The Zero Runner from Octane Fitness is a unique exercise machine that is unlike any other cardio machine out there.
It’s not just another elliptical trainer or a treadmill, it really is different than other cardio equipment.
The Zero Runner simulates the motion and experience of real running, albeit with zero impact.
Its ingenious concept, relatively small footprint, and lightweight design are what make it one of the best cardio machines you can get for your home.
But all that ergonomic technology comes at a price. The Octane Fitness Zero Runner line of machines are among the most expensive home cardio machines you can buy.
Octane Fitness makes four main models. The Zero Runner ZR7 and ZR8 are targeted more for home use and home gym setups. While the ZR7000 and ZR8000 are targeted for commercial use.
In this article, I’ll review the Zero Runner ZR7 and ZR8. However, even if you consider to purchase the ZR7000 or ZR8000, the features are pretty much the same.
You should read this if you consider buying the Zero Runner or other alternative motion cardio machines such as the Precor AMT, Cybex Arc Trainer, or the FreeStride.
First, let’s see check how the Zero Runner fares against ellipticals and treadmills in general.
Second, you’ll find in this review everything that I liked about the Zero Runner and also what not so much.
Last but not least, I’ll compare the ZR7 and ZR8 to other high-end cardio machines, and give you the top 3 alternatives to the Zero Runner.
What's So Special About the Zero Runner?
The Zero Runner is not just another elliptical or a fancy treadmill.
This machine is a cocktail of mechanical joints designed to give you an impact-free workout with incredible freedom of movement.
The hip and knee joints move with your legs as you run. This allows you complete control over your stride. It also makes you feel almost as if you were running underwater or on a space station in zero gravity.
The manufacturer, Octane Fitness, also makes two top-notch elliptical machines, the popular Q35x Elliptical and the Q47xi. But as smooth as their low-impact motions feel, neither of them can compare to the zero-gravity experience of a Zero Runner.
Octane Zero Runner vs. Ellipticals
The Zero Runner is similar to a regular elliptical in its lack of impact. However, the main benefit of the Zero Runner over an elliptical trainer is the ZR’s flexibility of motion, and that’s a huge benefit.
An elliptical makes you follow a pre-determined track shaped like an ellipse. The Zero Runner lets you adjust your running motion on the fly. You can bring your knees as high or low as you want. You can kick your heels as much or as little as feels right.
You can even do a different movement with each step. You can intersperse a regular running motion with an occasional gazelle leap to spice things up. Where an elliptical repeats the same movement over and over, the Zero Runner lets you tweak both the shape and length of each stride.
If you are a runner that hates ellipticals, the Octane Fitness Zero Runner is for you.
I have a friend who runs 7 miles almost every day, which puts a lot of toll on his body. Occasionally he complains about pain and discomfort in his legs and back.
I’ve told him to alternate his outdoor and treadmill runs with an elliptical cross trainer, but he said he just doesn’t like the movement of the elliptical.
He’s yet to try to Zero Runner, but I am dying to introduce it to him. I am sure he’ll love the motion and find it quite similar to running, at least much more than the movement of an elliptical.
Octane Zero Runner vs. Treadmills
As opposed to ellipticals, a treadmill, does give you complete freedom of movement. The problem is that this comes at the price of impact, especially when running vigorously.
Although you can do all kinds of strides and leaps on a treadmill, you then have to worry about landing. If you have problems with stiff joints and tight tendons, this may cause you quite a bit of pain.
Video of the Zero Runner Vs. Treadmill
The Zero Runner basically gives you the freedom of a treadmill combined with the zero-impact of an elliptical. The four-leg joints in the Zero Runner absorb all the impact for you. This allows you to dance your way through practically any running workout you can imagine without your sore joints paying the price.
OCTANE FITNESS ZERO RUNNER REVIEW
The ZR7 and ZR8 are the home versions of the Zero Runner (more on the ZR7000 & ZR8000 models later).
I’ll begin by saying I like them both. The ZR8 is a higher-end model that is definitely aimed more towards serious home users and athletes. But it comes at a price. The ZR8 retails typically for about $1000 more than the ZR7 does.
Zero Runner ZR7 & ZR8 Comparison
The ZR7’s legs are made from heavy-duty PVC. The legs on the ZR8 have been upgraded to aluminum, which allows for a faster stride with less wear. Both the ZR7 and ZR8 have a maximum weight capacity of 300 lbs.
The pedals on the ZR8 are a bit closer together than on the ZR7. This encourages a more natural foot position and lets you work out for longer. The pedals of the ZR8 are also more lightweight.
The ZR8 just feels more sturdy and with more attention to details. The extra features of the ZR8 won’t be worth the higher price for occasional users who are going to use the machine at low or moderate intensity for 30 minutes workouts.
However, if you plan to use the Zero Runner at a high intensity or do long workouts, and you have about an extra thousand dollars to spare, then consider getting the ZR8.
THE GOOD STUFF
Freedom of Movement
My favorite thing about the Zero Runner is its customizability. The hinge points are placed at the levels of your hips and knees, which makes the motion feels more natural.
Where exercise bikes, ellipticals, and treadmills are machines that pretty much drive you, you are the one driving the Zero Runner. You get to choose how far and how high each step takes you.
The Zero Runner helps you stay in shape without jarring your joints. If you’ve been running through pain, this machine can help you keep your runner’s body while eliminating the unnecessary stress.
Injury and Recovery Training
The complete freedom of stride allows you to work around any injury or soreness you may be experiencing. If your left knee hurts, you can wrap it up and use a step that puts as little weight as possible on the injury.
If you trained your glutes hard yesterday, you can lean backward and just focus on your other leg muscles. The lack of impact pressure combines with the freedom of movement to allow you to work out without aggravating problematic areas.
Low Step-up Height
If you don’t feel steady on your feet, you’ll appreciate how simple it is to mount the Zero Runner. The pedals are about seven inches from the floor, which makes it easy to get on without losing your balance.
The Zero Runner low step-up height also means the machine is more ideal for rooms with low ceilings. If you are of average height, you may fit the Zero Runner even in a room with just 8 feet ceiling.
The Zero Runner is built around a top-notch mechanical system made from high-quality, lightweight materials. You can feel the quality as soon as you step on the machine. Given the unique exercise motion, and the though mechanics of the machine, I find the price of the Zero Runner quite reasonable.
If you have picky neighbors or sleeping children, you won’t have to worry about making a racket with the Zero Runner.
Adjustable Resistance Per Pedal
The ZR7 comes with three levels of resistance, and the ZR8 comes with an even wider range. You can change the tension of each pedal separately.
Upper Body Workout Independent of Lower Body
Besides the stationary grips, this machine also comes with movable handlebars. This means that if your legs get tired, it’s easy to lock your knees in place and ‘pedal’ with your arms.
Includes Resistance Bands for Full Body Strength Training
For even more variety, the ZR7 and 8 provide a set of resistance bands and seven connection points across the body of the machine.
The resistance bands are not a gimmick, they truly are effective. You can get a real tough whole body workout if you want to.
If you want to combine a bit of strength training along with your cardio, you can hop off the pedals, hook up the resistance bands, and target specific muscles with strength exercises.
The Zero Runner combined with resistance bands, giving you the best of both worlds, cardio and strength, kind of like your own home gym in one machine.
Polar HR Monitor Included
If you like tracking your exercise specs, you’ll love all the sensors, especially on the ZR8. It has both Polar and ANT+ wireless technology, along with a free Polar heart rate strap.
Polar is the gold standard in heart rate monitors and considered the most accurate amongst HR monitors.
It’s nice that Octane Fitness decided to include the Polar HRT chest strap as standard with the ZR8. The ZR7 doesn’t include the Polar HR monitor out of the box, but you can add it as an accessory later on.
Besides the heart rate strap, the ZR7 and ZR8 have standard built-in contact sensors on the stationary grips, reading your heart rate by gripping the handles. There’s also Bluetooth compatibility.
The ZR8 is compatible with Octane Fitness SmartLink app, which allows you to track your workouts over time. You can also create your own workout programs customized to your specific goals.
Read Comfortably While You Train
This is an overlooked feature, but you’ll find that your head is relatively steady while working out on the Zero Runner. You can put your phone, tablet, or a book on the provided rack and get in some reading while working out.
If you love to multitask or have too much work on your plate, the Zero Runner will let you run while you keep working without breaking stride, however don’t expect to be able to do anything more than just reading as you arms will be holding the handles.
I actually expected this as I’ve heard others mention that the Zero Runner’s motion takes a bit of getting used to. If you’re motivated, though, you’ll be Zero Running like a pro after just a couple of workouts.
Weird Resistance Knob Location
The downside of the adjustable resistance is that the knobs are on the back of the machine. This means you’ll have to pause your workout every time you want to make an adjustment.
Quirky ZR7 Console
Not everybody has an issue, but I’ve heard a few users complained about the console on the ZR7, I can see why. You’d expect a fancier display and more workout programs for the high price of the machine. The pace monitor only updates at 10-second intervals and may be confused if your stride varies from the norm, though I think that is intentional.
The console doesn’t store data between sessions, so if you try to customize a program or save your user information, you may be disappointed.
Also, you may consider this nitpicking, and it is, but for paying a premium price, we decided to mention it anyway. It’s a bit difficult to change the batteries. You may need a screwdriver and a bit of bending over, not a deal-breaker, of course, but just something to be aware of.
Basic Fitness App
The Octane Fitness app is available for iOS and Android, but the Android version might not work flawlessly with all phones. That’s especially true for the ZR7. The ZR8, on the other hand, does not suffer from these issues. It seems that Octane made improvements in terms of connectivity in their ZR8 model.
The lifespan of the shock absorbers in both the ZR7 and ZR8 might wear quicker for some users than others. That might be noticeable with long exercise sessions. As the machine ages, the shocks click more until the welds finally break, and you have to replace them.
The good thing is that the Octane Fitness provides 5 years warranty on parts, 1 year on labor, and a lifetime warranty on frame.
WHAT REGULAR USERS SAY ABOUT THE ZERO RUNNER
I spent a lot of time reviewing the machine and making sure I covered all the important stuff about the Zero Runner.
However, I decided I also want to hear from people who have been using the machine for a while. Even if you get a chance to test a machine at the shop, it’s hard to judge how good it is by using it only briefly.
So I found people who bought the machine and used it for a good amount of time to see how reliable the machine is and what they think after using it regularly.
Listening to people who have had this machine in their home for a while, I can only say that I am even more impressed with the Zero Runner.
Don’t forget to come back after watching the videos to read my conclusion.
Dave is a runner who uses the Octane ZR for training
Mike uses the ZR7 at his home
In my opinion (and the opinion of others!), the Zero Runner is one of the top cardio machines out there. It’s undoubtedly unique in its no-impact running-mimicking movement.
The Zero Runner gives you a full-body workout with no impacts and no joint stress.
While the ZR is first a foremost a cardio machine, don’t forget you can do an effective full body strength training workout with the included set of resistance bands.
The ZR is great for injury therapy and allows you to target specific muscle groups and rest the rest. If you have problems with balance or pain, this machine is designed to keep you safe and comfortable.
If you enjoy exercising by the numbers, the ZR8 is better at sensing and tracking your exercise data. It is also compatible with more devices than the ZR7.
If you are looking for a low impact cardio machine for home, love running but dislikes ellipticals, the Zero Runner ZR7 and ZR8 are as close as it gets to normal running.
The ZR7000 and ZR8000 Commercial Models
The commercial versions of the ZR7 and ZR8 are sold as the ZR7000 and ZR8000. They look almost exactly the same as, but they have a few key differences that will appeal, particularly in a heavy-duty setting.
The ZR7000 and ZR8000 are big machines with a footprint much larger than the ZR7 and ZR8. They also weigh about twice as much.
The ZR8 weighs about 190 lbs while the ZR8000 weighs over 350 lbs. The footprint of the ZR8 is 38″ x 63″ vs. the ZR8000’s at 43.2” x 69.6”.
The additional reinforcement allows the commercial ZR7000 & ZR8000 to take 100 extra pounds of weight for a total maximum user capacity of 400 lbs.
The commercial versions also cost about double the price of the home versions.
So unless you need the machine for heavy-duty use, or in a residential or commercial gym, the ZR8 should satisfy all personal needs and beyond.
I got to say that for the price of the commercial Zero Runner models, you might want to check out the Precor AMT 835 Adaptive Motion Trainer. The Precor AMT is another excellent commercial-grade machine with a motion that is kind of a hybrid between a treadmill and an elliptical trainer. The other option is the Cybex Arc Trainer.
The Best Alternatives to the Zero Runner
Although the Octane Zero Runner is unique in its running-mimicking motion, there are other cardio machines that well worth mentioning.
The following are the top three machines that provide a low impact cardio workout yet with an exercise movement that is different from mainstream elliptical machines.
Precor AMT 835 Adaptive Motion Trainer vs. Zero Runner
Precor is a well-established international brand of commercial gym equipment. I’ve seen the Precor in many gyms in many countries throughout the years. Precor’s reputation speaks for itself.
The Precor AMT 835 is a commercial-grade exercise machine. Sure you can buy it for home use (and some do), and it would be a nice addition to your home gym, but expect to pay a lot.
The Precor AMT 835 may cost two to three times the cost of the Zero Runner ZR8 machine, and it is more in line with the prices of the Zero Runner ZR8000 commercial model.
Compared to the Zero Runner, Precor feels a bit more stable and secure. Although the ZRs feel stable in motion, the extreme freedom of movement can make you feel a bit shaky if you stop moving, and this is by design. If you need to take regular breaks while working out, perhaps to drink water or rest, you may feel more balanced on the Precor.
At only 38 inches, the Precor has a much shorter stride length than the Zero Runners.
The AMT 835 is not a typical elliptical trainer, hence why Precor named the machine Adaptive Motion Trainer. However, for our taste, the exercising motion still feels a little more elliptical-ish, at least more than running.
That might be truer if you tend to use longer strides. Although short steps feel natural, it can start to feel like you’re on a pre-programmed track once you start running hard.
You can adjust the Precor’s resistance directly from the console. This beats the Zero Runners’ resistance knobs for sure. The Zero Runner knobs located behind the machine, requiring you to adjust resistance before the workout or pausing your workout in the middle to adjust the resistance. This feature alone of the Precor might make some users go for the Precor AMT 835 over the Octane Fitness Zero Runner.
The Precor runs on an internal generator. Like the Zero Runner, it doesn’t need to be plugged in. However, the downside is that to use the Precor’s console, you have to start pedaling for a couple of seconds to generate some electricity. The Zero Runner’s console runs on batteries.
Cybex Arc Trainer vs. Zero Runner
Cybex is one of the most prestigious and well-recognized exercise equipment manufacturers out there.
The company is known for not just making premium cardio machines, but also as a manufacturer of top-notch commercial gym equipment and high-end home gym equipment.
The Cybex Arc Trainer price range is about the same as a Zero Runner.
The pedals on the Arc Trainer are connected to each other and move in tandem. When you push one side forward, the other side moves backward.
This gives you less freedom of movement and more of a feeling of the machine driving you rather than you driving it. On the other hand, it also provides a bit more stability. Because the pedals are connected, it’s easier to stand still on a Cybex Arc Trainer without your feet shaking under you.
The Arc Trainer’s footplates are designed to remain level with the ground at all times. The ZR’s footplates change angles along with the hip and knee joints. This gives extra stability points to the Arc Trainer.
Depending on your biomechanics and how long your legs are, you might notice the Cybex works your hamstrings slightly more than other similar cardio machines.
Another big difference between the Zero Runner and the Arc Trainer is the resistance.
The Arc’s resistance is load dependent. It changes depending on the weight of the user. The idea is that a giant person will get about the same amount of exercise on an Arc Trainer as a tiny person. I really liked this feature as you get just the right amount of resistance you need. You can kind of game the machine by entering a different weight on the console, and the resistance should change accordingly.
In my experience, Cybex machines in general, are incredibly reliable and are built like tanks. They aren’t fancy and shiny, but they just work.
New Cybex Arc Trainer machines are hard to find and are very expensive.
The cheaper options (relatively speaking) are getting a renewed Cybex from Amazon, which has the advantage of knowing what you get and having some kind of warranty.
Also, if you want to save money, it’s easier to find used 770AT Arc Trainer on Amazon, which is safer than buying from a stranger on eBay or Craigslist.
NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS9i vs. Zero Runner
The NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS9i costs about half as much as a Zero Runner (check the current price on Amazon).
The FS9i uses a belt suspension system that attaches two independent footplates to a set of pivoting rollers. Its pre-programmed range of motion that once again feels more like an elliptical than a zero-gravity run.
The stride length is also shorter on the FS9i than on a Zero Runner. With a maximum length of 38 inches, it is only a bit longer than the above Precor AMT.
One area where the FreeStride Trainer really shines is the console. It has a high-resolution display with convenient and easy to use controls.
It’s easier to control the resistance on the FS9i. The buttons are located right on the machine’s movable handlebars. You can also control the angle of incline from the same place.
Octane Fitness Zero Runner, on the other hand, has a quirky console that doesn’t fit the machine’s otherwise excellent mechanics.
A noticeable flow of the FreeStride Trainer is that sometimes, the pedals may bump quite frequently into the limiting stops. The limiting stops keep the footplates on track, but they make a jarring noise every time this happens. It might contribute to a higher degree of wear and tear.
I think that the Zero Runner ZR7 and ZR8 are superior in design quality and freedom of movement to the NordicTrack FS9i.
NordicTrack does make some pretty good home exercise equipment, but in this case, I think the Zero Runner gives much better value than the NordicTrack FS9i does.
Buying a Used Octane Fitness Zero Runner
The cost of the Octane Fitness Zero Runner can put it beyond the reach of most average people. The good news is that you can get the price down quite a bit by buying a used version.
If you are lucky you can find a used or a refurbished ZR7 or ZR8 Runner on Amazon for about a grand or so less than a new one.
I’ve also seen used Zero Runners for sale on eBay as well as in a few local listings on Craigslist across the US. Many of these have slight cosmetic wear, but continue to work well.
If you plan to buy a used ZR, I recommend you check the shocks yourself. If that’s not possible, ask the seller to send you closeup photos of the various parts of the machine to make sure it’s in good condition.
Most importantly, make sure the welds that connect the shocks to the frame are in no danger of coming loose.
Try if possible to find a used machine that is still under warranty.