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Best ellipticals for experienced runners

You're not new to the fitness game - you know what you want, and you need a challenge. Here are 10 ellipticals that will help you take your cardio to the next level.

So you’re an experienced fitness enthusiast, and you’re looking for that next level equipment to up your game? You’ve perused the virtual marketplace looking for the right elliptical, but many of these cardio trainers are geared towards fitness newbies. Sure, they may be cheap, but you get out what you put in, and low-cost equipment usually means low-quality materials, poor software, and fewer useful features.

What to look for in an elliptical if you are an experienced runner

Now, while everyone has their own unique wants and needs when it comes to fitness, most people serious about their physical health are going to need a few specific functions from their equipment. First is an accurate heart rate tracker, which has been shown to be superior via chest-strapped device rather than handlebar or wrist-based trackers, as show in a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Wang R, Blackburn G, Desai M, et al. “Accuracy of Wrist-Worn Heart Rate Monitors.” JAMA Cardiol. 2.1 (2017): 104–106. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2016.3340 Web. 4th Oct. 2018). 

Next, the capacity for a wide variety of exercises that cover all aspects of one’s fitness routine from warming up, pushing your limits, and cooling down. If you’re serious about your fitness, then you know that building a powerful core is the key to maintaining good form when exercising, and that’s where the elliptical shines. 

If you’re serious about your fitness, then you know that building a powerful core is the key to maintaining good form when exercising, and that’s where the elliptical shines. 

And just as the point of a strong core is to prevent injury, another strength of the elliptical is that it eliminates impact, the bane for long-time runners and fitness enthusiasts who fear that worn out joints will one day do in their favorite hobby. With those things in mind, let's look at ten elliptical models that meet the needs of the cardio expert.

1) AFG Sport 5.9 AE available for $948 on Amazon

Key features
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • AFG fitness app to monitor your progress
  • Chest strap for wireless heart rate monitoring
  • 23lb flywheel

This product was designed by AFG (Advanced Fitness Group), a company dedicated to building technologically integrated, enthusiast oriented equipment.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

The AFG Sport 5.9 AE, with its 23.3-lb flywheel and 43 pre-programmed workouts, will be sure to challenge even experienced runners. It also comes with a chest strap heart monitor which is, as stated above, scientifically proven to be more accurate than handlebars and wrist-straps. As far as the models on this list go, this piece is fairly average in price, not cheap but not pushing it either. Experienced runners will find this machine easy to set up and use, as well as quiet and smooth. The 5.9 AE is well designed, very sturdy, and generally built to last a long time.

What's not so good about it?

Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues. While not specifically about the elliptical, customers have complained about the customer service provided by AFG. Additionally, some have experienced trouble after prolonged use over months where the machine begins to make a loud sound each time it is used. Overall, for the price this is a good quality elliptical.

Pros:
  • Simple, sturdy design
  • Smooth and quiet
Cons:
  • Poor customer service
  • Some have experienced issues with sound over prolonged use

2) Proform HIIT available for $899 on Amazon

Key features
  • Audio system
  • Integrated tablet holder
  • 10" vertical climbing path
  • Silent magnetic resistance

Proform aims to manufacture the future of exercise technology, and their HIIT (high intensity interval training) ellipticals are at the forefront. The Proform HIIT utilizes, as the name suggests, the high intensity interval training cardio-exercise strategy wherein one mixes short, intense periods of anaerobic exercise with recovery periods until exhausted. This strategy is useful for improving athleticism and endurance, as well as the body’s capacity to burn sugars.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

This machine can be picked up for the same price as the 5.9 AE above, meaning it lies in the not-too-much, not-too-little price point. For the seasoned runner, it might be time to change up your normal routine. If you’re looking for an intense, explosive new way to experience cardio exercise, the Proform HIIT is your dream come true. The machine is also made of commercial-grade steel, meaning it is prepared for years of use and abuse.

What's not so good about it?

It has been documented making a loud sound. The customer service, similarly, seems to be an issue for Proform and its parent company, ICON Fitness. There have also been a few cases where the resistance stopped working and would not go above one. Ultimately, for the price, if you’re interested in stepping up to the challenge of high intensity interval training this piece may be for you.

Pros:
  • High Intensity Interval Training, a high level cardio-program for serious enthusiasts
  • Sturdy steel construction
Cons:
  • Poor customer service
  • Some have experienced issues with loud sounds and resistance failure

3) Bowflex M7 available for $3799 on Amazon

Key features
  • Dual backlit LED display
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • 11 programs, 20 resistance levels and 4 user profiles
  • High intensity interval training

Bowflex being one of the most well-known brands in the industry and one of the first to bring the gym into customer’s homes. The M7 is the next step in the Bowflex legacy, a machine designed to provide challenge in the form of HIIT and full-body workouts. This makes it comparable to the Proform HIIT.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

While it has fewer workout programs than the Proform, Bowflex advertises the M7’s ability to learn and adapt to its users, of which there are 4 that can be programmed in. This means that prolonged use will tailor your experience with the M7 according to your skill level and conditioning. The M7 also has a wireless heart monitor, unlike the Proform HIIT’s handlebar heart monitors. Utilizing bluetooth and the Bowflex app, the user can have a truly custom experience with the M7.

What's not so good about it?

For all its praise, there is a hefty price to pay. The M7 is by far the most expensive piece of equipment on this list. In addition to the price, this piece has a number of complaints leveled against it. The most common are the noise and the difficulty of use. This may not be the most economical option, but it will certainly provide a challenge to top-performing athletes and enthusiasts looking for the next big challenge.

Pros:
  • Personalized experience
  • Challenging
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Loud
  • Hard to use if less experienced

4) Schwinn 470 available for $919 on Amazon

Key features
  • Dual LCD window system
  • Charging and data exchange USB port
  • 3-speed fan
  • Acoustic chamber speakers

Schwinn started out making bicycles, and has adapted to modern fitness trends by designing a whole new lineup of fitness products, including a line of ellipticals including the Schwinn 470.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

The 470 is Schwinn’s top-of-the-line model, and has some impressive features to boot. At 29 pre-programmed exercise routines, there is no shortage of uses for this machine. The 470 allows for multiple users, all of whom may compete against each other with help from the RunSocial partner app within the Schwinn app. RunSocial also allows  individuals to run on virtual recreations of real-world trails, connect to interregional fitness communities and run together simultaneously, and even create custom workout routines. The Schwinn 470 is the same price as the 5.9 AE and the Proform HIIT.

What's not so good about it?

The problems, as recorded by some users, all involve issues with the quality of the construction. Some have reported software problems, and other have reported issues with parts breaking or missing. For the price, and the added features, this might be one to look at.

Pros:
  • Excellent community features
  • Average price
  • Good customer service
Cons:
  • Not as high quality in construction as others on this list

5) IronMan X-Class 710 available for $499 on Amazon

Key features
  • 44lb flywheel
  • Dual console speakers
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • MyFitQuest app to monitor your progress

With over a million units sold, Fitness Reality knows its customers. The X-Class line of products is made for the enthusiast, and being the best machine on the list on a budget, this will be one to look into.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

The big selling point is the 44-lb flywheel, which is about 2-3 times heavier than the average flywheel. When combined with its 24 levels of resistance, this powerful machine will test even the most experience cardio enthusiasts.

What's not so good about it?

While lacking in the bells and whistles of the more expensive models on the list, even the criticisms of this machine don't deny its solid performance. Most users experiencing problems report screen issues. Poor customer service is also an issue.

Pros:
  • 44-lb flywheel
  • Solid performance without structural issue
  • Cheaper than most comparable models
Cons:
  • Lacking in features available to more expensive models
  • Some issue with the screen
  • Poor customer service

6) Nautilus E618 available for $1500 on Amazon

Key features
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Motorized incline
  • Heart rate chest strap
  • Charging USB port and speakers

Nautilus made its has mark on the fitness industry by delivering commercial-gym quality equipment to its customers since 1970. Following that tradition, the E618 is designed for serious competitors and offers a wide rage of features, at a cost. The E618 is significantly more expensive than the Proform HIIT or 5.9 AE, but not as expensive as the Bowflex. Be prepared to drop a grand and then some for this piece.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

To start with, the Nautilus comes with a wireless chest-strapped heart monitor, a boon for any cardio enthusiast. It also has a 30-lb flywheel, sure to offer a challenge, and like the Schwinn 470 is partnered with the RunSocial app allowing the user to push their limits even further and compete with friends and community members. The Nautilus also has dual LCD screens, which can tract metrics and wirelessly relay them to the Nautilus Connect companion app and provide media display simultaneously.

What's not so good about it?

There have been complaints about a noisy flywheel. Customers have received damaged equipment in the past that was replaced by the company with equipment that was as damaged, meaning that the Nautilus is not the sturdiest of ellipticals.

Pros:
  • Chest-strapped heart rate monitor
  • 30-lb flywheel
  • Great connectivity and display
Cons:
  • Price
  • Noise
  • Not very sturdy

7) Precor EFX 546i

Key features
  • 10 unique programs
  • 20 resistance levels
  • 21.2" - 24.7" stride length
  • Display monitor to track your progress

Precor manufactures professional-oriented commercial-grade equipment for gyms and health clubs, and they also sell this equipment to individuals. They mean business in the fitness industry. The EFX 546i is one of their tried-and-true models, with strong fundamentals and some powerful features to boot. This model comes at hefty cost, nearly 2 grand, making it one of the most expensive pieces on this list.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

The EFX 546i, as per the Precor standard, is built as a commercial-grade piece of equipment and is therefore made to withstand lots of punishing use over a long time. If that weren't enough already, it can achieve a 40 degree incline with 20 resistance levels. It is also compatible with wireless heart rate monitors, chest-strapped or wrist-strapped.

What's not so good about it?

The EFX 546i is an older model, and lacks some of the new age bells and whistles. It is also a discontinued model, and can be found used for a heavy price. The model can still be accessed on Precor’s website if you search for the Precor EFX 546i, and you can be given a quote for the price by Precor, so they may still have some stock left to sell.

Pros:
  • Commercial-grade quality
  • 40 degree incline
  • Wireless heart rate monitor compatible
Cons:
  • Price
  • Older model
  • More difficult to find

8) Proform Pro 16.9 available for $1149 on Amazon

Key features
  • Integrated water and tablet holder
  • 10" full-color touchscreen display
  • 35 workout apps
  • 375lb weight capacity

This is the second, and not the last, piece of Proform equipment on this list. The Proform 16.9 is designed with the at-home fitness enthusiast in mind. It comes with just about all the best features available in a high-grade elliptical for the home cardio expert to set, track, and achieve all their goals. As far as price goes, this piece will run you about as much as the Precor EFX, more than the Nautilus, and less than the Bowflex.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

The Pro 16.9 includes a chest strap heart monitor, always a great find, and is made from commercial-grade steel. It has a 32-lb flywheel and 35 pre-programmed exercises as well, putting some real variety behind its impressive array of features. To top it all off the 16.9 comes with a 1 year membership to the iFit Coach software, accessible via the 16.9, phone, or tablet, which includes trainer-led exercises designed to get the most out of your workouts.

What's not so good about it?

As with the Proform HIIT, customers have had problems with the resistance function failing. Proform, as it has been shown, is not a very good company to its customers. Customers have also complained about inconsistent quality in the Pro 16.9’s parts.

Pros:
  • Chest Strap Heart Monitor
  • 32-lb flywheel
  • 1-year membership to iFit Coach
Cons:
  • Resistance failure in some models
  • Poor customer service
  • Quality inconsistency

9) Proform Endurance 920 E available for $999 on Amazon

Key features
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Integrated audio system
  • 7" color touchscreen
  • Oversized adjustable cushioned pedals

The final piece of equipment from Proform. The Proform Endurance 920 E is like the younger brother to the Pro 16.9. There are a few key differences, and they are reflected in the cost. The 920 E is not much more than the 5.9 AE and the Schwinn 470.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

Like the Pro 16.9, the 920 E comes with a 1-year membership to iFit Coach. It has 32 pre-programmed workouts, only 3 less than the Pro 16.9 and a lot in comparison to other models. The flywheel is smaller than the Pro, at 25-lbs, but makes it fairly average as ellipticals go and means its less heavy.

What's not so good about it?

Like with other Proform products on this list, the quality is inconsistent and the customer services is bad. Additionally, the 920 E does not come with a chest strap, unlike the Pro 16.9. The 920 E is not capable of bluetooth and has a relatively small, 7 inch, touchscreen making it less friendly to the user than most models on this list.

Pros:
  • 1-year membership to iFit Coach
  • 32 preprogrammed workouts
  • Light model, easy to move
Cons:
  • Inconsistent quality
  • Poor customer service
  • Lacking in features and functions standard in other models for the price

10) Sole Fitness E95 available for $2599 on Amazon

Key features
  • Audio system
  • Heart rate chest strap
  • 9" LCD display
  • 15" pedals

Sole Fitness is a company dedicated to making hearty hotel gym equipment, while also offering said equipment to individuals for home use. The E95 is a top-rated elliptical by Sole Fitness, designed to meet the needs and expectations of the modern fitness enthusiast and built with heavy long-term use in mind. This is the second most expensive model on this list, after the Bowflex.

Image Source: Amazon

What's good about it?

The E95 is a heavy-duty piece of cardio equipment, rated for up to 375 pounds. It comes with a wireless chest strap heart monitor, and easily syncs with a wide number of compatible fitness apps including Mapmyrun, My Fitness Pal, Apple Healthy, and Fitbit, making easier than ever to track your health metrics. The elliptical also has a function that allows its users to customize the angle of the foot pedals to eliminate the numb toes and sore achilles tendons that occur with elliptical use.

What's not so good about it?

For the cost, there are more challenging ellipticals that might push you harder, not to mention have a few more bells and whistles. Some customers have also experienced problem related to the resistance readings in the E95’s software, with no obvious solution. There have also been complaints of inconsistent quality.

Pros:
  • Heavy-duty
  • Compatible with many fitness-tracking apps
  • Customizable pedal angle
Cons:
  • Price
  • Software issues
  • Quality inconsistency

In conclusion...

For the fitness enthusiast, the experienced runner, and the cardio master one thing in certain, high-quality equipment is a must. In this list some of the best pieces have been paraded for all their glamor and some of their ugliness, in order to narrow down the best ellipticals for the job. Hopefully the smart shoppers, the readers who are truly serious about fitness, will find something useful in this list to take with them into the next stage of their cardio careers. Armed with this new knowledge, you will be able to transcend into the upper spheres of the fitness world and truly perfect your craft.