NordicTrack Commercial 1500 Treadmill

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Best Folding Treadmills

There’s a reason working out at home is appealing to so many of us: it’s convenient and you don’t have to wipe off strangers’ sweat before you start exercising. But fitting a large treadmill into your house can be difficult.

That’s where folding treadmills come in. By folding up the treadmill and rolling it into the corner, you can significantly shrink the footprint and make for easy treadmill storage when you’re not running.

While portable treadmills have improved substantially in recent years, finding the best foldable treadmill comes down to the quality of the frame and the folding system—though we’ll also want to consider the belt, motor and display.


Best Folding Treadmill Overall: Sole F85 Treadmill
Best Folding Treadmill for Running: ProForm 505 CST Treadmill
Best Folding Treadmill for Walking: The Walker’s Foldaway Treadmill
Best Folding Treadmill for Home: NordicTrack T 6.5 S Treadmill
Best Folding Treadmill on a Budget: XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill Black
Best Manual Folding Treadmill: Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill
Best Folding Treadmill Honorable Mention: ProForm Performance 300i Treadmill


Proform folding treadmill

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Why Buy a Folding Treadmill?

A folding treadmill is what it sounds like: a treadmill with a base that folds up, so that it can be stored out of the way. Most folding treadmills also have wheels, making it simple to fold and roll.

In order to fold away, foldable treadmills used to sacrifice durability and fancy display features for the folding mechanism. They were known for being flimsy and loud. But now the best collapsible treadmills have most of the same features as gym-level treadmills.

A regular treadmill is typically about 3-feet by 6- or 7-feet, but a folding treadmill is on average about half that length when folded up. It should be noted, though, that most folding treadmills don’t fold to a full 90-degree angle, but rather to 75- or 80-degrees.

Who are they for?

The advantages of a portable treadmill are obvious to anyone trying to fit their workouts into a tight space. If you live in a city, where living space can be at a premium, or if you just don’t want a large treadmill sitting in the middle of your living room, then a folding treadmill could be the answer.

Plus, there’s a reason more people are leaving the gym to workout at home. While stocking your home with fitness equipment can cost money up front, it’ll save you money on gym memberships in the long run and make it faster to fit in a quick workout—no more driving to and from the gym.

If you’re able to fit in a quick run on your portable treadmill, and then fold it back up and stick it in the corner, then you’re more likely to workout more frequently, which will keep you healthier and fitter.

Who are they not for?

Traditionally, folding treadmills have been made of flimsier material than traditional treadmills. That made them less appealing for anyone who planned to do faster running or higher mileage—which requires a sturdier frame, longer belt and bigger motor.

However, in recent years, folding treadmills have upped their game. Now, most folding treadmills offer as many specs as their traditional counterparts and similar capacity in terms of motor, speed, deck size and incline options.

In addition to sturdier builds and higher quality frames, the folding mechanisms have improved. Most companies now have their own systems that allow you to easily press a button or pull a lever and watch it unfold or fold up.

The downside: The higher quality treadmills tend to be heavier and the heavier the treadmill, the harder it is to move and store out of the way. If you don’t need to maximize space, then there might not be a need to sacrifice any performance for a folding treadmill. If you’re not going to fold and move it, then why not opt for a traditional treadmill with more options?

NordicTrack Commercial 1500 Treadmill

See how much space you save when your treadmill folds? | NordicTrack Commercial 1500 Treadmill | Source: Lynn Daniels (Flickr)

 

Features to Look For in a Folding Treadmill

Display

At this point, the best portable treadmills—folding and traditional—come with some kind of display. Unless you don’t care to know how far or fast you’re running, we recommend getting a foldaway treadmill with a display.

The best displays give you information like speed or pace, incline, time, distance, and potentially heart rate and calories burned. The fanciest displays also include TVs or wi-fi. The highest-end treadmills connect to the internet, allowing you to watch Netflix, browse Facebook or, most importantly, connect to online training programs or apps and track your workouts.

Often the screen, which is typically 13- to 16-inches wide, is just a small part of the display. Water bottle holders, reading racks and built-in fans, as well as controls, take up more space in front of and on the sides of the treadmill display.

The advantages of having a display on your folding treadmill are that you can see your workout stats and know how hard you’re working. The bonus features can also be nice, but if you plan to set up your own fan or put the treadmill in front of your existing TV, then all the bells and whistles might not be necessary.

On the best portable treadmills, the display is easy to see and durable.

SOLE Fitness F85 Folding Treadmill

Higher-end folding treadmills (like the Sole F85) come with beautiful displays.

Preset programs

Your treadmill display should also include preset programs or workout programs. These are workouts built into the treadmill system, which you can pick and choose from. These workouts control and change the speed and incline of the treadmill over a set time—for example, forcing you to run short hill repeats after a steady warm-up.

The best treadmill brands typically offer five to 15 pre-set workout programs and the ability to customize two to five more. These workouts range from things like hill repeats to long tempo runs.

Changing up your workouts based on your goals allows you to use different muscles and aerobic systems. If you have a treadmill with wifi that connects to a training app, like iFit, then you can also often run existing race routes or running tours through real cities—video plays on the screen and the incline changes to match the route.

Pulse sensors

Also known as heart rate sensors, pulse sensors are used to take your pulse. When you grip onto the metal strips with your hands the sensors read electrical signals through your skin and give you an estimated heart rate.

You have to put your hands fully over the sensors. If they’re too wet or sweaty, it won’t work. They can be tricky while working out—ie. it’s hard to run and grip onto the heart rate sensors at the same time!

Not all folding treadmills come with pulse sensors. But monitoring your heart rate can be beneficial for helping you stay within target workout zones. Another option is simply to wear a heart rate strap, and some high-end treadmills have a wireless heart rate monitor that will read that chest strap—slightly more convenient than gripping the handlebars the whole time.

Speed

If you’re looking for the best folding treadmills for running, then you’ll care a lot about the speed the treadmill goes up to. Most treadmills reach 10 to 12 mph (or a pace of 6:00/mile to 5:00/mile). Many gym-level treadmills go up to 14 or 15 mph, while rare elite athlete treadmills can reach 25 mph.

The more increments of speed you can choose from, the better. Ideally, you can increase the speed by .1 mph at a time, but some treadmills only let you change the speed in increments of .5 mph. If you have to jump from 4.0 mph to 4.5 mph, it can make for a bigger speed increase than you want!

If you’re looking to run on the treadmill—especially if you want to run fast—then look for a treadmill that goes up to 12 mph in increments of .1 mph.

Convenience features

Most treadmills come with a quick start button. That means you can just hit “go” and start walking. This is easier than having to set all the different options before you can begin.

If you want to change speed or incline as you’re going, then you’ll also want easy to press up and down buttons.

All treadmills also have safety features to stop the belt in case you fall or trip. These typically include a key that you insert when you start and that then attaches via a cord to your shirt or shorts. If you fall or pull the cord, then the key comes out—stopping the treadmill.

The nicer treadmills also have more features for your convenience, typically on the headboard around the display unit. This can even include USB ports to charge phones or plug in music.

Motor

Most portable treadmills have motors from 2-4 continuous duty horsepower (or CHP). A CHP motor stays at a much cooler temperature than a regular horsepower motor, allowing it to last longer and require less maintenance.

If you’re primarily running, then you’ll want a 4 CHP motor. But if you plan to primarily walk, then a 2-3 CHP motor might get the job done.

There are also manual treadmills that don’t have motors. These use the force of your feet against the belt to move it. It’s no surprise that this takes more effort than when the belt moves under your feet via a motor. One study found it can take up to 30% more effort at the same speed.

The upsides of a manual treadmill are that they tend to be smaller, simpler and cheaper, since there’s no need for a motor or electric unit. It also can be a better workout, since it takes more work.

The downside is that it takes more work! It can be difficult to get moving at the start, which can put stress on the hips and joints. It can also discourage you from actually doing a workout. And there tend to be far fewer features on manual treadmills.

Belt

The belt on a treadmill means the rolling surface that you’re running or walking on. That belt wraps around the rollers and the motor spins the rollers, pulling the belt along—and forcing you to get moving!

Most belts range in width from 16- to 22-inches and are about 55- to 60-inches long. If you’re planning to run more than walk, then you need a wider and longer belt to accommodate your stride length.

Belts can also be 1-ply or 2-ply, meaning how its woven. The 2-ply belts last longer.

Rollers

The other factor when it comes to the durability of the motor and belt are the rollers. The larger the rollers, the less wear and tear on your treadmill belt, because the rollers have to rotate less. Larger rollers also have a higher load capacity, which means that they can absorb more, allow for a bigger weight limit.

Look for rollers that are at least 2-inches, up to 3-inches, in order to guarantee the life of your belt and motor (and rollers).

Cushioning

A good shock absorption system, or cushioning, limits the stress on your ankles, knees and back. Most of the best treadmill brands have developed their own unique cushioning systems—some of which you can even turn on and off.

While the top-level brands all have top-level proprietary cushioning, you might not know which version feels the best for your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back until you try it. That’s why testing out a treadmill first is important.

Treadmill belt close up

Grooved belts make it easier for you to shoes to stay gripped as you’re running or walking. Source: Eamon Curry (Flickr)

 

Other Things To Consider Before Buying a Folding Treadmill:

Size & Storage

The most important things to consider when looking for the best treadmills for small spaces are obviously the size and storage. When factoring in the frame, the average folding treadmill has a footprint of about 30-inches wide and up to 60- or 70-inches long when the belt is down, but some can shrink to even just 30-inches long when folded up.

The footprint is just one factor in storage though. The other is how easy it is to roll and move. If the treadmill is over 300 pounds, then it can be difficult to roll into a corner even after it’s folded up.

Adjustability

If you’re running on a treadmill, then you know there are two factors to your workout: how fast you’re going and at what incline. Most treadmills will allow you to adjust the incline up to 10%, and some even go to 15%. Typically, this comes in increments of either .5% or 1%. Like with speed settings, the more increments available the better, because it allows for more customization in your workout and smaller jumps.

Also like with speed settings, once you press the buttons to adjust (increase or decrease) the incline of the ramp, it takes a little bit of time for the belt to make that movement. How quickly the treadmill makes these changes is something else to consider in what kinds of workouts you’ll be doing.

Some manual treadmills and entry-level treadmills, however, have just a handful of pre-set incline options, simply allowing for an easy, medium or hard workout.

Build quality

The best portable treadmills come down to the quality of the frame. It should feel strong and durable—not cheap and plastic.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to tell with portable treadmills if they’re sturdy or not. The only downside is the higher quality the build, the heavier the folding treadmill tends to be.

You’ll also want a treadmill that’s welded together, not bolted. This helps ensure that it won’t come apart.

Cost

The more expensive the treadmill, the more features it is likely to have, from wi-fi connectivity to faster speeds. The biggest thing you’re paying for, though, is quality of the build, belt and motor.

Commercial treadmills, like the club-level ones at a nice gym, can cost $5,000 or $6,000 and are designed to withstand heavy use. But you don’t have to spend that much for a home treadmill. High-end treadmills at home are typically are $1,000-$2,000—though you can spend up to $3,000 if you’re going all-in. On the other end, there are even some very solid performance treadmills in the $500-600 range.

And, if you’re just getting started or want something simple, don’t worry. There are basic beginner treadmills for just a few hundred dollars.

Assembly

If you can have the treadmill delivered straight to your door, then there surprisingly isn’t too much assembly. Most treadmills come 95% assembled, more or less, and all you have to do is fasten the handlebars and console, connect the cables, check that the belt is on tight and plug it in. It should take a couple of hours.

However, if you order from an online retailer, then many of them will deliver to your curb, not your door—so figure out how you’re going to get 200-400 pound into your house. And some treadmills certainly require a little more assembly than others.

Many online retailers and even the treadmill companies will hire out a professional installer to put the thing together for you for around $100 or so.

Warranty

Most warranties have multiple parts: the motor, the frame, the parts and labor. You can often find a lifetime guarantee on the frame and a few years to cover the motor.

Most home treadmills should last between seven and 12 years, depending on use—though some parts can go sooner like the belt might simply need to be replaced after five years. But if you plan to use your treadmill lots or there’ll be multiple people on it in your home gym, then it might be worth it to upgrade to a higher level warranty, since you’ll be wearing it out.

In addition, you want to consider if the warranty covers labor and will send someone to your house to fix anything that goes wrong, or if you’ll have to pay additionally for that.

Maintenance

There are a lot of parts to a treadmill, which is why the warranty is something to heavily consider when weighing your options.

As part of regular use, you’ll want to clean and maintain your treadmill: check the belt for wear, dust and wipe it down so things don’t get stuck in the rollers, and unplug it if it’s not in use. The belt can also come askew, so you’ll want to keep it centered on the treadmill.

If the belt or motor wears out, then they’ll need to be replaced. A 1-ply belt should last three to five years, and a 2-ply belt can last up to ten years.

 

Best Folding Treadmills — Reviews & Recommendations 2018

Best Folding Treadmill Overall: Sole F85 Treadmill

Sole F85 Treadmill
  • The top model in the folding series and SOLE's number...

Pros: The Sole F85 has the kind of high-powered motor (4.0 CHP) and large belt (22-inches by 60-inches) you’d expect from a club-level treadmill. It can go up to 12 mph and has a 15% incline. It also has over-sized rollers, making for a smoother and quieter run.

With high-quality durability on the frame, belt and motor, this treadmill also has a higher weight limit at 400 pounds. Sole has also developed a proprietary shock absorption system that is top-level. This is good news for the larger athlete who’s looking for some cushioning in their treadmill.

But what really sells us is the ease with which it folds and unfolds, using a hydraulic transition system. Just press a button, and the treadmill folds itself!

Plus, the five-year warranty protects all those electronics and there’s a lifetime guarantee on the frame and motor. If in the first two years something goes wrong, free labor will even be included to come out and fix your treadmill.

Cons: A slightly older model, the Sole F85 doesn’t have as fancy a screen or as many programs as some of the other treadmills. There’s no touchscreen or video, and the fan only goes one speed.

If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, however, the eight built-in workout programs should be enough. And it comes with pulse monitors and a wireless heart rate strap system.

The other downside is all that durability and quality weighs extra. At almost 300 pounds, it can be hard to move from room to room, so consider where you want to station your treadmill.


Best Folding Treadmill for Running: ProForm 505 CST Treadmill

ProForm 505 CST Treadmill
  • iPod-compatible with quality audio system
  • 18 workout apps
  • 2.5 CHP motor
  • Incline levels from 0 to 10%
  • User weight capacity: 325 lbs.

Pros: The ProForm 505 CST treadmill is one of the best treadmills for small spaces, designed for compact use, without losing too much performance.

There is a 2.5 CHP motor. The belt goes up to 10 mph and can hit a 10% incline. Yet, it also folds up almost completely vertically, limiting the footprint to just the width of the base. And at just 195 pounds, it’s relatively light and easy to move.

Yet, even with that space-saving design, you still get relatively solid performance for the price and the ProShox Cushioning system is very absorbent.

Cons: To keep everything compact, the belt is relatively small at just 20-inches by 55-inches and the rollers are definitely on the small end at just under two inches.

On the theme of staying compact but functional, the display is also pretty basic. It shows speed, time and distance, with virtually no entertainment options—though you can connect an iPod. There are 18 pre-set workouts and heart rate monitor grip system, but no wireless heart rate option.

The warranty also covers lifetime on the frame and 25 years on the motor, but just one year for the parts.


Best Folding Treadmill for Walking: The Walker’s Foldaway Treadmill

Walkers Foldaway Treadmill

Pros: The Hammacher Schlemmer Walker’s Foldaway Treadmill is the most basic and low-cost walking treadmill.

This motorless treadmill doesn’t require an outlet—resistance is created using magnets—which makes it very simple to use and ideal for people who don’t want anything complicated.

It also easily folds up to just 14-inches wide. And because it doesn’t use a motor or rollers or have a large traditional treadmill display, it’s fairly light and can easily be pushed into a corner.

Cons: This treadmill is designed for walking, not high-end running. There are just four different incline heights and eight levels of resistance. The display, which is battery-powered, also shows just time, speed, distance, calories burned and heart rate if you’re using the heart rate sensors in the steel handlebars.

Some assembly is required and it can be slightly complicated. But once assembled, this is as simple as they come.


Best Folding Treadmill for Home: NordicTrack T 6.5 S Treadmill

NordicTrack T 6.5 S Treadmill
  • Dimension: 73x35.75x67.5 inch

Pros: NordicTrack is one of the industry standard brands in treadmills and this is their most affordable folding treadmill.

The T 6.5 S has a 2.6 CHP motor. It tops out at 10 mph and a 10% incline. It also comes with their custom FlexSelect cushioning, which can be turned on or off, giving you more options either to protect your joints or to simulate outdoor running.

NordicTrack has patented its SpaceSaver design, which easily folds the treadmill up in just one step into a very small footprint.

Cons: The display is relatively small. There’s no fan and no wireless heart rate option. But there are heart rate sensor grips and 20 built-in workout programs. Plus, it’s compatible with iFit to upload additional workouts. You can also plug an iPod in.

The warranty is just 1 year on parts and labor, but 25 years on the motor and a lifetime guarantee on the frame—which isn’t amazing, but is pretty standard.

Unfortunately, the motor can also be noisy, so if you’re looking for a quiet model, then this might not be for you.


Best Folding Treadmill on a Budget: XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill Black

Sale
XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill Black
  • Large 16" x 50" walking/running surface
  • Large 5 inch LCD display is easy to read and keeps you...
  • Speed range 0.5 -10 MPH allows for users of all fitness...
  • 12 preset programs offer unmatched variety for your...
  • 3 manual incline settings allow for maximum variety

Pros: For a budget treadmill, the XTERRA Fitness TR150 folding treadmill has more features than its competitors.

It has a 16-inch by 50-inch running belt and a display screen that gives you speed, distance, time, calories and heart rate via heart rate grip sensors on the handlebars. There are also 12 pre-set workouts.

When it’s folded up, the XTERRA is just 29-inches by 29-inches and is very light at slightly over 100 pounds.

Cons: This isn’t necessarily the treadmill for high-end runners. There are only three manual incline options and the speed only goes up to 10 mph.

And, while its attractive and durable for an entry-level treadmill, the small size comes with a cost: it only has a weight capacity of 220 pounds.

The warranty is also limited: lifetime guarantee on the frame, but just one year on the motor and 90 days on parts and labor.


Best Manual Folding Treadmill: Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill

Sale
XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill Black
  • Large 16" x 50" walking/running surface
  • Large 5 inch LCD display is easy to read and keeps you...
  • Speed range 0.5 -10 MPH allows for users of all fitness...
  • 12 preset programs offer unmatched variety for your...
  • 3 manual incline settings allow for maximum variety

Pros: The Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual treadmill has eight levels of magnetic resistance. Most manual treadmills are quieter than motorized versions, and this particular model is especially smooth and quiet.

It’s also exceptionally light, at less than 50 pounds, and easy to move, with a simple pin mechanism to lock the folding belt up into place. And with almost no display or additional frame beyond the minimal handlebars, it folds up nearly completely flat and could easily be slid under a bed or into a closet.

Even though there isn’t a traditional display or any kind of water bottle holders or racks, there is a small computer that shows speed, distance, calories, time and an odometer.

Cons: There are no incline options. The treadmill is set at one gentle incline and that’s it.

This is a minimal treadmill at a minimal price for those looking for something simple, non-motorized and small. There are no frills—literally none—which means if you want a TV display, a water bottle holder, a reading rack, or even larger handlebars, then this might not be the treadmill for you. Ditto if you’re in the market for a high-powered long-distance running machine.


Best Folding Treadmill Honorable Mention: ProForm Performance 300i Treadmill

Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill
  • Quiet and smooth magnetic resistance with 8 adjustable...
  • Multi-function computer including speed, distance,...
  • Suitable for users up to 220lbs. 12 month warranty
  • 12 month warranty. Product footprint : 19.1" x 47.2"
  • Size when folded : 48" (h) x 7.9" (d). Box dimensions :...

Pros: For the vast majority of users, the ProForm Performance 300i treadmill will meet all their needs at a very reasonable price. The 2.0 CHP motor goes up to 10 mph and a 10% incline. That’s not the highest or the steepest a treadmill will go, but for most of us it gets the job done, especially for that price. Both are controlled with a simple one-touch button.

It also uses the ProShox cushioning system found on most ProForm treadmills.

If you’re looking for bells and whistles, then you can use the 16 programmed workouts or sync the treadmill with iFit. You can plug in an iPod. There are also heart rate sensors and it has wireless heart rate chest strap compatibility, which is great if you want to use heart rate to monitor your workouts (which is a good idea) and gives you options to go between holding onto the handlebars or using the easier to run with chest strap..

Cons: The belt is just 16-inches by 50-inches, so if you have a longer stride—ie. Are taller or running faster—then you might find it cramped.


Treadmill FAQs

Q: How do you unfold a treadmill?

A: Most folding treadmills include some kind of assist mechanism. The best treadmill brands have their own proprietary systems for folding and unfolding, like a hydraulic mechanism so that you press a button and simply watch it fold. Once it folds up, you can roll it into a corner—almost all folding treadmills have wheels on the bottom.

Q: What are the best treadmill brands?

A: NordicTrack is one of the largest manufacturers of fitness equipment in the world. Precor makes high-end treadmills found in most gyms. ProForm is known for its affordable exercise equipment. Sole is known particularly for its foldable treadmills.

Q: How do you choose a treadmill?

A: Choosing the right folding treadmill comes down to testing it for yourself. Decide where your treadmill will go and what options you want, and then head into a store or gym to test out a few. That’s the only way to know how it feels and how your stride fits. You’ll want your feet not to hit the front and you’ll want to easily be able to straddle the belt and reach the display.

Q: Where can I buy a treadmill?

A: Obviously, you can buy treadmills online—either from a retail site or directly from the treadmill manufacturer. But if you want to test it or buy a treadmill in person, then you’ll want to go to a sports store. Most large sports stores, like Dick’s, sell treadmills, as do many stores that sell appliances, like Sears.

Final Thoughts

When looking for the top folding treadmills, you need to balance size and storage with performance. For us, the Sole F85 is the clear winner because of its high-powered motor and durability combined with the one-button hydraulic self-folding system.

But choosing a folding treadmill is all about figuring out what you’re looking for in a convenient and challenging workout.

These are just some of our suggestions. Why are you using a folding treadmill instead of a stationary one? What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!


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