The biggest limitation of purchasing a fitness machine for many homes is the lack of space. Few of us have the luxury of having a designated at-home gym, so every foot, and even inch helps when purchasing workout equipment.
The reality is most home workout machines are bulky and require a large footprint. The elliptical market recognized this need for less space, which is how the folding elliptical trainer came to be. Living up to their name, folding ellipticals are collapsible machines that can get folded to half their size or more for storage, while still offering full functionality.
Because of their practicality, they’re becoming widely adopted. To help determine if a folding elliptical is for you and what to consider when purchasing one, we reviewed the 5 best folding ellipticals on the market today.
|Award||Model||Stride Length||Resistance Levels||Maximum User Weight||Footprint (Unfolded)|
|Best Overall||ProForm SMART Strider 895 CSE||
|24 with up to 10 degrees incline||325 lbs.||80” L x 32” W x 65” H|
|NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i||18”||24 with up to 10% incline||325 lbs.||
78.7″ L x 31.9″ W x 66.4″ H
|Horizon Evolve 7||20”||20||300 lbs.||
69″ L x 28″ W x 69″ H
|300 lbs.||44” L x 33.5”W x 53.5” H|
|Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902||30”||Adjustable||220 lbs.||
25” L x 19” W x 5” H
If you’re seeking a folding elliptical that gives off a gym-quality feel, the ProForm Smart Strider 895 CSE is it, but without the complexity.
This rear-drive elliptical machine is designed primarily for home use convenience, which is why it comes nearly wholly assembled to save you the effort.
What’s more, it’s able to operate without a power cord, can be moved easily with its attached wheels, and is easily folded for storage purposes. To add to the ease, the elliptical pedals are cushioned for extra comfort.
The elliptical is iFit and Google Maps ready, which makes it suitable for “virtual” outdoor workout programs and indoor ones alike.
Also equipped with power incline, the elliptical machine automatically adjusts the pedal slope to give you the physical features of outdoor workouts, providing you with the ultimate outdoor fitness experience but inside the comfort of your home. The Smart Strider even goes so far to providing you with a Google Street View for many routes to give you an enhanced visual experience.
With the purchase comes a one year iFit membership. After a year, you will need to cancel your subscription if you don’t want to pay the extra $14.99/month. If you choose to cancel the iFit membership and its unlimited workout program, the Proform Smart Strider 895 CSE already incorporates 32 preloaded workouts, providing training and workouts for calorie burn and performance among others, all designed by a certified personal trainer with the end-goal of maximizing the efficiency and productivity of your training time.
On the specs front, the ProForm Smart Strider is an 18-pound drive elliptical machine, including 24 resistance levels, which is the unique selling point. The pedals follow an 18″ stride, which can be electronically adjusted by up to 10% for an extra challenge. Each of the incline levels targets different goals, such as toning particular muscle groups in your lower body or increasing cardio intensity.
Additionally, it has moving arm bars to support total body training, and the handlebars contain contact sensors to measure your heart rate. Alternatively, your heart rate can be measured with a wireless chest strap, provided with the elliptical.
Optimized for today’s technology, the Proform Smart Strider 895 CSE includes a 7-inch touchscreen that uses WiFi, and the console has iPod-compatible speakers for those who are motivated by music. In addition, it can display your tablet or smartphone to give you access to your apps during workouts. The touchscreen shows you exercise data, including speed, time, distance, calories burned, heart rate, and resistance.
It comes with some extras, too! The Proform Smart Strider 895 CSE elliptical machine contains a water bottle holder and a two-speed workout fan to regulate your body temperature, and a foldable steel frame. ProForm includes a warranty that consists of lifetime coverage (10 years) for the frame, three years for the parts, and one year for labor.
The Proform Smart Strider 895 CSE is the best folding elliptical machine for those under 6 feet due to its 18-inch stride length and for beginner to intermediate trainees, thanks to the just-right features it offers in terms of resistance levels, comfort, workouts, extras, and navigation.
The NordicTrack Spacesaver SE9i rear-drive folding elliptical trainer is pricey, but delivers advanced features to back it up.
The NordicTrack Spacesaver SE9i will motivate you to stay on track until you reach your goals. Through its diverse features that enable you to have the most hassle-free training experience, you’ll immediately get hooked.
Space-wise, the SE9i has a vertical SpaceSaver design, taking up an 80 x 32 inch footprint when in use, but can be made much more compact when stored. In addition, it can be easily transported with its wheels however will require some muscle for just one person as the machine is over 200 pounds.
The elliptical machine comes with 30 preset workout programs. It is compatible with iFit and its features, such as the Google Maps workouts with Google Street View for routes, personal trainer videos and automatic logging of stats, among others.
Demos of iFit Coach are accessible, and you can subscribe to a yearly membership allowing you to download workout programs of different sorts.
The workout programs directly control the resistance and incline of the pedals, ensuring that they match your workout and support you in meeting your goals, whether that’s burning calories, increasing endurance, or toning your body.
When it comes to Google Maps workouts, the NordicTrack Spacesaver SE9i incline can tilt up to 10 degrees to mimic the exact topography of the real route. Additionally, the elliptical has an 18-pound flywheel with 24 resistance settings for an 18-inch stride length.
Encompassing moving and stationary handlebars, the stationary handlebars include built-in pulse sensors for heart rate monitoring, while the moving handlebars have fingertip-based controls for resistance and incline. A chest strap is also available for wireless heart rate monitoring.
Through the 7-inch HD touchscreen, you can not only access the workouts and use the iFit app, you can also surf the web via an Android browser. If you prefer your tablet, it supports that too, through an included bracket that serves the purpose of holding your tablet. There is also an iPod compatible port, along with a set of 2-inch speakers integrated into the console.
As for the warranty, the NordicTrack Spacesaver SE9i warranty is 10 years for the frame, two years for the parts, and one year for labor.
If you’re just stepping foot into elliptical training and are hesitant about the commitment, you should consider the rear-drive NordicTrack Spacesaver SE9i with motivation being its strong suit. Accompanied by a diverse range of features and a high definition 7-touch screen, this folding elliptical machine is worth every penny.
Assembly is as easy as it gets. Setup is essentially attaching the display, arms and pedals to the flywheel and deck that is already assembled in the box.
Folding the machine back up is also a breeze since the elliptical machine features a hydraulic lifting system, Horizon’s FeatherLight patent, that allows the Evolve ellipticals to occupy 50% less floor space upon folding and facilitates easy movement and storage between workouts.
It has a 23-pound drive which allows fluid exercising, 20 levels of adjustable resistance, and an elliptical stride of 20 inches, which makes for a flexible option for households of varying heights as it’s a nice middle option that fits both short and tall trainees.
The handlebars contain grip sensors for pulse and heart rate monitoring as well. This is critical for tracking your calories burned during your workout.
The Horizon Evolve 7 comes equipped with 37 workouts and supports Passport’s Virtual Active workout videos, which give you the virtual experience of training on magnificent outdoor paths, while adjusting the elliptical machine’s intensity of your workout accordingly. These are shown on your screen. The audio and video of the video are also adapted to your intensity which makes for an interactive cycle. If you would like to use the virtual reality videos, it is required to purchase a Passport Player that can then be used with each exercise session.
Furthermore, the Horizon Evolve 7 features the Horizon Fitness SixStar Frame, which promotes proper posture, reduces hip and back strain, and helps protect your joints while you exercise.
The 6.25 inch LCD screen with blue backlighting provides you with data including heart rate, time, speed, distance, calories, resistance, watts, RPM (revolutions per minute). Perhaps the best feature of the display is Horizon’s Cardio Compass which helps you stay on track of your fitness goals, showing where your heart rate is in relation to your target range.
To further encourage you, the elliptical machine is compatible with iPods and WiFi for exporting fitness data. It additionally has a rack to support your tablet, along with an integrated water bottle holder. Finally, it has ViaFit connectivity, allowing you to track and share your calories burned and other stats for each workout, syncing with your exercise apps and social media.
The Horizon Evolve 7 comes with a better warranty than ProForm and NordicTrack: The Evolve’s is lifetime for the frame, three years for the parts, and one year for labor.
The Horizon Evolve 7 is a solid-built folding elliptical machine that not only provides you with a comfortable workout experience but also makes sure you make the best out of your training time. It’s the best mid-level folding elliptical that suits beginner to intermediate trainees, and guarantees to give an entertaining training experience.
The transition from beginner to pro is made much faster with the Gazelle Freestyle folding elliptical, which miraculously trains your entire body without the side effects of sore muscles or cramps. Developed by America’s personal trainer Tony Little, the Gazelle Freestyle elliptical machine takes you to your full potential, at an affordable cost.
Allowing for a smooth experience for beginners and advanced trainees alike, the Gazelle Freestyle elliptical machine is easy to get acquainted with and is also easy to handle, since it folds away very neatly in a nearly flat position.
Being built out of sturdy steel bars, not requiring external power, and having a simple design, this elliptical machine is guaranteed to last for a long time, making it a very reliable and sturdy option.
Offering varied low-impact workouts and no resistance, this manual elliptical machine focuses on giving every muscle in your body the exercise it deserves, which certainly is sufficient in achieving a toned body over time.
Despite lacking resistance, the Gazelle Freestyle allows you to adjust your body position to target different muscles, providing you with the needed variation when necessary.
The near-limitless stride length is powered by your body’s natural movement. This is ideal for waiving off strain and stress, with the foam handlebars helping as well.
This zero-resistance folding elliptical machine can help you with goals such as burning calories, toning muscles, or improving cardiovascular endurance. A built-in thumb pulse monitor allows you to track your heart rate during the workout.
Given the price point, the features are very basic, but not necessarily outdated. Included is a small LCD screen displaying count, speed, distance, and calories burnt. It also comes with workout DVDs, an eating plan book, and a water bottle holder.
The Gazelle Freestyle comes with a 12 month warranty.
Whether you’re aiming to train on a folding elliptical machine at home for the sake of maintaining your health, toning your body, or more, the Tony Little Gazelle Freestyle elliptical machine can be your means to that end. With reported results of tremendous weight loss, this manual-folding elliptical machine can also work flawlessly for those interested in getting into shape with little pressure on their joints.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902 is not only the most budget-friendly folding elliptical we can recommend, it is also the most compact when stored. Folding down to 15”L x 19”W x 61.5”H and weighing only 37 pounds, this elliptical is incredibly practical for your wallet and for storage. We might term this one the minimalist elliptical.
Assembly is as simple as it gets, taking an average person less than 10 minutes. The SF-E902 is nearly ready to use right out of the box.
If you’re someone who worries about sliding or slipping on an elliptical trainer, Sunny Health & Fitness provides non-slip footpads and a solid build made up of steel poles held together by bolts. This is accompanied by a 30-inch stride length, ensuring that you’ll have the ability to run as fast as you please, without worrying about the possibility of an incident.
Aiming to give you a more muscular and enduring physique, this folding elliptical machine makes sure you work out your entire body and not just some parts of it. The elliptical provides an adjustable abdominal pad that helps users focus on their core while exercising. If a wider range of motion is desired, the abdominal pad can be removed.
The SF-E902 lacks added resistance, so it’s all on you! That guarantees you will keep your arms and legs engaged, since to get a more intense workout, you need to push yourself by going faster and/or longer. If you would like added resistance, other users have made a self-modification by purchasing bungee cords and attaching around the base of the arms. As it’s a manual modification to the machine, we cannot endorse this being a safe option, and would almost certainly void the warranty.
A small LCD screen gives you basic stats and data on your workout, including calories burned, total step count, distance covered, and time.
The manufacturer does offer a warranty of 3 years on the steel frame and 180 day on all other parts and components. We think this is sufficient and a vote of confidence considering the simplistic build of the equipment, That is, as long as you abide by the maximum user weight (220 lb) requirement.
Many have been in the position of wanting to exercise but lacking the space to allow for home-exercising. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902 was made just for that, so compact, lightweight, and barely occupying space when stored. Finally, it provides you with just what you need to stay fit at one of the cheapest price points in the market!
Those who live in small apartments, or students living in dorm rooms, usually lack the space to cater for heavy machines that cannot be moved around easily and take up a huge floor footprint, like ellipticals.
For that reason, folding model elliptical trainers are an ideal compact option, particularly that most of them collapse to half their size when folded, yet offer the same workout experience.
When compared to standard ellipticals, folding model elliptical trainers tend to weigh much less. That makes them easy to move around, with most of them including transport wheels to ease the process.
The majority of folding elliptical trainers are within reach when it comes to budget. They are generally more affordable than other machines, but, of course, that comes at a price. That price is usually either the quality or the warranty. Make sure to research the brand, the performance of the machine, and the warranty before getting attracted to a budget folding elliptical.
Many fall into the trap of considering only the size of a folding elliptical when actually folded. In fact, some allocate space for the elliptical based on just that, which is a big mistake.
While folding ellipticals are designed to be folded to save space and allow for storage, they aren’t intended to make the elliptical itself small in size. Sometimes, to fold the elliptical, you just collapse the frame or move the rear portion of the machine vertically, which automatically reduces the footprint of the machine, but doesn’t impact its actual size.
Make sure you take into account the actual size of the elliptical itself to anticipate the required amount of space better when it’s unfolded and ready for use.
In essence, stride length is the distance between the toe of the front pedal of the elliptical and the heel of the rear pedal, when the pedals are at their maximum distance.
Believe it or not, this distance is a major determinant of the extent of usability of the elliptical for you as well as its comfortness. If it’s too short, you won’t be able to stride naturally, while if it’s too long, you risk being injured because of overextending.
Generally speaking, a stride length between 18-20 inches is convenient for most adults. However, for those taller than 6 feet, a 20-22 inches stride length would provide more comfort.
Tip: Not all manufacturers bluntly state their stride lengths, so make sure to either look at a quick user review tour to find out. And if you aren’t successful scanning user reviews, many manufacturers have a chat box feature at their website where their customer support should be able to answer you.
Some folding ellipticals offer classic workouts, others provide interactive ones, and some offer both.
Interactive workouts use technologies, such as Google Maps with Street View, to give you an outdoor experience indoors, and provide you with sound and visuals to make the experience more real.
Classic workouts are set programs that come equipped with the elliptical upon arrival.
The resistance of a folding elliptical determines the intensity of your workouts. The maximum number of resistance levels is around 25, which you generally select via precision or digital controls on the console.
You set your resistance level based on several factors, including your workout goals, your ability, or perhaps even your mood. It’s always good to have flexible resistance options. However, the more levels, the more expensive the elliptical.
Flywheel weight is an excellent determinant of resistance, indicating the top skill level that’s supported by the folding elliptical. A flywheel weight of 18 pounds can do the job for beginner workouts, but intermediate and advanced trainees may require more, as well as those who weigh more.
The incline is another factor contributing to the intensity of your workouts. While inclines are mostly available on treadmills, the concept is the same for ellipticals.
By adding incline on the elliptical, you increase the gradient, shorten your stride, and accordingly change the way your muscles are used to performing. The end result? You increase your heart rate which helps burn a lot of calories!
In mid-range and high-end ellipticals, you can find the motorized incline feature which offers varying degrees of incline to support your challenge. Unfortunately, they tend to be rare in folding ellipticals.
Folding ellipticals nowadays are catering to the technological needs of trainees. For that reason, many of them include built-in apps, have access to iFit to download further apps, and are WiFi enabled to allow you to sync your elliptical with mobile phones or tablets for fitness tracking, interactive workouts, and entertainment!
This is worth considering mainly if you’re investing in mid-range or higher-end folding ellipticals, since they will certainly incorporate more features, and thus require more control.
To demonstrate, if your folding elliptical has 25 resistance levels, includes motorized incline, and has preset workouts, then you’re likely to require more control than if you’re purchasing a folding elliptical that lacks resistance.
Control modules are usually in the form of a display screen, ranging from a basic LCD all the way to an HD touchscreen display. Alternatively, other forms of control modules include precision controls (+ or -), allowing you to control resistance or incline, and quick controls, which enable you to move across levels in a shorter timespan.
Most folding elliptical trainers can hold a maximum of 300-400 pound user weight, but some cap out in the low 200s. A good rule of thumb is the higher the maximum user weight, the more durable you know your folding elliptical is.
These are mostly secondary features that won’t impact your workout significantly if not included, but can lead to a more comfortable workout experience if they come equipped!
A cooling fan is one of these. If you live in an exceptionally hot climate, a fan built into the console will help circulate air to keep you refreshed as you work out and stabilize your body temperature. This is a huge plus when exercising without air conditioning.
Built-in speakers are another bonus. What’s better than being able to watch movies, listen to music, train using workout videos, and more, through speakers incorporated in an elliptical?
How about media shelves? We’re all addicted to our smartphones and want them as close to us as possible. A media shelf can hold your tablet!
A water bottle holder can be clutch as well. You may think that putting your water bottle on the ground next to you is no big deal. But then you find yourself in the middle of your workout in need of a drink! It’s so convenient to have your drink in arm’s reach.
When it really comes down to it, the ProForm Smart Strider 895 CSE is among the best folding ellipticals out there on the market at the moment, if not the best. Combining the majority of the features of the high-end NordicTrack SE9i but at a much more affordable price, the ProForm Smart Strider 895 CSE is a no-brainer with its almost identical gym-grade quality.
For a further cheaper option, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902 folding elliptical serves the essential functions just fine, while providing the optimal mix of affordability, compactness, usability, and the light and casual workouts to suit beginners.