The Difference Between Walking Treadmill and Cardio Equipment

December 25, 2022

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Treadmill for Running

The new treadmill desk lifestyle has saturated the market in walking workstations of varying degrees of quality. Some treadmills are purpose-built for the office, while others (the majority of DIY workstations, in fact) are mere retreads of existing running treadmills. It may seem like a trivial distinction, but anyone treadmill shopping for their home or office should beware of some very key differences between the two.

Walk, Don’t Run

walking workstation ThermoTreadGT Treadmill Base
Purpose-built walking treadmills can save you the trouble of replacing burnt-out running treadmills every six months.

A top speed capability of more than 4.0 mph is the first giveaway that a treadmill desk’s base unit was borrowed from an existing running treadmill model. Running treadmills are oftentimes louder than office treadmills as well. The more visually obvious difference is that an office treadmill does not have safety handles—since walking speeds are usually under 2 mph—and the large plastic pedestal console is replaced by a diminutive desktop controller.

Repurposed running treadmills aren’t meant to be used at low speed, and do not have the correct motor torque rating for the much higher motor loads incurred while walking at 1-2 mph versus at running speeds. Now, this may seem counter-intuitive, but if the motor’s peak torque range is at running speeds, it will burn out prematurely when used at walking speeds, and repair is neither quick nor cheap. This is due to the much more difficult task of pulling a user’s dead weight while overcoming the friction of the deck against the belt.

And any fixes are likely to be temporary. It’s easy to burn out replaced components, and some users will soon find themselves dealing with another breakdown. The second time this happens you’ll very likely be ready to junk it and buy a treadmill base that was truly designed for the purpose of slow walking. So while a high top speed for walking treadmills might seem like a compelling advantage, it’s often indicative of a larger weakness.

Office-Friendly Treads

iMovR ThermoTread Everest Treadmill DeskRather than wasting your time and cash on a running treadmill you’re just going to have to replace, it’s better to invest in a dedicated, commercial-grade office treadmill. These have a more robust drivetrain purpose-built for all-day walking, and therefore a more reliable construction. These office treadmill bases top out somewhere around 4 mph, as is the case with LifeSpan’s TR800, TR1200, and TR5000, as well as the Exerpeutic 2000. iMovR’s ThermoTread GT treadmill base hones in even further on the walking office crowd, with gearing ratios optimized for its 2.5 mph max speed. Coupled with the lowest noise signature of any office treadmill and its office-focused tech, the ThermoTread is the first true treadmill built for the office. Walking treadmills will also lack an incline control, since you wouldn’t want to break a sweat or huff yourself into a cardio heart rate zone when you’re trying to get work done on the computer.

With a growing list of treadmills appearing in the office fitness market, it’s become even more important to research your options to find out what works best for you. Please take a look through our Product Reviews section before you buy.

If you want to get a personal feel for using a treadmill to make sure it will work for you, you should read our article on guidance to see how you can test one out for yourself.

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