What the Hell Is Going on With Peloton’s Deadly Treadmills?

The fitness giant just recalled 125,000+ machines. Here's what you need to know.

peloton treadmill
The unique design of Peloton's treadmill has led to dozens of injuries.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In a startling role reversal yesterday, Peloton announced that it is recalling more than 125,000 of its treadmills. For weeks, the connected fitness giant had disputed a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which issued an “urgent warning” in mid-April for Americans to “stop using the Peloton Tread+.”

The concern hinges on a number of troubling incidents where children have become “entrapped, pinned, and pulled under the rear roller of the product,” putting them at risk of “abrasions, fractures and death.” At the time of the commission’s press release, there were 39 reported injuries and one death — a six-year-old child passed away in March. But while Peloton acknowledged the tragic incident in an open letter, it also later pushed back against the CPSC, citing “inaccurate and misleading” information.

Now, it would seem, Peloton CEO John Foley has seen enough. A graphic video online shows exactly how children can get swallowed inside the sizable amount of space between the Tread+’s unusual, rail-style rubberized slats and the floor. And the number of incidents is now up to 72, with some adults and even pets getting caught in the machine.

It’s led to a total recall of the Tread+, and for good measure, the smaller Tread (which was released just last fall, and actually has a different, safer design compared to the Tread+). To this point, Peloton’s advice was pretty DIY: “Lock the door when you’re using the Tread+, keep it in a room that children and pets can’t reach, unplug the device when not in use.” And so on. But the company now has to implement actual software changes, like updating the programming to require an iPhone-esque passcode anytime someone wants to use it.

Meanwhile, in what sounds like the logistical nightmare of the century, Peloton is giving its users until November 2022 to return their treadmills for a full refund. If trainees want to keep their treadmills, Peloton staff will come to their homes to safety-proof the entire operation — including software changes and a physical move to another room, if necessary. This is a brand, remember, that’s famously struggled to deliver its way-too-popular bike on time. Earlier this year, Peloton had to invest $100 million to make sure people who ordered bikes over Christmas could get them before July.

The likelihood of this recall going smoothly, then, is fairly low. And the optics of offering full refunds for thousands of $4,200 treadmills have, unsurprisingly, hurt Peloton stock. It absolutely plummeted yesterday, and is down 40% year to date. It’s a harsh penalty, and probably has higher-ups in Hudson Yards wondering whether getting into treadmills was ever worth it — the equipment only makes up 2.2% of the brand’s business.

So, is this all Peloton’s fault? Disputing the CSPC in the wake of a child’s death was a pretty terrible look. But Peloton has maintained from the beginning that the Tread+ was for people over the age of 16. And in addition to the plug, which can be pulled out at any time, there’s a handy safety key on the machine (without which the Tread+ won’t work at all), which can be proactively taken out and stored away in a drawer after a run. There’s also some basic treadmill safety that anyone running with a motorized treadmill — as opposed to a manual treadmill, which only responds to your movements — should know before bringing one into their home.

That includes:

  • Making sure your treadmill is set up in a spacious room, in case you need an emergency dismount
  • Standing on the outer slats of the belt before firing up the machine
  • Finishing your run gradually — you never want to abruptly pause the machine
  • Removing the safety key after each use and placing it in a safe spot
  • Unplugging your device after each use and tucking the cord underneath the machine so children can’t get at it

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