7 Best Treadmills for Low Ceilings (2024)

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You’re getting in the zone on one of the best treadmills, a bounce in your step and imaginary wind in your hair. What could possibly kill your vibe? A low ceiling, for one. If you’re sweating in a gym without much room for overhead, running on a treadmill — let alone one with incline — can become a dangerous proposition. When curating this list of the best treadmills for low ceilings, we took into account several factors, not the least of them being step-up height. 

We’ve tested more than 40 different treadmills from major brands, and most of them have step-up heights between eight to 10 inches. We recommend at least 12 inches of clearance between the top of a runner’s head and their ceiling — some may be comfortable with less — and took that into account while making this list. So, lace up your sneakers, strap on a helmet, and join us as we detail our picks for the best treadmills for low ceilings. 

The 7 Best Treadmills for Low Ceilings

About Our Expert: 

This article has been reviewed by Amanda Capritto, CPT, CF-L1, CES, CSNC a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and CrossFit Level-1 Trainer. She reviewed the research we cite to help ensure we’re providing helpful, accurate descriptions, and recommendations.

How We Tested and Chose the Best Treadmills for Low Ceilings

After years spent testing, reviewing, and owning over 40 different treadmills, our team of fitness professionals knows that the step-up height — the distance from the floor to the belt deck — is a key spec to note when choosing a treadmill for gyms with low ceilings. The National Building Code states that the standard ceiling height is 8 feet, while the minimum height is 7.5 feet. (1) 

If 8 feet is a standard ceiling height, we consider 7.5 feet to be “low” and 7 feet to be “very low.” Along with emphasizing this measurement, we used the average height of American males (5 feet 9 inches) and females (5 feet 4 inches) to provide a reference point for claims like “too high” or “too low.” (2) Our team also rated each treadmill we tested on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) across 13 categories, including footprint and portability, adjustability and ergonomics, and durability. These are a few of the factors that guided our choices. 

Step-Up Height

On a treadmill, the distance from the floor to the running deck is referred to as the “step-up height.” It typically measures around 8 to 10 inches. On compact treadmills, the step-up height tends to be closer to 8 inches than 10. Since you’re probably looking for the shortest of the short, we brought you options that top out at 8.5 inches.

The belt deck of the NordicTrack EXP 7i.
The belt deck of the NordicTrack EXP 7i.

To make our picks, we simply added that measurement to the height of the average user — 5 feet 9 inches for males and 5 feet 4 inches for females — added an inch to account for shoes, and compared it to the height of average (8 feet), low (7.5 feet), and very low (7 feet) ceilings to determine how much overhead clearance the treadmill will allow. 

For instance, under a standard 8-foot ceiling, an 8-inch step-up height would allow a 5-foot-9-inch person about 18 inches of clearance, accounting for a one-inch shoe sole, which should be more than enough for comfortable treadmill use. We recommend at least a 12-inch overhead. 

Incline 

In general, compact treadmills have lower incline ranges or none at all. Incline is an especially important feature for rooms with low ceilings because as the deck rises, you will rise slightly with it. We looked at machines that included incline, but stayed around the average max of 12 percent, as the highest levels of this range will add a few extra inches to your height during use.

Running, Jogging, or Walking

We wanted to highlight machines that are designed for specific types of treadmill workouts. If you intend to use your treadmill mostly for running, your machine will need a more powerful engine — around 3.0 to 3.5 horsepower — a running belt length close to the 60-inch average, and a cushioned deck. What do these have in common? They’ll add size to the treadmill.

Some treadmills on our list are designed for lighter use like walking or jogging, while others are designed to be used under standing desks or stored in tight spaces. These smaller, less powerful machines tend to have — you guessed it — lower step-up heights. 

Best Overall Treadmill for Low Ceilings: NordicTrack EXP 7i






NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill




NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill






NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill


This tread still goes all the way up to 12 percent incline and 12mph in speed, plus it comes with a free one-month iFit membership (a $39 value). The adjustable cushioning can also help lower the impact on your joints, or mimic the feel of a road race if you are training for something on rougher terrain. 

Specs

  • Price: $1,299
  • Dimensions: 59.7” H x 70.8” L x 34.9” W
  • Step-Up Height: 8.5”
  • Incline Range: 0%-12%
  • Weight: 228lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 300lbs
  • Max Speed: 10mph

Pros

  • The 8.5-inch step-up height is on the low end compared to the average treadmill step-up height of 8 to 10 inches.
  • Stream interactive iFIT workouts on the swiveling 7-inch HD touchscreen.
  • When not in use, the hydraulic folding system allows for easy upright storage.

Cons

  • A monthly iFIT subscription costs $39.99 after your free 30-day trial.
  • The 55-inch running deck length is at the lower end of the 55- to 60-inch average range we recommend.

The NordicTrack EXP 7i has the features you’d expect in a well-rounded treadmill — upright hydraulic folding, an HD touchscreen, and a 12-percent incline range — but we chose it as the best overall treadmill for low ceilings because it packs all of that into a compact machine. Its 8.5-inch step-up height is toward the low end of the average range of 8 to 10 inches we saw in most of the treadmills we tested. 

When you factor in that 8.5 inches, someone 5 feet 9 inches — wearing shoes with a one-inch sole — would have 11.5 inches of overhead clearance under a 7.5-foot ceiling, which is slightly under our recommended 12 inches.

A person is walking on the NordicTrack EXP 7i treadmill using the incline feature
Our product tester using the incline on the NordicTrack EXP 7i

You can take advantage of the 12-percent incline — just remember it will bring you closer to your low ceiling — during one of the 16,000 live and on-demand classes available on iFIT, which you can access via the 7-inch touchscreen. The app costs $39.99 per month after your 30-day free trial, but I believe it unlocks the potential of the best NordicTrack treadmills. “iFIT is some of the best interactive programming out there and really helps prevent boredom,” agrees Amanda Capritto, certified personal trainer.

[Related: iFIT Review – Is Virtual Coaching The New Normal?]

Our tester, a CrossFit Level-1 trainer, scored the EXP 7i’s durability, customizations, adjustability, and ergonomics a 4 out of 5. Jake Herod, BarBend’s expert product tester and certified nutrition coach, agreed. “This is NordicTrack’s budget-friendly treadmill,” he explains in his video review below. “It’s not perfect, but I think there are alot of things it does really well.”

Herod called out its 55-inch belt deck — on the low end of what we recommend for running — in his review of the EXP 7i. “The actual deck — the running surface — is a little bit small,” he said. “Somebody who has a long stride will probably want to target a different model.” Because those with long strides tend to be taller, shorter athletes who require less overhead clearance may be best suited for the EXP 7i.

Read our full NordicTrack EXP 7i Treadmill Review.

Best Treadmill for Walking for Low Ceilings: Horizon T101






Horizon T101 Treadmill




Horizon T101 Treadmill

The T101 from Horizon has a solid mix of tech and running features. Whether you’re looking for integrated bluetooth speakers, or a reliable motor to keep you moving, the T101 has something for everyone. 

Specs

  • Price: $699
  • Dimensions: 55″ H x 70″ L x 34″ W 
  • Step-Up Height: 7.13”
  • Incline Range: 0%-10%
  • Weight: 180lbs
  • Max Speed: 10mph
  • Weight Capacity: 300lbs

Pros

  • With a 10-percent incline range, you can add variety and intensity to your walking workouts without bonking your head. 
  • Horizon’s Three-Zone Variable Response Cushioning in the belt reduces the shock absorbed by your joints.
  • The FeatherLight hydraulic folding system assists in folding and unfolding the deck.

Cons

  • Its 55-inch-long belt deck may not be long enough for the strides of taller users.
  • There are six preset workouts, but it doesn’t have a screen or interactive programming.

If walking workouts are your jam, the Horizon T101 can provide a serious challenge with its 10-percent incline range. It’s our pick for the best treadmill for walking for low ceilings because of its low step-up height of just 7.13-inch – roughly 1 to 3 inches lower than average. For instance, under a “low” 7.5-foot ceiling, the 7.13-inch step-up height would allow a 5-foot-9-inch person with shoes on roughly 12.7 inches of overhead clearance, which is above our recommended range. 

The 55-inch-long belt deck may not be ideal for sprints — we recommend a 60-inch deck for runners — but it’s well within the range for walking workouts. As certified personal trainer Amanda Capritto explains, “A good walking treadmill has a deck with minimum dimensions of 16 inches wide by 48 inches long (preferable is 18 to 20 inches wide by 55 to 60 inches long).”

A woman working out on the Horizon T101 treadmill.
A BarBend product tester walking on the Horizon T101.

We also like Horizon’s FeatherLight hydraulic folding system, which takes a lot of the effort out of folding and unfolding the deck. That helped the T101 earn a 4 out of 5 rating from our tester, a certified personal trainer, in the areas of footprint, portability, adjustability, ergonomics, and workout experience. “The hydraulic folding and wheels actually made it pretty easy to move,” they said. “It’s more compact, so I think this is a great option for anyone who wants to do a lot of walking or jogging.”

At $699, it costs roughly $300 to $700 less than the average mid-range treadmill. Capritto pointed out, “I personally love walking-specific models because they are usually less expensive, thus more accessible to people who don’t have multiple thousands of dollars to spend on a luxury treadmill.”

While it lacks connected programming, the six preset programs are plenty to get you moving. In general, you won’t see much tech on this treadmill. “It does have built-in speakers that you can connect to your device via Bluetooth,” our tester explained. “Outside of that, there aren’t many tech features to speak of.”

Read our full Horizon T101 Treadmill Review.

Best Treadmill for Running for Low Ceilings: Sole F63






Sole F63 Treadmill




Sole F63 Treadmill

The Sole F63 is a high-quality, no-frills treadmill. The 3.0 HP motor can support up to 325 pounds, and the foldability is ideal for those tight on space. 

Specs

  • Price: $1,199
  • Dimensions: 67″ H x 77″ L x 35″ W
  • Step-Up Height: 8”
  • Incline Range: 0%-15%
  • Weight: 224lbs
  • Max Speed: 12mph
  • Weight Capacity: 325lbs

Pros

  • The 20-inch by 60-inch running deck allows plenty of space for taller runners and long strides.
  • Its 15-percent incline is 3- to 5-percent higher than what you’ll find on most treadmills.
  • The cushioned belt deck may help reduce shock absorption.

Cons

  • While it offers eight preset workouts, it has no fitness app integration.
  • The 8-inch step-up height may be too high for those with a ceiling below 7.5 feet. 

What does a good running treadmill need? A roomy 20-inch by 60-inch belt deck, cushioning in that deck to support your joints, and an incline range that can add a little intensity and variety to those long runs. Hello, Sole F63. We made this our pick for best treadmill for running for low ceilings because it hits the three criteria you’ll need for long-distance, sprint, or hill training — all atop an 8-inch-high belt deck. 

An 8-inch step-up height is at the lower end of the typical range of 8 to 10 inches. Standard ceiling height is 8 feet, and we consider a low ceiling to be around 7.5 feet. On the 8-inch deck of the F63, a person standing 5 feet 9 inches tall — adding an inch for their shoes — would have our recommended 12 inches of overhead clearance. We wouldn’t, however, recommend this treadmill for ceilings lower than 7.5 feet.  

The 20-inch by 60-inch deck lines up with standard running decks, while the 15-percent incline range — 3-percent higher than average — can help you simulate running outdoors and add intensity to your runs. Just remember that the incline will lift you closer to your low ceiling.

A woman walking at an incline on the Sole F63 treadmill.
Our tester running on the Sole F63.

Her lowest rating was a 4 out of 5 for durability because it wasn’t as smooth as she would have liked at higher speeds. “I like that it has a 3.0 HP motor, but I did feel some shaking while I was running,” she described. “Definitely not a deal-breaker, but it wasn’t exactly smooth.”

“Ideally, the best treadmills for running will have a powerful motor with at least 3.0 CHP,” says certified personal trainer Amanda Capritto. “You’ll also want a running deck at least 60 inches in length to accommodate the length of a typical running stride.” The Sole F63 checks all her boxes. 

While it doesn’t offer integration with apps like iFIT or Peloton, you can always set your phone or tablet in the device holder to stream workouts. The machine has also eight preset programs to help you build a running routine.

Read our full Sole F63 Treadmill Review.

Best Folding Treadmill for Low Ceilings: Echelon Stride-6






Echelon Stride-6 Treadmill




Echelon Stride-6 Treadmill






Echelon Stride-6 Treadmill


This tread folds flat to just 10 inches tall. Its max speed is 12 miles per hour, and you get a free 30-day Echelon Premier membership with your purchase, which provides access to over 3,000 live and on-demand classes.

Specs

  • Price: $1,699
  • Dimensions: 57” H x 64.8” L x 32.4” W
  • Step-Up Height: Not disclosed
  • Incline Range: 12 levels
  • Weight: 182.35lbs
  • Max Speed: 12.4mph
  • Weight Capacity: 300lbs

Pros

  • Echelon’s Auto-Fold system gently folds the handrails and console flat with the tap of a lever.
  • The wheels and front handle allow easy maneuverability.
  • Its spacious 20.5-inch by 60-inch cushioned belt deck can reduce impact on joints. 

Cons

  • It has no touchscreen display — only a tablet holder and LED console to display stats.  
  • Without an Echelon Premier membership, you are limited to just a one-year warranty.

The Auto-Fold mechanism in the Echelon Stride-6, which allows the machine to fold flat, makes it our top pick for the best folding treadmill for low ceilings. When you finish your cardio workout, simply fold the console, release the handlebar, tap the lever with your foot, and the folding system does the rest. When folded, the treadmill measures just 10 inches high. 

While the step-up height for the Stride-6 model is not disclosed by Echelon, BarBend editorial member Kate Meier owns the similar, older model — the Stride — which has a step-up height of 6 inches. Under what we consider a “low” ceiling — 7.5 feet — someone 5 feet 9 inches tall would be left with 14 inches of overhead clearance, accounting for a one-inch shoe sole.  

Close up view of the belt and deck on an Echelon Stride treadmill.
BarBend editorial member Kate Meier measuring the step-up height of her Echelon Stride.

Meier rated its footprint and portability 5 out of 5 because of the Auto-Fold technology and transport wheels. “Folding it flat made a huge difference for storage. I could stash it under a bed or even just against the wall,” she said. At 182 pounds, it’s roughly 20 to 50 pounds lighter than most treadmills we tested.

Amanda Capritto, certified personal trainer, highlighted the benefits of the best folding treadmills — low ceiling or not — when assessing them for BarBend. “Folding treadmills are a good option for people who need to keep their space multifunctional,” she explains. “Treadmills are large pieces of machinery, and in smaller homes, it’s not always feasible to leave a huge piece of equipment lying around.” 

BarBend editorial member and certified personal trainer, Kate Meier, walking on her Echelon Stride.
BarBend editorial member and certified personal trainer, Kate Meier, walking on her Echelon Stride.

While the Stride-6 doesn’t have a built-in touchscreen, you can connect your own tablet or phone via Bluetooth and use the speakers to stream a workout or entertainment. With an Echelon Premier membership — $39.99 per month — you can access thousands of live and on-demand classes, as well view your steps, heart rate, and calories burned. Another benefit of the membership is a 5-year warranty, a major improvement over the one-year warranty offered to non-members. 

Best Space-Saving Treadmill for Low Ceilings: WalkingPad P1 Foldable Walking Treadmill






Walking Pad P1 Foldable Walking Treadmill




Walking Pad P1 Foldable Walking Treadmill






Walking Pad P1 Foldable Walking Treadmill


The Walking Pad P1 Foldable Walking Treadmill is a compact, foldable treadmill that can be stored under a bed or couch. It features a 47.24-inch deck, 3.75 mile-per-hour max speed, and its unique Foot Speed Control mode lets you adjust your speed by walking on different areas of the deck.

Specs

  • Price: $499
  • Dimensions: 5” H x 56.37” L x 21.5” W
  • Step-Up Height: 5”
  • Incline Range: N/A
  • Weight: 62lbs
  • Max Speed: 3.75mph
  • Weight Capacity: 220lbs

Pros

  • The 5-inch step-up height is 3 to 5 inches lower than the average treadmill.
  • It can be folded up like a briefcase for easy transport and storage.
  • Despite its slim profile, it has a 47.24-inch belt deck, which is roughly 5 to 20 inches longer than many walking treadmills.

Cons

  • It lacks even a manual incline capability.
  • There is no Bluetooth connectivity, heart rate monitor, or other tech features common in larger treadmills.

We chose the WalkingPad P1 for the best space-saving treadmill for low ceilings because its 5-inch step-up height is the lowest we’ve tested, and it folds right in half for easy storage. An average treadmill deck is about 8 to 10 inches above the floor, so the Walking Pad P1 can save you up to five inches in overhead clearance. 

This treadmill is one we’d recommend for those with low ceilings between 7 to 7.5 feet. A 5-foot-9-inch person — adding an inch for shoe sole — would have 9 inches of clearance under a 7-foot ceiling. That’s still a tight squeeze, but you won’t be running or climbing an incline on this treadmill, so you’ll have a little more wiggle room. In a room with a 7.5-foot ceiling, however, you’d have 15 inches of clearance, which suprasses our recommended 12 inches.

The WalkingPad P1 Under Desk Treadmill is shown under a desk
Our tester’s WalkingPad P1 under their desk.

What makes the WalkingPad P1 stand out from other low-profile treadmills is its ability to fold in half like a briefcase or book. When folded, its footprint is reduced to about the size of a small ottoman — 4.78 square feet. (3)

Unfolded, it occupies just 8.42 square feet, which makes its 47.24-inch belt deck and 1.0 HP motor that much more impressive. Our tester, a certified personal trainer, owns a WalkingPad P1 and rated its footprint and portability 4.5 out of 5. “Since I’m really only using it for walking, I feel like it’s plenty fast for that,” they said. “At times the remote is a little wonky, but once it gets going, adjusting the speed is super easy. The foldable design is a real spacesaver because it can be stored basically anywhere.” They also rated their workout experience a 4 out of 5. 

[Related: The 9 Best Walking Treadmills of 2024]

In terms of value — 3.5 out of 5 — our tester was pleasantly surprised how it has held up over time. “Over about a year and a half, I have used it almost daily. I would absolutely say it’s been a great value,” they said.

Best Under-Desk Treadmill for Low Ceilings: LifePro Fitness PacerMini Portable 






LifePro Fitness PacerMini Portable Treadmill




LifePro Fitness PacerMini Portable Treadmill






LifePro Fitness PacerMini Portable Treadmill


The LifePro Fitness PacerMini Portable Treadmill is a compact, under-deck treadmill with a fixed 7-percent incline — rare for an under-desk treadmill. At just 7 inches tall and 40 pounds, it can easily fit under a desk. During use, adjust the speed with the remote control to avoid reaching down to the panel.

Specs

  • Price: $350
  • Dimensions: 7” H x 32.7” L x 25” W
  • Step-Up Height: 7”
  • Incline Range: Fixed 7%
  • Weight: 40lbs
  • Max Speed: 3mph
  • Weight Capacity: 220lbs

Pros

  • With a 7-inch step-up height and 40-pound overall weight, it can be used under desks for workday cardio.
  • Its 7-percent fixed incline is rare among even the best under-desk treadmills.
  • The speed can be adjusted with a remote control.

Cons

  • With a below-average 27.6-inch belt deck, we wouldn’t recommend this for anything other than walking.
  • With such a small footprint, there are no conveniences like bottle holders, fans, or tech features.

If your workspace has a lower-than-average ceiling, our pick for the best under-desk treadmill has just a 7-inch step-up height and features a rare 7-percent fixed incline. The LifePro Fitness PacerMini Portable only weighs 40 pounds and has a footprint of just 5.68 square feet, making it easy to slide under standing desks. (3)(4) You will, however, want to adjust your standing desk to account for the 7-inch step-up height. 

In a room with low ceilings — around 7.5 feet — a person standing 5 feet 9 inches tall and shoes with a one-inch sole would have 13 inches of clearance, an inch higher than our minimum recommendation. 

Among the under-desk treadmills we’ve tested, our tester, a certified personal trainer, thought the PacerMini Portable stood out for its incline. “For being so compact, I loved that it actually is fixed at an incline,” they said. “I deducted a few points because I wish the deck was slightly longer.” They rated both its footprint and portability and their workout experience 3.5 out of 5.

Our BarBend product tester on the LifePro Fitness PacerMini.
Our BarBend product tester on the LifePro Fitness PacerMini.

For anyone trying to hit the — supposed — magic number of 10,000 steps a day, certified personal trainer Amanda Capritto thinks under-desk treadmills can be a major boost.  “Engaging in more movement is almost never a bad thing,” she explains. “An under-desk treadmill is a great way to increase your daily step count and enjoy the benefits of walking.”

While its small footprint can be a positive for areas with limited space or low ceilings, that also means there aren’t any conveniences like bottle holders or fans. The belt deck also may simply be too small for some users. At just 27.6 inches in length, it’s around 20 inches shorter than the minimum length recommended by Capritto. You’ll want to keep the speed low. 

This contributed to the 3-out-of-5 rating for customizations, as well as adjustability and ergonomics, from our tester. “I took it up to the max of 3 miles per hour and, with such a small deck, I don’t think I’d want to go much faster,” they said. “I thought it was a simple, easy-to-use tread, but I think it may be too short for some people to use at all.”

Best Budget Treadmill for Low Ceilings: Goplus 2-in-1 Folding Treadmill






GoPlus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill




GoPlus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill






GoPlus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill


With a powerful and quiet 2.25HP motor, this treadmill allows you to walk or jog when used as an under-desk machine, or run at up to 7.5 MPH when the handrails are raised.

Specs

  • Price: $299
  • Dimensions: 44.5″ H x 52.5″ L x 29″ W
  • Step-Up Height: 5”
  • Incline Range: N/A
  • Weight: 69lbs
  • Max Speed: 7.5mph
  • Weight Capacity: 265lbs

Pros

  • At $299, it’s roughly $50 to $500 cheaper than most walking treadmills.
  • Because the handlebar folds upright, it can serve as both a traditional and under-desk treadmill.
  • The 7.5-mile-per-hour max speed makes it suitable for walking and jogging workouts. 

Cons

  • Because of its plastic build, we wouldn’t recommend it for running. 
  • The small device holder in the handrail can hold most phones, but it’s too small for tablets.

At $299, the Goplus 2-in-1 Folding Treadmill is roughly $50 to $500 less expensive than most under-desk treadmills, making it an easy choice for our best budget treadmill for low ceilings. Its 5-inch step-up height is among the lowest we’ve seen and the 7.5-mile-per-hour top speed allows for both walking and jogging workouts. 

If you placed it in a room with a 7.5-foot ceiling, the 5-inch step-up height would allow 15 inches of overhead clearance for someone 5 feet 9 inches tall in shoes with a one-inch sole. That’s 3 inches more than our minimal recommendation.

Unlike some other slim-profile or under-desk machines, it has a folding handlebar that allows it to operate as both a traditional and an under-desk treadmill. The handle also includes a phone holder that allows you to stream workouts or entertainment as you walk. Our tester noted that it would be too small for tablets. They did, however, appreciate the included remote control, which you can use to adjust the speed. They rated its conveniences a 3 out of 5. 

Our tester walking on the Goplus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill.
Our tester walking on the Goplus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill.

In terms of value, our tester thought this machine met their expectations, so it earned a rating of 4.25 out of 5. “While I didn’t think it was a high-quality treadmill or went fast enough for running, it has a ton of value, especially for beginners,” they said. For reference, our tester rated its durability just 2.5 out of 5, but that was not a surprise. “It’s just as durable as I’d expect for this price range.”

Value is important to keep in mind when perusing the best budget treadmills, notes certified personal trainer Amanda Capritto. 

“Budget-friendly treadmills specifically provide access to exercise for individuals with a lower income who know they are ready to commit to exercise,” she explained.  “From an equipment perspective, budget treadmills are likely to break down sooner than higher-end, more expensive models. It’s very true that you get what you pay for when it comes to home gym equipment.”

What to Consider Before Buying a Treadmill for Low Ceilings

Before you go wading through Amazon listings and adding a treadmill to your cart, consider where it will go in your home, apartment, or home gym. When looking for the perfect spot, grab your measuring tape, pinpoint the dimensions of the space, and, if you have a ceiling under 8 feet, ascertain what kind of step-up height you’ll need for a comfortable workout. When considering our recommendations, we referenced the average height of American males (5 feet 9 inches) and females (5 feet 4 inches). (2)

Dimensions

Fitting a home gym essential like a treadmill in any space requires planning, but if your ceiling is lower than the standard 8 feet, consider all dimensions involved — even yours. While you should note the height of the treadmill, the most important dimension to consider is its step-up height. 

The belt deck of the Horizon T101.
The belt deck of the Horizon T101.

Typically, treadmill decks are about 8 to 10 inches off the ground, but treadmills for low ceilings — anything under 8 feet — tend to have lower step-up heights between 5 and 7.5 inches to help save you a few inches. To get a sense of how you’ll fare, add the step-up height of a treadmill to your own height, then add an inch for your shoes. We recommend having at least 12 inches of overhead clearance.

Intended Use

Some of the best walking treadmills could also be considered walking pads or under-desk treadmills. These are good options for low ceilings because their step-up heights are the lowest available — around 5 to 7 inches. If your ceiling height is less than 7.5 feet, these may be your best option. If you have a little more leeway, you can probably run or jog comfortably. Your main consideration should be how comfortable you feel in the space.

Budget

The good thing about treadmills compact enough to fit under low ceilings is that their prices tend to be lower. While most mid-range treadmills cost around $1,000 to $1,500, our picks for the best treadmills for low ceilings range from roughly $299 to $1,299, depending on whether it’s a running or walking machine. After measuring your space, determine exactly how much you can afford.

Different Types of Treadmills for Low Ceilings

For treadmills going in rooms with lower ceilings than the standard 8 or 9 feet, the step-up height is the main concern, but you still have options, depending on how you plan to use it. Whether you need an all-around compact machine, one designed for running, or an under-desk treadmill for a very low ceiling, check out the different types of treadmills that may work for your space.

Compact

Compact treadmills are usually the most space-saving offerings from respected brands like NordicTrack or ProForm, as well as well-rounded budget options like the Xterra Fitness TR150. They often have dynamic programming, cushioned belt decks, and incline features, just in smaller packages. Since these are usually smaller, the step-up heights also tend to be lower. 

For instance, the deck height on the Horizon T101 is 1.62 inches shorter than the Horizon 7.4 AT. The T101 has a 10-percent incline range and 55-inch belt deck, while the 7.4 AT gets up to 15 percent and features a 60-inch deck.

For Running

Running treadmills generally emphasize the size of the belt deck — at least 20 inches by 60 inches — and the maximum speed — typically 12 miles per hour or more. If you plan to rack up mileage running on a treadmill, rollers with at least a 2.25-inch diameter are ideal, while a 12-percent incline range can add some variety and intensity to your training.

A woman standing on a Sole F63 treadmill
Our BarBend tester starting a run on the Sole F63.

Because treadmills for low ceilings tend to be smaller in general, you can find options that meet these standards, but not much more. We included treadmills that hit these marks, but also have step-up heights of 8.5 inches or lower, which, depending on your height, can often allow enough room for those with low ceilings. 

Under-Desk

Some of the treadmills with the lowest step-up heights are designed to be used under standing desks. The decks on options like these are usually only around 5 to 7 inches off the ground, as opposed to the 8 to 10 inches on the average treadmill. 

Since they are meant for walking and light jogging, the motors are weaker and they typically have a lower user weight capacity — around 220 pounds. It’s rare to find incline levels on under-desk options, though there are options on the market with fixed incline. If you are limited on overhead space, the 3 to 5 inches you can save with an under-desk treadmill might be just enough to fit under your low ceiling. 

Benefits of Treadmills for Low Ceilings

Fitting a home treadmill in a room with low ceilings requires more forethought than a room with typical 8-to-9-foot ceilings. You’ll save space elsewhere in your home, be safer during use, and (hopefully) accommodate the tallest users under your low ceiling.

Saving Space

Because they need to fit in areas with low ceilings, these treadmills are generally smaller than traditional treadmills. Mid-range or high-end treadmills have step-up heights around 8 to 10 inches and take up about 19 square feet of floor space. The best compact machines share similar features with traditional treadmills, but are designed with small spaces in mind. Expect step-up heights around 7 to 8.5 inches and footprints of about 16 to 17 square feet.

The 7-inch belt deck of the LifePro Fitness PacerMini.
The 7-inch belt deck of the LifePro Fitness PacerMini.

The best under-desk treadmills have low deck heights because they are only meant for walking or light jogging. Step-up heights on these machines are even lower — around 5 or 6 inches — with equally small footprints of about 8 or 9 square feet.

Accessibility for Tall Users

Buying a low-profile treadmill increases the odds that taller users can comfortably use it. Sticking to your cardio workout program is tough already, so having a space and a machine that’s accessible for everyone removes a barrier to consistent treadmill exercise. If you or someone in your household is above-average height, make sure to account for every inch so everyone can benefit from your investment.

Safety

While comfort or practicality may be your primary reason to look for a treadmill for low ceilings, running on a machine without enough overhead clearance can be dangerous. Even if the user isn’t banging their head on the ceiling with each stride, having to hunch or duck while running or walking can impact running economy and performance. (5) Finding a treadmill that fits in your low-ceilinged space will be safer than cramming in a larger machine.

Final Word

If you’re hoping to exercise in a room with a low ceiling — anything under 8 feet — making sure you have enough overhead clearance should be a concern. To maximize the benefits of your treadmill, we recommend at least 12 inches of overhead clearance so you can get your work in without the fear of bonking your head on the ceiling. A room with a standard 8-foot ceiling is plenty of space for most machines and users, but as that height decreases, measuring step-up heights and doing a little math becomes even more important.

We tried to bring you the treadmills that can buy you a few extra inches with low deck heights — some as short as 5 inches. If your ceiling is lower than 8 feet, you can gain a few inches of overhead clearance with a machine that has a lower step-up height. Just because your ideal training space has a low ceiling, doesn’t mean there isn’t a treadmill out there to match it. 

FAQs

What is the best treadmill for low ceilings?

The most compact offering among the best NordicTrack treadmills is the EXP 7i. Given all of its features — incline and decline range, iFIT integration, and more — we think it’s a no-brainer for the best treadmill for low ceilings. With a step-up height of 8.5 inches, it’s on the lower end of the average range of 8 to 10 inches.

What is the minimum ceiling height for a treadmill?

While the standard ceiling height in the U.S. is 8 feet, the accepted minimum height is 7.5 feet. (1) Older buildings may still have lower ceilings than that, but we wouldn’t recommend using any treadmill in a room with less than a 7-foot ceiling — and even that would be for shorter users. If you are dealing with anything lower than 7 feet, we think you’re better off heading to a gym.

What is the best treadmill for a small space?

Depending on your intended use — running, jogging, or walking — you can find all types of machines for small spaces. If that small space features a low ceiling, the first thing to consider is the step-up height. We picked the WalkingPad P1 as the best space-saving treadmill for low ceilings because its 5-inch step-up height is the lowest we have tested, and it folds in half for easy storage.

References

  1. Rybczynski, W. (n.d.). Ceiling Heights in Homes and Offices. Ceiling Heights in homes and offices – Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center. https://realestate.wharton.upenn.edu/working-papers/ceiling-heights-in-homes-and-offices/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021a, September 10). FASTSTATS – body measurements. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/body-measurements.htm 
  3. Jaramillo, C. (2022, December 29). A guide to sofa dimensions & sizes. SeatUp, LLC. https://seatup.com/blog/guide-to-sofa-dimensions/ 
  4. Autonomous. (2018, November 2). How to determine the ideal standing desk height. autonomous. https://www.autonomous.ai/ourblog/determine-ideal-standing-desk-height 
  5. Folland, J. P., Allen, S. J., Black, M. I., Handsaker, J. C., & Forrester, S. E. (2017). Running Technique is an Important Component of Running Economy and Performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 49(7), 1412–1423.

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