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This essential piece of cardio equipment has been around for almost 40 years. Sometimes referred to as a "stair stepper" , these machines are a refreshing alternative to treadmills and exercise bikes while still delivering an excellent workout. Depending on your current level of fitness, your age and weight, and the resistance level you choose, you could burn a whopping 500 calories in just 30 minutes!
What kind of stair climber or stepper is right for you? There are several equipment styles to choose from. The one you see most often at fitness centers is called a "stairmill" : picture a rotating staircase that you climb almost like an escalator at the mall. The intensity of your workout is determined by the speed you set. These machines tend to be very large and can take up a lot of space in your home, but they offer the advantage of being extremely sturdy and often have a higher user weight capacity than other types of stair climbers.
Wednesday, August 4th
Bowflex isn't just for strength training. You may remember their commercials for all-in-one resistance-based home machines, but the company has grown to include much more over the last 30+ years. They offer two different Max Trainer stair climbers that will get your heart pumping and make you stronger.
Worth the money to upgrade
So, what's the difference between the M6 (priced at $1699) and the M9 (priced at $1999)? There are several that are worth noting. First, the M9 comes with a 10" touchscreen, while the M6 has a regular LCD display. You get a 6-month subscription to Bowflex's on-demand and live workout platform, JRNY, with both machines - but you'll have to use your own phone or tablet to follow along if you buy the M6. Your equipment can also be set up for multiple users: just two with the M6 but unlimited with the M9. Other features with the M9 include a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate armband, 4 extra resistance levels, Bluetooth speakers, and an extra year on the warranty coverage. Worth the extra $300? We think so!
Free shipping, 6-week return policy
Shipping is free no matter which model you buy. You'll also get a better satisfaction guarantee and return period than most stair climbers: 6 weeks to decide, and no restocking fees.
Worth the money to upgrade
So, what's the difference between the M6 (priced at $1,699) and the M9 (priced at $1,999)? There are several that are worth noting. First, the M9 comes with a 10" touchscreen, while the M6 has a regular LCD display. You get a 6-month subscription to Bowflex's on-demand and live workout platform, JRNY, with both machines - but you'll have to use your own phone or tablet to follow along if you buy the M6. Your equipment can also be set up for multiple users: just two with the M6 but unlimited with the M9. Other features with the M9 include a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate armband, 4 extra resistance levels, Bluetooth speakers, and an extra year on the warranty coverage. Worth the extra $300? We think so!
Free shipping, 6-week return policy
Shipping is free no matter which model you buy. You'll also get a better satisfaction guarantee and return period than most stair climbers: 6 weeks to decide, and no restocking fees.
Company has good reputation
Bowflex's parent company, Nautilus, has a decent "A-" rating from the Better Business Bureau. There were more than 150 complaints filed with the BBB in the year leading up to this review, but they're spread out over the entire brand family. That includes not just Bowflex and Nautilus, but also Schwinn, Universal, and Direct Focus. Most commonly, the negative reviews refer to problems with delivery, which is often a third-party service not controlled by Nautilus.
Great feedback on Max Trainers
What's more important is the customer feedback specifically on the Max Trainers. Over 87 reviews on the M9, 100% would recommend the stair climber to a friend and 74 of them were a perfect 5-star rating. It's always reassuring to read comments from people who have used the machine for a month or more - and to see active responses from Bowflex reps. Users say that both Max Trainers are fairly easy to assemble, and they're quiet while in operation (unless you're cheering yourself on or cursing as you climb a really high incline). The most popular features are the live workouts and the adaptive nature of the machines, learning your stats as you progress and recommending routines suited to your current fitness level.
Fantastic value for the money
Bowflex's stair climbers are the best all-around value among the competition. There's no other option out there that gives you access to live coached workouts on reliable, fully-featured machines - for under $2,000. Bowflex's Max Trainers easily earn our first-place ranking.
NordicTrack is one of the top names in home fitness equipment, from treadmills to exercise bikes and beyond. Their stair climbers include two models, both of which give you a full-body workout (if you want!). NordicTrack's FreeStride options let you choose your foot motion - treadmill, elliptical, or stepper - offering the most versatility found in a stair climber machine.
More money = more features
The FS10i is priced at $2,499, and theFS14i comes in at $3,499. How are the two machines different? You'll get a slightly larger touchscreen on the more expensive model (10" vs. 14" ), digital resistance levels increase from 24 to 26, and you get the option of moving on a decline as well as an incline. Whether or not that's worth the extra $1,000 is a matter of preference.
Tons of workout options - including live
One of the most attractive features of NordicTrack stair steppers is the iFit membership, complimentary for the first year after purchase. Not only can you access a huge variety of both on-demand and live coached workouts, but the live sessions let your trainer automatically adjust your incline and resistance to simulate real-world terrain. That should make it a lot harder to get bored with your exercise routine! And, if that's not enough, your iFit subscription also lets you stream yoga, cross-training, strength training, and plenty of other non-stepper workouts.
Costly delivery, look for discount
Both machines come with a delivery fee of $199. You might be able to offset those shipping costs with a promotional discount. As we browsed the site, we got a pop-up offer of $25 off an order of at least $399 if we signed up for NordicTrack's mailing list.
"A+" with the BBB
NordicTrack has a really solid track record for customer service. Owned by Icon Health and Fitness, who has an "A+" from the Better Business Bureau, the company does a praiseworthy job of responding to customer problems. We've always been impressed with how quickly we can reach live help using NordicTrack's online chat when we have questions about their products.
Praise from customers on machines and workouts
Better yet, customer feedback post-purchase is impressive on both stair climber models at NordicTrack. We encourage you to read them for yourself: the reviews on the machines and on the iFit workouts. People say that the quality of the equipment is fantastic and well-engineered; our favorite heading is "perfect for even a perfectionist" . Workout reviews describe them as having great intervals, motivating coaches, and "a great climb for the backside" .
You can't go wrong with a NordicTrack stair climber
The only reason NordicTrack didn't capture our first-place finish in the stair climber category is their price point. While we think these two steppers offer a lot of value for the money, our top pick has many of the same features for significantly less cash. Other than that, you can buy either of the NordicTrack FreeStride trainers with confidence. You're going to get an amazing workout - and probably have a ton of fun doing it! NordicTrack is one of our most recommended brands for stair climbers.
If you want the seated style of a recumbent exercise bike with the motion of a stair climber, XTERRA has you covered. Their RSX1500 is the only equipment we found that gives you that kind of workout.
Good all-body workout for every user
Almost everyone can use the RSX1500: it's got a height range up to 6'2" and a user weight capacity up to 300 lbs. It's also a great option if you want to get an upper body workout at the same time: the machine has hand grips with machine arms that you push back and forth at the same time as your feet.
While the console isn't the fanciest you'll ever see, it gives you a decent range of workouts to choose from on a 5.6" display besides the regular manual setting. You can choose among 13 preset programs and have up to 4 user profiles, and because the machine has a heart rate transmitter and hand pulse sensors, you can also use several heart rate-focused programs for your exercise. There aren't any live or on-demand fitness classes that come with the RSX1500, but the accessory tray makes it easy to prop up your own tablet or phone and watch anything you like.
Excellent warranty, free shipping
This machine comes with one of the best warranties in the industry: lifetime on the frame and brake, three years on parts, and a year on labor. It comes with free shipping, as well as a 30-day return policy.
US-based customer service
XTERRA doesn't have as much feedback as some of the other stair climber brands we evaluated. There's no listing at the BBB, most likely because XTERRA is part of a larger brand family owned by Dyaco International. Other brands in their portfolio include Spirit Fitness and SOLE, who you'll also see in our reviews. The good news is that, despite being headquartered in Taiwan, Dyaco offers XTERRA shoppers a US-based customer service experience out of Arkansas with help available during typical business hours.
Good but limited user feedback
Also, the customer reviews for the recumbent stair stepper are somewhat limited but almost universally positive. A few customers have had challenges with the assembly or with parts making noise, but the majority say that the RSX1500 delivers the workout it promises and is especially good for people with back, knee, or balance issues.
Great for recumbent stepping
XTERRA's seated stepper is a good mid-range option among stair climbers: not the most or the least expensive, and with just enough features to keep you on track with your fitness goals. And, for those who need a seated workout, the RSX1500 may be the only option among stair machines! You'll find a wider range of options with some of XTERRA's rivals, but you shouldn't have any qualms about this particular machine if you like the way that it works.
StairMaster is the original stair climber brand. When the fitness craze exploded in the 1980s, StairMaster made its debut as the ultimate workout - first with the rotating stair design and then with push pedals. Every other stair machine you see got its origins in this brand!
Old favorite with new tricks
Have StairMaster stair climbers withstood the test of time? For the most part, absolutely. You still get a lot to choose from, including their traditional stepmills and steppers. Plus, StairMaster continues to innovate, introducing new ways of working out. Their appropriately-named Gauntlet models have OverDrive Training Mode that lets you simulate a sled push or farmer's carry, as well as a Landmark Challenge program for ascending famous places like the Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty.
Sturdy, large machines
StairMaster stair climbers are extremely sturdy, just like what you'd use at a fitness center near you. They also have a fairly large footprint: you'll need a decent amount of floor space and ceiling clearance to use these machines at home. That sturdiness also gives you a higher user weight limit than most stair climbers: depending on the machine, the capacity is anywhere from 300 to 400 lbs.
Generous warranty coverage
You also get a more generous warranty with StairMaster steppers. While there are some slight differences between models, you can expect around 10-15 years of coverage on the frame and parts and 1-5 years on labor costs.
Offered by "A+" company
These StairMasters are sold by Fitness Factory. It's a store you can trust: they're accredited and "A+" rated by the Better Business Bureau, with over three decades in operation. The company offers a 31-day return policy (but you're on the hook for return shipping fees on your Stairmaster), and there's no free shipping here. Expect to pay around $120-$160, depending on where you're having your equipment delivered.
Not the best value for the money
What's the downside? StairMaster stair climbers are expensive: a lot more so than many of their rivals' machines. Their lowest-priced model, the StepMill 3, comes in at $3,799. It has a pretty basic LCD monitor, doesn't connect with your phone or fitness tracker (though you can wear a Polar chest strap for heart rate monitoring), and you have to weigh at least 125 to use it. For that money, you could get a much more tech-loaded machine from several competitor stair climber brands.
The highest end machine
And that's not even talking about StairMaster's highest-end machine, the 10G Gauntlet with 15" embedded touchscreen. Sure, it's commercial-rated and can take a lot of abuse, it comes with Bluetooth connectivity and HDMI streaming with an HDMI cable, plus those connections to Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch you might want. But, with the $12,999 you'd spend on this machine, you could buy a stair climber AND a treadmill AND a weight set somewhere else.
Reliable machines, but get more elsewhere
There's no question that StairMaster makes high-quality, reliable stair climbers; it's practically a given. Their warranty coverage is terrific, their performance is solid, and you get access to some amazing workout programs. Is it the best value for your money? Only you can determine that, but it's worth recognizing how much further your dollars might go with another brand.
Technogym equipment is a whole mood. They've been an official supplier to the Olympics from Sydney 2000 to Tokyo 2021, created and manufactured Italy, and offer comprehensive interior design services to make sure your stair climber melds perfectly with your decor. (Fancy!)
3 steps always available
In the stair climber realm, Technogym has one model: the Artis Climb. Designed to be easy for beginners and challenging for advanced athletes, this machine has some advanced features we didn't see anywhere else. To start, there are always three steps on the climber at any moment, so if your drill requires you to skip a step or do some other exercise, you've got the ability to do that safely.
Extra safety features
Speaking of safety, the Climb also has lateral footrests. Need a quick break and don't want to hit the stop button? Working a single leg exercise? Want to fiddle with the console? You got it. Technogym also gives you a "courtesy step" : at start and finish, the step goes as low as 10" from the floor for easy on and off. And, for even more protection, the Climb's "ToeSmart" design lets you use the whole surface of the steps without the possibility of pinching your toes between steps - no matter how big or small your shoes are.
All the tech you'd want for $13k
There's no shortage of tech features with the Artis Climb either. How about a built-in wireless charger for your phone and smartwatch capabilities for syncing up with your Galaxy or Apple Watch? The Climb also has a generously-sized screen to display workout videos, virtual trails that let you "climb" Mont Blanc or Norwegian fjords, or binge your favorite Hulu series to distract yourself from all the hard work you're doing. This machine has the extras you would expect (or even require) when you're paying over $13,000 to get it.
Return period and warranty not long enough
If the price tag alone were our only hesitation, the Artis Climb would have gotten a higher ranking: it's an amazing machine, with some features that you won't get with another stair climber on the market, and if money isn't an issue then why not have the best of the best? But, for such an expensive piece of equipment, the warranty coverage is way too short at just two years. The return policy is abbreviated too: you have just 15 days, plus you pay all of the return shipping expenses and a 25% restocking fee to boot.
Mixed reviews on company's reputation
Technogym's reputation is another factor. On the one hand, the Better Business Bureau gives the company a perfect "A+" and there were no complaints registered there. Pretty solid so far, right? Unfortunately, we found negative customer reviews in other places that said customer service wasn't very good after the sale, and that the quality of Technogym machines wasn't what they expected given the price paid.
Need more positive feedback before spending big
Those comments rarely relate to the Artis Climb, though - and it's worth pointing out that Technogym gets effusive praise from happy customers too. "Delivered as promised" , "excellent quality" , and "best decision" are just a few compliments received by the company. We'd love to see verified customer reviews on the Climb itself, right on the product page: it would go a long way towards demonstrating that the machine is worth the investment of over $13k. We hope to see that in the future, so that Technogym can move higher in our rankings.
Sunny Health & Fitness distributes and imports wellness products around the world. Their inventory includes treadmills and exercise bikes in addition to stair climbers.
Steppers you can store under your bed
Sunny sells 11 different models of stair steppers, but only three with handles you grip while exercising. All of the rest simply have pedals that you push: they're so small that you could easily slip the steppers under your desk or bed for storage. A few of their designs have resistance bands built in, to give you the option for upper body exercises as well. These are the least expensive stair steppers in our review, with prices between $60 and $169.
Pay attention to shipping fees
Sunny offers free shipping on all orders over $99. If you're buying one of their stair steppers that's under that threshold, expect pretty steep shipping fees: on the lowest-priced model ($59.99), our FedEx Ground delivery fee was $20.16.
Popular with customers
Customers have good things to say about their Sunny steppers. Their most popular model is the Twist Stepper with a handlebar and LCD monitor. Out of 54 reviews from buyers, 45 of them gave the equipment a perfect five-star rating. It's described as sturdy, lightweight and effective, giving a great workout.
Too many out-of-stock products
However, availability may be an issue. At the time of our most recent evaluation, there were only four models in stock and ready for shipping. None of the machines with handles were included, limiting us to just the small steppers.
Lower user weight capacity
There are a few other aspects of Sunny stair steppers that keep them from earning a higher place in our rankings. The weight capacity on their equipment is lower than average: depending on the one you select, you could have a maximum of just 220 lbs. That could eliminate many people who are hoping to use a stepper to lose weight.
Limited returns and warranty
Another downside is the very limited return policy and warranty. You can only return your Sunny product in unused condition and with an unopened box: no "try it out for a while and send it back" possible here. Your stepper only comes with a 1-year warranty.
Good rating from the BBB
We're glad that Sunny gets an "A+" from the Better Business Bureau. It's true that there were just over 150 complaints registered there in the year leading up to our evaluation, but Sunny's representatives responded appropriately to each one. Most of them were related to delays in getting replacement parts, and we didn't spot any that specifically referred to the stair steppers sold here.
Decent choice for super-basic stair climbers
Sunny stair steppers are a pretty good option if space or money are limited and you just want a basic way to move your feet. You'll get a decent workout with not many bells and whistles, but that's just the thing for a lot of people - especially beginners.
MaxiClimber is a vertical stair system that integrates weight resistance and aerobic exercise in an all-body workout. There are two models to choose from: the Classic and the XL.
2 steppers under $400
What are the differences between the two models? The Classic is priced at $199 and only offers one level of resistance, while the XL has a 12-level hydraulic resistance system. The Classic has a user weight capacity of just 240 lbs, but the XL goes up to 300 lbs. For those extra features, you'll pay a little more: $399 was the price on the XL at the time of this evaluation.
Not many tech gadgets here
Most stair climbers at this price point have zero tech features. MaxiClimber only offers one: an app that works like a fitness coach on demand. You can access classes on your own device - but you'll probably have to prop it up somewhere else, because we didn't see any room for a tablet holder or accessory rack on either machine. There isn't even an LCD display on the MaxiClimber, no way to track your heart rate or see your current resistance level, and so on. The Classic model has a calorie and step counter, but that's about it.
Poor BBB rating
You're also not going to be impressed by MaxiClimber's reputation: an "F" grade from the Better Business Bureau, largely due to customer complaints about delayed shipping, problems getting repairs and parts covered under warranty, and overall poor service.
Positive feedback from verified buyers
On the other hand, the two stair climbers offered by MaxiClimber do surprisingly well in customer feedback. We were pleasantly surprised to read through verified reviews (complete with in-home candid photos!) that call this "the best machine" , "a real workout" , and "more bang for your buck" . That part is definitely true: you're spending less than $500 no matter which of the two models you choose, giving you a lot for your money if your MaxiClimber works properly.
Not a bad option for the money
Because the company seems to be responding to customer complaints and handling issues better recently, we give them a three-star rating. MaxiClimber stair steppers are some of the more affordably-priced available, making it less risky to give the equipment a try. But, caveat emptor still applies - so don't be overly surprised if you have some challenges with customer service if you need a replacement part or warranty repair.
SOLE Fitness offers one stair climber, the CC81. It provides a full-body workout using not just the step pedals but also adjustable handlebars that can be incorporated into the exercise as desired.
Not enough features for the money
Even though the Cardio Climber is priced at $1,599.99, it doesn't have as many features as we expected. For example, the resistance is controlled through a knob dial, not electronically via the LCD display or on the handlebars. The machine also has the ability to display your heart rate, but you'll have to provide the chest strap to do so - and it doesn't integrate with, well, anything. No Bluetooth connection and speakers for playing music, no pairing with your Apple Watch or Fitbit, nothing. About the only perk is the tablet holder, letting you prop up your device and use it while you work out.
Watch the weight capacity
We found conflicting information on the SOLE site about this machine's user weight capacity: in one place it said up to 400 lbs but in another it was only 330. That's probably not going to be an issue either way for most people purchasing a stair climber, but we encourage prospective customers to reach out to the company for clarification prior to purchase if necessary.
Lots of complaints filed with the BBB
A big downside for us is SOLE Fitness' reputation. The company has an "F" with the Better Business Bureau, which is rarely something we can overlook. There were plenty of customer complaints registered there, and most of them described significant issues with SOLE's customer service post-purchase. While we are glad that this stair climber comes with a decent warranty, that won't do users any good if they can't actually get service when something stops working - and that's what the vast majority of SOLE's complaints say.
Choose a stair climber from a better brand
Our rating might be different if we could find praise specifically for the CC81 Cardio Climber. Unfortunately, SOLE doesn't let shoppers know what buyers think of their home fitness equipment. We found just over a dozen user reviews of this stepper on third-party sites, but that's not enough for us to be able to recommend buying it - especially with such a disappointing pattern of poor customer service from SOLE. We think you'll have a better overall experience with a stair climber from another retailer.
The stair steppers you'll find most commonly in home use have pedals that you push up and down. As you increase the resistance in the pedals, your workout gets more challenging. There's a lot of variety within this type of stair machine too: you'll see full-body options that make it feel more like mountain climbing or using an elliptical machine, as well as super-compact designs that can be stored under a desk or bed.
Because stair climbers use a different motion pattern than walking or biking, there can be an adjustment period as you get comfortable with your new equipment. You can hang onto the handrails at first, to get your balance and become familiar with the machine, but eventually try to climb without them. You'll get a better workout! Also, remember to push with your whole foot and not just the ball of the foot, unless you want a calf-focused session. Finally, make sure that your shoes are firmly tied: you don't want your laces to get wrapped around the pedals or caught in the stairmill!
Which stair climber is right for you? There are so many options that it might be easy to feel overwhelmed. Keep these criteria in mind as you shop, and you'll soon find the one that's the best fit:
TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated and ranked the top stair climbers on the market today. We're confident that this information will help you narrow down the options until you find the perfect addition to your home gym!
Select any 2 Stair Climbers to compare them head to head
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