HomeWorld NewsThe best treadmills for marathon training: Sole, Bowflex and more
The best treadmills for marathon training: Sole, Bowflex and more
September 8, 2023
When training for a marathon, most runners prefer to be outdoors. But many of us live in places that don’t have optimal running weather all year round. Whether it gets too hot, too cold, too wet, or too windy to do your marathon training outdoors, it helps to have a treadmill on deck that can pick up the slack.
Treadmills can also be a great supplement for runners who don’t have access to a trail that mimics the marathon route they’ll be running. Maybe you’re training for an ultra, but you live in Kansas where the steepest hill within running distance is that anthill you’ve been battling on your lawn.
Maybe you just want a few more features to customize each training session to target specific performance goals — like a quick 5k run that’s dedicated entirely to downhill training or a tempo run with a little more resistance than your usual route so you can build muscle and get more explosive power in your next race.
These are precisely the scenarios where a great treadmill can help you. A good treadmill will ensure your training never gets interrupted by the weather and give you more control over exactly which elements of your performance you want to work on.
Best overall treadmill for marathon training: Sole ST90
A truly dependable treadmill for marathon training needs to be able to withstand high speeds, long mileage and rigorous daily training. That’s the Sole ST90. It packs an AC motor which, while louder than the DC motor that’s now standard in many treadmills, is also a lot more powerful and better equipped to handle heavy usage.
It boasts a slat belt rather than the conventional continuous belt. This also adds to its suitability for heavy usage, while giving you better traction and improved impact reduction.
You also have a surprising amount of versatility in how you use the Sole ST90. With a max speed of 12.5 mph and 15 levels of incline, you can use this machine for both tempo runs and hill training.
And if you’re looking for conditioning or core strength, switch to “Free Mode” which disengages the motor and turns this into a manual treadmill, allowing you to propel the belt yourself and use eight of the 15 incline levels. Crank up the incline in Free Mode for the ultimate strength-building run or drop it to flat and build up as much speed as you can for optimal cardio conditioning.
Best treadmill for distance or hill training: Bowflex T22
One of the hardest things to train on a treadmill is distance, not because it’s more challenging but because logging hours on a machine that stays in one place can get monotonous for a runner who’s used to exploring the trails or their neighborhood.
With an optionial JRNY fitness membership, you can use built-in streaming entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. Subscribers can also choose from over 200 virtual courses that transport you to white sand beaches or the streets of Rome while you run. (JRNY costs $149 per year, but the T22 comes with a 2-month free trial.)
Aside from keeping you entertained on your indoor runs, the Bowflex T22 is also a versatile training machine. With adjustable incline ranging from -5% to 20%, you can use this to work on both your uphill and downhill performance. Work on strength and cardio conditioning by upping the incline or improve your stability and control by dropping it into a decline position.
Right now, you can get the Bowflex T22 for just $2,799 (reduced from $2,999).
The AssaultRunner Pro is one of the best curved treadmills on the market. It’s non-motorized so 100% of the momentum you build in your run is coming from you. That makes for a more intense cardio session that studies show increases your VO2 max as well as your gait, balance and cadence better than either a standard motorized treadmill or road running.
That’s because each footfall isn’t just landing on top of flat ground to hold you up. It’s also pressing further into the slat belt to grip and pull it behind you. So you’re really strengthening those stabilizer muscles while working your quads even harder to make you a faster, more efficient runner.
So, unlike other treadmills where the risk is that your treadmill runs will be easier than the actual marathon (leaving you less prepared for the demands of road running), this curved treadmill will actually require more effort than road running. Come race day, running on a road that you don’t actively have to pull will feel like a breeze in comparison.