Best Compact Ellipticals

Woman on Bowflex Trainer

Compact and folding elliptical trainers alike are ideal for home cardio and strength training. Relative to traditional home ellipticals, they take up less floor space and are easier to move. Yet despite their smaller stature, the best of these models don’t compromise on mechanics or features. They should support full strides and offer comfort as well a variety of resistance options.

Center-drive elliptical machines have the smallest dimensions and are non-folding. Front- and rear-drive ellipticals have longer frames, but may be foldable for storage. Check out our top three compact and/or folding ellipticals below, and read on for an in-depth buying guide for these types of elliptical trainers.

 

Top by Category

Best Overall: Sole E55
Runner-up: Horizon Evolve 5
Best Folding: Nordictrack SE9i
Smallest: Bowflex M6
Budget: Sole E25

The Best Compact/Folding Elliptical Trainers

Just like a standard elliptical machine, a compact elliptical can also have a front, center, or rear drive. We’ve included a ‘Best Buy’ option for each category to help delineate the differences. Convenient size and good ergonomics are not the only reasons these  ellipticals are so popular. Depending on the machine, highlights include touchscreen displays, wireless heart rate monitoring capability, interactive video workouts, power inclines, built-in speakers, and mobile app compatibility.

 

1. Best Overall Compact Elliptical — Sole E55

Compact but capable, the Sole E55 Elliptical is ideal for shoppers with small workout areas and rather high standards. The new model has the smallest foot print of any Sole elliptical trainer at 27 by 71 inches, yet has an impressive 375-pound weight capacity. Equipped with many of Sole’s best performance components for home ellipticals, the unit comes with digital upgrades including an improved display screen with adjustable angle, a Bluetooth connection for use with the Sole Fitness App, an integrated tablet holder, Bluetooth audio speakers, and a USB charging port. Most importantly, like all Sole ellipticals, the E55 has excellent ergonomics from the pedals to arm bars. For extra motivation, the E55 has music speakers and a secure tablet computer holder, and to help with comfort, personal cooling fans, and a water bottle holder. The online sale price of $1,499 ($2,799 MSRP) offers an excellent value, especially considering the product’s long warranty. Purchased directly from Sole Fitness, the price includes delivery and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

A favorite feature on the E55 and other Sole ellipticals this year is 20 levels of incline up to 20°. The automated incline makes this machine especially effective for targeted muscle toning. In effect, you get 20 elliptical paths instead of just one. For convenience, Sole ellipticals have incline controls built into the arm bars.

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Pros Cons
  • High-Quality Parts
  • Built-in Fans
  • Good Incline Range
  • Top Notch Warranty
  • Limited Workout Variety
  • Weaker Built-in Speakers

Key Specs

Flywheel 20 lbs
Incline 20 degrees (adjusted in 1-degree increments)
Stride Length 20 inches
Folding No
Fans Yes
Weight Capacity 375 LBS
Dimensions 71″ L x 27″ W x 71″ H
Screen 9″ LCD
Warranty Lifetime Frame; 5 Years Electronics & Parts; 2 Years Labor

2. Best Runner Up Compact Elliptical — Horizon Evolve 5

Horizon Evolve 3 Elliptical with white backgroundGiven it’s heavy flywheel, the Evolve 5 affords a level of resistance appropriate for every member of your family. Enjoy the diverse programming options on your large console while giving your body an advanced, results-focused workout. Best of all, this elliptical folds up small, providing a compact measurement of 41 inches long, by 28 inches wide, and 69 inches high, when stored, with expanded dimensions measuring 69 inches, by 28 inches and 69. Featuring a heavy 23-pound flywheel, the unit brings a much more advanced workout opportunity to the floor. The weight of flywheel determines, among other things, how smoothly and quietly the mechanism will function. Most ellipticals feature flywheels between 18-20 pounds, with 18 really being the lowest users would want. A 23-pound flywheel is among the heavier offered in the industry, particularly for those units used in homes.

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Pros Cons
  • Great Value
  • Compact Design
  • Heavier Flywheel
  • More Built-in Programming
  • Shorter Warranty
  • Shorter Frame Can Decrease Stability

Key Specs

Flywheel 23 lbs
Incline none
Stride Length 20 inches
Folding Yes
Fans No
Weight Capacity 300 LBS
Dimensions 69″ L x 28″ W x 69″ H
Screen 6.25-inch Backlit LCD
Warranty Lifetime Frame; 3 Years Electronics & Parts; 1 Years Labor

 

3. Best Folding Compact Ellpitical — NordicTrack SE9i

NordicTrack SE9i Folding EllipticalThe SpaceSaver SE9i is the top elliptical trainer in the NordicTrack SpaceSaver Series. It shares many performance specs with the SE7i, but it has advanced electronics and carries a much longer warranty. The new SE9i is distinguished by its 7″ touchscreen, which is high definition and ready for browsing the web while exercise stats are collected in the background. Also bringing in on-board entertainment potential are a tablet computer shelf and a set of 3″ console speakers. Other key specs are wireless heart rate monitoring, an 18″ stride, an 18-pound flywheel, and a power incline of up to 10 degrees. SpaceSaver Series ellipticals have a rear drive design and rear drive ellipticals are generally appreciated for their natural-feeling strides and easy balance during exercise. The size of a rear drive elliptical can be a drawback, but obviously the SpaceSaver SE9i is a space-conscious model. You can fold it vertically for everyday storage after workouts (and it also has wheels to make it easier to move).

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Pros Cons
  • Compact When Folded
  • Access to iFit
  • 7″ Touchscreen Display
  • More Built-in Programming
  • 24 Resistance Levels
  • Shorter 18″ Stride Length
  • A Bit Heavy To Fold

Key Specs

Flywheel 18 lbs
Incline 10 %
Stride Length 18 inches
Folding Yes
Fans Yes
Weight Capacity 325 LBS
Dimensions 78.7″ L x 31.9″ W x 66.4″ H
Screen 7-inch HD Touchscreen
Warranty 10 Years Frame; 2 Years Electronics & Parts; 1 Year Labor

4. Smallest Compact Elliptical — Bowflex M6

This is a Bowflex Max Trainer M6 in a black and silver body frame with a 2 sets of hand grips and LCD console centerpiece plus a tablet holder and a water bottle pocket atcched to it.The Bowflex Max Trainer M6 offers full body workouts with no impact on joints. Its unique design features the motion of a stair stepper and elliptical, making low impact workouts more intense; toning muscles, building cardio endurance, and burning calories effectively and efficiently. It comes with 16 levels of resistance; a wide range that would challenge devout marathoners or dedicated fitness enthusiasts. It’s a good option for athletic training and conditioning (easily includes high intensity interval training). You can monitor vitals on the M6’s unique burn rate display, as it shows how many calories you are burning each minute while it increases activity level targets throughout your workout. The multi-grip handles also make for comfortable, agile movements. Track your heart rate monitor by simply holding the integrated contact grips. One of our favorite additions to the Bowflex M6 Trainer is the Bowflex Max Intelligence App, a platform that functions on artificial intelligence. This means that the Max Intelligence will assess your fitness level, monitor your workouts and logically suggest and increase your fitness competence to get to your goals. Essentially it’s akin to having your own personal trainer with you every time you jump on the M6.  And with the 16 levels of resistance combined with the 29 available workout videos, your workouts will be new, challenging and exciting for a long time coming.

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Pros Cons
  • Smallest Footprint
  • Burns More Calories
  • Stepper/Elliptical Hybrid
  • Available Video Workouts
  • More Strenuous Than Standard Elliptical
  • Short Warranties

Key Specs

Flywheel N/A
Incline No
Stride Length N/A
Folding No
Fans No
Weight Capacity 300 LBS
Dimensions 46″ L x 26″ W x 64.2″ H
Screen LCD Screen
Warranty2  3 Years Frame  & Parts; 90 Days Labor

 

5. Best Budget-Friendly Compact Elliptical — Sole E25

Sole E25 Elliptical showing the 2 hand grips, the console as centerpiece and oversized pedal to make feet comfortableThe E25 is Sole’s entry-level elliptical trainer which offers an affordable exercise experience without sacrificing joints and tendons. It also offers a wide range of features to keep folks motivated, from an integrated tablet holder to Bluetooth audio speakers. If you’re looking for head-to-toe muscle sculpting possibilities, the Sole E25 cross trainer won’t disappoint. You’ll stay comfortable throughout your entire workout as the E25’s handlebars are molded to support multiple grip positions. As for the lower body, just ramp up the E25’s power incline to a maximum of 20 degrees for a serious dose of lactic acid. Another way the E25 helps train different muscle groups in the lower body is its ability to switch between forward and reverse pedaling motions.

Resistance is provided by a 20-pound flywheel, which is fairly heavy for a machine in this price range. To ensure comfort, Sole ellipticals also feature a unique foot pedal design that simply isn’t found on other cross trainers. The pedals even have a two-degree inward slope, as recommended by physical therapists to reduce the likelihood of ankle or knee stress. Workout programming on the E25 features the same preset options as Sole’s top-of-the-line E98: 10 workout modes to support efficient heart rate training, weight loss, and workouts for muscle definition. The default display is a 6.5-inch LCD, but trainees can dock their tablet or smartphone on the integrated tablet holder to set up workouts and track their progress too. The E25’s compatibility with the Sole Fitness app means users can sync their treadmill workout data with their favorite fitness app such as FitBit, MyFitnessPal or Apple Health. The Sole Fitness app will keep monitoring your exercise data in the background as you enjoy your TV shows, podcasts or music on your device.

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Pros Cons
  • Big Features For Low Price
  • Overall Quality
  • Bluetooth Compatible Speakers
  • 20 Incline Levels
  • 20 Resistance Levels
  • Basic Console
  • Only 10 Built-in Programs

Key Specs

Flywheel 20 lbs
Incline 20 %
Stride Length 20 inches
Folding No
Fans Yes
Weight Capacity 350 LBS
Dimensions 70″ L x 24″ W x 64″ H
Screen 6.5-inch LCD
Warranty Lifetime Frame; 5 Years Electronics & Parts; 2 Years Labor

Buying Guide for Compact Elliptical Trainers

What can you expect from a compact or folding elliptical trainer? The best options will feature all the functions you’re used to from a traditional cross trainer. However, sometimes a folding elliptical will cost a few hundred dollars more than a non-folding alternative with similar specs. Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid confusion when shopping.

 

Performance

Every performance level is available with compact ellipticals if you know what you’re looking for. Compact, non-folding ellipticals are sold in every price class, from budget-friendly models to commercial health-club quality machines. Folding ellipticals aren’t built for commercial use. That said, you can find a wide range of performance quality throughout the category. Here are some important factors to consider.

 

Resistance: The best elliptical machines provide enough resistance to support smooth motion. This is important because the smoother the exercise, the longer a person can exercise before tiring. Smooth resistance also helps minimize the risk of injury. For most elliptical brands, the flywheel weight is an excellent clue to determine this aspect of performance. It can also tell you the top skill level that’s supported on that machine. Although beginners may be satisfied with a flywheel weight of just 18 pounds, intermediate and advanced trainees will want more heft. Individuals who weigh more will also need relatively more resistance to gain a comfortable momentum.

 

Stride: Narrow foot spacing is part of a healthy, natural stride. You can identify this when slowly walking across a room. When your feet move past each other, they should be separated by no more than 2 inches. Thus the best compact elliptical trainers have virtually no gaps between their pedals. Another aspect of healthy stride is length. The best ellipticals for adults of average heights have about 20” long footpaths. People with shorter inseams might prefer ellipticals with 18” strides, but should probably avoid anything smaller. Some of the best ellipticals have adjustable strides such as 18 to 22 inches to fit a variety of users (or at least more dramatic ranges to also serve as stairclimbers and treadmills).

 

Incline: Adjustable stride is useful for enhanced calorie burn and targeted muscle toning, but an incline can also help meet these needs. Many ellipticals and hybrid trainers have power inclines. A maximum tilt of about 20% is typical, but specialty trainers have even steeper slopes. There are even workout programs that can pair the incline training with scenic interactive video for a more immersive exercise experience.

 

Durability

The best compact ellipticals are long lasting and rarely need maintenance. Here are some features to consider when assessing durability.

 

Drive Design: The only potential drawback of a rear drive elliptical is the floor space required, but choosing a folding model could be an easy fix for those with a space problem.

 

Maximum User Weight: A good compact elliptical trainer can safely hold at least 300 pounds. Some of the best ellipticals on the market (compact or not) have 400-pound maximum user weights. In most cases, the higher the maximum user weight, the more durable the product.

 

Warranty: The parts warranties on compact and folding ellipticals vary greatly. Moderately priced machines generally have parts warranties of two to five years. Lifetime coverage is usually included for the frame, and labor costs are free during the first year or two.

 

Features

The best compact home ellipticals have the same features as larger machines, just with a less bulky frame or the option of foldability. Here are some features to look out for.

 

Folding: Adjusting a folding elliptical is easy. Hydraulics or electronics do most of the work, so little physical strength is required. It typically folds into half the size, saving significant space in the process.

 

Interactive Workouts: Some of the best compact ellipticals support interactive workouts as well as classic workouts. Interactive workouts use technologies such as Google Maps with Street View to take you around the world without ever leaving your elliptical. Some workouts offer ambient sound as well as visuals to deepen the immersion.

 

App Integration: These days, the top elliptical trainers include built-in apps or are WiFi enabled. This allows you to sync your machine with a variety of mobile or tablet apps for fitness stats tracking, interactive workouts, and entertainment.