Manual treadmill vs. motorized treadmill

Fitness Equipment

There are more differences between manual and motorized treadmills than a power cord. Motorized devices offer many features, such as curved belt decks and built-in speakers.

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Are manual or motorized treadmills best?

Treadmills have been popular for decades. The first models relied on human force to keep the belt going. The introduction of motorized treadmills changed the game slightly, bringing a new twist to walking in place.

But is a motorized treadmill better than a manual one? Did users take a step forward with plug-in treadmills or a step back? There are pros and cons to both manual and motorized treadmills, and which one is best depends on your priorities, needs and preferences. 

Manual treadmills

The manual treadmill requires only the traction of your feet to move the belt, so the user determines the pace at which they move. Many people appreciate this feature. Some high-end manual treadmills have a curved belt deck, while others have flat ones.

Manual treadmills generally don’t come with all the bells and whistles of motorized ones, but they still offer an impressive array of benefits. Prices vary from $130 for a basic flat-belt model to top-of-the-line curved-belt models that cost over $3,000.

Manual treadmill pros

Since manual treadmills require more human power to operate than motorized ones, they work the leg muscles more. That means more calorie-burning and better cardiovascular endurance.

A manual treadmill is safer than a motorized one because the belt automatically stops when the user’s feet stop moving. This can prevent severe injuries in the event of a fall.

In addition, manual models are generally less expensive and require less maintenance. They are lightweight, and since they require no electricity, you can set them up just about anywhere. 

Finally, using a manual treadmill encourages proper form and technique. To pull the ground for each step, you’ll need to use the correct muscles, with feet landing exactly under your hips.

Manual treadmill cons

One of the biggest drawbacks of manual treadmills is that they require more effort than motorized ones, making workouts more challenging. However, depending on your goals, that may be an advantage.

In addition, manual treadmills don’t generally offer the wide variety of features that motorized ones do, including various incline levels, built-in workout apps and colorful, engaging displays.

Best manual treadmills

The Stamina In Motion T900 

The Stamina In Motion T900 

This manual treadmill is a solid basic model with a flat belt. Priced on the lower end, this device offers two incline-level options and is equipped with a digital display for users to track speed, distance, time and calories burned. 

Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Sunny Health and Fitness Force Fitness Manual Treadmill

Sunny Health and Fitness Force Fitness Manual Treadmill

At a somewhat higher price point, this treadmill offers 16 levels of resistance as well as multi-grip, sweat-resistant handrails. It can be used by people up to 300 pounds and has lockable wheels. 

Sold by Amazon

Motorized treadmills

With a motorized treadmill, a motor keeps the belt moving, motivating users not to slow down or stop. 

In general, motorized treadmills cost more than manual ones but are also more durable. Prices range from $500-$700 for a solid basic one to $1,500-$3,800 for a high-end machine.

Motorized treadmill pros

The convenience of digital control is a big plus with motorized treadmills. People also appreciate the ability to control incline and speed with the touch of a button. 

Other engaging features can include built-in speakers, along with workout programs and trackers to monitor speed, distance, calories burned and more.

Motorized treadmill cons

Motorized models at the low end of the price range often lack power. Typically, those priced under $500 do not have the 1.5 horsepower required to handle aggressive workouts or heavier users and, as a result, turn out to be poor investments.

Since the motor needs electricity to turn the belt, you’ll be limited in where you can place the treadmill. Depending on your room layout and outlet locations, that can leave you with an awkwardly placed machine.

Safety can be a concern with motorized treadmills, especially if the user falls. A motorized treadmill belt will continue to move regardless of whether someone is walking or running on it. Should you fall, the belt could cause severe burns. However, almost all motorized models come with an emergency stop cord to prevent such problems. 

Best motorized treadmills

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7718 Strider

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7718 Strider 

This is the best basic motorized treadmill. At the low end of the motorized price range, this model has nine built-in workout programs, a heart-rate sensor, Sunny Fitness mobile app compatibility and USB and headphone jacks. It also folds up with wheels for easy transport. 

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon


Bowflex Treadmill 22

One of the best high-end motorized treadmills, this machine has a 22-inch built-in console with custom workouts and the ability to stream entertainment right to you. It offers incline training, a heart-rate armband, Bluetooth speakers and much more. 

Sold by Bowflex

Should you get a manual or motorized treadmill?

The bottom line is that you should get a manual treadmill if you’re looking for a cheaper machine your feet control and more freedom with placement. If you want to use more muscles and build better cardio strength while burning more calories, and you’re not looking for fantasy gadgets, opt for a manual machine.

On the other hand, a motorized treadmill is for you if you want a machine to move the belt and challenge you to keep up. These electronic machines generally come with various incline options, digital gauges, built-in programs and even streaming entertainment. If you want a more durable treadmill that offers a wider variety of button-enabled controls, go with a motorized treadmill.


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Sarah Edwards writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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