Belt Issues

The Importance of Your Treadmill’s Belt

Know Your Belt

I’ve learned a lot on my quest to find the perfect treadmill. It’s been an adventure that’s involved a lot of personal education that I wasn’t expecting, and part of that process has been learning about the importance of the belt in the treadmill’s functionality. Treadmill belts come in many different sizes and surface materials, and they also vary considerably in how they operate.

If I’m being completely honest I must admit that when I set out to buy a treadmill I never gave the belt a second thought – I figured all treadmills had belts and they functioned pretty much the same way. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Treadmill belts may be distinguished by the type of materials used on their surface as well as how they operate mechanically.

Tension Is Not Such a Bad Thing

The consistency of your treadmill belt’s tension is extremely important for how well the machine functions. Cheaper machines can be very inconsistent in the amount of tension in their belts – there may be too much give in the belt, or it may simply ride unevenly on the rollers. Both of these things make it hard for you to achieve a consistent and steady pace, and they also pose certain safety hazards. If the belt tends to sag in the middle or towards the sides this can create a very uneven surface for your feet, and you may easily find yourself with an ankle sprain.

Higher-quality machines have belts with near-perfect tension. These belts are nice and even, having just the right amount of cushioning without the sagging which, as we mentioned above, can be a safety hazard. This integrated cushion relieves stress on your joints and back, creating a more comfortable and safer workout surface. As with any type of machine you may need to perform basic maintenance on occasion to maintain your belt’s consistency, but with these higher-quality machines that’s generally a pretty straightforward process.

Belt Tension Adjustment and Tracking

Belt Tension Adjustment and Tracking

The Surface and the Materials

I remember a treadmill that my uncle used to have in his basement; looking back on that machine I realize now what an archaic piece of equipment it was. This treadmill featured a belt with a flat shiny surface that was pretty much paper thin. This type of surface doesn’t really give your shoes anything to grip on and the thin nature of the belt also made it sag a lot. When you purchase a treadmill under, say, $150, you’re probably going to end up with a machine like this and you’re pretty much taking your safety into your own hands.

As you move up in price to treadmills that cost in excess of $500 you’ll find the quality of the belt itself tends to become a lot better. These higher-quality treadmills feature belt materials that have built-in ridges for grip and they’re also much thicker, which provides you with a more stable and safer surface. It’s for this reason that I set myself a budget of at least $500 as I began my search for a treadmill in earnest. To be honest, I just wouldn’t recommend trusting your long-term safety and health to a machine that has a poor-quality belt.

The other thing I believe is very important to consider about a treadmill’s belt is its length. An appropriate length for someone that intends to use a treadmill almost exclusively for walking will not be the same as what makes sense for someone that wants to use it for running. As you might have guessed, the runner will need a belt that’s considerably longer.

If your primary purpose in buying a treadmill is to keep in shape by walking, a length of about 50 inches should be more than sufficient – you may even get away with a belt that’s about 48 inches, although I wouldn’t go for much less than that. If, on the other hand, you intend to use your treadmill for intense cardio workouts that include fast paced runs, you should probably be looking for a machine that has a belt with a length of about 60 inches or more. When you’re running you’re using a much longer stride, which is why you need this extra length.

The Belt Really Is That Important

It really was a bit of an eye-opener learning how essential the belt is to the safe and proper function of a treadmill. I myself intend to use my treadmill for walking or light jogging so I’m probably okay with the 50 inch length, but if you’re an avid runner then you’ll definitely want to go with the longer belt. Perhaps more importantly, it’s now quite clear that you should always choose a machine with a belt that has a nice comfortable surface and the right amount of tension.