Under Desk Treadmill Base Comparison Reviews
What is an Under Desk Treadmill Base?
An under desk treadmill base is a treadmill shorn of its arm rails and slid under a standing desk for walking at work. These devices come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and quality levels, and some are better able to handle the repetitive motion of walking than others.
How Do the Best Under Desk Treadmill Bases Compare?
While the DIY treadmill desk may have been the best option in the past for someone with a running treadmill collecting dust in the attic, the office fitness industry has now caught up with demand by offering a wide array of under desk treadmill products. We’ve compiled the specs of all the major under desk treadmill bases on the market today, so you can easily compare them to find the right treadmill for your sit-stand-walk workstation. For a comprehensive review of the many desk options for pairing with a walking base, see our Electric Adjustable-Height Standing Desk Comparison Review and our Manual Adjustable-Height Standing Desk Comparison Review. If you’re looking for a complete treadmill desk system, as opposed to wanting to mix-and-match your ideal setup, see our Integrated Treadmill Desk Comparison Review.
Walking Treadmills vs. Running Treadmills
It is estimated that there are already several hundred thousand treadmill desks—mostly used in the home environment—that were hacked together from a running treadmill and some sort of desk or a simple plank across the safety handles. However, due to the difference between running treadmills and walking treadmills, this can be unsafe and impractical.
Running treadmills have insufficient torque at low speeds. Using them for walking at a standing desk is a setup for an expensive repair or replacement when the motor and/or controller electronics burn out from the strain. If you want to build a treadmill desk workstation that will operate safely and reliably, check out one of the purpose-built bases we review below.
The visual difference is that an office treadmill does not have safety handles and the large plastic pedestal console is replaced by a desktop controller. Office treadmills also tend to be quieter than their gym equipment cousins.
Lastly, the higher the top speed of the treadmill, the longer the base will be. For even the tallest individual, a walking belt area of about 50″ is all that’s needed; anything longer is just wasted space and increased friction, power consumption, noise, and cost.
Under Desk Treadmill Review Criteria
You’ll find below a quantitative head-to-head of all the walking treadmill desks we’ve reviewed, measured by the following criteria.
Motor Rating: Horsepower rating of the treadmill motor. Not as important as manufacturers would lead you to believe.
Top Speed: Maximum speed of the treadmill, given in mph. Typical (“NEAT”) walking speed is generally 1-2 mph.
Belt Walking Area: The size of the belt (width x length), given in inches. Extremely important, as larger users will find smaller belts perilous.
Dimensions: Size of the treadmill (length x width x height), given in inches. Important when planning your workstation’s layout.
Max User Weight: Maximum recommended user weight, given in pounds. Should be taken with a grain of salt, some manufacturers are given to what we’ll call “optimism” when it comes to their whimsical weight ratings.
Weight: Total weight of the treadmill, given in pounds. In our experience, heavier treadmills may be harder to move, but tend to be more solid and better-built.
Warranty: Warranty offered by manufacturer, frames generally come with an effective lifetime warranty. Parts and labor will vary; the more the treadmill costs, the longer the warranty, as a rule of thumb.
Under Desk Treadmill Base Product Categories
Just like trucks, SUVs, and cars, treadmill bases come in three versions:
- Heavy duty
- Medium duty
- Light duty
The first step in selecting the best treadmill base for you is to determine your duty cycle requirements. Intuitively, the more heavy duty a treadmill is, the longer it will last and the longer its warranty will be. Heavier duty units will also have more upgrades, such as quieter components. While they’ll consume slightly more power than lighter duty walking treadmills, they’ll perform better than running treadmills, and all of the units reviewed here have a reasonable, if not negligible, operating cost.
Heavy-Duty Under Desk Treadmill Bases
If you’re looking for the most technologically advanced units on the market, if you or anyone else who’ll be using the workstation weighs over 350 lb., or if you need a machine to be shared by a group of co-workers or family members for more than 6 hours a day, you can limit your search to the Heavy Duty category. These units are designed to last, are easier to maintain, come with longer warranties, and can support users up to 400 lbs in weight.
Experts’ Rating: 5 stars
The newest and most technologically sophisticated treadmill base on the market, iMovR’s ThermoTread GT is simply years ahead of its competition – featuring a full-color, touch-screen, LCD controller in place of the gym-styled membrane keypad controller found on all the other models sold today.
Where all other office treadmill bases are basically re-treads of running models – if you’ll pardon the pun – with minimal alterations, the ThermoTread is the only treadmill base designed from the ground up to live in an office, not a gym. This is evidenced by its shorter and lower profile, extraordinarily silent operation (6 dB quieter than the previous quietest-treadmill crown holder, the LifeSpan TR1200), and with the highest torque delivery at the 1 to 2 mph walking speeds of a treadmill desk user.
Priced right in between the TR1200 ($999) and TR5000 ($1999), the ThermoTread GT ($1499) offers many features not found in any other treadmill, and a better drivetrain, controller, deck and sound signature as compared to the much pricier, albeit aging design of the TR5000. In 2016 iMovR will be adding its CloudStation option for the ThermoTread, allowing it to be continuously connected to the internet for automatic recording of all user activity (including distance, step count, speed, time, calorie burn, and even sit and stand time), with integration into popular fitness tracking devices (e.g. FitBit) and corporate wellness software platforms, among numerous other cloud-based applications and integrations. With the CloudStation, the machine’s performance is also continuously monitored for optimal timing of preventive maintenance (lubrication).
Corporate buyers should consider no other treadmill than the ThermoTread, due to its built-in registered user profiles and “click-wrap” liability waiver feature that will make the legal department very happy (similar to the liability waiver you click off every time you turn on your car’s GPS navigation system). After years of hearing stories of corporate lawyers blocking the door for treadmill desks on their campuses, finally there’s a comprehensive solution that addresses employers’ legal liability concerns, whether real or perceived. The ThermoTread is geared for optimal performance at speeds up to a maximum of 2.5 mph, but with the CloudStation option corporations will be able to set even lower top speed limits for all treadmills on their campuses if they want to.
Read our full review of the iMovT ThermoTread GT Treadmill base for all the details from our lab testing of this product.
Experts’ Rating: 3.5 stars
The priciest standalone treadmill base on the market, the TR5000 used to be the most technologically advanced – prior to the ThermoTread GT’s introduction in late 2015, that is. Compared to its TR1200 cousin it has a powerful AC motor instead of a DC motor, but at the cost of a very noisy and power hungry AC inverter that makes it the loudest of all office treadmills – not to mention the cost. Other upgrades include aluminum side rails (same as on the ThermoTread), a higher weight rating (400 lbs. – same as the ThermoTread’s), a longer warranty (same as on the ThermoTread), and a “self-lubrication” feature (the only feature not also found on the ThermoTread). Self-lubrication sounds fancy but all it means is that the belt is impregnated with lubrication wax will eventually wear off after a year or two of use. Once the wax melts off the lubrication process is the same as for any other treadmill – or the belt can be replaced with a fresh one with a service call that’ll likely run you the cost of a new low-end treadmill.
Read our full review of the LifeSpan TR5000 Treadmill base for all the details from our lab testing of this product.
Medium-Duty Under Desk Treadmill Bases
Experts’ Rating: 4 stars
Perhaps it’s easy to lead a category of only one contender, but the LifeSpan TR1200 has worn the crown of most popular treadmill base for the past couple of years, mostly in residential- and single-user business usage. At only $999 the TR1200 hits a balance point between price and durability that makes it the obvious choice for people who’ll use their treadmill desk for less than 6 hours a day and don’t need the high-tech features and unlimited duty cycle offered in next-generation units like the iMovR ThermoTread GT ($1499). If you’re looking for a basic unit with a reasonable warranty and good track record definitely check out of our full review of the LifeSpan T1200 treadmill base for all the details from our lab testing of this product.
Light-Duty Under Desk Treadmill Bases
Light duty units may be okay for lighter-weight individuals planning to use their treadmill desks for only a couple of hours a day. They’re usually priced around $650-$799, made using the lowest-cost components, and have the shortest warranties. The reason we recommend avoiding bases in this class is that they are derived from home running treadmills, where the industry rule of thumb is that 85% of users will stow it in the garage or attic after 50 hours of use. Designed for such a low MTBF (mean time between failures), they are not built to last as well as medium-duty units that cost only a couple of hundred bucks more. Older units also don’t meet current UL and CE treadmill safety standards (which recently changed) and are in fact unsafe to operate in our experts’ opinion.
Experts’ Rating: 3 stars
Though our least favorite of the LifeSpan treadmill base models, the T800 is at least better than its peers in this Low Duty category. Rated for a maximum of only 3 hours of use per day and a 350 lb. user weight limit, the TR800 is made in China (its sister models are made in Taiwan, where higher-quality fitness equipment generally comes from) and uses lower-grade components. While noisier and narrower than the TR1200 and TR5000, it is also a few inches shorter and so consumers with limited home office space will sometimes choose it for this reason. On the plus side its frame quality is as good as its kin’s, and it is backed by a real company with more than 12 years of operating history, not a mom-and-pop shop like RebelDesk or TreadDesk.
Read our full review of the LifeSpan TR800 Treadmill base for all the details from our lab testing of this product.
Experts’ Rating: 1 star
A relatively new entrant from startup RebelDesk, this treadmill is based on a very inexpensive residential-grade running treadmill made in China. When originally introduced to the market it had a 300 lb weight rating, yet in our testing labs the treadmill died after only 20 minutes with a 300 lb. user walking on it, and there were other quality issues as reported in our full review. The company has since removed the weight rating specification from their website altogether, reduced the price to $649, but we’re generally unimpressed by the strength of the frame and quality of components used throughout, and by the lack of any significant upgrades by RebelDesk since its introduction. The fact that the treadmill has no published weight rating and the motor is the weakest of any of the units on the market today (1.5 HP) only adds to our concern about the product’s durability.
Experts’ Rating: 1 star
In the market almost as long as the venerable Steelcase Walkstation, but at a fraction of the cost, the TreadDesk earns one of the lowest experts’ rating of any office treadmill unit. Lacking side rails for mounting and dismounting from the treadmill, and any verifiable government certification (though it is advertised as being certified), we dis-recommend this unit based first and foremost on safety concerns. There’s been enough history with this unit on the market to also see plenty of validation for our experts’ view of this product from users who purchased a TreadDesk and posted poor user reviews on this site and other sites, with positive reviews being few and far between.
Unlike the two other contenders in this Low Duty class there are no qualified recommendations we can make for the TreadDesk. Read our full review of the TreadDesk for all the details from our lab testing of this product. [Editor’s Note: While they are still selling their original TreadDesk standalone base, it now appears that the company is offering only the LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 with their integrated treadmill desk bundles – they’re also selling the standalone TR1200 for $4 less than LifeSpan sells it directly on their website ($999).]
Experts’ Rating: 1 star
The entire idea of a walking desk is to be able to *work* while walking, not to get a cardio workout. This company has taken a very costly, heavy, noisy manual treadmill, placed it in front of an adjustable-height desk and called it good. This is the worst abomination of the treadmill desk concept we have ever seen, and we’ve seen some pretty bad ones before. Our advice? Stick with a treadmill base that’s truly designed for office work and isn’t going to make you sweat, bobble up and down, and induce a bunch of repetitive strain injuries on your neck shoulders, arms and wrists. Get more details at our Trueform Walking Desk Review.
Experts’ Rating: 1 star
Woodway’s DeskMill looked really interesting, but suffered a poor performance when tested in the real world. Regrettably unsuited for treadmill desking. The WoodWay is a brilliant piece of work, but it has some major design flaws that impact its practical performance. Doggy treadmill dimensions may make two-legged users nervous, and an outdated software controller can baffle non tech-savvy users. Like the Trueform, its tank tread type walking belt makes it noisier than all other walking treadmills. $7,000 price just makes no sense at all.
This unit quietly appeared on the scene very recently, and our treadmill desk expert review staff is working on their assessment. Stay tuned for the full review, coming soon. Subscribe to our free newsletter to stay abreast of all the latest developments in the office fitness industry.
Considering an integrated treadmill desk?
You can go the DIY route by combining any of the above standalone walking treadmill bases with the desk of your choice, but some people opt to purchase a combined system that, at least in theory, should work the best. Learn about which ones meet the challenge, and which ones don’t, by reading our comprehensive Integrated Treadmill Desk Reviews.