Review: TrueForm Runner + Trainer Treadmills
Jun 13, 2020
article & images by Nick Salazar
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 in to a stationary indoor space and "get in their cardio."
For me, running is more than just a workout; it's something I really love to do. And a big part of that love, the joy of the run, the spiritual connection, is being outside. I would rather run in subzero temperatures in a foot of snow than to submit to a hamster machine. And living in Colorado, I've done just that, plenty of times.
On the other hand, I'm not in college any more (not by a long shot). I'm getting older, lazier, and busier. I'm lucky to have a house full of kids, and I can't always be ninety minutes away from home. A few stay-in-place runs are sometimes necessary, and I'm sure a few of you can relate to that. While I still loathe the idea of turning on a treadmill and following the motor, I recently became intrigued by the concept of so-called "manual" or "motorless" treadmills. Also known as curved manual treadmills (or "CMT's"), these are machines that you don't turn on at all. You don't punch in a pace and work for the machine. These are beautiful devices that work for you. And they purport to simulate the outdoor running experience in a more natural way.
The first such device I ever knew of was the Woodway Curve. Woodway has been in the treadmill game for a long time, and theirs is a name that carries real weight in the this space. Most of their treadmills are the usual, motorized kind. But their running surface is not at all traditional. They use thick rubber slats, which rotate around the treadmill like the treads of a tank. Contrast this with the traditional thin continuous belts of an ordinary treadmill. The difference in surface concepts is incredible. Of all the surfaces I have ever run on, Woodway's was almost enough to make me a converter. It feels great. But I still hate the whole "follow the motorized pace" thing. I want my feet to set the pace.
Enter the Woodway Curve. It used their slat-based surface, but subtracted the motor. Instead, the running surface was built in a concave arc (like the inside of an actual hamster wheel), and gravity combined with the runner's own effort propels the belt. Hamster quip aside, this idea really intrigued me. No motor, no electronics. Just the runner's own effort, exactly as in an outdoor run. But there is a fatal flaw in the Woodway Curve. And it's the curve itself. It is simply too extreme. There's a big difference between the highest and lowest points on that curve. Sprinters seem to love doing intervals on the Curve; maybe the difference in stride isn't enough to matter for short efforts. But distance runners were left in the cold.
Then, a few months ago, I found TrueForm. Although these guys got their start back in 2014, they were largely focused on the CrossFit space, and the tri world has not seen nearly enough of them in my opinion. TrueForm offers the exact product I was looking for. They make a manual, slat-based treadmill, with a very subtle arc, in an extremely high build quality. It is meant for any kind of runner, and can handle any workout from the three-hour steady-state grind to the 30-second sprint interval.
TrueForm makes two different models. First is their flagship, called the TrueForm Runner. They describe the Runner as "the best treadmill money can buy." Second is their budget model, called the TrueForm Trainer. It features mostly the same technology, but in a more economic build, and they describe it as the "best value treadmill."
Actually, I disagree with their descriptions, and I prefer the less-expensive Trainer, but we will get to that.
And, to flesh out this article a little more, we will be taking a look at one of TrueForm's primary competitors, the Assault AirRunner. It is also a slat-based, reduced-arc, non-motorized treadmill, but it is actually a somewhat different animal.
So, to put it briefly, we are going to take a look at three of the most popular non-motorized treadmills in the business, and give them the thorough TriRig review treatment. Buckle up, and let's get started.
The TrueForm Runner is the flagship treadmill for the company. It is built like a tank and has a great ride, although it takes a little more effort to propel than either of the two other treadmills in this review. Because each of these machines rides a little differently, I've included a lot of images of my natural stride on each machine. They all feel good, but feel different; check the review for all the details.
The TrueForm Trainer was my favorite the three. Its resistance felt just right, and it is a machine that will last a lifetime. Because each of these machines rides a little differently, I've included a lot of images of my natural stride on each machine. They all feel good, but feel different; check the review for all the details.
The Assault AirRunner was a bit of a different beast; its belt wants to keep spinning, like a flywheel, so you don't need to do any extra work to keep it going. Because each of these machines rides a little differently, I've included a lot of images of my natural stride on each machine. They all feel good, but feel different; check the review for all the details.