Multiple deadlines looming, a calendar packed with meetings, and a standing appointment with your computer. If this sounds familiar—and you’ve read all the articles that declare CDC “Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project, 2011” View Source —there’s good news: a walking pad, also known as a treadmill desk or under-desk treadmill, might be exactly what you’re searching for.
Walking pads offer a convenient way to walk (or even run) while working or studying without leaving your workspace. Featuring a compact design and adjustable speed settings, they’re great for home offices or small apartments. For those looking to prioritize their health and wellness without leaving their desk, a walking pad can be an excellent investment.
After analyzing four of the most popular under-$500 options on the market, including more than eight hours of research and hands-on testing, our top pick is the Sunny Health and Fitness Slim for its all-around user-friendliness, compact size, and quiet operation.
The Best Walking Pads
Sunny Health & Fitness Slim Walking Pad
- Low profile deck
- Sleek color scheme and design
- Auto-pauses if no movement is detected for five seconds
- .5-3.75 mph speed range
- 220-pound weight limit
- Exceptionally quiet
- User-friendly design
- Only goes up to 3.75 mph
- Low weight limit
The minute I stepped foot on the Sunny, I knew it was “the one.” (Although I did walk on every treadmill multiple times for the sake of fairness.) While the nearly silent operation sold me right away, I also loved that it was simple to operate with a remote and an easy-to-read display, including elapsed time, speed, steps, and calories, as well as a user-friendly safety mechanism.
Like the other products I tested, the Sunny was a bit cumbersome to unbox. Still, that’s to be expected when you’re five feet tall and dealing with a package that’s nearly as tall as you are. (This product is 50 inches long.) Unlike the others, getting it set up was a one-person job that took me about 20 minutes total.
Using the Sunny was super easy—and safe, as it won’t start unless the safety key is in use. The remote was easy to use and allowed me to adjust the speed in increments of .1 miles per hour. The display toggled through elapsed time, speed, steps, and calories on a loop.
The Sunny was also very easy to move around and get out of the way when I wasn’t using it. Although it was too long to hide underneath my loveseat, it would have been easy to tuck it underneath a couch or a bed. I opted to lean it up against a wall when I didn’t have it at my desk. Its weight of 55.1 pounds and with wheels on the front made it easy to maneuver.
The Sunny’s real selling point is its low volume. I took a call on speakerphone while using it and the person I was talking to said they couldn’t hear it in the background.
The Sunny’s only notable drawbacks are its max speed and weight capacities. With a top speed of 3.75 miles per hour, it’s impossible to run on it. However, this may not be a drawback for the typical user, who is probably looking for a way to work and walk rather than run.
Another drawback is that the Sunny has a 220-lb weight limit, which makes it inaccessible for many users.
It’s also notable that while the product has high ratings and positive reviews on Amazon, the buyers who gave it poor reviews largely said it was because over time, the belt tends to slip, making it impossible to use. Over a testing period of a few weeks, I wasn’t able to personally assess its long-term durability, but we’ll keep an eye on it.
Goplus 2 in 1 Folding Treadmill
- Comes in seven colors
- Includes “arms” for safety
- .6 to 7.5 mph speed range
- 265-pound weight limit
- High max speed accommodates walking and running
- Arms add extra support
- Hard to fold and unfold
- Bulky to store
- Relatively heavy
The Goplus features a higher max speed (7.5 mph) than most of the other products we tested and a higher weight capacity of 265 pounds. However, that versatility comes at a price, as it’s heavier than its competitors and much harder to maneuver and store.
As the heaviest product I tested, the Goplus, which weighs 69.5 pounds, was the most cumbersome to unbox and time-consuming to assemble. It’s also the only treadmill I tested that didn’t come with a battery for the remote control. Unfortunately, it came with a piece broken off of the bottom of the deck. I never found the missing piece so I have no idea how or when it broke, but fortunately, it didn’t create any noticeable problems during use.
The Goplus is the only walking pad I tested that has arms for safety. It just so happened that I had a random piece of shelf board in my garage, so I placed it on top of the arms and created a sturdy makeshift work surface on which to place my laptop, drink, notebook, and pens. The arms also made me feel comfortable cranking the walking pad up to its full speed of 7.5 miles per hour.
Overall, it’s easy to use; the remote control functioned as expected, I was able to adjust the speed in increments of .1 miles per hour, there’s a handy spot to place a phone on the console, and it has a Bluetooth speaker paired easily with my phone. The LED display on the treadmill deck clearly toggled through elapsed time, speed, distance, and calories.
The noise level was very similar to almost all the other products I tested (not too loud but definitely audible), other than the Sunny, which was exceptionally quiet.
The product calls itself a “two in one” machine that’s designed for both walking and running. However, it’s not simple to convert it from running mode to walking mode. While you certainly could walk with the console extended up in front of you and the arms by your sides, this setup won’t necessarily be compatible with your desk—which is why you might need to convert it to a simple under-desk walking pad.
I ran into a couple of issues in my attempts to convert it. One, it wasn’t clear to me exactly how to do this. I fiddled with it for a long time before realizing the only option is to fold the console down so that it’s aligned with the treadmill deck—and that the only way to do this is to use an Allen wrench (included) to unscrew the four screws holding the armrests to the console, a time-consuming process.
Even if you never want to convert it into walking mode, the arms make it impossible to fold the console down, which make it hard to store. (Again, you can remove them using an Allen wrench, but you’d probably end up storing them out of the way and never putting them back on.)
Walkingpad C2 Mini Foldable Walking Treadmill
- Folds in half for easy storage
- Comes in six colors
- Designed for walking only
- .5 – 4 mph speed range
- 220-pound weight limit
- Folds in half for storage
- Relatively lightweight
- Adjustable in increments of .5 miles per hour
- Companion app impossible to utilize
The WalkingPad C2 won extra points for easy storage. Even without folding it, it was slim and light enough to easily slide under a couch or a bed. But unlike the other products we tested, it easily and quickly folds in half for alternative storage options. The WalkingPad scored low on user-friendliness, however. The speed was hard to control, I couldn’t pair it with its companion app, and neither the product nor its instruction manual listed the brand name or style, which made it difficult to look up for troubleshooting purposes.
While the unboxing and setup felt relatively quick and painless, The WalkingPad wasn’t super easy to use once I turned it on. The instruction manual asks you to download a companion app that’s supposed to connect to the product via Bluetooth, but my phone never recognized it. I was happy to use the remote control it came with in lieu of the app, but it only allowed me to adjust the speed in increments of .5 miles per hour (or possibly kilometers —it wasn’t totally clear). For me, the lack of precision was a major turn-off.
According to the instructions, there’s also the option to use the product in “automatic” mode (as opposed to “manual”), which allows it to auto-detect the appropriate belt speed. But when I tried automatic mode, the belt simply stopped moving.
In addition to the user-friendliness issues noted above, the Walkingpad’s downsides include the lack of a safety key, a weight capacity that goes up to only 220 pounds, and a max speed of 3.7 (i.e. a brisk walking pace).
What is a Walking Pad?
A walking pad is essentially a miniature treadmill that allows you walk while you work, watch TV, or make calls. When you’re not using it, it easily slides out of the way, against a walk or underneath a couch or bed. The products I tested all had wheels on the front end for easy maneuvering and a handy remote control to power it on and off and to control the speed. While some walking pads can handle higher speeds for running, none that we tested offer incline adjustments.
Can Walking Pads Increase Your Productivity?
Anecdotally, I noticed a few benefits of using a walking pad. For one thing, it was energizing. I was also happy to find that didn’t experience the typical back stiffness that I normally deal with after sitting for 45 minutes or longer. Finally, I was less likely to check Twitter or succumb to other distractions when I coupled walking with working.
However, I found it hard to type as quickly as usual while I was walking, so that slowed me down a bit. I initially chalked that up to the fact that my workstation wasn’t fully compatible with my new setup. Although I had a desk riser for my laptop, it wasn’t super sturdy and it lacked a keyboard tray, which meant my posture was far from ideal. Plus, I struggled to type because my laptop kept sliding around under my fingers.
Once I dug into the research on walking pads and productivity, however, I wondered if my slow typing wasn’t only a byproduct of sub-optimal ergonomics. A 2015 Preventive Medicine “A systematic review of standing and treadmill desks in the workplace” View Source looking at the benefits of standing and treadmill desks found that the latter had no clear benefit to workers’ effectiveness, while a 2018 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health “The Impact of Active Workstations on Workplace Productivity and Performance: A Systematic ReviewI” View Source that looked at both walking and cycling workstations found that active workstations were actually associated with performance decreases. One small Work “Productivity of transcriptionists using a treadmill desk” View Source actually found that transcriptionists typed 16 percent slower while walking versus sitting. Not surprisingly, a 2019 Occupational & Environmental Medicine “Health and productivity at work: which active workstation for which benefits: a systematic review” View Source found that treadmill workstations interfere with fine motor coordination (i.e. the same skills you need to type effectively), as compared with cycling and standing workstations.
That same 2019 metastudy concluded that treadmill workstations are associated with increased arousal and decreased boredom. This suggests my ability to stop checking Twitter while using a walking pad wasn’t just the result of a placebo or a fluke. A 25-person 2021 Occupational Health Science “Walk your Way to Well-Being at Work: Impact of a Treadmill Workstation on Employee Occupational Health Outcomes” View Source found that walking pad use at work was associated with significant improvements in physical, cognitive, and emotional vigor and positive affect, as well as decreased negative affect and inattention.
However, another Preventive Medicine “A systematic review of standing and treadmill desks in the workplace” View Source found no clear impact on psychological well-being and little impact on work performance. And PloS one “Cognitive and typing outcomes measured simultaneously with slow treadmill walking or sitting: implications for treadmill desks” View Source found that treadmill desk users actually performed worse on cognitive tests than their peers who remained seated.
Are Walking Pads Healthy?
While the productivity benefits of walking pads are questionable, the physical health benefits are pretty clear. Studies have linked them to decreased Occupational Health Science “Walk your Way to Well-Being at Work: Impact of a Treadmill Workstation on Employee Occupational Health Outcomes” View Source , and increased Occupational & Environmental Medicine “Health and productivity at work: which active workstation for which benefits: a systematic review” View Source , as well as improvements in markers for Journal of Sports Sciences “Reducing prolonged sedentary time using a treadmill desk acutely improves cardiometabolic risk markers in male and female adults” View Source , and reductions in Occupational Health Science ““It’s Been a Game Changer”: Examining Treadmill Desk Use When Working from Home” View Source .
If you’re ready to invest in a walking pad for work, don’t skimp on the rest of your workstation. Without the right ergonomic setup, you risk the neck, back, and eye strain you’d experience if you were hunched over your laptop on the couch or at a coffee shop.
In my own experience, I found that I couldn’t type while walking much faster than 1.1 miles per hour. But even walking at that relatively slow pace elevated my heart rate by roughly ten beats per minute compared to sitting. Meanwhile, my heart rate while walking at my typical outdoor walking pace of 3 miles per hour was roughly the same whether I was walking outside or on a walking pad at that pace. That said, I couldn’t walk that fast while typing or doing any type of deep work. I only sustained 3 miles per hour on the walking pad while on a Zoom call or typing out simple emails on my phone.
That said: Don’t overdo it. Nothing is healthy when done in excess, including walking. It’s easy to get carried away, but it’s not recommended to spend the day toiling on the treadmill. This could lead to injury, especially if you’re typically pretty sedentary. Instead, try to gradually add the walking pad to different parts of your day—maybe when you’re answering emails in the morning and when you start to feel an afternoon slump—instead of using it for an 8-hour shift.
How We Got Here
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Pam Moore, a health fitness journalist with bylines in outlets including The Washington Post, Runner’s World, Outside, WebMD, AARP, Forbes, and SELF. Prior to becoming a writer, I earned my Masters’s degree in occupational therapy, a field that I worked in for more than a decade, in a variety of healthcare settings, helping people with chronic and acute medical conditions function as fully as possible. I also obtained advanced certification as a Functional Capacity Evaluator, which better equipped me to evaluate and treat injured workers—a niche that required knowledge of the dynamic relationship between the human body and the work environment, including office spaces.
In addition to my healthcare and writing experience, I’m also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified intuitive eating counselor, and fitness geek.
Our Testing Process
I started by researching the product category for over two hours to find out which walking pads are most popular, what consumers say about them, how much they cost, and what features they typically include. I also read several peer-reviewed journal articles to explore walking pads’ potential benefits.
Then, I submitted a list of seven potential products to the team at Ness, which we ultimately narrowed down to four. Once the four selections arrived at my home, I spent at least an hour using each one at various speeds, including running at least a mile on the two that had the capacity for it. I spent a total of six hours walking and running (but mostly walking) on the products we tested.
To establish whether the walking pads would have a similar effect to walking outside, I collected heart rate data while walking 3 miles per hour outside for 30 minutes. I compared my average heart rate during an outside walk at this pace to my heart rate while walking on each walking pad at the same pace. While I generally walked much slower on the walking pad in order to simultaneously use my laptop, my heart rate when walking at 3 miles per hour was only a few beats per minute slower than it was when walking outside.
The Walking Pad Buying Guide
A walking pad is for anyone who wants to get some steps in at home, even if they don’t have a ton of space. They can also be helpful for those who find that gentle, repetitive movement improves their focus.
Which features matter most when buying walking pads?
- User-friendliness: How easy is it to power on and off and adjust the speed? Does the console include all the relevant data? Is the font big enough to read easily? Is the setup process intuitive and simple? Is it comfortable to use? What is the weight limit? Can it accommodate bigger users safely?
- Ease of storage: If it folds, does it fold easily? If not, is it slim enough to easily store under a couch or bed? If it can’t go under a couch or a bed, is it easy and safe to lean it against a wall when not in use? How heavy is it? Is it difficult to move it around the room?
- Noise level: How loud is it? Is it distracting on a Zoom call or when consuming video or audio content?
- Appropriateness for running: What’s the maximum speed? Does it feel stable and sturdy at that speed?