Deciding on the best folding treadmill for you? After spending years with over a dozen treadmills running the gamut of price, quality and performance, I recommend the LifeSpan TR1200i Folding Treadmill to most people. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its more costly competitors but it gets the job done for a fair price and does it well.
My Pick: LifeSpan TR1200i
While it strangely doesn’t come with a belt lubricant, the LifeSpan TR1200i is easily my top pick; it suits most runners perfectly. It’s built to last, performs well and is price competitive even with some of the $1000+ folding treadmills I’ve tested. It folds easily and won’t take up much room in your apartment or house if that’s an issue. The LifeSpan TR1200i offers excellent cushioning making it a joy to run on. Not only does it offer a better feeling run than its nearest competitors, it’s also more quiet. The motor feels like it has some grunt too, coping well at higher speeds.
In terms of features it has about what you’d expect for its price-range, not missing anything critical. It has fifteen inclines that competes favorably even with the much higher-priced Sole F85. It also maxes out at 11MPH which is fast enough for even the most spirited runners. The belt is wide enough for tall and hefty dudes.
Naturally, it doesn’t scale to commercial-grade use so don’t setup a gym with one. It also doesn’t fit edge-case runners. If you’re a runner with extreme speed, size or weight concerns this isn’t the product for you. The tracking software also leaves room for improvement, it comes with a year free but isn’t worth paying for after that.
Initial assembly was easy enough by myself after moving it into place. Ideally as with almost all treadmills, you’d want to bring a friend for assembly to speed things up.
If you’re particularly tall or heavy, anything above 6’3” or 280lbs, I’d consider moving up to a higher end model. The Sole F85 or the NordicTrack C 990 are great options with that little more room and durability. (I’m 5’11” and 170lbs and it suits me perfectly by the way.)
The heart sensor seems to be a little more hit-and-miss than some of the other treadmills I’ve tested. Mine still performs well enough for its purpose but it’s not great. One of LifeSpan’s customer support told me the sensor has been updated slightly with newer-built models which should fix my reliability issues.
Ultimately it doesn’t compete with the Sole but it crushes competition in its price range and everything beneath it. Track size, cushioning, motor and reliability are most important with treadmills and LifeSpan has nailed it there. Set aside an extra $15 for some lubricant and you’ll be set. It’s a treadmill well worth its price that’ll last a good while and won’t have broken the bank. It’s a pleasure to run on, is sturdy and performs admirably.
An Introduction, Covering All The Basics
I’ve received a number of emails from readers recently asking about folding treadmills and what I’d recommend. Choosing the best folding treadmill wasn’t as difficult as I had initially thought. In each price bracket there were only a few good options and whittling them down was easy. Anecdotally I’ve seen a huge rise in people setting up home-gyms for the first time. Folding treadmills have maybe been the biggest part of that. They’re compact and serve the largest group of gym-goers; not to mention they’re pretty affordable.
I’d never really considered talking much about gym equipment but in hindsight that seems crazy. It’s something I know deeply and it fits the point of the site down to the letter. With that said there are a heap of junky treadmills out there, all with their pros and cons. I’ve considered all the folding treadmills I’ve used over the years to make up this list of best folding treadmills. I’ve also taken in some valued and expert outside advice that covers pretty much anyone at any price point.
Folding treadmills are popular for numerous reasons, and are becoming much more so as more people setup home-gyms or just dip their toes in the water with gym equipment. Folding treadmills are wonderfully compact, and every choice on this list does a good job of folding quickly and easily. I’d have no issue folding these everyday if I needed to. They also all perform to at least an acceptable standard with basic running performance, what you’d expect from a treadmill. Differences come in with build quality, extra features, assembly, and (obviously) price but they all make my best list for one reason or another and you can be confident any treadmill on this list is the best option in its price range.
The Best of The Best: Sole F85 Treadmill
It’s the best that Sole offers and it shows… This treadmill is commercial grade, offers all features you could ask for, it’s high performance; real quality. That quality comes at a cost however but if you want the best of the best this is it. Seasoned runners will find themselves at home with something that accommodates even the most rigorous training regimes with ease. It supports weights of up to 400lbs, suitable for anyone. It wouldn’t surprise me if this lasted over a decade for marathon runners. And as you’d expect for something of this price it comes with belt lube in the box.
I’ve some some pretty poor experiences with the in-built fans that come with some of the supposed “higher end” treadmills. The one in the Sole is stellar and actually helps keep you cool on long runs. This thing is built like a tank and it shows in every part of its design. Finally, it supports some of the highest running speeds of any treadmill I’ve ever seen for a home-use treadmill. Something I initially skipped over when I first started using this was just how nice the cupholders/storage is. It really shows the attention and care they’ve taken its design.
I’ve never been big on heart rate monitors with most treadmills. I’ve generally used other ways to measure my performance. The Sole has been the exception, its chest strap is startlingly good. It’s more accurate, reads more data and takes less focus to use. I’m so thrilled I took the chance to try it out.
The speakers were the only thing I was overly disappointed with. I found them a little muddy sounding, okay but nothing crazy. (It’s a treadmill, not a boombox after all.) Folding is easy especially for, by far, the bulkiest treadmill I’ve ever had at home. It saves me a good few feet of floor space, it’s obviously not the most compact but that comes with quality.
As you’d imagine, this weighs the most of the list so prepare yourself for some heavy-lifting with a friend when you take delivery.
To summarize, if money isn’t a concern this is undoubtedly the best folding treadmill money can buy. It performs exceptionally in all areas and is built to last for years to come; if you’re serious about running this is your ticket.
For The Price Conscious Consumer: Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill
If you’re first looking to get into running or you want a backup for in front of TV, this treadmill might be perfect option. It made the best seller list on Amazon for a reason, it gets the job done well for its price. Sure, it won’t last forever and isn’t the most high performance or as nice, but it gets the important bits right. Much like a lower-cost version of the LifeSpan. It’s a little louder than the other higher-priced options but it’s running track is a good size. Like its higher priced friends, it doesn’t feel like it’s struggling when it hits higher running speeds either. It’s rated to 10MPH which is plenty fast.
As you’d expect for something lower-end, it doesn’t come with many of the niceties of higher-end treadmills: It doesn’t come with a belt lubricant, the plastic feels a little cheap, and assembly took a little more effort than I would’ve liked but it’s completely workable. It also only offers two levels of incline if that’s important for you, it never bothered me personally.
Probably the most egregious thing for me in terms of its usability is its display, which isn’t backlit. At the best of times the display’s annoyingly hard the read. I got more used to it after a few runs but even in this price range it’s something I’d expect. The belt in mine also feels a little strange to run on, almost like it doesn’t move evenly. I don’t know if it’s some kind of placebo as it doesn’t seem to impact my use of the machine at all but I don’t get the same vibe from the (admittedly much higher priced) treadmills I run on. It’s a non-issue though, just something that crosses my mind when I use it sometimes. It most definitely feels sturdy in use and not like it’s struggling.
Annoyingly, during assembly I found I had to almost force a bunch of the screws. A lot of the holes simply aren’t big enough requiring a drill to assemble properly.
Overall it certainly may not be the best folding treadmill but for its price category it certainly is. If you want something reasonable and low cost, this is it.
The Most Bargain Basement Option: Best Choice Products Black 500W Folding Treadmill
I was unsure if I’d include this treadmill as it really is bargain-basement. It’s cheapness shows in most every aspect of the product. As I considered it more I figured it could be good for some very specific use-cases which is ultimately why it made the cut. Firstly, its recommended weight limit is 250lbs which I’d say is a bit generous, ideally you wouldn’t want to be pushing up against that, which excludes a good amount of men that are simply too heavy.
I’d highly recommend springing for the Welso unless you’re really pushed for cash or fit one of those very specific use-cases. This is barely at par, whereas the Welso at least performs well and will last.
Overall it feels underpowered, don’t expect any number of years of use out of this. However if you’re someone that is looking to first get into running, just need it over winter or want another one somewhere in the house this is the good enough option. It’s effectively a much worse version of the Welso, fitting the lowest price bracket. Assembly is easy, in large part because it’s so light and there’s so little to assemble which is a plus. The track size is narrow making it a better fit for smaller men. Because of this, it’s also naturally compact, easy to move, and store.
I take reasonably large strides when I run on a treadmill and the first couple times I had to adjust for its smaller track. No issues with sound either, quiet by most peoples standards I would guess. It’s nice to see the console and controls as simple and well thought out as they are, especially considering its price – the display is backlit and easy to read. It doesn’t have any special features, it doesn’t incline, it doesn’t come with any kind of storage and it doesn’t have a heart rate meter but as a budget option that’s to be expected. The belt seemed a little uneven, like the motor didn’t like higher speed which was quite concerning.
If you’re a college kid living in an apartment or dorm this would be okay. Overall this is just acceptable enough to recommend at the lowest-level price range. Get something better if you can.