Although not a mass consumer audience, the readership of Runners World is a dedicated one for treadmills, devout runners that they are as well as ones that have the money to buy higher-end products. So nabbing a Best Buy or Editors Choice rating in the magazine's treadmill reviews (only done every three years) is a feather in a company's cap, even if it may not mean millions flying out the door. Even newcomer Vision Fitness' new 9700HR treadmill, partly developed in partnership with internationally elite runner Rod DeHaven, managed to get into the annual December treadmill review by the magazine. For a look at how the magazine tells readers to shop (No. 1 tip: Shop at a specialty fitness-equipment store. Avoid low-end treadmills found at department stores.) , and details on how the treads fared, go to: www.runnersworld.com/home/0,1300,1-52-72-4058,00.html.
Testing protocol is good: Testers are Runner's World editors and members of area running clubs ranging in age from 25 to 55, in weight from 110 pounds to 210 pounds, and in running ability from a 15-minute 5-K to a 27-minute 5-K. Nearly half were women. Each tester followed the same protocol on each treadmill. None took part in the review three years ago or knew retail prices of the equipment, yet the same two brands took home top honors again: True as Editors' Choice and Pacemaster Pro Elite as Best Buy. The brands, the retail price, and the model's overall ranking in four categories (cushioning, stability, controls, and display) were: True, $3,795 (8.1); NordicTrack, $3,500 (7.6); Precor, $3,500 (7.3); Cybex, $4,995 (7.1); Life Fitness, $3,500 (7.0); Landice, $4,495 (6.9); PaceMaster, $2,200 (6.8); Vision Fitness, $3,000 (6.7); Smooth, $3,000 (6.4); Spirit, $2,495 (5.8); SportsArt, $2,300 (5.2); and Bodyguard, $2,495 (4.8). In testing the decibel reading, True also came out the quietest, although all were pretty close.
SNEWS View: This is a great lineup of treadmills and brands, and all included are superior. These are of course relatively serious runners of all levels doing the testing, so if these brands can pass this muster, they are doing well indeed. Plus, just being included means great exposure for all the brands.