The Best Under Desk Ellipticals for Runners – Comparisons & Reviews

Preparing for a marathon is not an easy feat. You should make sure that you are physically prepared to face the challenges. Runners have different ways of training and building up their endurance, depending on their level and capabilities.

If it is your first time signing up for a marathon, and you want low-impact training while you’re working, you might want to start by looking at the best small ellipticals for runners and select one which can suit your needs.

Quick Look: Our Top Picks

What does an elliptical machine do?

Most people who hit the gym are more familiar with the treadmill as an exercise machine for a cardiovascular workout. However, there is another great piece of equipment called the elliptical machine, or elliptical trainer. It is not just used for a cardio workout; the elliptical can also be used to prepare for a marathon.

Like the treadmill, the elliptical also simulates walking, running, and even stair climbing, but the difference is that it is much lighter on the muscles and joints. That is what makes it a great training option for beginners and those who are recovering from injuries. Veteran runners can also use the elliptical for a much-needed break from intense training. It can help avoid the risk of sustaining an injury while still getting the same effects of running.

Benefits of the elliptical

Using the elliptical can help you reap a lot of benefits without having to exert too much effort to the point of straining your joints and muscles too much. It provides a full-body workout, as both the upper and lower parts of your body work at the same time. You can use an elliptical with moving handles to gain upper body strength.

Another great thing about using the elliptical is that you can adjust the incline and the resistance level of the equipment, so you can work out for maximum resistance. Like actual running, it can work and tone your hamstrings, quads, glutes, hips, and calves.

The elliptical can also help improve your balance and mobility, especially if you are recovering from an injury. It helps by gradually allowing you to regain motion in your hips and lower body. In fact, a lot of hospitals encourage the use of elliptical trainers for patients who are undergoing orthopedic rehabilitation.

Of course, resting an injury is important, but if you are an avid runner, you also need to stay active as doing so can help speed your recovery. Elliptical training is a form of active recovery because it mimics running without the risk of hurting yourself. Therefore, you can recover quickly, while staying fit and active.

As a runner, it is also important for you to have increased stamina and cardio capacity. If you use the elliptical for at least a half hour a day, three to four times in a week, there is a greater chance that your endurance will increase. It can also increase your power as a runner and enhance your efficiency.

More importantly, elliptical training can help reduce the risk of sustaining major foot injuries. We have been talking about the benefit of the elliptical for runners who are recovering from an injury.

According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, running can result in common injuries such as plantar fasciitis or arch pain, heel spurs, sesamoiditis, shin splints, Achilles tendon and calf pain, and stress fractures. These injuries may be caused by overtraining, especially if you are not too careful, and you do not wear the right running shoes.

If you substitute running with elliptical training, you are doing your feet a favor by allowing them to rest from the pounding and flexing required when running; the muscles and the bones of your feet can rest since they do not need to leave the pedals. Not only that, you can also save money, because you are lengthening the life of your running shoes as well.

What to look for in an elliptical

If you decide to get an elliptical, it is important for you to know what features to look for. This is to ensure that the equipment will be the best for you and your fitness needs. Of course, you should determine your budget so that you can narrow your choices down to a specific price range.

Shop around before making a final purchase. You can research online to know more about product features. Visit fitness retailers to discuss your options with the store staff, and so that you can first test the equipment.

Here are a few features that a great elliptical must have. Consider your goals and assess which of these need to be at the top of your priority list.

  • Adjustable incline
  • Adjustable resistance
  • Natural movement
  • Smooth elliptical motion
  • Comfortable handlebars
  • Forward and reverse motions
  • Quiet operation
  • Easy to use electronic features

Five of the Best Ellipticals in the Market Today

Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer

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This elliptical trainer might be a great choice for those who do not have enough space at home. It is very compact and lightweight, so it can be easily stored in a closet or under the desk.


  • Because of its size and weight, it is very convenient to move it around the house, so you can workout wherever you want.
  • It can be used either in a sitting or standing position, depending on which part of your body you want to work out. The standing position engages your core and burns more calories, while the sitting position solely targets your lower body.
  • The forward or reverse motion feature allows you to target different muscles in your legs by varying your pedaling direction. A change in direction provides variety so that you do not always have to go through a monotonous exercise routine.
  • It has a multifunctional fitness monitor which gives you a chance to track your progress and keeps you motivated to do more. By using the scan function, you can even see your workout stats for a given period.
  • The monitor display shows you the number of strides per minute, your total number of strides, exercise time, as well as the calories you’ve burned.

Things to be Aware Of

  • One problem with this elliptical is that it cannot be used by people who have issues with balance impairment. Since it does not have any handlebars, a steady posture is required. Otherwise, it may cause an accident.
  • Also, because of its light weight, it has the tendency to rock slightly from side to side.

j/fit Under Desk & Stand Up Mini Elliptical/Stepper with Adjustable Angle

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This is another mini-elliptical which has a compact and versatile design, also making it easy to store and use under desks. It has front rollers, which make it easier to be moved, and a top handle for carrying convenience.


  • This might be a great choice for those who do not have enough space at home, or for those who want to be able to do a little bit of exercise, even when at work.
  • It does not take too much space and is very convenient to carry around with you wherever you go.
  • It does not make much noise, so you do not have to worry about using it in the office while you are on the phone, or using it at home while you are watching TV with your family. You can work out in peace and ensure that you will not disturb those around you.
  • This under-desk elliptical has adjustable pedals which allow you to use it in a standing or sitting position.
  • Since this unit is adjustable, you do not have to apply too much pressure when pushing, and you can also place the foot pads at the correct angle.
  • The tension dial allows you to adjust whether you want more resistance or you need to exert less effort.
  • You can easily track and measure your progress by referring to your stats on the display monitor. You can see your time, distance, and speed, as well as track how many calories you have burnt.

Things to be Aware Of

  • One of the drawbacks of this product is that it also has the tendency to rock back and forth when in use, which makes it unstable; this can probably be attributed to its compact design.
  • Another thing is that although it was designed to be quiet, some units make squeaking and loud noises, which may be due to defective parts.

Cubii: Smart Under-Desk Elliptical

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This elliptical is designed for people who are always sitting, yet want to make sure that they also get to work out. It enables you to use it at home while you watch TV or read a book. It can also be used at work while you are on your computer or attend an important conference over the phone.


  • It has a built-in handle, which makes it convenient for you to bring it from your home to your office and vice versa.
  • It is very compact, which makes it easy to use and store under your desk and even in smaller spaces at home.
  • It has eight levels of adjustable resistance, which allows you to adjust the intensity to the level that you want. Whether you only want to stimulate blood flow or burn more calories and keep moving, this elliptical might suit your needs.
  • The feature which makes this product different is that it comes Bluetooth enabled, so you can connect it to a mobile app to monitor your progress. You can set your goals and measure how much you have achieved by tracking with the mobile app. You can even share your progress and compete with your family and friends.

Things to be Aware Of

  • There are some disadvantages to being technologically advanced. When not connected to Bluetooth, you might not be able to retrieve any information about your performance.
  • Some users even experience weak and failed Bluetooth connections, which defeats the purpose of investing in a smart device.

Stamina InMotion Compact Strider with Cords

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This is another elliptical that is designed for you to take wherever you go. You can use it at home, in the office, or outside if you feel like exercising outdoors.

Use it sitting if you want to work out while doing something else, or use it standing to focus on your workout and training. You can customize and set the intensity of your workout by using the machine’s adjustable tension knob; the higher the tension, the more calories you burn.


  • It features a reverse motion pedal, which allows you to pedal forward or in reverse. You can work out your lower body in various ways and feel the burn in your leg muscles.
  • You can track your progress through the multi-function monitor, which displays your strides per minute, your exercise time, and the calories that you have burnt.
  • It allows you to scan over the course of your workout to keep yourself motivated.
  • What’s unique about this compact elliptical is that it has medium resistance tubes with handles. Because of this added feature, you can also work your upper body, whether you are in a sitting or standing position.
  • The handles are padded to ensure comfort while you work out.
  • The Stamina InMotion Compact Strider with Cords allows you to strengthen and tone your legs, thighs, and buttocks, as well as your arms, shoulders, and chest.
  • It can help you burn a lot of calories and serve as a great cardiovascular workout to prepare you for longer runs in the future.

Things to be Aware Of

  • The short stride of this product may have an effect on the user’s balance.
  • It might be more difficult to use it in a standing position, so it would be better if you can easily hold on to something in case you lose your balance and fall.

Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper

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This portable elliptical might be perfect for those who are looking for a good piece of equipment on a limited budget. It is very affordable yet surprisingly versatile, as it has built-in resistance training. Its compact design allows easy storage so even those who do not have much space at home can get their very own elliptical machine.


  • It is made from heavy-duty steel so you can be sure that with the proper maintenance, it can be used for a long time.
  • This elliptical provides a full-body workout. Aside from a challenging cardiovascular workout, it also has twist action to help tone the thighs and buttocks.
  • It also features exercise bands to work the arms, chest, back, and shoulders. The bands are padded with soft foam for added comfort.
  • One of the risks of using a compact elliptical is the tendency of the user to fall off. With this machine, the manufacturer made oversized slip-resistant foot plates which are textured for a sure grip.
  • The digital LCD display allows you to keep track of your goals and your progress. You can see your total count, time, calories burnt, and rep count, so you can know how much more you need to do to achieve your fitness goals.

Things to be Aware Of

  • One of the negative aspects of this piece of equipment is that it does not seem sturdy enough.
  • It seems that it is not built to be used for longer workouts, and is only good for about 15 minutes of workout at a time. If you want something that is more durable, you might want to consider one of the other elliptical machines that we have reviewed.


Among the elliptical machines that we have reviewed, the Stamina InMotion Compact Strider with Cords is probably the best that we can recommend. The primary reason is that it offers a full-body workout and does not just focus on the lower body. It has all the features that you can look for in a compact machine: portability, versatility, and efficacy.

Among the two ellipticals with handlebars, this one seems to be more sturdy and can add more value for your money. The other one may be cheaper, but it is always wiser to invest in something that is durable and long-lasting.

In any case, review the features of our recommended products to determine which one best suits your needs. The best elliptical for runners, after all, will vary from one person to another.