Many people wonder if buying a treadmill that will fold away is a good idea or not. To answer the question, we have to go a little deeper before we can arrive at a good, logical answer. The primary concern that people have is “am I giving up something to have the capability of the treadmill to fold?” So, let’s investigate this concern to uncover the answer to our topic.
What are the differences in a folding treadmill and a regular treadmill? The answer is not many. In many cases, other than frame parts, there are no differences in the physical construction of the machine. One of our owners was at a treadmill manufacturer when they decided to start building fold up treadmills. The parts list for the treadmill was identical, with the exception of a few bolts and different frame parts.
So, we have ended this discussion quickly and can move on. Right? Well, not really. The problem is not with what they put into machines in many cases. It is how they build it. If you are considering the purchase of a folding treadmill or if you think you may want one in the future, consider this question first, “why do I want one?” Most people don’t realize that if you need to save room, you usually will be looking at a wall when you exercise. That is due to almost every treadmill on the market folding from the rear of the treadmill to the front. That means the front has to be placed against the wall. The few we have seen that fold from the front to the rear aren’t worth buying and we haven’t seen one of these for sale in quite a while.
If you want one that is easy to move around this is also a misnomer. It is true that they navigate much better due to the smaller footprint when folded, but you better have someone who is strong to handle it. Even the cheap models can weigh 120 to 150 lbs. Another reason to have one is to be able to clean easily underneath it. We can’t find any problem with this logic and that is why we have folding treadmills ourselves.
The difference in the build of the treadmill is the most important feature. Icon Health and Fitness was the first company in the modern era to build a folding treadmill. The first folding treadmill was actually built in the early 1900’s. Icon’s original ideas have been redesigned in the past few years and have become a very good design. Most of their treadmills are easy to service, the design is very good, and they have minimized the initial problems that surfaced. The frame design is a little heavier than some of their non-folding efforts and actually creates a treadmill that should structurally last longer than other non-folding treadmills in the same price range. They sell under the brand names ProForm, Weslo, Image, NordicTrack, Reebok, and HealthRider.
Some other companies such as Keys, Everyoung, Trimline, Schwinn, and Vision sell a higher class of treadmill but in almost every case, these treadmills sacrifice quality for the ability to fold up. For instance, the Keys folding machines are much less stable than their non-folding units while an Image folding treadmill is much more stable than anything else below $2,000. Some of these manufacturers have had to add extra support to bolster their designs just to get them to stand upright when folded, using cheap kick stand-like contraptions. It is our opinion that you should start from scratch to design a folding treadmill, not modify an existing design, as many manufacturers have.
The king of the folding treadmill is unquestionably Spirit. If you look at a Spirit folding treadmill on the showroom floor, you may never realize that you are looking at a folding treadmill. You may just think that it is another $2,000 to $2,500 treadmill until the salesperson shows you that it will fold up. The amazing feature of the Spirit unit is that their folding units have so much extra structural support built into their frames. Although they still make non-folding treadmills, their folding units are much more stable and rugged than their non-folding treadmills. In other words, if you need a folding treadmill and can afford a Spirit, theirs is the way to go.