I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume running is not your favorite activity. If that’s the case, you aren’t alone.
But a I realized a big part of the problem for me was the gym and not running. I just wasn’t comfortable hitting the treadmill in the gym and so I was less likely to go.
I’m about to talk about why with a little story.
But if you can’t bear to make it through the rest of the article, and want to run (get it?) ahead, my #1 pick for a fat-friendly treadmill is the Sole Fitness F80 Folding Treadmill which you can see on Amazon by clicking here.
- Best Overall: Sole Fitness F80 Folding Treadmill
- Runner-Up: LifeSpan TR4000i Folding Treadmill
- Best for 350+ Pound Person : Exerpeutic TF1000 Ultra High Capacity Treadmill
- Best for New Runners: NordicTrack Commercial 2450 Treadmill
- Best for Tall Runners: 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill
- Most Lightweight Option: NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
But let’s talk more about why I made the switch to running home.
What to look for in a treadmill for heavy people
Like all other types of exercise equipment, treadmills have a weight limit set by the manufacturer. Because I know we all want to feel secure, I only included treadmills that have a weight limit of at least 300 pounds on this list.
And even with that, half of them can hold 400+ pounds.
Interestingly, if you do purchase a treadmill with a weight limit lower than what you actually weigh, it probably won’t collapse or cease to function. What will happen is that you will be physically able to run on it, but it will wear out very quickly.
Additionally, the engine will have trouble keeping up with the load and could potentially overheat.
So, if you happen to be at a gym or friend’s house and want to use their treadmill, don’t feel like you have to run off and find the manual to check the weight limit.
Using a treadmill made for someone lighter than you very occasionally or for brief moments is not a big deal, but over time it could cause major issues.
That being said, I recommend you purchase a treadmill with a maximum weight capacity at or above your actual weight.
Just know that if you buy a treadmill that can’t handle your weight and use it anyway, you do so at your own risk.
If it does break, you likely voided the warranty and they won’t be very forgiving.
Durable, Heavy Duty Construction
The second most important consideration is the sturdiness of the treadmill’s frame. No matter what the weight limit is, most manufacturer’s carry models that have especially sturdy frames for larger runners.
One reason for needing a durable frame is for extra stability. No one, no matter their size, enjoys shaking around during their workout.
We have all been on a treadmill that feels like it’s about to come loose.
If the treadmill is not made of quality materials, you will find your teeth rattling out of your jaw before you even hit the second mile.
A home treadmill is an investment and you want it to be comfortable and last a long time.
The belt of the treadmill is the strip of material that cycles around and allows you to actually move while staying in the same spot.
Most of the treadmills you see at commercial gyms are pretty wide, so you may never have thought about considering the width of the belt.
The reason most gyms provide treadmills with wide belts is because they cater to a diverse audience. People of all shapes and sizes use them.
This is not the case for personal treadmills.
Many of them are made for home gyms and people who are short on space. These people may not care about having a wide belt, but it’s very important for us chubby folk.
All the belts on my list are at least 20 inches wide and 60 inches long. This is the golden standard you want to use as a benchmark.
The belt needs to be wide enough for you to comfortably put one foot in front of the other, but not too wide. It also needs to be wide enough for you to put your feet out on either side in case of an emergency.
If you get yourself into a pickle (or accidentally hit the speed arrow up instead of down), you will want to straddle the belt and stop. Safety first!
We also need to pay special attention to the length of the belt. That means the amount of material on the belt in front of and behind you.
Especially if you are big and tall, your legs are longer, which makes your stride longer, too.
You’ll need to be able to run or walk comfortably without your feet stepping off the back of the belt.
Is anyone else envisioning that stereotypical scene of a person running way too fast on a treadmill and flying off the back of it? It’s funny when it goes viral on the internet, but not funny if it actually happens to you.
That was me once…I made it out with everything intact (except my pride).
But that’s a story for another time.
In general, you want a belt length of at least 55 inches, 60 inches if you are super tall. The width should be at least 16 inches, but like I said 20 inches is best.
As heavy people, we have more weight slamming down with each step. That’s just a fact. It’s harder on our joints, which is why we need a treadmill with adequate shock absorption.
Treadmills usually have shock absorbers under the space of the deck where the belt is. They reduce the impact of the workout on your body with springs or rubber absorbers.
They work to protect you because they spring and release the absorbed pressure back to your body rather than simply cushioning the blow.
A Good Warranty
Buying a personal treadmill is a big investment and hopefully this piece of equipment is going to become a big part of your life.
A good warranty will go a long way in protecting your treadmill should something go wrong.
For the most part, the more expensive the treadmill, the better the warranty.
Warranties can be broken down into three categories: parts, frame and motor.
The longer the warranty, the better. I aim for at least a 10-year warranty on the frame. My Sole Fitness F80 Folding Treadmill
Bonus Features Are Nice to Have, But Not Critical
Best Treadmills for Heavy, Fat and Big People
- Generous 375-pound weight capacity
- Two-ply belt is extra durable
- Long and wide belt to accommodate big runners
- Deck technology reduces shock by 40%
- Durable with best in class warranty
- Bonus features like cooling fans and digital screen display
- Hand rails are short
- High price tag
If I have to pick the best, this monster from Sole is the clear winner because it checks every single box (and then some).
The weight limit on this baby is 375 pounds, which is great. Most treadmills engineered for heavy people top out around 350 pounds, so anything above that is a huge plus.
Made for durability, this treadmill boasts a two-ply belt which means it is built to last through a beating. The extra layer of protection will keep it running smoothly for years.
The belt length and width are perfect, measuring at 60 inches long and 22 inches wide. Even if you are freakishly tall like me, your legs won’t fall off at the end.
The Sole treadmill features Cushion Flex Whisper Deck technology. In a study done on the treadmill, scientists found it reduced impact on runners’ joints by up to 40%.
When you are spending this kind of money on a treadmill, the warranty should be excellent.
The high-quality materials and assembly mean this piece is no exception. It includes a lifetime warranty on the frame, motor and deck. You also receive a five-year warranty on electronics and a two-year warranty on labor.
Some of the extra bells and whistles on this treadmill are cooling fans, MP3/iPod-compatible sound system, an extra-large 7.5-inch LCD digital display, speakers, an accessory tray and two bottle holders.
If you don’t want to plan your workouts yourself, you can select from six standard programs, two custom programs and two heart-focused workout programs. There is also a stop button and safety lanyard that will keep you safe in case of an emergency.
As if it couldn’t get any better, the treadmill also completely folds up for easy storage.
Check out the latest price and read more reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
- Durable and built to last
- Generous belt length and width
- Cushioned deck for shock absorption
- Competitive warranty
- Quiet because of cushioned deck and motor
- Deck folds up for easy storage
- The display rack is too small for a magazine or tablet to rest on it while maintaining view of the control panel
- Does not completely fold up
Just barely missing the top spot and receiving second place is the TR4000i from LifeSpan. The reason this one didn’t quite make to the top spot is because the weight capacity is a bit less at 375 pounds.
- Generous 400-pound weight limit
- Long, reinforced hand rails
- Quiet motor
- Ships fully assembled
- Cannot set running speeds
- Short belt length of 40 inches
- Warranty could be better
Although this treadmill looks dainty, it was specifically designed for heavy people. It may look small, but trust me, it is mighty – it can withstand 400 pounds.
That being said, this treadmill will not suit everyone’s needs because it was built to be a walking treadmill. You will not be able to run on it.
The speed is limited to four miles per hour. If you aren’t sure what that means, it’s a moderate walking speed. You will be moving fairly leisurely at the highest speed the treadmill allows.
The belt is 20 inches wide, which will suit most. The length of the belt is only 40 inches, but since it’s made for walking, you won’t have to worry about falling off the back. 40 inches would not be suitable for running.
The manufacturer added some features that will make this a great treadmill if you are big.
The hand rails are extra-long and well reinforced so they are stable and secure. You can hold onto them for support without worrying about them giving out.
Because the engine does not have to be big enough to support running, it is small and won’t make much noise.
The added features are basic and include a small LCD display that monitors distance, time, calories, speed and your pulse.
Since it has a basic design, it ships fully assembled. No need to spend hours with an instruction manual. Score!
The basic design also lends itself well to an office setting. You could set this treadmill up under your desk and walk while you work.
The warranty is not as good as some of the others on this list, but that is to be expected with a more budget-friendly price tag. You will receive a five-year warranty on the frame and motor, but only 90 days on parts and labor.
Check the latest price and see more reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
- Negative incline for new or inexperienced runners
- Commercial grade materials are durable and secure
- Includes 12-month iFit family membership with access to live classes
- 14-inch HD touchscreen monitor
- Excellent warranty
- Can be loud
- When not folded, takes up a lot of space
- Very heavy
The NordicTrack treadmill is best for new runners because it features a negative incline setting.
If you are new to exercise or need some relief, you can actually set this treadmill to tilt downward. The incline variance goes from -3% to 15%.
The treadmill can handle very large people since its maximum weight is 400 pounds.
This is a commercial grade exercise machine. Although you can use it in your own home, be aware that it is a big daddy!
That means it’s super durable and heavy. You certainly don’t have to worry about this one wobbling around. Surprisingly, it is able to fold up after your run for simple and compact storage.
Like most of the other treadmills on this list, the belt is 22 inches wide and 60 inches long. It features flex cushioning material to absorb shock and ease the strain on your knees, hips and joints.
One of the best features about this treadmill is the interactive personal training capability. You will automatically receive a 12-month iFit family membership so that you can create up to five exercise profiles.
Once created, you have access to live studio workouts right inside your home.
The impressive 14-inch touchscreen monitor gives you access to the live classes or various outdoor and indoor scenes to suit your running mood.
You will receive a great warranty with this treadmill – 10 years on the frame, two years on the parts and one year on the labor.
Check the latest price and see more reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
- Extra-long belt is great for very tall runners
- Ortho Flex Shock suspension system to protect your joints from damage
- High quality speakers and sound quality
- Fantastic warranty and quality parts
- Heavy and takes up a lot of space
This treadmill features an oversized belt and running platform. It measures 22 inches wide by 62 inches long. For those of us who are big and tall, size matters.
This belt accommodates us because it’s two inches longer than even the generous minimums I set as requirements to make this list.
No need to worry about a weight limit here either. The treadmill can withstand up to 400 pounds.
In addition, it packs 386 pounds of muscle and strength under your feet to give you an amazingly secure feel.
The upgraded, commercial grade Ortho Flex Shock suspension system cushions your feet as you run, reinforcing the stability of your own joints.
If you like to jam out on your runs, this machine was made for you.
It features built in speakers with top-rated quality and sound. You can even connect your tablet to access music or watch your favorite TV show.
You can choose between pre-programmed exercise courses or control the speed and elevation with one touch settings.
The treadmill also includes options to view your heart rate and add custom information.
The performance speaks for itself through the unrivaled 10-year parts and two-year in-home warranties. The manufacturer’s confidence in their product should give you a nice peace of mind.
- Compact for easy storage
- Access to iFit program for one full year
- FlexSelect cushioning to absorb shock
- Impressive HD touchscreen display
- Excellent warranties
- 300-pound weight limit
If you need a treadmill that is lightweight and easy to move, this option is for you.
Maybe you need to store it in your bedroom but don’t want to stare at it all the time?
Or maybe you want to shove it under the sofa?
This treadmill will accommodate your storage needs. The weight limit is a little bit less than some of the others on this list, but it is still a generous 300 pounds.
Although the treadmill is incredibly lightweight, it comes from a reputable brand that uses high quality materials and has an excellent track record. In fact, it has over 14,000 positive reviews on Amazon!
As soon as you purchase it, you will have immediate access to the iFit program. The 12-month family membership gives you access to live and studio workout classes. You can exercise with a group while still being alone in the comfort of your own home.
The belt is 20 inches wide and 60 inches long. That leaves you plenty of room to feel comfortable and safe.
It features FlexSelect cushioning to absorb shock and keep your joints strong.
With the compact size, NordicTrack still managed to squeeze in a 7-inch interactive HD screen to stream the workouts, tracking and other stats. They also included an AutoBreeze fan to keep you feeling fresh.
The treadmill is protected by a 10-year frame warranty, two-year parts warranty and a one-year labor warranty.
Check the latest price and read the 14,000+ reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to run on the treadmill to stay healthy?
Nope! If running intimidates you, hurts or you’re just starting out, walking is a wonderful option to get your heart pumping. Neither one is “better” than the other.
What is most important is that you are doing something active. While running will burn more calories in the same amount of time than walking will, your goals should dictate which one you choose.
Did you know that walking has its own health benefits?
Other than losing weight, frequent walking can create a denser bone structure, lower your blood pressure, decrease your chance of heart disease and keep type 2 diabetes under control.
If you are like me, you’ll likely do a little bit of both walking and running. But the fact that walking is so effective is great news for heavy folks.
Are treadmills bad for your knees?
There has been tons of research on the impact of stress that runners put on their knees. According to a study in the Journal of Biomechanics, heavy people did not actually strain their knees while walking at a normal speed any more than participants who were of a leaner frame.
More often than not, pain from exercising comes from incorrect form or overdoing it.
If something hurts, stop immediately and consult your physician.
How many calories will I burn on the treadmill?
This is hard to even give an average for. There are hundreds of speed and incline combinations as well as such a variance in a person’s weight, gender, height, metabolism…you get the idea.
You can use this handy online calculator to input your specific metrics and get a good estimate of the calories you burned during your unique workout.
What’s the best treadmill speed for weight loss?
You want to do what’s best for you here. My best advice is to aim for something that makes you feel like you’ve actually worked hard.
You should be breathing heavily (but not gasping for air). If you feel like you got a good workout at the end, chances are you did. Don’t cheat yourself, though. You need to get a little bit uncomfortable to reap the true benefits of a good sweat session.
Will my legs get bulky from treadmill workouts?
Your leg muscles might grow, but you’re not going to look like the Hulk after a few treadmill workouts.
Is it ok to use the treadmill every day?
As with any workout plan, you are going to want some variety. Different muscle groups need different exercises as much as they need rest.
Even if you do use your treadmill every day, try to switch up the workouts to give your body a chance to recover adequately. Doing so will lower your risk of injury as well.
Is it better to go faster or longer on a treadmill?
When you are first starting out, focus on slow workouts to get your endurance up. They will also help you build up the stamina you need to go farther and faster.
Slow workouts are effective for steady state calorie burn. That means you might burn fewer calories, but you will be able to sustain the activity for a longer period of time.
Fast, shorter workouts have a higher calorie burn per minute and help get your heart rate up higher, which increases your cardiorespiratory capacity.
Is holding onto the hand rails cheating?
We have all been at that point where we grab onto the hand rails of a treadmill for dear life.
When you realize you’ve set the incline and speed up way too high, but there’s nothing else to do except hang on.
But is that cheating? Or smart strategy?
This is a highly debated subject among runners.
If you grab the hand rails to give your legs a break, you’re actually going to burn 20-25% fewer calories. So, in a way, yes, it’s cheating.
Do it if you must, but you’ll be better off slowing down so that you can engage your legs.
How much do I have to spend on a treadmill?
Most treadmills range from $625-$3,400. I recognize that’s a big range.
Like anything else worth spending money on, you are going to get what you pay for.
I’m not saying you have to buy the most expensive treadmill option just because, but you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons.
Sure, going for the cheapest one might save you money now, but if it breaks down in just a few months, is that really worth it? You decide.
How is running on a treadmill different than running outside?
Both treadmill and outdoor running (or walking) have benefits. Treadmills are great for running in the convenience of your home without having to deal with bad weather.
If it’s very cold, hot or raining, you would probably cancel your outdoor workout. But with a treadmill, you don’t have that excuse.
Additionally, many people find running on a treadmill more entertaining because you can watch TV or listen to music very easily.
You should note that running outside works your body in a way that a treadmill cannot. When you run on the treadmill, you can program the settings, like consistent speed and incline levels.
Outside, you have to roll with the punches and are responsible for maintaining your own speed.
A treadmill also means you are protected from wind, which can have a huge impact on your speed and effort outside.
What kind of shoes should I wear on the treadmill?
When running on a treadmill, footwear is very important. You can check out some of our favorite shoes for heavy folks here but just keep in mind you can wear the same running shoes you would wear on an outdoor run.
Stay away from sandals and bare feet. Your body needs the support and shock absorption that running shoes provide.
Are the distances measured on the treadmill accurate?
Most treadmills are sophisticated enough to have accurate distance measuring tools. Treadmills measure distance by the amount of revolutions the belt makes.
The belt is a certain length, so the measurement is very precise. The treadmill’s computer records how many times the length of the belt loops around to give you the total distance.
It doesn’t matter whether you are running at an incline of zero or an incline of 15. The distance measurement will be the same.
Is it bad to watch TV while working out?
Definitely not. If anything, watching TV while you do a treadmill workout could be better for you.
That’s because exercisers actually stay on the treadmill longer when they are distracted by entertainment.
Some people can even read on the treadmill! Personally, it’s impossible for me to hold a book, let alone read one with all of the bouncing around. But if you can, go for it!
I prefer to watch a TV show or listen to a pump-up playlist.
How can I stay motivated to do my workouts?
Here are some of my favorite ways to stay motivated to work out:
- Use a coaching app. There are tons of great ones on the market. You can select a workout or trainer who will push you to keep going. It also adds some variety to your workout schedule.
- Find a workout buddy. If you work out with a friend, you can keep each other accountable and stick to your goals as a team.
- Schedule it. Put your workout in your calendar just like you would any other appointment. You wouldn’t cancel a manicure, so why should your workout be any different?
- Make the time worthwhile. When I found myself in a workout rut, I started using it as a time to catch up on my shows. I only let myself watch a certain show (hello Bachelor fans!) when I was on the treadmill. By doing that, I not only killed two birds with one stone, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to skip my workout if it meant I wouldn’t know who got the final rose.
- Reward yourself. Set a goal and then give yourself a treat once you hit it. For example, if you make all your workouts for two weeks you can splurge on a new pair of jeans or that ridiculously expensive candle you have been wanting. Just avoid using food as a reward.
What are the speed limits on a treadmill?
Most treadmills allow you to control the speed in increments of 0.5. On a standard treadmill, the lowest speed is 0.5 and the highest speed is 12.
Those numbers translate to miles per hour.
So, setting the treadmill at 0.5 means you are moving at half a mile per hour. Similarly, setting the treadmill at 12 means you are moving at 12 miles an hour.
As a heavy person, should I worry about breaking the treadmill if I use it at a gym?
I know we just went through all these details about special treadmills for fat people, but rest assured, you will not break a treadmill that you use in the gym.
That’s because the exercise equipment at commercial gyms need to withstand the constant pounding from tons of people of all shapes and sizes.
Since they need to accommodate so many different people, they have high weight limits, are durable and have extra wide belts.
Why are treadmills so noisy?
The reason treadmills can be loud is because of the motor. Some of the ones on our list feature quiet motors, but all of them are still going to generate some level of noise.
Treadmills are a great piece of exercise equipment to bring into your home. The investment will be of significant value to your overall health and keep you feeling good.
As long as you pay attention to the specialized criteria you need as a heavy person, your treadmill will last you a long time.
Pay attention to the weight limit, durability and belt width/length. As a plus, the treadmill might have some features like entertainment and body monitoring.
Don’t ever let someone discourage you from getting a good sweat session in. You do you.
As fat people, we CAN workout! We CAN run! And we CAN feel good about ourselves while doing it.