Fitness / Fitness Apps

The 4 Best Treadmill Apps for When You Can’t Run Outside

Research Based

Research Based

This article was rigorously researched and fact checked. We use peer-reviewed journals and reputable medical sources (think: CDC, WHO, NIH, and the like) to back up every claim we make, and also reach out to experts in the field to ensure we’re covering things the right way. We apply these principles to everything we cover—including brands we partner with—and we’ll always disclose sponsorships, ads, and any kind of financial relationship with anything featured on The Ness Well. You deserve the best, most straightforward information on health and wellness, and we think this is the right way to do it. You can read more about our testing and review process here.

If something doesn’t seem quite right, let us know at [email protected].

woman running on treadmill

Written by Marissa Miller, CPT
Reviewed by Julianne Benson & Taylor Thomas

We write for people looking for the best health and wellness gear (not for brands). All products and services are independently selected and tested to provide recommendations you can trust. You can read more about our process here. We may receive commission on purchases made from some of our links, but that’s not why we’re here. We just want to help you find good stuff.

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our treadmills. We love that they provide an alternative to road running, which often comes with unpredictable weather, and we hate that they get kind of, well, boring. Enter treadmill apps that offer trainer-guided runs, monthly challenges to boost adherence, and dynamic music to help maintain your pace. But with so many apps out there that claim to make the ol’ hamster wheel a little more exciting, it can be hard to know which one to pick. We tested a whole lot of them to find the answer.

By the end of a mile-heavy month, iFit stood out as the best treadmill app. Its user-friendly (and gorgeous!) interface, varied treadmill programs, and attention to inclusivity helped it stand out. As someone who asked her parents for a treadmill for a high school graduation present, I can confidently say iFit taught this old dog new tricks. Let’s dive a little deeper into treadmill apps so you can find out which one is right for you.

Here’s the TL;DR on how the best treadmill apps stack up:

  1. iFit (Top Pick)
  2. Nike Run Club (Budget Pick)
  3. Aaptiv
  4. Peloton Digital
  5. Zwift

Are Treadmill Apps Worth It?

row of treadmills at the gym
Unsplash / Ryan de Hamer

People call them “dreadmills” for a reason. But treadmill apps are designed to actually help you look forward to using your treadmill. (And more specifically, prevent it from becoming a very expensive clothes rack.) And if a treadmill app is going to help you actually use that machine sitting in the corner of your living room—or take advantage of the treadmills at the gym—it’s a worthy investment. The average price of each treadmill app we tested costs just under $12 per month, which is considerably lower than an average gym membership of $58 per month icon-trusted-source Statistic Brain Research Institute “Gym Membership Market Analysis” View Source .

Treadmill apps aim to alleviate boredom with upbeat and engaging trainers and bright, flashy graphics and lights. (Not unlike those found in a dance club.) The apps also provide running stats like heart rate and cadence to provide more structure to your workout. This may help you reach your goals more efficiently and enjoyably than running or walking without guidance. Overall, apps can be an excellent way to boost enjoyment of cardiovascular or aerobic activities. Most adults need approximately 150 minutes of exercise per week icon-trusted-source Mayo Clinic “How much should the average adult exercise every day?” View Source .

Treadmill apps are a worthy investment on their own. But they can add value to a fitness tracker by syncing miles, heart rate, and other metrics that can provide a holistic view of your health. These stats should be treated more as an estimate than gospel, as most fitness trackers can accurately measure heart rate icon-trusted-source Stanford University School of Medicine “Fitness trackers accurately measure heart rate but not calories burned” View Source but not calorie burn. Still, it beats having to log your workouts manually, which invites the possibility of human error.

There aren’t *too* many treadmill-only apps on the market to choose from. But plenty of running or general fitness apps boast treadmill-friendly features, giving you lots of opportunities to find your favorite. We narrowed down the best treadmill apps based on metrics like user-friendliness, trainer quality, program variety and accessibility. 

Treadmill Apps We Love

Top Pick

iFit

  • $15 a month or $180 a year
  • Compatible with Apple Health, Garmin Connect, Google Fit, and Strava
  • 4.7-star rating on iOS and 3.5-star rating on Google Play
  • Closed captioning available
Sign up for iFit
ifit app logo
Pros
  • Personable and knowledgeable trainers
  • Appealing interface and sound quality
  • Massive inventory of studio and scenic classics
Cons
  • Can’t scroll through workout before performing it
  • Have to manually track speed without an iFit treadmill

iFit came out on top of all the treadmill apps tested because it exceeded virtually every feature of its competitors. It’s intended for Icon Fitness’ suite of fitness gear (part of the software that makes NordicTrack and Proform equipment incline, decline, and shift speed without having to touch it). But it holds its own as a standalone app, too. It’s easy to filter through treadmill classes via trainer, style of cardio (which range from walk-run to incline-heavy hikes and in-studio interval runs), setting (which are all over the globe, from a beach on Turks and Caicos to the French and Swiss Alps), or monthly challenges.

Classes are labeled beginner, intermediate, or advanced. This allows you to narrow them down by your fitness level or intensity at which you’re looking to exercise. You also get a brief, helpful rundown of what takes place during the class and if you need any equipment other than your treadmill.

Even more specific is the “effort score” the app assigns to each workout. This determines your unique skill level by evaluating the intensity of this workout against the effort you usually maintain. The app says that as your fitness level changes, so will the score. That much information about each workout made me feel more prepared and confident going into the session each time. 

I was thrilled to find one of my favorite trainers, Hannah Eden, coaching a running series through Bolivia’s Cordillera Mountains. She somehow managed to play tourist the entirety of the class, which made it go by quickly. On my next run, an advanced treadmill bootcamp workout with Kayla Itsines (another one of my all-time faves), she expressed how nervous she still gets about running. Their relatable personalities made me feel grateful I wasn’t stuck in a bootcamp class with a drill sergeant-style trainer. (This has happened enough times to give me anxiety at the prospect of in-person workouts.)

The sound quality made each workout a total dream. I could adjust the music-to-voice ratio in order to enjoy the dancey, upbeat selection powered by Feed.fm. You’re also able to toggle the music option off and play music from your own Spotify account.

iFit’s attention to inclusivity is worth pointing out. At signup, iFit asks your gender, and I was pleased to see nonbinary and “prefer not to say” as options. Before certain classes, you’ll also see a note warning those with light sensitivities or predispositions to seizures to tread carefully. Closed captioning is also available in Spanish and English.

Despite its strengths, iFit has a few notable imperfections. It’s impossible to scroll or sift through a workout before you decide to commit to it. This means you might end up completing a class with elements you dislike (always an issue with in-person workouts, but digital ones should be able to circumvent this). Additionally, the app provides warmups of varying lengths set to instrumental music before your actual class starts. The trainer provides an additional warmup once they finally hit the screen. Before I got to moving and grooving during my first run, it had already been around 18 minutes and I was too impatient to be that excited about the actual workout.

Without an Icon treadmill, you also have to manually enter the speed at which you’re running if you want to see accurate stats on the treadmill and the app. This is incredibly tedious, time-consuming, and just plain dangerous to be doing while you’re reaching sprint levels. I gave up trying to input my actual speed in the app, so it didn’t properly track calories burned or distance traveled. 

Still, iFit’s few flaws are outweighed by its many benefits. All in all, it’s a great option for anyone looking to spice up their at-home runs. 

Best Budget Option

Nike Run Club

  • Free
  • Compatible with Garmin, Polar, TomTom, and Wahoo
  • 4.8-star rating on iOS and 4.4-star rating on Google Play
  • Closed captioning not available
Sign up for Nike Run Club
nrc
Pros
  • Trainers have an engaging presence
  • Beautiful interface
Cons
  • Music gets too quiet at times
  • Limited class selection

Coming in just a hair short of our top spot is Nike Run Club. This app has so much going for it, I’d happily pay a monthly fee. (Which is not to say I’m mad that it’s free.) The app is audio-only with your choice of your music or theirs. It relies on trainers with a commanding and entertaining style of vocal coaching.

I can’t say enough incredible things about Nike’s trainers. They’re all world-class runners who make runs go by swiftly. My first trainer, Blue Benadum, had a broey vibe I don’t often see in run culture. His relaxed attitude made me feel like we were on a casual stroll instead of sprinting up a hill. He knew when to speak up and provide guidance and when to let runners focus on cadence and stride. He also made several jokes that were surprisingly not cringey. (For example: “I’m going to name this hill after myself, and you can name a hill after yourself, I’ll never know unless you tell me.”)

My second trainer, Chelsea Cox, spoke nearly the entire time on my interval run. Her words were at once soothing and empowering, pushing us to focus on 30-second intervals at a time during some of the most challenging sprints I’ve ever done. Both trainers interspersed motivational messages with helpful exercise science tips, so my experience using the app felt productive.

I like how Nike Run Club (NRC) makes it easy to track your performance. The activity dashboard offers a helpful visual trajectory of your progress from your first run. It includes metrics like average pace, average number of runs per week, and elevation gained. I easily connected my Garmin fitness tracker, which meant I didn’t have to manually add my workout, heart rate, or calories burned.

The main reason NRC fell in rankings is because of the limited number of treadmill classes it offers. With just nine classes on the app at the time of this writing, it may be hard to adhere to NRC when you’ve done each workout so many times you can predict each next move. To make any run compatible with the treadmill, I selected “indoor” run (which is intended for running on an indoor track), which widened the app’s class variety and saved it from losing too many points. But NRC should really add more tread classes. Mixing up a workout routine icon-trusted-source PLoS One “The effects of exercise variation in muscle thickness, maximal strength and motivation in resistance trained men” View Source promotes intrinsic motivation and a person’s likelihood and innate drive to commit to a certain behavior. 

When choosing a workout, the app has a bunch of vague thumbnails on the homepage marketing new run and challenge offerings, which can get confusing. But as long as you find the Start A Run tab at the bottom, then Guided Runs, then Treadmill runs, you should be well on your way to making sense of the app. 

While this is a matter of preference, I didn’t like how low the volume of the music got when the trainer spoke. I need fast and loud music to reduce my rate of perceived exertion (which is a very real phenomenon icon-trusted-source Frontiers in Psychology “The Psychophysiological Effects of Different Tempo Music on Endurance Versus High-Intensity Performances” View Source ), so I lost momentum at certain points. 

Other Treadmill Apps Worth Considering

Aaptiv

  • $14.99 a month or $99.99 a year
  • Compatible with Apple Health and Strava
  • 4.7-star rating on iOS and 4.1-star rating on Android
  • No closed captioning available
Sign up for Aaptiv
aaptiv logo
Pros
  • Enthusiastic trainers
  • Huge selection of classes
Cons
  • Can’t change music once you start
  • Not ideal for beginners

Aaptiv is a solid audio-only app. In addition to workouts, it provides a daily plan of three to-dos: a workout, a stretch, and a nutrition-related goal (like “eat slowly” or “drink more water”). I appreciate this nod to nutrition because food and athletic performance are inextricably linked icon-trusted-source Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine “Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery” View Source . Once I clicked “I did this” on any of my daily goals, the screen lit up with confetti. It made me feel inordinately proud of myself for performing a basic task like taking 10 minutes to eat a meal instead of scarfing it down. All that operant conditioning made me want to continue using the app for leisure rather than professional purposes. I imagine it has something to do with the correlation between positive reinforcement and task compliance icon-trusted-source Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis “EVALUATING THE SEPARATE AND COMBINED EFFECTS OF POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT ON TASK COMPLIANCE” View Source

Aaptiv’s variety of treadmill classes is also spectacular, with over 1,000 treadmill classes and 6,500 standard workouts to choose from. Each one has unique takes on sprints, recovery, endurance and interval runs interspersed with cross-training. On top of the treadmill-only classes, you can take advantage of any of its standard running workouts or full-on 10-week marathon training programs. In this vein, Aaptiv is ideal for keeping workouts interesting. You never have to repeat the same class twice if you don’t want to. 

The instructions for individual cross-training moves (like V-sit ups or goblet squats) can be pretty quick. You’ll need a baseline understanding of biomechanics before attempting each workout, or you’ll need to listen to the audio before attempting the class so you can research how to perform them safely and effectively. (Some workouts show mini visual tutorials, but not all of them.)

The app’s sound quality is pretty solid, but it had some issues. Aaptiv lets you use its curated playlists in a variety of genres, or you can select “voice only” to integrate your own music from Spotify or Apple music. What’s unfortunate is that you can’t change the playlist once you’ve already started the workout. You need to stop the workout altogether, re-select the program, choose your music, and start again, losing all progress. 

Then there are the trainers. One had an incredibly upbeat attitude, but he made some problematic comments about being proud of his exercise addiction. Not a healthy sentiment to be promoting on a fitness app! Another trainer had a gentler and more forgiving approach to exercise, so your mileage may vary. 

Peloton Digital

  • $12.99 a month
  • Compatible with Apple Watch, FitBit, and Strava
  • 4.9-star rating on iOS and 4.5-star rating on Google Play
  • Closed captioning available
Sign up for Peloton Digital
peloton app logo
Pros
  • Huge class selection
  • Motivating monthly challenges
Cons
  • Music BPM doesn’t always link up with run speed

If you can dream it, Peloton has it. I had a very specific craving for a metal-themed run and five minutes later I was bopping along to Metallica. The app offers seven new live classes a week on top of its 400-class (and growing) inventory. However, the music didn’t lower in volume when the trainers were speaking, so I ended up missing some instruction. I thought I’d be able to go into the “audio mix” tab under the screen’s workout and change it up. Unfortunately, mine was buggy and didn’t work even after logging out and restarting the app.

If you’re doing floorwork or any type of choreographed movement, you have to rely on the visuals instead of a breakdown from the trainer. You also need to find a sturdy place to prop up your phone that’s within eye level. Despite this small inconvenience, the classes are incredibly fun. I can’t enjoy a class unless the music is to my liking (I’m picky, sue me!), so I like that each workout shows its full playlist before starting. 

Peloton also shows you how many people are in your class, whether it’s live or not. It also allows you to give them virtual high-fives. I haven’t yet learned whether it’s cool to do this, but I love any element that makes you feel like you’re part of a team.

You can also enter in “challenges” that don’t land you any real prizes. Still, seeing over half a million other participants completing a minimum of five strength workouts for the month of February, for example, made me want to get involved. In fact, research confirms that fitness apps with a social component icon-trusted-source Psychology of Sport and Exercise “Psychological mechanisms underlying the relationship between commercial physical activity app use and physical activity engagement” View Source activate certain psychological pathways that boost physical activity adherence and engagement.  

Peloton is relatively accessible because you can enable captions, and classes are available in languages including German and Spanish. I love that the app promotes inclusiveness by valuing privacy. You’re able to hide pre- or post-natal classes or classes with explicit language from your public activity . 

One drag: Some music selections in workouts I did had lower BPMs than the suggested running pace. As if reading my mind, one trainer said she purposely chose a slower song for fast portions of the run for a more “epic” effect. But the slow beat made me want to run slower and did not feel motivating. 

Treadmill Apps You Can Skip

Zwift

  • $14.99 a month
  • Compatible with Apple Watch, Garmin, and Viiiva
  • 4.6-star rating on iOS and 3.9-star rating on Google Play
  • No closed captioning available
Sign up for Zwift
zwift app logo
Pros
  • Specific metrics
  • Race-like environment
Cons
  • Landscape orientation only
  • Distracting graphics and small fonts
  • Not suitable for those with eating disorders

I get why Zwift is popular among athletes. The cycling- and running-focused app offers detailed metrics of your workout. It also provides an IRL race-like feel as you compete against and interact with other users.

However, using the app was a negative experience for me off the bat. The home page was confusing and hard to look at, with tiny font, too-bright colors, and default landscape mode. It made me want to shut the app, delete it, then burn my phone. The app also immediately started blasting distracting music when I first opened it, then stopped once I began my workout. (I would have appreciated the exact opposite.) Instead, I listened to the sound of digital birds and my own footsteps during my workout. This was equal measures meditative and underwhelming.

Zwift also doesn’t have any classes or instructors, but there’s a decent variety of trails and landscapes to run through. However the graphics look pretty low-budget and bleak. (Think The Sims circa 2002.)

I did, however, like how you can add a “target” in the lefthand corner that holds you accountable. I chose “30 min” as my target, and having that reminder was relatively motivating. You can also choose to burn 300 or 800 calories during your session (or customize the number).

What’s problematic is that the calorie number is accompanied by slices of pizza to correspond to the number of calories you’ll be burning. It’s harmful for the app to broadcast this correlation because it suggests food needs to be burned or earned. And all while demonizing pizza!

How We Got Here

woman running on treadmill
Unsplash / Intenza Fitness

Meet Your Guinea Pig

I’m Marissa Miller, a writer, editor, and author. I have more than 10 years of experience reporting on and testing all things health and wellness. My work is in outlets like The New York Times, NBC News, USA Today, Reviewed, CNN, Vogue, Women’s Health, and more. I’m a certified personal trainer from the American Council on Exercise who coaches clients using a health at every size approach. I also hold a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University.

I’m a longtime half-marathon runner, competitive hip-hop dancer and instructor, and have participated in numerous team sports from basketball to soccer. In 2021, I published the book PRETTY WEIRD: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome. In it, I discuss how running—both on and off the tread—helped mend my relationship with my body.

Our Testing Process

First, I looked into the 20 most popular treadmill apps, and narrowed down the five highest-rated options based on customer reviews. Then, I analyzed four main metrics during testing: user-friendliness, trainer quality, range of programs, and accessibility. Each of the four metrics, along with customer reviews, received a score out of five, for a potential total of 25 points per app. 

I tested each of the five apps for a minimum of two days over the course of several weeks, ensuring I chose similar workout styles across each app for more uniform results. I chose a 30-minute class with a warmup, a combination of high-intensity intervals and recovery periods, and cross-training component if available. Each 30-minute workout spanned approximately three miles, totaling over 30 miles of tests. I performed additional 30-minute classes on each app during the final testing phase to fact-check certain elements and the app’s overall vibe.

If you want to see how I picked the best apps, check out our treadmill app test notes here.

Who Should Use Treadmill Apps? 

woman walking on treadmill
Unsplash / Mike Cox

Treadmill app users tend to be either beginner runners or walkers who are looking for more guidance in their workouts or advanced athletes who are looking to take their training to the next level. Fitness app users (and thus we can likely deduce treadmill app users) are between 25 to 50 years old and predominantly female icon-trusted-source Social Science & Medicine “Socio-demographic determinants of physical activity and app usage from smartphone data” View Source

Treadmill apps largely solve the issue of monotony associated with treadmill use. Additionally, they’re ideal for those who live in climates that don’t allow for outdoor walks or runs, and are looking to make better use of their treadmill. Beginner athletes can use these apps to help acclimate themselves to their treadmill and optimize their enjoyment of it. For seasoned athletes training for events, treadmill apps offer structured plans to help meet specific goals. The apps themselves encourage adherence by offering challenges, rewards and a built-in community of like-minded individuals.

Which Features Matter Most for Treadmill Apps?

  • Will this app help you meet your current training goals? Someone training for a half-marathon might benefit from an extended endurance program to prime their body for the race. A novice runner or speed walker might opt for classes that keep them engaged for a 20- to 30-minute session. 
  • How user-friendly is it? You’ll want to look for a tracking system that allows you to view your activity on a chart or graph to see how far you’ve come. (Or how far you still need to go.) Users with fitness trackers should ensure the app syncs with their specific brand to streamline physical activity across all channels.
  • What’s the music situation like? Some apps do not pair with any streaming services. This means you’re at the mercy of their playlist. Others don’t allow you to adjust the voice to music ratio.
  • How easy is it to search or filter results? If you fall in love with a certain trainer or class format, for example, you should be able to search easily for them (and bookmark or save them) instead of having to browse through the entire database each time. 
  • How easy is it to test out? Look into apps with free trials. This way, you can see if they suit your personal goals before committing to a membership.

Sourcing

Want more?

Subscribe to The Nessie. Our newsletter highlights eight wellness products or services you can use (and afford), sent out three times every week. The emails are free, the finds are priceless.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.