Best Manual Treadmills

Updated December 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

23 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
312 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best manual treadmills

Last Updated December 2019

Any successful home workout must cater to all your needs: convenience, cost, the type of exercise you want, and your fitness goals. For those seeking a measured cardiovascular workout that offers both safety and accessibility, a manual treadmill is ideal.

As opposed to traditional electric treadmills that run on a motor, manual treadmills are powered by the user. As you walk, jog, or run, the belt moves underneath your feet. Where electric treadmills force you to move to the set speed of the belt, manual treadmills force the belt to move based on your speed.

Manual treadmills tend to be significantly less expensive and more convenient than traditional ones while still offering a quality cardiovascular workout. However, there are limitations — you cannot achieve top speeds on a manual treadmill, and more competitive runners may find them frustrating to use since they can only go so fast. Still, they are popular with professional athletes and appeal to all ages and fitness levels. But that’s only the start. Read our buying guide and we’ll give you the ins and outs of manual treadmills to find the right one for you.

Embrace the portable nature of the manual treadmill — without electricity required, you can move it outside on nice days.

Key considerations

Benefits

Manual treadmills are less pricey than motorized treadmills. They tend to be more easily transported considering they don’t need to be plugged into an outlet. Without a motor, they are generally much lighter. What’s more, some models are foldable for easy storage and some come with wheels to allow for convenient moving.

The workout on a manual treadmill can be fairly simple and low-intensity. However, you’re also able to reach a higher heart rate at lower speeds because of the energy required to move the belt.

Manual treadmills are safer than motorized ones as the belt stops moving when you do, and the top speeds are much lower.

Drawbacks

Because they lack a motor, there are some drawbacks to manual treadmills. Running is more difficult to both achieve and sustain. You cannot start at a high speed; you have to build up to it with a manual treadmill. Once you reach the speed you want, you need to maintain your pace — higher speeds on a manual treadmill require more exertion than the same speeds on an electric treadmill.

Similarly, you cannot fluctuate or alter the speed and set a specific program the way you do on a traditional treadmill. Manual treadmills may not be the right choice for sprinters or competitive runners.

They are also not the best for those with weaker or strained joints. The initial effort required to move the belt can cause excess pain to those suffering from arthritic or problematic joints.

Weight capacity

The weight allowance of manual treadmills varies but tends to fall somewhere between 200 and 300 pounds. While the unit may be able to withstand a bit more weight (some say “tested up to a certain weight” instead of listing a maximum weight allowance), it’s not recommended to go over. Be honest about how frequently you use the treadmill and about any weight changes — positive or negative — that may occur once you use it.

Incline

Most manual treadmills come at a fixed angle, including 0° or no angle. The inability to adjust the incline may be frustrating to some users. While it may seem counterintuitive, a slight incline makes it easier to build and maintain movement as opposed to no incline at all. However, maintaining speed requires more energy at an incline than at no incline.

Size

The size of the treadmill (specifically the length and width of the belt) are important considerations with respect to the way you plan on exercising. If used primarily for walking, a larger treadmill is likely unnecessary. For jogging and running, you want more space for your longer stride. Of course, your height and size — particularly the length of your legs — is also an important factor. You need to be able to fit comfortably on the treadmill at your fullest stride to make sure your workout is both safe and effective.

EXPERT TIP

Inclines are helpful in getting going on the manual treadmill, but just know that once you’re on, you are essentially walking uphill.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Curved treadmill

Sometimes called an “Air Runner,” this relatively new subset of manual treadmills offers a far more intense workout at a significantly higher price. These treadmills feature high ends and a depressed middle, creating a curve. They also are more durable and larger than regular manual treadmills. The curve requires different strides and positioning to speed up and slow down as well as more overall strength to power it, making it a great choice for professional or competitive athletes.

Electronic display

This is a standard feature on motorized treadmills, but because they do not connect to an outlet, it’s uncommon to have a manual treadmill that provides a digital readout. There are some that do, using batteries to stay powered. Some treadmills come with batteries, while others require you to buy them separately.

Variable incline

Most manual treadmills have a fixed incline, but there are a handful that offer two options. One is simply flat, while the other is anywhere from five to 15°. It’s rare for there to be more than two options available.

Magnetic resistance

More expensive models offer levels of resistance to enhance and diversify your workout. This is one of the few ways in which a manual treadmill workout can change while you’re on the treadmill. The higher the tension, the more intense the workout.

EXPERT TIP

Manual treadmills offer great workouts in short bursts. They aren’t as effective for longer, endurance-focused workouts.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Fitness tracker: Fitbit Versa 2
Because most manual treadmills don’t come with an electronic display to monitor distance, heart rate, calories burned, and other vitals, a fitness tracker may be a wise investment. Fitbit is one of the most trusted brands in trackers, and we love the Versa 2. It tracks sleep and exercise and connects to Alexa and Spotify.

Sports water bottle: Polar Bear Insulated Water Bottle
For any active pursuit, it’s important to stay hydrated. This 24-ounce water bottle from Polar Bear is affordable, stylish, and keeps your liquids cooler longer.

Manual treadmill prices

Inexpensive: The least expensive manual treadmills cost up to $100. These may have a lower maximum weight allowance and be smaller in size.

Mid-range: Spending between $100 and $200, you can purchase a quality manual treadmill that is likely more durable and has a higher weight allowance.

Expensive: Between $200 and $400, you can find high-end manual treadmills that are the most durable and offer the most comprehensive workout possible. This includes varying resistance levels and grip positions.

EXPERT TIP

There are creative ways to diversify your manual treadmill workout. Add weights to your body, walk backward, or move side to side to make the machine work for you.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Always stretch. Before and after any workout, however simple or casual it may seem, it’s important to stretch. Stretching helps prevent injury and keeps you feeling good the day after you exercise.
  • Create a schedule. Workouts can be tedious or annoying for some people and buying a new piece of equipment should be motivating. Further engage yourself by creating a reasonable schedule and sticking to it.
  • Work out within the limits. There are limits to how fast you can go on manual treadmills. Speed isn’t everything, and you can still get a terrific workout by using the treadmill the way it’s meant to be used.

Other products we considered

Beyond those we recommended, there are a few other notable manual treadmills you may want to consider. For a mid-range price, this magnetic manual treadmill from Confidence features a fixed incline, built-in wheels for mobility, and an electronic monitor. Sunny Health and Fitness offers a simple and reasonably priced manual treadmill. It’s lightweight, compact, and features a tracking display. This relatively inexpensive manual treadmill from Artist Hand can support more weight than most while offering two different incline levels as well as a monitor.

It’s good to have some positive distractions during a simple workout. Set up music or a TV to keep your mind occupied while exercising.

FAQ

Q. Is assembly required?
A.
Most manual treadmills require partial or complete assembly. Make sure you have the necessary space, tools, and assistance to assemble the manual treadmill. It may be worthwhile to check out how easy or difficult assembly may be. If the treadmill isn’t foldable, make sure you’re setting it up in the room you want to use it.
 

Q. Does the treadmill make noise?
A.
Because traditional treadmills often make a fair bit of noise, there is a hope that manual treadmills don’t due to their lack of a motor. However, the movement of the belt may cause some sound, though more expensive models promote a quiet, smooth run. Some consumers complain of the abrasive sound of certain manual treadmills.
 

Q. How large is the treadmill when folded up?
A.
One of the appeals of manual treadmills is that they are easy to transport, and many are foldable and compact. Some are small enough to fit under a bed or upright in a closet. Consider the size of the treadmill both when it’s set up as well as when it’s not in use.

The team that worked on this review
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey