Which Treadmills Are Best For Bad Knees?
By Simon Gould
Exercise is advised for the whole population for the good it does to our fitness and overall health. But what if you have bad knees? Some exercise will aggravate a knee injury and cause more harm than good so you need to take care. Exercise is possible but you need to check with your regular health care professional any routine you plan to do and on what equipment.
Just before I list them, think about what you'll be doing on your treadmill. Will you be walking only, jogging or running? If you're looking to walk only, then the first few machines I've listed will be good enough for you and cheaper. The next two are good for jogging and then running. You need cushioning and stability and they all have that.
This one is for walking and maybe some light jogging. It's fully motorized with an incline that goes up to 10% which can be changed with the press of a button. It's made by Horizon who have designed a good cushioning system that has 3 zones along the deck. This will cradle your knees as you walk or land if you jog.
The T101 can take a user weight of 300 lbs so if your bad knee has caused you to gain weight through inactivity, then hopefully you're under that amount. The speed goes to 10 mph which is more than enough for walking and jogging, I usually jog at 5.2 mph or so. It's folding and there are 3 LED windows to show your workout stats so you know how you're doing.
The price is very good at just $599 (August 2020) and there is free shipping so you can't go wrong. The warranty is also worth mentioning because you get 1 year of labor, this is unusual for a treadmill of this price. This is a very popular machine and for good reason. Everything I've mentioned above, plus it's reliable. The following link is a full review on this site.
+ Pros - Great for walking and using the incline at low for bad joints. Warranty is lifetime for the frame and motor, one years parts and labor. The weight capacity is a plus and there is the low price with free shipping.
- Cons - You may want an LCD screen but there isn't one here, it keeps the price down and doesn't affect the use. You still get a good stats display.
This is another walking treadmill although the top speed on this one is lower. It's still very unlikely you would want to try and walk at 6 mph which is the maximum speed, I couldn't, I'm jogging at 5.2 mph. What really sells this machine is the 350 lbs weight capacity. That is enormous and it has become an Amazon Choice because of it's strength and popularity.
Like all the treadmills I've featured, it's motorized and not manual so speed changes can be done by pressing a button. This one has no incline feature but then you can adjust the speed to make your walk harder or easier. It's made of steel and weighs 143 lbs so you might need help to move it. Bigger treadmills are better especially if you need stability because of joint problems.
The display shows your calories burned, speed and distance. Although I've mentioned how big it is, it does have transportation wheels and a soft folding mechanism to make everything easier. It has a device holder so your phone or tablet can be seen so you can get some entertainment as you workout. Overall this is a unique treadmill worth investigating.
+ Pros - Built for walking and with a good weight capacity (350 lbs). It's motorized and not manual, it's better to have an electric one with a motor and it powers the very good digital monitor. The low price is also a plus.
- Cons - It's surprising to find an electric treadmill that doesn't have an incline. If you like doing power walking up hills, then you won't be able to do that with this one. You can still get good workouts though.
This treadmill is for walking, jogging and light running. It still comes in at a very reasonable price and because of that, it's very popular. The motor is very good and the right size for jogging and Sole make good and reliable components. A lot of hotels use their equipment so you know they're built to last and can take a lot of use.
It costs a bit more than the previous treadmills mentioned but then it is for jogging and so is more substantial. As a result the warranty is better as well, you still get lifetime on the frame and motor and 1 years of labor, but here there are 3 years on deck, parts and electronics. All this for just under a thousand dollars.
The deck is 40% easier on the joints because it reduces impact, they call it their Cushion Flex Whisper Deck. The speed goes to 12 mph so you can run quite quickly but if you're going to run exclusively I'd go for one of the treadmills below. That doesn't take anything away from the Sole F63 which is a very good machine at an appealing price point. The following link is a full review.
+ Pros - Large LCD screen displays all the stats you need as you exercise. The weight capacity compares well at 325 lbs which is good at the price. Ten workout programs can give you a challenge if you need one. Unlike the previous treadmill there are 15 levels of incline.
- Cons - It's quite a basic machine really but if you just want to get a good workout, then it's all you need. Plus you don't get the thrills at this price range.
Another treadmill for walking, jogging and light running. This is the budget in a new line of treadmills by Horizon Fitness. It's made for studio workouts. These are instructors on a tablet encouraging you to exercise and to change the speed and incline often to the latest music. They're good fun and becoming increasingly popular.
There are 8 workout programs which may not sound much but there are multiple levels in each. This means that whatever your fitness level and goal, you can use these to get a good workout. They range from easy to hard, and while you may not feel like using one with your knee, you never know in the future. Other members of the family could get a good workout.
The other stats are very similar to the Sole jogging treadmill above. But here you have the latest technologies and it all comes at the same price. The cushioning is there in case you have any concerns and so is the incline, but I advise you only use it for walking and jogging, not running, with bad knees. There is a full review on that link.
+ Pros - The running surface is big which is good if you lack confidence. The price being less than a thousand dollars is superb for what you get. The Bluetooth features enabling the studio workouts is a great plus. The warranty is good for the price.
- Cons - I'm struggling to find cons with this one. I suppose the hill climb program can't be used to it's fullest extent if you suffer from knee problems, so you'd have to avoid that. Otherwise a quality treadmill from a reputable company.
This treadmill is for walking, jogging and running. Now the treadmills start getting a little bigger as I give you ones ideal for running. The cushioning is there with a 3 Cell Comfort Tech system. Before I talk about the machine it comes with a 6 week buy back guarantee. If you find it's not for you, Bowflex will buy it back. You shouldn't need it, but it's an exceptional offer.
The maximum user weight is 375 lbs and the treadmill itself is 280 lbs, so you're looking at a beast of a machine and that's the way I like them. The speed is the usual maximum of 12 mph which nearly all high end treadmills max out at and is enough for the fastest of runners. The incline is there but use with caution until you're confident your knees can take it.
The warranty exceeds most as there is 2 years of labor. This compares well with one of the treadmill leaders, Nordictrack, who have 1 year on most of theirs. I like Bowflex because they update their equipment regularly so you're always getting the latest technologies and they're highly thought of. A full review can be found on that link.
+ Pros - The full color large display is definitely a plus. There is an app that can give you workouts to try and encourage you to gain fitness. Bluetooth means you can use all kinds of other apps and services that enhance the treadmill.
- Cons - Being a big machine, weighing in at 280 lbs, you'll find it difficult to move so set it up where you want it. It is folding though so you can save some space. You may want to consider paying for assembly due to the size.
Another treadmill for walking, jogging and running. This one is even bigger than the rest I've featured. It's built for studio classes like the other Horizon Fitness and has a big deck so you can exercise worry free. The motor is the biggest I've featured on this list at 4.0 CHP and so the treadmill can take lots of running if that's what you want to do.
The cushioning is there to help and protect as you exercise. The screen is very good at 9.3" and is like a monitor giving you every stat you need in a colorful way. The workout programs have levels within them so you have a massive amount to use whatever your fitness level. It's free shipping and 0% financing so you don't have to pay in one go if you don't want to.
You have the option of buying an app at a discount to use with the this machine. There are a wide range available and all enhance the experience you get when exercising. There are quick dial controls on the handrails to change the incline and speed. This is done very quickly because the motor is designed to speedily react. Overall an impressive treadmill worthy of a closer look. Full review on that link.
+ Pros - I've left one of the best till last here. I like the quality and range of workout programs. The powerful motor will not let you down. The display is big and detailed and I like to know how I'm doing when I exercise and that's what you get here.
- Cons - The treadmill weighs 330 lbs! You can see by the picture it's a big thing so make sure you have the space. It is folding which will help, but make sure you take some measurements so you know where it will fit.
Bonus 7. Peleton Tread Treadmill
A treadmill for walking, jogging but mainly heavy running. This is the ultimate when it comes to entertainment and motivation while exercising and I had to feature it on this list as a bonus at least. It's still kind on the joints but is quite expensive at over $4k. That's what you pay for new technology and that's what you have here.
As you see by the picture there is a massive 32 inch HD touch screen in front of you. This will display the classes you take and is totally interactive. There are thousands of downloadable classes with famous instructors and the latest music. It's the same company that do the classes as manufacture the treadmills. They also do spin bikes and thousands have been sold of those.
If you have a large house or a home gym with some room and you can afford it, I think they're worth the money. Perhaps your knee has recovered and you want the best of the best. Maybe you want a treadmill that is unique and actually quite remarkable. If you want further information I've done a full review on that link.
+ Pros - You have thousands of on demand and live classes with people spurring you on as you exercise. These are becoming popular in gyms and sports centers around the world and now you can have it in your own home. Other companies are copying this but Peleton was the first and biggest.
- Cons - While the cost at $4k is a lot for a motorized treadmill, you can spend more. Some cost tens of thousands for design and features and they don't have the classes that the Peleton Tread has. Here you have shipping and installation included in the price.
Exercises for people with bad knees
To go direct to the treadmills scroll down and you'll see them there. There are all kinds of exercises that are positively encouraged for those with knee problems. Walking is a good one and that's where treadmills can help. Compared to outside, treadmills are a stable and flat surface with no terrain changes and no surprises where your step is concerned.
Stretching can help because you can control any pressure you're putting on your knees. This means that yoga and tai chi may also be something to look at. If you're looking for something more energetic you could consider swimming, where your weight is cradled by the water and not your lower legs. Bikes and elipticals are also worth a look.
Typical knee problems
Know that knee pain and other problems affect millions of people. It's all about strengthening the muscles around the knee and the lower leg as a whole. It doesn't have to stop you doing what you want to do, you just have to think before you act. Just remember the things that can make it worse like excess weight and not moving naturally for your lower body.
Arthritic knee - There are many different forms of arthritis and some can affect the knee. It normally occurs later in life but can affect younger people. Symptoms are swelling around the knee because of the inflammation. There are treatment options to help deal with the pain and keep you active. Some stretching and low impact exercising will help.
If putting weight on the knee hurts and makes it worse then maybe walking on a treadmill isn't for you. Swimming and the like could help more. If your symptoms are minor then an anti inflammatory together with some light walking might be beneficial for you. Check with a specialist for arthritic knees and here for further information.
Knee replacement - Following this surgery you will have been advised of a rehabilitation plan. Strengthening exercises are encouraged and so is walking. They advise to increase your walking gradually to get used to previous activity levels. Walking on a treadmill will help as it's a flat and stable surface and you control the speed and how long you walk for. Click here for good info.
Weak knees - This is what I have in my left knee. I'm 45 now and can't exercise like I used to. I tried running on a treadmill at a slow pace for an hour a day but if I build up too quickly or do it every single day, my left knee doesn't like it. What I did was exercise less and alternate between a treadmill and an exercise bike.
If you have a weak knee then you're going to have to adjust what exercise do. You can still get 75 to 150 minutes of exercise in per week which is what the World Health Organization recommend. Just run a little bit slower and make sure you do a warm up and cool down. Throw some stretching in as that will help. A weak knee doesn't mean you have to stop altogether.
Knee injury - This is another one where you need to be guided by the experts who are treating your knee. I had a knee injury and hobbled all the way home from the treadmill of a gym. It took around 6 weeks of recovery but I could get away with going on an exercise bike. That may not work for you so seek help if you haven't done already.
Sore, aching or painful knees - Our joints can take a lot of punishment but there comes a time when you have to take it easy. First diagnose why your knee is sore or aching and that's how you can take steps to overcome it. If you're overdoing exercise then tone it down. If you've slipped or fallen then there maybe underlying problems that need investigating by a professional.
Using a treadmill with bad knees
Hopefully you've had some good specialist advice and they say you can walk, jog or even run. You have a problem knee so you need to take care of it. This means not putting too much stress on it than there needs to be. Therefore, only a small incline on a treadmill for walking and none for jogging and running. Don't go anywhere near a decline as that's very stressful on the knee joints.
Treadmills are far kinder to the joints than running outside and you have a nice cushioned deck to work with. Use good form like staying upright, looking forward and don't hold onto the hand rails. Bear in mind you're still not totally immune to knee problems with a treadmill and you should be ok. The knee is an important joint so best to take care of it.
If your knee hurts during exercise
Stop immediately, especially if you have a history of knee problems. There are many problems that can cause the pain to occur. You may recognize the feeling when the knee was injured last time and it's happened again. Even though the knee can take a lot of weight, it is a very complicated part of the human body. There are all kinds of ligaments, tendons that can get injured.
If you've seen a specialist before, you may likely need them again if you experience knee pain. If it's an injury you don't know and the pain is very mild you may be able to do some treatment yourself and see if it clears up the next morning. This would involve rest for the remainder of the day, put ice on the affected area and elevate it.
You may want to take an anti inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling and to encourage the knee to heal. If the pain isn't subsiding or basic movement is difficult then you'll need to see a health care professional to get it looked at. The recommendation is not to exercise again until you are free from pain and injury.
Sports to avoid with bad knees
Ideally you should avoid sports that rotate the hips and knees unless you've been told you're ok by a professional. These are typically basketball, tennis, soccer and the like. These often involve a quick change in direction and speed. While they're fun, they can put big pressure on the knees as they have to take your body weight as you move.
Professional soccer players often need knee replacements and suffer with knee problems later in life after they've retired from the game. They run many miles during a match and in training. One of the worst injuries for sports people is a tear in their Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) The ACL supports the center of the knee and healing can take 6 to 9 months and often surgery.
Unlike soccer, football, basketball and other sports, a treadmill doesn't have you changing direction and twisting the knee at all. Even exercising outside will affect the knee because of the varying terrain and harder surface. If you just walk, you can get a lot of variety in and boost your knee and overall health.
The treadmills listed above are ideal for your joint problems. There are treadmills I would avoid buying and these are manual and curved treadmills. Manual ones, although cheap, require you to power the belt as do curved and they put excess pressure on the knee. Curved treadmills are only suitable for speed work and are very expensive.
Whether you want to walk, jog or run then you'll find one I've featured to be recommended. They vary in price from $599 for the popular Horizon T101 which is good for walking. To around $1,599 for the Bowflex BXT116 which is good for running. I've had knee problems but am able to use my treadmill at home and still enjoy using it. They make a great investment.