Mini Treadmill Helped Me Hit My Step Goals

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If you’ve spent any time in the wellness corners of TikTok or Instagram over the last year, you’ve probably seen people heaping praise over a small piece of fitness equipment: a mini treadmill (also called a walking pad).

And if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent every day since seeing one of those videos resisting the urge to purchase a walking pad of your own.

They’re small enough to fit under a standing desk or in the corner of a room, and they seem quiet enough to keep apartment neighbors happy. People on social media who have walking pads (and endless wardrobes of matching athleisure sets, of course) claim this humble piece of equipment makes it easy to meet their step goals, combat the negative effects of sitting all day and even tone their legs.

After months of waffling, I did extensive research and finally purchased a walking pad on Black Friday. I’ve now been using it for more than a month — and I’m hooked.

What is a walking pad?

A walking pad is essentially just a small treadmill.

Because it’s smaller and has a less powerful motor than a normal treadmill, a mini treadmill generally costs much less than the full-size version. Many models can even fit under a standing desk.

But that also means your options on a walking pad are limited. They typically max out at between 3 and 6 mph, which means you shouldn’t expect to be able to go faster than a light jog. Walking pads often do not have incline options, or have a fixed or limited incline option, so you should plan to be walking on mostly flat ground.

Because a walking pad is smaller than a normal treadmill, taller people or those with a longer gait may not find it comfortable to walk on a walking pad. Additionally, walking pads tend to have lower weight limits than full-size treadmills. And most models do not have handrails, which can present some balance and safety issues for certain people.

Walking pad benefits

A walking pad can be a valuable addition to your home workout setup. But the value you get out of using a walking pad depends on your fitness level and your individual goals, experts say.

“They’re really for walking or very light jogging,” N’Namdi Nelson, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center, tells TODAY.com. “So you’re probably not going to get the same cardiovascular effects as if you were (running on a full-size) treadmill or running outside.”

That’s why, for people who already engage in a fair amount of exercise, a walking pad is going to be “more of a supplemental thing,” Nelson explains. For example, it can help people like me, who often work from home, get more steps in throughout the day, he says.

But people who are newer to fitness or who haven’t worked out in a while may get more of a cardio workout with a walking pad, he says.

Even if you’re using a walking pad in a supplemental way, that can be a valuable investment in your health, Dr. Jeanne Doperak, a primary care sports medicine physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells TODAY.com.

You might think of running outside or using a stationary bike as a “big deposit, like investing $20,” Doperak explains. “But that doesn’t mean that nickels and dimes don’t add up.” In that way, getting small doses of movement on a walking pad can be a worthwhile addition, she says.

Sarah Jacoby trying out a walking pad
The Redliro Mini Walking Pad is a bit too thick to fit under my couch, but it tucks neatly into the corner of my living room.

Depending on the model, a walking pad can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000 or more. Less expensive models tend to have fewer incline options, lower speed limits and no handrail options. At higher prices, you might see other bells and whistles, like a dedicated app to control the treadmill from your phone or the ability to fold up into an even smaller size for storage.

After comparing reviews for what felt like hundreds of models in the $200 to $300 range, I realized that many of them seem to have similar issues. The belt can shift to one side and may need to be lubricated or readjusted frequently, for instance, or they may make odd noises.

I ultimately decided to purchase the Redliro Mini Walking Pad because it had excellent customer service reviews. (If something is going to go wrong, I want to be able to fix it as easily as possible, I figured.) Normally, this model costs around $250-$280 on Amazon, but I purchased it on Black Friday for $200, plus shipping.


My goal with the walking pad was to get more steps in during the day when going outside wasn’t comfortable or logistically feasible.

Although I often have breaks in my work day, I still need to be reachable and close to my computer on short notice, so going for long walks in the park isn’t generally an option. And during these cold winter months when the sun sets early, it’s just not fun to be outdoors in the evenings when I would have more time to walk freely.

The other reason I got a walking pad? To make my rest days productive. My main source of exercise these days is my stationary bike, which I use for HIIT cardio sessions three or four times per week. I also do functional strength training with dumbbells to manage nerve-related pain about twice per week and take virtual yoga classes sporadically.

As much as I love these options, they often leave me feeling sore and in need of a recovery day. But, before the walking pad, if I wasn’t running an errand or stretching, my rest days were spent sitting on the couch or at my desk, typically garnering only 3,000 steps per day. I wanted to find a happy medium between my intense workout days and my couch potato days; I wanted to turn my recovery days into active recovery days.

So, when I got my walking pad, I gave myself reasonable goals: On days when I do a cycling or strength-training workout, I wanted to get around 5,000 to 7,000 steps per day, with the help of the walking pad. And on my rest days, I wanted to hit the elusive 10,000 steps.

Sarah Jacoby trying out a walking pad
My main goal using a walking pad was to find a middle ground between high-intensity workouts and rest days on the couch.Courtesy Sarah Jacoby

Right from the get-go, I knew I had made the right decision.

The Redliro Mini Walking Pad was heavier than I imagined, but once I got it out of the box and popped the battery into the wireless remote, it was good to go. It has wheels on one end that make it easy to maneuver, even in my small NYC apartment. And, even though it was just a hair too thick to fit under my couch, I can tuck it away neatly in a corner of the living room.

My walking pad is a little louder than I expected and I wouldn’t be able to use it while talking in a video meeting. But it’s not obnoxiously loud by any means and I regularly use it while catching up on podcasts or audiobooks or watching movies or Twitch streams. It’s a machine, so it’s going to make some noise. But it’s generally not intrusive.

I do have a standing desk, but I don’t use my walking pad there. Instead, I like to set it up in the living room next to the kitchen counter. That way, I can easily catch myself if I feel unsteady and I can watch something on TV while I walk.

This model has a maximum speed of 4 mph and a weight limit of 265 pounds. In total, the walking pad is about 4 feet long. At 5’6”, I feel like I can take full strides comfortably. But I could see this model being too short if I were a bit taller.

And it fits seamlessly into my workout schedule, just as I hoped it would.

I’ve found that about 2.5 mph is a comfortable walking speed for me, and about 30 minutes of walking at that pace gets me 2,500 to 3,000 steps, according to my Apple Watch. So, on workout days, I can hit my step goal in two 30-ish-minute walks.

I usually take one walk mid-morning and the other after work. And on my recovery days, I can get to 10,000 steps with about three walking sessions. (I try to fit the third one in after lunch.)

My Apple Health app confirms that I’m getting more steps and burning more calories during the day than I was before I got the walking pad. I’m not breaking a sweat or getting out of breath, but I am moving and getting my heart rate up a bit, which feels great — especially for my sore muscles.

That said, I still try to take advantage of nicer weather to walk outdoors whenever I can. A walk to my neighborhood grocery store or pharmacy can usually get me enough steps to take the place of one of my walking pad sessions during the day. And, when the temperature gets warmer, I look forward to walking in the park more frequently again.

What I didn’t like about using a walking pad

After my first few walks on the walking pad, I was surprised at how sore I was — especially in my calves. I was reminded that even though walking is a lower-impact form of exercise than some activities I do, it’s not a no-impact exercise! Thankfully, my body caught up quickly and I no longer get sore after walking, even on my 10,000 steps days.

The biggest walking pad issue for me is one I should have expected, but didn’t: vertigo.

Over the last few years, I’ve become more prone to motion sickness and vestibular migraine attacks, which cause vertigo. And, unfortunately, the walking pad can trigger these symptoms for me, especially when getting off at the end of a walk.

I’ve found it helps to stay very well hydrated (my Stanley mug never leaves my side), to limit myself to no more than 30-ish minutes on the walking pad at a time and to allow a full five minutes to gradually slow down my pace when I’m done. I also try to keep my eyes forward and resist the urge to look to my sides while walking.

Doperak confirms this is a relatively common issue that people may experience with all treadmills and walking pads. It can cause symptoms like dizziness, headache and nausea, she says, but the specific symptoms and triggers vary widely from person to person.

“It’s a matter of trial and error and figuring out what you can and cannot do,” she says. If you feel motion sickness while on your mini treadmill, Doperak recommends getting off, drinking water and taking some time to recover, then reflecting on what may have triggered your symptoms. Reading or typing while walking can be an issue for some people, for example.

If you also experience motion sickness or have any balance issues, you may want to look for a walking pad that comes with handrails. (Some models are convertible, so you can choose to put them up or down.) Or take care to set yours up in an area that gives you something to grab onto, like I do with my counter.

The only issue I’ve had with the walking pad itself was that the belt shifted about half an inch to the right after a month of consistent use. I looked at the instructions that came with the Redliro mini treadmill, which directed me to video instructions online. Turns out, all I needed to do was let the walking pad run on its own at 3 mph for a few minutes and that solved the problem.

What to know before you buy a walking pad

Before you spend money on a walking pad, the experts suggest thinking through these points:

Know what you’re getting. This isn’t a replacement for a full-on cardio workout.  “I wouldn’t really rely on it as your main source of exercise,” Nelson says. “It’s really supplemental to get steps in,” he explains, “and it can also serve as an active recovery to kind of flush out the system (after a hard workout).”

Start slow. If you’re new to walking for an extended period of time or haven’t done much physical activity for a while, you may feel sore. “I tell people to start where you are,” Doperak says, “and that’s different for each of us.” If you can only walk for five minutes at a time, start there, a few times a day, she says. People who are more physically active may be able to walk on a mini treadmill for an hour or two a day without issues. Even then, Nelson recommends splitting that hour up into a few walks throughout the day to start. And if you’re new to walking on a treadmill, “start at a pace that’s a little slower than you would normally walk at,” Nelson says. “Humble yourself. Walk slower and get used to it before you increase the speed.”

Be aware of safety concerns. Take your first walk in a low-stakes situation so you can feel it out. You don’t want to get motion sickness in the middle of your big meeting.

Wear proper footwear. I, like too many people, am guilty of hopping on the walking pad in my socks. But the experts insist that, to avoid injury, people should wear the kind of supportive sneakers that they’d be wearing for any other kind of walk. “Pay attention to what you have on your feet,” Nelson urges.

You’ll have to track yourself. Walking pads tend to be pretty basic when it comes to keeping track of your miles walked, calorie output and other metrics. So you may need to invest in some sort of tracking device, Doperak says, like a smartwatch.

Experts still prefer people walk outside. While the walking pad can help you get steps, there are still so many benefits to walking outside, the experts say. When you’re walking outside, you’re walking at a more varied pace, stride length and level of incline, Doperak says. And you’re getting the benefits of simply being outdoors. “It’s always still good to go outside,” Nelson agrees. “You want to look at different buildings, trees, birds, everything. That’s going to be healthier for you than just looking at a screen all day.”

But, any activity is better than none, the experts say. So if a walking pad helps you get moving, that’s a huge win.


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