Top-Rated Commercial Treadmills

Treadmills remain the most popular piece of equipment offered by health clubs, notes the Wall Street Journal in 2015. Manufacturers build commercial treadmills to last longer than those designed for home settings. They are also sturdier so they can withstand use from multiple people, many times per day. A commercial treadmill usually has a more powerful motor, bulkier frame and resistant belt to deal with wear and tear. When you shop for a commercial treadmill, consider the space, your budget and what type of workouts will be performed on the machine to determine the top ones for your needs.

Shopping Specifics

Dozens of treadmill manufacturers make commercial models that offer many of the same features. Look at reliability of a brand, what other major fitness facilities use the model and their ease of use when shopping. Commercial treadmills usually offer electronic programming, heart rate monitor compatibility with prominent strap brands and cardio theater; the top brands for you are compatible with your particular fitness center set-up.

Energy use is another consideration, as is noise. Lesser-quality commercial models may emit loud sounds that can be overwhelming if you've got several being used at the same time in the same area.

Buy commercial treadmills from specialty stores dealing with these larger, more powerful pieces of equipment; a sporting goods store is unlikely to carry the quality of treadmill you need to withstand the wear and tear of a commercial setting. Precor, Star Trac, Life Fitness and Landice are among the top manufacturers according to the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports.

Shock Absoption

One of the reasons people choose to run or walk on treadmills is that they provide a forgiving surface and don't put as much impact on the body. Look for commercial machines with stable and firm decks that feel softer than cement but aren't too bouncy or spongy, which can also create joint problems. Top-rated machines will have research supporting their deck design and not just proclaim that they're easier on the body.

Controls and Buttons

The controls and buttons on any top-rated commercial treadmill should be easy to use. Opt for a machine with ones that are well-labeled and large enough to read for most users. One-touch changes to speed and incline as well as a display that shows time, speed, incline and heart rate also appear on the top-rated commercial machines. Avoid treadmills with buttons or controls that protrude and are more likely to snap or break. Arrows or words printed on the console should be resistant to rubbing off over time.

Power and Frame

The top-rated commercial treadmills are powered with 4 or 5 horsepower. Some treadmills use 3 horsepower, but are known as "light commercial grade" and may not be best for heavy use. A solid, sturdy frame that weighs between 300 and 600 pounds and accommodates users of various sizes makes it a top pick. The top commercial treadmills will also have a maximum weight limit of 400 to 500 pounds. The belt should measure at least 6 feet to allow runners with a long stride to feel as if they have enough space.

Non-motorized treadmills are gaining ground as a niche in the fitness industry. You use your own leg power to move the belt and obtain speed. The work on a manual treadmill is harder for the user, but people training for short sprint work, such as football players, and Cross Fit enthusiasts, flock to the machines. Only a few manufacturers currently sell quality manual treadmills, including the company Woodway.

Maintenance and Safety

Top-rated treadmills offer two- or three-year warranties. Some top-rated treadmills feature a self-lubricating system, which means the belt glides easily over the deck. Manually lubricated treadmills must be regularly maintained, and if they aren't, you risk gradual breakdown of the motor, deck, belt and rollers. Also, research the repair process. Having a local customer representative with certified maintenance staff means you're dealing with a top brand and model.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that treadmill accidents cause approximately 24,000 injuries each year. At least one emergency stop button clearly visible and accessible by the user is a must. Stop buttons shouldn't be placed in a location that's easy to accidentally brush while walking or running, though. Handrails and ample foot rails, which provide a place to pause while the belt is still moving, also show up on the top-rated treadmills.

About the Author

Andrea Cespedes has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. A personal trainer, run coach, group fitness instructor and master yoga teacher, she also holds certifications in holistic and fitness nutrition.