Best Manual Treadmills on the Market – In Depth Buying Guide

Best Manual Treadmills

When most people think of treadmills, they immediately bring up the image of an electric plug in-model, just like the ones found in commercial gyms all over the world. Yet, there is another option – the manual treadmill. A manual treadmill can offer a budget-friendly addition to your home gym that you may not have thought about adding.

Many people dismiss manual treadmills as not being up to the needs of most serious workout enthusiasts. However, that is not always the case. In this article, we delve into the world of manual treadmills to showcase the best ones currently on the market. We’ll also provide you with an in-depth manual treadmill buyer’s guide, along with an essential FAQ.

The Top 6 Best Manual Treadmills in 2019

Product Name

Preview

Type and Our Rating

Buying Options

1. Assault Air Runner

Assault Fitness AirRunner

Best Curved Manual Treadmill

2. Sunny Health & Fitness 7700 Asuna

Sunny Health & Fitness 7700 Asuna High Performance Cardio Trainer, Manual Portable Treadmill with Heavy Duty Designed Dual Flywheels, Brown/A

Best High-End Manual Treadmill

3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7723

Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill Manual Treadmill with 16 Levels of Magnetic Resistance, 300 LB Max Weight and Dual Flywheels - SF-T7723

Best All-Around Manual Treadmill

4. Exerpeutic 100XL

Exerpeutic 100XL High Capacity Magnetic Resistance Manual Treadmill with Heart Pulse System

Best Manual Treadmill for Heavy People

5. ProGear 190

ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill with 2 Level Incline and Twin Flywheels

Best Cheap Manual Treadmill

6. Fitness Reality TR1000

Fitness Reality TR1000 Manual Treadmill with 2 Level Incline and Twin Flywheels by Paradigm Health and Wellness Inc

Best Runner Up Cheap Manual Treadmill

1. Assault Air Runner


Assault Fitness AirRunner

Best Curved Manual Treadmill

Key Specs:

  • Dimensions: 74 x 38 x 22 inches
  • Max User Weight: 350 pounds
  • Weight: 280 lbs.
  • Console: Hi-Contrast LCD
  • Incline: No
  • Warranty: 5-year frame / 3-year parts

The Assault Air Runner is very intuitive and user-friendly. It arrives with the minimal amount of set up, requiring just the connection of the side rails and monitor. To begin using the Assault, you hop on the front of the machine and start running. To sprint just run a little further forward. As you push on the belt, it will accommodate the amount of force that you are exerting.

The curvature of the Assault allows for really solid footing when you’re running. This is because your body and hips will have a measure of pendulum swing when you are running. Rather than providing you with an artificially set speed consistently, as you get with an electric treadmill, the Assault responds to the varying speed of your movement, providing an immensely more natural running experience. This minimizes the risk of injury that is ever-present with an electric treadmill that runs at a constant speed.

An interesting piece of feedback that quite a few users of the Assault Air Runner provide is that, after using it for some time, they find that their posture and gait improve. This is due to the subtle biomechanical training that the body undergoes when using the machine.

The guys who make the Assault Air Runner are great advocates of high-intensity interval training. As a result, their machine is ideal for performing HIIT training. You can change your speed at will and, of course, there is no maximum speed.

Build

The Assault Air Runner is an incredibly solid machine. It has a steel frame and handrails and all of the hardware is corrosion resistant. The slat running belt lasts for an amazing 150,000 miles. This machine is designed for commercial gym use so you will have no problems with durability when you put it in your home gym.

Compact Design

The Air Runner is a compactly designed treadmill. It is 70 inches long and 33 inches wide. This makes it quite a lot smaller than your conventional electric treadmill.

The weight of the Air Runner is 280 pounds. This is impressively light for a commercial piece of cardio equipment. As a comparison, the Woodway Curve Air Runner is 350 pounds.

Built-In Workouts

Despite being a manual treadmill, the Assault Air Runner does come with built-in workout programs. You get 8 programs, including a HIIT workout. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to track all of your workouts and download your data to your favorite training app.

Monitor

The Assault Air Runner provides you with an easily readable LCD monitor. It can monitor your heart rate and sync to your device. It will monitor your distance, speed, watts, and pace. Your caloric output and time will also be recorded.

The monitor is very user-friendly. As soon as you start moving on the treadmill, all of the diagnostics will start recording your measurements.

What’s Not So Good?

The Assault Air Runner is an expensive treadmill. It will cost you around the same amount of money as the most expensive home use treadmills on the market.

For those who are used to working out on an electric treadmill, they may be disappointed to find that there are no features, such as incline/decline, a workout fan, music port or tablet holder. You get none of these with the Assault Air Runner.

2. Sunny Health & Fitness 7700 Asuna


Sunny Health & Fitness 7700 Asuna High Performance Cardio Trainer, Manual Portable Treadmill with Heavy Duty Designed Dual Flywheels, Brown/A

Best High-End Manual Treadmill

Key Specs:

  • Dimensions: 58.5 x 30 x 27.6 inches
  • Max User Weight: 440 lbs.
  • Weight: 189 lbs.
  • Console: No
  • Incline: Yes
  • Warranty: 5-year manufacturers / 90-day limited parts

The Sunny 7700 Asuna is a high spec manual trainer designed for the serious athlete. It is ideal for sports specific training, rehabilitation, and general fitness. Because it features auto resistance adjustment, the Sunny 7700 Asuna is suitable for all levels of fitness. This machine allows you to work on your cardiovascular and your muscular fitness at the same time. It offers features and benefits that are rarely found on traditional manual treadmills, allowing for it to compete with electric treadmills in terms of workout productivity and results!

The Sunny Asuna 7700 was released by Sunny in 2018 and has become one of their most popular treadmills. Sunny are a California based manufacturer of high quality, affordable home fitness equipment who have forged a reputation for excellence.

Build

The Sunny 7700 Asuna provides you with an impressively solid frame that is constructed from high-grade steel. The durability of the frame is evidenced by the maximum user capacity of this unit of 440 pounds. That is virtually unheard of in the manual treadmill market.

The Sunny 7700 Asuna features dual flywheels which sit on either side of the front of the running belt. This allows for a quick response and more controlled performance. Each flywheel works to smoothly rotate the flywheel to ensure that you end up with a smooth, quiet and jerk-free workout experience. You are also able to adjust the tension of the flywheels in order to change the effective resistance level of your workout.

The front uprights of the Asuna 7700 are curved. This is designed to make them more rigid.

Soft Drop System

The Sunny patented Soft Drop system has been built into the design of the Sunny 7700 Asuna. This relates to the fold-up feature of this manual treadmill which allows you to store it compactly and conveniently. The Soft Drop system allows the deck to gently lower itself to the floor from the folded position. This hydraulic mechanism makes sure that the machine is never damaged and provides you with a safe, energy-efficient and hassle-free way to set up the machine.

Incline

The Sunny Asuna 7700 provides you with a manually adjustable incline. This is an impressive feature which enhances your training intensity. However, the adjustment process is quite tricky.

Soft Grip Handle Bars

The Sunny 7700 Asuna features ergonomically designed soft grip rubber coated handlebars. You get multiple hand positions to accommodate both walking and running. In fact, this machine provides you with 8 unique handgrips. Even better, the entire handle region is coated with sweat-proof rubber to ensure a secure grip.

There is also a centrally located and secure tablet holder to allow you to follow your favorite online workout.

Deck

The tread belt of the Asuna 7700 is made of heavy-duty rubber that features a textured surface to provide a high level of adherence. The running surface measures 124 x 49 cm. This will be sufficient for all runners up to 6’2”.

What’s Not So Good?

The Sunny Asuna 7700 does not come with any kind of console. This is pretty standard for lower cost manuals, but it would be nice to have seen a console on a unit at this price point. As a result, there is no Bluetooth connectivity or pulse monitoring provision with this machine.

The Asuna 7700 will be too limiting for people who are more than 6'2” in height. Even though the incline feature is very good, you cannot set the running bed in a horizontal position. In other words, you have to be exercising on an angle at all times.

3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7723


Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill Manual Treadmill with 16 Levels of Magnetic Resistance, 300 LB Max Weight and Dual Flywheels - SF-T7723

Best All-Around Manual Treadmill

Key Specs:

  • Dimensions: 66.5 x 30.5 x 15.5 inches
  • Max User Weight: 300 lbs.
  • Weight: 110 lbs.
  • Console: No
  • Incline: Yes (fixed)
  • Warranty: 3-year frame / 180-day parts

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7723 Force Fitmill is a mid-range priced heavy-duty manual treadmill that offers a solid workout and a rigid, durable body. This unit comes with a fixed incline of 13.5 degrees which has been designed to provide a more natural, fluid running motion. It also has the same dual flywheel design as the more expensive Asuna 7700 to provide for adjustable resistance levels and a max user weight of 300 pounds (compared to 440 pounds for the Asuna).

Build

The Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill has a 300 lb. max weight capacity, which is pretty impressive for a manual treadmill at this price point. This machine is designed for intense workouts, providing you with the confidence you need when you’re powering through an all-out HIIT session. You can also be sure that this manual treadmill will last for many years so long as you treat it right.

16 Resistance Levels

The Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill provides you with 16 levels of magnetic resistance. That is very rare for a manual treadmill in the mid-price range. This allows you to push yourself to the limit while also allowing people of different fitness levels to use this manual treadmill.

The dual flywheels of the Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill require quite a lot of effort to get the running deck moving, ensuring that you are burning plenty of calories.

Generous Tread Deck

The running deck on the Force Fitmill is 53 inches long and 16 inches wide. This provides enough room for people who are under 6’2” to be able to exercise with a full and natural range of motion.

Safety Grip Rails

The Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill provides you with 8 levels of hand positioning with large safety rails to ensure that you are always well supported. Safety is also enhanced by leg stabilizers and transportation wheels.

Soft Drop System

The Soft Drop deck lowering system which is unique to Sunny allows you to gently and easily lower the running deck from a storage to a ready to use position. It offers a safe, hands-free way to unfold your machine.

What’s Not So Good

Even though the Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill provides you with an incline feature, it is a fixed incline set at 13.5 degrees. It would have been better if the incline was adjustable. There is also no console, Bluetooth or heart rate monitor on this manual treadmill.

As we’ve noted it requires quite a bit of effort to get started with the running belt movement. This may be too difficult for some beginning exercisers. The running belt movement can also feel quite jerky.

4. Exerpeutic 100XL


Exerpeutic 100XL High Capacity Magnetic Resistance Manual Treadmill with Heart Pulse System

Best Manual Treadmill for Heavy People

Key Specs:

  • Dimensions: 59.4 x 31.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Max User Weight: 325 lbs.
  • Weight: 73 lbs.
  • Console: Yes
  • Warranty: 3-year limited

The Exerpeutic 100XL manual magnetic treadmill is a very solid unit that provides you with a max user weight of 325 pounds, easily the best in its price range. Another benefit of this machine is that it includes a heart rate monitor. Again, this is a rarity on manual treadmills. The heart rate sensors are built into the handrails. While they are not overly accurate, they do provide you with a good gauge of what is happening with your heart.

The Exerpeutic 100XL provides you with a decent, smooth running bed that is smoother and less jerky than many of the competitors on the market. This machine is also very easy to assemble. It sets up to a compact unit. The treadmill is also foldable and it comes with wheels. These factors make it very easy to store away the treadmill when you are not using it.

Build

The Exerpeutic 100XL manual magnetic treadmill is a deceptively solid piece of equipment. It is actually stronger than it looks, with a heavy-duty steel frame and solid design. Wide side rails provide safety when you are exercising.

Monitor

It’s quite a rarity to get a monitor on a manual treadmill, yet that is what the Exerpeutic 100XL manual magnetic treadmill delivers. The LCD display window is fairly simple, but it still provides you with an accurate readout of your key training data, including elapsed time, distance walked calories burned, speed and heart rate monitoring.

3-Level Incline

The Exerpeutic 100XL provides you with 3 levels of manual incline. This allows you to quickly and reliably adjust the incline of the running bed to either 8, 10 or 15 degrees.

Pacer Control 8 Level Resistance

You get 8 levels of magnetic resistance on this treadmill. There is also a unique feature called ‘Pacer Control’ built into this unit. It ensures enhanced stability for hands-free walking.

What’s Not So Good

The Exerpeutic 100XL is essentially a pretty basic machine, even for a manual treadmill. It has a very basic console, no tablet holder and not even a cupholder. The machine is also quite noisy when you walk or run on it, which is a hassle if you are using in a communal living space.

5. ProGear 190


ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill with 2 Level Incline and Twin Flywheels

Best Cheap Manual Treadmill

Key Specs:

  • Dimensions: 48.7 x 20.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Max User Weight: 230 lbs.
  • Weight: 49 lbs.
  • Console: Yes
  • Incline: Yes
  • Warranty: 1 year limited

The ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill is an attractively priced manual that provides you with dual incline options, a very compact foldable design and weighs in at a lightweight 49 pounds. It has a limited running belt of just 43 inches x 13 inches. This will not be big enough for most people to run on but is plenty for walking.

This manual treadmill provides you with a very basic monitor display, which is impressive for such a low-priced treadmill. The oversized handrails on this treadmill make it ideal for elderly people to ensure balance and safety. The maximum user weight of 225 lbs. will be limiting for heavier people. On the plus side, however, the rollers underneath the running belt on the ProGear 190 are larger than you would expect on a unit at this price point.

The ProGear 190 is the cheapest quality manual treadmill that we have come across.

Build

The ProGear 190 has a decent but not overly sturdily built frame. The fact that the max user weight is limited to 225 pounds speaks to that fact. As a consequence, this unit is not designed for heavy-duty use. It is more suited to the elderly and those who are looking for a gentle indoor workout.

Incline

You get two levels of manual incline on the ProGear 190. It allows you to increase your intensity while walking, with options of 6 and 10 degrees. This feature is unheard of in a treadmill at this price, making the ProGear 190 great value for money.

Space Saver Design

The ProGear 190 has a space-saving design which makes it compact to use and even more convenient to pack away when not in use. The folded dimensions are 21 L x 23 W x 51 H inches.

Twin Flywheels

The ProGear 190 comes with twin flywheels to ensure that you get a smooth, natural walking action. Oversized belt rollers add to the smoothness of the walking motion.

What’s Not So Good?

The ProGear 190 will be too small for many potential users. It has a limited walking track that will make it difficult for people over 5’10” to get a natural walking stride in. And even though the max user weight is 225 pounds, we wouldn’t suggest using it regularly if you are 200 or over.

6. Fitness Reality TR1000


Fitness Reality TR1000 Manual Treadmill with 2 Level Incline and Twin Flywheels by Paradigm Health and Wellness Inc

Best Runner Up Cheap Manual Treadmill

Key Specs:

  • Dimensions: 47 x 23 x 51 inches
  • Max User Weight: 230 lbs.
  • Weight: 51 lbs.
  • Console: Yes
  • Warranty: Undisclosed

The Fitness Reality TR1000 is another low-priced manual that offers you a multi-position incline feature. This is a very well- balanced unit that looks smart and comes in a compact design that is foldable for ease of storage. It is produced by Fitness Reality, one of the most established and trusted names in the home fitness industry.

Build

The powder-coated steel frame comes with wide side rails and long foam wrapped handlebars. The frame is well built, though not overly sturdy. That’s what you’d expect at this price point and is why the max user weight is limited to 230 pounds.

Oversized Rollers

Just like the ProGear 190, the Fitness Reality TR1000 comes with oversized rollers underneath the waling belt. This ensures that walking action is as natural as possible.

Twin Cast Iron Flywheels

The Fitness Reality TR1000 also matches the ProGear 190 when it comes to providing twin cast iron flywheels. As well as enhancing the smooth walking experience, the flywheels also help to keep the unit operating quietly, even when you work up to a fast pace.

Monitor

You don’t expect to get a monitor on a manual treadmill in the budget price range. But that’s what you get with the Fitness Reality TR1000. Admittedly, it is a very basic one, but it provides you with your key training data, including time, distance walked, calories burned and speed.

Compact Storage

When your workout is over, you can very quickly and easily fold this treadmill up to be rolled away on the oversized transportation wheels. The folded dimensions of the Fitness Reality TR1000 are 21"L x 23"W x 51"H.

What’s Not So Good?

The Fitness Reality TR1000 is too small for people who are over 5, 10”. The 43 x 13’25 inch running belt will be too constricting for many, preventing them from getting a natural walking motion.

Buying Guide

What is a Manual Treadmill?

A manual treadmill is quite simply a treadmill that does not have a motor. The power to move the running belt of the treadmill is provided by the user. For many years, manual treadmills were seen as being good for walking in order to improve cardiovascular health improvements. As such, they were considered as not being suitable for ‘serious’ athletes.

Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fitmill Manual Treadmill with 16 Levels of Magnetic Resistance, 300 LB Max Weight and Dual Flywheels - SF-T7723

For the running belt to continue moving, there must be some level of incline on a manual treadmill. That means that you will never be exercising on a horizontal surface.

In recent years, however, a remodeled version of the manual treadmill has emerged. It has a curved running bed and an ergonomic design which makes for a very intense workout experience. More on these soon.

Traditional manual treadmills are far more compact than electric versions. This makes them ideal for confined living spaces. They are often also foldable and have transportation wheels which, makes them very easy to store. Without the weight of a motor, manual treadmills are also much lighter to carry.

The most basic versions of a manual treadmill provide you with a frame and a running belt. Often, they will not provide you with a monitor. If they do, the monitor will be extremely basic, without any built-in workout programs or electric features (though the more expensive ones may provide limited electric functionality that is powered by AA batteries).

Higher priced manual treadmills may also provide you with magnetic resistance. This does not power the running belt for you. Instead, it allows you to adjust the amount of effort that you will have to put forth in order to move the running belt. This means that you get a form of adjustable resistance, which is usually controlled by a dial-type knob that is situated where the monitor would normally be located.

Exerpeutic 100XL High Capacity Magnetic Resistance Manual Treadmill with Heart Pulse System

Manual treadmill with magnetic resistance

Manual treadmills are way cheaper than their electric counterparts. The most basic models can be picked up for around a hundred dollars. The lack of electricity also provides a manual treadmill with the freedom to be placed anywhere you like, indoors or outdoors.

Because you are required to provide all of the energy to move a manual treadmill, they will actually burn more calories than an electric version. It takes some real effort to get the running belt moving. However, traditional manual treadmills are not easy to build up to and sustain a running pace on. The movement of the belt tends to be quite jerky, which can be pretty frustrating.

Running on a manual treadmill is also made difficult by the fact that the running belt is much smaller than that found on an electric treadmill. They also have a much lighter maximum weight capacity than an electric treadmill in most cases.

Manual Treadmills are Great for HIIT Workouts

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about HIIT training. However, there is still quite a bit of confusion about exactly what constitutes a HIIT workout, so, before we show you how you can get an effective HIIT workout on a manual treadmill, let’s take a moment to define our terms.

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It involves performing short bursts of high-intensity exercise, followed by even shorter rest periods. As an example, you might, after a two-minute warm-up, perform an all-out twenty-second sprint, followed by a ten-second rest period. This is repeated for a numbered of rounds, with no rest period between rounds. The entire workout will last for just a few minutes.

A high-quality manual treadmill will provide a good tool on which to perform HIIT workouts. You will need to ensure that the frame is very sturdy and that the treadmill provides several levels of fluid resistance adjustment by way of a magnetic mechanism. You will also want to ensure that the treadmill has sturdy and secure handle grips to allow you to remain strong and upright throughout the workout. You will also want a manual treadmill that has an incline. An incline will also allow you to ramp up the intensity of the workout as you get fitter.

Sunny Health & Fitness 7700 Asuna High Performance Cardio Trainer, Manual Portable Treadmill with Heavy Duty Designed Dual Flywheels, Brown/A

Begin with a two-minute warm-up with the magnetic resistance set at the lowest level. Then, as you are approaching the two-minute mark to turn the resistance dial-up to a level that will force you to sprint at maximum capacity. Sprint for exactly 20 seconds, then throw your legs out to the side so that they are no longer on the running bed. Rest in this position for precisely 10 seconds, then go into your next sprint. Repeat this sequence for 8 rounds.

Curved Manual Treadmills

The manual treadmill market had a major shake-up recently with the entry to the market of the curved manual treadmill, also known as the air runner. This slick, smart piece of fitness technology is light years ahead of what you probably think a manual treadmill is

For a lot of serious fitness devotees, the electric treadmill is very limiting. It locks you into the restrictions of the inbuilt workout programs and it confines your body into a set movement pattern. That’s why the manual treadmill is their preferred option. But traditional manual treadmills just don’t cut it.

Enter the curved manual treadmill. This sleek-looking machine has been specially engineered to activate every single muscle in your lower body, including your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and even your feet. The air runner is a non-motorized treadmill. That means that it is self-propelled. And that means that you decide how fast it goes. As a result, there are no speed buttons on the console of an air runner.

The beauty of self-propulsion is that you are always in control of the workout. A beginner can work out at a light pace whereas an elite athlete can sprint at max capacity.

Assault Fitness AirRunner

Assault Air Runner

The key innovative feature of the curved manual is its curved running surface. This is in marked contrasts to every other treadmill you’ve ever come across, which provides you with a flat running surface. Precision engineering is behind the curved surface of the air runner, which provides a far more efficient transfer the energy of your feet onto the extra strong grip of the running platform.

Every time your foot comes down on the running platform, energy is transmitted to propel the overlapping panels that make it up into an arc to increase the length of time that your foot makes contact with the running surface. And the longer the foot is in contact with the running surface, the more energy is transferred. The flow on from this is that the more energy that is transferred, the more work that your muscles have to do.

Assault Fitness AirRunner

The result of this innovative running bed design is that when you run on an air runner you will experience the most natural running experience on the market today. It will literally feel as if you are running on air.

Curved Manual VS Electric Treadmill

A regular electric treadmill has a motor that is pushing your legs forward. However, when you use a curved manual treadmill, you are the motor. That means that you have to work harder and can push yourself harder than is possible on an electric treadmill.

The fact that there is no electric motor with a curved manual treadmill also makes it a far more versatile piece of exercise equipment. No longer are you constrained by the nearest electrical outlet. Now you can actually take your running workout outdoors, be it in your backyard or down at the local beach.

The air runner’s unique curved running platform virtually ‘forces’ your body into the correct running technique. This is in contrast to an electric treadmill in which many people use bad running techniques that compromise their hips, knees, and ankles and out them at risk of spinal injury. The risk is pronounced when people are struggling to keep up with the speed of the motor.

Because there is no motor on an air runner there are fewer things that can go wrong with it than on an electric treadmill. That means that your maintenance and downtime will be down to virtually zero.

Curved manual treadmills provide you with a more efficient workout than either an electric or a manual treadmill. Because you are using your muscles more effectively, you will burn more calories. In fact, studies have shown that an air runner will burn 30 percent more calories than an electric treadmill.

Curved Manual VS Traditional Manual Treadmill

The air runner is actually a manual treadmill. But it is not like the type of manual treadmill that you may be used to. That’s because the platform that you run on is actually designed to improve your running performance. Because of this, it is harder to run on than a conventional manual treadmill. It will make you a more efficient runner and provide you with the most realistic running experience next to actually running on the road.

Unlike other manual treadmills, an air runner has a curved surface. This provides you with an incline at each end with a dip in the middle. It is the incline at the front of the belt that actually propels the running bed forward. If it were flat, there would be little natural movement of the belt.

This incline of the belt is a major advantage over a traditional manual treadmill which has a flat running belt. These belts are very difficult to get started and the ensuing motion usually feels jerky, stilted and generally unnatural.

The incline of the air runner also improves your running form. Many runners who are heel strikers will find an air runner very difficult to run on. They will, in effect, be forced to retrain their biomechanics to strike with your forefoot.

A major and obvious difference between an air runner and a manual treadmill is the price. While you can pick up a pretty decent manual treadmill for under a couple of hundred dollars, a good air runner will set you back several thousand. Of course, comparing the two solely on the basis of price is not fair. It’s a little like comparing a Volkswagen with a BMW.

Benefits of Manual Treadmill

Cost

The biggest advantage of a manual over an electric treadmill is that it is considerably less expensive. In fact, you can get a quality manual treadmill for less than two hundred dollars. That compares to up to five thousand dollars for a high-end home electric treadmill.

In addition, your use of a manual treadmill will not increase your home electricity bill. Also, you will not have to worry about electric maintenance costs, which may be quite expensive with regards to an electric treadmill.

Portability

Because it does not have a motor, a manual treadmill does not require an electrical cord. That frees you up to put the treadmill wherever you want. You can even place it outdoors on your patio if you so desire. Manual treadmills are also smaller (usually about 4 feet by 2 feet) than electric versions, making them ideal for tight spaces. Many manual treadmills are also able to be folded to provide great storage options.

More Intense

Contrary to what many people think, a manual treadmill can also provide you with a more intense workout, especially for the lower body. That is because the power for the movement comes from your legs and not from the motor. The result is that you will actually burn more calories over the same period of time on a manual as opposed to an electric treadmill.

Best for Walking

If you are wanting a treadmill that will give you the best walking workout, then you are probably better off going with a manual treadmill. The shorter belt on the manual treadmill accommodates walking but is not so good for running. Once you have got the running belt moving, which does take some effort, it will continue at your pace and you can go faster or slower simply by adjusting your walking speed. When walking on an electric treadmill you need to adjust the speed of the console.

Ease of Assembly

A manual treadmill is far easier to assemble than an electric one. You should be able to set up a manual in a matter of a few minutes, whereas setting up an electric treadmill can be a major headache consuming many hours.

Other benefits:

  • Less noisy
  • Safer
  • Less maintenance

Disadvantages of Manual Treadmill

Limited Speed

Manual treadmills do not provide you with the speed options that you get with an electric version. While an electric model may allow you to run at up to as much as 20 miles an hour, a manual is limited by the effort that you put in. The running belt will only ever respond to the pace at which you are walking or running. On the other hand, you do get a greater level of control over the speed with which you are running when you are on a manual treadmill. Even though most electric treadmills do provide you with a handy speed adjustment button, it can be tricky to get it to just the right level for you.

If you want to run at a decent and constant speed, you really need something in addition to your legs in order to power the running belt. The best you will be able to achieve with a manual treadmill is to run at a slow jog. In contrast, electric treadmills will allow you to run very smoothly at a speed, depending on how much you want to pay, of up to 20 mph.

Lack of Cushioning

Manual treadmills are harder on your joints, especially the knees and ankles. However, they will inevitably also have a lower level of cushioning underneath the running belt. This can be a problem, especially for people who are already prone to lower back, hip, ankle or knee problems. With many elderly people gravitating towards a manual over an electric treadmill because of the gentler exercise, this is an issue to be aware of.

Lack of Fluidity

A manual treadmill will not provide you with the smooth, natural motion of the running bed that you find on an electric version. Because it is controlled by the effort that you put in, the movement of the running bed is likely to be inconsistent. This may result in a jerky, non-fluid motion that can make it difficult to maintain consistency in the workout. It can also make it very difficult to maintain a consistent heart rate throughout your exercise session.

Manual Incline

The best manual treadmills will provide you with an incline function. However, this will inevitably be a manual incline, as the machine has no engine to provide power. The implication of this is that you will have to get off the treadmill and adjust the incline if you wish to change the angle of your workout midway through your exercise session. Of course, if you simply wish to set an incline for the whole workout you can do this before getting onto the machine.

Getting Started

To get the running belt moving on a manual treadmill, you need to exert quite a lot of initial force. This can be a challenge for some people, especially the elderly. In addition, it can place a considerable amount of force on your knees and ankles.

Bed Length

The running bed on most manual treadmills are not as long as those on an electric treadmill. That can be a problem, especially for taller people (those who are six feet or over). They will be unable to get a proper stride length on the running bed.

No Inbuilt Programs

The monitor on a manual treadmill is very basic in comparison to an electric one. You will not get any bells and whistles, and this includes no built-in workout programs or connectivity to a fitness app. This means that you do not have access to the variety and different goal-oriented training programs that you get with an electric treadmill.

Lack of Extras

Manual treadmills are unlikely to provide you with some of the nice extras that you get with electric versions. You are unlikely to get an inbuilt fan, an advanced display function and inbuilt programs and app connectivity. Most manuals will not provide you with heart rate monitoring, though some will.

Why Choose a Manual Over an Electric Treadmill?

  • You are just starting a workout routine and have a small budget
  • You have little space in your apartment home as most manual treadmills are foldable
  • You prefer walking for your cardio exercise
  • You don’t want the noise and routine maintenance that comes with an electric treadmill

How to Choose a Good Manual Treadmill

A manual treadmill can offer you a satisfying and effective home cardio workout, but you need to make sure that you are getting a quality unit. Because they are far more limited in their capability than an electric treadmill, manuals can be next to useless if they are not above a certain standard. Here’s what you need to be looking out for.

Incline

Manual treadmills will not allow you to run as fast as an electric one. That’s why having an incline function is so important. It is a way to increase the intensity of the workout. Of course, the incline function on your manual treadmill will require manual adjustment. This will most likely require that you get off the treadmill in order to adjust the incline.

Sunny Health & Fitness 7700 Asuna High Performance Cardio Trainer, Manual Portable Treadmill with Heavy Duty Designed Dual Flywheels, Brown/A

Various manual treadmills will provide you with a number of different incline settings. You will want the one with the most inclines you can get. This will allow the intensity to be adjusted in order to meet the needs of various members of the family and people at different fitness levels.

Monitor

Your manual treadmill should provide you with a high-quality display monitor, powered by batteries. You’ll find that these monitors are not as large and comprehensive as what you would find on an electric treadmill. Still, it should provide you with a clear, running, readout of your speed, time, calories and distance. Look for a monitor that also provides you with a secure tray on which you can position your tablet.

Exerpeutic 100XL High Capacity Magnetic Resistance Manual Treadmill with Heart Pulse System

Heart Rate Monitor

While a pretty standard feature on electric treadmills, most manual models will not feature a heart rate monitor. It is worthwhile, however, to find one that does, provided it is reliable. Most manual treadmills that do have them, will feature heart rate reading technology built into the handle rails. The addition of a heart rate function should not bump up the cost of your manual treadmill very much.

Exerpeutic 100XL High Capacity Magnetic Resistance Manual Treadmill with Heart Pulse System

Weight Limit

Generally speaking, manual treadmills will provide a lower weight tolerance than electric models. Most manuals will range in weight limit between 225 and 300 pounds. As a guide, you should allow a fifty-pound difference between your actual weight and the max weight limit of your exercise machine. That means that a machine with a weight limit of 225 lbs. will be suitable only for people who are 175 lbs. or under. That is why it is critical to look carefully at the weight limit of your machine. There are some of them that are as high as 400 pounds - but you’ll have to look for them!

Footprint

The vast majority of manual treadmills are considerably smaller than their electric cousins. However, you still need to ensure that you measure your available space to make sure that it will fit.

Foldable

Because of their smaller footprint, manual treadmills are a great option for people with limited exercise space available in their gym area. Some go a step further and provide you with foldability so that it can be stored away under a bed or in a cupboard when not being used. Just ensure that the foldable nature of the manual treadmill does not impact upon its integrity and strength.

Sunny Health & Fitness 7700 Asuna High Performance Cardio Trainer, Manual Portable Treadmill with Heavy Duty Designed Dual Flywheels, Brown/A

Frame

To be honest, there are a lot of manual treadmills out there that do not provide you with the sturdiness that you deserve. Look for a solid steel or aluminum frame, made from gauge 14 steel or under (the lower the gauge, the stronger the steel).

Safety

Even though electric treadmills have the safety concerns associated with all of their electric componentry, there are some unique safety issues regarding manual treadmills. They require more initial force than an electric treadmill to get started. On top of that, they do not provide you with as much cushioning on the running belt than an electric treadmill. The result of these things is that they are harder on your joints, especially on the knees and ankles. So, you should be aware of the amount of cushioning that the treadmill provides.

Manual treadmills are more likely to be used by the elderly and people who are coming back from injury. It is important, then, that they provide as much upright support as possible. This should be supplied by rigid, large handrails to provide the user with the sense of security that they need when exercising.

Belt Cushioning

A manual treadmill ends up putting more pressure on your joints than an electric version. As a result, it is important to consider the level of cushioning that the running belt provides. Do not expect anything comparable to what an electric one would deliver but you should look for some sort of enhanced cushioning.

Warranty

The warranty on a manual treadmill will, understandably, be commensurate with the price-tag. As a result, it would be unrealistic to expect anything comparable to what you would get in an electric treadmill. Keep in mind, too, that the lack of electrics means that there are fewer things that can go wrong. You should expect a 2-3-year frame warranty and 90 days on the moving parts.

Manual Treadmill FAQ

How do you get started on a manual treadmill?

When it comes to a manual treadmill, all you have to do is to get on and start walking. It will take a bit of effort to get the belt moving, but from there the motion of your legs will keep it going. This makes it faster to get on than an electric model, which requires programming to get it going.

Can you really get a good workout on a manual treadmill?

Yes, you can. There have been a number of studies that have shown that it requires more effort on a curved belt non-motorized treadmill than on a motorized one. This will allow you to get your heart rate into a higher zone, while also burning more calories and providing a more intense workout to the muscles of your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

In a 2015 study, it was found that those who exercised on a manual treadmill for the same length of time and at the same speed as those who did so on an electric treadmill expended 30% more energy. However, those who exercised on the manual treadmill had to exercise at a slower speed in order to maintain a constant level of exertion.

In another study, the heart rate elevation that resulted from using a manual treadmill was compared to both an electric treadmill and to running outdoors. The exercisers who were on the manual treadmill were seen to have a heart rate that was 20 beats per minute higher than either of the other two groups.

Which is best for elderly people or those who are coming back from injury - manual or electric?

Many people assume that a manual treadmill is a better choice for the elderly because it will operate at a lower speed and be gentler on the joints. However, that is not the case. To get started with a manual treadmill, you need to exert a good deal of force in order to move the running belt. This can be hard on the knees and ankles. For those who are already prone to weak joints this is definitely not a good idea.

Electric treadmills also provide a much smoother, gentler running action than manual treadmills. However, the newer curved belt manual treadmills are a different story. They will not produce the jarring, unnatural movement that you would get with a flatbed manual treadmill, making then more suitable for the elderly and those who are recovering from an injury.

Final Thoughts

The manual treadmill market has changed dramatically over the past decade. As a result, there is a whole range of high-quality models available across a full range of price points. When it comes to a top of the line curved manual you cannot get better than the Assault Air Runner, which will provide you with an even more natural and more intense running experience than you’d get on an electric treadmill.

The best all-round manual treadmill is the Sunny Health & Fitness Force Fit mill, which provides you with 16 levels of magnetic resistance, the soft drop foldup system and a generous tread deck. Finally, the best budget manual is the ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill, with its manual incline, space saver design and twin flywheels.

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