Review: TrueForm Runner + Trainer Treadmills
Jun 13, 2020
article & images by Nick Salazar
So now we come to the other offering in TrueForm's lineup. The TrueForm Trainer is in most respects very similar to its big brother, the Runner. It uses the same slat-based surface, identical rubber slats, identical curve geometry, and is also very solidly built. There are three primary differences. First, it has a plastic outer casing (as opposed to the Runner's welded aluminum). Second, the belt moves just a little more easily due to slightly different mechanical elements (and this is why it's my favorite). And third, it's $2,000 less expensive. So you can score this one for $5,000 full price, or as low as $3000 at the time of this writing, if you are willing to wait on delivery.
In my opinoin, the Trainer is the better product. Not only is it less expensive, but the belt rolls a little easier, meaning the ride more closely mirrors actual outdoor running. For that reason, it's the clear winner for distance athletes who want to put in some real miles. More on that in a moment.
The Trainer is built very much like its big brother. The inner frame is a pair of steel plates which house the bearings. This time, the inner frame is joined by welded square steel tubing, rather than the machined rods. Presumably this is more economical, but it makes absolutely no difference to durability as far as I can see. It's a very solid structure. The outer cover is molded plastic, rather than the nicer welded alloy of the Runner, and that's the only real change that makes any discernible difference in outer quality. But for the individual consumer, this isn't a big deal at all. If I were running a commercial gym, I might prefer the alloy cover of the Runner. But as a home user, I doubt I will ever make a dent in the Trainer's plastic cover.
Another small but potentially important difference between Trainer and Runner (again in the Trainer's favor) is that the Trainer's handrails attach through the top surface, and as a result makes the overall width of the treadmill narrower by five inches. The Runner's handrails attach on the outside surfaces of the treadmill, so on the Trainer you save that little bit of width. Again, it's only five inches. And those five inches might not be a lot to some folks, but to others it could mean the difference between the treadmill fitting in your space, or not. So again, the Trainer wins here.
As mentioned on the last page, the most significant difference is in slight differences in the mechanicals. For whatever reason (maybe different bearings, maybe a different belt construction, or something else), the Trainer spins just a little easier than the Runner. Or said differently, the Runner takes a bit of additional effort to keep the surface moving, where the Trainer is a little easier to spin, and feels more like running on the actual road. For me, that makes all the difference.
As mentioned, the Trainer is very similar to the Runner in all respects. The one functional difference is that it's just a little easier to push. It feels more like a real, outdoor run. And that is why I really love the Trainer. Even though the Trainer has very slightly more economical construction (primarily the plastic cover compared to the welded aluminum cover of the Runner), it's still incredibly stout and well-built. I have no concerns over its quality or durability, and I really prefer the ride.
Another interesting aspect is the sound of each unit. The overall volume of each unit is very similar. But the Runner has a higher-pitched whine, most likely due to the friction in the pulley assembly. The Trainer has a lower-pitched grumble, probably on account of reverberation within the plastic cover; just a little bit of mechanical noise rumbling around. Again, it's really not much at all, on either device.
TrueForm tells me that they constantly get the question of whether a given customer should buy the Runner or the Trainer. My answer is easy. Are you a triathlete or distance runner of any kind? If so, get the Trainer. It's beautifully well-built, feels awesome to run on, and it's less expensive to boot! No question. I pick the Trainer. It's my favorite unit in this test, by far.
But for comparison's sake, let's look at one of TrueForm's primary competitors, the Assault AirRunner.
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.