If this was the early 1990’s, this would be the easiest question in the world…everyone knew back then that the Pacemaster 870XAE was the best option in the world if you didn’t have much room. Even though it didn’t fold up, it had a tiny footprint and was built to fit into a small space. In fact, some people complained they didn’t have foot rests to stand to the side of the belt so Pacemaster finally made an accessory you could buy to add foot rests to the stock machine…that’s how much attention was put into making it as small as possible.
The problem is we aren’t living in the early 1990’s and Pacemaster felt the pressure to join everyone else and later made huge machines and eventually the company went out of business. Today, if you have dedicated space and a big budget, my choice would be a True Z series because these were made for smaller spaces who lived in an apartment, condo, or smaller space. These don’t fold up so some people choose to have a larger treadmill, but just get one that folds up.
The issue with getting a larger fold up treadmill is that you still must have the space to unfold the machine in order to use it and some people simply don’t have that much room. Additionally, people don’t keep in mind that if you are working out on a treadmill, you need at least 5 to 6 feet of open space behind the treadmill.
Back in the day when I was working customer service at one of the big manufacturers, we had a customer who wasn’t wearing the safety key and she fell while on the treadmill (which she had backed up to a wall) and she was trapped on the belt and couldn’t get off. This woman sustained 3rd degree burns from being trapped and was hospitalized for nearly a week. You don’t want to mess with the possibility of being trapped on a treadmill because it could happen to anyone given the right mix of carelessness and/or circumstances.
Today, many of the compact units (and yes, there still are a few) are so poorly built that you would have a tough time doing any regular workouts on the machines. We have heard rumblings that there are some factories working on this so hopefully we will have compact units that are made to a higher standard soon. We started buying some of the real cheap, compact units (the sub $200 models) last year and the quality has been uniformly awful.
The good news is that you can still get some fold up units that have an acceptable level of quality or even some dedicated units that have a relatively small footprint without having to cash out your life’s savings. Yowza makes some units that are relatively space saving but these are few and far between. The “bigger is better era” is in full swing and we hope to see it swing in the other direction relatively soon.