Reader Mailbag – Where to try out treadmills


The Treadmill Sensei is loving the new site! I was very excited to get out of the old one and in to something a lot more user friendly and easier to navigate. If anyone sees any problems on the website, definitely email me here at the DOJO and I’ll get on fixing it. Also, if there is anything you’d like to see on the site let me know and I’ll see what I can do to make the reader experience better.

Today we have a question from a reader in Southern California (stomping grounds of the Treadmill Sensei) who is having problems finding places to try equipment out. Let’s see if we can help her out. Take it away, Lisa!


I enjoy reading your website. It is very funny and informative. However, it seems that a lot of the treadmills that are highly rated (in your site and others) cannot be tested by the consumer before purchase. Specifically, Sole, Smooth, and Spirit brands. I live in Mission Viejo, CA and have only found one “brick and mortar” store chain that carries a Spirit treadmill. (And they only have one fold-up model and one non-folding one.) Do you have any recommendations for how the average consumer can try out some of these treadmills? I’m not a serious runner who needs an expensive machine. I just want one that is quiet, durable, and preferably priced under $1,000. So far, my research doesn’t come up with many options. I was excited to see the Spirit in person, and it is one of the quietest that I’ve tried, but I would like to be able to compare it to the other two brands because the prices vary so much. Also, you recently wrote that you are seeing some problems with the quality of the Spirit XT200 ( the only model available in the store), so I’m worried about spending a lot for something that might not hold up very well. I’m more afraid of purchasing a treadmill over the internet, sight unseen, that weighs a ton and can’t be returned easily if it doesn’t work well.

Thank you for your time and any advice you may have.

Sincerely, Lisa


Thanks for your note and I’m definitely glad you’re enjoying the website. I want to apologize for taking so long to get back to you, but I get in around 150 emails a week and I tend to run a little slow on answering. Unfortunately, I don’t really like to recommend one retailer over another for questions like this. I can say that the Spirit Fitness website has a dealer locator section that might help you. Sole mainly sells direct and through Dick’s Sporting goods, so they don’t have a dealer list, but you should be able to call them for a dealer in your area. Between the two companies, they have thousands of dealers across the US.

Unfortunately, Smooth is an internet only company — and, in fact, Smooth will only sell their main line of equipment direct to customers. While they do make some excellent equipment, the internet-only attitude makes it impossible for customers to see a unit before they buy it.

What I’d suggest if you can’t locate a unit to test out, and manufacturers will completely hate me for saying this, but negotiate a 30-day risk free trial with the equipment. Most reputable dealers who are confident in the equipment will have no problems shipping a unit out for you to try. Don’t be conned in to having to pay the shipping on a unit you’ve never tried before because you’ll get stuck for as much as $600 or more to return the unit. You want free shipping to and from if you are unsatisfied and you should be able to get it from most dealers if you’re buying something site unseen.

Right now is probably one of the best times to buy treadmills and ellipticals because it is the slow selling season for the fitness industry. Because the weather is nice outside most consumers are just not buying treadmills or ellipticals during the summer and retailers are generally hurting for sales. That makes it a great time to buy because you can pressure a dealer for lower prices, even on normally MAP (minimum advertised price) companies like Spirit, Landice or SportsArt. Play a little hardball during the summer and you can come away with $100 or more off a list price. So there’s a huge piece of advice that I’ll probably add to my treadmill buyer’s guide — buy during the summer to save money.

For under $1000, the units you’d want to try out are the Sole F63 or Spirit Z88. They are actually the same unit. I’d also look at treadmills from New Balance and Horizon which have some great pricing right now if you check out my reviews for them.

The issues with the XT200 seem to have come at the end of the busy season, which runs October through April. I would recommend avoiding the Spirit XT200 treadmill until the replacement unit comes out at the end of the year. In general, though, Sole, Smooth and Spirit are all very good brands.

Thanks again for your email and fee free to zap me if you have any other questions. Take care.

-The Treadmill Sensei

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