Top Rated Under-Desk Office Treadmill Bases
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What is an Under-Desk Treadmill Base?
The definition is more specific than simply a treadmill’s walking base minus the side rails and console pedestal. Always paired with an adjustable-height desk in order to reach the proper workstation height, these bases typically have a top speed of only 2.0 or 2.5 mph.
Counterintuitively, they must endure a much higher workload than running treadmills since the user is a “dead weight,” and thus can be fairly pricey compared to typical consumer-grade running treadmills. They also need to be much quieter and take up less floor space than typical cardio treadmills.
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 solid selection of under desk treadmill products, though not all of them are good, and more of them have already hit the dead pool than are still being actively sold.
Many “me too” fitness equipment manufacturers have quickly produced under desk treadmill bases, thinking there must be a huge market for these and they can’t be that complicated. After all, how different can an office treadmill be from a running treadmill? They have less in common than you might think.
As a result, there are now more defunct products and companies in the category than viable ones. In fact, just two brands command the vast majority of the market. Lifespan, making cheaper, consumer-grade treadmills and the top-rated, professional-grade iMovR Unsit. After those two there’s an extensive list of dead pool entrants: TreadDesk, RebelDesk, Signature, Modtable, InMovement, NordicTrack, Woodway, ProForm and the 2007-vintage original Steelcase Walkstation, to name but a few. And there are also truly horrible treadmill bases we’ve reviewed that are somehow still on the market: EgoFit Walker, Exerpeutic Workfit, Versadesk and Kingsmith WalkingPad.
See our Electric Adjustable-Height Standing Desk Comparison for a full roundup of the many desk options to pair with a walking base. 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. And don’t forget that it’s important to consider the ergodynamics of an active workstation when making your choices.
Walking Treadmills vs. Running Treadmills
It is estimated that there are several hundred thousand treadmill desks in use today—mostly in the home office environment. In the early days (2007-2012) most of these were hacked together from a running treadmill and some sort of desk or a simple plank placed across the safety handles. However, due to the difference between running treadmills and walking treadmills, this can be unsafe and impractical. DIY treadmill desks are a lot more rare now with so many better options commercially available.
Running treadmills have insufficient torque at low speeds for this application. 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 40″ – 50″ is all that’s needed; anything longer is just consuming more floor space than necessary, increases friction, consumes more power, generates more noise, and cost more to build and ship.
Under Desk Treadmill Review Criteria
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. 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, which is why we’ve written on if treadmill desk weight ratings really matter.
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 the 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 triers:
- Heavy duty
- Medium duty
- Light duty
The first step in selecting the best treadmill base for you is to determine your duty cycle requirements. As a good rule of thumb, the heavier a treadmill is, the longer it will last. Heavier duty units will also generally 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.
For multi-user workstations that will be shared by two or more individuals, it’s always a good idea to go with a heavier duty unit simply because these tend to get more miles on them, and the higher reliability of the heavy duty units will result in lower operating cost per year (i.e. fewer service calls or replacements).
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 300 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.
The Unsit stands apart from the pack in being substantially wider and drastically shorter than conventional walking treadmill bases. Yes, we have reviewed numerous “office treadmill bases” over the years that were simply too narrow to be comfortable to walk on for hours on end. In fact, all the units we ever tested with walking belts 14” to 18” wide are no longer being made, likely for good reason. Recognizing that flaw, the industry standard became 20″ as remaining competitors followed iMovR’s lead in this direction with the introduction of the ThermoTread GT in 2015 (now replaced with the Unsit model). Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the original designers of the Unsit Walk-1, who thought more width would be even better, and created this treadmill with a 30″-wide belt and 38″ overall width. At the same time, where conventional office treadmills have a deck length of 50″-65″, they shortened the deck down to 40″, ostensibly in the name of removing a tripping hazard from tight office quarters. Some trade-offs were made with this unconventional aspect ratio. While the unit takes up less floor space in your office, it can take up all the space underneath your standing desk (be mindful that you need at least 40″ of space between the lifting columns for the Unsit to slip in). The biggest issue some users will experience with the shortened length of the deck is that the placement of the treadmill underneath the desk has to be extremely precise, lest the user’s feet either hit the motor housing or slip off the back of the treadmill. This is fine if you’re the only user and you’re not particularly tall, but for multi-user workstations it may mean frequently having to reposition the treadmill (like a wheelbarrow) to accommodate others in your office or households with different stride lengths and belly contours. Where other units have touch-screen controllers with all the metrics at your fingertips, the Unsit’s minimalistic desktop console is just a simple speed dial and an on-off switch. You’ll need to connect the smartphone app via Bluetooth to get any of the usual statistical readouts, or export their data to their FitBit or Apple Health apps. There are some other challenges when it comes to leveling the unit and lubricating it as compared to more conventional treadmills, but we found some hacks that work around the problems reasonably well. At the end of the day, the Unsit is one of only a handful of office treadmill bases still in production that we can wholeheartedly recommend, except in some very specific circumstances. It is built with quality componentry and should be highly reliable for many years if diligently maintained.
If comparing to the two weaker treadmill base models from Lifespan (the TR1000 and TR1200), the TR5000 is the most reliable and durable. But that’s not saying much in comparison to what it used to be before Lifespan quietly gutted its design without so much as changing the model number. They removed the powerful AC motor and replaced it with a much cheaper and less bulletproof DC motor, and they reduced costs further by thinning down the steel frame and lowering component quality as they did with the other models. Concerns about the company’s change of control and management team “brain drain” give us pause, as do the common customer complaints about warranty service response time and the deficiencies in the controllers and smartphone app. Still, of the few office treadmill bases left in the market today the TR5000 technically has the strongest power train. But with these upgrades over the other Lifespan units the price of the TR5000 gets so close to the competition that many users will pay only a small increment more to go with a better brand like Unsit.
[Editors Note – Nov 5, 2022: Note that iMovR has discontinued the Thermotread GT and launch the Unsit Office Treadmill in its stead. We leave the original Thermotread GT review intact here for posterity.]
With its introduction in 2016, the ThermoTread GT became the instant category killer with its state-of-the-art technology features and first intentional design as a true “office treadmill desk” (whereas other designs were little more than cosmetic re-skin of existing running treadmills). The years since have proven that all that investment R&D and quality componentry paid off for iMovR, as it has demonstrated more staying power than most of its competitors. The GT features unparalleled powertrain strength, frame rigidity, sound signature, and control sophistication. It is also the only “enterprise grade” treadmill desk in the market, with a built-in click-wrap liability waiver on the touch-screen interface. It’s the only treadmill desk that has made its way into both, the risk-sensitive environments of 911 dispatch centers and NYC apartment buildings with noise-sensitive neighbors. iMovR’s adds a strong North American support network and the industry’s leading factory warranty to its low-maintenance design.
Medium-Duty Under Desk Treadmill Bases
It can be hard to find a medium duty under desk treadmill base other than Lifespan’s most popular TR1200 unit, since the manufacturers are either trying to put out a quality product that will last (hence the hefty price) or the one that would appeal to a budget market (hence the low quality components with a high premature failure rate).
Yesteryear’s most popular office treadmill, the advent of the TR1200-DT3 back in 2011 helped to kick off the treadmill desk revolution. The original design had a great reputation for being a solid middle-of-the-road offering. Not too expensive and relatively reliable for a typical single-user, home office usage profile. The company had a decent service network and to the degree that it was as good as anyone else’s, an industry leading warranty. Things started to change with a redesign cycle around 2018, however, when the founders and eventually the entire senior management team would see the last of their days with the company after nearly 20 years. Lifespan would be overtaken by Strength Master of Taiwan, its exclusive manufacturing partner and largest creditor. In the ensuing years, and particularly through the pandemic, the company went through a series of component quality reductions and price increases. As a consequence of the management departures, plus a lot of complaints we found online about customers having a hard time getting service for their units, we sadly have to revoke our unreserved recommendation of Lifespan’s treadmill desk products. Better units are significantly more expensive, though, so if you’re budget-constrained the TR1000, TR1200 or TR5000 might still be your best bet for the money.
Yesteryear’s most popular office treadmill, the advent of the TR1200-DT3 back in 2011 helped to kick off the treadmill desk revolution. The original design had a great reputation for being a solid middle-of-the-road offering. Not too expensive and relatively reliable for a typical single-user, home office usage profile. The company had a decent service network and to the degree that it was as good as anyone else’s, an industry leading warranty. Things started to change with a redesign cycle around 2018, however, when the founders and eventually the entire senior management team would see the last of their days with the company after nearly 20 years. Lifespan would be overtaken by Strength Master of Taiwan, its exclusive manufacturing partner and largest creditor. In the ensuing years, and particularly through the pandemic, the company went through a series of component quality reductions and price increases. As a consequence of the management departures, plus a lot of complaints we found online about customers having a hard time getting service for their units, we sadly have to revoke our unreserved recommendation of Lifespan’s treadmill desk products. Better units are significantly more expensive, though, so if you’re budget-constrained the TR1000 – which is exactly the same as the TR1200 only that it’s deck is 7″ shorter – might be your best bet for the money.
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’s 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.
[Note: it appears that Lifespan has discontinued the TR800-DT3 entirely now. We leave this review live for posterity but refer the reader to the TR1000-DT3, which was the next unit up the line.]
There was a time when the TR800-DT3 was a very decent-rated treadmill-desk product, that actually led the category for small-footprint under-desk treadmill bases. Unfortunately, the company has hit the rocks in recent years, losing all of its senior management in the USA. Since then the quality of the product has gone dramatically downhill, and this TR800-DT3 unit (aka the TR800-Glowup, as it is marketed on Lifespan’s own website) garners more 1-star user reviews on Amazon than any other treadmill desk we’ve ever lab tested in over a decade. Component and construction quality has degraded, and customers complain frequently of being shipped used product, product with missing parts and DOA product. We’ve investigated and found that dramatic changes at the company, especially since the pandemic, warrant removal of our previous high ratings on the TR800, and in fact all of the Lifespan TR Series underdesk treadmills. Sadly, we now need to caution consumers that this one-time leader of the treadmill desk industry has become known for some concerning quality and customer service issues, destroying what was once a proud reputation.
A disappointing start from a promising company. Rebel Desk’s first-generation treadmill is cheap, but severely lacking in several key areas. Worryingly lax packaging is also a concern. Two days of testing ended in mechanical failure, earning the product a single star. We’re looking forward to Rebel Desk’s next generation, but cannot recommend the Rebel Treadmill 1000 in it’s current condition.
TreadDesk has been around for since 2007 and has been a popular unit in the absence of the kind of competition that has started to appear over the past few years. However, the product is past its prime. For just a little more money you can get a unit that complies with regulatory safety requirements, with a lot more features, a stronger drive train, better warranty, and a nicer desktop console.
An abomination of a treadmill, fraught with dangerous design elements. While extremely cheap nothing can make the price worth the design flaws and safety risk. And if you wind up returning this treadmill it will likely cost you more to freight back than you paid for the unit in the first place.
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.
Expensive, imposing, state of the art and…unusable. The DeskMill was brilliant on paper, but sadly lacking in person. Despite the incredible comfort of its well-engineered slats, we found this advanced treadmill to be simply too small for safe use as a treadmill desk base.
Price: $ 7,000
We’ve reviewed some substandard walking bases before but this one takes the prize from the most poorly designed, poorly constructed, unreliable, noisy and unsafe unit ever brought to you by China.
This Sunny “Under Desk Treadmill Slim Work Office Treadmill” is being marketed on Amazon as being usable with any standing desk to create a treadmill desk workstation. However, just putting these keywords in the advertising doesn’t make it a viable under-desk treadmill. To make the unit super small, lightweight and portable, Sunny constructed it with an exceptionally short and narrow walking area (39″x14″). There isn’t even a picture or video of this unit being used in a treadmill desk setup because it’s virtually impossible to do so, yet the marketing copy claims that it was designed for the task because Sunny is simply trying to capture sales from gullible US consumers. Speed control is through a wireless handheld controller, while the display readout is built into the motor housing,which you can even see if the unit is under your desk. With a top speed of 3.75 mph, a Mickey Mouse 1.5 hp motor and a max user rating of 220 lbs. the unit is severely underpowered for the application of a treadmill desk, and will burn out in months, if not weeks. The 55 lbs. weight is about 1/3rd of what a legitimate office treadmill would weigh, and the thin metal frame only has a three year warranty instead of the usual lifetime warranty. As for all the other components that really matter, like the motor, controller board, deck and walking belt? A 180 day warranty is the shortest we’ve ever seen, which tells you everything you need to know about how quickly this unit will find its way to the landfill. Bottom line: pure marketing fraud.
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.