We realized this year that our 2017 reviews which have just been completed but are not posted on our website yet (hope before Thanksgiving) that this will be the 20th year of doing reviews on fitness equipment. If I had a dollar for every time I have received the question, “which treadmill has the best impact absorption, cushion, cushioning, soft belt, soft system, soft deck,” I would be very rich. No matter what you call it many people must have orthopedic problems like I do.
As I stated in a blog post last year, the best thing I did for my feet was research running shoes and since then I have bought at least 10 pairs of Hoka One One shoes. My feet were hurting so bad before the Hoka shoes that I was having trouble walking without pain. Since then, I have been pain free. So let’s slip the caveat in that no matter the treadmill, a great pair of shoes can solve a world of problems and I would suggest strongly investigating shoes before ever considering a treadmill cushioning system.
With that said, the cushioning system we would recommend depends entirely upon the price range that you are shopping within. If you are dealing with an unlimited budget, I would go with a Woodway but since you can easily spend $10,000 or more on one of these, most people cannot go with this option.
If you have a healthy budget, say between $2,500 and $7,000 but don’t want to spring for a Woodway, the best option is True Fitness’ treadmills and the further you go up in their line, the better and more versatile the cushioning gets. For a traditional treadmill design, you can’t get better than True. This is not an arguable statement or some right field opinion, it is simply fact and anyone you ask, like me that has been in the business for 30 years, will tell you that True has the best treadmill cushioning.
For those who have a middle class budget, which I would put between $1,000 and $2,500, there are plenty of options. The best choices are from the Icon factory which makes the NordicTrack and Proform brands, among others. If you want a complete listing of their brands, go to their factory website at
They have a similar setup as True. When you are around $1,000 the machines have very good cushioning but the dollars they put in the system aren’t as extensive as say they $1,500 models and especially their models in the $2,000 range. As you move up in price, the systems become adjustable and have more expensive designs and parts.
When you are in the sub $1,000 range, the cushioning systems on Icon machines are predominantly the Proform, NordicTrack, and Gold’s Gym brands and they have simpler systems but these still get the cushioning job done for most people. As stated earlier, I still don’t believe you can do better than a great pair or shoes and if you use them just on the treadmill will last a very long time. I still have my first purpose bought pair of Hoka One One shoes that I only use on the treadmill and they are in better shape than my daily pair. If you combine a great pair of shoes with a great cushioning system, you get an unbeatable combination!