Workout Tips

Is a Nonmotorized Treadmill Worth the Investment?

The nonmotorized treadmill can spice
 up your cardio and burn a lot more calories. But is it worth the hefty price?

Should You Switch to the Nonmotorized Treadmill
Edgar Artiga

Over time, the treadmill has received upgrades such as built-in monitors, science-backed training programming, and borderline-AI (artificial intelligence) coaching. Sometimes, however, the greatest leaps (or strides) forward come as a result of taking a calculated step back. Enter the motorless treadmill.

Strange as it may sound, running sans electricity on a treadmill has its perks.

Mainly, you’re running on “you” power. The nonmotorized treadmill belt essentially functions on inertia—each stride powers the next. The good news is that the energy you conserve on your electricity bill comes at the real cost of actual energy expenditure (read: calories).

How much more do you burn running on a nonmotorized curved treadmill versus the electric version? About 30%, according to a study by researchers at the Human Biomechanics and Physiology Laboratory at High Point University in North Carolina.

Also, you won’t have to worry about face-planting if you hit the wall during a sprint. When you stop, the belt stops.

However, this may be where the benefits cease. Whereas
a serviceable treadmill may cost you $500 to $1,000, a nonmotorized treadmill will set you back between $2,500 and $5,000, depending on the model and brand.

Is it worth the investment? Josh Cox, the American record holder in the 50K and former USA Track and Field national teamer (, isn’t convinced. He says nonmotorized treadmills lack the cushioning of their motorized counterparts, which can lead to wear and tear on your body. And Cox sees another big drawback for serious runners: The pace is set by the runner, rather than the treadmill.

“One of the big benefits of a motorized treadmill is being able to lock in a pace and learn how that feels,” Cox explains.

In a nutshell, the nonmotorized treadmill will make your body work harder, a much-desired trait in exercise equipment for those looking to lose fat. But that extra expenditure comes at a great cost—and it’s likely a combination of the curved belt and the nonmotorized aspect. So you can go out and spend five grand (Assault Fitness Air Runner,, or you can lace up your shoes, find a hill, and lean out while keeping your wallet bulky. Your call.