The First Annual Treadmill Sensei 2006-2007 Ichi-Ban “Best Buy Awards” for Treadmills


Welcome, Welcome, Welcome, to the First Annual Ichi-Ban Treadmill Awards! You may not be able to see it from up in the cheap seats, but your Treadmill Sensei is wearing his finest tuxedo for the first in what I hope to be a long running annual “Best Buy” awards. The phrase “Ichi-Ban” is Japanese for “Number One” or “The Best” and that’s what we’ll be discussing — the Best Buys for Treadmills (Ellipticals should follow over the weekend) in the 2006 through 2007 buying season.

A quick aside on how I put this best buy list together. Unfortunately, there is no real scientific method behind how I do it. It’s based solely on my 20+ years of experience in the fitness industry. It’s based on the thousands of hours we spend each year here at the DOJO building treadmills, installing them in gyms and homes for our customers, doing service on the units and from my general love of tinkering and testing treadmills (and ellipticals).

The ratings are not based on input from any of the manufacturers (in fact, I’ve heard a few of them are genuinely upset by some of the ratings I’ve given). Unlike some larger review sites, the ratings are not based on side deals or payouts from the manufacturers. And, unlike some manufacturers, the ratings are not based on receiving free equipment from manufacturers. All reviews are done either on equipment that comes through our repair service to either be fixed or installed. Although, sometimes a local gym will get in a fancy or unusual treadmill which I’ve never seen before and I’ll go down and abuse the equipment on location — such as the insanely priced Motus Treadmills.

Towards the bottom of the Ichi-Ban awards you’ll also find my “Baka Awards.” Baka, in Japanese, basically means “stupid,” and the Baka Awards will feature some of the worst buys or worst units. They’ll also feature a couple of industry manufacturer awards. The Baka Awards are for entertainment purposes only…so Enjoy!

Finally, more detailed reviews of each of the top units will follow over the next week or two. Unlike some of the larger review sites, it’s just your overworked Treadmill Sensei writing these reviews and it takes me a bit longer than them to get things up and posted. Have patience!

Now, without further ado, I now bring you the First Annual Treadmill Sensei Ichi-Ban Awards for 2006-2007!

Best Buy Under $500
Leisure Works 539: In the low, low end range, the dominant treadmill is the Leisure Works 539. It doesn’t offer much in the way of programs, but it will give you a solid workout with a long life. Check out the full review HERE.

Runner Up: This is a difficult price range to rank because the majority of what is available out there is just plain crap. Icon Health & Fitness dominates the under $500 market and it really is better to just buy some good shoes and go running than to throw your money away. I just can’t recommend treadmills which will breakdown under even light usage in under a year. If you can, try to save up for a Horizon T71 at $599.

1. Keys HealthTrainer HT502T

Best Buy from $501-$1000
Sole F63 Treadmill: You’ve seen the rest, now check out the single best buy in all of treadmills. The Sole F63 continues to be the best treadmill for the best price on the market today. It’s basically a $1500 Sole F80 with a home console on it instead of the higher priced commercial style console. For about $1000 you’re getting a 2.5 horsepower motor, a 325lb weight capacity, large rollers and a solid deck. There is no other unit that comes even close to the value you get for your money in the Sole F63 treadmill. Sure, you can pay $1500 for a treadmill, but with the Sole F63 you don’t have to. Click HERE for the full review.

Runner Up: At these prices, don’t be tempted by the Icon Health & Fitness models you’ll find at Sears or Costco. Avoid Image, Weslo, Proform and the lower end Reebok or Nordic Track treadmills. There are better options out there. The Fitnex T30 had been in this list but due to a major mistake and downgrade from its manufacturer, the Fitnex T30 is now a “don’t buy.” (click for full reviews)

1. Smooth 5.25
2. Horizon T72

Best Buy From $1001-$1500
New Balance 1400:
In a crowded arena, with a larger deck and motor, as well as long history, the New Balance 1400 stands out strong as a great buy. Click HERE for full review.

Runner Up: This is the price point for the serious treadmill buyer and seems to be more active than any other price range outside of the under $500. Again, don’t be fooled by the higher priced Proform or Nordic Track models. High prices don’t necessarily make the quality better. And, for god’s sake, don’t buy a Treadclimber at any price!

1. Spirit XT10
2. Horizon T74
3. Smooth 6.25

Best Buy from $1501-$2000
Sole F85/Sole S77: Short of the highest end units by Matrix, Star Trac and Landice, I think the Sole F85 and its non-folding counterpart, the Sole S77, are the best treadmills out there. These are high end units at a nice mid-range price. You can’t get a better treadmill for under $3500. Check out the full review HERE.

Runner Up: For those of you looking to move in to the light commercial area, this is the price range for you and it offers probably the best features versus price comparison around. The new Tunturi T30 is a great contender for the top spot, as are the Quantum and Bodyguard treadmills.

1. Tunturi T30
2. Quantum 2.5s
3. BodyGuard T240

Best Buy from $2001-$3000
Quantum 3.0s: These units are made by the fairly unknown, but long historied, Quantum Fitness. Quantum is best known for its strength equipment but they have been producing ultra durable, no maintenance treadmills for a while now and the Quantum 3.0s is an
example of this excellence. If you’re looking for the heavy duty stability of a Star Trac, Matrix or Life Fitness, but don’t want to pay $4000+, then check out the Quantum 3.0s Treadmill.

Runner Up: A strong area with a lot of good options. All of the manufacturers in the top spots have multiple units that are all great buys. Sole, Spirit and Quantum could easily have filled a top 10 list by themselves.

1. Spirit XT800
2. Life Fitness T30
3. Pacemaster Platinum

Best Buy over $3000
Matrix T3X:
I just can’t say enough about Matrix and their equipment. These machines are a pleasure to work on and to work out on. This is what running on a cloud must feel like. Add the optional TV to the Matrix T3X and you’ll find yourself looking for excuses to run. Perfection. Check out the full review HERE.

Runner Up: This is one of the hardest categories to rate. It’s like comparing a Lexus versus a BMW versus a Mercedes. While the Matrix units in general are some of the best around, if you stick to the top manufacturers you won’t go wrong. Check out Matrix, Star Trac, Life Fitness and Landice for the top treadmills around. Stay away from Precor treadmills — they make good ellipticals, but their treadmill units tend to fall a bit short on quality, design and features.

1. Star Trac Pro
2. Landice L7 Cardio Trainer
3. Life Fitness 95ti

The Ichi-Ban Best of the Best Award for Excellence: The Sole F63Treadmill
The Sole F63 treadmill is the all-around best buy in a consumer grade treadmill. Well made, well designed and surprisingly low-maintenance, the Sole F63 should be the first treadmill a new buyer looks at. Check out the full review HERE.

The First Annual Treadmill Sensei Baka Awards for 2006-2007!

The Stinkiest Treadmill Award: Proform 650e Treadmill
This very special award goes to the Proform 650e Treadmill from Icon Health & Fitness. Starting earlier this year, your Treadmill Sensei began to get emails from the poor people who were conned in to buying this treadmill. The surprising thing I was asked about was why this treadmill smelled so bad after use. The majority of complaints came from a bad “B.O” smell which came from the treadmill belt and motor when in use. Some folks were so horrified by the smell that they put it down in their basements to use only when guests weren’t going to be coming over. I’ve yet to completely identify where the stench is coming from, but with 20+ email complaints from all over the US, it seems to be an epidemic! So, if you just have to buy a Proform 650e Treadmill, then make sure to buy some Fabreeze air freshener to go along with it!

The Most Confusing Manufacturer Award: Horizon Fitness
Anyone who has been a regular reader of my pearls of treadmill wisdom knows the Treadmill Sensei likes the product Horizon Fitness puts out. Horizon and Johnson Tech, its parent company, do a really good job with their equipment. Unfortunately, in what seems like a way to either limit internet sales or pander to individual sporting good chains, Horizon has decided to put out multiple versions of each of their products, under different names to each and every outlet they sell to. You’ll find their standard T70 series relabeled and sold under an ungodly amount of names (and with some very minor cosmetic changes) at places like Dick’s, Sports Authority, and at specialty fitness shops — sometimes priced considerably more for the exact same unit! My plea to Horizon is to stop trying to confuse your customers and go back to just one name for a unit!

The Hidden Agenda Award: Fitness Review Sites
This award goes out to reviewers who have cut deals with manufacturers to rate their product higher regardless of the facts. In specific, this award goes to the review sites who rank SOLE treadmills above SPIRIT treadmills when they are THE EXACT SAME UNITS! If you’ve been in the industry for any time at all, then you know that SOLE is a repackaging company with a fantastic marketing division…they put out great product, but they’re just putting out great SPIRIT product with a new name. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re going to post reviews at least make them honest. If we can’t trust you on the SOLE/SPIRIT reviews then how are we supposed to trust you on the rest of them?

Thanks it for this year’s Ichi-Ban Awards. I hope you enjoyed them and stay-tuned later in the week for the Ichi-Ban Awards for Ellipticals. Until then, take care and have a great workout!!

-The Treadmill Sensei


  1. Sensei,
    Thank you for your candor and honesty in your reviews. I was totally confused by all the “reviews” out there, but after reading yours I went out and purchased a Sole F63 and I have no regrets.
    Once again thanks and keep up the good work.

  2. I almost fell for a Weslo unit at a very attractive price at a local Canadian Tire, but, in a rare fit of common sense I decided to troll the net for reviews and advice and came across your site. I probably now know more that most sales people. While I am going to spend much more than I intended (probably the Mileage), you saved me from throwing away five hundred bucks. Domo arigato Sensei.

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