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When running on a road, you place a lot of stress on your hip, knee and ankle joints as the impact travels up your body. That’s why exercising or training on a treadmill with shock absorption can greatly reduce recurring stress that results from impact. The best cushioned treadmill will have varying degrees of cushioning throughout the running surface area, with the front of the deck having the maximum amount to absorb shock as your foot lands. The cushioning decreases towards the back so that you have a firm deck at the back to help you push off.
If you’re training for a road race, you don’t want to get too used to cushioning all the time, so you should look for a model that lets you disengage it for a more realistic training experience. You should also look for a a model with variable incline(about 12% maximum) and maybe even some decline(3% is the norm).
While there are many affordable options for walking treadmills, you do need ones with decks that are broad and long enough to accommodate long strides with natural diverging movements when running. Also, any treadmill budget under $300 or under $500 won’t get you decent cushioning, although a few come with a little something so as not to have a completely hard deck.
Programmable workouts are pretty common on treadmills with a cushioned deck but some offer an astonishing array of options. Top end treadmills now come with iFit compatibility to alleviate any boredom you might have with your workouts. With a subscription, you can download terrain from various locations around the world through Google Maps!
Many of the best shock absorption treadmill options come with transport wheels and can also be folded up for storage or to just get it out of the way.
The following treadmill cushioning reviews cover a wide range of budgets and are the best rated.
- 1 Best Inexpensive Treadmills for Walking
- 2 Best Bang for Your Buck Running Treadmills
- 3 Best Treadmills for Joints
|Product||Rating (out of 5)||Decline & Incline settings||Continuous horse power||Tread belt size||Footprint||Max. User Capacity||Price|
|Weslo Cadence G 5.9||3.9||2 settings||2.25 chp||16" x 50"||64"L x 24"W x 55"H||275 lbs||$|
|Horizon Fitness T101-04||3.8||0 to 10%||2.25 chp||20" x 55"||70"L x 33.5"W x 55"H||300 lbs||$$|
|ProForm Performance 600i||4.3||0 to 12%||2.75 chp||20" x 60"||79.75"L x 36.75"W x 59.25"H||325 lbs||$$$$|
|NordicTrack C 990||3.8||0 to 12%||3.0 chp||20" x 60"||78.3"L x 35.75"W x 6.4"H||300 lbs||$$$|
|LifeSpan TR3000i||3.8||15 levels||2.75 chp||20" x 56"||71"L x 33"W x 56"H||350 lbs||$$$$|
|ProForm Pro 2000||4.2||-3% to 15%||3.5 chp||22" x 60"||80”L x 39.5”W x 63”H||350 lbs||$$$$|
|Sole Fitness F80||4.1||0 to 15%||3.5 chp||22" x 60"||80"L x 35"W x 58"H||375 lbs||$$$$$|
Best Inexpensive Treadmills for Walking
Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill
The Weslo is one of Amazon’s top sellers, and the price is a factor in its popularity. Also, on the positive side, the Weslo has six personal workouts, each designed by a certified personal trainer. The two incline positions increase the intensity of your workout and are easy to adjust, albeit only manually. You can monitor your speed, time, distance, and calories burned on the blue tinted, LCD monitor. There is also a heart rate monitor built right into the console and you can measure your pulse by placing your thumb on the sensor.
The treadmill speed adjusts up to 10 mph. It has a space saver design and can be folded up and wheeled into a storage area. This treadmill is covered by a one year warranty on the motor and a ninety-day guarantee on parts and labor.
There are some concerns, the first of which is the 2.25 horsepower motor. The issue is that this is not a continuous duty motor so it will lose power over time. It is also not sturdy enough for intense use. The 16” x 50” walking surface is cushioned, but not enough to be comfortable for running for a long time nor for the stated 250 lb reported weight capacity.
Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill
This treadmill is Horizon’s best seller for beginners and is a value buy. The 2.25 horsepower motor and the variable response cushioning (flexible in the front and more firm in the back) make this perfect for walking but not as comfortable for steady running. You can still get a high-intensity workout by adjusting the incline to its maximum 10%.
The Horizon T101-04 has thirty program options to accommodate your needs. You can choose from one of the step goal, distance-based, calorie goal, or interval workouts. You can also set your program manually. The speed adjusts to 10 mph and the treadmill has sonic surround speakers with MP3 compatibility. There is a pulse grip to monitor your heart rate and a console fan to keep you cool.
The Horizon treadmill is very quiet at all speeds and the hydraulic assists make the folding and storage simple. The company provides one of the best warranties on the market. The machine’s frame and motor are guaranteed for life, all parts for two years, and labor for one year. The reported problems are with the 20″ x 55″ belt which is smaller than some other models, and the fact that the machine is not sturdy enough for the reported 300 lb weight limit.
We also recommend the Elite T7 model from Horizon Fitness that we think is especially good for interval training.
Best Bang for Your Buck Running Treadmills
ProForm Performance 600i Treadmill
This model is probably ProForm’s most versatile, and since the price has been reduced, its most affordable cushioned treadmill for running. The Proshox cushioning gives you four shock absorbers over the entire deck. The 20” x 60” belt is extra thick for comfort and durability. This is a space saver machine that folds for storage with easy lift assist.
This ProForm can incline to 12% and be set at speeds up to 12 mph. It provides a variety of workouts with its twenty-two different routines. You can progress through heart rate based, interval, or weight loss and fat burning programs, and stay on track with the easy-to-read LED display. You can also connect with the over 100 offerings from iFit and travel all the routes available with GoogleMaps.
Some of the other features are the CoolAir fan, the 325 lb weight capacity, and the round watts display that shows you output power per kilogram. You can maintain endurance and tempo, increase your intensity with the “work” button, and cool down by pushing “recovery”. ProForm gives a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor, covers parts for two years, and labor for one. The only complaints are that there is no heart rate monitor, and that the console has no storage area or USB port.
NordicTrack C 990 Treadmill
The C 990 was introduced by NordicTrack in 2015 and is now at the top of their line. The 20” x 60” track, 12% incline, and iFit and GoogleMaps compatibility make it similar to the ProForm 600i, but 32 different workout programs move it to the next level. It is also one of the first treadmills with a 7-inch web enabled touchscreen that lets you go online and compete with others during your workout.
The tread belt has Nordictrack Quadflex cushioning which you can adjust from cushioned to hard feel with a simple turn of a knob. The belt itself is stretch resistant so that it will last longer and stay centered on the deck. The belt resists friction and the machine’s operation is very quiet. The 3.0 horsepower motor provides smooth and consistent power with little vibration.
You can easily view your speed, time, distance, calories burned, heart rate, and incline on the large display. The incline can be adjusted to 12%. The console has a cooling fan and a tablet holder that adjusts to a number of viewing angles. However, the fan does not adjust angles, so this is an irritant for anyone not the perfect height. The C 990 has a space saving design so it folds up for storage. However, even when folded, it is heavy to move. The assembly can also be time consuming and difficult.
Best Treadmills for Joints
LifeSpan TR3000i Folding Treadmill
The LifeSpan TR3000i is a sturdy machine that is equipped with EZfold technology which makes it easy to fold and move. The running surface is 20” x 56” and supports 350 lbs. The deck has eight impact absorbing compression shocks which comfortably support your knees and ankles. The 2.75 horsepower motor is continuous-duty, ensuring stability at any speed or incline. There are twelve different speeds from which to choose and the TR3000i inclines for 15 levels to around 30%, which is like walking up a steep hill.
There is a backlit LCD display which shows your elapsed time, calories burned, distance, total steps, heart rate, speed, and incline level. To achieve variety, you can choose from any of the twenty-one professionally designed workouts. Each of these has three specific intensity levels and you can track your progress on apps like Google Fit or Apple Health via Bluetooth.
LifeSpan offers a lifetime frame and motor warranty, with five years on parts and one year on labor. This is an above average machine for walking or running. However, its running surface is slightly shorter than most so if you are tall or have a long stride, you might want to find an alternative with a longer tread belt. Another issue is that the belt needs to be oiled occasionally and this could be a messy process.
ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill
You can generally buy the Pro 2000 treadmill at the sale price, making it the lowest priced treadmill in the Pro series and a great value for folding treadmills. All of its 32 workout apps are appropriate for walkers and runners. It is iFit and GoogleMaps compatible, which provides an infinite variety of workouts. There is a display shelf for your tablet so that you can easily monitor your progress on any app that you choose.
The Pro 2000 has a 3.5 Mach Z commercial pro motor making it very powerful. This motor easily accommodates the top speed of 12 mph, keeping your workout smooth with no vibration. This experience is enhanced by the balanced non-flex rear roller and the Proshox cushioning with 4 shock absorbers. This machine is large and heavy but uses EasyLift Assist to facilitate moving and storage.
One of the most unique features of the Pro 2000 is the incline/decline adjustment. You can easily move from -3% to +15%. Running downhill and uphill over the course of your workout increases your intensity and doubles the calories burned and most closely mimics cross country racing. The 7” backlit display is not the best but you can easily read your mileage, speed, calories, heart rate, and elapsed time. The console also has a CoolAire fan and a compatible music port.
Though Amazon advertises this unit as one with a 20” x 60”, 1-ply belt, this treadmill’s running surface is actually 22” x 60” and the belt is 2-ply which easily supports the 300 lb weight capacity. ProForm offers a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor, guarantees parts for five years, and provides service for two years. The Pro 2000 has been rated as a “best buy” as well.
Sole Fitness F80 Folding Treadmill
The Sole Fitness F80 is more expensive than the other treadmills in this list, but has extensive features and the best treadmill cushioning to justify the cost. Its proprietary Cushion Flex Whisper Deck with 2-ply belt has been proven to reduce joint impact by 40%. The running surface is 22” x 60” and supports up to 375 lbs. The deck can be reversed to extend the life of the treadmill. There is a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor, while all other electronics are guaranteed for five years.
The 9” LCD screen is one of the largest in the industry. The Sole F80 is Bluetooth compatible and the console has a holder for your tablet. You can run the Sole Fitness app or use one of your favorite apps like MyFitnessPal to track your progress. This treadmill truly has been designed with club quality in mind and is an award winner.
This treadmill has a 3.5 horsepower motor, can go to 12 mph, and can incline to 15% using rack-and-pinion technology. You can monitor your heart rate and there are dual cooling fans, two bottle holders, and an MP3 compatible sound system. There is a safety lanyard that stops the belt immediately if you lose your balance. The one issue with the Fitness F80 is that it only has ten workout programs.