Manual vs Motorised Treadmills: Which is Best for you?

V-Fit MTT1 Mini Manual Treadmill review
Maxima Fitness MF-2000-ProFX

​Being able to work out at home is something that a lot of people look forward to, especially those of us who lead busy lives.

For us home gym equipment is the saving grace that can facilitate a gym-like atmosphere in the comfort of our own surroundings.

A treadmill is one piece of equipment that is most commonly incorporated into home gyms and is something that I find is incredibly effective.

With its design and ease to use, it can save you the time, and is safer than going running outdoors in often unreasonable weather conditions.

But with hundreds of treadmill models on the market, it can be hard to make comparisons and settle on a treadmill with features you need, and a price you can afford.

When you shop for a treadmill, the first question to decide on is whether you want a manual or a motorised treadmill.

Each one of these comes with their own set of pros and cons, and both can be incredibly beneficial for your fitness regime.

In this article, we’re going to review each type of treadmill to help you make your decision.

What is a Manual Treadmill?

It’s called a manual or self-powered treadmill because of the motion that sets the belt into action.

When you walk or run on this kind of a treadmill, the movement of your feet causes the machine's belt to start moving.

Homcom Treadmill

​The inertia of the belt gives you the resistance that you need for your workout but also means that you must put in the effort to keep it going at the speed you want.  You do not need to maintain a set speed - if you slow down the belt slows down.


Pros of A Manual Treadmill

The Cheapest Way to get a Cardio Machine

Without the need for a motor and other mechanical components to drive the running belt the manual treadmills come with a low price tag. Manufacturers typically try to make them as economical as possible. 

This makes manual treadmills an excellent option if you don’t want to spend too much on your exercise equipment.

Doesn't need power to run

One of the most significant advantages of a manual treadmill is that you can use it anywhere as it’s not dependent on being near a power outlet. The only thing it needs to operate is your muscle power.

This means you can use it wherever you want in your house, without needing to run an extension cord across the lounge floor.

Great treadmill for walkers

Manual treadmills are a brilliant option for walkers. You tend to keep a more regular pace when you walk so keeping an exact speed isn’t as important. Also, the treadmill doesn’t need to as sturdy as when you’re running at a full sprint.

Manual treadmills are smaller

Non-electric treadmills require little assembly and are commonly ready for use right out of the box. Without a motor, they are more compact and can fit in tiny rooms, and can store away just as easily.

Cons of a Manual Treadmill

Lower Quality

Generally, manual treadmills are not as durable as motorised ones. This is because they don't come with extra and heavier materials such as a motor and the sturdier frame to support it which adds additional weight and stability.

Manufacturers often position manual treadmills at the low end of the market. Using inferior quality materials which can have an impact on the life and stability of the treadmill.

Speed only stays constant with effort

A manual treadmill only works when you are continually using force to keep it going. This requirement can make it hard to stay at a set pace and requires constant monitoring of the speed readout, so you don’t slack off and slow down.

Fewer Features and Computer Functions

Since manual treadmills are not powered they come only with essential features that can serve basic fitness needs. Typically, with a small battery powered display that just shows current speed, time and distance.

Advanced features and bigger screens require power to function. So with a manual treadmill you can't as easily track your workouts, or how your fitness is improving over time.

What is a Motorised Treadmill?

Motorised Treadmills are the more modern, more popular, and more expensive kind of treadmills that people tend to buy.

Prestige Sports XM-ProTreadmill Review

​Motorised or powered treadmills come equipped with a motor which sets the belt in motion at a set speed when you turn it on.

Because of how easy these treadmills are to use, they’re generally the preferred option for those who are looking to start a new fitness regime at home.

One crucial factor to consider in a motorised treadmill is the horsepower of the motor. Running at faster speeds, as well as heavier users, will need a treadmill with more horsepower.

Having a constant speed your forced to keep up with is something that can help you immensely, especially if you are looking to get into shape, or track your workout progress.

A motorised treadmill has a lot more capability than a manual one. The main reason for this is the ability to program adjustable speeds, times and incline during the workout.

Pros of a motorised treadmill

More comfortable to run on

Because of the design of motorised treadmill they usually provide additional cushioning and shock absorption on the running deck. Making it a much softer on your joints with each stride.

If you’re suffering from ankle, knee, or hip issues than you’ll prefer a motorised treadmill.

Ability to personalise workouts

Most motorised treadmills today let you to select from pre-set programs or create your own one. With the ability to vary speed, incline (hills), and distances. This allows you just to jump on and let the treadmill be your coach.

Abundant features

In addition to the basics like distance, speed, and duration. Motorised treadmills have many advanced features to choose from – speakers, cooling fans, bluetooth connectivity, smartphone syncing, heart rate monitors, TV screens, and tablet holders, etc.

All these with allow you to work out harder and longer - making your workout a more enjoyable experience.

Allows you to run at a constant pace

Since the speed, incline and distance are set on the machine you can run at the pace you want to without having to think about it.

The continuous running provides a good motivation for you to keep up the pace to attain your workout goals.

Cons of a Motorised Treadmill

Expensive

Motorised treadmills cost more than manual treadmills owing to the motor. The bigger the engine the costlier the treadmill. The extra computerised features also come at an additional cost (and benefit).

Needs power to run

For a motorised treadmill to work it needs power. Having exercise equipment that requires electricity is not always a positive. If you don’t have a nearby outlet and don’t want an extension cord snaking across the floor of your living room this may not be the best treadmill for you.

Bigger and Heavier

Because of the additional parts that exist within motorised treadmills, they tend to be bigger, heavier and sturdier. This could be an issue if space is at a premium.

Also, they can come in large boxes that can be very difficult to carry into the room you want the treadmill in. That said, they are usually quite easy to shift around once assembled (on rollers).

More Maintenance

Because it is equipped with a motor, it will require additional maintenance and care so that it runs smoothly and extends the useful life of your treadmill.

Conclusion - ​Which Treadmill is best?

So, what’s the difference between the two? Who should choose one over the other?

There is no doubt that both types of treadmill will improve your cardiovascular endurance and strengthen and tone your body and leg muscles.

But everybody is different, which is why there is no one best treadmill for all workout goals.

As we have seen from this comparison of manual and motorised treadmills and their advantages and disadvantages I find that manual treadmills are ​best for walkers and those with rehab goals.

When it comes to pricing, manual treadmills tend to be significantly cheaper compared to motorised treadmills, but these of course, tend to have fewer features and cheaper construction.

A motorised treadmill, on the other hand, is ideal for those with serious running goals in mind. However, it is a more expensive investment. But if you are after focused running workouts, then you must be eyeing a motorised treadmill.

So is it going to be a manual or motorised treadmill? The choice is yours.