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Manual treadmills do not use electrical power to spin the running belt. Instead, a person powers the belt with their stride. Unlike an electric treadmill, with a motor that moves the belt at a consistent speed, a person is responsible for the machine’s speed. The slower or faster they walk, the faster or slower the belt will move.

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Manual and motorized treadmills offer different features. The most obvious difference is that manual treadmills do not need electric cables or a motor.

Research shows that manual treadmills can result in higher levels of exertion. They also provide a closer experience to overground running.

Because manual treadmills do not require electricity to operate, they are more environmentally friendly than their motorized equivalents. Manual treadmills are also less likely to malfunction due to motor issues or electronic faults and are therefore more sustainable.

The table below makes some further comparisons between manual and motorized treadmills.

Manual treadmillMotorized treadmill
lower costhigher cost
fewer features, such as built-in programsoften have consoles, screens, and preset workouts
movement speed controls belt speedelectronic buttons control belt speed
often do not have an incline featureoften have incline and decline settings
a person expends more energya person expends less energy
the belt stops if a person falls the belt will keep going if someone falls unless they use a safety feature
reduced compatibility with fitness appsgreater compatibility with fitness apps
does not require electricityrequires electricity to use

Research shows that both types of treadmills can alter a person’s running or walking form. An individual is more likely to lean forward or hold on to the grips when using a treadmill, which is different from their outdoor running form.

However, in a 2020 review, researchers did not find a major difference between a person’s gait when running inside on a treadmill versus running outside.

Both manual and motorized treadmills also support steady-state or high intensity interval training (HIIT) running styles. Steady-state running involves running at a continuous pace for a period of time, while HIIT running involves higher intensity intervals with periods of recovery. Research from 2017 and 2015 shows that either version of running can help increase cardio health and decrease body fat.

A person interested in purchasing a manual treadmill may wish to consider the following factors before making a purchase:

  • cost, including shipping
  • the company’s returns policy
  • available space
  • size of the treadmill
  • incline options
  • user reviews
  • brand reputation
  • personal fitness and health goals

Additionally, before buying a treadmill, an individual can speak with their doctor or healthcare professional to discuss safe and effective workout options according to their overall health.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

The following information is correct at the time of publication:

General use manual treadmill:
Force Fitmill Manual Treadmill

This model features magnetic resistance settings and a set incline of 13.5%. The treadmill can accommodate both running and walking activities.

Some additional features include the following:

  • foldable for storage, with a hydraulic mechanism to lower the deck slowly
  • wheels for transportation
  • dual flywheels for a stable response to user input
  • safety grips
  • 16 levels of magnetic resistance
  • 53 inch (in) running length

With the Force Fitmill, Sunny Health & Fitness also offers:

  • free standard shipping
  • a 30-day return period
  • warranties on varying parts

The Force Fitmill Manual Treadmill is available on the manufacturer’s website for $488.99.

Basic manual treadmill:
InMotion T900 Manual Treadmill

This treadmill is small in size and offers a simple bar to hold when walking.

Though the manufacturer states it can accommodate running, it has a length of 49 in, which may not be enough for taller runners or those with longer strides.

Some additional features include the following:

  • a display that tracks distance, speeds, calories burned, and total time
  • 10- or 8-degree incline positions
  • foldable for storage
  • is lightweight and has wheels for moving around
  • provides smooth walking or running

The InMotion T900 Manual Treadmill has a manufacturer’s recommended retail price of $149.99.

Manual treadmill for walking
ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill

The ProGear 190 manual treadmill is for walking only, so people interested in running may wish to explore alternative machines.

Additionally, larger individuals or those with excess weight may not find it as comfortable to use due to its relatively smaller size.

Some features include the following:

  • a maximum user weight of up to 230 pounds (lb)
  • 6- and 10-degree incline settings
  • foam grip handles
  • dual flywheels for smoother walking

The ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill has a manufacturer’s recommended retail price of $199.

Foldable manual treadmill:
Weslo CardioStride 4.0 Manual Folding Treadmill

This folding treadmill provides a compact option that folds for easy storage.

It can accommodate up to 250 lb and has an LCD that shows workout stats.

The main drawback is that the treadmill has a length of only 47 in, which might make it unsuitable for taller people or those with a long stride.

The CardioStride features:

  • a device holder
  • LCD for stat tracking
  • two incline settings

The Weslo CardioStride 4.0 Manual Folding Treadmill has a manufacturer’s recommended retail price of $95.

Learn about more foldable treadmills.

Curved manual treadmill:
Johnson Fitness and Wellness Cascade Ultra Runner Treadmill

This curved manual treadmill provides a length of 63 in, making it suitable for most runners.

The main downside is the cost — at over $4,000, this treadmill is one of the more expensive options.

Some features of the Cascade Ultra Runner include the following:

  • four levels of magnetic resistance allowing for HIIT workout integration
  • built-in wireless heart rate monitor
  • handles for safety and moving
  • wheels for transportation
  • warranties covering different parts of the treadmill
  • nonslip running or walking surface

The Johnson Fitness and Wellness Cascade Ultra Runner Treadmill is available on the manufacturer’s website for $4,095.

Manual treadmills are generally safer than motorized treadmills. The main reason for this is what happens if there is a trip or fall.

On a manual treadmill, the treadmill will stop once the user stops moving on it. However, on a motorized treadmill, the treadmill will keep going unless a person uses an emergency stop device.

These machines may also suit people with concerns about long-term joint issues. According to a 2017 study, running outside or on a treadmill does not cause long-term damage to the joints.

However, when using a treadmill at home, a person should help ensure their safety by:

  • using a heart monitor and only working within safe ranges for their heart
  • wearing sturdy shoes
  • only using the treadmill when another person is able to monitor the user if there is a risk of falling
  • not using the machine if there are obvious signs of damage
  • resting when injured
  • speaking with a doctor before starting a new routine

Manual treadmills can provide a suitable home workout at a more affordable cost than motorized treadmills. Although they are typically safer and require more excretion, they often lack additional features, such as added heart rate monitors, integration with apps, and controls for speed or incline.

People may also wish to consider cost, space, and their overall fitness goals before purchasing a treadmill.

Learn about some of the best treadmills for home use.