I hate treadmills. Or that is to say, I hate most treadmills. I feel like a hamster in a ball, or the metaphorical rat in the race, being forced to keep up with a motorized belt and stare at an ugly screen. In my college days, I'd often begin runs by heading across campus, past the University gym. I was always flabbergasted to see so many occupied treadmills through the window. Even on perfect days, with beautiful weather, and ample safe paths, dozens of young men and women would voluntarily pack into a stationary indoor space and "get in their cardio."
My primary goal with this review was to test a curved manual treadmill ("CMT") as a general concept. I was lucky enough to get three different models to play with. And at the end of the day, I am absolutely convinced that these things are the cat's pajamas. I drank the Kool-Aid. My love of running outdoors has not vanished, or diminished at all. But my appreciation for the alternative has significantly increased.
These things are magnificent. There's no power required. That means no need to tether them to a specific spot. And that's a big deal. Some motorized treadmills actually require dedicated 20-amp circuits (I'm looking at you, Woodway), which for most people will mean an expensive electrical installation. But these treadmills are ready to ride the moment you roll them into place. And the ability to set your pace continuously, automatically, and naturally, is an amazing experience and a palpable benefit.
My favorite of the three CMT's reviewed here was the TrueForm Trainer, which I loved so much that I bought it. I highly recommend it for any distance runner looking for a treadmill. Not only is it the best treadmill that I've ever run on (which is not a very high bar, because I hate most treadmills), but it actually makes me happy to run indoors (which is an EXTREMELY high bar, because I hate most treadmills). Running on the TrueForm Trainer actually feels like running outside, and that is an achievement whose importance cannot be overstated. There is absolutely nothing in my 20+ years of running that has given me this feeling. It is unique, fun, and absolutely worth the investment.
The more expensive TrueForm Runner, although more solidly-built, is simply not the better machine for distance athletes, because of its higher resistance. If I could make any change to TrueForm's lineup, I would offer a Runner with variable resistance (or at least the option to match the Trainer's resistance profile). That would make it the clear winner for me. As is, the Runner is fantastic for sprinters, interval trainers, CrossFitters, or NFL sideline warmups. But for triathletes and distance runners, the TrueForm Trainer is the best treadmill I have ever encountered.
As mentioned, I believe in the product so much that I bought the review unit of the TrueForm Trainer. Despite the fact that it was previously reviewed and run on by several folks before me, and had multiple cosmetic blemishes from transportation and use, I was happy to shell out for this thing. I am that confident in its quality and durability, and I didn't want to wait for delivery of a new unit. This particular Trainer had become mine, and I would simply not part with it. I hope that tells you something about the value of this product and my dedication to it.