The Assault AirRunner is unlike anything else on our list of the best treadmills. Its non-motorised design and ballbearing-powered curved running deck respond to user input, meaning flitting between a gentle jog and a full-blown sprint takes a mere adjustment of the upper body away.
Designed with those who perform punishing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), MetCon workouts or dabble in the odd CrossFit session, the Assault AirRunner has found a place in many home gyms, where perhaps access to electricity or simply maximising space are top considerations.
Due to the fact that the user essentially powers the AirRunner, it has been proven to burn up to 30 per cent more calories than a standard treadmill, while a lack of motor makes it quieter to use and more robust, with fewer components to go wrong.
Alongside the air bike, SkiErg and rowing machine, the Assault AirRunner sits alongside the “more serious” cardiovascular machines, as it’s not so great for those wanting to churn out the miles at a gentle pace. The deck doesn’t offer a particularly faithful road running experience for a start unless you run on a lot of curved road surfaces.
But for those wanting to shift fat fast, increase cardiovascular performance and throw short, sharp sprints into an existing strength training regime, this could well be the product you need in your life right now.
Assault AirRunner Review: Price and availability
The Assault AirRunner is available to buy now directly from Assault Fitness (opens in new tab) in the UK and the US for £2,999 or $3,699.
Assault AirRunner Review: Setup
Like most other large pieces of cardio equipment, the Assault AirRunner will likely be delivered ‘kerbside’ on a pallet or something similar. It’s a fairly sizeable unit that weighs 127kg, so you might want to enlist the help of a few muscly friends to lug it into place.
That said, it does have a handle at the rear and wheels at the front, so it is slightly easier to tip it forward and wheel it around once fully assembled, but you’ll need a fair amount of space to swing this around at home. Otherwise, set-up is extremely easy and it’s merely a case of bolting the uprights stanchions to the main running deck and ensuring a couple of wires plug into the computer.
That little LCD computer is nice and intuitive and gives very easy to read data on heart rate (it connects with any Ant+ device), as well as details on calories burnt, speed, pace, distance and much more. With unlimited speed options available (it will literally travel as fast as you can), it is quite fun to see what kind of MPH figure you can achieve, especially comparing it to friends.
Assault AirRunner Review: How to use it
As previously mentioned, the Assault AirRunner makes the perfect interval training companion, because it launches from a restful jog to an all-out sprint in the time it takes you to get the legs going. Think of it like pushing power through the cranks of a bicycle, rather than waiting for an electric motor to spool up. There is no awkward lag as you wait for the electric motor to kick in or slow down.
Bear in mind that this uses a ballbearing system to allow for the smooth-running deck, so there is a little inertia carried over when you slow the sprint down. Failing to cater for this can see some uses come unstuck and awkwardly flail backwards with the deck, but it doesn’t take long to get used to.
The curvature of the running platform really helps with its usage, as positioning the body towards the rear will slow things down, while leaning forwards and placing the feet further up the deck will have it spinning at a more rapid pace.
Hence the need for the upright handles and grab bar, which not only assists with quickly stepping off the deck (should you need to gulp some oxygen down) but also helps users put maximum power through the front of the deck during punchy sprint sessions.
With that in mind, most will undertake some kind of interval training session, which will involve a light warm-up followed by short, sharp sprints at maximum velocity and longer periods of gentle walking or jogging to get the breath back. And repeat.
Assault AirRunner Review: Is it any good?
If you’re a fan of MetCon, HIIT or CrossFit workouts, the Assault AirRunner is an absolute godsend. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that AssaultFitness is generally speaking the king of producing punishing cardio machines that slot perfectly into a hybrid routine... one that mixes elements of strength training with aspects of traditional cardio.
The AirRunner is easy to set up and just as simple to master, taking just a few minutes to get used to how the deck behaves and performs. Strap on a chest-based heart rate monitor and the small LCD computer quickly recognises the ancillary tech. From here, it’s easy to get info on your current heart rate, as well as a better insight into calories burned. This is a key metric if you are following something like a CrossFit Workout of the Day, which will often revolve around calories torched in a set time period, rather than time or distance, as this gives a truer reflection of effort and exertion.
Those looking to merely crank out the miles at a gentle place will likely be disappointed by the lack of TV, Bluetooth inputs for music and/or fancy screens with virtual graphics. It doesn’t play nice with Zwift and you can’t enjoy a Peloton class with it.
These will likely be barriers to entry for those who like their exercise slightly gentler, but if it is purely about burning calories in the most efficient way possible, it doesn’t get much better than the Assault AirRunner. The much shorter training intervals and rubberised running platform are easier on the joints, while the curved deck works all manner of the leg, lower back and core muscles when the posture is changed slightly.
A few minor niggles include the size and weight of the thing, as it’s not particularly easy to move around when fully assembled. Although it is much quieter than many motorised rivals, it’s still fairly noisy when feet are slapping against the deck, so bear that in mind if you have sensitive flatmates.
Finally, it doesn’t have any space for holding a phone or water bottle, presumably because rehydrating during a workout is deemed as an admittance of weakness by AssaultFitness. It’s not hugely expensive to find a bottle holder that will clip onto the grab bars, but it’s a bit of an oversight in my humble opinion.
Assault AirRunner Review: Verdict
Granted, the Assault AirRunner costs twice, if not three times the price of the more typical motorised treadmills that are currently on sale, but this is physically and metaphorically built like a tank, while the workouts it supplies are like little else on sale today.
It will certainly feel a little strange at first, especially if you are well versed with the basic motorised treadmills found in gyms, but the curved deck and manual movement are actually said to improve running gait, while the user control over speed allows runners to easily and safely tweak form and make improvements during of the offseason.
Above all else, it’s a bonafide monster when it comes to burning calories, whether you employ high-intensity interval training or not. AssaultFitness claims that it burns 30 per cent more calories than regular running machines but after personal experience with a unit, I’d say that figure could easily be higher.
For time-strapped individuals looking for powerful, strength-improving cardio workouts that don’t take hours, this is exactly the tool for the job.
Assault AirRunner Review: Also consider
Technogym used to offer its Skillmill Go and more technologically advanced Skillmill Connect models to home buyers but it seems these are now only available in commercial gyms. It’s a shame, as it is arguably the closest rival to the Assault offering in terms of build quality, price and features.
Those with deeper pockets could look towards WaterRower’s gorgeous NOHrD SprintBok (opens in new tab), which can be specified in five different real wood finishes. The 62 movable wooden slats are great for shock absorption, while the SprintBok is said to offer a quieter running experience than rivals.
Titanium Strength (opens in new tab) also offers a commercial curved treadmill for home use, which undercuts the Assault AirRunner by a few hundred pounds.