When it comes to ellipticals, nothing gets more attention than stride length. And for good reason- it’s the single most important factor in determining how comfortable your workouts are going to be. But what’s the best elliptical stride length? Is it the same for everyone? How can you tell what stride length you need before you purchase?
I hope to answer all these questions and more by the time we’re done here. But first, I want to make sure we are all talking about the same thing.
What Is Stride Length?
On an elliptical machine, stride length is defined as how far the pedals separate from each other (at their farthest point) during use. This is really step length, but in the elliptical world step length and stride length are the same thing. As a physical therapist, our terminology is a little different.
For us, step length is the distance from one heel (or toe) to the next for one step. Stride length for us is defined as the measurement from one heel to the same heel on the second step. So stride length is 2 step lengths in terms of gait analysis, fyi.
But for ellipticals, stride length and step length are the same thing. It’s just how far the machine allows you to step out when you’re exercising.
Buy why is that so important?
Because stride length is what dictates the entire “feel” of your workout! If you have ever used an elliptical with a really short stride length, you probably felt cramped and uncomfortable. You probably felt like you were jogging in place or using a step machine instead of being able to stretch out to your normal, comfortable gait pattern.
And that is what most ellipticals are shooting for- giving you a comfortable experience that resembles walking. A great perk of using an elliptical is that they are very low impact. Lower than a treadmill even. But in order for that elliptical to feel like walking, the stride length has to fit the user appropriately.
What Is The Best Elliptical Stride Length?
As you may have guessed, there is no universal, “best” stride length for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all option, unfortunately. That sure would make things a lot easier though. No, finding the correct stride length is really based on your height.
Well, I take that back. It’s really based on your leg length. We are all built differently. Some tall people have long torsos and some shorter people may have longer legs. While height is often used to determine the correct stride length, leg length is actually the most accurate manner.
Height normally correlates with leg length, but not always.
Although there is no “universal” stride length that fits everyone perfectly, there is one stride length that has become the gold standard for home fitness trainers and most commercial ellipticals alike: 20 inches.
A 20 inch stride length has been shown to fit most users comfortably. And what that really means, is that 20 inches is the stride length that people of most heights can use fairly comfortably.
Most elliptical manufacturers report that folks between 5’3″ and 6′ can use an elliptical with a 20 inch stride length. Would you agree this includes most folks! Sure it does.
And that’s why most ellipticals you see at the local gyms have a 20 inch stride length. It’s a safe bet to fit MOST users pretty well. Won’t be perfect for everyone, but at the gym it’s all about pleasing the masses.
But what about your home gym?
How To Find The Best Elliptical Stride Length For You
When looking for an elliptical for your home, you have the benefit of being able to choose a machine that you know should fit you well. And we are going to make this decision based on YOUR height.
The stride lengths for home ellipticals vary. And they usually vary based on price range. Cheaper ellipticals have significantly shorter stride lengths, ranging between 11 – 14 inches.
If you click the link above you will see the best cheap ellipticals I could find and they all have 13 – 14 in stride lengths. You should know that a stride length of 14 inches is too small for most people with a normal stride.
Unless you are under 5′ tall, 14 inches will be too short for you to stretch out to a normal gait pattern.
Ellipticals with stride lengths in the 16-18 inch range should be ok for you if you are between 5’3″ and 5’7″.
If you are over 5’7″, you should look for an elliptical with an 18-20 inch stride length. 20 inch would be preferred.
If you are 6′ tall or taller, you shouldn’t consider anything with a stride length under 20 inches, unless you are prepared and have accepted the fact that you won’t be able to stretch out. I understand that budget is the bottom line for us when purchasing new fitness equipment. Ultimately, you have to find something you can afford.
There are ellipticals with stride lengths as long as 22 inches that would work well for folks over 6′. There are also some ellipticals that have adjustable stride lengths that would work well if you have multiple family members using the same machine who are of differing heights.
You also need to make sure the stride length isn’t too long. I know I’ve been focusing on taller folks being stuck on an elliptical that is too small, but the opposite can happen too. If you are 5’2″ and using an elliptical with a 20 inch stride length, you are probably going to feel like you have to stretch out too far to return the pedals.
This is equally as uncomfortable.
The key to finding the right stride length is knowing how tall you are and selecting a machine with a stride length that should match your height.
|Your Height||Optimal Stride Length|
|Under 5'||14-16 inches|
|5' 3" - 5' 7"||16 - 20 inches|
|5' 7" - 6'||20 inches|
|Over 6'||20 - 22 inches|
One last thing to consider, is that different stride lengths activate muscles in your legs differently. Research has shown that glute activation can be altered by changing up the stride length. So going with an elliptical with a longer stride length might actually help you tone up your legs better and burn a few more calories.
An ellipticals stride length is paramount to how comfortable you are going to feel while using it. Stride length isn’t the only thing to consider obviously (features, warrant, weight capacity, etc), but in my book it’s definitely one of the most important.
I always read user reviews that complain about how small or cramped the elliptical feels when they start using it. I always wonder to myself: “did they even check the stride length before purchasing?”.
In order to find the best elliptical stride length for yourself, use your height. When in doubt, go for the longer stride length. Remember, a 20 inch stride length should fit most people between 5’3″ and 6′ tall fairly well.
If you are looking for a new elliptical, do yourself a favor and start comparing the stride lengths. In the long run, it’s going to make your life a lot easier.
It could save you from having to send your new elliptical right back because it doesn’t fit you correctly.
I am looking for an eliptical with a 14″-16″ stride length due to physical limitations
You should check out the XTERRA FS3.0– it comes with a 16″ stride length, a 22 lb flywheel, and 20 levels of magnetic resistance. It’s also backed by a 5 year frame warranty, which is pretty good for a $500 elliptical.
I’m 5’9″ but have long torso and shorter legs only 30″ inseam. Do you think I’d have issue or notice a 19″ stride? I’m use to using life fitness ellipticals at the gym which are pretty smooth but also very expensive. What would you suggest?
At your height and inseam, I think you’d be fine using an elliptical with a 19″ stride length. Life Fitness ellipticals are awesome and the one you used probably had least a 20″ stride. And you’re right about their price. I’m a big fan of Sole- nice products that are fairly priced. Check out my elliptical guide for some ideas.
Hi, I am a 5′ 10″ male, I have mobility issues and don’t normally exceed a jog speed, would I be okay on an 18″ stride length or do you think I’d be likely to struggle?
If you’re ok with staying within that jogging pattern you’d probably be fine with an 18″ stride length- just know that if you did want to stretch out completely it might be a little small for doing so.
I am 6 ft 3/4 in (72.75inches) tall, short legs 31inch inseam for correct pants fit, long(tall) wide torso, 37′ waist”, 46″ chest, weigh 218 lbs, I like Finess Reality E5500XL with 18″ stride.Is 18″ too short for me. Other rear drives are 15″ stride. Recommendation? I am 78 years old, have been running, swimming,elliptical 40yrs.I rotate exercises to avoid aggravating ruptured disc when I was 17. Please reply. Bill
Based on what you’re telling me, I think you’d probably be fine with an 18″ stride length. Think of it as more of a jogging pattern than a sprinting pattern- you might not be able to stretch out completely (mimics running at faster speeds), but you’d still be able to use comfortably. And given your ruptured disc, you might not want to stretch out completely anyway. And 18″ is pretty impressive for an elliptical in that price range, where most are offering only 14-16″. Looks like a pretty good deal to me.
I am a 5’8” female with long legs (34” inseam). Would you recommend a 19”stride length?
Hi, yeah you should be fine with a 19″ or even 20″ stride length.
I am after an elliptical that has a longer stride length so it imitates the movement of running more than shorter stride machines. Can you recommend one? I am 5’7
At that height, you’d probably wanna go with an elliptical with a 20″ stride length. I’m a big fan of Sole, they’ve got a lot of great models to choose from in differing price ranges. I also like Spirit (they’re very similar to Sole, but warranties are a little better). Here’s a link to my guide on the top ellipticals, hope it helps. If you have any questions about specific models just let me know!
Please don’t make fun of me but I have serious weight and knee issues. I’ve tried using elliptical at a gym before and almost died. For me being so out of shape I felt like my knee was going to explode trying to extend. Wouldn’t it make sense for me to purchase a shorter stride (which I’d never known was even a thing until finding this article) to start with? I don’t care if I exercise myself out of a $300-500 machine. For NOW I just know I’ve got to get moving or sit here and keep getting bigger and ache more. After reading this article I’m curious if a shorter stride would actually hurt less thus giving me SOME sort of exercise until my body is able to do more. Thoughts? I’m 5’7” and weigh almost 300 pounds with one seriously aching knee and another one not much better.
It’s great to hear you’re interested in exercising more and you actually bring up a great point regarding ellipticals and stride lengths- you don’t have to get one that allows you to stretch out completely- it’s all about finding one that’s comfortable for YOU to use. It’s perfectly find to use an elliptical that’s a little smaller as long as you know that going in (not knowing that is an easy way to be disappointed with your purchase). In your case, it could make sense to go with an elliptical with a smaller stride length, but honestly, based on what I’m hearing, I’m not convinced an elliptical is the right kind of fitness machine for ya in the first place. With 2 achy knees, I don’t think an elliptical, even one with a small stride length, is going to be particularly comfortable for you to use. With your pain issues, you might want to consider a recumbent bike or a recumbent cross trainer instead (I have guides on both if you’re interested). Both of these machines allow you to exercise while in a more comfortable seated position, which is going to put significantly less stress through your knees. After using the recumbent bike for awhile, your knees might be feeling better and maybe at that time you could re-visit the elliptical idea…anyway, that’s just my 2 cents. Either way, thanks for reading and good luck! PS- I’d love to hear what you ultimately decide on.
I tested out an E35 at a local sporting goods store. Even with the resistance level set at 20, it did not feel too challenging compared to the Precor EFX I used to work out on at my old gym club.
Would the E98 have an appreciable resistance that would be greater than the E35 or comparable to a Precor?
The E98 should be able to provide a little more overall resistance than the E35 considering it comes with a flywheel that’s 7 lb heavier (32 lb vs 25 lb). I checked out Precor’s Commercial EFX elliptical and it has a max resistance of 720 watt output, which is pretty intense. I couldn’t find where Sole provides any watt outputs for their ellipticals, so it’s kinda hard to compare how it stacks up to the Precor, but I would be surprised if it could match it. After all, a commercial Precor elliptical runs around $10,000 and the Sole E98 runs around $2000. That said, Sole elliptical shouldn’t feel easy at level 20- could’ve been a malfunction. Hope that helps.
Looking for a home elliptical for my wife and I. Wife is 5′-11″ and I am 6′-1″ we are both 69 and above average fitness for our age group. I am tied between the Sole E95 and the E95S. The higher cost of the S is not a show stopper. My indecision is choosing between the incline ability of the E95 versus the stride variability of the E95S. I like the heavier aspects of the E95S but the no incline is of concern. How does one choose between the two. Is the added beefiness and variable stride a good trade for the incline ability?
I think the E95S, with its variable stride length, makes sense when you have family members who are of varying heights. Being able to adjust that stride length can really come in handy in those situations. In your case, both your wife and you are pretty tall and both of you should be fine with a 20″ stride length, so I would think it makes more sense to go with the E95 where you’ll be able to take advantage of the incline settings. The E95S is a little heavier-duty, but personally, I don’t think it’s enough to make that much of a difference. The E95 still comes with a 27 lb flywheel and a 400 lb weight capacity. Hope that helps.
Thank you for your quick response and sound thinking!
My pleasure, thanks for reading!
We have now had the E95 for a couple of weeks and had sufficient time to try it out. We are definitely pleased with our choice and your recommendation of the E95 over the E95S for our situation. The incline capability of the E95 was definitely the right choice for us over the variable stride capability of the E95S, as the 20″ fixed stride of the E95 is totally adequate and works well for both of us. Thanks for your help on this!
That’s awesome, glad to hear it! My pleasure, thanks for reading and thanks for giving us an update on your purchase. Take care!
Will, helpful article, thanks! I am needing weight bearing exercise due to osteoporosis caused by a medical condition which has been fixed by an operation. I’m trying to avoid bone replacement medicines. I am almost 61 and have knee issues, so I’m leaning towards an elliptical. I’m 5’6″ with a tad over 30″ legs. I’m seriously looking at the Life Fitness e1. I have three main questions: do you feel this base model will be harmful to my knees? Do you think the fixed 20″ stride will be okay for me, and lastly, are padded pedals necessary?
Thanks so much!!!
Hi there, sorry to hear about your issues with osteoporosis and your bad knees, but it’s good to hear you’re looking for a comfortable way to exercise. Life Fitness is a great brand with an exceptional reputation for high-end equipment. Anyway, let’s address each question in order. I think the E1 would be about as comfortable as any elliptical would for ya. As a rear-drive model, it’ll probably feel a little flatter than a front-drive elliptical, which I think could be a good thing for you because it might even put a little less stress through your knees. At 5’6″, I think you’d likely be fine with a 20″ stride length- you’re actually at a pretty convenient height when it comes to ellipticals because you’d probably do fine with a slightly smaller stride as well (18″). And lastly, I don’t think cushioned pedals make that much of a difference. These ellipticals are really low impact to begin with, so I don’t think a little extra padding would make much of a difference either way. I hope that helps and I’d love to hear back from ya to hear about your decision. Thanks for reading!
I’ve been looking around and there are varying reports on what the appropriate stride length for someone with my build would be. I’m 6′ with a 32″ inseam. I used to use a Precor EFX religiously until gyms closed due to the lockdown. I really like the feel but the price…not so much. I’m debating between the Sole E95 (20″ stride) and the NordicTrack SE7i (18″). Which would be the best fit? Thanks!
Based on your height and inseam, I’d go with the 20″ stride- especially if you’re used to the Precor EFX, which depending on which model it was, was packing at least a 20″ stride length. I’m a big fan of Sole, so I’d recommend the E95 over the SE7i. Not only does it come with the longer stride you mentioned, but it also comes with a heavier flywheel, heavier-duty frame, and much better warranty. Hope that helps!
I’m looking for a home elliptical for my husband and I. My husband is 5’7″ and I am 5′ 2.5″. What would you recommend please?
FYI – I also have mild mid back issues and a torn meniscus in my right knee. Does an elliptical make the most sense?
I’m thinking an elliptical with an 18″ stride might be a good fit for both of ya. At 5’7″, your husband would probably be ok with a 20″ stride too, but that could be a bit long for you. With regards to your back/knee- ellipticals are very low impact, so as long as you’re not having pain walking around, you’d probably be ok, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try one out first just to make sure it doesn’t aggravate your meniscus. If an elliptical isn’t comfortable, you might want to try a recumbent bike or recumbent trainer, both of which are even lower impact. Hope that helps!
I think I’m in a bit of pickle in choosing an elliptical. My partner is 5’1″ and I’m 5’9″. We have never used an elliptical before, but feel that it would be the right piece of equipment to acquire. I believe my partner’s stride length is 18″.
Ideally, the Sole e95s would work for the stride disparity, but the lack of elevation control is a deal breaker. I’m concerned about the e95 having too long of a fixed stride (20″) for my partner.
Are there other models in the that price range $1800 – $2300 that have both incline and either a powered or manual adjustable stride. I’m using some rather outdated sites that have many models listed that no longer exist/manufactured, so not sure if I’m missing something out there.
Yeah, a 20″ stride might be a bit long for your partner at that height. There aren’t many adjustable stride length ellipticals out there unfortunately. The only other models I can thin of are the Diamondback 1280ef and the Diamondback 1060ef (both of which are in your price range). However neither of those come with incline functions I think. I’m not aware of any ellipticals that have both an adjustable stride length and power incline functions, sorry. Based on your heights, you could try going with an elliptical with an 18″ stride- that would probably be at the long end for your partner, but it would probably be fairly comfortable for you too. Either way, I’d love to hear what you guys decide and how it works out in the end. Thanks for reading!
Thank you for your reply. I’m having difficulty in making a decision, because comparison shopping with actual in-store models is difficult for the Sole brand. Only Dick’s Sporting is an authorized distrib, and they have limited models on display. My partner did try out the e25 and e35 and was good with the 20″ stride, but then commented on the pedal spacing being much more comfortable in the e25. Looking over the pics, it does appear that the e25 does have the pedals closer, as it is a narrower machine by 7″. I’m trying to find out dimensions of the pedal gap, because I know what is ideal, but of course can’t find that info.
That’s interesting about the spacing between the pedals- I wasn’t able to find any specifics regarding that spec either, but you might be able to find out by contacting Sole directly. At least you know a 20″ stride is ok now. Good luck!
I am 6’4″ with a 36″ inseam. What is the stride length you recommend. I would like the same workout as when I’m hiking upand down good grade hills.
Given your height, I’d recommend going with an elliptical with at least a 20″ stride length. Sole’s E95S comes with an adjustable stride length up to 24″, making it a nice option for tall folks. Diamondback Fitness also has a couple of ellipticals with manual adjustable strides. Here’s an article I did on ellipticals for tall people if you’d like to check it out: https://the-home-gym.com/the-4-best-ellipticals-for-tall-people
Do increasing incline put increasing amounts of stress on the low back and knees?
Great question – it can. Increasing the incline on many ellipticals, especially front drive models, increases the amount of knee and hip flexion that occurs during each stride. If you have achy knees or known patellofemoral issues, increasing the amount of flexion (or bend) that’s happening at the knee might be uncomfortable. Increasing the incline more closely mimics the movement pattern of going up stairs, although ellipticals are still a very low impact form of exercise. I hope that helps.
Thank you for this article! I am looking at the Fitness Reality E5500XL Magnetic Elliptical Trainer with Comfortable 18″ Stride. I am 5’3” close to 5’4” (proportionate) and will be the main user. But my husband is 5’9-10” with a 32” inseam (and long torso). Would the 18” work for me and work for him? Or is it too small for both?
I don’t want a longer Elliptical bc our space can’t really handle longer.
Hey, great question. Based on your height, I think you’d be fine with an 18″ stride length. I think your husband would be able to use this elliptical, but he’ll likely have to shorten his stride a little, based on his height. Not that that’s the worst thing in the world or anything, especially if you’ll be the primary user. I just think it’s helpful to have realistic expectations. Hope that helps, take care!
Ok so let me ask this then. For both to have comfortable stride length, what size should we get? My goal is to keeo the base 4’ or shorter which may make the right length harder to find. Thanks for the quick response!
I think a 20″ stride length would be your safest bet for you and your husband, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible while keeping the base at 4′ long (most full size ellipticals are closer to 6’+ long). So an 18″ stride is probably as large as you’ll be able to go while keeping such a compact footprint. Something else you might want to consider is going with a HIIT trainer machine – they’re very compact (less than 4′ long) and also incorporate the moving handles, but the leg movement is more of a stepping motion. Bowflex and ProForm offer them, but of course they cost a lot more than the Fitness Reality model.
Great Article! My wife and I are in a pickle… she’s 4’11” and I’m 6′ tall. We’ve always used different equipment at gyms, but now with kid, wanting something at home. We’re looking to get something low impact we can both use. Are there ellipticals that provide a 15″-20″ variable stride? Would we be better served by something like the NordicTrack FS10i ? Thanks in advance!
Ah, yes, that’s a pretty big difference in height. I’m not aware of any home ellipticals that offer a variable stride length that go as low as 15″, but Diamondback’s 1280ef let’s you select between a 17″ or 22″ stride length. Considering the likely difference between you and your wife’s strides, going with a FreeStride Trainer like NordicTrack’s FS10i could be a great idea. Sorry I can’t be of any more assistance, but thanks for reading!