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Folding vs. Non-folding Treadmills

12 Jun, 2023 |

When shopping for a treadmill, there are many features to choose from. One of the biggest features to decide on is folding vs. non-folding.

Are you unsure about which style to go with?

We’re here to educate you on the differences between folding treadmills and non-folding treadmills and the details to consider when making your selection.

If you’re concerned that a treadmill won’t fit in your home gym, a folding treadmill might be your answer. Folding treadmills do precisely what their name implies — they fold up, and usually have transport wheels, making them an ideal candidate for easy storage when not in use.

But folding treadmills are not all created equal. Folding treadmill prices can range from as little as $300 to as much as $6,000.

Low-end vs. high-end folding treadmills

When comparing folding treadmills, the first thing to look at is the metal tube size. The second thing to pay attention to is the structural design.

There can be large differences in metal tube size and structural designs, which directly affect strength, stability, user weight capacity and how the treadmill inclines and folds.

The adage, “you get what you pay for,” is important to consider when shopping for treadmills. Often the increased cost is due to the machine being constructed of more materials. Beefier metal tubing, more structural components, safety mechanisms like gas shocks and easy-release latches are all extra material costs that can go into a folding treadmill, which drives the price up, but also creates a much better user experience.

When it comes to folding treadmill construction, there are different folding frame styles available, which are important to understand and consider. At Johnson Health Tech, we have two different folding treadmill frame designs – fold-on-pin (FOP) and fold-on-base (FOB).

 

woman with low-end folding treadmill
Fold-on-pin design

Fold-on-pin design (FOP)

The fold-on-pin, or FOP design is perhaps the most common folding treadmill design in the industry. Some treadmills are designed with an FOP design where the running surface folds up to meet the console, raising the treadmill deck up off the ground.

Others are constructed with an FOP design that folds the console mast down on top of the running surface. Some even fold flat enough to push the folded treadmill under the bed.

The FOP design is a simple pivot point, like a hinge on your car door.

It is popular for manufacturers to use this style because it uses less material, therefore it is less expensive to produce. Most of the lower-end treadmills you'll find are FOP. It's simple and effective, but it comes with compromises.

A gas shock is often used to overcome the heavy weight of the running frame, deck, running belt rollers, drive motor, and incline motor to assist in folding and unfolding. But not all FOP treadmills have gas shocks, making the folding and unfolding task quite difficult and potentially dangerous.

When shopping for a foldable treadmill, be sure to test this out in the store. Fold the treadmill up (or down) out of the way and observe:

  • How does it feel?
  • Is it too heavy for you to fold confidently and safely?
  • Does it feel stable?
  • How does it lock into place?
  • Does it feel secure in the folded and locked position?
  • If you have young children in the house, is the lock in a location that would be accessible to them?
  • How does it release?
  • Do you need to support the deck weight when releasing back to the floor?

If you plan on moving the treadmill between workouts, try rolling it away at the store, even just a few inches. Most FOP designs have only two transport wheels, so the treadmill must be tipped back onto the wheels, like moving a wheelbarrow. You will need enough room between the console and wall to tip it back onto the wheels. 

Consider the surface your treadmill will be placed on. Treadmills are much more difficult to move on carpet compared to a hard surface. Do you plan to use an equipment mat under the machine and will you be moving that out of the way between workouts?

man folding high-end treadmill

Fold-on-base design

Fold-on-base design (FOB)

A fold-on-base or FOB design, which is what is used on the Matrix TF50 and TF30 folding treadmills, solves some of the FOP shortcomings by using a multi-link design with four roller wheels.

Four transport wheels means you don't need to tip the treadmill onto the wheels like a wheelbarrow to move it. You simply release the wheel locks and push, like pushing a grocery cart. Transport is much easier and safe with the four-wheel design.

This multi-link design, along with two gas shocks, makes the folding and unfolding easier. Instead of folding at a pin, the Matrix treadmills fold by sliding the front of the deck back along a rail as the deck is pushed up. You can think of the movement like a garage door sliding along a track to open and close. 

The FOB design uses a large, square welded frame "base" to slide the end of the deck along, which adds the additional benefits of increasing rigidity and stability.

Matrix folding treadmill

Matrix folding treadmills: Fold-on-base design

This FOB frame design also allows us to fold the treadmill deck more vertically than an FOP design. The Matrix treadmills fold up to nearly 90 degrees, while many FOP designs fold to only 60 to 75 degrees.

With a more vertical storage position, you will have more open space to use around the treadmill. The latch will be positioned higher from the floor when folded up, making it more difficult for children to accidentally unlock it. Plus, cleaning under the treadmill is much easier when the deck is locked at nearly 90 degrees. 

Regardless of the manufacturer, ensure the lock latch is fully engaged before cleaning around, moving, or walking away.

man running on non-folding teadmill

Matrix non-folding treadmill

Non-folding treadmills

Non-folding treadmills, also called platform treadmills, are quite simply treadmills that don't fold. 

Commercial treadmills, the machines that you would find in a gym or a club, do not fold. In a commercial facility, machines are not moved around after workouts, so folding styles are not necessary.

Plus, non-folding treadmills are typically sturdier than a folding treadmill. A folding treadmill design would not be sturdy enough to meet commercial ratings and test standards. So when you're shopping for a folding treadmill, know that if a manufacturer is calling a folding treadmills a commercial treadmill, it is not a true commercial treadmill. 

 woman on non-folding treadmill with incline

Non-folding treadmill: Console mast moves up on incline

Another advantage is that the handlebars and console move along the deck when inclining or declining the treadmill. This means the handlebars and controls will always be in reach and the console angle to your eye level will not change.

woman running on folded treadmill with incline

Folding treadmill: Console mast remains in original position on incline

With a folding treadmill, the console and handlebars remain stationary, moving the user further away from them when inclined. If you plan on doing a lot of full incline workouts (15% is the maximum on Matrix treadmills), be sure to test out whether you can reach the handlebars and control buttons when running or walking at full incline when you're shopping at the store.

When considering treadmill maintenance, folding treadmills have one more step compared to non-folding treadmills. If your treadmill has air shocks under the deck for lift assistance, you will need to lubricate the air shock tube with a Teflon-based spray once a month. It's rather easy to do, but it is just one more thing to remember to ad to your to-do list.

Pros and cons of a folding treadmill

Pros:

  • Space efficient 
  • Increased portability
  • Storage possibilities
  • Easy to clean underneath

Cons:

  • Console and handlebars don't move up when treadmill inclines
  • Can feel less stable compared to a non-folding treadmill
  • Additional monthly maintenance step

Final Thoughts

If you're in the market for a new home treadmill, you've likely researched all types of treadmills. When deciding between a folding or non-folding treadmill, some factors to consider include space availability, portability, stability, and incline experience. 

If you have limited home gym space, a folding treadmill gives you the option for a cardio workout routine without monopolizing the room. However, you may prefer a non-folding treadmill if you know you will never fold or move the treadmill, or if you plan to do a lot of max incline workouts or run for long distances or at high speeds.

All in all, the best treadmill for home use is the treadmill that fits your family's needs and consistently gets you moving. 

____________________________________________________________

About the Author

Anthony Winge, Global Product Manager

man with goatee

Anthony has been in the fitness industry for more than 17 years. He has worked in many capacities for Johnson Health Tech over the years but has spent the last 13 years developing products for both home use and commercial facilities around the world. 

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