Best elliptical machine: 7 top buys for fitness at home

The best elliptical machine fits your body, your workout style, and your budget

The best elliptical machine in use
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finding the best elliptical machine around is easy thanks to this guide. In fact, we've found seven top buys, all of which are decidedly non-gimmicky. They deliver sturdy construction, a movement pattern that suits your body, dimensions that suit your available workout space, and enough pre-programmed workouts and features to challenge you and hold your interest. Awesome!

So, which elliptical trainer should you choose? From affordable home models to gym-quality equipment for serious exercisers, we put a former personal trainer to work to find the best choices for every budget and mindset.

Looking for a different type of gym equipment? Check out our best home gym equipment 2020.

The best elliptical machines

best elliptical machine Sole E95

(Image credit: Sole Fitness)

1. Sole E95

Best all-around elliptical machine: The Sole E95 combines entertainment, adjustability, and solid build quality

Stride length: 20"
Resistance levels: 20
Workout programs: 10
Adjustable incline: Yes, motor-adjust (20 settings)
Weight limit: 400 lbs.
Dimensions: 82"Lx31"Wx71"H
Reasons to buy
+Robust resistance levels, programming+Uniquely adjustable foot pedals +Solid construction and great warranty+Wireless heart rate monitoring/control+Bluetooth capable+Motor-adjust incline
Reasons to avoid
-Takes up a lot of space-No virtual reality/video display

It's almost impossible to find fault with the Sole E95 elliptical machine, which provides the best combination of robust features, solid construction and enough workout options to keep you hopping. It also offers uniquely adjustable foot pedals for a comfortable ride — and it's priced as a good value. 

What we like about it
Although you could pay more for an elliptical trainer, the Sole E95 offers as many (or more) resistance levels (20), workout programs (10) and incline settings (20) as any exerciser will need, along with a 20" stride length that hits the sweet spot for most people. 

Build quality is also important — this machine is solid, and it's backed by a great warranty. Another key factor: Sole's one-of-a-kind "worm drive," a system that lets you (literally) dial the foot pedals into exactly the right angle to avoid numb toes and knee pain. Those two common problems can crop up if an elliptical machine doesn't quite fit your body correctly.

Other notable features include wireless heart rate monitoring (a chest strap heart rate monitor is included), and two heart-rate control workouts that automatically adjust the elliptical's resistance to keep you within a target heart rate range. The Sole E95 elliptpical trainer is also Bluetooth capable, interacts with many popular fitness apps, and has thoughtful control buttons on the moving handlebars so you don't have to interrupt your workout to adjust resistance or incline. 

Things to note
At 82" long and 31" wide, the Sole E95 elliptical trainer takes up a lot of space. And although it has every single feature you need for a fantastic workout, it does lack a built-in video display to show "virtual reality" video of the landscape for your simulated run. 

That said, you can use the built-in tablet holder for your own smart device — or shop for a machine like the ProForm SMART Pro 12.9 if interactive features are your top priority.

schwinn 470: best budget elliptical machine

(Image credit: Schwinn)

2. Schwinn 470

Best elliptical trainer under $1,500: Surprising features at a great price

Stride length: 20"
Resistance levels: 25
Workout programs: 28
Adjustable incline: Yes, motor-adjust
Weight limit: 300
Dimensions: 70.1"Lx28.2"Wx63.2"H
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Motor-adjust incline ramp+Bluetooth capable+Heart rate control programs
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks some high-end features-Warranty could be better

The Schwinn 470 elliptical trainer makes a solid showing in almost every category, presenting an excellent value — and some surprisingly high-end features — for well under $1,500. 

What we like about it
The Schwinn 470 has a friendly 20" stride that should suit most bodies, 25 resistance levels to deliver challenging workouts, and a whopping 28 workout programs. It's also Bluetooth compatible, so you can use Schwinn's Explore the World app to track your progress and see video of your simulated walks/runs, or sync your workouts with popular fitness apps like UA, MyFitnessPal, Apple Health and more. 

But what really catches our eye about the Schwinn 470 is a pair of features that usually aren't found at this price range: A motor-adjust incline ramp, and heart rate control programming that automatically adjusts the elliptical trainer's resistance to keep you at a target heart rate.

The Schwinn 470 does have built-in handgrip heart rate monitors, but that type of heart-rate monitoring returns a ballpark figure at best, even on higher-end machines. If you're using the heart rate control feature, the gold standard is using a chest strap heart rate monitor. 

Things to note
The Schwinn 470 is a fantastic value, but it's generally good — not always great — across the chart. We're disappointed to see that the warranty only offers 90 days of labor coverage, and although its 300-pound weight limit is impressive, the Sole E95 has it beat by a hundred pounds. Finally, we also miss the presence of a built-in entertainment system or video display.

If any of those features are dealbreakers for you, or if you expect your new elliptical trainer to see heavy, frequent use, we recommend upgrading to something like the Sole E95 for an excellent all-around value, or the ProForm SMART Pro 12.9 for all the bells and whistles of built-in entertainment.

best elliptical trainer under $1000 nautilus e616

(Image credit: Nautilus)

3. Nautilus E616

Best elliptical machine under $1,000: The Nautilus E616 packs some surprising features in its price range

Stride length: 20
Resistance levels: 25
Workout programs: 28
Adjustable incline: No
Weight limit: 300 lbs.
Dimensions: 70"Lx28"Wx71"H
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Explore the World app is impressive — and free+Lots of resistance levels, workout programs+Bluetooth compatible+Excellent warranty
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen/video-No adjustable incline

We love the Nautilus E616 elliptical machine for its focus on build quality, usable stride length and Bluetooth compatibility, uniting the most important features at a price tag under $1,000.

What we like about it
The Nautilus E616 represents a fantastic value, with a user-friendly 20" stride length and lots of resistance levels and preprogrammed workouts to choose from. It also has a great warranty considering the price: ten years of coverage on the frame, three years for parts and electronics, and one year of coverage for labor costs.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of this machine is its compatibility with the free Explore the World app, which allows you to run alongside other people as you explore 27 routes through 19 locations around the world. 

You do need to provide your own smart device to use this, but the Nautilus E616's Bluetooth compatibility means it will also sync with all your other favorite fitness apps. 

Things to note
Although the Nautilus E616 represents a great value, if you're willing to invest a bit more for an elliptical trainer like the ProForm SMART Pro 12.9 or NordicTrack SE7i, you can get a model with a built-in HD touchscreen display. 

We also note that this elliptical trainer doesn't have an adjustable incline feature — but for just a few hundred dollars more, the Schwinn 470 does.

best elliptical machine for small spaces sunny health and fitness sfe3865

(Image credit: Sunny Health and Fitness)

4. Sunny Health and Fitness SF-E3865

Best compact elliptical machine: The perfect machine for exercising in limited space

Stride length: 20"
Resistance levels: 16
Workout programs: 12
Adjustable incline: No
Weight limit: 265 lbs.
Dimensions: 66"Lx30"Wx68"H
Reasons to buy
+Small footprint+Requires limited clearance to front and back+Good value+44-lb. flywheel
Reasons to avoid
-Low weight limit-Lacks bells and whistles

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3865 offers the best combination of small footprint and usability, making it the perfect choice for exercising in tight spaces.

What we like about it
Although you'll find elliptical machines with slightly smaller footprints, they tend to have unrealistically short stride lengths, which tends to create a choppy, up-and-down ride. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3865 offers the best of both worlds, with a relatively petite 30"x66" footprint and a 20" stride length that's comfortable for most people. 

Perhaps more important, this elliptical's construction means it needs very little clearance room in front of and behind it as you pedal, and it's an excellent value in the under-$1,000 price range. The 44-lb flywheel is an unusual find in this price range; a heavy flywheel like this helps create a smooth ride as you pedal. 

Things to note
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3865's user weight limit is a little on the low side: 265 lbs. That said, most users note that, as long as it's put together correctly it feels sturdy when in use, and the built-in floor stabilizers help keep it steady as you pedal.

This elliptical machine is also missing the more advanced bells and whistles you'd find in a more expensive machine, with just 12 preprogrammed workouts and a basic display system. But it does have a tablet holder, and the handgrip heart rate sensors can be useful for giving you a ballpark idea of your rest rate during your workout.

best folding elliptical machine: NordicTrack SpaceSaver

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

5. NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i

Best elliptical machine that folds: If space is really an issue, this could be the solution

Stride length: 18"
Resistance levels: 24
Workout programs: 30
Adjustable incline: Yes
Weight limit: 325 lbs.
Dimensions: 78.7":x31.9"Wx66.4"H
Reasons to buy
+Folds for easy storage+7" HD touchscreen and interactive features+Motor-adjust incline+Bluetooth compatible+Good warranty
Reasons to avoid
-Some users call it "flimsy"-18" stride length-iFit trial ends after one year

The NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i isn't a petite elliptical machine by any means, but it folds up and stores vertically to free up floor space when not in use — and it has some great interactive features.

What we like about it
The SpaceSaver SE9i's unique folding design makes it a great choice for guest rooms or small spaces where you want it readily available, but don't expect it to be frequently used. 

When it is deployed for use, the NordicTrack SpaceSaver's great interactive workout options make it both entertaining and challenging; it even supports live coaching sessions, with the trainer remotely adjusting your elliptical trainer's resistance and incline as you pedal.

Things to note
The NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i's 18" stride length may be too short for tall users; and build quality isn't necessarily a high point. Some users describe this as a relatively "flimsy" machine. 

While the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i does fold up to save space, having to fold and unfold it for every workout could quickly become a chore. If workout space is at a premium and you'll only use the elliptical infrequently, this could be the perfect machine for you. But if you expect your elliptical trainer to get frequent use, you may be happier — and get more workouts done — if you choose a non-folding elliptical trainer with a compact footprint, such as the BH Fitness S3Xi.

Last but not least, the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i's many interactive features are powered by the subscription service iFit. You get the first year free, but if you want to continue using interactive features after that you'll need to pay a subscription fee. As of 2020, iFit subscriptions range from $180 to $396 per year, with monthly subscription options also available.

best elliptical trainer for interactive features proform smart pro 12.9

(Image credit: ProForm)

6. ProForm SMART Pro 12.9

Best elliptical machine for interactive features: This machine is guaranteed to keep you entertained

Stride length: 20"
Resistance levels: 24
Workout programs: 35
Adjustable incline: Yes, 0-20 degrees power-adjust
Weight limit: 350 lbs.
Dimensions: 79.75"Lx25.75"Wx66.25"H
Reasons to buy
+7" HD touchscreen display+Many interactive features and workouts+Power-adjust incline
Reasons to avoid
-Takes up a lot of space-Interactive features require iFit subscription

If you want an entertaining, interactive exercise session, look no further than the ProForm SMART Pro 12.9 elliptical machine. When paired with an iFit subscription (which you can try free for a year), it provides near-endless workout variety. 

What we like about it
Whether you're craving HD video of beautiful landscapes or a good yelling-at from a live trainer, this elliptical delivers it all through its 7" HD touchscreen display and iFit compatibility. We particularly like that during live coaching sessions, the trainers can adjust your resistance and incline for you. Or if you'd rather work out solo, you can plot your own custom course using Google Maps.

The mechanics of the ProForm SMART Pro 12.9 almost take a back seat to its interactive features, but they're still very good: It has a highly usable 20" stride length, 24 resistance levels, motor-adjust incline and a whopping 35 preprogrammed workouts that you can still access even without an iFit subscription.

Things to note
Get out your measuring tape: this elliptical machine takes up a lot of floor space. And although it comes with a free 1-year trial iFit membership, if you want to keep using that impressive functionality once the year is up, you'll need to start paying subscription fees. As of 2020 the cost for iFit varies from $180 to $396 per year, depending on the number of users.

best adjustable-stride elliptical trainer: NordicTrack FreeStride FS7i

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

7. NordicTrack FreeStride FS7i

Best elliptical machine for adjustable stride length: This elliptical trainer lets you change your stride on the fly

Stride length: Up to 32", adjusts automatically
Resistance levels: 24
Workout programs: Up to 17,000 video workouts
Adjustable incline: Yes
Weight limit: 375 pounds
Dimensions: 58.5"x29.5"Wx74"H
Reasons to buy
+Stride length adjusts automatically+7" HD touchscreen display+iFit compatible for interactive features+Trainers can adjust resistance/incline for you
Reasons to avoid
-Requires significant free space in front of you-Interactive programs require subscription fee after free trial

The NordicTrack FS7i elliptical machine adjusts automatically to suit your movement patterns, allowing you to switch seamlessly from walk to jog to run and back again. 

What we like about it
The NordicTrack FS7i's most notable feature is its automatically adjusting stride length, which reaches as long as 32". That's more than half again as long as a typical elliptical trainer, so this machine can suit even the longest-legged individual. 

This elliptical's 7" HD touchscreen is also great for entertainment, and it comes with a one-year trial of iFit, NordicTrack's interactive service that includes pre-recorded video workouts, HD video of beautiful landscapes you can "run" through, and live coaching from professional trainers who can remotely adjust your elliptical's incline and resistance for you. You can also plot a custom course using Google Maps.  

Things to note
Although on paper the NordicTrack FS7i looks like it has a tiny footprint, the way the pedals are constructed means you need a significant amount of open space in front of the machine. 

It's also worth noting that once your year-long trial of iFit expires, you can choose to keep using only the features native to the machine (including some preprogrammed workouts), or pay for a continuing iFit subscription. As of 2020, the cost for iFit varies from $180 to $396 per year, depending on the number of users. 

What is the best elliptical machine?

We think the all-around best elliptical trainer you can buy in 2020 is the Sole E95. It provides solid construction. enough workout options to keep you challenged and entertained, and a one-of-a-kind mechanism for adjusting the angle of the foot pedals — a critically important facet of avoiding making your time on an elliptical trainer comfortable and injury-free. 

If you're hunting for workout equipment that works in a small space, you might also consider the relatively petite BH Fitness S3Xi, which also has a lower-than-usual step-up height. And if interactive features are your top priority, you can't beat the NordicTrack FS7i and its suite of iFit entertainment and workout options.

Keep scrolling for full reviews and our other top picks. Whether you're on a budget, seeking a heavy-duty exercise machine, or want the freedom of unrestricted movement, we've found the best elliptical trainer for almost every situation.

How to buy the best elliptical machine

Those elliptical machines that don't offer this level of connectivity make up for it by syncing with your favorite mobile fitness apps, and offering a tablet or phone holder to keep your smart devices within your eyeline as you work out.

For many users, the primary allure of an elliptical trainer is that your feet never leave the pedals — which means your body endures significantly less impact than running or walking outside or on a treadmill.

But elliptical trainers do come with one liability: If you're at either extreme of height and physical build -- very short, or very tall -- then you might find that the set, elliptical path of the machine's foot pedals doesn't always fit your body comfortably. 

The angle of the foot pedals matters, too. If they're not oriented correctly for your body, you may experience numb toes or feet, and pain in your ankles or knees. That's why our pick for the best all-around elliptical trainer, the Sole E95, has adjustable foot pedals that allow you to dial in a just-right angle on the foot pedals for a comfortable ride.

Stride length
In general, the taller you are the longer a stride length you need — and vice versa for shorter folks. A stride length of 19" to 21" or 22" fits most bodies well, and some higher-end elliptical trainers feature adjustable stride lengths.

If you're using an elliptical trainer with adjustable incline, that also serves to shorten or lengthen the stride length somewhat. Adjusting the incline also changes the shape of your stride a bit — making the foot pedals travel through either a rounder or flatter path — and changes which muscle groups do most of the work; so this feature is a great way to add some variety to your workout.

Almost all elliptical trainers also let you pedal both forward and backward — another great way of shaking up your workout.

Resistance levels are another key point to watch for. Although you don't need an outrageous number of choices, some very basic models only offer a few resistance levels to choose from — which means they might be too hard for a beginner just starting out, or not offer enough resistance to challenge seasoned exercisers.

Even if you're new to using an elliptical trainer, doing regular workouts will quickly increase your strength and endurance — so make sure you choose an elliptical trainer that packs enough resistance options to challenge you in the future.

Heart rate monitor
The built-in handgrip heart rate monitors that appear on most elliptical machines are useful for getting a ballpark idea of your exertion level — but not much more than that, because they don't offer very good precision.

If you need a more exact read on your heart rate, whether for training purposes or medical reasons, a chest strap heart rate monitor is the gold standard. Your doctor or coach can help you choose the right model to suit your needs.

Almost all of the elliptical trainers in this buying guide support the wireless telemetry needed to communicate with a chest-strap heart rate monitor, and some offer "heart rate control" workout programs, which means the elliptical automatically adjusts its resistance to keep you at the target heart rate.

Some elliptical trainers, like the NordicTrack FS7i, go above and beyond in terms of interactivity. This model uses an HD touchscreen display and the subscription-based iFit service to show video of the landscapes you're simulating a walk/run through, or pre-recorded video workouts and even live, interactive workouts with a trainer. This model even allows the live trainers to adjust your elliptical trainer's resistance and incline remotely.

Do you have space for it? Finally, don't forget to consider the size of the elliptical trainer in relation to your workout space. This means not only the elliptical trainer's footprint (the amount of space it takes up on the floor), but also how much clearance it requires in front and behind the machine — and above your head — for you to pedal safely.

The relatively high step to get into many elliptical trainers — sometimes 12 inches or more — not only requires higher ceiling clearance, it can represent an obstacle to anyone with limited mobility or stability. 

Our top pick for working out in small spaces, the BH Fitness S3Xi, has a relatively low step-up height of less than 8". 

Black Friday elliptical machine deals

If you are holding fire for Black Friday to buy yourself an elliptical machine, then keep checking back at this page where we will be listing the very best deals. Closer to the event, of course. Elliptical trainers tend to come around cheap during Black Friday.

For now, you can browse lots of home gym and fitness offers below.

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