The most common question we get at Treadmill Doctor is easily “what is the softest treadmill?” As with all questions, the answer is “it depends.” This is not to say that you cannot find a machine that experts will routinely label “the softest treadmill,” but the issue with simply finding “the softest” is that it might be unattainable for most people.
For instance, most people who I regularly interact with in the fitness business will tell you that the way to greatly reduce the impact upon your body is to use a rehabilitation treadmill like ones made by Alter-G. They have an antigravity treadmill that can actually reduce your body weight by creating a buoyancy essentially in the air in order to adjust your impact.
So if you want the softest treadmill available, take out a second mortgage and buy an Alter-G treadmill for $75,000 or their economy model for around $35,000. The next treadmill I would look at if price were no object would be a Woodway but those are huge treadmills made usually for universities or pro athlete teams and they run in the $7,500 to $15,000 range. The next up in a regular “home” treadmill would be the True ES900 but you need at least $6,000 just to get into the line and they go all the way up to $8,200. Are you starting to see why I said, “it depends?”
The trick is to balance your budgetary limitations with what is available on the market. For instance, if you are choosing in the $500 range, your options are really limited and a machine by Proform is probably the best choice. In the $1000 range, the Proforms and NordicTracks are the likely ones you will choose if you evaluate everything on the market.
When you get above the $1000 price point up to $2000, the logical choices are also going to end up with an Icon machine, the factory that makes NordicTrack, Proform, and many other mass market brands. The reason is they have spent millions over the years to perfect their cushioning systems. They have different approaches so some are adjustable, some are extra soft but also springy, and some are at a fixed level of cushioning.
When you get above $2,000, you start to get into some great choices from Precor, True, and Landice. They all have excellent cushioning systems with some that are adjustable and almost none of them are too bouncy and some can be customized to your preference of feel for as an option on the treadmill.
So the answer to the question of how to find the best softness, is to first figure out your budget and then to get out there and try the different machines. With everything being sold online these days that can get a bit tricky but there are still multiple retailers that have machines in the store that you can try out. If that is not an option, you can always go to a gym that is local to you but that can be tricky because the same system used on a club model is probably not the same as the home unit. Another option is to try out friend’s machines and usually a quick Facebook post will give you a few options.