How to choose a treadmill that works with Zwift

November 12, 2022 4 min read

How to choose a treadmill that works with Zwift

How to Choose a Treadmill that works with Zwift & other Apps

Due to the fact that in most cases, the treadmill itself does not have any direct connection to Zwift, then any treadmill will work with Zwift. This is because in the majority of cases, it is the footpad which transmits your speed rather than the treadmill. This means that you are able to run on Zwift on essentially any treadmill. However, some treadmills do actually connect to Zwift, and therefore the footpad is not necessary as they are able to send speed and cadence directly. These treadmills will be discussed later within the article, but first we will look at the difference between home and commercial treadmills which are referred to as the “non-smart” variety of treadmills.

Home Treadmills

Firstly, we will address home consumer treadmills. Having your own treadmill at home means you aren’t bound to gym opening and closing times, you have the freedom to get on the treadmill at your own convenience. Additionally, owning your own treadmill is becoming more cost-effective as treadmill prices continue to decrease. If you own a treadmill at home, you are able to immediately begin running on Zwift, simply by grabbing your footpod and starting. 

If you are looking at purchasing a treadmill for your home, there is a huge number of consumer-grade treadmills. Checking the treadmill’s top speed and the power of the motor (which is measured in CHP; Continuous Horse Power) are two of the most important things to bear in mind when you are looking to buy. A treadmill with a top speed of approximately 20kph with a motor of around 3CHP is a good benchmark to have. A lower power of 3CHP begins to show a significant decrease in the speed of the belt with each foot strike, this means that to achieve the same speeds, you will have to be working harder than is necessary. 

If you have limited space, you may be looking at fold away treadmills or may also wish to consider whether the unit offers the ability to incline and the availability of pre-set incremental speed buttons. Although many treadmills offer training programs built-in to the systems, these are not necessary for Zwift running. 

Generally, consumer treadmills which offer Bluetooth are often used for music as you can play music through the built-in speakers by connecting your phone to the treadmill via the Bluetooth option. Treadmills in this price range which offer Bluetooth connectivity will not broadcast cadence and speed, due to this they cannot be connected to Zwift directly.

In the consumer class it is usually better to go with a treadmill unit which offers the basic well, if you are unsure which treadmill to choose, instead of a unit which advertises a multitude of features. 

Commercial Treadmills

The difference between the average consumer treadmill in comparison to the units in a gym is noticeable. Mainly, commercial treadmills are much bigger, and this results in a sturdier feel underfoot as you run. These treadmills found in the gym tend to also feature a more powerful motor; ones of which usually are usually set at 3 CHP at the least. Thus, the Zwift experience will feel smoother due to the more consistent speed of the belt.

There are opportunities to buy reconditioned ex-gym treadmills, if you have the space at home, which are a really good mid-range choice for running with Zwift. Some of these also feature a CSAFE (Communications Specification for Fitness Equipment) port. This feature noticeably allows the ability to fit a Wahoo GEM (Gym Equipment Module). This turns the reconditioned commercial treadmill into a unit that is Bluetooth connected. Therefore, enabling you to connect Zwift directly to the treadmill as a speed source. However, a footpod for cadence is still needed. 

The Wahoo GEM is likely to be preinstalled in units from Precor, Star Trac and Life Fitness. Should they not, they will include a CSAFE port which enables you to fit your own.

Smart Connected Treadmills

Treadmill manufacturers are increasingly producing smart treadmills which are units designed for both home users and commercial establishments. They reflect the future of treadmill running in terms of the ability to connect, transmit and receive data with multiple devices. 

These treadmills guarantee a powerful motor to turn the belt as well as a top speed of at least 20kph. Furthermore, they will also include apps for your IOS or Android devices which will allow you to run multiple fitness programs or update firmware. 

These smart treadmills mean there is no need to calibrate; your connection is consistent and reliable which means it offers the easiest and most efficient way to get your speed into Zwift. The speed which is shown on Zwift will automatically match the speed you see on the display of the treadmill. Many of these smart treadmills also transmit cadence which enables you to completely dispense with the footpod.

Best Current Smart Treadmill suggestions

The Technogym MyRun is one of the most popular with Zwift runners but there are others available such as Life Fitness, and Sole . As more people embrace the technology, the list of available smart treadmills increases.

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