Best Compact Ellipticals
Compact and folding elliptical trainers alike are ideal for home cardio and strength training. Relative to traditional home ellipticals, they take up less floor space and are easier to move. Yet despite their smaller stature, the best of these models don’t compromise on mechanics or features. They should support full strides and offer comfort as well a variety of resistance options.
Center-drive elliptical machines have the smallest dimensions and are non-folding. Front- and rear-drive ellipticals have longer frames, but may be foldable for storage. Check out our top three compact and/or folding ellipticals below, and read on for an in-depth buying guide for these types of elliptical trainers.
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The Best Compact/Folding Elliptical Trainers
Just like a standard elliptical machine, a compact elliptical can also have a front, center, or rear drive. We’ve included a ‘Best Buy’ option for each category to help delineate the differences. Convenient size and good ergonomics are not the only reasons these ellipticals are so popular. Depending on the machine, highlights include touchscreen displays, wireless heart rate monitoring capability, interactive video workouts, power inclines, built-in speakers, and mobile app compatibility.
1. Best Overall Compact Elliptical — Sole E55
Compact but capable, the Sole E55 Elliptical is ideal for shoppers with small workout areas and rather high standards. The new model has the smallest foot print of any Sole elliptical trainer at 27 by 71 inches, yet has an impressive 375-pound weight capacity. Equipped with many of Sole’s best performance components for home ellipticals, the unit comes with digital upgrades including an improved display screen with adjustable angle, a Bluetooth connection for use with the Sole Fitness App, an integrated tablet holder, Bluetooth audio speakers, and a USB charging port. Most importantly, like all Sole ellipticals, the E55 has excellent ergonomics from the pedals to arm bars. For extra motivation, the E55 has music speakers and a secure tablet computer holder, and to help with comfort, personal cooling fans, and a water bottle holder. The online sale price of $1,699 ($2,799 MSRP) offers an excellent value, especially considering the product’s long warranty. Purchased directly from Sole Fitness, the price includes delivery and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
A favorite feature on the E55 and other Sole ellipticals this year is 20 levels of incline up to 20°. The automated incline makes this machine especially effective for targeted muscle toning. In effect, you get 20 elliptical paths instead of just one. For convenience, Sole ellipticals have incline controls built into the arm bars.
|Incline||20 degrees (adjusted in 1-degree increments)|
|Stride Length||20 inches|
|Weight Capacity||375 LBS|
|Dimensions||71″ L x 27″ W x 71″ H|
|Warranty||Lifetime Frame; 5 Years Electronics & Parts; 2 Years Labor|
2. Best Runner Up Compact Elliptical — Horizon Evolve 5
Given it’s heavy flywheel, the Evolve 5 affords a level of resistance appropriate for every member of your family. Enjoy the diverse programming options on your large console while giving your body an advanced, results-focused workout. Best of all, this elliptical folds up small, providing a compact measurement of 41 inches long, by 28 inches wide, and 69 inches high, when stored, with expanded dimensions measuring 69 inches, by 28 inches and 69. Featuring a heavy 23-pound flywheel, the unit brings a much more advanced workout opportunity to the floor. The weight of flywheel determines, among other things, how smoothly and quietly the mechanism will function. Most ellipticals feature flywheels between 18-20 pounds, with 18 really being the lowest users would want. A 23-pound flywheel is among the heavier offered in the industry, particularly for those units used in homes.
|Stride Length||20 inches|
|Weight Capacity||300 LBS|
|Dimensions||69″ L x 28″ W x 69″ H|
|Screen||6.25-inch Backlit LCD|
|Warranty||Lifetime Frame; 3 Years Electronics & Parts; 1 Years Labor|
3. Best Folding Compact Ellpitical — NordicTrack SE9i
The SpaceSaver SE9i is the top elliptical trainer in the NordicTrack SpaceSaver Series. It shares many performance specs with the SE7i, but it has advanced electronics and carries a much longer warranty. The new SE9i is distinguished by its 14″ touchscreen, which is high definition and ready for browsing the web while exercise stats are collected in the background. Purchase of the machine comes with a free 30-day trial of the iFit Coach workout app, as well as a Bluetooth smart chestrap. Also bringing in on-board entertainment potential are a pair of 2″ digitally amplified speakers. Other key specs are wireless heart rate monitoring, an 18″ stride, an 18-pound flywheel, and a power incline of up to 10 degrees. SpaceSaver Series ellipticals have a rear drive design and rear drive ellipticals are generally appreciated for their natural-feeling strides and easy balance during exercise. The size of a rear drive elliptical can be a drawback, but obviously the SpaceSaver SE9i is a space-conscious model. You can fold it vertically for everyday storage after workouts (and it also has wheels to make it easier to move).
|Stride Length||18 inches|
|Weight Capacity||325 LBS|
|Dimensions||80″ L x 32″ W x 67″ H|
|Screen||14″ HD Touchscreen|
|Warranty||10 Years Frame; 2 Years Electronics & Parts; 1 Year Labor|
4. Smallest Compact Elliptical — Bowflex M6
The Bowflex Max Trainer M6 offers full body workouts with no impact on joints. Its unique design features the motion of a stair stepper and elliptical, making low impact workouts more intense; toning muscles, building cardio endurance, and burning calories effectively and efficiently. It comes with 16 levels of resistance; a wide range that would challenge devout marathoners or dedicated fitness enthusiasts. It’s a good option for athletic training and conditioning (easily includes high intensity interval training). You can monitor vitals on the M6’s unique burn rate display, as it shows how many calories you are burning each minute while it increases activity level targets throughout your workout. The multi-grip handles also make for comfortable, agile movements and the unit has a magnetic media rack for the user’s own screen devices. Track your heart rate monitor by simply holding the integrated contact grips. The machine itself comes with five pre-programmed workouts: Max 14 Minute Interval, Calorie Burn, Fat Burn, Stairs, and Manual. One of our favorite additions to the Bowflex M6 Trainer is the Bowflex JRNY App, a platform that functions on artificial intelligence. Purchase of the machine includes a year of the program for free. This means that the the JRNY program will assess your fitness level, monitor your workouts and logically suggest and increase your fitness competence to get to your goals. Essentially it’s akin to having your own personal trainer with you every time you jump on the M6. And with the 16 levels of resistance combined with the available workout videos, your workouts will be new, challenging and exciting for a long time coming.
|Stride Length||15″ non-adjustable|
|Weight Capacity||300 LBS|
|Dimensions||46″ L x 26″ W x 64.2″ H|
|Warranty||2 Years Frame & Parts; 90 Days Labor|
5. Best Budget-Friendly Compact Elliptical — Sole E25
The E25 is Sole’s entry-level elliptical trainer which offers an affordable exercise experience without sacrificing joints and tendons. It also offers a wide range of features to keep folks motivated, from an integrated tablet holder to Bluetooth audio speakers. If you’re looking for head-to-toe muscle sculpting possibilities, the Sole E25 cross trainer won’t disappoint. You’ll stay comfortable throughout your entire workout as the E25’s handlebars are molded to support multiple grip positions. As for the lower body, just ramp up the E25’s power incline to a maximum of 20 degrees for a serious dose of lactic acid. Another way the E25 helps train different muscle groups in the lower body is its ability to switch between forward and reverse pedaling motions.
Resistance is provided by a 20-pound flywheel, which is fairly heavy for a machine in this price range. To ensure comfort, Sole ellipticals also feature a unique foot pedal design that simply isn’t found on other cross trainers. The pedals even have a two-degree inward slope, as recommended by physical therapists to reduce the likelihood of ankle or knee stress. Workout programming on the E25 features the same preset options as Sole’s top-of-the-line E98: 10 workout modes to support efficient heart rate training, weight loss, and workouts for muscle definition. The default display is a 6.5-inch LCD, but trainees can dock their tablet or smartphone on the integrated tablet holder to set up workouts and track their progress too. The E25’s compatibility with the Sole Fitness app means users can sync their treadmill workout data with their favorite fitness app such as FitBit, MyFitnessPal or Apple Health. The Sole Fitness app will keep monitoring your exercise data in the background as you enjoy your TV shows, podcasts or music on your device.
|Stride Length||20 inches|
|Weight Capacity||350 LBS|
|Dimensions||70″ L x 24″ W x 71″ H|
|Warranty||Lifetime Frame; 3 Years Electronics & Parts; 1 Year Labor|
Buying Guide for Compact Elliptical Trainers
What can you expect from a compact or folding elliptical trainer? The best options will feature all the functions you’re used to from a traditional cross trainer. However, sometimes a folding elliptical will cost a few hundred dollars more than a non-folding alternative with similar specs. Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid confusion when shopping.
Every performance level is available with compact ellipticals if you know what you’re looking for. Compact, non-folding ellipticals are sold in every price class, from budget-friendly models to commercial health-club quality machines. Folding ellipticals aren’t built for commercial use. That said, you can find a wide range of performance quality throughout the category. Here are some important factors to consider.
Resistance: The best elliptical machines provide enough resistance to support smooth motion. This is important because the smoother the exercise, the longer a person can exercise before tiring. Smooth resistance also helps minimize the risk of injury. For most elliptical brands, the flywheel weight is an excellent clue to determine this aspect of performance. It can also tell you the top skill level that’s supported on that machine. Although beginners may be satisfied with a flywheel weight of just 18 pounds, intermediate and advanced trainees will want more heft. Individuals who weigh more will also need relatively more resistance to gain a comfortable momentum.
Stride: Narrow foot spacing is part of a healthy, natural stride. You can identify this when slowly walking across a room. When your feet move past each other, they should be separated by no more than 2 inches. Thus the best compact elliptical trainers have virtually no gaps between their pedals. Another aspect of healthy stride is length. The best ellipticals for adults of average heights have about 20” long footpaths. People with shorter inseams might prefer ellipticals with 18” strides, but should probably avoid anything smaller. Some of the best ellipticals have adjustable strides such as 18 to 22 inches to fit a variety of users (or at least more dramatic ranges to also serve as stairclimbers and treadmills).
Incline: Adjustable stride is useful for enhanced calorie burn and targeted muscle toning, but an incline can also help meet these needs. Many ellipticals and hybrid trainers have power inclines. A maximum tilt of about 20% is typical, but specialty trainers have even steeper slopes. There are even workout programs that can pair the incline training with scenic interactive video for a more immersive exercise experience.
The best compact ellipticals are long lasting and rarely need maintenance. Here are some features to consider when assessing durability.
Drive Design: The only potential drawback of a rear drive elliptical is the floor space required, but choosing a folding model could be an easy fix for those with a space problem.
Maximum User Weight: A good compact elliptical trainer can safely hold at least 300 pounds. Some of the best ellipticals on the market (compact or not) have 400-pound maximum user weights. In most cases, the higher the maximum user weight, the more durable the product.
Warranty: The parts warranties on compact and folding ellipticals vary greatly. Moderately priced machines generally have parts warranties of two to five years. Lifetime coverage is usually included for the frame, and labor costs are free during the first year or two.
The best compact home ellipticals have the same features as larger machines, just with a less bulky frame or the option of foldability. Here are some features to look out for.
Folding: Adjusting a folding elliptical is easy. Hydraulics or electronics do most of the work, so little physical strength is required. It typically folds into half the size, saving significant space in the process.
Interactive Workouts: Some of the best compact ellipticals support interactive workouts as well as classic workouts. Interactive workouts use technologies such as Google Maps with Street View to take you around the world without ever leaving your elliptical. Some workouts offer ambient sound as well as visuals to deepen the immersion.
App Integration: These days, the top elliptical trainers include built-in apps or are WiFi enabled. This allows you to sync your machine with a variety of mobile or tablet apps for fitness stats tracking, interactive workouts, and entertainment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best compact elliptical for home use?
We're going with the Sole E55 as the Best Overall, although depending on one's budget and specific needs, any on our list here are certainly top tier.
Are compact ellipticals as effective as regular ones?
Yes, and in some ways more so. As more space-friendly machines, they're actually more effective.
Do ellipticals help lose belly fat?
Yes. By affording users a total body workout, these machines can help one burn up to 400 calories in an hour and reduce bodyweight.
What brand of elliptical is the best?
All of the brands represented here are top picks and a lot depends on which model one is checking. One can't go wrong shopping for Sole, Bowflex, NordicTrack, or Horizon.
How long should I use the elliptical each day?
Ultimately that depends on the individual. We know people who use their elliptical for an hour a day, while others use it for 15 minutes at a time. As with any exercise equipment, be sure to work your way up and don't rush progress.
Do Sole ellipticals fold up?
No, Sole machines don't fold.