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How To Find The Best Elliptical Stride Length To Fit You Perfectly

the best elliptical stride length

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 HeightOptimal 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

 

Will

20 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Hi,
    I am a 5’8” female with long legs (34” inseam). Would you recommend a 19”stride length?
    Thx

  6. Hi,
    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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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