Best Treadmills for Serious Runners

Serious runners primarily look for treadmills with ample workout space, advanced cushioning and high top speeds. After that there's plenty of room for personal preference. Most treadmills for runners nowadays have power ramps to help approximate training on real terrain. The best runners' treadmills are especially varied though in terms of workout programming and entertainment features.

Below is a list of top treadmills for marathoners and other serious runners. This list is followed by a look at treadmills part-by-part . You can learn even more about comparing treadmills by reading our complete treadmill buyers' guide.

Life Fitness Club Series

This heavy-duty machine offers a powerful 4.0 HP motor that promises speeds up to 14 mph and incline grades of up to 15%. The roomy 20” x 60” running deck is… Read More

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Precor TRM 835

A top performing model time and again, the TRM 835 offers both an incline and decline feature and speeds of up to 16 mph. Few other models can offer this kind… Read More

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Woodway 4Front

With a top speed of 18 mph, the Woodway 4Front is among the fastest treadmills available. It’s also one of the most durable treadmills -- it can handle 150,000 miles before… Read More

Basics of the Best Runners' Treadmills

How did we choose the best treadmills for runners? Here are some key qualities we look for when writing our treadmill reviews.

Powerful Motors

Serious runners need treadmills with belt motors that can handle high speeds, respond quickly to speed adjustments, and operate for long time periods without overheating. The standard for residential treadmills is 3.0 continuous horsepower (CHP), but serious runners should opt for cardio trainers with even more capacity. Products on our "best treadmills for serious runners" list have 4.0 CHP.

High Top Speeds

The most common top speeds in this industry are 10 mph for walkers' treadmills and 12 mph for runners' treadmills. Serious runners often want even higher top speeds. Options with up to 18 mph are featured in our picks.

Advanced Deck Cushioning

Compared with walkers, serious runners are especially advised to choose treadmills with high quality cushioning to protect their joints. Deck cushioning helps make treadmill training safer than outdoor training in terms of injury risk, plus it helps trainees endure for longer with less perceived effort. The most common type of cushioning is consistent throughout the length of the track. On good treadmills for runners these two variations on deck cushioning are also available:
  • Variable cushioning provides different levels of support beneath different zones of the track. The trainee gets a firmer surface for push-off and a softer surface for landing.
  • On/off cushioning is sometimes favored by runners training for outdoor competition. It gives the option of training on a surface with road-like impact absorption or with extra cushioning.

High Quality Tread Belts

Runners need high quality tread belts (running tracks) in terms of size and composition. Belt quality improves greatly as you move up the treadmill price scale.
  • The track size preferred by a typical serious runner is at least 20" wide and 60" long. The 20" x 60" dimensions are standard for health club treadmills, but sometimes runners want even more room to stretch out. Extra width is relatively easy to find; many high-end treadmills have 22" wide belts. Finding treadmills with extra-long running surfaces isn't as easy. A small minority have tracks that are 62" long or longer.
  • The best treadmill belts are a few millimeters thick for durability. They're made of low-stretch material so that tension adjustment isn't often needed. These best belts are also low maintenance in terms of their lubrication needs.

Extras on the Best Runners' Treadmills

In addition to a great motor, deck and belt, here are some other features that advanced athletes look for in a cardio trainer.

Wireless Heart Rate Monitoring

The top cardio trainers can monitor heart rate with wireless technology. Treadmills at all price points also have contact pulse sensors built into their handlebars, but wireless systems are preferable. Wireless monitoring is more accurate and more convenient, especially at higher speeds.

Heart Rate Control

Treadmills with workout programs called "heart rate control" can adjust the challenge level in response to a runner's heart rate. This feature optimizes training because it helps the trainee consistently exercise within a target range. Heart rate control isn't common on low-end treadmills but is becoming standard on treadmills for serious runners.

Power Inclines

Inclines or ramps on a treadmill track offer at least five benefits to any trainee:
  • Faster calorie burn
  • Better muscle definition
  • Enhanced cardio training
  • Exercise variety to avoid boredom
  • Programs that mimic the topography of specific routes
Even on cheap treadmills the incline standard nowadays is a range of about zero to 10 percent. Top treadmills for marathon runners have maximum inclines of up to 20 percent. In addition to the maximum ramp setting, treadmill shoppers should note the thrust of a power incline's motor. More thrust is especially important if heavier trainees will use the machine.

Best Treadmills for Serious Runners: The Rundown

ModelTypeRatingPriceLowest Price
Life Fitness Club Series Non-Folding5-starsOver $2,500See best price »
Precor TRM 835 Non-Folding5-starsOver $2,500See best price »
Woodway 4Front Non-Folding5-starsOver $2,500See best price »

Find Your New Treadmill

In sum, serious runners should prioritize track quality, deck cushioning, power and speed when choosing their home treadmills. A few "nice to haves" for most shoppers are wireless heart rate monitoring, heart rate control and a power incline. The treadmills lists above are our top recommendations for advanced runners in general, but another model might be your best match. Our price-specific lists of top treadmills can give you a good breakdown for you to decide.