What Is A Manual Treadmill?

Treadmills are one of the most easily identifiable bits of exercise equipment, and they’ve been an integral part of almost every gym for a long time. The popularity of the treadmill has led to a huge range of different types of treadmills to accommodate every need and every budget.

At the higher end of the scale, you’ll find motorised ‘smart’ treadmills with built-in workouts which automatically adjust speed and incline, all displayed on touch screens with various multimedia options.

For those looking for something more affordable manual treadmills are pretty much the most basic type of treadmill you’ll find, which is typically reflected in the price and functionality. But what is a manual treadmill?


Manual treadmills at a glance


  • Affordable alternative to electric treadmills
  • Great way to get fit at home
  • Provides a great workout for the legs and core


  • Can be difficult to get started
  • No option to vary incline in the middle of a run
  • Stiff belts can present an injury risk
  • Not as much functionality as a decent electric treadmill

How does a manual treadmill work?

While motorised treadmills are powered by electricity and feature a moving band, a manual treadmill’s belt will only move when you begin moving it with your feet. The entire process is driven by you walking or running on the belt, so when you slow down or stop the treadmill does too. The internal mechanisms will keep the process fairly smooth, meaning you can focus on your workout rather than simply trying to keep the belt turning.

Manual treadmills are a popular choice for the home, not only because of the lower price but because they usually take up less space and can often be folded away. Electric treadmills, largely due to the additional internal components, tend to be bigger than manual treadmills and take up considerably more space. The ability to fold up the treadmill and store it under a bed or in a cupboard often makes it an attractive option for those looking for a home treadmill.

While electric treadmills typically cost between a few hundred to several thousand pounds/dollars, a decent manual treadmill is typically much cheaper. They also don’t need any electricity to power them, so it can end up saving more money in the long run.

While practical and financial considerations are an important part of choosing a manual treadmill, there are obviously a few downsides to consider. If you’re looking to increase the intensity of your run by adding an incline to the treadmill you’ll need to stop and adjust it manually every time, which can be pretty annoying if you’re in the middle of a workout. Depending on the model it can be a little difficult to get the belt moving too, and the initial pushing can place some unnecessary strain on ankles and knees.


Hit the pavement

While the manual treadmill is a more affordable option than electric, there’s certainly a case to be made for just spending the money on a decent pair of running shoes and heading outside. Obviously this simply isn’t an option for some people, but if you live in a part of the world with a decent climate and have the time/opportunity to hit the pavement then it’s something to consider. If not, and you’re determined to pick up a manual treadmill, make sure you can try it out before you buy. That way you’ll get a better idea if it’s going to be fit for purpose and will prevent any buyer’s remorse further down the road.


  • Updated May 25, 2020
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