The treadmill is probably the most risky item in a treadmill desk setup since it is relatively costly and has moving parts, making it easier to break. After searching around for options, it seems that there are three paths I could take. Go expensive (get a 1-2k flat treadmill made for this purpose), go cheap with a manual treadmill like the: Phoenix 98516 Easy-Up Manual Treadmill, or go lower mid range with the Confidence Power Plus Motorized Electric Treadmill.
Expensive treadmills are…well, expensive, and the problem with the manual treadmills is that you have to essentially “push” yourself along, since it’s not electric powered. Manual treadmills require that you have an incline in order to move. This is non-ideal since you would want to be walking on a flat surface. From my experience with an incline even on an electric treadmill, it seems that it might hurt your ankles after a while. Additionally, the fact that you have to “push” the treadmill along worries me. It’s potentially adding unforeseen strain that might be bad in the long run. (It’s just not as natural) If cost is the only factor, this seems to be the only option in town, but I would not recommend it. If you’re dead set on this, then you may be able to find a harness that can hook onto the desk such that you won’t have to hold onto anything in order to push forwards, but I personally don’t think it’s worth it.
The “in-between” option is what I will use. These are electronic motor driven treadmills, but the ones on the cheaper end. I got the Confidence Power Plus Motorized Electric Treadmill.
The negative points from online reviews are accurate, but most do not apply if you plan on using it for a treadmill desk. Here is a list of the negative points and my comments afterwards.
1) “It’s fragile.” It is very light, and definitely not for hardcore running or even fast walking. But that’s fine since we want only the lowest setting anyways.
2) “It stops every half an hour.” Annoying but unavoidable in this price range. Just make sure you don’t walk into your desk when it stops. When it stops suddenly, it gives you a nice cortisol spike, which might actually be beneficial to learning and attention! (I looked into fixing this, but it seems that the timer in on a chip, making it much more complex to change… I guess it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker.)
3) “It makes a loud beeping sound when you turn it on and off.” I cut the speaker circuit and show you how to do so that there’s no more sound. This is no longer an issue.
4) “The motor is underpowered.” Yeah, probably. But again, we aren’t going to be stressing it since we want the 1mph setting exclusively for a desk. In my experience, it handles this just fine. It also comes with a 1 year warranty (2 if you buy it with an AMEX card or some other extended warranty credit card), and I suspect that if it’s the motor, they will probably just send you a replacement part since it would cost more to ship the entire thing both ways.
5) “The tread slips a little.” Yup, it does a bit at first, but I’ve been informed that this can be corrected with the appropriate screwdriver applied to the back end of the treadmill. (It’s not a hack, it’s a designed adjustment.) I’ve noticed that as long as I have the treadmill level that I don’t get any slippage during regular use. But even if you do, apparently you can adjust it so that it doesn’t.
6) “The lowest speed is 1MPH.” This is probably my greatest annoyance. 1MPH is rather slow, so it’s not totally unreasonable. It’s about the speed that I would be pacing back and forth slowly if I were to ponder something. But if you’re in hot climate, walking this pace can make you a little clammy. Although something slower would be nice, 1MPH is fine.
7) “The angle is at a slight incline.” Even when you take the bars off, it’s still at a very slight incline. Not too bad though, I put a folded up towel at the back end with enough folds to make it level and that solved the problem completely.
1) It’s pretty quiet. I’m in an apartment complex and have yet to hear a neighbor complain. It might be annoying if you’re listening to music, but it’s not bad at all.
2) It’s small and light. Some might see this as a negative for a regular running treadmill, but I like that I can move it around by myself and that it fits under my desk easily.
3) It’s pretty cheap. At $250, you can’t really beat it for what it does.
4) It works for a treadmill desk. If you get a larger treadmill, you may not be certain that you can detatch the arms easily or reposition the control panel. This is a tried and true treadmill for desks.
Here’s a picture of my completed treadmill desk:
Here’s a link to a tutorial about how I took the treadmill out of the box and turned it into what you see in that picture. (Taking off the arms, modifying the circuit to disable the speaker.)