No matter your fitness level or goal, the best manual treadmills make for a stellar addition to any home gym. Not only are manual treadmills a more environmentally friendly option than the motorized alternative, but they may even provide a better workout, too. Research suggests that you're likely to burn approximately 30% more calories on a curved nonmotorized treadmill than on a flat, motorized machine; you burn more calories due to the increased effort it requires to operate the manual machine.
Like a hamster wheel, the belt of a manual treadmill won't move unless you do—so you're pushed to propel yourself harder with every step. This fact alone makes manual treadmills a safer option for beginners, seniors, and those currently rehabilitating an injury. When you slow down or stop, so does the belt.
As an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialization in orthopedic exercise, I'm a huge proponent of exercising on a manual treadmill: be it a leisurely walk, an uphill trek, or a heart-pumping jog, run, or sprint. Walking is widely considered one of the most effective forms of exercise and is linked with disease prevention, stronger bones and muscles, increased energy, and stress reduction. And the benefits only increase as you safely ramp up the frequency and intensity.
Below, we've rounded up the best manual treadmills of 2023, for the most heart-pumping workouts or mental-health-boosting walks.
A peek at the best manual treadmills of 2023:
A peek at the best manual treadmills of 2023:
Types of treadmills.
There are numerous treadmills on the market. While each type has a similar design (belt, deck, handrails, etc.) and purpose (running or walking), they boast unique properties. The right treadmill for you depends on a number of factors, such as your lifestyle, intended use case, budget, and so on. Below, find an overview of the most common types of treadmills.
Manual: Typically the best option for tighter spaces, manual treadmills rely on the user's energy output to function. In turn, these machines boost your heart rate, challenge your muscular system, and omit the need for clunky wires. They tend to have narrower frames and shorter handrails. As a convenient bonus, many models fold up when not in use.
Because manual treadmills won't move unless you do, they provide a tougher workout than standard treadmills (especially if you choose a new-to-the-scene curved model). It's important to note that many models with a flat deck don't support speeds beyond a brisk walk.
Motorized: Motorized treadmills are likely what comes to mind when you think about indoor running. They rely on an external electrical source to power the belt, incline, and intensity, along with additional features such as an LCD display. While motorized treadmills provide an excellent cardiorespiratory workout, the fixed speed and intensity settings allow the body to operate on autopilot, making for a more comfortable (likely easier!) workout than their manual alternative.
Commercial: Like a standard motorized treadmill, commercial treadmills connect to a power source to deliver additional beneficial features like heart rate tracking and ventilation. Due to their powerful motors, these machines are able to withstand frequent use in commercial settings. Commercial treadmills tend to have the most bells and whistles, such as Bluetooth connectivity, TV access, and top-of-the-line sound systems.
Hybrid: As a two-in-one fitness solution, hybrid treadmills fuse the functions of a treadmill with another piece of equipment, like an elliptical, stationary bike, stair stepper, or stair climber. This makes for a space-saving and financially savvy option while also preventing you from getting bored with the same workout.
Zero gravity: Often used in rehabilitation settings and hospitals, zero gravity, or medical treadmills, offer a lower step height and provide extra cushioning, thereby reducing the impact on your joints. This allows for improved speed and endurance, without posing as a contraindication during treatment or rehab.
How to choose.
There are many considerations to take when selecting the best manual treadmill for you.
First, identify the exact amount of space you're working with, taking care to account for a few feet of clearance on each side of the machine so you can easily step on and off. Next, determine your intended usage. If you're looking to simply add more movement to your day at a leisurely pace, you might opt for a flat-belt model that supports speeds from walking to light jogging, with fewer intensity and incline options. On the other hand, for running or intense athletic performance, be sure to choose a model that will properly challenge you, like one with a curved running belt and increased incline options.
The best manual treadmill for you could very well be different from the one for your friend, trainer, or favorite professional athlete. However, if you're looking for the best manual treadmill money can buy, the AssaultRunner makes it out on top for its cardio-promoting curved deck, high-speed capabilities, comprehensive display unit, and Bluetooth connectivity. It feels as cushy and luxe as the motorized treadmill in your favorite boutique gym, with the added challenge of a manual running belt.
How we picked:
Exercise machines are undoubtedly an investment but one that pays off in full if you choose the right option and use it regularly. We've included a variety of price points, each of which offers high value.
You're less likely to continue to use or benefit from a manual treadmill that feels difficult to operate. We selected machines with a simple interface and minimalist design that won't get in the way of your workout.
We paid special attention to manual treadmills with numerous glowing reviews. Negative reviews helped inform the cons for certain machines we did select.
We've called out certain features for each product to help you determine which pick is right for you.
Our picks for the best manual treadmills of 2023:
- Easy assembly
- Not very durable for heavy use
- Not as easy to fold
This foldable treadmill is great for running, walking, and HIIT exercises. It's easy to store and takes up minimal space, with a quiet manual motor that won't disturb the neighbors. The five-layer nonslip belt makes for a comfortable stride that's easier on your joints. Even better, this treadmill has an LCD screen that rotates up and down for easy adjustability depending on your height. The machine has a phone holder and 12 built-in HIIT programs.
Amazon customers say it's easy to assemble, "not overly noisy," and "perfect for narrow spaces." While the reviews are mainly positive, some do mention that this machine is a bit tricky to fold, warning that you need to remove four screws first.
Best curved manual treadmill: AssaultRunner Pro
- Bluetooth connectivity
- High speed
- Quiet operation
For an unparalleled training experience, opt for a manual treadmill with a curved running deck that does a solid job of boosting your heart rate and engaging the posterior chain (your backside, including your glutes and hamstrings). Keep in mind, curved treadmills are designed for HIIT and sprinting—not for long-distance running. As Kathleen Leninger, P.T., DPT, physical therapist and RRCA coach at Custom Performance previously told mindbodygreen, "Running long distances on them can actually cause injuries."
This manual treadmill comes preloaded with workouts geared toward elite athletes and beginners alike, hits a whopping 20 miles per hour, features a detailed screen for all your stats, and rolls away easily for storage.
According to reviewers, the AssaultRunner Pro is easy to assemble and holds up great. One runner writes, "I think this is the best deal you can get and it's a phenomenal product. I'm 6'2" and 240 pounds. I don't go easy on it and consistently sprint up to around 15-17mph. It's held up great and I've had ZERO issues!" Others say it's "saved" their knees, praising the low-impact belt and the smooth stride it provides.
Best for running: IN10CT Health Runner Curved Manual Treadmill
- High speed
- Long running belt
- Narrower belt
Some of the most efficient ways to improve your running on and off the tread is to strengthen your quads using incline and intervals. That's exactly what this beast of a manual treadmill does. Again, the curved running belt is ideal for sprint intervals. This machine has a slatted running belt with a pulley track system, which prevents any shifting from occurring, common with high speeds. The curve is a bit more minimal than other models, making this a good choice for any fitness level.
One resounding theme from customers is how sturdy this treadmill is. It holds up over time and is fairly quiet, too. Reviewers praise the packaging and shipment process as well, with one person writing, "Even the quality of the packaging was first-rate—no chance of damage in-transit! And, the instructions to put it together were the clearest I have EVER seen. I'm 61 and was able to follow them & put it together—hardware & even tools come with it."
Best affordable: Sunny Health & Fitness Manual Treadmill
- Too challenging for some
- Fixed incline
If you're more of a casual stroller than a runner, this reliable and minimalist model from Sunny Health & Fitness is a great bet for low-intensity, low-impact workouts. It features a compact design ideal for any space in your home and sits at a fixed 10 degrees of incline to boost the efficacy of your walking workouts. The LCD monitor displays your stats such as distance, calories, speed, and time elapsed. Another bonus? Nonslip foam handlebars help increase your comfort and safety. For less than $200, you're not going to find better than this foldable option.
Shoppers love how quiet and compact this treadmill is, with most reviews mentioning the high quality for the low price. That said, if you are looking for a treadmill for running, this one isn't it. And while many people love the fixed incline, others wish it was adjustable. Assembly is simple but best with two people.
- Manual and motorized
- Highly portable
- Issues reported with app
Your home is your sanctuary, and the last thing you need is a bulky treadmill occupying half your living space. The WalkingPad R2 contains both a motorized and non-motorized option, allowing you to change it up depending on what type of workout or movement you're looking for. In the manual setting, the belt speeds up or slows down depending on your foot placement, and the machine connects to an app that displays your stats in real time. What's more, the whole treadmill folds up into a neat little pad and comes with a discreet storage unit. It's also currently $400 off on Amazon.
The WalkingPad gets a ton of praise—it even started a TikTok trend. Reviewers love how compact and lightweight this model is, plus the fact that it can slide easily under your desk. Overall, this treadmill is a great way to add movement to your day, even when you're stuck on your computer. We've also included the WalkingPad on our round-up of the best under-desk treadmills.
Best for seniors: ProGear 190 Manual Treadmill
- Offers stability
- Two incline levels
- LCD display
- Some reports of creaking
Cardiorespiratory activity is crucial at any age, and that importance increases with age as we lose muscle mass and lead more sedentary lives. Enter the ProGear 190 that's especially suited for folks experiencing instability and limited mobility. Its longer handles and foam grips widen your base of support for better stability, which might feel more comfortable for those accustomed to using a walker or relying on handrails during everyday living. Choose between two incline levels, and enjoy it right out of the box with minimal assembly while tracking your stats on the handy LCD display.
Overwhelmingly, people say this treadmill is a good buy for the cost. On the negative side, there are reports of it being loud and a bit creaky. That said, reviewers like the choice of incline levels, how easy it is to assemble, and the fact that it seems to hold up well over time.
Best folding: Exerpeutic 100XL Manual Treadmill
- Heart rate tracking
- Long and wide construction
- Transportation wheels
- Handlebars not adjustable
If you don't want your treadmill to be a permanent fixture, grab this highly portable manual option. It features pulse monitors at the handrails to track your heart rate; a long, wide design to promote balance and stability; and eight magnetic tension levels to adjust the incline between 8, 10, and 15 degrees. Better yet, the treadmill is already assembled straight out of the box—all you need to do is attach the handy LCD screen (which displays your elapsed time, distance walked, calorie burn, speed, and heart rate monitoring). When not in use, simply fold it right back up for easy storage.
There's a lot to love about this treadmill. Portable treadmills are not always the sturdiest, but reviews suggest that this one is well-made and built to last. Shoppers say it's easy to assemble but best with two sets of hands. On the con side, there are a few complaints about the handlebar placement.
Are manual treadmills worth it?
A manual treadmill is worth it if you'll actually use it. Because manual treadmills tend to be more affordable than motorized treadmills, they serve as a great lower-budget way to add a cardio option to your home gym.
Are manual treadmills good for weight loss?
A manual treadmill, like any machine, will not single-handedly contribute to weight loss. However, it can be an incredibly valuable tool in helping you manage your weight by increasing your caloric expenditure and boosting metabolism. Cardiorespiratory exercise has also been proven to help regulate appetite and manage cravings, so a stroll on the treadmill may be helpful in helping you recognize hunger and fullness cues, thereby promoting more mindful eating.
Can you walk on a manual treadmill without holding on?
Like a motorized treadmill, you can absolutely go hands-free on a manual treadmill. However, if you experience any instability in your activities of daily living, are currently in recovery from an injury, or simply want to reduce the impact of your workout, feel free to gently grip the hand railings for support, paying attention to keeping your shoulders relaxed and down. Keep in mind: Without the ability to use momentum to propel your arms back and forth, walking on a manual treadmill or any treadmill while holding onto the handrails might become more difficult.
A manual treadmill is a great way to introduce more cardio into your at-home workout routine, without needing to worry about electrical cords or bulky frames. These manual machines tend to be more affordable than standard motorized treadmills, which could leave extra room in your budget for other user-friendly fitness essentials, such as adjustable dumbbells or Peloton-alternative spin bikes.