A scroll through FitTok will show you all sorts of workout equipment, from folks doing core exercises with an ab roller to cardio with ankle weights. Lately, you may have seen people getting their steps in on a walking pad (the hashtag has racked up over 138M views on the platform), a contraption that looks like a less-clunky version of a treadmill — hence the appeal.
If you’ve been curious about the fitness tool, know that a walking pad basically functions like a treadmill, except it’s much simpler and smaller in design, says Andrew Lenau, an ISSA-certified personal trainer. While some come with handlebars, most are just a flat, moving tread that’s controlled with a remote so you can change the speed as you stroll. “Most brands of walking pads don’t have fancy touchscreens or bells and whistles, which makes them much more affordable,” Lenau tells Bustle. To put it into perspective, a standard treadmill usually costs around $2,000, compared to walking pads that often go for $400 or less, depending on the model.
Of course, a major part of the allure is how small and sleek walking pads tend to be — especially if you’ve got limited space in your home gym. It’s easy to slide them under a couch or bed to get them out of the way, and some even fold in half so you can tuck them in a corner or closet (!!). “They’re perfect for individuals who want to work out at home but are limited in space,” says Lenau. And yet, they still get the job done. Take a look at TikTok and you’ll see folks using their walking pad at work, while they watch Netflix, and more. Here’s what to know about the piece of fitness equipment if you’re considering buying one for yourself.
The Benefits Of Walking Pads
Sure, walking pads are small, storable, and more affordable than treadmills, but another perk is that they make it much easier to move rather than sit for extended periods at a time, Lenau says. “With a compact design, they can be paired with a home office setup to keep you moving throughout your work day,” he says. Simply shimmy it up under your standing desk and get a stroll in as you type, or pull it out when you’re about to watch a movie. Also key? Lenau points out that they’re much quieter than a tread, so you don’t have to worry about disturbing others if you feel like strolling late at night.
How Fast Are Walking Pads?
Because of their size, don’t expect to do sprint training on one of these pads. One of the main differences between a treadmill and a walking pad is that the latter is only meant for walking, as the name suggests, says Whitney Berger, CPT, a certified personal trainer and founder of WhitFitNYC. She doesn’t recommend running on them, even if they seem a little fast. Most of them don’t go faster than four miles per hour.
“While they can be sturdy in construction, they are typically not built strong enough to withstand long periods of running or jogging” Lenau adds. He notes there are some hybrid models made for jogging, so you may be able to shop around and find one that’s built more like a treadmill. “However, unless stated in the walking pad description, it is best to assume it isn’t safe to run on,” he says.
Are Walking Pads Safe?
Many walking pads are just that — a pad. That means they don’t come with the usual treadmill handrails, and it can make them a little trickier to use. To keep yourself steady and safe while walking, Lenau recommends looking straight ahead as you stroll as this will help you maintain balance. “Most models will also automatically stop if you quit taking steps or get off the device,” he adds.
What Workouts Can You Do On A Walking Pad?
While walking is a good exercise on its own, there are a few things you can do to take your walking pad sesh to the next level if that’s your goal. Berger suggests adding lunges as you step to challenge your legs. “I also like to incorporate resistance bands and ankle and arm weights while using the walking pad,” she says.
To get extra fancy, look for a walking pad hybrid that lifts into an incline so you can work your glutes and get a little extra cardio, all while catching up on your favorite show.
How To Choose A Walking Pad
Before you pick one up, Berger recommends thinking about all the different features you might want. Look into specs like the pad’s belt size, motor usage, and horsepower, she says. Like treadmills, there are so many different models to choose from, so it really comes down to your personal needs.
The Bottom Line
A walking pad is a good choice if you’ve always dreamed of owning a treadmill, but are short on space. They’re also a nifty way to exercise while you work, if that’s your jam. While you might not be able to get a full-on sweaty run in, a walking pad will help you keep it moving from the comfort of your home.
Andrew Lenau, ISSA-certified personal trainer