Best Ellipticals for Runners 2017

Let an elliptical protect your joints and improve your race performance! This article explores the best ellipticals for runners in 2017. We list three favorite in-home ellipticals for runners, and we explain what to consider as you compare elliptical machines. The article ends with a longer list of runners' ellipticals with links to reviews and sale pages.

Three Best Ellipticals for Runners

Shopping for an elliptical you'll see that many brands compete for your attention. Some brands use simple electronics. Others show off cutting-edge technology. But before you're wowed by touchscreens and elliptical TVs, remember that the best ellipticals for runners have some mechanical basics in common: long strides, heavy flywheels, and well-synchronized handlebars.
Here are three favorites that fit the description. They have moving arm bars, stride paths at least 20″ long to avoid choppy motion, and flywheels weighing 25 pounds or more to let runners at all ability levels build strength.

To recap, the ellipticals shown above have long pedaling paths and heavy flywheels for healthy biomechanics. Better than treadmills, each is a total body trainer too. You can work your upper body and core as you "run" with low risk of strain.

For more recommendations about ellipticals for runners, scroll down past our guide.

Why Choose Ellipticals For Runners?

Ellipticals can be ideal gym choices for runners recovering from injury or just aiming to avoid damage. Besides allowing aerobic exercise with low risk of strain, ellipticals can help you build whole-body strength.

  • Low Impact: The low impact quality of ellipticals is what makes them great alternatives to treadmills. They let you exercise major "running muscles" but without the shock of repetitive pounding into a track; your feet never leave the pedals. When elliptical machines are well-made and used correctly, they treat your joints kindly… and this can help preserve your running career.
  • Build Strength: Elliptical training can boost your running speed and endurance by adding resistance to your cardio session. Pedals on the top ellipticals for runners usually have about 20 resistance settings. Ideally the lightest setting is suitable for very low intensity rehabilitative exercise. The highest settings are much stronger, letting even an elite runner in peak condition feel a challenge.
  • Whole-Body Training: On most elliptical machines the handlebars can move with resistance. By moving the handlebars as you stride, you'll burn more calories per minute compared with treadmill running. As you compare elliptical machines, remember that the best ellipticals have curved or "multigrip" handlebars. These are superior to straight handlebars because when you grip in different ways, you isolate different muscles for better strength and tone.

In sum, letting the elliptical occasionally substitute for your treadmill can pay off in valuable ways. Elliptical training compared with running is low impact, burns more calories, and makes it easier to combine cardio exercise ? Appropriate ellipticals for runners usually cost $999 or more, and that's including online discounts. Choosing a good quality trainer is especially important for people who plan to exercise intensely or often: Great ergonomics can be healing, but poor ergonomics can be harmful. The cheapest ellipticals won't satisfy runners because the resistance is light and the strides are short… plus, cheap fitness machines break down quickly.

Here are some guidelines for choosing an elliptical you'll love. You can also see our lists of best ellipticals by price.

Performance with total-body strength training.

Ellipticals for Runners Buying Guide

How much should you plan to spend

Ellipticals for runners generally have a commercial feel, even if sold with home use warranties. That's because the lower quality alternatives just can't deliver effective workouts for people who are already pretty fit! Here are some performance-related basics to keep in mind when shopping.

Resistance: The highest rated ellipticals for runners have wide ranges of resistance. Usually they offer 20 settings. You might like the lowest setting for physical rehab or warming up, and higher settings will help tone and strengthen your muscles. Look for a flywheel weight of at least 25 pounds. A machine with lighter maximum resistance could leave you under-challenged, and it won't perform as smoothly.

Stride: Healthy stride length is critical to a comfortable workout. Typical choices range from 18 to 22 inches. Favorite ellipticals for runners can adjust to fit different stride lengths. Adjustable or variable stride is useful for accommodating different family members, plus it allows workout variation; change the stride length to recruit your muscles in different ways. Some machines with wide ranges of elliptical motion are advertised as "three-in-one fitness machines" or "hybrid trainers." They work as ellipticals, steppers and/or low impact treadmill alternatives.

Incline: Sometimes an elliptical lacks adjustable stride length, but it has adjustable incline to help you train for outdoor routes. The maximum incline on a high-end elliptical is typically 15 or 20 percent.

Upper Body Training: Most home ellipticals have moving arm bars. Typically the handlebars support a swinging sort of motion, letting your arms move as they would during a brisk walk but with more resistance. On good quality ellipticals the handlebars synchronize naturally with the pedal motion, and on cheap ellipticals the movement isn't as well-coordinated. Bowflex Max Trainers are unique for having handlebars that create a boxing motion.

Durability

Will your elliptical deliver its money's worth? If you follow the advice above -- choosing a trainer with a long stride and heavy flywheel -- then you'll likely get a product that lasts. Here are some other elements to look for when judging durability.

Warranty: Fitness machine warranties are usually excellent indicators of durability. Machine frames are almost always under lifetime warranty, even on cheap cross trainers; the frames are steel and not easily broken… but fitness machine parts get separate warranty deals. Avoid buying an elliptical that has a short residential parts warranty. If the parts are only guaranteed for a year or less with home use, hassles are likely on the horizon!

User Weight Limit: A fitness machine's maximum user weight is another important clue about durability. The best elliptical machines for runners can safely hold 300 pounds or more. If a machine can't hold much weight, it's probably made of substandard parts.

Metal vs. Plastic: The best elliptical machines are built mostly from metal and other sturdy materials. Cheaper ellipticals have unreliable plastic parts, such as thin pedals, that are prone to snapping.

Sealed Bearings: Sealed bearings help support quiet and stable machine performance. Cheap ellipticals lack sealed bearings, so their frames might never be sturdy and squeak-free... or else they require frequent maintenance (tightening the bolts) to perform as intended.

Rear Drive Design: Elliptical trainers are categorized according to where their flywheels or drives are stored. The categories are rear drive, center drive and front drive. Rear drive ellipticals are usually low maintenance -- they have fewer ways to fail -- but tend to cost more. Center drive ellipticals can be durable alternatives, plus they take up less space. Front drive ellipticals can be strong and reliable too, but some runners prefer how rear/center machines position the body. These ellipticals could make it easier to exercise without "cheating" by leaning forward into the console for support.

Features

As described above, the best ellipticals for runners have some common features to allow healthy motion. Additionally some have the following digital features.

Wireless Heart Rate Monitor: Most elliptical machines for 2017 are built with grip heart rate monitors; you can squeeze the stationary handlebars to get a readout. Although the grip sensors might be convenient, it's best to buy an elliptical that also supports wireless pulse readings. Wireless readings are more accurate, particularly when you're training intensely. Furthermore the best built ellipticals for runners allow heart rate control. This means that the machine automatically adjusts the challenge (speed/incline/resistance) to help you exercise within a given heart rate zone.

Data Sharing: Many runners are motivated by data, and the best ellipticals make it easy to track your progress with mobile apps. Bluetooth capability lets you export heart rate information, calorie burn, step counts and more. Ellipticals with iFit Coach Plus (see NordicTrack Ellipticals) can use this data to make personalized and ever-adapting training recommendations.

Personalized Workouts: Elliptical machines arrive with built-in workout programming to help you exercise efficiently. The best ellipticals let you create and save a user profile, which increases the accuracy of feedback you receive (such as calorie burn). Our favorite ellipticals also let you adjust the preset workouts and save your own routines. Many ellipticals for 2017 give access to video workouts and can simulate outdoor tours as they adjust the incline/resistance to mimic topography.

TV, Music and Internet: Most products in our elliptical reviews are iPod-compatible, which means they have built-in speakers. High-end machines might let you control the volume and make music selections directly from the workout screen. Even better, in most price categories ellipticals are available with touch screens for accessing standard workouts, video workouts and the web. Some have secondary screens just for TV programming too. Competing with these well-stocked machines, lower-priced alternatives that lack video/web capability might provide a small shelf for holding your mobile device at eye level.

Best Ellipticals for Runners

Once again, our three favorite ellipticals for runners in 2017 are the following:

Best Ellipticals for Runners

Model Rating Flywheel Resistance Price Lowest Price
Precor AMT 835 with Open Stride 5-stars N/A 20 Levels Over $2,500 See best price »
NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS7i 5-stars 20 LB 24 Levels Under $1,500 See best price »
Octane Zero Runner ZR7 4-stars N/A Resistance Bands Over $2,500 See best price »