Manual Treadmill vs. Electric Compared: Which Is Better?

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimer for additional details..

Before even considering where to purchase a treadmill, you have to decide which type of treadmill to get. This is especially true if it’s your first time getting one.

So, it’s decision time, manual treadmill vs. electric treadmill, which is better? Which should I opt for? Well, how about we help you decide?

Which is better, a manual treadmill or an electric treadmill?

Between manual and electric treadmills, neither is innately better than the other. For instance, manual treadmills may promote greater physical exertion and burn more calories, while electric treadmills put less strain on your body (especially your joints). The better option depends on your preferences.

To help you choose between getting a manual treadmill and an electric treadmill, we compare both choices below. We define both treadmill types, talk about their pros and cons, and compare their differences. Read on for the details.

Man Running on Treadmill

Manual Treadmills vs. Electric Treadmills

Before comparing manual and electric treadmills, we shall define them and discuss their pros and cons.

As the name implies, electric treadmills come with an engine driven by electricity. Conversely, the movement of your feet will set a manual treadmill in motion.

Manual Treadmills

As hinted already, the design of manual treadmills allows for manual operation only. You can only get manual treadmills in motion by moving your feet against the deck to rotate the belt.

In other words, your body (feet) is the engine that drives the movement of a manual treadmill.

Manual treadmills surface belts are either flat or curved. Of the two options, manual treadmills with curved surfaces are typically sturdier than those with flat surfaces. They also seem to exert the body more than the flat ones.

The belt on curved manual treadmills moves with you, allowing you to run as fast as you want. Conversely, flat manual treadmills are better for slower speeds.

All in all, both types of manual treadmills allow you to pace your workout as you want. You have more control over your movement and pace.

In the past, manual treadmills were more common than electric treadmills because of the wide price gap, but that is no longer the case.

Electric Treadmills

young woman running on a treadmill in a gym

Unlike manual treadmills, electric treadmills come with electric-powered motors, which drive the motion of the belt.

You do not have to move your feet against the deck of an electric treadmill to move the belt. The motor does that for you. Also, you can vary the motor speed to suit your needs.

Electric treadmills also go by the name “motorized treadmills.” They typically allow you to run fast. Some electric treadmills allow for customization, and some even have several modes.

Electric treadmills come in various specifications. So, when you are buying one, pay attention to the specifications.

For one, you are better off with an electric treadmill with a 1.5 continuous horsepower (CHP) motor.

Depending on your body mass or workout intensity, you may have to opt for a treadmill with a larger-sized motor.

Close view of the male legs on a treadmill in the gym

Pros and Cons of Manual Treadmills

Pros of Manual Treadmills

Relatively Inexpensive

One of the primary advantages of manual treadmills is the price. Flat manual treadmills, in particular, are relatively less expensive than electric treadmills and curved manual treadmills.

To put things in perspective, you could buy as many as 30 flat manual treadmills for the same price as an electric treadmill or curved manual treadmill.

No Running Cost

Since manual treadmills do not run on electricity, you do not incur running costs in the form of electricity. You get to lose some pounds while saving on electric bills.

You Can Exert More Energy

As previously said, your feet are the engine that powers manual treadmills. You pour power from your leg muscles into the deck for the belt to move, working your legs more than you will on an electric treadmill.

Since you will likely be working your muscles more on a manual treadmill, you may burn more calories per mile.

With a manual treadmill, you don’t try to match the speed of a moving motor. Instead, you must put in more effort to go faster or adjust your position on the treadmill to slow down. So, at almost every point, you are working your muscles.

Unsurprisingly, a study indicates that you might expend up to 30% more energy on a manual treadmill.

Another study suggests that curved-belt manual treadmills generally raised heart rates more than electric treadmills at the same speed.

HIIT Routines Are Pretty Easy

Young people doing exercises

This benefit mainly applies to curved treadmills.

You can switch up your exertion level by putting in more effort and running on a different part of the curve. With this, you can readily alternate between moderate and high-intensity (HIIT) cardio workouts.

If you want to exert yourself more and go faster, position yourself further on the curve. Then for lower exertion, get yourself closer to the center of the belt.

You Can Use Them Anywhere

Since manual treadmills are non-electric, you do not need to place them beside an electrical outlet to use them. You can place them anywhere you want as long as that place has enough space for them.

Also, if your manual treadmill has a display, all you need to power it are suitable batteries. So, all in all, you can use a manual treadmill anywhere you want.

Perfect for Lower Body Workouts

Of course, you may have already guessed this. Since you will power a manual treadmill with your leg muscles, manual treadmills are perfect for lower body workouts.

woman in ponytail Running on treadmill.

Increased Safety

You control the belt, so it stops when you stop, making it safer. So, even if you lose concentration, the belt will halt immediately.

The increased safety of manual treadmills makes them a better option if you have pets and children around.

Compact Design

Even though they’ve been around for quite some time, manual treadmills are relatively compact. So, if you have limited space, they might work for you.

Besides being small-sized, manual treadmills are not as heavy as electric treadmills. So, you can move them around readily.

Perfect for Walking

A manual treadmill is perfect if you only want to walk while burning calories.

The extra force you exert in moving the treadmill will ensure that you burn significant calories even while walking.

Cons of Manual Treadmills

They Stress the Joints

The effort required to start moving the belt and the lack of padding can stress your joints. So as you try hard to get the belt moving without significant padding, there is an equal, opposite force on your body.

This force will stress your joints, which is not ideal if you have arthritis in your hips or knees.

Relatively Less Sturdy

Running on a treadmill

Flat belt treadmills are not quite as durable as the others. They are inexpensive, and the quality of their build is reflected in the price.

Unsurprisingly, flat belt treadmills typically come with a user weight limit. With a weight limit, only users whose weight the treadmill can support will use it. Think of it as a way to preserve the treadmill’s structural integrity.

Besides having weight limits, flat belt treadmills are noisy, and the belts can slip. So, generally, their longevity is questionable.

Curved belt treadmills are sturdier than flat belt treadmills. So, with them, there is a little more assurance.

Changing Incline Is Complicated

Flat belt treadmills typically come with a preset incline or two incline options. But apart from that, changing the incline while on a flat belt treadmill is not straightforward.

You must stop and get off a flat belt treadmill to change the slope. In other words, you may be stuck with one incline throughout one routine.

The preset incline or two incline options are typically steep. So, treadmill users must sometimes hold the handles to avoid slipping off.

Changing the incline on a curved belt treadmill is not complicated. To adjust the slope, all you have to do is move closer or further away from the center of the belt.

Group of friends exercising on treadmill machine

Fewer Features

The lack of features in manual treadmills creates a gulf between them and motorized treadmills.

Manual treadmills are pretty simple. They have basic features that tell you about your workout progress, like distance, speed, calories burned, and more. But that’s pretty much all the extra features they offer.

Manual treadmills typically do not come with the features of electric treadmills.

May Promote Bad Form

People sometimes hold on to the handlebars for support to propel manual treadmill belts. However, doing this may promote poor walking and running form. But apart from that, it may reduce your exertion.

It’s Hard to Maintain Constant Speed

Since manual treadmills exert you more than electric treadmills, you may find it harder to maintain a constant speed on them. You’d probably stop or slow down to catch your breath frequently.

Pros and Cons of Electric Treadmills

Pros of Electric Treadmills

man and woman running on treadmills

Easy to Maintain Tempo

Electric treadmills have motors that drive their belts. You will not exert any effort to get the belt moving; you only have to match the speed of the belt.

Since the belt speed is steady, your pace would be pretty much constant. So, you can maintain your tempo without getting exhausted quickly.

Reduced Joint and Muscle Strain

Since a motor moves the belt, you do not need extra effort to start or get the treadmill moving. As a result, you will not experience stress and strain on your joint and muscles.

Incline Adjustment Is Less Complicated

You do not have to get off the belt to adjust your incline with electric treadmills.

Electric treadmills come with digital control, which allows you to adjust the incline while using the treadmill. So, incline adjustment is pretty straightforward.

In some cases, electric treadmills also feature a decline adjustment. So, you can run downhill or uphill, depending on what you want.

Multiple Features

Electric treadmills are typically chock-full of features.

They come with digital speed control, customizations, apps, built-in workout routines, and much more. The extra features make the overall experience more fun.

Woman Jogging On Treadmill At Gym

Works for Runners and Walkers

Various electric treadmill models offer motor power and a belt length that suits running and walking. Besides, the extra weight from the motor of an electric treadmill gives the treadmill more stability. So, you can run or walk as you want.

Suitable for Long Workout Sessions

Since you will not be propelling the belt with your muscles, you can have long workout sessions on electric treadmills.

Cons of Electric Treadmills

Needs Electricity

Obviously, electric treadmills need electricity to function. So, if you are going to use one, you can only place it in a space with an electrical outlet.

Apart from that, since the treadmill runs on electricity, you will incur running costs in the form of electric bills.

Pretty Expensive

Electric treadmills are pretty expensive. At the least, you should spend no less than $1,000 getting a new one.

treadmills at the gym

Safety Issues

Unlike manual treadmills, motorized treadmills do not stop when you stop. So, there is a good chance of you tripping and falling if distracted.

This is why wearing the safety cord or key while on the treadmill is vital.

Electric treadmills come with a safety key. Wearing this safety key offers you some protection if you slip and fall while running on the treadmill. The safety key stops the belt’s movement when disconnected from the treadmill.

In other words, the safety of an electric treadmill is, in part, dependent on the safety key.


Electric treadmills are not as portable as manual treadmills; they are bulkier and heavier. So, they will occupy more space, and you cannot move them around readily.

If you do not have enough space, an electric treadmill may not work for you.

Final Take: Manual Treadmill vs. Electric Compared: Which Is Better?

As we said before, the better treadmill between manual and electric treadmills depends on what you want.

Manual treadmills are better for high workout intensity, low price, safety, and portability. But if you want comfort, adjustability, multiple features, and sturdiness, electric treadmills are better.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply