workout, while the smaller ones will just give you basic data. LED displays are easier to read and often colored but are more expensive and aren’t as reliable in the long run as LCDs are. If you are on a tight budget, look for treadmills with a smaller LCD screen.
The connectivity of the treadmill is important if you want it to pair with your HR sensors, third-party running apps, or your mobile phone. Some expensive treadmills come with Bluetooth and/or ANT+ connectivity options.
Having a heart rate monitor built into the handles of the treadmill is really handy when you want to workout in specific heart rate zones. Still, oftentimes these sensors require you to hold onto them for a long period at a time, taking your hands out of the equation for that period. This makes running harder and is quite uncomfortable frankly. Some more expensive models have a finger-clip that attaches to the end of your finger and gives you an accurate reading on your pulse without disrupting your running flow.
If you want to learn how to check your heart rate without a sensor in the treadmill or a wrist/chest-strapped one, head over to my full article on the topic!
One last thing to add here is that some treadmills come with built-in speakers or a monitor for guided workouts but those are typically found on the most expensive models and they struggle to keep up with the work a pair of headphones and a tablet would do. This is why you will be better off getting a cheaper treadmill that lacks these features but has a secure place to put your phone or tablet on while you’re running. Another alternative to that would be placing your treadmill facing your home audio system or TV.
With the treadmill’s motor, you need to look for three things – power, max speed, and noise levels.
Power is an essential characteristic of any treadmill motor and it determines what sort of load it can handle and how well it can perform at higher speeds. As a general rule of thumb, look for 2.0-2.5hp motors if you’re going to use the treadmill for walking and light jogs up to 6 miles per hour. If you’re interested in running with higher speeds, look for motors that are above 2.5hp. The power of the motor also determines what is the maximum speed of the treadmill. Assuming we are talking about an active treadmill (and not a passive one), you should be looking at top speeds of 10 mph. This is one of the major disadvantage folding treadmills have compared to the bigger static treadmills. There simply aren’t a lot of foldable models out there with a top speed of more than 10 mph which can be a huge downside for people that want to train their cardio by doing short bursts at their maximum speed.
Now, let’s discuss the noise a little bit more in-depth…
The noise of the treadmill depends on a few things. The main thing that produces noise is your jumping up and down on the belt. The belt is cushioned and wrapped around the track rollers. Their size will determine how noisy it will be – the larger those rollers are, the quieter will the belt be. Also, as I mentioned earlier, if your belt is thicker it will be quiet since it will absorb vibrations better than the thinner one-ply belts. The cushioning on your treadmill also plays a crucial role at vibration and noise levels. The last thing that determines how much noise the treadmill generates is the motor itself. Weaker motors tend to be noisier, especially when paired to a large (wide and long) belt.
Whether your treadmill has the option to position itself at an incline is crucial if you want to simulate harder outside conditions. Most foldable treadmills have that option and can go up to around 10 degrees of incline, which is good enough if you want to specifically train those calve muscles.
As with all other fitness equipment, the weight capacity of the treadmill will show you how well it is built. Typically, the manufacturers tie their pants by giving you a lower number than what the treadmill can actually take. Still, make sure that you get a model that can handle at least 50lbs more than your personal weight. That will ensure long-term durability and a service-free use. Normally, cheaper models have a weight capacity of around 220-250 lbs but others get up to 300-400 lbs.
Benefits of Owning a Folding Treadmill
While treadmills themselves are surrounded by a lot of controversies, there still are a ton of proven benefits to owning one, especially one that folds. These are:
- It allows you to work out from the comfort of your living room
- They are relatively quiet and the perfect item for your home gym
- Folding treadmills are super compact and can be placed even in the smallest apartments
- You aren’t limited by your local routes and the weather
- Most treadmills allow you to control the incline
- The treadmill has built-in programs to work your body out to the best of its capabilities
- You can carefully tailor your own running plan and execute it to perfection on the machine using its computer
- The built-in HR monitor helps you keep track of your body’s efforts without the need for buying a wrist fitness tracker or a chest-strapped one.
- These treadmills are often cheaper than the full-sized ones that cannot fold
- You can pair the treadmill to your mobile phone and play your favorite playlist while running
On top of all that, running on a treadmill is associated with fewer injuries than outdoor running which is far riskier, to say the least. Still, you need to warm-up properly for your workout no matter if you’re going for a jog outside or on your treadmill. One of the most common reasons for injuries on treadmills is people underestimating them and not warming up well before the training session.
When shopping for the best folding treadmills, make sure you check things like the belt material, motor power, noise levels, and of course – dimensions. While most treadmills share a similar folding mechanism, they vastly differ in their sizes, meaning you will need to figure out how much you can spare from your home’s living room and then go for the model that fits your criteria the best. If you’re still hesitant, feel free to chose one of my selected picks!