By Simon Gould
Treadclimbers are often claimed to be an alternative to treadmills like they are similar in some way. We think they are very different. The movement on a treadclimber is very different to running. It compares more with an elliptical without the upper body workout or with a stair stepper. Here we look at them both to figure out which is better.
Treadmill – These require some investment, it’s no good getting a cheap treadmill no matter how many times you’re going to use it. A cheap treadmill comes with a short warranty and won’t last as long. We recommend you pay at least $1,000 for one then you know you’ll be getting quality and there are reputable manufacturers out there who stand by their equipment.
Treadclimber – These are expensive, you’ll pay around $1,500 for the entry level model. The reason is that they have essentially 2 belts. There are like 2 mini treadmills working independently, one for each foot. The movement of the “steps” while using the machine is quite unusual really. In any case they compare to treadmills where cost is concerned.
Treadmill – Impact for these aren’t so good. They’re not as bad as running outside and some of the hard surfaces that entails. The bouncy deck is there but so is the force of each stride going through all you joints. I’ve been running an hour a day every day for a while and am not experiencing shin splints. I would if it were outside.
Treadclimber – What you’re effectively doing is walking uphill on a deck that moves. That fact that you’re walking means impact is very small. It’s even smaller when you consider each foot is walking on a comfortable deck. The treadclimber wins this one. For this reason it’s something someone who is elderly or slightly injured can do.
Treadmill – These are great when it comes to calorie burn. Whether you want to walk on an incline or run at high speed. You can choose how much work you want to put in and the treadmill will comply. You can have an easy or tough workout. The act of running long and slow will burn calories and lead to weight loss very effectively.
Treadclimber – Bowflex who make the treadclimber like to advertise that you can go the same speed on these and a treadmill and you will burn far more calories, 2.5 times more if I remember correctly. This is a bit misleading in my opinion, you will feel like you’re doing far more work when you are burning more calories. That’s the nature of energy expenditure, it’s hard work.
Treadmill – With these you’re only really working the lower body and the core helps stabilize you. The lower body can get some variety though when you include the incline. You can get a aerobic workout (cardio, weight loss) or an anaerobic one (muscle building). The fact that you can walk, jog, run or sprint gives the treadmill a good variety of different workouts but they still all work the lower body.
Treadclimber – These also work primarily the lower body. The arms may get some use when walking fast and using the incline built in. They’re similar to the treadmill in muscles worked, after all, you’re still just walking. However, the treadclimber is not designed for any jogging or running use. It’s maximum speed won’t allow it. Both machines are best for aerobic and weight loss workouts.
Assembly & location
Treadmill – We would always say pay for a professional to assemble your treadmill for you. They can be tricky and require 2 people to transport to the right room and assemble, better to get it done for you. The location is ideal in a separate room to what you do other things in, it makes a noise, even brand new treadmills suffer from the noise of the foot fall.
Treadclimber – Bowflex charge $249 for the assembly in the room of your choice. Again, we would recommend you go with this option. The treadclimber is not as noisy as a treadmill because the foot isn’t lifting far off the deck but we still recommend installing in a separate room like a basement of gym room if you have one. Otherwise not much clearance is needed around the machine.
Maintenance & longevity
Treadmill – These are like most fitness equipment that require regular maintenance. The deck will need lubrication every 3 months, this is quite easy to do and does need proper treadmill lubrication and that is quite cheap. Treadmills that we recommend all have a good labor warranty of about 2 years. A good treadmill regularly looked after should last anything up to 10 years.
Treadclimber – Unfortunately the labor warranty is only 90 days. This is ok if the product goes wrong shortly after use but treadmills have 2 years. There are more things to go wrong with the treadclimber with there being 2 decks and they move up and down. Maintenance is then required for the 2 decks which means lubricating both. Parts are covered for 5 years on the more expensive model.
We nearly always go for the treadmill anyway but we can’t help feeling the treadclimber is a bit of a fad, something that’s fashionable for some at the moment. It’s like an excuse to invent a new cardio machine to get some sales for something that’s not really needed. The treadclimber doesn’t really have any advantages over the treadmill because the treadmill can do the same.
The treadmill has so much more variety with running flat and on an incline, with the treadclimber you can only walk. The treadclimber does poorly with maintenance and longevity, the warranty for labor is terrible at being only 90 days. Maintenance would require more work and quite frankly there’s more to go wrong. If you’re wondering which to go for then the treadmill is the only answer.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*