Updated: December 2017

Step Machine Reviews:

In the old days, people used to jog up and down bleachers in stadiums to get the ultimate workout. The StairMaster revolutionized fitness routines a few years back and since then stair steppers or climbers have become a standard fixture in gyms and health clubs. Steppers simulate stair climbing by having you step up on platforms or pedals. Few aerobic activities can beat the workout you get stair climbing. Doctors for years have suggested that business men and women use the stairs instead of the elevator to get the heart pumping a bit. Steppers, also called step machines, help build your heart stamina as well as shaping your thighs and hips. In recent years the stair steppers have lost a little steam with the newer elliptical trainers that give a similar workout with less stress on the joints.
stair steppers

There are 2 main types of stairclimbers - motorized and manual. The more expensive motorized stair steppers are the kinds you see in health clubs and they have motors that create the step movement. You can program the motorized steppers with various stair climbing workouts and store your results. The cheaper stair steppers are the manual type which run on air pressure pushed through pistons. The one advantage of manual stairclimbers is that they tend to be smaller and easier to store than the larger units. Several reviewers also note that they are quieter than the motorized versions. Like exercise bikes and elliptical trainers, most stair steppers will give you readouts on calories burned, distance traveled, time, speed, and heart rate. With programmable menus you can change the intensity of any workout with the punch of a button. There are both independent and dependent foot action styles to steppers. If you need to step down on one step to raise the other they call this "dependent foot action" while "independent foot action" is considered to be a tougher workout with more work required from your lower foot. The shock systems on stair steppers are broken into 2 categories as well - independent shocks and hydraulic shocks. For a well rounded workout go with independent shocks. The top names in steppers and climbers are StairMaster, Star Trac, Multisports, Cateye, Schwinn, and Diamondback. Expect to spend at least $300 or more for the inexpensive stairclimbers and upwards of $1500 for the gym style stair steppers. We found some good reviews on Outdoorreview.com, Epinions.com and in online fitness forums from consumers who own stairclimbers at home. You can browse the top selling step machines online here.

Best Stair Stepper:

The top name in stair steppers is StairMaster and today you hear many people refer to any stairclimber or stepper as a 'stairmaster'. The StairMaster FreeClimber 4200 PT ($2500) is one of the most popular and top rated stair steppers on the market. If you are looking for commercial features at consumer prices, then the FreeClimber 4200 PT is the right choice. Countless reviews rank this StairMaster as the "best home stairclimber" with features like 4 workout programs, 20 resistance levels, speeds of 26 to 174 steps per minute, and a good sized LED Console for keeping track of calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed, step rate, and time. The 4 programs include manual, steady, fat burner, and aerobic training. The independent stepper offers optional side handrails and a convenient reading rack. It will need to be plugged in so make sure you can place it near an outlet. The warranty is superb with 3 years for parts, 1 year on labor and 15 years on the frame. The Star Trac SC4100 Stairclimber is an alternative to the StairMaster and comes with excellent feedback from rehab specialists and trainers at gyms. The Star Trac doesn't need to be plugged in since it runs on magnetic resistance. Some even consider it to a commercial grade stepper because of it's solid, heavy duty construction. The options are plenty with 250 different workouts based around just 4 programs. Owners say they the 16 inch stepping range is just right for all levels of steppers. The self-powered Star Trac tracks floors climbed, heart rate, speed, and course profile.

Commercial Stair Stepper:

Not everyone needs a commercial grade stairclimber, but some people who work in rehab facilities or those with large families of all shapes and sizes may prefer a high quality and durable stair stepper. The ProSTEP 6000 Climber ($3800) could be the solution as it's equipped with all the latest features like a step lock system, an electromagnetic resistance system and computer controlled system. The control panel is fully loaded with the ability to track all major statistics and it's very user friendly. Step speed varies from 30 to 120 per minute and the weight capacity is limited to 250 lbs. We did expect the weight limit to be a little higher on a commercial grade machine since many people who would want to use a stair stepper may be overweight to begin with and therefore if they are over 250 pounds are out of luck. RECOMMENDED - Another excellent buy is the StairMaster 7000 PT Stepmill that can give you a great cardio and lower body workout. Climb the revolving staircase and step up on the 8 inch steps. The step machine can adjust from 24 to 162 steps per minute and with 20 resistance levels and 6 programs you will get a perfect workout. The backlit LCD display lets you program in your preferences and the reading rack lets you stay busy while stepping. You can view all the high end stair steppers and step machines here.

Budget Stair Climber:

The Schwinn 305p ($300) is a cheaper stair stepper on the market but it still can deliver a decent at home workout. It has independent stepping action and a computer readout of steps, calories, time, and rate. The wraparound handlebars allow the user to balance and stabilize themselves in multiple spots. While no reviewer say the 305P is equivalent to the steppers found in gyms, they do say it provides an ample home fitness program that can help get your legs in shape. Weight capacity is just 200 lbs on the Schwinn leaving some larger adults out of luck on this model. The 12 resistance levels can be managed by twisting a knob. The warranty on the Schwinn stairclimber is much better than most in this price range and many reviews we read mentioned that the machine is much sturdier than it looks.

Portable Stairclimber/Mini Stepper:

The Wall Street Journal ran an article a little over a year ago on stair steppers and they rated the Brookstone Fold-A-Way Cardio Stepper ($200) as "best overall". It certainly is compact and stores easily in closets and under beds but does it really live up to expectations. The Cardio stepper has pulse sensor grips that monitor your heart rate and you can also track calories burned, a timer, and a pacer. The machine is slim and some people note that when they really start "stepping", there is the potential to wobble a bit. This portable stairclimber will deliver a cardiovascular workout in your home at a very reasonable price. Check out the most popular portable mini steppers online here.