Are Manual Treadmills Any Good?
If you're on a budget, a manual treadmill might seem like a reasonable alternative to its pricier motorized cousin. It can be difficult, however, to keep a steady workout pace on a manual model as your feet power the belt. That's not to say you can't get an effective workout on a non-motorized treadmill -- you'll definitely have to work a bit harder and make a few concessions. If that's not a problem, then a manual treadmill might be a good thing for you.
Manual treadmills, because they contain no electrical components, cost less than motorized treadmills, often as much as several hundred dollars. Fewer parts that are less complicated also contribute to the lower price. You'll still want to try out a manual version before deciding if the savings are worth it for you.
Though manually operated, non-motorized treadmills may still have different incline settings to vary the intensity, but you can't adjust the incline automatically throughout your workout. You'll need to control faster or slower paces with pure foot power, but it will be hard to achieve the same effect as a motorized treadmill's programmed workout options.
You can use manual treadmills anywhere since they require no electricity; because they are lighter in weight, many manual models fold up for easy storage. Manual treadmills also operate more quietly since there are no motorized parts to produce sound. Some of the more upscale manual models, similar to motorized models, feature a battery-operated console to track workout performance including speed, distance, time and calories.
Since manual treadmills require more effort from the user than motorized versions, you will have to use a lot more leg strength if you aim to run on one. Because these kind of machines often have smaller belts, running can prove to be even more problematic. In some cases, the running belt on a manual treadmill will not move smoothly, so keeping a consistent pace for running may be frustrating.
A manual treadmill's running belt stops when you do, eliminating the need for a safety switch and protecting you if you fall or need to stop quickly. If unable to maintain a consistent pace, you may experience muscle strain. If you hold onto the handrail in an effort to generate more foot power, you may more likely hold your breath, which could cause elevated blood pressure.
- Smoliga JM, Hegedus EJ, Ford KR. Increased physiologic intensity during walking and running on a non-motorized, curved treadmill. Phys Ther Sport. 2015;16(3):262-7. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2014.09.001
- Edwards RB, Tofari PJ, Cormack SJ, Whyte DG. Non-motorized Treadmill Running Is Associated with Higher Cardiometabolic Demands Compared with Overground and Motorized Treadmill Running. Front Physiol. 2017;8:914. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00914
- Velazquez E. Is a non-motorized treadmill worth the investment? Muscle and Fitness.
- Fullenkamp AM, Tolusso DV, Laurent CM, Campbell BM, Cripps AE. A Comparison of Both Motorized and Nonmotorized Treadmill Gait Kinematics to Overground Locomotion. J Sport Rehabil. 2018;27(4):357-363. doi:10.1123/jsr.2016-0125
Sommer Leigh has produced home, garden, family and health content since 1997 for such nationally known publications as "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "Midwest Living," "Healthy Kids" and "American Baby." Leigh also owns a Web-consulting business and writes for several Internet publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in information technology and Web management from the University of Phoenix.