Urgent Safety Warning Issued for Peloton Tread+ Treadmill

The treadmill has been linked to dozens of injuries in children, including one death, according to the CPSC

peloton tread
The Peloton Tread+ treadmill.

Update, May 5: Peloton has recalled its Tread and Tread+ treadmills, according to the Consumer Product Safety Comission. On April 21, CR removed the Peloton Tread+ from our ratings.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission today issued a safety warning about the Peloton Tread+, saying that the company’s popular treadmill has been linked to at least 39 incidents since 2018, including dozens of injuries to children. One child died.

The agency cautioned consumers with small children or pets at home “to stop using the product immediately.”

The CPSC, which oversees approximately 15,000 types of consumer products, has urged Peloton to recall its $4,300, top-of-the-line exercise machine and cease its sale, a request the company has so far refused, according to a CPSC spokesperson.

The spokesperson also told Consumer Reports that some of the design features unique to the Peloton Tread+—notably its height off the ground and its belt mechanism—may make the treadmill particularly dangerous, meaning there may be no safe way to use the product. (Peloton changed its treadmill’s name from Tread to Tread+, and is introducing a new, smaller Tread later this spring in the U.S.) The agency is currently investigating the treadmill’s potentially hazardous design elements.

More On Treadmills

The Peloton Tread+ (formerly called the Peloton Tread) is the top-rated treadmill in CR’s tests, and received a top score for user safety, which includes factors such as the size and location of the stop button, how quickly the belt stops when the safety key is removed, and whether users could easily strike the motor’s cover with their feet when running or walking.

The government’s announcement is unusual, says William Wallace, CR’s manager of safety policy. “The CPSC may issue a warning like this when it decides that a product puts people at an unreasonable risk of injury or death but the manufacturer won’t agree to a recall,” he says. He points out that the CPSC can be hamstrung in its ability to force a recall or issue a warning because of laws that make it difficult for the agency to take action in a timely manner without a company’s permission.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has also called for Peloton to recall the product, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., has asked for details about the CPSC’s investigation into the treadmill’s safety.

Unique Hazards

A CPSC spokesperson told CR that the Peloton Tread+ poses unique dangers, causing children, and in some cases pets and objects, to be “sucked under” the treadmill’s belt. The agency’s announcement includes a disturbing video of this happening to a child. While the child was uninjured, the video demonstrates the risk posed by the treadmill.

Often treadmill injuries result from falls or deceleration or acceleration of the machine’s belt, the CPSC official said. In this case, “it’s not the typical hazard pattern.”

“We see a range of injuries—from broken bones, abrasions, and burns to the children who fractured all four limbs or incurred a serious brain injury—and then there is a fatality,” the spokesperson said, referring to the widely publicized death of a child tied to the Tread+ made public last month. “These are more severe injuries than you would imagine with a treadmill.”

Even more concerning is that the injuries can happen when the treadmill is being used according to the manufacturer’s directions.

“One of the things that makes this different is that the incidents can occur while an adult is operating the treadmill properly,” the spokesperson said. “There have been incidents where an exercise ball gets sucked in while someone is operating the treadmill, causing the person to be bucked off the treadmill.”

A spokesperson for Peloton said to CR in a statement that the CPSC’s warning is unwarranted: “We are disappointed that the CPSC is mischaracterizing the situation. The Peloton Tread+ is safe for use at home when operated as directed and in accordance with our warnings and safety instructions. As a reminder, the Tread+ is not for children under 16 and children, pets, and objects need to be kept away from the Tread+ at all times.”

The company added that “when the Tread+ is not in use, Members should continue to follow the safety instructions by storing the safety key, which keeps the Tread+ from operating, away from the Tread+ and out of reach of children.”

The CPSC spokesperson, however, said that “not everybody that owns a treadmill has a dedicated room for it, so this idea that you can keep your Peloton separate from your small children and your pets is not realistic.”

The Problem With Product Safety Laws

While Peloton might launch a recall at some point, Wallace says the current situation highlights how federal product safety laws leave the CPSC constrained if a company does not want to cooperate. The CPSC cannot force companies to issue a recall without taking them to court, even when the agency’s safety experts have tied a hazardous product to deaths or serious injuries.

The agency is also required, in most cases, to get permission from manufacturers before releasing information to the public about a specific product’s dangers. Companies often can restrict the information that’s released and negotiate the language used. The process is time-consuming.

“A product can put children at a serious risk of getting hurt or killed, and right now, it can remain for sale while the manufacturer claims that there’s no safety issue,” Wallace says.

CR and other safety advocates are pressing Congress to remove or reform the provisions that constrain the CPSC and hinder its ability to protect the public from hazardous products.

In the Peloton case, the CPSC spokesperson said that once the risk became clear, the agency decided to act as quickly as possible to notify consumers. “Everybody is at home, and [may be] exercising,” said the spokesperson, who asked, “How can you sleep at night knowing what is happening and not tell the public?”

Safety Steps You Can Take

Despite today’s warning about the Peloton Tread+, it is not the only treadmill model linked to injuries. According to the CPSC, there were an estimated 22,500 treadmill injuries in 2019, around 2,000 of those involving children younger than 8. And between 2018 and 2020, the agency received reports of 17 deaths related to treadmill use.

John Galeotafiore, associate director of product testing at Consumer Reports, says that treadmills of any kind are major pieces of equipment, with fast running belts and powerful motors, which, if not handled properly, can cause serious harm, not just to children, but also to adults. “Even if you’re a younger, healthy adult, you still need to be careful when using exercise equipment such as treadmills,” he says.

If you own a treadmill—any brand—follow these safety tips.

Keep kids away from the equipment. Consumer Reports says that you should be sure that children can’t access the treadmill and that they are not nearby when it’s in use.

Turn it off. Galeotafiore says it’s critical to make the treadmill inoperable when you aren’t using it so that children don’t inadvertently set it in motion. To do this, remove the safety key—the device that attaches to the console at one end and clips onto your clothing at the other—and store it away from the treadmill. Once the key is out, the belt won’t move.

Give it space. Leave at least 2 feet of clearance on each side of a treadmill, and leave 6 feet open behind it to reduce the likelihood of falling into a wall or being wedged between the machine and a wall or a piece of furniture.

Always use the safety key while using the treadmill. If you fall, it will disconnect from the machine and the belt will stop. This will prevent additional injury, such as friction burns.

Don’t stand on the belt when you turn the treadmill on. Instead, straddle the belt when starting up the machine because this will prevent you from getting knocked off your feet.

Never step off a moving treadmill. Let the belt come to a complete stop before dismounting.

Look straight ahead. You’re more likely to lose your balance when you’re looking at your feet.

Maintain the machine. Keep the treadmill in top working order by lubricating it according to the manufacturer’s directions, tightening loose hardware (using only manual tools), and consistently wiping up any sweat—especially on the hand grips and controls.

If you have had an injury or a near miss with a Peloton Tread+ treadmill, or another household product, you can report it to the CPSC at SaferProducts.gov.

Rachel Rabkin Peachman

I'm a science journalist turned investigative reporter on CR's Special Projects team. My job is to shed light on issues affecting people's health, safety, and well-being. I've dug deep into problems such as dangerous doctors, deadly children's products, and contamination in our food supply. Got a tip? Follow me on Twitter (@RachelPeachman).