CR’s experts put the flashy, feature-rich treadmill through a battery of tests to find out
March 2020 update: In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Peloton announced that it is “temporarily pausing Tread sales and deliveries.”
The Peloton Tread is “not just another treadmill,” according to the company known for its stationary bikes. In its ads, Peloton promises that the Tread, its first treadmill, brings a revolution in at-home exercise. But does it really live up to the hype?
The price, about $4,300, makes the Peloton Tread the most expensive model by far in Consumer Reports’ treadmill ratings. For some, however, it just might be worth it.
After CR’s experts put the machine through the same tests used to rate 41 other treadmills, the Peloton Tread earned our top spot. It “clearly breaks the mold when it comes to treadmill design and introduces some innovative features that improve the user experience,” says Peter Anzalone, senior test project leader for fitness equipment at CR.
“It’s a heavy-duty machine, built well, has a unique running surface, and there are design aspects that are a bit more intuitive than traditional treadmills,” Anzalone says. (Read more about how CR tests treadmills.)
Peloton introduced the treadmill in 2018, after the success of its trendy stationary bike, which first shipped to home consumers in 2014.
As with the bike, one key unique aspect of the Peloton Tread is separate from the machine itself: access (through a subscription of $39 per month) to onscreen training classes that can be joined live or played on demand. These classes, led by professional instructors and set to different soundtracks, go beyond running to include bodyweight exercises, stretching routines, and more. (People who don’t buy a Peloton bike or treadmill can still pay a monthly fee to access the company’s live and on-demand classes through its app.)
Along with our standard battery of treadmill tests—performed by our expert in-house testers—CR enlisted nine staffers to serve on a panel to help evaluate the Peloton’s more unusual features. Those panelists used the machine three to six times over a two-week period.
Here’s how the Peloton Tread stacks up.
Our experts rated the treadmill itself Excellent in all aspects of our ratings scorecard, with no discernible flaws in its performance (only one other treadmill scored Excellent in all categories, though its Overall Score was lower than the Peloton’s).
Most of our panel rated the slatted surface highly, with one staffer saying it “felt much more stable and solid” than ordinary treadmills’ running surfaces, and another noting that the cushioning felt more comfortable than that of other similar machines. Only one of our nine panel members didn’t like the Peloton’s unique surface, saying it felt harder, leading to some discomfort.
The cushioned, slatted running surface is not the only standout design aspect of the Peloton. Most treadmills have buttons to adjust speed and incline. To change speed or incline on the Peloton Tread, however, there are two knobs (one on each arm of the machine) that you can roll forward or backward—or you can hit a button in the middle of the knob to jump to the next whole number setting. (If you hit the knob while at 6.5 mph, for example, the speed will jump up to 7 mph.) For most of our panel members, changing speed or incline using the knobs felt smoother and more natural than hitting the buttons that usually control these functions.
Some of our panel members said that at higher speeds, the machine was loud and vibrated noticeably—which sometimes led to a shaky video screen. In CR’s standard durability test, meant to simulate six months of use, our experts found that the vibration became somewhat more pronounced after testing. The Peloton Tread still performed very well overall in the durability test.
The Peloton Subscription Service
What really defines Peloton is the company’s subscription service, which offers high-end fitness classes that you can access from your living room. You can use the Peloton Tread without a subscription, but you’ll miss out on this key selling point.
Those who do subscribe can check out Peloton’s schedule of classes (including running, cycling, strength, yoga, meditation, and more) and tune in live, potentially getting a mid-class shout-out from an instructor when hitting a milestone like your 50th or 100th run. The ability to check out archived classes on-demand means that the library of workouts you have access to continues to grow. For a fee, you can book live in-studio classes (at the company’s New York City or London studios, though curious consumers can sign up to try a machine in any city with a showroom).
A few sample running classes include a 30-minute high-intensity interval training run, a 20-minute hip-hop fun run, and an hour-long marathon race prep run.
Our panel testers found the classes to be motivating, with one saying he felt he “worked harder on this machine than on other treadmills.” Another said, “I tried six different programs and loved each one. In some cases, I didn’t want the class to end after 45 minutes.”
Membership lets you set up as many accounts on your own machine as you want. You’ll also get interactive metrics, including leaderboards to track your workouts and tell you how you are doing compared with everyone else who took (or is taking) the same class.
The classes play on a 32-inch 1080p touch screen connected to the treadmill, which also offers “scenic runs” you can do while looking at a video of a trail. Our expert raters described the picture and sound as clear.
Users can separately adjust the volume of the instructor or audio soundtrack—though at high speeds, pretty much everything had to be cranked up high to be heard well over the treadmill’s noise. Bluetooth headphones can be connected to the machine, though a couple of our panel testers found the connection to be staticky. The video feed is tied to the Peloton service and can’t be switched over to Netflix or any other video service.
If you just want to access the classes from a separate phone or tablet while on your own treadmill or one at the gym, Peloton just dropped the price of its app to $12.99 a month. At that price, you’ll have access to all the same classes, but your workout metrics will be more limited and you won’t be integrated into live leaderboards.
Is the Peloton Tread Worth It?
The most personal question is whether or not a $4,300 treadmill plus a monthly service fee is worth it—and the answer to that is, “it depends,” according to Anzalone.
“The important thing with deciding you’re going to start an exercise program is to figure out what’s going to keep you doing it,” he says. And based on what we heard from our panel, for some people, the Peloton might help provide that motivation. (For others, it might be something else—even something free, like great running music.)
If you can afford it and have space for it, and if the extras that come along with the Peloton are what can keep you going—the coaching, the stimulation, the variety of the classes—then it absolutely might be worth it, Anzalone says.
But if that’s not going to motivate you, or if you think you’d burn out on the type of classes offered, you should find something else that does motivate you—whether that’s a gym membership, taking classes at your local Y, or running outdoors.