Image by tawatchai07 on Freepik
By Simon Gould
Sole Fitness have been one of the leading players in the fitness equipment industry for many years. Their treadmills especially have proven popular for being durable, reliable and long lasting. They used to feature in Hilton Hotel gyms and their product line hadn’t changed much, until the release of this ST90 treadmill.
It represents a real difference in their range and a leap forward in technology. You can see the new slat belt instead of a fabric one. What you can’t see is the 2 HP AC motor under the hood. This is unlike most other treadmills and I’ll go through the benefits of an AC motor over a regular DC one below. These differences matter and they could be the new standard.
Everything is controlled through the 10.1 inch LCD touch panel. There are speed buttons helpfully positioned on the handrails. Using the touch panel you have access to every kind of workout information you need, from speed, calories, distance and more. You can select one of 29 training programs. Whatever your workout goal, you’ll find a program to suit you. From weight loss to interval style heart rate programs.
The Sole ST90 represents significant investment and research by Sole. Ultimately the market will decide if it’s a success or not, and based on what we have here, it’s promising. I can imagine their whole range changing. Here I’ll look into detail of the features and drawbacks of the model, I’ll look at other treadmills you can buy for the same price, and my final thoughts at the end.
Features of the Sole ST90 Treadmill
+ Slat Belt Deck – A slat belt is made of rubber “slats” across the deck instead of being one piece of fabric. Slat belts require less maintenance because they don’t need lubricating every 3 months like fabric belts. Therefore you don’t need to buy the special silicone based lubricant, you don’t have to learn how to apply the lube, and the special handling of the belt.
Because the slats are rubber and not fabric they last longer. Fabric belts fray at the edges over time and need replacing every 2 years or so. This usually requires a professional technician and the costs of the labor and house call would be significant. Slats provide a smooth running experience with less impact, there’s also less friction and wear. Will all treadmills adopt this technology? Only time will tell.
+ 2 HP AC Motor – AC or alternating current is what you have in the home. Treadmills always use DC motors, your power needs to be converted from AC to DC before the treadmill motor can use it. The problem with DC motors is they use brushes to rotate and operate. These wear down and need replacing regularly. AC motors don’t use brushes and therefore last longer and require less maintenance.
2 HP is usually on the low side but AC motors are more efficient. This is enough power for runners who regularly use a treadmill. You’ll be able to do interval speed training and the top speed of 12.5 mph is slightly more than the regular 12 mph you find on DC motors. Power consumption is very low, you’ll only pay around $10 per month in electricity even if it’s used most days.
+ 10.1 Inch LCD Touch Panel – The 10 inch TV screen is easily viewed from the deck when exercising. The touch panel enables you to change your speed and incline at a moments notice. Sole has an app called Studio which turns the ST90 in to a streaming platform like Peloton. There are thousands of on demand classes available with instructors guiding you through a workout.
You get 30 days free to try the classes then they charge the same as Peloton which is $39 per month. If you chose an annual membership you’ll save $69. You don’t need to have the Studio app to use from the treadmill, but it definitely makes it more fun and motivational. There’s a leader board so you can compete with other people taking the same class as you.
+ 15 Levels Of Incline – The incline is often over looked by serious runners but making the run harder without increasing the pace can have many benefits. It works the leg muscles in a slightly different way and burns more calories. It’s another way of doing interval training, by adjusting the incline instead of the speed.
We’re so used to just seeing overweight people power walking on an incline (which is a great way of losing weight), but they help the runner too. They can be great for warm ups and can provide some much needed variation in your workouts. They say to replicate outdoor running conditions, you should set the incline to 1%. I’m not such a fan of this technique but some are.
+ Heavy Duty Steel Frame – All treadmills should have a steel frame as the ST90 has. It’s one of the reasons it’s so heavy but you need the durability and stability of steel in the frame. When you think you could weigh up to 200 lbs or more and you’re running on the spot, you need what you’re running on to be as sturdy as possible.
This helps contribute to the weight capacity of 330 lbs. I always like my treadmills to be substantial pieces of equipment. You’re far better with one like that than a flimsy structure that feels like it could break at any moment. The highest weight capacity you’ll see on treadmills is usually 400 lbs and you have 330 on this one so it compares well.
+ Quick Response Speed Control – It’s always essential for a treadmill motor to respond to speed changes quickly. Some poor models can take seconds or longer, this makes certain types of training very difficult. Interval speed training involves rapid changes in speed and you need a responsive treadmill to make it work.
Fortunately the ST90 can cope. When you’re changing the speed every 20 or 30 seconds you’ll get an immediate response. As well as the touch panel, there are quick speed change buttons on the right handrail. This means any changes you make will take the minimum effort and won’t make you adjust your stride in order to make these changes. It’s a little feature you’ll appreciate.
+ Screen Casting – The ST90 is fully wifi and can accept a signal from a device connected to the internet. Therefore, you can have the screen of your mobile phone displayed on the treadmill’s 10.1 LCD screen. If you enjoy using Zwift or you want to watch Netflix, you can have it on the screen right in front of you as you’re working out.
Zwift is a running community of thousands of people around the world which uses an app to enable them to run together on their treadmills in 9 different “worlds”. It’s very popular and once you start using it, it will take your treadmill experience to a whole new level. I haven’t seen screen casting on any other treadmill. There are Bluetooth audio speakers inn the console so if you’re watching Netflix, the sound is there too.
+ 29 Training Programs – That’s a lot of training routines. They’re divide into 10 standard, 12 custom and 7 heart. Within the standard you have fat burn, cardio, hills, strength, they all do the as the name suggests by changing the speed and incline to get the desired effect. Of course you have the manual one which most of use.
The custom programs give you the ability to create your own. So if you’re doing a run somewhere outside and you want to replicate it, you might want to create a custom program of it. This is a useful way to train for a race on a treadmill. The heart rate programs use a heart rate chest trap. The treadmill will change it’s settings in order to keep your heart rate at a number of your choice.
This enables you to maximize your workouts in the least amount of time. Perhaps you want to run in the endurance zone which is around 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate, you have a program that can help you do that. Perhaps you want to train in the fat burning zone which is 60% to 80%, you can do that here. With 7 heart rate programs you’re bound to find one that suits you.
Drawbacks of the Sole ST90 Treadmill
– Heavy Treadmill – The ST90 weighs a massive 376 lbs. As I said before, I like big treadmills because it means they’re sturdy, stable and durable. The big weight does have its downsides, if you ever want to move it, you’re going to need multiple people and you’ll and it will take time. That’s why you need it assembled where you want it kept.
I would also pay for treadmill assembly. There are many advantages to it. An expert has assembled hundreds before and will know if it has all the parts and where they go. They can advise you about any future maintenance and any insider advice about the treadmill. Plus they’ll do the heavy lifting required to get it where it needs to be.
– New Technology Comes At A Premium – The slat technology and the motor cost time and money in terms of research and development. For this reason the price is at a premium as well. I have written about other treadmills at similar prices below to compare the features. This will give you an idea of what’s out there.
Sole ST90 Treadmill Specifications
|Motor||2 HP AC|
|Running Surface||20″ x 60″|
|Display||10.1″ TFT LCD|
|Max User Weight||330 lbs|
|Top Speed||12.5 mph|
|Incline||0% to 15%|
|Warranty||5 Years: Frame and Motor|
3 Years: Deck and Electronics
1 Year: Parts and Labor
Alternative Treadmills at a Similar Price
Peloton Tread Select – $2,800 + $350 Delivery and Set Up
Peloton started out making exercise bikes that feature classes on it’s screen. They’ve now copied this successful product with a treadmill that’s designed to do the same. The classes are good, I’ve personally taken a couple and there are many thousands to choose from. As you can see by the picture, there’s a fabric belt and not a slat one.
The specifications on the Peloton leave a little to be desired. The motor is 3.0 CHP and while that’s ok for running, for the price you’d expect 4.0 CHP. A more powerful motor could take far more use by multiple people if needed. The weight capacity is 300 lbs, for a substantial treadmill at the price I would have liked something higher. Whether it’s needed or not, it’s a reflection of the sturdiness of the machine.
The screen is the best selling feature and it’s 23.8 inches. It’s a touchscreen and very easy to use. The classes are in high definition and well produced, the instructors are very motivational and it’s easy to get a good workout. Classes used to be unique but a lot of brands do them now and Sole do with their Studio app so you won’t be missing out.
Verdict – The Sole ST90 has more top speed and more incline, the specifications show it’s better in every way, even the warranty is better. The Peloton has a big reputation with their streaming classes, but when you look at the treadmill itself, it’s not the best. There are better ones out there and this includes the ST90.
Technogym MyRun – $3,450
Technogym will be known by most gym enthusiasts as their equipment can often be found in gyms. While it’s commercial equipment their most known for, they do have a line for the domestic market. The MyRun is one of their lower priced treadmills or running machines as they call them. As you can see by the picture it has a very small console.
Technogym have gone for the minimalist design with the understanding that most people will use a tablet or another device with their treadmill. A lot of companies are doing this now and it does bring down the price. Like the Peloton, it’s a fabric belt and the weight capacity is slightly concerning at 308 lbs. The warranty is good at 2 years.
Another slightly concerning aspect is the running surface, it’s a bit on the small side. It’s 19.7 inches wide and 56.3 inches long. Good treadmills are usually 22 inches by 60 inches. If you’re very tall or have long strides, you may want to do a test run first. The motor is a let down at only 2.5 HP to 3.0 HP, you need something a bit more powerful for the price.
Verdict – It’s not a slat treadmill, Technogym make one but it’s over $16,000. I have to say, while the warranty is good and it can be extended, I think you’re paying for the name and the marketing with Technogym equipment. If you want a Technogym treadmill and you have the money, go for their premium models and leave this one.
NordicTrack Commercial X22i – $3,299
NordicTrack are another big name in fitness equipment. They have a major TV advertising campaign running at the moment. The Commercial X22i, I think, is the only credible alternative to the Sole. Most of the specifications stand up to scrutiny, however, you still don’t get the “maintenance free” better feeling slat deck beneath your feet.
The biggest selling point is the 40% incline, this is massive and 25% higher than other treadmills out there. But I’m not sure if regular uses would actually use it much. Most runners have no need for an incline that high. I think it’s best for those people who like to lose weight by power walking on a steep incline.
Otherwise you’ve got a 22 inch touchscreen, -5% decline, big deck, 3.6 CHP (which is better than the other two but still could be higher). It says there are 12,000 reviews of an average of 4.8 stars. These are people who may have bought any NordicTrack equipment and they’re reviewing an individual workout class on their iFit app not this treadmill specifically. This is in the fine print below.
Verdict – While you get a reasonable treadmill for your money, there are limitations and the only selling point is the massive incline. I do feel their advertising and marketing budgets must be huge and that has to be paid for somehow. I don’t think it’s as good as the Sole. There isn’t enough to make it a serious alternative in my opinion.
The Sole ST90 Compared to Other Sole Treadmills
|Treadmill||Sole F85||Sole TT8||Sole ST90|
|Motor||4.0 HP||4.0 HP||2.0 HP AC|
|Deck Size||22″ x 60″||22″ x 60″||20″ x 60″|
|Screen Size||10.1″ Touch Panel||10.1″ Touch Panel||10.1″ Touch Panel|
|Max User Weight||400 lbs||400 lbs||330 lbs|
|Treadmill Weight||308 lbs||322 lbs||376 lbs|
The other 2 Sole treadmills I’ve featured in the chart are their premium models. The F85 in particular is very popular. As you can see, it’s difficult to compare them. They’re more of your standard treadmill with their fabric belts and direct current motors. I really wouldn’t consider comparing them as they’re so different.
You can see they use the same touch panel on all their treadmills. This makes sense as it keeps the cost low which they can pass onto us. The deck on the ST90 is slightly smaller but still more than enough for experienced runners who are used to treadmills. If you’re considering the ST90 then I think you’re likely to be an experienced runner.
Sole ST90 Treadmill Review Summary
The ST90 has a lot to offer, a lot that is new. My favorite feature has to be the screen casting because this gives you the ability to use Zwift or watch Netflix on the touch panel right in front of you. The slatted deck requires little maintenance and most people prefer the feeling. The motor is responsive to speed changes which makes making speed training possible.
The motor is innovative and takes the electricity current the same way it comes into the home, plus there are no brushes used in the operation of the motor, this bodes well for it’s lifespan. Early reviews are very favorable and word is spreading as people become interested in the latest treadmill to come on the market. I think it’s a good addition to the Sole family and won’t let you down.