Is A Manual Treadmill A Good Buy?

Fancy saving hundreds on a powered treadmill and using your own steam to get the motor turning? You will certainly save on weight, but can a manual treadmill be that good? Find out as we rate our best buys.

Manual Treadmills Are More Suited To Walking

As they don’t have the same build quality as electric machines, non motorized treadmills are more suited to walking. But think you can’t get seriously fit by walking? Think again. Walking is not only one of the best exercises to perform, but also one of the safest.

There is less chance of injury and have you ever seen the shape of those fast walkers on TV? They are lean mean, killing machines. Yes, the trick is walking fast, and its a lot harder than it seems. But not only that, you have to exert force to get a non electric treadmill belt to rotate. That is where the effort comes into play.

Should You Buy A Manual or Electric Treadmill?

So, does the rubber in your sneakers meet the road better on a manual or powered treadmill? Without question a powered treadmill is always going to be better, but if you want the treadmill only for walking and don’t want to invest too much money there are some good alternatives of the powerless variety. If space is conservative a manual folding treadmill is an even better option.

Downsides To Having A No Motor Treadmill

You may save on electric bills, but you can cause undue stress on your joints. Getting over the initial belt inertia and driving your weight into the running belt can be sore on the ligaments and joints. If you have dodgy knees, hip and ankles the best way to avoid damage is to raise the incline (if available) and raise the belt up.

This makes it easier to get the belt going and is kinder to your bones. Having a manual incline is also one of the chores associated with motor-free treadmills. If you are working up a steam and want to raise the intensity by upping the gradient, you physically have to get off the machine and adjust it.

So manual definitely equals no frills. If you prefer to walk uphill from the onset, then you are set. If you like lowering and raising the ramp as your workout progresses then choose an electric machine with an adjustable incline. Want to do hiit style interval training, are you kidding? Forget it.

Another negative is the short length of most self propelled treadmill belts. If you have a long stride length, especially when you are walking fast, most of these machines have small running decks so you can feel squished if you are tall.


Powerless treadmill are good for individuals who don’t need to run at a fast pace. Cheap to buy and don’t take up a lot of space. Come as folding as well, so you can yank it out of the way when finished. There are also not a lot of complicated parts to assemble, or a lot of parts that need servicing regularly.

Most manual treadmills are completely maintenance free. You don’t have to worry about replacing or oiling expensive parts, or wrapping yourself up in a treadmill belt if yours needs replacing.

You won’t experience much downtime waiting for parts to arrive (which can takes weeks and in extreme cases months).  You won’t have to pay for a repair crew to come and fix up your running deck if it also breaks – which you know it will once it’s a week out of warranty!

You can also monitor your stats on manual machines just like the Efitment T016 magnetic treadmill, which also has heart monitor pulse grips built into the handles.

Walk Don’t Run

There is also another plus side to not running.  Treadmill runners can develop bad form when running on gym or home treadmills which carry over to outdoor running. There is a tendency to bounce off a powered running belt on a machine which transform your gait into an erratic short bouncy style.

It all stems from kinetic energy, there is the tendency to keep up speed to power off the belt so you don’t fall off the back of the treadmill. Unnaturally short strides can be developed on some models of electric treadmills, as users don’t want to kick the motor cover right up at the front of the machine.

Are manual treadmills good for running?

Define running. If you need to move at a speed that is not akin to a light jog then, no. Most manual treadmills are not even capable of going beyond 4mph. That is jogging at best!

Rehabbing After Injury

Depending on the seriousness of your injury a manual treadmill may not be safe enough for you to operate pain free. The Progear 190 is one manual machine with longer grip handles for stability and dual flywheels for smoother belt action. You won’t really know until you use it or discuss it with your doctor.

The Exerpeutic TF2000 is a recovery treadmill, albeit of the electric kind. It is specifically for someone who is rehabbing after an injury. It features slow incremental speed increases (1/10’s MPH) and has full length long safety handles and soft cushioning. Another bonus is that it can accommodate anyone up to 300 pounds in weight.

So What Are The Best Manual Treadmill Brands?

For a basic, yet good quality manual folding treadmill, the Phoenix 98510 Easy-Up treadmill is a firm favorite in the budget market, even claiming the coveted Amazon Choice badge in 2018. It ticks all the boxes for entry level machine walkers. It folds, has 12.5 degree incline, displays all the basic stats – speed, distance, calories, time, and even has a water bottle holder (they even throw in a water bottle) for when the sink or fridge is out of reach.

The max user weight is 250 pounds. Has a 90 day parts warranty, stretches to 12 months for the frame. Yes and as mentioned it is cheap.

Phoenix bizarrely manufacture the almost identical 98516 model. It’s like when a car brand releases a new model, changes a digit in the name and attempts to wow its loyal customers to upgrade. Well the upgrades Phoenix made are, there aren’t really any.

You can save half an inch when it is folded. But even that ain’t great as the standard folding dimensions are: 22in x 21 x 50in, which means a nice space saving from 46in tall, but you won’t fit it under your bed, unless you take of the frame. Impractical.

A word of caution though on choosing budget as your first reference point for buying this model. A lot of owners of this machine have spent an inordinate amount of time tinkering with the belt to stop it slipping. It has only one flywheel which is supposed to keep the belt turning smoothly, but in this case the 98510 tends to have a loose belt, and you can spend more of your life than you anticipated trying to adjust it if it isn’t centered or moving fluidly.

Incline only has one setting which may even be too high for someone with mobility issues. Cheap does come at a price.

Stamina InMotion with their aptly named T900 Manual Treadmill (creatives must have had the day off), also produce a good entry level machine to rival Phoenix’s market domination. Their machine has dual flywheels and 2 incline settings – 8 and 10 degrees respectively. Folds down to an even smaller 17 x 22 inches.

It has the same 90 day part and 12 month frame warranty which is standard on most budget machines. The max weight is 25 pounds less at 225 pounds.

Space and incline functions would make this a preferable treadmill to the Phoenix models. They both weigh around 50 pounds, and judging on looks, Stamina’s treadmill looks visually more appealing in my humble opinion, the painted grey frame looks better than the rawer polished metal of the 98510.

This is budget still, so if you want a small manual treadmill which will need less belt adjustment and maintenance read about this magnetic manual treadmill below.

Exerpeutic make the 100XL which is essentially an upmarket version of a basic manual treadmill. It has a 325 pound max load, so it’s great for heavier individuals who can’t get outside to exercise. It also has twin flywheels which makes the belt rotation smoother, and eliminates friction on the joints.

This treadmill uses magnetic resistance which is a common feature of silky smooth elliptical machines.

Although you can use the double length safety handles there is also a magnetic tension control that stabilizes the belt so the machine is safe to be operated hands free. It has 3 levels of incline 8, 10 and 15 degrees which eliminates joint stress and allows you to challenge yourself.

Also folds, monitors heart rate bpm and is equipped with a 3 year warranty which makes this machine more appealing when compared with budget choices.

There is a little more room to move on the deck as the belt (running surface) has a walking length of 45 x 16 inches (the proceeding treadmills are 41 x 13.5 approx). It weighs 73 pounds, but that extra weight adds a bit more stability and is about a quarter the weight of most electric treadmills. It has those little small transport wheels underneath so you can easily push it around when you want to store it or get it out of the closet.

Conclusion- Should you really buy a treadmill with no motor?

Manual treadmills shouldn’t be pitted in a dogfight versus motorized treadmills. Whilst manual treadmills are certainly a lot cheaper, they both do different jobs essentially. You can walk on an electric machine as well as run at a fast pace, but manual machines are not designed for running, no matter what the manufacturers put on their sales pitch.

Manual machines are energy free! Except for the human expense needed to power them and keep the belt turning. Treadmills can also produce dirty electricity which can be harmful to health, including elevating blood sugar levels. If you suffer from diabetes, be aware that exercising on a powered treadmill can exacerbate your condition.

Manual treadmills are great for someone who’s prime motives are walking. For someone who can’t get out of the house that often and still wants to get some regular cardio in. If you take part in fast walking they are a great alternative when the weather dips to keep you in shape.

For those with a low budget and very small workout areas they are a good toe-in-the-door exercise machine. Something you will even keep if you extend to an electric treadmill or small home gym someday, just because of their versatility and petite dimensions.

For anyone extremely interested in space saving machines, ellipticals are the way to go, as they take up more vertical than horizontal space. A mini stepper incorporates a good cardio workout and can even be stripped down to foot only pedals like the Stamina In-Motion compact Elliptical Trainer.