Pros: Inexpensive, functions as advertised, power incline, on-screen track
Cons: Not many frills, accuracy of display is questionable
I purchased this treadmill to help train for a marathon, and it served its purpose well! Prior to owning the treadmill I would often find excuses not to run -- too cold, too icy, too dark, not enough time, etc. However, after purchasing the treadmill I found these excuses were no longer valid. I also found additional motivation to use the treadmill to help justify the $450 I spent to purchase it!
I primarily use the treadmill for shorter runs lasting 20-50 minutes during the work week in the Winter when it is either really cold or dark outside (which can be a lot of the time in Alaska). For longer runs on the weekend, I have always preferred actually running outside. I have found that this schedule helps keep me in shape without getting too bored with really long runs on the treadmill.
The ProForm 385S is a fairly basic model and is just a small step above the lowest of the low end. The bonus is that the lack of options makes this model fairly inexpensive. The specifications are as follows:
- 2.0 hp motor
- 0-10 mph speed
- up to 10 degree power incline
- 16"x 45" belt
- Fold-up design
- Supports up to 250 pounds
- Cushioned platform
There are no options for programming, iFit, pre-set workouts, heart-rate monitors, or any other fancy frills. The treadmill basically goes and that's about it.
There is some minor assembly required to put the treadmill together. The manual suggests that two people do the job, but I was able to complete the task myself. Since I am a fairly scrawny 130 pounder, I suspect that most people will also be able to assemble the treadmill themselves if necessary. Assembly requires connecting the feet, rails, and rollers using screws with an allen wrench provided with the treadmill.
The treadmill console requires two AA batteries to operate and is fairly basic. To activate the treadmill, a plastic key must be inserted at the base of the treadmill. The key is attached to a rope that is intended to be worn about the wrist of the runner -- this means that if the runner falls off the treadmill, the key will pop out and stop the motor.
Aside from the key, the only other controls that the user can operate is a reset button, power incline, and a speed control. The reset button clears the display. The power incline moves the rear of the treadmill up and down to a total of 10 degrees. The speed control is a lever the user can push up and down to set the speed from 0 to 10 miles per hour. This is an analog control, unlike the digital controls in many fancier models. I actually prefer this type of analog control, since it lets me very quickly jump to the desired speed. With many digital controls, I have to hold a "faster" or "slower" button down and wait until the desired speed is finally reached.
There are three output displays on the console. The first digital display reports the Calories Burned, Fat Calories Burned, and Speed in MPH. The user does not control which one of these values is displayed, but the treadmill will display each value for a few seconds, constantly cycling through each one. The second digital display reports on the Time Elapsed and Total Distance in miles. The third display is a simulated quarter-mile track using LEDs. As you run on the treadmill, a LED lights up to show where you would be if you were running on a 400m track.
I am rather suspicious that the digital displays are not particularly accurate. First, there is no way to input your weight, so the calorie counter is probably going to be way off. Nevertheless, I find it entertaining to watch my calories "burn away" as the counter ticks upward with each step. Sometimes I even look at the fat and calorie content of sweets and candy bars and think to myself, "I just burned off one of these babies in my run this morning!" Never mind that the counter is probably way off, it is fun to fantasize about anyway.
I am also suspicious of the distance and speed displays. I am fairly certain that my treadmill says I am running much slower than I actually am. From years of running you can get a pretty good idea of pace, and my pace tells me that the treadmill is short-changing me. When it tells me that I'm plodding along at 7mph, I'm fairly confident I'm going closer to 8mph. I haven't bothered to try and accurately measure the speed of the treadmill, but to put a positive spin on things, I believe this has the nice side effect that I train more miles than I really think I've gone.
I have been surprised how much I like the feature of the on-screen virtual track. When I first purchased the treadmill, I thought this feature was rather superfluous. However, I have discovered that the 400m track forces me to break my runs into segments of 400 meters. Even if I'm running 6 miles, the display makes me think in terms of 400 meter chunks. This makes me feel like I'm always making good progress toward the goal in chunks that are easy to complete.
Finally, the console also features a tray for holding small items (e.g. a remote control), a towel holder, and a water bottle holder.
Articles in Runner's World magazine have indicated that any treadmill under $1000 is a piece of junk. Over the year that I have owned this treadmill I estimate logging approximately 600 miles. To date the treadmill appears to be in good condition, with no noticeable wear or tear. I have performed no maintenance on the treadmill since purchasing it, and in fact the manual makes no mention of how to maintain the treadmill.
The running deck has been quite stable for me, and the cushioned platform does help absorb the shock of running. However, since I am a rather light runner, I do not know if a heavier runner would experience stability problems.
I have been pleased with my purchase of this treadmill. It is much more affordable than other models, but also lacks many of the features found in those models. If you are interested in a treadmill that you intend to primarily run at one speed and one incline, then this may be the model for you. If you want a treadmill that can record your splits, times, automatically change speeds or inclines according to a program, and perform other advanced features, then this treadmill is not for you.
To date, I have experienced no problems with this treadmill aside from the questionable accuracy of the digital readouts. I've also received quite a few electric shocks from static electricity, but that was remedied with a static electricity wristband :-)