How to choose a treadmill

How to choose a treadmill

Chris Husbands

Chris Husbands

Fitness Advisor, John Lewis Oxford Street

Thinking of buying a piece of fitness equipment? Whether it's a treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, exercise bike or multi-gym, we often make the decision to buy an exercise machine based on our desire to get fit, to help in our rehabilitation or as a leisure pursuit.

Given there are so many options available it can be difficult knowing where to start, so to make the right choice, ask yourself a few simple questions:

Who will use it, what will they use it for and how often?

Is it for just you or several people? Is it for someone wanting to get fit, or for a real fitness enthusiast on a daily basis for many hours a week? Will it be sturdy enough for someone who's on the heavy side?

What benefits are you looking for?

Consider what you want to get out of your equipment, and what you actually need. Is it something to tide you over for the short term, or is it time to scrap the gym membership in favour of a home gym?

What features would you like it to have?

Modern designs are packed full of features including: heart rate monitoring; a variety of fitness programmes (some with additional content to download); Wi-Fi connectivity and interactivity; iPod and tablet compatibility; or simply somewhere to place a water bottle. In today's on-the-go world, see if there's a shelf or holder for your portable media device, so you're always connected. Some have an actual TV or screen inbuilt.

Start by having a look at our buying guide and then consider the following to make your own choices for the following types of machines. Remember you can see how up to 4 machines measure up against one another by using our Compare function.

If you haven't the time to visit one of our shops and talk to a fitness advisor in person, here are some questions that customers often ask me when they're thinking about buying fitness equipment. I hope it helps you to choose the right one for your needs.


Click on the questions below for answers

I’d like a treadmill with really good cushioning as I’ve heard that it’ll help reduce the possibility of injury.

Yes, cushioning is important, especially if you intend to run often, beyond 20-30 minutes or at faster speeds. Every treadmill has more cushioned support than pavement or tarmac; some have variable cushioning that replicates firmer surfaces - if that’s what you prefer.

If I want to use it for walking with an occasional jog, what’s a good treadmill for me?

Look for one with a low BHP (brake horse power);  if you want a smoother, quieter ride consider a higher BHP. 

I have limited space: is there a small treadmill?

Because of their design, a treadmill will rarely be a small piece of equipment when in use. Many can be folded, with some more upright than others. A foldable treadmill doesn’t mean you have to compromise stability but if a rigid and solid machine appeals to you more, then opt for a treadmill that is designed to cater for users up to 159kg (25 stone).

Even if space is an issue you’ll still need to consider where to place your treadmill safely. You need to have at least 1m of uncluttered space behind the treadmill. And you should ensure you’re clear of doors or windows behind, so there’s no risk if you trip or stumbe.

Can I have the treadmill in an upstairs room?

Yes, as long as you have floors with proper joist supports. Locate the treadmill where the joists are evenly spread out underneath. Ideally, a ground floor location is always best; and equipment is pretty heavy so getting it upstairs may be challenging.

Can I replicate the feel of my gym machine?

Many of us decide to save money by cancelling our gym membership and buying from the high street. You may, however, have to make some compromise with regard to quality, unless you’re prepared to spend a  little more. We do stock commercial-grade machines such as Life Fitness and Technogym. Most of them won’t be foldable but their 3BHP motors will respond well to high usage.

How can the treadmill be used by my family of 4, when we all have different needs?

You can get close by selecting a treadmill with a minimum 3BHP, superior cushioning, and plenty of high performance or sport programmes. It’s also worth considering customisable programmes and Wi-Fi connectivity. If you can customise a user profile with specific programmes it’ll mean the serious and not so serious user can get what they want from the same machine. If in doubt, always go for the higher quality specifications, such as Life Fitness and Technogym.

The treadmill I want requires partial self-assembly. As I can’t do that on my own, will the driver help me?

Unless stated as ’installation included’ you will need to a DIY-competent person to help you. If you’re used to putting together flat-packed furniture, two of you will find it quite straightforward: treadmills come with full instructions and you can view or download many as a PDF file from our website. Also most only have 5 or 6 parts, such as the main treadmill bed, 2 uprights, a cross piece and console with 1 or 2 clipable connectors for wiring. Installation is included with brands such as Technogym and Spirit Fitness.

If you prefer not to assemble yourself or don’t have someone to help, we can put you in touch with an assembling service whom you pay independently -just ask in store. Please note that assembly services don’t act on behalf of either the supplier or John Lewis regarding technical questions or use of the equipment.