A treadmill that is designed for bad knees will allow you to perform low-intensity workouts, even if you have creaky joints or are just recovering from injury or surgery.
Injuries are a bummer, especially lower body ones. If you have a sprained wrist or a dislocated shoulder, you’ll still be able to walk normally.
On the contrary, if you are recovering from a knee injury or you just have bad knees, it is a totally different story to try and walk without pain.
You will be much better off buying a treadmill that is designed for bad knees.
Ones that are built with decks that have more cushion than the others.
The treadmills listed here are the best treadmills for bad knees because they are designed and built with extra cushion to absorb most of the impact so that your joints don't have to.
Trust me, investing in one of these treadmills will be a much smarter choice than buying a normal one with a deck that does not have much cushion.
You'll thank yourself later when your joints aren't aching and you can continue working out.
And you should know a treadmill, especially one with a cushioned deck like these ones, can be a very useful aid towards quicker recovery as well as restoring mobility and normal functioning.
Not to mention that even a normal walk can go a long way in maintaining your cardiovascular health, which should never be ignored.
However, it’s not easy to find a treadmill that’s gentle on your knees, ankles and other joints which is why I have personally done the work for you.
Our Top Pick
Bowflex BXT - Best Overall
- Most Cushioned Treadmill Deck
- Absorbs the Most Impact
- Extremely Quiet
- Compact & Foldable
- Built to Last - I've owned this treadmill for 3 years, dang thing still looks good
- Extremely Popular & Highly Rated
- Has All Features Needed
- This is the Elliptical That I Personally Own in my Basement
Why Most treadmills are Bad on Your Knees
Let's take a closer look.
Most of the treadmills that you come across are designed for high intensity workouts and their decks are not built with extra cushion to absorb as much of the impact as possible.
Every step that you take on such treadmill decks send a wave of force up your body, starting from the ankle all the way to the spine.
It is said that the impact force on a treadmill deck is twice that of your body weight.
Imagine how severe that can be on your joints, especially if you already have an injury.
What you need is a treadmill with a shock absorbent cushion that can nullify most, if not all, of this impact force.
If you observe the product information chart for normal treadmills, or the website of the brand, there’ll be a lot of technical jargon about the stride length and the pulse grip sensors on the hand rails.
Very few brands actually talk about the deck and the cushioning under it.
That’s because good quality cushioning is expensive. Most treadmills just throw a few springs under the deck and call it multi-layer cushioning when in fact, it truly is not.
Now, these might work for a normal person running to build muscle or trying to get fit. Even a more basic curved treadmill or say a low profile one without all those fancy bells and whistles should work.
But if you have bad knees, or you are looking for more forgiving treadmills for seniors, these aren’t gonna cut it for you.
We’ll talk about the variables to consider while shopping for the best treadmills for bad knees in a bit.
Top Treadmill For Bad Knees List
Best Overall Option
Best Bang For Your Buck
Most Affordable High Cushioned Deck
Nordictrack T Series
Horizon fitness T101
Best Treadmills For Bad Knees
For now, here are our picks of the best treadmills for bad knees.
1. Bowflex BXT116 - Editors Choice
Best Overall Treadmill For Bad Knees
- 3-cell Comfort cell cushioning on the front part of the deck
- 60” long by 20” wide running deck
- 7.5” full-color, back-lit LCD display
- 3.75 CHP motor
- 12 mph top speed
- 9-onboard workout programs
- Chest strap for heart rate monitoring
- 3-speed fan, USB charging port
Bowflex BXT Treadmill Review
Despite being a new entrant in the world of treadmills, Bowflex has quickly carved a niche for itself.
One of the primary reasons for their success is the innovation that they bring into their machines. Be it treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals or cross trainers, Bowflex’s products are designed to be low-impact.
When it comes to treadmills, they use Comfort Cell Technology, which offers up to 25% softer running decks as compared to standard ones and as compared to running on asphalt.
The number of cells under the running deck will vary depending on the model that you select.
The BXT116 has 3-cells positioned towards the front of their capacious, 60” long by 20” wide running deck.
This does two things.
- It softens the impact of the landing in the place where your feet are most likely to land, that’s towards the front of the running deck.
- The 60” length means that you do not feel limited or restricted while walking. This is the key to restoring your full range of motion.
This makes the Bowflex BXT116 one of if not the best treadmill for bad knees.
If you are one who gets swayed by tech talk and schmancy fancy features, then the BXT116 will also serve your fancy while also still coming in at an affordable price, comparatively speaking.
It is powered by a 3.75 Continuous horse power motor. Not peak Horse power like some cheap brands harp on. This gives you a top speed of 12 mph. You can increase the incline by up to 15% for a more challenging workout.
There are 9-onboard workout programs that can be accessed at the touch of a button. ‘Push and Go’, as Bowflex likes to call it. In fact, the control panel is one of the bets that we’ve used. Well-spaced out buttons with clear labelling.
You can keep track of all the important details on the 7.5" full color back-lit LCD display.
Convenience features include a 3-speed fan, a USB charging port and real-time custom programming.
By the way, the BXT116 also comes with a chest-strap for heart rate monitoring. Most treadmills just use pulse grip sensors. The chest strap gives you a more accurate reading with detailed statistics.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better treadmill for your home, or commercial setting.
Combine this cushioned treadmill with a pair of supportive treadmill running shoes and you will be doing your joints a favor and allowing yourself to workout in comfort.
2. Sole F63
Best Bang For Your Buck Treadmill For Bad Knees
- Whisper cushion-flex running deck
- 40% impact reduction as compared to walking on asphalt
- 60” long and 20” wide deck
- 2-ply deck that reduces running noise
- 3.0 CHP motor
- 12 mph top speed
- Powerful flywheels that cool the motor
- 10 integrated workout programs
- 15% incline
- Hand grip sensor on the handrail as well as a chest strap
Sole F63 Treadmill Review
Sole is one of the oldest treadmill brands that perfected cushioning on their running decks.
Their Whisper, cushion-flex suspension system was designed way back in 1992 and it is known to reduce impact on your joints by 40% as compared to running on asphalt.
That’s one of the softest running decks that you can get, with top-notch shock absorption.
The ‘Whisper’ in the name is because of how quiet the deck is when you run on it. It is a 2-ply running deck and even if you are running at full steam, the chances of which are negligible if you have bad knees, there’s no noise.
Instead, you get a dull thud, almost like you were walking on sand. Have a baby at home? You can work out while the baby sleeps like a log.
Now that we have that out of the way, the F63 is powered by a 3.0 CHP motor. Sole has added powerful flywheels which cool the motor and ensure that you get continual, consistent performance if required.
The 60” long running deck allows you to stretch your legs and get a full range of motion with your natural gait. Club that with the 12 mph top speed and you can have a fat-burning, high-speed workout or a low-intensity, recovery walk.
There are 10-workout programs built into the treadmill and there’s a 15% incline as well. In a nutshell, you can make your workouts as challenging as you want them to be.
The controls are placed intuitively in more places than one. There are speed controls on the handlebar which allows you to modify on-the-go, if needed. You can also access, tweak and customize settings on the main console.
Heart rate monitoring is possible through handgrip sensors on the handlebar or a chest strap which is included with the treadmill. It's a perfect choice for anyone looking for an all-rounded treadmill workout for seniors where they can keep an eye on all the important stats.
There’s no dearth of convenience features too. You have dual water bottle holders, a fan built into the console, a tablet holder, a USB charging port and Bluetooth speakers as well.
With a 40% reduction in impact force, the Sole F63 is one of the best treadmills for people with bad knees.
3. Xterra 3500
Affordable Alternative Treadmill With Great Deck Cushioning
- Hybrid cushioning system called XTRA Soft
- Blended elastomer-based cushioning
- 60” long running deck
- 2-ply surface
- 7.5” capacious console
- 30 onboard workout programs
- 12% incline
- 3.0 HP motor
- Export vital details to fitness apps via Bluetooth
- Handrail controls for easy access
Xterra 3500 Treadmill Review
The Xterra 3500 is a budget-priced treadmill that features a hybrid-cushioning system called the XTRA Soft. This is a blended elastomer-based cushioning system that’s placed under a 2-ply belt on the wooden deck.
The result is a very soft, impact-absorbent deck that makes for an excellent running surface even if you have a bad knee. Be it low-intensity recovery walks or a slightly more intense calorie-burning walk, the surface is primed for it.
We are not aware of the exact percentage of impact reduction though. We did try to reach out to the brand for it but didn’t receive a response as of yet.
Other than the impact resistance, we also liked the size of the running deck. 60-inches is always the most comfortable deck size to walk on. Let’s you use your full natural gait and range of motion.
Under the hood, it is powered by a 3.0 HP motor that has a lifetime warranty. Works like a charm even with hours of continual use and gives the 3500 an impressive top speed of 12 mph.
There are 30 workout programs onboard including specific options for speed and incline, which can be increased to 12% by the way. In addition to this, there’s also an option to customize workouts and store them onboard for different users, along with two profiles.
For heart rate monitoring, you will have to buy the chest strap separately. That’s kind of a letdown because you expect a treadmill to be shipped with at least pulse-grip sensors. But it’s not a deal breaker. Pulse grip sensors are notoriously inaccurate. If you are serious about heart rate monitoring, it’s always a better option to buy a chest strap.
Your vital details, like the calories burnt, time spent, distance covered and type of workout program selected, can then be exported to a fitness app of your choice.
The display console is a capacious 7.5”and houses the bulk of the controls. A few important ones are also provided on the handrails for on-the-go access.
Overall, the Xterra 3500 is a terrific budget-priced treadmill that gives you a very comfy walking deck, with some of the best-in-class features.
4. ProForm 905
- ProShox adjustable cushioning system
- One button switch between a hard surface and a soft one
- 33% impact reduction
- 60” x 20” running deck
- EKG pulse sensors on the handrail
- 30-preset workout programs onboard
- 5.5” display console
- Top speed of 12 mph
- 12% incline with 1% increments
- 350 lbs. max user weight capacity
- Sound system, tab holder and cooling fan
ProForm 905 Treadmill Review
ProForm is one of the brands that’s known as much for its high quality cushioning system as it is for fancy features. They offer three types of cushioning in their treadmills.
There’s the ProShox cushioning on their mid-range and top models. This is an adjustable cushioning system which lets you switch between a hard, asphalt-life surface and a softer one. It is known to reduce the impact force by up to 33%.
The lower-end models have ProSoft Cushioning which reduces impact by 22% and ProStride which reduces the force of impact by 20%.
The 905-CST is a mid-range model that features the ProShox cushioning system. Along with a 33% impact-reduction, you also have the option to switch to a harder surface when required.
Powering the treadmill is a 3.0 CHP drive Mach Z Commercial Plus motor. Works phenomenally well even when you run on this treadmill for long hours, and the operation is very smooth.
It has a top speed of 12 mph, which is on-par with the best.
The running deck is 60” x 20”, just the way we like it. Along with this, you have the option to incline the surface by 12% for a more intense workout session.
There are 30-preset workout programs onboard, and the treadmill is iFit-ready. This means that the number of workout programs that you can download and perform on the treadmill are endless.
One of the best parts is that the ProForm 905-CST is one of the only treadmills that connect to iFit on the 5.5” display console. You don’t have to screen iFit on your tablet, which is the case normally in lower-end models.
EGK Pulse grip sensors are integrated into the handrails for heart rate monitoring. But you also get a iFit-compatible chest strap for more detailed and accurate tracking.
Convenience features include a tablet holder, an inbuilt sound system and a cooling fan, which is positioned perfectly for a mid-workout breather.
With a max user weight of 350 lbs. and one of the lowest step-up heights, the ProForm 905-CST is a terrific treadmill for family use.
5. Nordictrack T Series
- Low profile treadmill design for fit in tight workout areas
- FlexSelect Cushioning
- One touch switch from hard surface to a soft one
- 1.9” non-flex rollers
- 2.6 CHP commercial plus motor
- 10 mph top speed
- 10% incline feature
- Heavy duty steel frame
- 300 lbs. max weight capacity
- 10” LCD display
- IFit Membership included
NordicTrack T Series Treadmill Review
The T Series range of Treadmills from Nordictrack include four models.
But it’s the 6.5 and 6.5si that provide the best value.
The features and the pricing for both these models is perfect for home gym setup use and in small commercial settings.
These treadmills feature the FlexSelect cushioning system, which comprises of a moving isolator under a 3-ply deck. The isolator moves at the touch of a button changing the surface from hard, asphalt to soft and impact-resistant.
Both models feature heavy duty steel frames that do not wobble or creak under your weight.
The 6.5Si has an impressive max user weight capacity of 300 lbs. But we have spoken to customers who weigh up to 350 lbs. and have used it without any problems.
At 55”, the running deck is a feather shorter than our best models. But that’s not necessarily a deal breaker unless you are above 6’5.
The design of both models is low-profile allowing people from different age groups to step up on it easily. That also makes it an excellent choice if you're on the hunt for a small apartment treadmill.
Ergonomically positioned handlebars give you the much-needed support during high speed sprints.
Due to the excellent cushioning and the 1.9” Precision and Balanced Non-Flex Rollers, both these models stay whisper-quiet even when a heavy, tall user is running on it at full speed.
Talking about speed, these treadmills have a top speed of 10 mph, which isn’t the best. But speed alone cannot be used as a determining factor. You get 20-workouts bundled with the treadmill, also this treadmill has incline it comes with a 10% incline feature.
Also, the 6.5SI model comes with a one-year iFit membership. That gives you access to 16000 workouts including live training sessions, simulations and more.
The 6.5SI features a 10” LCD display, which is one of the best ones that we’ve seen. It is large, offers one-touch control and allows you to keep easy track of your vitals.
The T-Series treadmills also feature dual, 2” digitally-amplified speakers with an auxiliary music port. The sound quality is pretty good for a speaker this size.
6. Horizon fitness T101
- Variable Response cushioning
- 3-cushioning zones
- 55” running deck
- 2.25 CHP motor
- 30-preset workout programs
- Pulse grip sensors
- 9 customizable workouts
- Audio Jack and Bluetooth compatible
- Inbuilt speaker
- Device holder and USB charging port
Horizon Fitness T101 Treadmill Review
Last but not the least, we have the T101 from Horizon fitness. This treadmill is rated as a ‘Value-for-money’ purchase by most fitness companies.
The reason? It offers a laundry list of features for a very affordable price tag.
For starters, it features the Variable Response Cushioning, which is like a dynamic cushioning system that varies in thickness at three-different spots on the running deck.
So, you have like a hard surface on the rear, a softer one in the middle and the front portion of the deck is the softest and the most impact-resistant. That’s where your feet land the most.
This is another one of the best treadmills for people with bad knees.
The running deck is 55”, just like the NordicTrack T-Series models. Not capacious, but it’s adequate for most people.
It is powered by a 2.25 CHP motor that’s reasonably quiet even at top speed, which is 10 mph.
If you are looking for a more intense, calorie burner, you can incline the ramp up to 10% in 1% increments. Also, there are 30-preset workout programs that you can select based on your fitness goals.
In addition to this, you can also program 9-workouts with specific targets in mind. So, you can set timed workouts, calorie burners as well as HIIT plans for weight loss.
Pulse-grip monitors let you track your heart rate. While we would have preferred compatibility with a Chest Strap, you’ve got to remember that this treadmill is priced much lower than most commercial and professional treadmills are.
When it comes to convenience features, there’s no dearth of options. There’s an audio input jack and its Bluetooth compatible as well, which means that you can stream your music through the inbuilt speaker.
There’s a USB charging port and a device holder to top it off.
Overall, the T101 offers enough features to impress even the seasoned athlete. At this price point, it’s a no-brainer almost.
How to Pick the Best Treadmill for your Bad Knees
Everybody, irrespective of whether they have bad knees or not, should consider the possibility that running or jogging on the treadmill can cause joint problems in the long run, be it a self-propelled treadmill or a manual one.
Don’t get swayed by the ‘Treadmill is better than outdoors’ gimmick. That’s just marketing hoopla created by brands.
When you are buying treadmills, pay the extra buck and buy one with good quality cushioning.
Understand the type of cushioning
The treadmill running surface is usually a multi-ply belt that runs over a solid wooden board. Depending on the brand and model, this board can be ¾” or 1” thick at least.
This wooden board is then mounted on elastomer rubber grommets before installing them on the main treadmill frame.
This is where the money lies. Good quality cushioning systems are made of variable durometer elastomers, which offer variable cushioning on different parts of the running deck.
The front part of the deck is typically called the high impact zone and features the softest rubber grommets for max impact absorption. On the rear, you have harder rubber grommets since it is the push-off zone that requires a more stable surface.
The middle part of the deck has a moderate amount of cushioning.
Even if the treadmill doesn’t offer variable cushioning, look for decks that can reduce the impact by at least 20-22% as compared to running on asphalt. High quality models can reduce impact by up to 33%, or more.
Cheap ones just have some spring underneath which does little in the form of impact absorption. It’s just added to make it appear that you are getting an impact resistant deck.
The size of the running deck is equally important.
A 55-60” deck will allow users of different heights to walk with their full, natural stride without limiting their knees from extending fully.
A shorter deck length might limit knee extension which then begins to impact your hips, your ankles and even your spine in the long run.
While speed might sound like making a grim treadmill mistake when you have bad knees, it will definitely be a criterion when you recover.
In fact, many Physical therapists use variable speed walks as a recovery tool.
Most good quality treadmills offer variable speed ranging from 0-10 mph.
The top models can go up to 12 mph, which is perfect if there are users who will be using it for HIIT sprints and workouts.
Presets and customization
Preset workout programs might not seem like a big deal when you are out shopping for the best treadmill for bad knees.
Trust us, you’ll thank yourself when you have one-touch access to multiple workout programs rather than having to fiddle with buttons to set the speed, time and other features to your liking.
Most high end treadmills offer up to 30-presets.
If the treadmill you select doesn’t offer too many presets, check if it is Bluetooth compatible with fitness apps. Maybe it has a device holder where you can park your tablet and stream workout programs from your favorite fitness apps, like the iFit compatible models do.
Don’t get swayed by the size of the display console - I'm not trying to say that treadmills with screens are crap, far from it.
What I mean is...., look for the ease of use of the control panel.
Is it easy to access the buttons when you are running at 12 mph? Are the buttons positioned too closely?
Are the important functions, like increasing and reducing speed as well as start and stop, available on the handrails?
What about the emergency key?
FAQ while buying the best treadmills for bad knees
Listed below are some of the most commonly asked questions that new buyers have when shopping to find the most cushioned treadmill.
Q. What is the difference in a normal treadmill belt and a multi-ply one?
A. The term ply is used to determine the thickness of the belt. A 2-ply belt is thicker than a 1-ply one, and hence offers more cushioning for your knees and ankles. Good quality treadmills will use 2-ply belts whereas cheap, budget-priced ones use 1-ply.
If you cannot find information about the type of belt used, reach out to the manufacturer and enquire about it.
Q. What types of warranties should you look for while shopping for treadmills?
A. The Warranty of the treadmill usually is a good indicator of its quality. Most cheap brands will cut corners when it comes to the warranty because they know that their products won’t make it past three to four months at best.
On the other hand, a top brand, like NordicTrack or Bowflex will offer lifetime warranties on the frame and motor, and at least 5-years on parts.
I mean, seriously, just check the warranties on such beasts as the Proform 5000 or the Nordictrack 1750, the Sole F63 or the Bowflex BXT6, Nautilus T616 or the T618, and then compare that to what you get with those low-end, cheap treadmills on the market.
Even if you were to sell your treadmill a couple years down the road, any of the machines above should fetch you a worthy resale value.
Without sounding clichéd, you get what you pay for.
Q. Are there any folding treadmills in this list?
A. All of them can be folded. The extent to which it folds and saves space though, will vary from brand to brand.
If you are needing a treadmill that will fit in tighter spots then you will want to look into buying a fold flat treadmill, one that fit under beds and into other tight spaces. Do remember though that these fold flat treadmills will typically not provide adequate cushioning for your worn out knees.
You might want to check the standard dimensions and the folding dimensions for each model to compare the actual space saving.
Also keep an eye on the actual folding mechanism. A drop-safe model will be easier to fold after use. Similarly, a treadmill with some sort of hydraulic assist will be easier to unfold after use.
That’s it folks.
That sums up our list of the best treadmill for bad knees.
We hope that you enjoyed reading our recommendations. Feel free give me your thoughts and ask away with any questions. The comments box is right below this.
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Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now.
My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future.
I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics.
My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics.
Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward.
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