Review: TrueForm Runner + Trainer Treadmills
Jun 13, 2020
article & images by Nick Salazar
TrueForm's flagship treadmill, the Runner, is a work of art. It is absolutely beautiful from tip to tail, made from high-quality materials, built both literally and figuratively like a tank, and lovely to behold. It retails for a hefty $7,000 for a brand new unit, but at the time of this writing you can score some big discounts if you are willing to wait a little while on delivery. I'll start by describing the construction and components, and then get into my experience and my overall opinion of this fantastic beast.
Starting from the inside, there is an inner frame built from plate steel. That inner frame's purpose is to carry the 100 or so bearings that will hold and guide the running surface itself. That inner frame is built in two halves, joined by machined tubing and some very heavy duty carriage bolts. Attached to that inner frame is an outer frame, also made of plate steel, and finally a welded aluminum cover. The entire assembly is extremely beefy and robust. There is no way you will ever break this thing under any conditions even remotely described as normal.
At the front and back of the treadmill, there are large 7-inch pulley wheels where the running surface rolls over to the underside of the device, wraps around, and rolls back over the top. This is one of the only areas where there different materials make a functional difference between this treadmill (the Runner) and its younger brother (the Trainer). On the Runner, the pulleys are heavier machined aluminum, whereas on the Trainer, they are a lighter molded plastic. While I don't have any concerns over the longevity of either material, it does seem to make a difference in how they ride. We will get to that.
The handrails are similarly beefy, made from 2-inch steel tubing. Atop the rails is a very basic display, showing just a few metrics. Honestly, I don't care about this thing. I'd prefer an option to nix the computer, and maybe add a tray and some cup holders. It would be great to be able to throw on a tablet to watch a movie, or mount a fan without resorting to DIY efforts. Most of us are going to be tracking our runs with other devices (Garmin, Polar, Stryd, Apple Watch, etc) and the treadmill display is a bit redundant. Save that for the gym.
TrueForm's Runner has some extra customization options that its little brother doesn't have. These include different paint colors (a few standard options, plus full custom paint for an extra fee), as well as a slew of really nice options for the running surface itself. The unit reviewed here features the standard Kraiburg rubber surface, which left me with no complaints. But for track-specific runners there are a couple different track surface options, which can be run on in spikes. And footballers (American or International) can opt for turf!
It took only a few strides on the TrueForm Runner for me to know I was running on something very special. I have always hated treadmills in general, and I was intrigued by the idea that motorless treadmills could be different. But to merely call them different would be a gross understatement. They are incredible! The TrueForm Runner and TrueForm Trainer are in a completely different world from motorized treadmills. Rather than keep up with a motor spinning beneath you, these devices follow you. It is difficult to describe, but you might say that these treadmills bring a sense of freedom to the indoor space that is normally reserved to outdoor runs. No buttons, no plugs, no whirring motor. Just hop on and go.
And it's quiet. Very very quiet. There is a little bit of noise merely from the movement of the belt over the bearings, as the different parts glide over one another. But it's nothing compared to motorized treadmills, and soft enough that you can easily carry on a conversation with someone next to you. It does get a little louder as you go faster, but again, we're talking peanuts compared to traditional treadmills at the same speeds.
TrueForm claims that the nature of their treadmills is that they force you to run with good form. That seams very feasible. However, I didn't really feel like they changed my form. We had eight different people here try out all three treadmills in this review. And all the folks over here have decent form, which didn't seem to be changed or challenged by the TrueForm treadmills. So I can't really evaluate what effect they would have over time on someone who had major problems with running form. But I can say that they felt really, really nice to run on. The slatted surface is very comfortable. It is quite obviously strong and durable, but also has a decent amount of give, such that even barefoot running feels very gentle on the body and the joints. I ran on it in regular shoes, barefoot, and in socks, and felt equally comfortable in all situations. Barefoot running (without socks) is a little dicey, because if you run towards the front of the surface, you can end up with a little pinching between the slats, as they roll up from the bottom.
There's only one thing I dislike about the TrueForm Runner, and that's the resistance you encounter while propelling the belt forward. TrueForm touts this as a feature, with a couple of benefits. One is that they claim you "will burn 44% more calories on a TRUEFORM than on any motorized treadmill" due to the effort of pushing the belt. And maybe the CrossFit community likes that idea. But their other claimed benefit is that it forces you into a better running posture. That is, it requires you to improve your form, if you have significant deficiencies. Again, I didn't feel like it changed my form too much, and so the additional resistance only served to make me work harder. That's fine if you want to burn the extra calories. But as a runner, I don't want to be artificially pushing more than needed, or more than I would out on the road. I want to put in the same effort, burn the same calories, and replicate the real experience as closely as possible. Now, that's where the TrueForm Trainer comes in. Due to some subtle mechanical differences, it's just a bit easier to push, and makes it a closer experience to true outdoor running. But we will get to that on the next page. Hit the link, and I'll spill all the tea.
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.