Take your running indoors with one of these space-saving treadmills
Whether you’re a new runner or an experienced marathoner, there are many reasons you may want to do your training indoors. You might be avoiding the colder weather, or lack enjoyable running routes near your home. Maybe you prefer controlled running without the injury risks of slippery pavements and muddy greens. Perhaps it’s simply a bit more convenient.
Thankfully, whatever your reason for opting for some indoor runs, there are plenty of excellent running machines available to get you going. And while you might fancy a huge gym-standard unit, folding treadmills are a much better bet for home users, offering all the features you need while hogging a little less space in your home.
Below you’ll find the best folding treadmills that suit all abilities and budgets, but first here’s some advice on what to look out for in a machine.
Best folding treadmill: At a glance
|Best folding treadmill for most people||JLL T350 Digital Folding Treadmill | £570||Check price at JLL|
|Best folding treadmill under £1,500||JTX Sprint-7 | £999||Check price at JTX Fitness|
|Best gym standard folding treadmill||Life Fitness F3 | £2,795||Check price at Best Gym Equipment|
How to choose the best folding treadmill for you
How much do I need to spend?
This will depend greatly on your height – taller users require longer running belts, which tend to come on pricier machines – and your running ability. If you’re going to use the machine for walks and slow jogs, you can get by with a cheaper machine that will cost £200 to £500, while intermediate and advanced runners will need the extra room and higher speeds available on machines that cost at least £500-£1000. If you want a commercial standard machine that wouldn’t look out of place in a gym, then be prepared to spend upwards of £1000.
How much room do I need?
When it comes to space, treadmills are the most greedy home cardio machine, and you will need something similar to the area a single bed would take up. Also think about clearance at the back to get on and off the machine, and whether you need room to put a TV in front of it for mid-run entertainment. Folding machines do at least take up less room than non-folding ones when not in use, usually folding up to be taller in height but shorter in length, so you can wheel them into a corner or a large cupboard. Generally, they’re still not that small though – make sure to check both the folded and unfolded dimensions of your machine to see if you have enough space.
What speed and incline do I need?
Ensure your machine is fast enough to satisfy you. You shouldn’t just think about your steady running pace either, as you might benefit from a high top speed to do short intervals on. Gym standard machines usually have a speed range that tops out at around 20-22km/h, while cheaper home machines might max out at 16km/h.
Another way to increase the difficulty without using speed is incline, because ramping up the slope of your treadmill belt quickly makes running very hard indeed. Top machines will offer up to 15% incline, and some specialist treadmills go much higher than that and offer a downhill range too. Cheaper machines will still offer some kind of incline setting, and if you’re getting one just for walking then this will be an important feature to look for.
What other features are important?
The motor is key to the performance of any treadmill, and you want to see a horsepower (HP) of around 2.5 (continuous, rather than peak) if you’re using the machine for running, though walkers can get away with a lower HP. Also look out for preset workouts on the treadmill, which can help vary your training to keep it fresh, and a large console screen to see your stats.
What should I look for in terms of build quality?
It’s tough to judge this from a distance but generally you get what you pay for here. The warranty is important – you want at least a two-year warranty on a treadmill – and it’s worth looking into how hard it is to replace parts as well. The belt of the treadmill might require maintenance too, which won’t be hard but is important to do semi-frequently.
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The best folding treadmills you can buy in 2023
1. JLL T350 Digital Folding Treadmill: Best folding treadmill for most people
Price when reviewed: £570 | Check price at JLL The feature set of this folding treadmill is remarkable given its price, with an impressive top speed of 18km/h and 20 levels of incline to ramp up the difficulty of your workouts. The 2.5HP motor is beefy enough to ensure the JLL T350 will run smoothly even when you do hit those max speeds, and there are 20 preset workouts you can use to shake up your training.
You can fold and unfold the machine using the hydraulic arm and it is one of the smaller options on this list when folded. However, that is partly as a result of the fact the running belt is quite short at 143cm, so taller users in particular will find it hard to go beyond jogging pace.
Key specs – Size: 158 x 70 x 128cm (LWH); Folded size: 82 x 70 x 146cm (LWH); Speed range: 0.3-18km/h; Incline range: 20 levels; Motor: 2.5HP continuous, 4.5HP peak
2. JTX Sprint-7: Best folding treadmill under £1,500
Price when reviewed: £999 | Check price at JTX FitnessEven speedy and experienced runners will be satisfied by this machine, which offers close to a gym-standard experience for under £1,500. The top speed is 20km/h and the incline range goes up to 15%. Plus, it comes loaded with 24 preset workouts that you can select quickly, with the console showing the kind of inclines and speeds you can expect with graphics for each workout.
We found the machine easy to assemble and that the running belt accommodated a 6ft (182cm) runner even at high speeds. And even when folded this is still a pretty beefy machine, so keen runners after top value indoor training should look no further.
Key specs – Size: 196 x 93 x 153cm (LWH); Folded size: 120 x 88 x 159cm (LWH); Speed range: 0-20km/h; Incline range: 0-15%; Motor: 3HP continuous, 6HP peak
3. Life Fitness F3: Best gym standard folding treadmill
Price when reviewed: £2,795 | Check price at Best Gym EquipmentThe benefit of getting a commercial standard machine like the F3 is that you can be absolutely sure it will stand up to the running you do on it at home, since it’s a fraction of the punishment it would get in a gym. There aren’t a huge range of top class machines that fold, but Life Fitness’s F range is a good place to look, and the F3 offers a sturdy and reliable option for home gyms.
However, it’s not ideal for faster runners, because the speed range tops out at 16km/h, so if your interval or normal running pace goes beyond that mark you will need to look at the F1 treadmill which can hit 19km/h. For most people 16km/h will be plenty, though, and the incline can be ramped up to 12% if you do need more of a challenge.
Key specs – Size: 198 x 87 x 149cm (LWH); Folded size: 86 x 87 x 192cm (LWH); Speed range: 0.8-16km/h; Incline range: 0-12%; Motor: 3HP continuous
4. JTX Slimline: Best fold-flat system
Price when reviewed: £549 | Check price at JTX Fitness
Although it’s not the most powerful treadmill on this list, JTX is a company that listens to its clientele’s requests and responds with real changes. As a result of this customer feedback, JTX has produced the Slimline, arguably their most compact model ever.
We’ll admit that, from a cursory glance at the specifications and dimensions (below), it looks a bit odd but this model is designed to be folded as flat as a pancake and able to be slipped under a bed or large sofa when not in use – so long as you have the clearance – though you can also stand it on its end if you’d rather.
With this practicality in mind, we couldn’t help praising it as we put it through its paces. Even at max speed, it felt really stable, which surprised us given the relatively spindly frame. Furthermore, the deck offers a good amount of response and is still wide enough for most runners.
Bizarrely at this price, there is a pulse sensor on the grab handles, although these aren’t the most ergonomic and feel fiddly to hold. But that said, it’s one of the few JTX machines to have speed adjustments on the handles, rather than having to stretch out in front to increase or decrease the pace, and we liked this.
Particularly for those runners who are short on space, this is an excellent option at a very tempting price, its compact size belying a smooth and quiet running experience.
Key specs – Size: 152 x 70 x 125cm (LWH); Folded size: 158 x 73 x 26.5cm (LWH); Speed range: 0-16km/h; Incline range: N/A; Motor: 1.75HP continuous