Treadmills are typically among the first machines considered for a home gym – they offer a great workout for people of all fitness levels, and are based on our most natural movement patterns. But when selecting a new treadmill, pay special attention to the suspension system. The right suspension system will protect your joints from the impact of exercise and enhance the overall feel of your run. In fact, compared with road running, properly cushioned treadmill running typically reduces impact by about 15%-40%. A great suspension system will provide the cushioning and shock absorption you need to handle your most intense workout and still give you lateral stability and support.
Whether you run, jog or walk on the treadmill, your movement pattern involves varying levels of impact on different areas of the treadmill deck. All of your impact is at the front area of the deck (where your foot lands for each stride)—and as you run, you’ll want less cushion and more stability towards the back of the deck (also known as the “push-off zone”). In between these areas is called the” Transition Zone”. Ideally, your treadmill has a cushioning system that differentiates between these.
The cushioning system for almost all treadmills is located between the belt and the frame. Most treadmills, especially internet and lower end brands, offer the same type of cushioning throughout the treadmill deck—not ideal considering your movement pattern. In general, the front impact zone should provide maximum cushioning with firmer cushioning and more stability as you move toward the back.
Some of the best manufacturers in the industry offer suspension systems with multiple cushioning zones and in some cases customizable support options. For example, TRUE treadmills offer the TRUE patented Soft System™ deck. The front third of the deck is softer, so that when your foot strikes the tread belt, it reduces the impact. As your foot moves back along the belt, the surface stabilizes to give you a firm push-off. This means significantly less stress on your ankles, knees, hips, and back. In addition, the TRUE PS800 treadmill (and all models above it) feature Soft Select™, which allows you to set the firmness of the deck to your specifications, so you get orthopedically correct shock absorption with the stability that’s comfortable for you and your specific workout and joint needs.
Another top brand known for excellent treadmill cushioning is Bodyguard. Bodyguard Treadmills offer a unique suspension system with their Bodyguard Dissipation System (BDS). The BDS is designed to minimize impact energy, maximize foot stability and simulate an athletic track feel. BDS achieves this by utilizing a visco-elastic polymer that dissipates the impact energy much more efficiently than standard rubber elastomers. This is based on their philosophy of absorbing impact versus simple bounce. To maximize foot stability, Bodyguard also offers an exclusive X-Frame design that provides stronger platforms with less frame torsion than standard frames of the same weight. Plus, Bodyguard’s custom foot stabilizers adjust and pivot meaning you can level X-Frames on uneven surfaces—providing improved stability and a superior comfort and feel.
Finally, Cybex has done more pure research than anyone else in the fitness industry. Their cushioning system is based on actual research, and like the others Gym Source offers, it has a forward system that has the lion’s share of the cushioning in the “Strike Zone”. However, Cybex’ research also deals with controlling deck movement in the “Transition Zone”, which results in their unique design of supporting the treadmill deck to avoid the deck bowing that is common in other brands.