Workout Tips

Is a Nonmotorized Treadmill Worth the Investment?

The nonmotorized treadmill can spice
 up your cardio and burn a lot more calories. But is it worth the hefty price?

by CSCS

Over time, the treadmill has received upgrades such as built-in monitors, science-backed training programming, and borderline-AI (artificial intelligence) coaching. Sometimes, however, the greatest leaps (or strides) forward come as a result of taking a calculated step back. Enter the motorless treadmill.

Strange as it may sound, running sans electricity on a treadmill has its perks.

Mainly, you’re running on “you” power. The nonmotorized treadmill belt essentially functions on inertia—each stride powers the next. The good news is that the energy you conserve on your electricity bill comes at the real cost of actual energy expenditure (read: calories).

How much more do you burn running on a nonmotorized curved treadmill versus the electric version? About 30%, according to a study by researchers at the Human Biomechanics and Physiology Laboratory at High Point University in North Carolina.

Also, you won’t have to worry about face-planting if you hit the wall during a sprint. When you stop, the belt stops.

As good as it sounds, not everyone is a believer. Josh Cox, the American record holder in the 50K and former USA Track and Field national teamer (joshcox.com), isn’t convinced. He says nonmotorized treadmills lack the cushioning of their motorized counterparts, which can lead to wear and tear on your body. And Cox sees another big drawback for serious runners: The pace is set by the runner, rather than the treadmill.

“One of the big benefits of a motorized treadmill is being able to lock in a pace and learn how that feels,” Cox explains.

When it comes to the motorized treadmill, Don Saladino, a celebrity trainer and owner of Drive 495 in New York City, thinks that having the belt work for you—instead of with you—will cause more issues than not.

“When you run on a belt, what's happening? Your leg's just getting snapped back and it's throwing you into an extension,” Saladino says. “That's why you see a lot of these runners after running on treadmills, they're always like, ‘My back hurts, my hip's tight, my back hurts, my hip's tight.’

In a nutshell, the nonmotorized treadmill will make your body work harder, an ideal trait in exercise equipment for those looking to lose fat. It also enables the user to be in more control of their movement.

If you’re interested in purchasing a motorless treadmill, just be wary of the cost. Some will cost upwards of $5,000, but there are also more affordable brands like the Xebex Runner, which comes in at just over $3,500.

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