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I might not be an avid runner, but with my intermittent knee pain, I can relate to you if you’re on the hunt for a shock-absorbing treadmill. The idea of my feet and knees bracing the impact of my entire body weight on a hard surface makes me want to cringe. However, once I got my feet on a shock-absorbing treadmill for the first time, I realized it was a game changer.
Whether you’re a runner or a walker, if you experience joint pain—from the ankle to the hip—it’s worth looking into a treadmill with a shock absorption. Luckily for you, we’ve got you covered in this roundup of the five best shock-absorbing treadmills.
Fitness Professionals Weigh In
Our expert product testers have hands-on experience with nearly all of the products listed in this roundup. If we haven’t tested one of these treadmills, we’ve tried one of the brand’s closest models to the one we featured.
Our team of experts are also fitness professionals ranging from nutrition coaches to certified personal trainers. Collectively, we have over a decade worth of experience. Our goal is to use our knowledge to help you decide on the best piece of fitness equipment for your home gym based on your needs and fitness level.
5 Best Shock-Absorbing Treadmills
- Best Shock-Absorbing Treadmill Overall: NordicTrack EXP 14i
- Best Durable Shock-Absorbing Treadmill: Sole Fitness F80
- Best Budget Shock-Absorbing Treadmill: Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7603
- Best Shock-Absorbing Treadmill for Walkers: ProForm City L6
- Best High-End Shock-Absorbing Treadmill: NordicTrack X32i
Best Shock-Absorbing Treadmill Overall: NordicTrack EXP 14i
Good for: Those who want a cushioning system to keep up with high-intensity interval training
NordicTrack EXP 14i
- Folding treadmill
- 14” HD touchscreen to view all of your workouts
- Incline and decline range
- Cruise control feature when your heart rate increases too much
- Cushioned deck
Pros & Cons
- 14” HD touchscreen
- Decline and incline
- Foldable for easy storage
- ActivePulse maintains optimal heart rate (requires HR monitor)
- Cushioned deck
- The SmartBeat forearm heart rate monitor is sold separately
- Not fully functional without iFIT membership
The NordicTrack EXP 14i is our top pick for the best shock-absorbing treadmill because of its FlexSelect cushioning system, where you can adjust the cushioning on this treadmill to your liking with a lever on the deck. This can help accommodate preferences for the whole family.
This machine not only offers a softer belt experience for anyone with joint pain, it also has all the tech features you would want to see in a NordicTrack treadmill. What exactly are those tech features I’m talking about? Well, the display boasts a 14-inch smart HD touchscreen where you’ll have access to a vast library of iFIT on-demand workouts for an additional monthly subscription.
Additionally, the EXP 14i is a folding treadmill with an EasyLift assist folding mechanism, which means a gas shock makes folding and unfolding a breeze. This model also has a powerful motor designed with runners in mind and can accommodate tall users with the 60-inch running deck. You’ll also be able to utilize both incline and decline training with peace of mind knowing your joints won’t get too beat up in the process with shock-absorbing deck cushioning.
We’ve had our hands (and feet) on the NordicTrack EXP 14i—you can read the full review if you’re interested in finding out more details about this NordicTrack model.
|Footprint||79.9” L x 35.08” W x 59.25” H|
|Weight capacity||300 lbs|
Best Durable Shock-Absorbing Treadmill: Sole Fitness F80
Good for: Folks looking for a solid value in a treadmill with a shock-absorbing running surface
- Foldable design
- 3.5 HP
- 12 mph max speed
- Incline training up to 15%
- 60" L x 22" W running deck
- 350 lb weight capacity
- Lifetime frame and motor warranty
Pros & Cons
- 3.5 horsepower motor supports heavy running
- Extended running surface measuring 60 inches by 22 inches
- Incline ranging 0-15%
- Weight capacity: 375 pounds
- 4 transport wheels (most folding treadmills have 2)
- Integrated Bluetooth speakers
- USB port
- Tablet holder
- Heart rate chest strap included
- Armrest controls
- Strong and durable 3.5-horsepower motor
- Lifetime warranty on frame and motor
- Low step-up height
- Users report cushioning not as shock absorbing as others
- Small and basic display
The Sole Fitness F80 is a solid treadmill with specs that provide a lot of value for a wide range of people. I personally like the fact that this machine offers a Cushion Flex Whisper Deck, which Sole Fitness claims reduces the impact of running up to 40 percent as compared to running on asphalt.
In addition to happy joints it’s also nice to see a powerful 3.5 horsepower motor and user weight capacity of 375 pounds. The running deck is designed to accommodate taller folks with a running surface that measures 60 inches long and 22 inches wide. All of these features add up to a well-built machine that will withstand a lot of miles (and a lot of impact). You will also be happy to know that Sole Fitness offers a lifetime warranty on both the frame and the motor.
Although this treadmill does not offer a high-tech touchscreen for interactive programming, the Sole F80 does have 10 preset workouts you can use in addition to manual mode. Other conveniences for this home-use treadmill include a built-in cooling fan and built-in speakers with Bluetooth connectivity.
Although our team of experts have not tested the F80, we have tested the Sole F63, which is highly comparable to the F80. To learn more about the Sole F80, read our full review.
|Footprint||82” L x 37” W x 66” H|
|Weight capacity||375 lbs|
|Motor||3.5 HP, DC type|
Best Budget Shock-Absorbing Treadmill: Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7603
Good for: Anyone looking for budget-friendly treadmill with a cushioning system
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7603
- Compact and foldable
- Simple to build solo
- Foldable with a gas shock for gentle release
- Handles have speed adjustments
- 2.2 CHP motor
Pros & Cons
- Easy to fold
- Sturdy, all-steel frame
- Shock absorption
- Reviewers report easy assembly
- Weaker motor will not support sustained or intense runs
- Small running deck not suited for taller individuals
- Some users report the lifespan is very short
If you’re on a budget but still want to get the benefits of a treadmill with shock absorption, this might be your answer. The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7603 is a model that won’t run you more than $500 and comes equipped with a shock absorption deck.
Our expert product testers have tried two models from Sunny Health and Fitness that are remarkably similar: the SF-T7603 and the SF-T4440. Both models surprised our team with just how much the treadmill deck lessened the impact of walking compared to asphalt.
In addition to keeping your joints healthy, the SF-T7603 also offers some budget-friendly features like manual incline levels, a small LCD screen for basic metrics, and nine preset programs to choose from—because sometimes less is more.
On the contrary, with this budget price you will notice some drawbacks like the fact the weight capacity caps out at 220 pounds and the machine’s top speed is 9 MPH. If these factors aren’t dealbreakers for you, it’s worth checking out our in-depth review on the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-T7603 treadmill.
|Footprint||62” L X 27” W X 47” H|
|Weight capacity||220 lbs|
Best Shock-Absorbing Treadmill for Walkers: ProForm City L6
Good for: Walkers who want cushioning and with an ultra-compact treadmill
ProForm City L6
- Foldable treadmill
- 0-8 MPH
- 125-lb product weight
- 250-lb user weight capacity
Pros & Cons
- Foldable design
- iFIT programming with trainer-controlled speed
- Tablet holder
- Free shipping
- 0-8 MPH speed
- No built in screen for iFIT programming
- 30-day return policy with $250 shipping + 10% restocking fee
- User weight capacity 250 lbs
- No incline or decline ability
The ProForm City L6 is a walking machine that offers ProShox cushioning to ensure your joints land softly as you get your steps in. The City L6 will not be the cardio machine for every home gym owner—the motor power will only support a maximum speed of 8 MPH, it has a short 45-inch walking deck, and the user weight capacity maxes out at 250 pounds.
However, if you’re looking for a well-cushioned treadmill to help you achieve your daily steps (and one that is compact and easy to move), you are looking at the right machine. It’s a bonus that it won’t run you more than $600 either. At this budget price point, it’s worth noting that this machine does not have incline settings.
This ProForm machine does not offer a touchscreen display, but it does have a tablet holder so you can use your own device to connect to interactive programming with an iFIT membership. You’ll even be able to take advantage of auto-adjust technology through iFIT where the treadmill speed is controlled by the coaching cues of your trainer.
Our product testers have used this machine and boast about the easy assembly and the ultra-compact folding mechanism that allows you fold the machine in half. The uprights fold down toward the walking deck and the machine can be rolled out of sight from there. If you’re interested in reading about our experience with the ProForm City L6, be sure to check out our in-depth review of this walking machine.
|Footprint||70.25” L x 29” W 44.5” H|
|Weight capacity||250 lbs|
|Motor||1.6 CHP Mach Z|
Best High-End Shock-Absorbing Treadmill: NordicTrack X32i
Good for: Anyone who plans to go hard on incline training and needs maximum shock absorption
- Decline and larger incline than most other treadmills
- 32” touchscreen
- Powerful motor
- Commercial-grade machine
- Oversized running surface
Pros & Cons
- -32” HD touchscreen
- -Heart rate chest strap included
- -6% Decline to 40% Incline
- -Quiet when in use
- -Extremely powerful 4.25 CHP motor
- -Doesn’t fold
- -Heavy and hard to move
The NordicTrack X32i not only has shock-absorption qualities with top-notch deck cushioning, it’s also a treadmill that can incline up to 40-percent grade and decline down to -6-percent grade. For that reason, this cardio machine is one of the best treadmills for anyone interested in hill training, but it comes with a hefty price tag.
With the ability to incline and decline to such extremes, I appreciate the fact this machine is equipped with a well-cushioned running belt. Some of our expert product testers put it to the test and report it’s practically cloud-like. If you want the full deets, you can read our in-depth review of the NordicTrack X32i.
Oddly enough, the NordicTrack website doesn’t explicitly state the X32i is cushioned or offers shock absorption for joints and the impact of running. However, from our hands-on experience with the X32i, we know it will definitely reduce shock to your joints. Plus, I hopped on a live chat with customer support to confirm. Ryan from NordicTrack (shout out to Ryan!) confirmed that both the X22i and the X32i have cushioned decks and he even says “It’s the best cushioning you can find on the market.” He also let me know it’s not an adjustable situation, it’s a set level of cushioning.
The NordicTrack X32i also offers an extremely powerful 4.25 horsepower motor and a massive 32-inch touchscreen enabled for iFIT interactive programming. This machine is not foldable, it weighs over 400 pounds, and it will need its own dedicated space in your home gym. All these things aside, if you’re looking for high-quality experience and low-impact to the joints (plus all the bells and whistles), this is the machine for you.
|Footprint||76.5” L x 40” W x 73” H|
|Weight capacity||300 lbs|
|Motor||4.25 CHP DurX|
Other Shock-Absorbing Treadmills We Researched
Sunny Health and Fitness (SF-T4400) Treadmill: This treadmill did not make it to this list because the specs are nearly identical to the SF-7603 but the SF-7603 is a quality budget treadmill with cushioning that pleasantly surprised our product testers.
XTERRA Fitness TR150: This budget treadmill almost made it to the list but it turns out the cushioning is pretty minimal and otherwise undetectable.
Horizon 7.4 AT: This Horizon Fitness treadmill was a contender for the most durable treadmill, but we thought the Sole F80 had more to offer with a higher weight capacity.
NordicTrack Commercial 1750: Although we’ve tested the older version of this model (and it’s one of our favorite treadmills overall), the sleek new redesign does not specify if there is cushioning or shock absorption.
How We Picked and Tested The Best Shock-Absorbing Treadmills
There are many factors we considered before rounding up the best treadmills for shock absorption. Here are the things we considered:
- Shock absorption: We wanted to make sure that every treadmill on this list offers cushioning and shock absorption to lessen impact to your joints if you decide to buy.
- Price: We choose a variety of machines from budget to high-end to show the landscape of what features you can get at every price range in addition to shock absorption.
- Our experience: We wanted to choose treadmills that we’ve assembled and put to the test. The exception to this list is the Sole F80 (but we’ve personally tested the F63, which is a base model from Sole with a lot of similar features).
- Assembly: We considered how difficult each product is to assemble based on our personal knowledge and research.
- Warranty: Length of the warranty for the frame, motor, parts, and labor was considered for this roundup.
- Weight capacity: We looked at the weight capacity and how it lines up with industry standards in that price range.
- Deck size: For this roundup, we looked at a variety of deck lengths, but ultimately tried to include several options that will work for taller people.
- Speed options: We considered speed ranges and only had a few models on this list that don’t reach 10 MPH.
- Portability: We considered how easy it is to move each treadmill and if it is foldable.
- Display: The size of the display and whether or not it’s a touchscreen were factors considered for this list and we included treadmills with and without touchscreens.
- Motor: We included a mix of treadmills with powerful motors and others that are best suited for walking.
- Technology: We included a mix of treadmills with preset workout programs that are hardwired into the machine and a few with interactive programming capabilities (like iFIT).
Benefits of Shock Absorption on a Treadmill
A treadmill that can offer shock-absorbing components can help reduce the stress repeated running and walking adds to your body.
“Shock absorption is one of the most integral features on modern treadmills, and it’s often one of the first features potential buyers look for,” says GGR editor Amanda Capritto. Based on that, here are the main benefits we see to owning a shock absorbing treadmill:
Muscle and Bone Stimulation
Both running and walking creates impact to your joints—enough so that both activities stimulate bone density formation, much like strength training does. If you’re someone who wants to stay active and continue to stimulate muscle and bone activity without the pain of hard surfaces, a softer landing can help keep you active.
“Some runners, especially those with prior injuries or those who are middle-age or older, switch from outdoor running to treadmill running to keep fit while avoiding undue stress on the joints but with all the same benefits” says Amanda.
Keep Injuries at Bay
If you suffer from joint pain or an injury, the impact of walking or running for long durations can be painful—sometimes during the workout and sometimes not until after the workout is complete.
“Running on a tread belt with shock absorption reduces joint impact compared to running on hard-packed terrain,” says Amanda. This can help injured ankles, knees, and hips receive less irritation while still staying active.
Buying Guide for Shock-Absorbing Treadmills
Buying a treadmill is a tough process. There are a lot of quality treadmills out there, but not every machine has everything you need. If you’re looking for shock-absorbing capabilities in the next treadmill you purchase, take a look at this list of things to consider:
We recommend going into your treadmill buying experience with a price point you feel comfortable with (either paid in full or a monthly payment). It’s easy to get lost in all the features each treadmill offers, but if you set your budget first, you can prioritize what you need over what you think is a nice-to-have.
The warranty provides extra peace of mind on any piece of large home gym equipment. The best warranties on treadmills range from 10 to 15 years on the frame. Quality warranties will also give you at least two years on parts and one year on labor.
Size of the Running Area
Depending on your height, weight, and fitness goals you’ll want to consider the size of the surface you plan to run or walk on. For tall runners, we suggest 60-inch running decks to accommodate for your full and natural gait. However, if you’re on the shorter side or plan to use a treadmill for walking, the 60-inch deck is not as important. In addition to stride length, it’s also important to consider the weight capacity on treadmills.
Shock Absorption System
When you’re shopping for treadmills, make sure you read through the specs for mentions of deck cushioning or shock absorption. Because a suspension system for shock absorption is important to a lot of buyers, the brand will likely mention it.
FAQs: Best Shock-Absorbing Treadmill
Do treadmills absorb shock?
When treadmills are equipped with cushioning under the deck or offer a cushioned treadmill belt, these methods help absorb the shock and impact from the weight of your body hitting the treadmill on each stride.
Which treadmills are good for bad knees?
If you have bad and achy knees, you’ll want to consider a treadmill with cushion or shock absorption. Luckily for you, we have an entire roundup dedicated to treadmills for anyone with bad knees.
How is the cushioning on the Peloton Tread?
The Peloton Tread does not have a cushioned deck, but you can check out all the other details about the Peloton Tread on our in-depth review.
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