Folding Treadmills - also described as 'space saver treadmills' these offer the following advantages over their fixed counterparts:
-Can be stored in less room than a fixed treadmill
-Ease of cleaning underneath treadmill
-Engineered to be stable even with folding facility
There are of course some disadvantages:
-As a general rule, folding treadmills occupy the cheaper end of the treadmill market.
-The folding mechanism is an additional cost of manufacture so consequently a similar specified folding treadmill will cost more than a non-folding counterpart.
-The folding mechanics have additional parts that may fail.
OK, lets examine some of these points in more detail.
Obviously, a folding treadmill allows you to have a large exercise machine and store it in a relatively small space. This may be the ideal solution if you have an apartment or don't have the floor space for a fixed treadmill to occupy all of the time.
Treadmills tend to attract dust and dirt and this can lead to maintenance issues over time, so it is important to keep them clean. A folding treadmill with it's ease of access to the underside of the running deck greatly facilitates this.
Many people erroneously believe that folding treadmills are less solid or are of inferior quality than fixed treadmills. In fact space saver treadmills usually have additional strengthening engineered into their design in order to accommodate the folding mechanism.
The fallacy that folding treadmills are inferior to fixed treadmills probably comes about due to the fact that manufacturers make folding treadmills predominately for the lower end (domestic market) where the facility to fold is important as opposed to the high end (commercial market) where the facility to fold is not an important requirement.
In essence when someone says that they believe that a folding treadmill is inferior to a fixed treadmill, what they are usually doing is trying to compare a low or mid range domestic treadmill to a high end commercial treadmill which will have been engineered to withstand far greater use. This is irrespective of it's ability to fold up.
The high quality build models come with warranties that give confidence. The longer the warranty on frames, deck and rollers the more stable and well built the treadmill. As an example check out the Sole F80 treadmill which is one of the best folding treadmills for running. This comes with a life time, yes, lifetime warranty on deck, frame and motors and then has a five year warranty on rollers and electronics. Even cheaper models such as the Merit Fitness 715T come with a lifetime frame warranty. If you are interested in a fold up make sure the warranty walks the walk, avoid machines with one to five year warranties, in today's market that is not good enough.
Easy To Fold?
The whole point of a fold-up is that it is easy to store, ergo, it should be easy to get into a position to store. Now these machines are big, so you seriously need to consider how easy it will be to man-handle. Generally these machines will either have a deck that folds up or the console area will fold down. Models that have a console that folds down can usually be stored under a bed. Models with a deck that folds up will have to be stored against a wall.
Most deck folding treadmills will be either hydraulically assisted or require brute force. Hydraulically assisted means shock rams will take most of the pressure off lifting and offer easy deck lowering. Remember, the longer the running deck, the heavier and harder to manoeuvre. Opt for hydraulics where budget allows or go for a console lowering model if you don't want to much hard work.
Following on from the above points on folding, does this machine that you are buying for it's ability to be stored have relocation casters/wheels? You'll be surprised that quite a few do not and that is not very useful once you have the machine unpacked. If you are going for a long decked running machine as opposed to a walking machine make sure you have transport wheels on your favoured model.
Machines with larger user weight capacities are built stronger and have heavier duty framing and parts meaning they will be more durable and last longer. If in doubt go for a machine with the heaviest capacity. Bear in mind as you are running you will be dropping extra force onto the machine so if you are a well built gent of 250 pounds your probably going to need a machine that will take a user weight of 300lbs.
Many of the cheap folding treadmills for sale may not be particularly useful for runners. Short deck treadmills (under 50ins) are generally for walking exercises or persons of shorter than average stature (less than 5'11'). Folding manual treadmills are really only suitable for walking exercises and these are readily available for under $200. A folding motorised treadmill for walking can usually be found for as cheap as $300 with very reasonable specs and warranties. If you are after a fold up running machine, expect to pay at least $1000.