The stride length is the longest distance between your feet in the elliptical motion. This is the most important feature to look at when you are considering purchasing an elliptical machine because you want to choose the stride length that fits your body type. Think about when you walk or run. Your stride length gets longer as you start to run, so usually shorter stride lengths are not as comfortable for the average person. Choosing the right stride length for your personal machine can be tough if you haven’t been on many different ellipticals or paid attention to the stride length of the machines you like.
If you’ve ever chatted with people about which elliptical machines they believe to be the best, you will usually get different answers. Not all elliptical machines fit everyone the same. Unlike purchasing a treadmill or other pieces of workout equipment, an elliptical machine needs to fit your body type just right or it will feel uncomfortable or jerky. An elliptical machine may feel perfect to someone else but feel horrible to you. If you feel uncomfortable on a machine, it’s most likely because the stride length doesn’t fit your body appropriately.
Some elliptical machines offer an adjustable stride length. This is a more expensive feature but its great if you are going to have several users of different heights, or you will be alternating from walking and running speeds. However, usually one size fits all will do if you get the stride length close enough to what is required for your body type. There is no need to pay for the adjustable stride length features when you can get the stride length close to the needs of all users. Most people are able to adjust to the feel of an elliptical machine over time. Also, you will typically be moving at higher speeds in order to keep your heart rate at an optimal level so the need to vary your stride lengths during a workout is not required.
Stride Length and User Height
Let’s review some helpful information that may help you choose your stride length. Understand that this decision is going to be directly related to your height. You don’t have to get it exact. Just follow the rules of thumb outlined below and you will be able to identify a stride length that will work well enough for your body. A difference in an inch isn’t going to be noticeable and you will adjust. You can also go with what you know. If you know the stride lengths of machines you feel comfortable on, stick with that.
Users Below 5’4”
Shorter elliptical users will be able to exercise comfortable on an elliptical stride length of 18” or less.
Users Between 5’4” and 5’8″
Any stride length bellow at 16” or less will probably be uncomfortable for people of average height. We recommend you stick with ellipticals with a stride length of 18”. The closer you are to 5’8” you are, you may want to consider up to a 20” stride. I am 5’6” and I feel great on machines with a stride length between 18” and 20”.
Users Above 5’9”
The taller you are, the more you will want to think about getting a machine with a longer stride length. If you are closer to 5’9” you will probably be ok even with an 18” stride, although we do recommend you try at least a 19” stride. The taller you are, you should try a 21” plus elliptical stride length.
A longer the stride length may cost you a little more money but you cannot cut corners here. If you choose the right stride length, no matter the flywheel position or the cost of the elliptical trainer, you should experience a more effective and comfortable workout. Smooth fitness has a neat little tool to help you identify your stride length based on your height.
We offer an extensive elliptical buying guide if you would like to review additional elliptical features that you should be considering.