Updated: Feb 25
A review of 3 affordable home running machines.
Twenty years ago only A-lister film stars or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies could or would have a home running machine. They were as rare as rocking horse shit and you had to have some serious wedge if you wanted one.
Back then (twenty years ago) owning a running machine is the contemporary equivalent of having a Bentley parked on the drive or swimming pool parked in the back garden. They were just that decadent, unnecessary and unobtainable for anyone not in the 1%.
And they were monstrous in size as well. A pre-millennial treadmill looked more like a launching pad for an intercontinental ballistic missile. Which, as I’m sure you can appreciate, was a massive limitation. If you didn’t own a mansion, castle, country estate or illegally annexed satrap you just wouldn’t have the space to store the damn thing.
But, you’ll be glad to know, things have changed. Changed in a big way.
Nowadays you’ll find running machines in spare bedrooms, dining rooms and/or garages right across the country. Thanks to free market capitalism and conspicuous consumerism the price of the running machine has dropped precipitously making them affordable for all.
Doesn’t matter from which demography you hail or which tax bracket you’re boxed in; doesn’t matter if you live on a council estate or in one of those papier-mâché new builds; doesn’t matter if you drive a Ford Cortina or fancy pantsy Teslar. YOU! Yes you can have your very own running machine.
‘But,’ I hear you thinking, ‘but I don’t have me a county estate or six-figure salary. So how can I afford a running machine?’
Listen, I told you, thanks to trickle-down economics anyone – and I mean anyone – can afford a rolling road. Don’t believe me? Then read on . . .
A review of 3 affordable running machines suitable for the home gym
1: JLL’s T350 digital folding treadmill (£529.99)
Product Overview (click image for availability)
Speed ranges from 0.3 km/h to 18 km/h; Incline ranges from 0 to 20 levels.
5-inch LCD monitor displays time, speed, distance, heart-rate and calories; 20 running programs, first 3 programs can be customised; High powered speakers; Bluetooth enabled with iPod, iPhone, MP3 connectivity and USB interface.
6-point cushion deck absorption system; foldable with built-in wheels.
Running area size is 121 cm in length and 41 cm in width; Maximum user weight is 120 kg or 18.89 stone
Say hello to JLL’s T350 digital folding treadmill. This little gem offers pretty much all the same features as what you’d expect to find on a gym runner. In fact, you get a bit more than most ‘professional’ models.
The speed ranges from 0.3 to 18kph which, I think you’ll agree, is plenty fast enough for anyone who’s not an aspiring Olympic track and field athlete. But this is where it gets interesting. The incline ranges from 0% to 20%! That’s impressive. I’ve sweated over many a treadmill in my time but never one that exceeded 15% incline. 20% is ridiculously steep – like, North Face of the Eiger steep. Seriously, if you have your sights set on summiting Everest in the near future, JLL’s digital folding treadmill could be of assistance.
What other features does it have? In a word lots. Before I rattle them off you might want to make yourself comfortable, as this may take some time.
JLL’s digital folder sports a hefty 5-inch LCD display monitor which will keep you informed of your vitals whilst at altitude. In techni-colour you can keep an eye on your heart rate whilst watching those calories melt away.
In addition, it comes with 20 running programs, 3 of which can be custom tailored to your personal training aspirations/goals. This is perfect for those occasions when we want to spice-up a run session without having to think; you can just jump on, select a program and away you go. Also, it has in-built speakers and Bluetooth connection.
So whether you’re trying to set a new marathon record or preparing for an ascent of the world’s tallest mountain, you can do so whilst listening to Maiden's Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.
A solid 4 stars after nearly 150 reviews
2: NERO foldable Pro Treadmill with Bluetooth (£379.99)
Product Overview (click image for availability)
Bluetooth connectivity (FREE app download) - connects to iPhone, iPad & Android.
Log training activity indoor & Outdoor while Running present google maps.
Smart phone app control - 3 level manual incline.
12 Auto programs and manual program.
On board computer with LED display (time, speed, distance, calories, scan mode).
I proudly and most obsequiously present NERO’s foldable Pro Treadmill with Bluetooth. Not only is this one of the most reasonably priced runners on the market but it’s also the best rated – relative to the number of reviews it’s received.
So why have nearly 450 people commented favourably on NERO’s treadmill? Is it just that they were afraid of being murdered most horribly? Or does it have something to do with its rock-solid durability and array of technological applications? Let’s investigate the matter shall we . . .
For starters NERO’s rolling road comes equipped with all those features we’ve come to expect of the indoor runner. The top speed would pose a challenge for anyone who doesn’t have a cardiovascular system on par with Haile Gebrselassie’s. And though there aren’t as many incline variations as with JLL’s, you’ll still be able to simulate a day out at Snowdon.
In addition, it comes with a nifty app that enables you to log training activities which provide you with real-time data in relation to Google map routes; I guess this is a running equivalent of Strava. Also, you have 12 program options to choose from. So whilst you’re pitting yourself against a section of the Marathon des Sables you can keep track of your heart rate and calories. And after you’ve induced cardiac arrest you can fold it away and pop it in the pantry until next time.
Still maintaining a firm grasp of four stars after a whopping 449 reviews
3: Branx Fitness’s ‘Cardio Pro’ touchscreen home running machine (£599.99)
Product Overview (click image for availability)
7Km/h Max Speed (10.6mph). 12 programs. 130kg max user weight.
Foldable treadmill with amazing 'smart shock absorption system' for maximum user comfort & support.
Comes with a great, 1250 x 450mm usable running area, pre-assembled in packaging so minimal assembly required.
Ladies and gentlemen please put your hands together for Branx Fitness’s ‘Cardio Pro’ touchscreen home running machine. I’ll be brief in my discussion. Not because I’ve ran out of things to say but because, unsurprisingly, this treadmill does pretty much everything the other two do.
The primary point of interest here is the immense rating – 5 stars after 220 ratings! – and the warranty. Branx Fitness offer 2 years parts and labour and 5 years on the frame and motor. This shows that they have a lot of confidence in their product.
Also included with this treadmill you’ll receive a made-to-measure training mat that reduces slippage and prevents the dining room floor from getting scratched. All in all this is an impressive product.
5 stars after 220 ratings!
A few things to consider prior to purchasing a treadmill
Ensuring that you have adequate space to accommodate a running machine is a must before clicking the buy button. First find out the dimensions of the runner and size-up the space where you plan to position it. Also, make sure that the ceiling is plenty high enough. I know this sounds like an egg-sucking session but we must remember that a treadmill can raise us as much as a foot off the floor; even higher if you start fiddling with the elevation.
A narrow deck – or belt – can make it feel as though you’re running along a tightrope. This not only could take the pleasure out running but could increase your chances of clipping the side of the runner which puts you at risk of tripping. A good deck size is around 120 X 40cm.
All the treadmills featured in this review come replete with a display console. This is a must. One of the primary perks to running on a treadmill as opposed to the road is the fact that you are provided with information regarding speed, distance calories, etc., etc. If a treadmill doesn’t provide you with this information it is, in my opinion, worthless.
Incline is a must. Again, this is a feature that makes the treadmill worth having as it provides you with more training options and the ability to instantly vary the terrain.
Hard though it might be to believe, but there are many benefits to supplementing your road running with treadmill sessions. I've identified a range of benefits below.
The smooth surface of the treadmill can reduce trips and falls.
Because treadmills are spring-loaded the unavoidable impact of running is absorbed thus reducing stress on the joints of the leg.
They offer a richer variation of training options due to the incline function and in-built programmes.
You can incorporate them into home circuit sessions.
You can walk, jog or run whilst watching TV!
Provide a cardiovascular outlet when the weather is rubbish.
Considering that there’s over 263,000 miles of tarmac crisscrossing the UK one could justifiably question the need for an indoor running machine, besides the benefits outlined above.
Though there is undeniably no shortage of outdoor running routes, treadmills, like stationary bikes and rowing machines, enable us to tailor super specific training sessions whilst receiving accurate information on our performance outputs.
Also, if you’re quite partial to hill climbing but your house doesn’t back on to the Peak District, a treadmill will feed that perversion all day long. And if you’re a fair-weather runner or related to the Wicked Witch of the West a running machine will allow you to get your cardio fix on rainy days.
Below I have included a couple training sessions orientated around the running machine. You can either try them at the gym or when you get your own.
(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.