The Best Step Machines of 2018

You know that you need to work out, but finding the time to get to the gym is difficult between everything else you need to do. This is where the convenience of having your own stair stepper machine or stairmaster machine would be obviously beneficial. The luxury of being able to work out in the privacy of your own home whenever you want is clear. But what is not as obvious would be what are the best step machines on the market in 2019. Here, I will review some of the best machines and help you find the best for your budget and needs.

The Benefits of Step Machines

The benefits of a stair stepper machine are multi-faceted. First of all, stair steppers provide a low-impact workout which is easier on the body than many other aerobic exercises which jar and shock the joints. While there are risks of strain to the knees, this is an issue with any leg exercises, and a doctor should be consulted before beginning any regimen.

A stair stepper, like an elliptical trainer, also targets many of the muscle groups of the lower body, including the buttocks, legs, calves and thighs. This can improve muscle toning and does not overwork the body like weight machines potentially could. Also, because stair exercises are aerobic exercises, they are great for cardiovascular health, even at lower intensities.

For the purpose of this discussion, I'll consider two types of step machines: the stepper and the climber.


A stair stepper is fairly simple and usually easy to store in your home gym. They tend to be comprised of two pads for the feet with either hydraulics or rubber bands to add resistance. Depending on the model, there are usually handles to help you keep your balance while using the stepper and resistance bands to provide an upper body workout. Steppers add a twisting motion to the range of motion, allowing you to strengthen your core muscle groups in the lower back.


Climbers attempt to emulate rock climbing through an apparatus that combines arm and leg movements. These models are usually a few feet tall and have places for your feet to connect to a long bar with handles for your hands. While at first, this might not seem like a very challenging workout, but many novices are only able to handle a couple of minutes before their bodies can adjust.

While available for sale, there are motorized steppers that you would find in gyms and health clubs, but the cost and size of these units make them a little too steep for most consumers. Here, we will look at steppers and climbers that retail for less than $200.

Akonza Stepper with Handle Bar

The first is a very budget friendly stair stepper called the Akonza. What makes this stepper unique is its price point. The handlebar height is adjustable, ensuring comfort for users no matter how tall. The tension pulley system makes for a very smooth step. One issue is that the tension adjustment did not seem to have much range; no matter how much I turned the knob, the resistance didn't seem to change much if at all.


  • Height adjustable handlebar
  • Stable, not much risk of tipping
  • LCD clock displays time, calories burnt, steps taken
  • Independently hydraulic pistons
  • Adjustable tension pulley system provides smooth, natural movement


  • Difficult to store, handlebars do not fold down
  • Minimal difference between different tensions
  • LCD can be difficult to read

Among the lower priced entries of steppers is the Titan Fitness Twister model. This unit gets around the issues faced by steppers that do not have handlebars by providing resistance bands that allow you to work your upper body. These straps can be removed if you do not want to use them.This unit also has a low profile, so you can store it under a bed or an end table. It's quiet enough to be used without disturbing others in the same room, but the LCD is not easy to read while in use.


  • Low profile for easy storage
  • Resistance bands give the option of working the upper body
  • Operates quietly
  • Adjustable resistance for foot pedals
  • No assembly required
  • Ready to use out of the box


  • Difficult to read LCD screen when in use
  • May not fit larger feet properly

The Sunny Health and Fitness Mini Stepper definitely looks like a cheap stepper. It is small with very few frills. But along with the size and low cost come some unexpected advantages. Weighing only twelve pounds, this machine can easily be stored in a suitcase for use while traveling, or left at the office to work out during a break.

Unfortunately, some heavier users have had issues with the bolts and footplates breaking after only a few weeks of use. The resistance can be finicky and require adjustment.


  • Low price
  • Small size makes it ideal for travel
  • Ready to use out of the box


  • Can break after limited usage
  • LCD counter can unreliable
  • Low Quality Resistance Bands

The Wagan EL2273 Mini Stepper provides most of the things that a more expensive machine might have, but without the frills. This machine takes up very little floor space. Assembly is simple, and the device is light enough to move around the house with ease. With this efficiency does come a few drawbacks.

This stair stepper does not fold down for easy storage in your home gym. Nor does it allow for an upper body workout, since the handles do not adjust for height. This model can feel stiff and requires greasing to prevent squeaks.


  • Small machine does not take up much space.
  • Simple design allows for quick assembly
  • Lightweight and easy to move.


  • Machine feels stiff and squeaks.
  • Handles cannot be adjusted to your height

What's surprising about this model is that even with its low price it is durable and stable. It's difficult to tip over and does not seem to have the issues one would expect when buying something in its price range.It has twelve different tension settings that are distinct and easy to set up. One problem with this unit is that the hydraulic pistons can leak.


  • Lower priced than almost any other climber on the market
  • Very few issues with breakage
  • Wide variance in tension settings


  • Pistons are prone to leakage
  • Maximum recommend weight of 220 pounds

This model offers a climbing workout in an economical and easy-to-set-up package. In spite of its slim profile, the 3.0 has ergonomic handles for both the stationary and the moving segments. One issue with this unit is that it doesn't have any resistance options, making it an isometric trainer.


  • Lower in cost to other similar climbers
  • Ergonomic handles allow for a comfortable grip
  • Smooth and quiet in operation


  • Can't adjust resistance
  • Steel frame can dent easily

An issue with many climbers is that the intensity of the workout mandates the need for a warmup before starting. In a gym, this is not much of an issue as you can spend a little time on a bike or treadmill to begin to loosening up muscles and get your heart rate going. The Ancheer Total Workout Climber makes this possible to achieve at home by offering a micro-resistance bike, something that is rare for exercisers at this price point. 

This model also has padded grips, and a 330 pound recommended weight limit, providing comfort and sturdiness. Ancheer is a relatively new Chinese company, meaning there is not much reputation either positive or negative and customer service appears to be lacking for any warranty issues.


  • Added exercise bike allows for warm up
  • Sturdy
  • Five-degree incline ensures safe usage with little chance of tipping


  • No resistance adjustment on the bike
  • Has pink accents, and not everyone likes pink

Well known as a mainstay of late-night infomercials, the Gazelle Freestyle offers a full body workout like a climber with the low impact of a stair stepper.

This elliptical trainer allows for a full range of motion and lets you change your pace seamlessly. The LCD offers the standard features as well as providing a pulse monitor. This machine requires a lot of space and does not allow for resistance adjustments. It's a great addition to any home gym.


  • Allows for a full range of motion
  • Offers a low-impact, easy workout
  • Pulse monitor allows you to track heart rate automatically
  • Folds up for storage when not in use


  • Only isometric resistance
  • Requires space to operate safely
  • Difficult to store

Burning 500 calories an hour, the Maxi Climber Vertical offers a complete workout without stressing your lower body. Almost entirely assembled on delivery, this unit can be quickly and easily set up and taken apart as needed. It is lightweight in construction, so it can be prone to breaking when used by heavier exercisers. It tends to rock a bit when used at higher intensities and doesn't provide much resistance for your arms.


  • Quick to set up
  • Gives a great cardiovascular workout


  • Tends to rock with intense use
  • Heavier users may notice rocking even at lower intensity

Best StairMaster for Home

Stairmaster SM3

The StairMaster SM3 brings the toughness of a commercial unit like that you might find in the gym in your home. This machine provides a high-intensity workout for people with space limitations. With a variety of workout options, such as Calorie Burner, Fat Burner, Heart Rate Zone Trainer, and Heart Rate Intervals, you can get some of the most efficient cardio and strength workouts.

  • 8-Foot Height Ceiling Clearance
  • Front Wheels for Easy Transport
  • Automatic Safety Sensor
  • Star
    Heart Rate Contact Sensor
  • Star
    Console with Large Backlit LCD display


  • Perfect for the Home
  • Highly Effective Workouts


  • Noisy
  • Takes a Long Time to Assemble

Stairmaster 7000 PT

With a patented revolving staircase, this high-quality machine offers an incredible lower-body, cardio workout. Some of the goodies included are a backlit LCD display, a reading rack, an accessory tray, and a water bottle holder. The display console is advanced with 20 resistance levels and 6 programs. You'll always have instruction to ensure you'll make progress. 8"-high stairs provides a realistic stair-climbing experience.

  • Electronically Controlled Alternator Brake
  • Wireless Heart Rate Monitor
  • Reading Rack
  • Star
    Wireless Entertainment System Control Pad
  • Star
    Wide Range of Climbing Speeds


  • Suitable for Beginners and Pro Athletes Alike
  • Great Warranty
  • Runs Smoothly


  • Installation is not Included in Price

Stairmaster SM5

Similar to the other StepMills in this list, this commercial machine has 8-inch stairs. This one of the best stair climber machines you can buy. Ranging from 26 to 162 steps a minute, you can complete 10 total workout programs with this device. You can monitor your progress, and heart rate with an easy-to-ride 2 window backlit LCD display. One thing to keep in mind is that his machine requires a 10-foot high ceiling.

  • Multi-Stage CPAT Fire-Fit Test
  • Electronically Controlled Alternator
  • Quiet Step Design
  • Star
    Ergonomically Designed Handrails


  • Easy to Read Display
  • Excellent Support from StairMaster


  • Some Assembly Required
  • Requires a 9 to a 10-foot Ceiling for use

Jacob's Ladder

You might recognize this one as the machine being used by the character Axelrod in the hit show Billions. This machine is intense. It provides a full body workout using both your arms and legs for a superior cardio workout. It’s low impact, so it should relieve any unnecessary stress on your hips or lower back. It is commercial grade quality, but still suitable for the home. And it’s a highly sought-after fitness machine in most gyms.

  • Automatic Speed Adjustments
  • Belt and Tether Activation System
  • Small footprint
  • Star
    115 V/AC/5 Watts


  • Works the Whole Body


  • Pricey for a Machine in this Category


Whether looking a stepper or a climber, there are many options available at budget-friendly prices. All of these options are low impact and perfect for anyone worried about injuring their joints and ligaments.

  • Click here for more great cardio equipment recommendations for calorie burning workouts at home!