Manual treadmills are a great way to work on cardio while saving money, space, and power. And they do it all at only a fraction of the cost (usually).
If you’re in the market for a new treadmill but aren’t sure about the cost, size, or power usage, a manual treadmill may be just what you’re looking for.
Unlike the traditional electric version, manual treadmills are non-motorized treadmills that don’t plug into any power source. Instead, as you stand on the slight incline, your bodyweight makes the belt move. For most motorless treadmills, you simply adjust the tension to change your speed.
Why might someone choose a non-motorized treadmill over an electric one? Here are some of the benefits of manual treadmills.
With fewer expensive components, manual treadmills tend to be cheaper than electric treadmills. Among other factors, the motors that power electric treadmills can really drive up the price.
Of course, there are high-end manual treadmills that run for more than you might expect. However, these are typically intended for professional athletes and gyms. The best manual treadmills for most people are quite inexpensive.
To further sweeten the deal, think about the electricity you pay for in order to power your electric treadmill. Though it’s not super expensive to use each time (it’s less than a dollar for most people), that power usage can add up over the years. A manual treadmill, on the other hand, uses no electricity.
More Environmentally Friendly
The fact that self-powered treadmills don’t use electricity also makes them more environmentally friendly than their outlet-tethered counterparts. Manual treadmills don’t have to pull any energy from the grid.
As a bonus, non-motorized treadmills also tend to use far fewer nonrenewable resources. On top of being smaller and lighter than electric treadmills, they don’t feature many of the nonrenewable components found in motors and electronics.
Thousands of people are injured by electric treadmills each year. Of course, not all of these injuries are horribly serious. It’s not uncommon to hear about someone winding up with some scrapes after a mishap on a treadmill.
One of the biggest risks with electric treadmills is that their powerful motors move the belt on their own. While many treadmills feature an emergency stop pin that can be tethered to the runner’s body, many people don’t use them. In these cases, when someone falls, the belt keeps moving.
One major advantage of manual treadmills is that they are, by definition, motorless treadmills. That means that if you trip or stumble, you don’t have to worry about the belt throwing you backward.
Of course, manual treadmills aren’t injury-proof. However, they are a statistically safer alternative to electric treadmills.
The absence of that electric motor also means that manual treadmills are much quieter.
Manual treadmills do produce a little bit of sound. The quiet resistance mechanisms, moving belt, and pitter-patter of your own footstep do make a little noise. But they aren’t nearly as noisy as electric treadmills.
With this newfound peace and quiet, you can more easily watch TV, stream a show, or enjoy some music while on your non-motorized treadmill.
One huge advantage that non-electric treadmills have over their electric counterparts is that they tend to be smaller. Manual treadmills don’t need to fit a bulky motor or big electronic components anywhere. This helps them maintain a much smaller form factor.
As a bonus, most manual treadmills are foldable. After your workout, you can simply fold up your compact manual treadmill and slot it in a corner, in a closet, or behind some furniture.
Electric treadmills are commonly criticized for being ineffective at training for actual running. When you run on the ground, the body mechanics are very different.
From the moment your foot strikes the ground outside, you’re using muscles in your foot, leg, and entire body to effectively pull the ground backward and propel yourself forward. With every step you take, you’re using your posterior chain to pull the ground underneath you.
On an electric treadmill, your body is making similar movements, but the mechanics are very different. Instead of pulling the ground backward as you propel your body forward, the treadmill feeds the belt underneath you. You’re essentially moving your feet to bounce on a moving belt.
On a manual treadmill, however, the mechanics are closer to running outside. The belt on a non-motorized treadmill isn’t passively fed underneath you. Instead, when you’re running, you’re actively pulling the belt underneath you. This will work your muscle much more similarly to running outside.
Top 6 Best Manual Treadmills
With all that in mind, here are the 6 best manual treadmills available on Amazon. We’ve curated a little something for everyone.
Exerpeutic’s twin flywheel manual treadmill is a great pick for almost anyone. It’s a sturdy non-motorized treadmill with a 45-inch by 16-inch belt area, rated to support up to 325 pounds. It also features variable incline levels from 8 to 15 degrees, easily adjusted in seconds by simply lifting the back end and moving the support bar.
The resistance is supplied by two 6-inch magnetic flywheels, with a dial to adjust to 8 different levels of tension. It’s conveniently placed on the front console so you can adjust your pace on the go. And as your work up a sweat, you can monitor your heart rate using the sensor built into the extra-long handles.
Your heart rate is shown on the front-and-center LCD display. The display can also manually or automatically cycle through elapsed time, speed, distance, and estimated calorie burn. To the left of the display, there’s a little nook to hold your phone or TV remote.
Exerpeutic’s high-capacity manual treadmill is very competitively priced, considering high-end self-propelled treadmills can be double that. It’s a great alternative to electric treadmills that easily be set up anywhere in your home.
This manual treadmill is a great all-rounder for walking or jogging.
Efitment’s manual treadmill with arm workout bars is another great option for a home non-motorized treadmill. Its 42-inch by 13.5-inch belt area is rated to support up to 220 pounds. The adjustable incline is a narrower 7 to 9 degrees, but it can be effortlessly adjusted by moving the support bar at the back.
The magnetic flywheel can be adjusted to 8 different levels of tension using an easy-grip dial near the handrail. You can customize your incline and resistance levels to walk or jog at your preferred pace.
This non-motorized treadmill features an LCD display at the front of the handrails. It can manually or automatically cycle through speed, time, distance, steps taken, and estimated calories burned. If you place your hands on the sensors built into the rails, it can also display your heart rate.
This manual treadmill’s most unique feature is its tensioned arm workout bars. Each bar features manually-adjustable tension so you can give your arms and legs a workout at the same time.
Overall, this is another great manual treadmill for home use. It’s versatile, lightweight, and foldable, and its wheels make it easy to move anywhere in the house.
With adjustable-tension arm exercise bars, this manual treadmill is great for a full-body workout.
Phoenix Vital Life delivers one of the best compact manual treadmills available. This small manual treadmill weighs only 45 pounds (20 kg) and folds up into an incredibly compact form factor. As if it wasn’t already light enough, it also features transportation wheels so you can easily roll it around.
Despite the smaller form factor, this compact manual treadmill still offers plenty of support. The 41-inch by 13-inch running area supports up to 250 pounds of bodyweight—more than many other larger manual treadmills.
The belt tension can be adjusted to fit your ideal walking or jogging speed, but there’s no way to change it while moving. You have to adjust adjust a few screws in order to change the tension, but the slight inconvenience is a byproduct of the compact manual treadmill form factor.
This non-motorized treadmill features an LCD panel that displays speed, distance, time, and estimated calories burned. It also comes with a free water bottle!
For anyone looking for a small manual treadmill to maximize space and portability, this is a great option.
This foldable, 45-pound option is one of the most compact manual treadmills on the market.
Sunny Health and Fitness’ high performance manual treadmill is a beast. It’s one of the sturdiest and most robust non-motorized treadmills on this list. At a maximum load of up to 440 pounds, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything with similar specs at this price range.
The solid steel dual flywheels can easily be adjusted to 8 different levels of resistance using a convenient lever at waist level. The shock-absorptive deck can also be adjusted between 10 to 14 degrees of incline to further customize your workout intensity.
Despite the extra weight, this manual treadmill is surprisingly easy to set up and break down. It features a hydraulic mechanism that helps the deck float softly to the ground to protect your flooring. And transportation wheels on the base make the whole non-electric treadmill easy to move around once folded up.
With an incredibly sturdy frame and an impressive amount of support, this manual treadmill is a fantastic pick. Whether you’re an athlete looking for a manual treadmill that can withstand an intense workout or you’re just looking to safely lose some extra weight, you can’t go wrong with Sunny Health and Fitness’ high performance manual treadmill.
At a rated maximum load of 440 pounds, this is one of the sturdiest manual treadmills in this price range.
This manual treadmill delivers everything you need for high-intensity workouts. The 53 inch by 16 inch deck supports up to 300 pounds of bodyweight, and is designed to withstand the most vigorous workout sessions.
One of the key features of this manual treadmill is that its belt resistance can be cranked up higher than most. Using a knob at waist level, the tension can be adjust between 16 different resistance levels. If you’re looking for a challenge, you’ve found it.
With a wide selection of grippy, sweat-resistant handles and rails, this manual treadmill has a lot of options for hand placement. You can comfortably support yourself at chest level or grab low to get down into more of a sprinting position. Put that high resistance to the test!
Just like the other Sunny Health & Fitness manual treadmill, this one features a convenient soft drop system. A hydraulic mechanism ensures that the deck slowly lowers itself to the ground, protecting your floor. This also makes this motorless treadmill very easy to set up after storage.
Overall, this non-motorized treadmill is one of the best manual treadmills for athletes.
For athletes who like intense, heavy workouts, this manual treadmill is a great option.
For professionals and serious athletes, this is one of the best manual treadmills you can get.
The Assault Fitness AirRunner is a non-motorized treadmill with a curved form factor. The contour of the body and belt make it so as you step forward, the belt slides backward. As you pick up the pace, so does the belt. You set the speed.
People who use the AirRunner say that it feels just like running outside. And it’s just as adaptive. You can go from a slow walk to a full sprint without touching any buttons or dials.
The 69 inch by 17 inch belt is rated to last 150,000 miles. The shock-absorptive deck is rated to support up to 350 pounds. And per Assault Fitness, there’s no need to adjust or replace the deck or the belt.
An LCD display on the front shows your time, speed, distance, pace, watts generated, and estimated calories burned, all at the same time. It also has the ability to connect with certain heart rate monitors via Bluetooth and ANT+, and can display that information on screen.
For more information, here’s a great video on the AirRunner by Assault Fitness:
Assault AirRunner – Form Edition
As fitness trainer Joel Thompson points out in the video, and as we briefly discussed above, the body mechanics of using a manual treadmill like this one are very similar to running outside.
In fact, the form factor of this manual treadmill in particular emphasizes a proper front-to-mid foot strike, followed by pulling backward with the foot. Manual treadmills like this one properly work the posterior chain, very similarly to running on the ground.
All things considered, this is one of the best manual treadmills you can get. If you have the budget for it, the AirRunner can take your workouts to the next level.
For professionals and athletes, the AirRunner is one of the best manual treadmills you can get.
3 Manual Treadmills We DON’T Recommend
SpeedFit Speedboard ProXL
The SpeedFit Speedboard ProXL is an absolutely fantastic manual treadmill in and of itself. In fact, it’s one of the most popular motorless treadmills for gyms and professional settings. Its build quality, features, and warranty are all fantastic.
Here’s the catch: The SpeedFit Speedboard ProXL is almost identical in specs to the Assault Fitness AirRunner, but it has a significantly higher price.
To be clear, the SpeedFit Speedboard ProXL is an absolutely fantastic manual treadmill, but if you’re in the market at that price range, it makes more sense to go with the Assault Fitness AirRunner.
Avari Magnetic Treadmill
The Avari Magnetic Treadmill is a fairly popular non-motorized treadmill on Amazon, but it’s not a great option. Its reviews are mediocre, indicating by and large that the machine doesn’t feel very sturdy. In addition, for some people, the belt begins to catch and stick over time.
At this price range, you may as well go with the Phoenix Easy-Up Manual Treadmill. We’ve featured it above as our best compact manual treadmill pick. It’s sturdier, has great reviews, and happens to be much more popular on Amazon.
Artist Hand Folding Manual Treadmill
If you’re in the market for a budget manual treadmill, chances are you’ll come across the Artist Hand Manual Treadmill. But at such a low price point, you can’t expect much from a motorless treadmill. Reviews indicate that it’s not very sturdy and the belt isn’t reliable.
If you’re looking for a cheap manual treadmill, we would recommend the Phoenix Easy-Up Manual Treadmill again. It’s one of the most inexpensive options that doesn’t skimp out on quality.
Manual treadmills are a great way to get some cardio exercise at home. And despite the lower price range, they offer quite a few advantages compared to electric treadmills. Notably, they’re quieter, more environmentally friendly, and can deliver a better workout.
Equipped with the information from this buyers guide, you should be able to pick the best manual treadmill for your needs.