What Stride Length Elliptical do I Need?

What Stride Length Elliptical do I Need
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So, you are in the market for a new elliptical trainer; you have started to look around and have just realized that purchasing an elliptical trainer is no easy task. Suddenly you realize that the elliptical trainers differ from brand to brand and model to model. 

You are faced with terms such as drive belt, flywheel, resistance, stride and many more, and you are starting to feel slightly overwhelmed.

There are many things to consider when buying the best elliptical trainer for you and brand name and price are the last thing that will influence your decision about which one you will buy. For now, let's focus on stride distance, what it is, and why it is so important.

What is Stride Distance

What is Stride Distance?

Stride distance is measured as the distance between the farthest points of the ellipticals pedals. The higher the distance, the bigger your step; the shorter the stride distance, the shorter your step. You will be forgiven for thinking that the shorter the stride distance the easier it is to pedal; however, this is not true or how it works. Most ellipticals have a stride distance of between 12 and 23 inches.

When you buy an elliptical trainer the stride length will be noted on the list of features or in the user manual; however, if you are buying a second-hand elliptical and no longer have access to this information you are able to measure the distance yourself. Here is how.

First, you will need to locate the foot pedals and flywheel; check if it is a rear-drive or a front drive. This is an important step as it will influence your final calculation. If the flywheel is behind the foot pedals, then it is a rear-drive elliptical; if the flywheel is in front of the pedals, then it is a front-drive elliptical.

Once you have determined this, you will need to extend the pedals as far apart from each other as possible. Take out your measuring tape and measure the distance between the farthest point of the toe on the front pedal and the farthest point on the heel of the back-foot pedal. If it is a front drive elliptical, you need to deduct 2 inches off the measurement as a front drive elliptical generally has a flatter motion which means an 18-inch stride on a front drive is equal to a 16-inch stride on a rear drive elliptical.

Measure your height. If you are under 5’3” you will be best suited to an elliptical trainer with a stride length of between 16 and 18 inches. If you are between 5’4” and 6’7” the stride distance you are looking for is between 18 and 21 inches. A simple rule of thumb is the shorter you are the shorter the stride distance; the taller you are the longer the stride distance.

Why is Stride Distance Important

Why is Stride Distance Important?

Now that you know what stride distance is, you will want to know why it is so important. The idea behind an elliptical trainer is to try and replicate your natural stepping action. If you are walking and try to take larger steps than your normal stride, you will feel unbalanced and uncomfortable and the same applies if you try and take shorter strides than your natural stride distance.

This is how the stride distance on an elliptical will affect your exercise. A tall person on an elliptical trainer with a small stride distance will find the motion to be jerky, unnatural, and very uncomfortable, and vice versa with a short person on an elliptical trainer with a long stride distance.

So, to avoid injury and discomfort and to get the most out of every workout, you need an elliptical trainer that matches your stride distance.

The flip side of the coin is that a short person exercising on a long stride elliptical exercises different muscle groups; this is great if you have an elliptical trainer with an adjustable stride, so you can add some variety into your routine, however, doing it long term will just result in discomfort.

As you can see, there is no straightforward answer to the question of what stride length elliptical you need. Each person is different, and it will depend on your height. Use the tips given here to determine the best stride length on an elliptical trainer for you.


If you are looking to buy an elliptical trainer that will be used by more than one person and they differ in height, you may want to look at a model that has adjustable stride distance feature. While they may be more expensive than the models without it, the extra dollars you initially spend will be worth it.

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