DIY Treadmill Desk - What Kind of Treadmill to Buy

Everything you need to know when shopping for a treadmill for your DIY treadmill desk

Posted in Build Your Own Treadmill

When I decided to build my own treadmill desk I had tons of questions. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a lot of money on a treadmill, get it in the office, and find that it wouldn't work. It's not something you can easily return especially if you've already started hacking it. I was also convinced it would be possible to buy a slightly used treadmill and save a fortune. There are hoards of people in every state who've bought a fancy treadmill, never used it, and now just want the dust collecting beast out of their home.

What to Look for When Shopping for a Treadmill

This is probably one of the most important features to consider. From what I've read online, you will want a treadmill with a motor capable of 2.5 HP or higher. The Pro-Form I bought has 2.75 HP. The problem with smaller motors is they tend to burn up quickly. Treadmills aren't manufactured for the way you'll be using it; slow pace, all day long. They are designed to be used at 3+ mph for short bursts of 90 minutes or less.

The easiest way to find out what horsepower a treadmill has, is to Google the manufacturer, and model number.

Dimensions and Shape
This is probably the most tricky feature to shop for. If you plan to mount your desktop onto the frame of the treadmill as I did, you'll need a surface to bolt to. On many of the treadmill's there doesn't exist a flat surface that is strong enough.


Or often there will not be enough room to also accommodate the control panel. After reading this blog post which had some detailed photos and explanation, I decided I would only hunt for a ProForm treadmill that had level support arms.


ProForm's are abundant as Sears sells large volumes of them.

If you aren't attempting to attach a desktop directly to the treadmill, you don't have to worry as much about the shape. Just measure the height to ensure your surrounding desk will fit nicely over top of the treadmill while leaving enough of the belt exposed for your stride, and allowing you to easily touch the control panel. Some good options for a desk that isn't attached are:

The Geek Desk
$799 - Adjustable by electric motor
Beware: The maximum height may not be enough for taller people.


IKEA Fredrik Computer Workstation
$149 - Manual height adjustment


Belt Size
Your mind is going to be occupied on typing, reading, writing, and talking on the phone. You don't want to fall off and you therefore want a wide and long belt. Since you will be using the treadmill at low speeds, the length isn't terribly important. Width is crucial. Mine is 18" x 55" and plenty wide. This treadmill with just a 13" belt would be tough to stay on:


Search for reviews on the make and model before you buy. Many have terrible ratings and a history of falling apart. I found these sites to be very helpful:

Adjustable Incline
I can't find it now but I read somewhere if you walk with 0 incline it will cause your feet to hurt. I'm not sure if there is truth to that but as you become more fit you may want ways to increase the difficulty so a treadmill with automatic incline seems like a good idea to me.

Low Speed and Lots of Speed Variation
This is very important. Some treadmills aren't capable of going 1mph or lower. Also some don't offer very much variation in speed. Mine will go as low as 0.5 mph and increases in 0.1 mph increments. I don't like anything lower than 1 mph but some work walkers prefer 0.8 mph (and I believe Dr. Levine may recommend this speed). Often times its difficult to determine this feature online so be sure to test it in the seller's home.

This is also a hugely important feature of your treadmill. Unfortunately you won't find noise dB levels posted online so you'll need to test this in the seller's home. My ProForm is very quiet at 1.3 mph. In fact a friend recently bought a treadmill desk and he was disgusted when he visited my office: "Why is yours so much quieter than mine!?"

Features You Don't Need
Arm exercise bars - They'll just get in the way of the desk
Built in fans - You won't be able to feel the fan after you modify the treadmill
iFit - You aren't working out with exercise programs anyway
Shock absorption - originally I considered this to be a good feature to have but now that I've used mine I realize I'm not impacting the belt hard enough for the shocks to move
High speed capability - You aren't likely to be going over 3 mph
Heart rate monitor - We aren't working out and don't care what the heart rate is
Drink holders - You won't likely be able to reach them

Where to Buy a Treadmill

I think the single best source is Craigslist. You'll find an endless supply all within a short drive from your location. You could check out eBay. I imagine the shipping would completely rule out that option as a good treadmill can easily weigh 300 lbs.

Navigate to your local version of Craigslist, click on the For Sale section, and search for "treadmill".

If you know you want a certain brand, throw that in there as well and don't forget variations of the spelling (proform, pro form, pro-form). If the seller hasn't posted the model number, email them and ask for it before wasting time traveling to look at their treadmill. You may also ask them to email photos to confirm this is the model that will fit your plans.

Negotiating the Price

Alfred Marshall is your friend. There is a large supply and insufficient demand. You should be able to get a fairly new, barely used treadmill for 50% or less of its original retail price. Even if you find a very low price, go ahead and ask for less. My treadmill retailed for $800 new, the seller was asking $400 and I offered him $300 for it which he accepted. It had been used once for 20 minutes, was a year old, and still had the protective film on the control panel.

Transporting the Treadmill

I have no desire to injure my back so I looked on Craigslist once more for some help moving this beast from the seller's house to my office. I searched for "deliver" in the services section and found a enterprising UNC student with a pickup truck. I paid him and 2 of his friends to get the job done and threw in another $20 if they did it without damaging the walls or the treadmill (THANKS Trevor!). You may also try searching for "student truck", "college truck", "college deliver".


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