TreadDesk Treadmill Base Review
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.
It's much easier to build a treadmill desk around the TreadDesk base than it is to convert a conventional running treadmill in a walking base, and it should last you much longer. Add any adjustable-height desk to complete a walking treadmill workstation suitable for light duty. Free equipment mat and shipping are included with every order.
At $895, our in-depth review finds that the TreadDesk is not as capable or as good a bargain as others on the market (see our comprehensive comparison reviews). The warranty is weak and the unit's design pushes the limits of what could be considered safe operation. The belt area is a little narrow and shorter than we like to see. The confusing control console takes a lot more desktop space than it should. The unit lacks regulatory certification. Overall, this treadmill distracts from working way more than it should.
[Update Feb 8, 2017: We have recently received numerous calls from TreadDesk customers indicating that the company is not responding to service requests for failed treadmills, or any inquiries at all. According to external website traffic scores like Alexa, it appears the treaddesk.com website is no longer receiving measurable traffic. Their last post on their Facebook page was from July, 2015, and last tweet from a year prior. We’ve been unable to confirm whether the company is still in business, or in some sort of hiatus. Curiously, they seem to have recently revamped their treadmill offering. What they are showing on their website as “The Original Tread” appears nothing at all like the original. Photos appear to be mock-ups of a new model with a very small 46″ x 18″ walking belt and a “soft deck.” Our review below is of the original original, as that was the only unit the company submitted for lab testing.
Update Apr 17, 2018: It appears TreadDesk is no longer active. Its website and Facebook page are no longer accessible.]
We managed to get a full TreadDesk workstation (base and desk) in at the office for a long-overdue test run, after several attempts to get the company to submit their product to the WorkWhileWalking labs. Evaluation began on a positive note. Our TreadDesk base arrived well-packed. Custom-shaped Styrofoam blocks kept all components stationary and intact. Given the thought put into rattle-proofing the Tread, we were surprised to find the accompanying desk’s electric base buried in a sea of packing peanuts. Nothing was broken, but pawing through the peanuts took some time and trouble. Once we cleared the floor of peanuts, we put the TreadDesk base in position, and had our first close look at the product.
Early impressions were less than rosy. The light weight of the unit concerned us as well – walking treadmills receive plenty of punishment, and a lighter unit generally lacks the structurally-reinforced frame we’ve consistently observed on top-rated products. Even the shrimpiest Lifespan, the TR-800, weighs 20 lbs more than the 101 lb TreadDesk base. On the plus side, the TreadDesk base’s relatively lighter weight made it easier to heft around; on the minus side, hefting was necessary because the unit lacks the rear casters found on virtually all other walking treadmills.
We were even more dismayed by the walking deck. We’ve long taken the raised side rails and end caps of other treadmills for granted, and were surprised to find them absent on the TreadDesk base. No end caps meant that the roller on the back end of the treadmill was exposed to shoe laces, neckties, cat tails and small children’s fingers. Even if your personal penchant for safety precautions is lower than most, employers concerned about potential liability from treadmill desk accidents – a heretofore unheard of thing – would probably have heartburn over this very evident shortcoming of the Tread Desk base. The lack of side rails was even more problematic, and not on a hypothetical basis like the exposed roller ends, but rather on a day-to-day practical usage basis. Most every other treadmill manufacturer builds their treads with slightly-raised, ruggedized platforms – so-called “landing strips”– to stand on while starting the treadmill, taking a break, or pausing for delicate work. Shockingly, the Tread Desk base doesn’t actually have landing strips at all; instead, it has two 3” strips of deck that the belt doesn’t cover. Sure, this saves some significant manufacturing cost, but for our money it’s like leaving seatbelts out of a car. The real issue here is that these strips aren’t raised – they’re at the same level of the belt, which will catch at the feet of all but the most dextrous, slender-footed users standing on them. It’s a discomfiting feeling at best, and is positively dangerous at worst, as a moving belt can easily take your feet out from under you.
Also be aware that the TreadDesk lacks any feature comparable to the Lifespan TR1200’s Intelliguard, a system that stops the treadmill if a user’s footfalls are no longer detected. A TreadDesk base in motion will stay in motion, so exercise caution and turn it off whenever you walk away. Every staff member at WorkWhileWalking is a seasoned treadmill desk user, and not one of us felt safe on this unit after only a few minutes of walking. It became a struggle to stay on for a full hour without incident, as we each took our first turn checking out the equipment. There were no volunteers for second turns. The TreadDesk base meets all the basic criteria for a walking treadmill – low top speed, low noise level, smooth operation, and so on. If we had to describe the TreadDesk base in a word, it would likely be “somewhat passable”. A TreadDesk will definitely get you up and walking, but it holds up poorly against newer and much better designs. And that’s to say nothing of some serious safety concerns we have with the product. It’s worth noting that TreadDesk products are not UL-certified. The company claims that their unit is certified under the tougher TÜV Rheinland® European standard, however there was no label on the product attesting to this and we could not find TreadDesk in the online directory of certificate-holding manufacturers. We challenged the company, through their legal counsel, to provide evidence of their certification compliance. They failed to do so. We’re fairly certain that this 8+ year old unit does not meet current certification standards in any event, which have been made more stringent in 2015.
Exploring Under the Hood
Our mechanical evaluation of the TreadDesk was not reassuring. Pop the motor housing cover off a TreadDesk base and you’re going to run headlong into many of the hallmark problems of a low-cost treadmill. A relatively low-torque, 2.0 horsepower, high-RPM motor and smallish flywheel explain the Tread’s very, very, very slow acceleration. In fact the instructions caution the user not to stand on the treadmill while it’s coming up to speed, which validates our technical assessment of the unit’s low-torque at low speeds. This is contrast to units like the iMovR ThermoTread GT, which not only has a much stronger 3.0 horsepower motor, but its entire drive train is geared to produce dramatically higher torque at the low speeds of a walking desk. Clearly the TreadDesk base unit was not re-engineered in any way for the slower speeds that treadmill desk users utilize.
Small-diameter rollers (the two tubes at either end of the belt) are a common sight on cheaper treadmills, and we weren’t surprised to find them here. Small rollers don’t have as much surface area to grip the walking belt as larger ones, and hence they’re more likely to start slipping as the belt stretches. They also wear the belt down faster by forcing it around a sharper curve. To prevent slippage, manufacturers have to ratchet up the belt tension, which keeps things nice and tight, but also places extra stress on an already vulnerable part of the machine. It also causes the ball bearings and walking belt to lose their integrity sooner. It is likely that Tread Desk procures their base from a mass-market oriented, Chinese treadmill manufacturer. While we can’t say for certain that this is true of TreadDesk’s source, we do know that these kinds of manufacturers often leave extras like the motor mount auto-tensioning spring out of the design in order to cut costs. They know full well that 85% of treadmills are stored in the garage after 50 hours of use. Well, treadmills used in walking workstations don’t often meet that fate. They tend to get used day-in, day-out, for years and years. What does all this mean for the prospective treadmill desker? It means that the Tread Desk was not designed to withstand years of the heavy use most walking treadmills receive.
Don’t Just Take Our Word For It
In the words of one TreadDesk customer who posted in a public forum: “There were a few scuffs on the motor housing cover, but no damage otherwise. It comes with a thick foam pad to placed underneath the unit. The pad is undersized by two inches in each dimension, which means the feet of the treadmill overhang on each side. Seems like such a trivial mistake to make given the quality of the pad, and the cost of the treadmill. The display console is freaking huge, I have no idea why they made it so damned large. It takes up considerable space on the desk, its not a deal breaker it just looks stupid and cheap. Again, given the cost of this unit they could do better. The controls are simple to use, the display is big (see above) and easy to read. First time I started up the tread and tried to walk on it, the belt slipped like crazy and I almost fell over. When I contacted they support they said a number of people had complained about the same problem in this shipment. They felt it was probably because of the heat wave temperatures being seen around the country and that the belt probably stretched during shipment. I had to adjust the tension on the belt a number of times before it stopped slipping. It no longer slips but it does make a squeaking noise when I walk. Support said this was normal and would go away after a week or so of use. I’m now almost two months in of daily usage and it still makes noises. I have lubricated the tread, but still some squeaking. I’m 215lb’s, and the unit is rated for 320 so I don’t think thats the problem, although it does make less noise when my wife 140lbs tested it.”
When we first reviewed the treadmill, we were pleasantly surprised by the adjustable-height, electric desk that came with our Tread Desk base. Assembly was much, much easier than we’re used to, thanks to TreadDesk’s helpfully penciled leg attachment outlines on the tabletop. The tabletop also came outfitted with pre-drilled holes and self-adhesive cable control clips already stuck on. Once assembled, we found the desk to be a responsive, quiet mover that could reach an excellent 51” maximum height.
The one sour note about the desk comes from the knee-level crossbar that comes with it. These support structures have fallen out of favor of late – they’re clunky, and pose a mild threat to the knees of seated users. TreadDesk’s decision to stick with them was necessitated by their desk’s lack of an upper crossbeam – something that the vast majority of electric desks feature. Even worse, TreadDesk’s particle board support bar is relatively flimsy and liable to fall apart after extended use.
As the wood fibers disintegrate over time the desk is likely to start swaying laterally, especially at high vertical positions. Not a good thing for treadmill deskers who induce oscillations into the desk whenever they touch the keyboard. Such oscillations can really make your screen shake badly, especially if it’s mounted on a monitor arm, as they so often are. With the rare exception of the Omega Everest, Olympus and Denali desks, whose SteadyType keyboard tray is designed to maximize desk stability.
Of course, all this table talk is a bit moot now. When we first reviewed the Tread Desk, their combination treadmill desk system combined the TreadDesk with a standing desk. Recently, their website seems to have dropped the original Tread Desk from their desk bundles, pairing the height-adjustable table with a LifeSpan TR1200-DT3, dubbed the ‘LS’ model, instead.
The treadmill’s desktop controller is monstrously large in comparison to those of LifeSpan or Rebel membrane keypad style desktop consoles, and vastly larger than the ThermoTread GT‘s touchscreen LCD console. Despite this size the display is ironically hard to operate. It isn’t backlit so you need decent ambient lighting to read it. But by far the most unfavorable aspect of its design is the confusing button scheme. In TreadDesk’s design view, making the “slower” and “stop” keys the same color (red), and the “faster” and “go” keys the same color (green) somehow made sense. We found it confusing at first, and constantly hit the wrong buttons.
Our previous “forensic” review of the TreadDesk, prior to receiving it in our test labs for a closer look, was based largely on feedback from users that we found out on the web. And it authentically matched our experts’ empirical lab observations. There is even a troubleshooting page on TreadDesk’s website that foretells some of the difficulties users may experience, from creaks and groans coming from the frame, to slipping belts and error codes on the console. Not a good sign. One proxy we use for externally assessing the success of a product that is sold only through the internet (TreadDesk has no dealer channel) is the company’s Alexa ranking. According to this ranking there are very few daily site visitors to the company’s website. It appears most of TreadDesk’s user base growth was in their past. The company has displayed a habit of running out of inventory, as well; offering to take 50% deposits from consumers. All these indicators lead one to a sense that TreadDesk is past its prime, and no longer a trailblazer in the industry, or in a position to invest in R&D to update its long-in-the-tooth product.
TreadDesk Treadmill Base Price Options
|Treaddesk Treadmill Base||Price|
|Treaddesk “Original”||$895.00 Includes Shipping & Product Mat|