Reebok ZR8 Treadmill tested and reviewed

Over the past couple of months, we have had the pleasure of using the Reebok ZR8 treadmill at home. We’ve found it to be a capable home treadmill, and having completed over 20 sessions on it, we now feel like we have the information needed to give you the full lowdown. So here is the BurnTech.TV Reebok ZR8 review. Edit: We have recently compared the ZR8 to the ZR10 in this extensive review, which looks at both machines ability to effectively work for for sprints, intervals and other such ‘hard’ training.

Reebok ZR8 Treadmill – scroll through the gallery below to see more pictures

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The ZR8 is designed to be an affordable home solution with some of the perks associated with light commercial gym equipment. The light commercial tag is always one to seek out when buying any home gym equipment in our opinion, as so often you can substitute ‘home gym’ for ‘spindly, lightweight and liable to break after one tough workout’. A little harsh yes, but if you have previously bought your gym equipment from Argos, then this is probably a problem you can relate to.

So what do you get with the ZR8?

Pro: 24 pre-set workout programmes

The treadmill comes complete with 24 pre-set programmes. Whilst many of the charts for these programmes look almost identical, this still provides a good range of ‘set and forget’ workout templates. After you allow for de-duplication, then you’re probably looking at more like half this number, but a dozen or so unique programmes is still plenty to go at.

These programmes vary across more steady state, rolling hill style plans to the more aggressive peaks and troughs associated with an intense interval programmes.

We found that some of the treadmills limitations around power – covered in more detail below – were ultimately also limitations for these pre-sets though. For example, its hard for a reasonably fit person to execute a serious interval programme when the max speed is only 16KMH. It’s also worth pointing out that the running deck size restraint would also make it unsafe to run too fast, and this we felt a little uncomfortable when operating at the top end of some of these programmes as a result.

However, that said, the Reebok ZR8 treadmill has a good range of programmes which are allied against full manual controls.

The ZR8 has handlebar controls allowing you to increase/decrease the speed and the incline, which is a useful feature, especially if power walking.

We found the buttons to be generally responsive, with the machine quickly changing incline and speed to meet the new settings. I actually found this Reebok treadmill to be more responsive in this regard than the commercial Lifefitness treadmill in my regular gym.

Con: Small running deck

It’s an unavoidable fact that the running deck is too small on this treadmill, most noticeably in regard to its width. Maybe its just me, but when I’m going full pelt up a steep hill, I tend to ‘wander around the deck’ a little, and make full use of the width. If you lose your concentration for a second or two on this runner, then you are likely to find yourself striking the running track down the side of the machine. Needless to say, this could lead to an accidental dismount which could cause serious injury.

Another issue is the height of the treadmill hand rails. One of my colleagues found the rails to be at the worst possible height; for him, he found that the way he runs with his hands held quite low meant that they were constantly catching the rails. He found it both distracting to his run and hugely irritating.

For me, the low rail height was more of a problem when I was trying to jump off the machine after an interval. I found myself having to stoop down low to dismount, and this felt like an unnatural scooping motion which I never quite felt comfortable doing, even though the max speed is a modest 16KM.

To an extent, these limitations are themself limited by the ZR8’s low top speed of only 16KM. Reebok could thus argue that the machine is not intended for brutal intervals, and as such is not designed to accommodate them. That said, the handrail height is something to consider, if, like my colleague, you run with ‘low hands’.

Pro: Responsive, smooth and comfortable running deck

The small deck is offset against the very impressive running deck itself. Too narrow it may be, but the ride is very smooth and the machines engine has no difficulty at full incline and full speed. If anything, the motor feels like it has more to give and never feels laboured or stretched, even whilst supposedly been maxed out.

This bodes well for the engine on the Reebok ZR8 having good longevity, especially if your home use is relatively modest.

Reebok have integrated a form of suspension into the running deck itself, and the result is a slight spungey feel. Admittedly, this doesn’t sound good but in practice its great. Even over longer runs, this provides a very cushioned running feel, even if you’re using zero-drop running shoes or other lightweight designed shoes.

Comparing this again to Lifefitness and Technogym commercial gyms, I definitely feel that Reebok have nailed this aspect. In many regards, there are plenty of lessons for the big commercial manufacturers coming out of this treadmill.

Con: suspect metrics

One area where the Reebok treadmill is not up to commercial standards is its metrics and other readers.

Whilst admittedly far from critical in the grand scheme of things, it should be stated that the calorie counter is almost laughable on this machine. On quick start, you’re not invited to input any details, so the machine is going in blind. On a run that would normally burn 800-850 calories in an hour on both Technogym and Lifefitness machines, this treadmill calculates that I burn a staggering 1,500+ calories.

This immediately makes you question other settings on the machine, and immediately the incline percentages are called into serious question.

The ZR8 interface has a number of preset incline buttons, allowing for quick access to different settings (as indeed they do for the speed settings too). One quick press and the incline changes instantly, which is great. What’s less great is how far from reality these inclines are. So much so, I thought the “10” button was relating to some kind of incline setting rather than percentage. However on closer inspection, the button has a percentage symbol on it. I was powering along at 16KM and 10% incline for around five minutes, which is something that would be way beyond me on a commercial treadmill.

I would conservatively guess that the real incline is more like 30-50% of the incline stated, depending on the setting. I believe its more accurate at lower inclines, with its accuracy tapering off rapidly beyond ~6-8%. That’s not fact, I’m just working off a gut instinct from over ten years of regular, heavy treadmill use.

Con: Limited top speed & incline

As already mentioned, the Reebok ZR8 treadmill maxes out at 16KMH and 12% incline. The latter would be more than adequate as a home treadmill but for the fact that 1% is really more like 4% in reality.

I believe that the machine is far more accurate on the speed front, but at the same time it is slightly lacking. If your only intending to use this machine for low intensity, steady state training, then you’re likely to find this speed to be perfectly fine. If however, like me, you like to add in some serious HiiT intervals into your training, then you may find that you need to look for a machine with a little more range. So, how seriously you view this as a limitation depends a lot on how you like to train. Either way, its something to bear in mind.

As a final consideration on this subject; if you’re looking for a machine that can help you start to get fit, then you’re probably thinking that you would never need this kind of range, let alone more scope. However, with a couple of months of serious training, a nice dose of dedication and a smidgen of natural ability, you might be surprised at just how quickly you progress. If you’re happy buying a new treadmill in six months time, then ignore this suggestion.

Con: dial confusion

This is a small point, but one that surprised me considering Reebok’s usual eye for detail. Some of the dials are confusingly placed and they tend to liberally swap between KMH and MPH.

For example, you select the speed in MPH but the machine gives you a distance reading in KM. this seems a little strange, and in a way it seems that the ZR8 is fudging its target market targeting. The standard is for KMH readings in the UK and MPH in the USA, so perhaps Reebok are trying to make a catch-all device?

Also, there’s the slightly strange positioning of buttons and readings. The machine shows you the speed that you’re currently going at on a dial on the left hand side and the incline (amongst other stats) on the right hand side. However, the change speed buttons are on the right and the incline buttons on the left. This encourages you to try and change speed with the incline buttons and vis-versa. Definitely not a biggie, but a little strange nevertheless.

Reebok ZR8 review: Final thoughts

Generally speaking, is is a more than capable home treadmill. There are plenty of things that I really like about it – the great running deck, lovely motor and good range of pre-set programmes.

However, some of the cons weigh a little too heavy for me. The lack of range in the speed and incline limit its usefulness as a day to day treadmill for me. This is especially pertinent when you add in the low hand rails and small deck size. As such, I use this as a back up treadmill, which is really useful to have sat in the garage, but not one that I would like to build my programme around.

I must admit that I have been quite hard on this device, and a number of my outlined cons are more specific to me and how I train. However, in the interest of providing s full and complete picture around this device, I feel that this is the best and most useful way to discuss the pros and cons of the ZR8.

BurnTech.TV Reebok ZR8 treadmill verdict: 3 stars. Capable home treadmill which is well suited to improving trainees who practice steady state cardio. Limited for more advanced trainers who appreciate greater speed and incline ranges. Respectable value for money.