Manual Treadmill Buying Guide, Operation & Maintenance Tips

Walking or running on a treadmill is considered one of the most beneficial form of cardiovascular exercises for people of all ages. As a form of fitness exercise, treadmill walking has numerous physical benefits for the heart, lungs, and circulatory system, as well as increasing muscle tone and burning fat. However, you may risk to strain or stress your joints if you're not careful. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a treadmill-walking session if you have knee, hip or joint pain or any pre-existing conditions.

Also, if you're new to treadmill workout, it will be a good idea to learn how to properly walk on a manual treadmill. Perhaps our Treadmill Workout Guide for Beginners can help.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Manual Treadmill

1. You Power the Belt

There isn't any electric motor to drive the treadmill deck, you provide all of the power with the help of the default incline that makes it easier to push the belt back with every step. It can be quite difficult to move the belt initially. But once you get used to the power needed to keep the treadmill continuously moving with your feet/legs, you should have no problems with it. With manual treadmills, users must hold on to the handlebars for leverage and to keep themselves from sliding off the back.

Manual treadmill workout speed - you go as fast as you're able to push yourself. As you slow down, the machine slows too. If you stop, the treadmill belt will also stop.

2. Stability

Manual treadmills are lightweight and portable machines that can be folded and stored anywhere when not in use. Most manual treadmill models weigh around 40 - 70 pounds. The heavier machines should provide better stability.

3. Incline

Most models are designed and built with either a "fixed" incline position (usually 8 degrees) or two incline levels (usually 8 to 12 degrees).

Note: There are a couple of more expensive models that have 3 incline positions.
This is one of them.

An incline is necessary with a manual treadmill because it leverages your body weight and momentum to slide and get the belt moving. "Single" incline means you cannot adjust the incline level. You'll have to do a home-made fix should you require another incline level.

Once the deck/belt is moving, you cannot make any change to the incline - you'll need to stop and get off to change the incline. Which also means that you are restricted to just one incline level for each workout, even if your machine has multiple inclines.

4. Workout Space

This is very important. Look at the treadmill's specification details that states the "treadmill belt" size or "walking surface" - Most models will be 41"/43" L by xx" W (where W is the belt width).

Are you big with a long stride? Is a 41- or 43-inch belt long enough for you to walk on? You've to decide for yourself.

Most manual models are fitted with 13-inch belts (width). Is that wide enough for you?

Exceptions:

1. Stamina InMotion II has a wider belt of 17 inches (walking surface : 17 inches x 42 inches).

2. Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill has a belt width of 15 inches (walking surface : 15 inches x 40.2 inches).

3. Weslo Cardiostride 3.0 Manual Treadmill, belt width is 17 inches (walking surface : 17 inches x 41 inches).

4. Exerpeutic 100XL Heavy Duty Manual Treadmill, belt width is 16 inches (walking surface : 16 inches x 45 inches).

5. User Weight Capacity

Most models are rated 220/250 pounds and above. This shouldn't be an issue unless you are really huge.

6. User Height

Look at the specifications where it states the "open dimensions" or "assembled dimensions". The height (H) here refers to the highest point of the machine measured from ground level up, which usually means the approximate height of the handlebar, 46/50 inches for most models. Not much of an issue if your height is under 5 feet 9 inches. You'll have to decide for yourself if you are much taller. (Hint: Go read some users' comments at Amazon.com where some tall men/women share their experience)

7. Flywheels

Stamina InMotion II Twin Flywheels Each manual treadmill has either a single or dual flywheels.

A flywheel is a shaft-mounted, rotating mechanical disc that is used to store rotational energy and then releases it as rotational kinetic energy to provide motion to a stationary (or nearly stationary) object.

When you begin a workout session on a manual treadmill, the force of walking is what moves the belt along with the help of a flywheel system.

Most manual treadmills will adjust to your speed, thanks to the flywheel that keeps the gears smooth, and allowing you to vary the intensity of your workout. The flywheel/flywheels not only provide a smooth operation but an efficient resistance as well.

Twin flywheels offer a smoother and more consistent workout than single flywheel manual treadmills.

Phoenix 98510 Easy-Up Single Flywheel

8. Other Considerations

You may also want to look at the machine's fold-up mechanism, transportation wheels, electronic display and warranty, etc. Nothing is really complicated here. Just pick what you like.

Manual Treadmill Operation

The basic idea behind the manual treadmill is to have the belt running on a treadmill board and between two rollers so that the belt will move without much effort. In order for the belt to run smoothly, there are a few points that need to be noted:

Belt Alignment:

The belt must be in the center of the treadmill to prevent it from rubbing against the flywheels. If the belt rubs a flywheel, it will be difficult to keep the belt moving and eventually damage the edge of the belt.

Manual treadmills have belt guides welded to the bottom of the treadmill frame that move the belt toward the center of the treadmill. However, the rear roller must be properly aligned with the treadmill frame and front roller if the belt is to remain centered on the treadmill.

The bolts in the rear of the treadmill (one on the left and the other on the right) adjust the alignment of the rear roller as well as the tension of the belt.

If belt drifting to the left - Turn the left screw 1/4 turn CLOCKWISE and the right screw 1/4 turn COUNTER-CLOCKWISE, then walk on the treadmill. Repeat if needed.

If belt drifting to the right - Turn the left screw 1/4 turn COUNTER-CLOCKWISE and the right screw 1/4 turn CLOCKWISE, then walk on the treadmill. Repeat if needed.

When you finally believe the walking belt is centered, use the treadmill for about 3-5 minutes to verify that the walking belt doesn't drift to one side anymore. If it continues to drift, the floor may not be level. Rotate the treadmill 90 degrees or move the treadmill to another location.

Belt Tension:

The belt should be tight and not lying on the treadmill board.

If the belt is too loose, the belt will slip on the front roller and you will notice a jerky movement when you walk on the treadmill.

If the belt is too tight, the edges of the belt will begin to curl and more effort will be required to move the belt.

Excessive belt tension can also damage the bearings in the rollers.

Generally if belt is too loose - tighten the bolts in the rear of the treadmill. If belt is too tight - loosen the bolts in the rear of the treadmill.

Walking Resistance:

The walking resistance or effort needed to push the treadmill belt can be adjusted by changing the incline angle.

If it is a new machine, you may need some time to get used to walking on the treadmill and to break it in.

If the walking resistance is still too high, check the belt tension.

The belt resistance can be reduced by adding a good quality treadmill lubricant between the belt and the board (deck). We recommend either LifeSpan Fitness 100% Silicone Treadmill Belt Lubricant, or Horizon Fitness Silicone Treadmill Belt Lubricant. Wipe the board under the belt with a cloth and spray or spread silicone lubricant on the board under the belt.

Whenever you want to make any treadmill adjustment, be sure to refer to your treadmill user's manual.

Read More About Treadmill Lubrication.

Manual Treadmill Maintenance Tips

Your manual treadmill can only be maintained when it is regularly examined for damage and wear. Special attention should be given to the following:

Storing Your Manual Treadmill

1. Follow the instructions in the owner manual to fold the treadmill.

2. Keep it in a clean dry place.

3. To avoid damage to the electronics meter, remove the batteries before storing the treadmill for one year or more.