The 4 best exercise balls we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An exercise ball is perfect for working on stability and flexibility and makes bodyweight exercises harder.
  • The best exercise balls have a durable exterior, are mild flexibility, and retain air well.
  • Our top pick, the TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball, has thick walls and holds air even if punctured.

Exercise balls might seem like a boring piece of workout equipment that sits in the corner of the gym with no one using it. But that’s only because it’s an overlooked dark horse – the benefits of adding one to your workout far outweigh any perceived dullness. In fact, as a part of a home gym setup, an exercise ball has the ability to greatly improve one’s core strength while also helping hone balance and flexibility.

Whether it accompanies a daily workout routine or becomes the central focal point, an exercise ball can be an important part of anyone’s plan to keep fit and healthy. (For what it’s worth, while many used to think using an exercise ball in lieu of your home office chair was better for your spine, experts actually recommend against it now.)

To find the best exercise balls worth using, I tested an assortment of models from brands like TheraBand, DynaPro, and Wacces. The goal was to find those that fit a variety of use cases, like being portable or constructed of a thicker material that increases its durability. After spending the last several months using exercise balls as both my office chair and main workout partner, I narrowed the list down to my four favorites listed below.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into what to look for in a quality ball, the exact benefits of using one, and why they’re an important part of anyone’s home gym setup.

Here are the best exercise balls:

The best exercise ball overall

exercise ball

The TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball holds air better than most exercise balls — even if it’s punctured.

Pros: Maintains its shape and holds air better than other exercise balls, includes a slow deflate technology if the ball is punctured, extremely firm, has a good surface for just the right amount of grip, offered in four sizes

Cons: Takes a long time to inflate, no inflation pump included, only one color per size

One common complaint among exercise ball fans is the inability of the ball to hold air over time. As air leaks out of the ball, it loses its firmness and becomes difficult to use. The TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball, though, is one of the thickest-walled balls you can buy, and it holds air longer than most of the competition.

Even if it’s punctured, the ball will deflate very slowly, allowing you to finish your workout. Because the Theraband Exercise Ball retains air so well, you won’t have to reinflate it that often, which is a very good thing because this ball does take quite a bit of time to inflate in the first place.

The exercise ball is available in four sizes from 45 cm to 75 cm and it comes in a few colors.

The best portable exercise ball

DynaPro Exercise Ball

The DynaPro Exercise Ball is extremely durable and will hold its air pressure nicely, but it’s also portable, thanks to its easy-to-carry hand pump.

Pros: Good price point, easy to fill while on the go because of an included hand pump, very durable material in the ball, prevents fast leaks when it suffers a puncture, available in four sizes and four different colors

Cons: Cannot fully inflate the ball the first time you use it, firmness level of the ball seems below average

When you’re looking for an exercise ball you can take with you anywhere, the DynaPro Exercise Ball is a good idea. It ships with a hand pump and inflates faster than many other balls, so you can be ready to use it within several minutes.

The ball is available in four sizes, ranging from 45 cm to 75 cm, and it features slight ribs around the circumference of the ball to ensure a steady grip. You can get it in a few fun colors, including pink, blue, silver, gray, and black.

Like many exercise balls, you can also use it for active seating in your office. Unlike most exercise balls, it’s available in gray or black, which fits in better with an office setting than a brightly colored ball. 

This is a tough, durable exercise ball, featuring a 2,000-pound burst rating. The ball also slowly deflates if it ever suffers a puncture, allowing you to finish your workout safely.

However, the ball cannot be inflated fully the first time you use it. You’ll have to inflate it fully after it’s had 2-3 days to stretch out.

The best exercise ball for bigger bodies

tall man exercise ball

The Live Infinitely Exercise Ball receives high marks for its durability and ability to stand up to tough workouts.

Pros: Excellent price point, durable and tough exercise ball that can withstand 2,200 pounds of weight, available in as large as 95 cm diameter, five color and five size options, includes a large library of online exercise guides

Cons: There is no 45 cm diameter size option in this model, difficult to fully inflate this ball

We’re not here to say what an average-sized body is or who is bigger-than-average. But if you’ve ever sat on an exercise ball before and felt like it couldn’t support your height, width, weight, or frame for whatever reason, you need a ball that is bigger and more durable so you aren’t worrying about it popping or slipping out from under you.

In fact, you want your exercise ball to correspond to your size for a few reasons: When you’re sitting on it, you want it to be durable enough to hold your weight and wide enough to hold your buttocks. When you put it underfoot in plank or, say, Bulgarian split squats, the height of the ball influences your form; too small of a ball and your feet are below your hips which can compromise the integrity of your movements, for example.

Because of this, a ball that’s right for someone who’s 5’3 isn’t going to fit someone who’s 6’8, and someone who is 350lbs needs a more durable construction than someone who is 150lbs. (Learn more about What to look for in an exercise ball.)

The Live Infinitely Exercise Ball is one of the few options that comes in five sizes ranging from 55 cm to 95 cm. You can also choose between five colors, including blue, green, gray, purple, and silver.

What’s more, it can hold up to 2,200 pounds of pressure. So while we doubt you’ll ever max out its capabilities, the Live Infinitely Exercise Ball allows you to feel comfortable and secure putting all your weight and force onto it, regardless of your size.

The best budget exercise ball

exercise ball 5

If you want an affordable exercise ball that’s also durable, the Wacces Fitness and Exercise ball is a great option.

Pros: Extremely low price point, good build quality versus similarly priced exercise balls, surface has just enough grip to prevent slippage, ribs around circumference of ball provide extra grip, offered in eight colors

Cons: Only available in three sizes, difficult to fully inflate it first time you use it, doesn’t hold air pressure as well as some models

With some low-priced exercise balls, you may feel wary about placing your full weight on them for fear of an exploding ball that leaves you crashing onto the floor. But the durability of the Wacces Fitness and Exercise Ball gives you the peace of mind you’ll need to use this inexpensive ball to its fullest.

Even though it’s less expensive than other options, this ball is still quite durable and has a good grippy surface. The biggest downside is that it doesn’t support as much weight as more high-end exercise balls.

You can pick between three different sizes, ranging from 55 cm to 75 cm. It’s also available in eight colors, including black, blue, gray, green, pink, purple, red, or yellow.

What to look for in an exercise ball

Yes, an exercise ball is a simple, large round ball that looks like every other exercise ball at first glance. There are still several key differences you can pay attention to when looking to find the right exercise ball to meet your needs.

  • Ease of adding air: Some exercise balls include an air pump, however, most of these pumps work very slowly. If you want a faster option, you should be able to use almost any type of pump to inflate your exercise ball, such as an air mattress pump, a bicycle tire pump, or even an air compressor. To determine when the ball is properly filled with air, measure its diameter.
  • Extras: Depending on the model of exercise ball you pick, you may find the ball ships with an air pump, exercise bands, a stability ring, stability legs, a measuring tape, an exercise tip guide, or handles built into the ball. 
  • Size: The size of a stability ball is determined by its diameter. Common sizes of exercise balls range from 45 cm to 85 cm in 10 cm intervals. (Ten centimeters is roughly 4 inches.) People shorter than 5 feet will have the best results with sitting on a 45 cm ball, 6-feet-tall people will want a 65 cm ball, and those 6-foot-8 and taller will want an 85 cm ball. 
  • Supported weight: Exercise balls should offer supported weight limits for static weight and body weight. Static weight refers to the weight the ball supports without bursting when the user is not moving. Bodyweight refers to the weight it can support when the user is exercising. High-end balls may support static weight limits of 2,200 pounds and body weights of 500 pounds. A stability ball placed under too much weight or stress could burst.

Exercise ball benefits

man family exercise ball

People use an exercise ball for two main reasons: to workout with and to sit on. While we fully support using this accessory in your workout, most chiropractors and physical therapists actually recommend you don’t trade your office chair for a ball. Studies have found it not only makes prolonged sitting more uncomfortable, but it doesn’t actually activate your muscles better and may in fact contribute to spinal shrinkage (aka slumping). This is all because you must keep your core engaged for optimal spinal alignment, and it’s incredibly hard to maintain perfect posture when sitting for a long time.

That being said, an exercise ball is safe and a great challenge to your body during a workout, where you’re only stabilizing against it for a few minutes at a time. Here are some of the primary benefits exercise balls provide during a workout:

  • Improved balance: You’ll naturally strengthen your abs and back muscles while using an exercise ball because you must subtly shift your weight to remain balanced. As these muscles strengthen, your overall balance improves.
  • Core strength: Athletes constantly talk about the importance of having core strength in the body, as it gives you great balance and coordination. Using an exercise ball increases core strength.
  • Muscle work: Because you have to continually adjust your weight slightly to maintain your balance on the ball, you’ll be using different muscle groups, which benefits your whole body.
  • Rehabilitation and flexibility: You’ll stretch muscles and joints while moving around. Physical therapists sometimes assign a set of exercises using an exercise ball for people to follow as part of rehabilitating a specific joint or muscle group to gain more range of motion.
  • Specific exercises: If you enjoy exercises like Pilates or yoga, you’ll gain some additional benefits by incorporating an exercise ball into the routine.

Why exercise balls are an important part of a home gym

Despite their inherent value, exercise balls aren’t typically the first piece of gear you think of when piecing together a home gym. The truth is in the application, as they work for a host of exercises requiring flexible support. Even though an exercise ball is round, it gives you a base that’s more solid than you might think and provides impressive stability.  

The balls compress when weight is put on them to create a flatter, more stable edge. It won’t be as stable as a normal chair but it’s far more solid than you’d expect — which is what makes them great for everything from active seating to working out.

An exercise ball is an amazing addition to any ab workout, as you can hold it between your feet to bump the challenge of leg raises or prop your feet on the ball during plank for more of a core challenge. You can also sit on the ball instead of a bench to activate your core during simple exercises like chest flys and overhead presses. (Learn more from our guide on the best at-home exercise ball routines.)

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The best iPad cases in 2021 for every situation

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Logitech combo touch keyboard case ipad
The Logitech combo touch keyboard case is one of the best iPad cases you can buy.

  • An iPad case should bring protection, style, and new functionality to your tablet.
  • Our favorite cases are made by ESR, Logitech, and Zugu among others.
  • Remember to look for cases that are compatible with the iPad model you own.

Purchasing an iPad is an investment, and one of the best ways to protect that investment is by pairing your iPad with a case.

But choosing the right case isn’t always simple. There are tons of options available to suit any style and need, whether you’re looking for something sleek and minimal or military-grade protection.

The best cases are both stylish and protective without adding too much bulk to your bag. We’ve collected and tested over a dozen cases to find the best iPad case for every budget and situation.

Here are the best iPad cases of 2021:

The best overall iPad cases

iPad Pro 11 2021 Ascend Trifold Hard Case in black

ESR’s lineup of iPad cases offer a variety of  styles, colors, and protection at affordable prices.

ESR offers something for everyone when it comes to iPad cases, whether it’s extra protection to go along with your Apple Smart Cover, full coverage, or a case with a built-in Apple Pencil holder. Few casemakers have this many options for price and protection. 

I’m a big fan of maximum protection, so the Sentry Magnetic Kickstand Case is one of my favorites. It features a 2-millimeter thick back cover, raised edges around the screen for maximum drop protection, and an adjustable magnetic kickstand with seven different viewing angles. 

The version for the 10.2-inch iPad costs $30.99, while the enhanced 11-inch iPad Pro models cost $68.99 – which makes this one of the most expensive cases in ESR’s lineup. The company also offers a Rugged Protection Bundle for the 11-inch iPad Pro for $70.34  which includes the Sentry case, along with a reinforced tempered-glass screen protector.

While the Sentry cases only come in two colors, many of the lower-priced cases come in multiple colorways including blue, black, pink, and gray.  The majority of ESR’s cases are made with TPU – a type of polyurethane plastic which provides a thin layer of rubber-like protection. This is normally enough to protect against bumps, scratches, and scrapes, but probably wouldn’t do so well in a bigger drop. 

The more rugged cases – like the Sentry– are made from polymer, which should do a better job at keeping your iPad safe from unfortunate mishaps.

ESR cases might not be the fanciest or the most protective on the market, but they are well-made and offer a great deal of value for those looking to find the perfect case for their new iPad. 

Worth a look:

Ascend Trifold Hard Case (small)Slim Rebound Case (small)Sentry Protective Case (small)
The best iPad cases from Apple

Apple Magic Keyboard case for iPad in black

Apple’s own cases emphasize style and function, but often fall short on protection. 

Apple products usually come at a premium, and that’s no different with its iPad cases. Apple’s cases are expensive, but also sleek and functional. 

The $49 Smart Cover is a thin piece of polyurethane that protects the device’s display and connects magnetically to the iPad. It comes in a variety of colors and can be folded into different positions to create a stand for reading, viewing, and drawing. The design is simple and effective, but leaves the back and sides of the iPad  unprotected.

Those looking for all-around protection may want to consider the Smart Folio, which is similar in appearance to the Smart cover, but is made from a single piece of polyurethane that protects both the front and back of the iPad. The Smart Folio starts at $79, and is light, sleek, and perfect for those looking for an attractive case to protect against scrapes and bumps. 

Apple’s most impressive case is the $299  Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro and iPad Air. This keyboard case and trackpad combination transform the iPad into a viable laptop replacement. The case utilizes a clever magnetic design to create a one-piece stand and keyboard that is both thin and highly functional. 

The only downside to the Magic Keyboard – aside from its high starting price – is that it lacks any protection on the sides of the iPad. There are other worthy keyboard cases on the market that address this problem, but few are as well-made as the Magic Keyboard.

Worth a look:

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro 11-inch and iPad Air (small)Smart Folio for iPad Air (4th Gen) (small)Smart Cover for iPad (8th Gen) (small)
The best iPad keyboard case

Logitech combo touch keyboard case ipad

The Logitech Combo Touch offers full tablet protection, backlit keys, a great typing experience, and is more affordable than Apple’s Magic Keyboard. 

The $199.99 Logitech Combo Touch lacks the clever design of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, but offers a similar experience while fully protecting the iPad itself. 

The Combo Touch features two parts – a protective back case, and a removable keyboard and trackpad that connects via the smart connector and also functions as a front cover. The back case folds out into a kickstand with plenty of viewing and writing angles. A magnet holds the kickstand shut when it’s not in use to maintain its flat back. 

The addition of the kickstand means that the back of the case is thick and protective – if slightly bulky. The Combo Touch adds heft to the iPad, but it is a small price to pay for such a versatile case. 

Typing on the Combo Touch is effective and fun. The keys offer a good amount of travel and are perfect for those who don’t mind portable keyboards. I found the keyboard to be a perfect size for my small hands, but those with larger hands might find it a bit cramped. I wish the trackpad was slightly taller, but I found it perfectly usable at its current size.

The gestures on the trackpad worked well, and I had no problem zipping around my iPad without ever touching the display. The addition of backlighting on the keyboard made this case a great nighttime companion, as I could clearly see the keys as I typed in the dark. 

The type cover is easy to pull on and off, which helps to make the Logitech Combo Touch great for typing, reading, drawing, and viewing. It comes in either Oxford Gray or Sand. 

Worth a look:

Combo Touch (small)
The best iPad case for protection

otterbox ipad case

OtterBox cases offer a huge amount of protection without adding too much bulk.

OtterBox is known for its protective cases, and the company’s iPad offerings don’t disappoint. OtterBox makes traditional folio cases like the Symmetry Series and the Symmetry Series 360, but it’s the Defender Series Pro that really stands out from the pack. 

The $89.95 Defender Series Pro offers the most over-the-top protection that I’ve ever seen in an iPad case. It features three layers of protection– an inner thin plastic covering over the front and back of the iPad, followed by a rubber slipcover, topped off by a hard plastic back that acts as a stand and display protector. 

This is not the easiest case to install and remove – in fact, I needed a video tutorial to figure out the processes. But my iPad seemed invincible once it was inside. Of course, it’s hard to guarantee that the Defender Series Pro will protect your iPad in every situation. But my iPad did survive a 4-foot drop from my bed to the floor without a scratch. 

My biggest concern with the Defender Series Pro lies in its hard plastic outer shell. The shell grips securely to the front iPad for protection, but also features a collapsible hinge in the center that acts as a stand for viewing and writing. 

This design is interesting, but ultimately feels clunky. There is no mechanism to clip the case into the stand; instead, the iPad rests awkwardly between the raised corners of the outer case and raised middle hinge – leaving the tablet less secure than I would want. 

The Defender Series Pro only comes in black and certainly isn’t the most fashionable case. But what it lacks in style, it makes up for in protection. 

Worth a look: 

iPad Pro (11-inch) (3rd gen) Defender Series Pro Case (small)iPad Air (4th gen) Symmetry Series 360 Case (small)iPad (8th and 7th gen) Symmetry Series Folio Case (small)
The best iPad case for watching video

Zugu iPad Pro case in black

Zugu cases feature great all-around protection and come with a magnetic kickstand that offers eight different viewing angles. 

Zugu doesn’t make a lot of different types of cases, but the ones they do make have some of the best viewing angles on the market. 

The Zugu Muse Case, which starts at $49.99, is made out of a thick layer of TPU plastic surrounded by a polycarbonate shell for enhanced drop protection. It features raised edges, a grooved folio sleep and wake cover, and a microfiber lining. There’s a collapsible kickstand on the back of the case that magnetically connects to the grooves on the cover, creating eight viewing angles for reading, watching, and typing. 

Other case manufactures have emulated Zugu’s design, but the strength of the magnetic holds makes this case stand out. No matter what surface I put it on, the Zugu case stays locked into the correct viewing angle. It performs equally as well on a lumpy bean bag chair as it does on a hard table. I can even lightly shake the iPad without detaching the kickstand – though a slightly harder shake breaks the spell and releases the front of the case. 

The Zugu is also incredibly durable. I’ve used it every day for three years and have yet to see any wear and tear. It has been dropped, jostled, shoved into packed bags, and covered in pet hair, but it still works as well now as it did when I got it. I’ve also streamed thousands of hours of content while using this case and have always found just the right angle for every viewing position. 

The only downside to the Zugu is that it adds some bulk to my iPad. Despite the fact that it comes in up to five different colors, it’s not the best-looking case you’ll find. 

Worth a look: 

iPad Pro 12.9 (5th Gen) Case (small)
Our methodology

We tested iPad cases on a variety of criteria to find our best picks. The quality and durability of the cases were judged based on the following factors: 

  • The build quality of the materials used in the case
  • How easy it is to put on and remove the case
  • How easy it is to clean the case
  • How well the case withstands jostling in a packed bag

To test durability, we placed each case in a bag filled with books, notebooks, and accessories. We then walked approximately five blocks with the bag, before removing the iPad and checking for scratches, dents, or marks on the case or the device itself. 

We also dropped each case approximately 4-feet from a bed onto a carpeted floor and inspected the case and iPad for damage. 

Additionally, we evaluated keyboard cases by the accuracy of the trackpad and comfort of the typing experience. 

Life can get messy – which is why we wanted to test how easy it is to clean the cases. To do this, we enlisted the help of our enthusiastic long-haired dog, Toby.  We used the cases to gently pet his fur, then attempted to remove any accumulation from the case following manufacturing guidelines.

What to consider when buying an iPad case

Compatibility

The most important aspect of buying an iPad case is making sure that it fits the specific iPad model that you own. It might be tempting to hand on to the old case for your previous iPad  when buying a newer model. Although many iPads share a similar design, their dimensions are often different. That’s why it’s important to buy a case for the specific model you own.

Apple currently sells five different iPad models:

If you’re not sure which model you own, open your iPad’s settings menu and tap “General.” Choose “About” and look at the field that says “Model Name.”

Features

The next question you’ll want to ask yourself is how you intend to use your case. Do you want a sleeve that’s as slim as possible just for keeping your iPad safe from scratches? Or do you often find yourself propping up your iPad while watching movies and cooking? If so, you’ll probably want an iPad case with an integrated kickstand. And then, of course, there are keyboard cases designed for those who take notes on their iPad. Think carefully about the scenarios in which you use your iPad the most before buying a case. 

Budget

Aside from buying the right case for the iPad model you own, budget is the most critical factor to consider. Basic cases can cost as cheap as $15 or less, while more sophisticated cases like those with keyboards, kickstands, and extra durable designs can cost $70 or more. There are also plenty of in-between options in the $30-$50 range that offer standard protection. The best keyboard cases, however, will usually cost around $100 or more. 

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The 12 best heat protectant sprays for every hair type and style, according to professionals

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Best heat protectant 4x3
  • Heat protectants help prevent damage while heat styling, making them a necessary part of styling.
  • They work by forming a very thin film over the follicle that both prevents damage and smooths hair.
  • We spoke to professional hairstylists to identify the best heat protectants in 2021.

If you frequently use heat-based tools or dryers to style your hair, heat protectants are an absolute necessity. These sprays add a barrier that coats the hair follicle so that heat-styling tools don’t burn your strands or zap away moisture.

“Often the product will have a formula that will coat the hair shaft and offer heat protection up to 428-degrees,” says Penny James, a trichologist and owner of Penny James Salon. “Then a smoothing effect on the cuticle to give the shine.”

When you continuously use high heat on your hair, it can cause the hair’s keratin proteins to break down and the hair cuticle to crack. It can also cause all moisture to evaporate from the inside-out. For color-treated hair it can even cause the pigments to adopt an unflattering brassy tone. Heat protectants work by forming a very thin film over the follicle of the hair that acts as a protective barrier.

We spoke to James and celebrity stylist Dimitris Giannetos, who regularly works with Camila Cabello and Meghan Trainor, to find out how you should be using heat protectant sprays in order to make your style last. You can check out their tips here, but first, read on for the best heat protectant sprays we’ve tested.

These are the best heat protectant sprays in 2021:

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Davines Hair Shield

Best heat protectant_Davines Hair Shield

Hair Shield (small)

This product contains dimethicone and a couple of other silicones to protect the hair from high heat. It also smells amazing and leaves hair looking super shiny. And if your hair is static-prone, you’re in luck. Davines Hair Shied really cuts down on static, so it’s a perfect heat protectant for winter. Because it’s so lightweight, this is perfect for people with thin and fine hair. It still leaves a nice, even coat throughout your strands that also help prevent humidity.

IGK Good Behavior Spirulina Protein Smoothing Spray

Best heat protectant_IGK Good Behavior Spirulina Protein Smoothing Spray

Good Behavior Spirulina Protein Smoothing Spray (small)

I would say that Good Behavior’s heat protectant is one of the more heavy-duty formulas on the list — in a good way. It works to smooth and hold styles while protecting against heat up to 450-degrees.  This is great for all hair types, and should definitely be used during the summer. That said, make sure you aren’t using this every single day as it will create a bit of build-up. 

COLOR WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray

Best heat protectant_COLOR WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray

Dream Coat Supernatural Spray (small)

The first time I used this spray, I was shocked by how thin it is — it has the consistency of water. That said, this is a total game-changer for the summertime, and Giannetos agrees. “It makes the hair so shiny, it looks like glass,” he says.  While you have to make sure to section-off your hair as your spraying this product in order to evenly coat it, it really holds your style for days on end.

CHI 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray

Best heat protectant_CHI 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray

Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray (small)

This is the first heat protectant I ever used. Chi’s Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray smells amazing, and it doesn’t have any buildup issues, so you can use it multiple days in a row without worry. It’s great for every hair type, but because it coats the hair so well, it can definitely feel a little damp when applying. So if you have very fine hair, it’s a good idea to wait a few seconds after applying before using your hot tools. 

Oribe Balm D’Or Heat Styling Shield

Best heat protectant_Oribe Balm D'Or Heat Styling Shield

Balm D’Or Heat Styling Shield (small)

This heat protectant from Oribe smells great and adds in just enough texture so that you feel like you really have some hold in your hair as you’re styling. It also produces substantial shine and softness that really lasts. This is especially great for those that have super fine or greasy hair — even those looking for a dry shampoo alternative. It really coats each hair follicle to add both texture and heat protection.

R+Co Bleu Hypersonic Heat Styling Mist

Best heat protectant_R+Co Bleu Hypersonic Heat Styling Mist

Bleu Hypersonic Heat Styling Mist (small)

Beauty fans are most likely familiar with R+Co already, but the brand has recently launched a couture line: R+Co Bleu. This mist from the line, in particular, is phenomenal. It offers heat protection up to 450-degrees and leaves the hair feeling flexible so that you can update your ‘do over the next few days. This is great for all hair types, as it coats each strand evenly and provides a texture that isn’t super drying. It also helps keep styles looking great by acting as a humidity shield. 

OUAI Heat Protection Spray

Best heat protectant_OUAI Heat Protection Spray

Heat Protection Spray (small)

Like all Ouai products, this heat protection spray smells absolutely divine. The nozzle is super effective and evenly coats the hair so well that you wind up using less product. It definitely makes the hair much shinier and humidity-proof. 

This is a perfect spray for fine to thick hair. It will add volume, shine, and a smell so divine you’ll want to spray it all over. Just make so to position the bottle at least six inches from your head as you apply — it applies pretty heavily if you don’t. 

Living proof Perfect Hair Day Heat Styling Spray

Best heat protectant_Living proof Perfect Hair Day Heat Styling Spray

Perfect Hair Day Heat Styling Spray (small)

In addition to acting as a heat shield, Living Proof’s Perfect Hair Day Heat Styling Spray almost works as a texturizer and dry shampoo. I’ve noticed that my hair appears to stay cleaner for longer when I use it. In fact, it’s great on hair that’s greasy or working toward oily. If your hair is freshly shampooed, it might be a little drying. 

Amika The Wizard Detangling Hair Primer

Best heat protectant_Amika The Wizard Detangling Hair Primer

The Wizard Detangling Hair Primer (small)

Not only does this evenly coat your hair to protect it from heat styling tools, but it’s also great when used as a detangler as well. Make sure that you apply it to your hair when you’re fresh out of the shower, as that’s how it works best. It’s really great for all hair types — even hair that is damaged or needs a trim. Its detangling properties make it so much easier to drag a comb through, so you never feel like you’re pulling on your knots. 

Gisou Propolis Infused Heat Protecting Spray

Best heat protectant_Gisou Propolis Infused Heat Protecting Spray

Propolis Infused Heat Protecting Spray (small)

Just because this product is all-natural doesn’t mean you have to worry about it being less effective. It’s great for all hair types, but particularly for those hoping to really prevent additional damage. In addition to protecting your hair from heat styling tools, Propolis’ spray is great for staving off sun exposure on your strands, which can be drying and damaging. Make sure you spray it on when your hair is wet from the shower so that it’s fully coated as soon as you hit it with a blow dryer. 

Ghd Heat Protectant Spray

Best heat protectant_Ghd Heat Protectant Spray

Heat Protectant Spray (small)

Ghd’s spray provides such a lightweight, even coating that you’ll hardly notice it at all. It’s great at protecting from harsh hot tools — it truly feels like it even distributes the heat for faster styling. This incredibly lightweight spray is great for all hair types and protects against humidity.

Bumble and Bumble Bb.Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer

Best heat protectant_Bumble and bumble Bb.Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat UV Protective Primer

Bb.Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer (small)

This is one of the best options if your hair is really dried out from past damage — or from putting off a haircut. It’s intended to be applied to damp hair, so it’s best used directly out of the shower. Like the name suggests, Bumble Bumble’s Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil also contains lots of oils so that moisturize your hair and keeps frizz at bay— even if you’re going to be outside or exposed to humidity. It also protects against UV rays and even works as a detangler. 

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The 5 best soft coolers we tested in 2021 that actually keep drinks cold

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Soft cooler bags are easier to carry than hard coolers, but it’s harder to find one that stays cold.
  • The best soft cooler is big enough for drinks and food, comfortable to carry, and keeps ice for days.
  • Our top pick, the Yeti Hopper M30, is large, stays cold, and is durable enough to last years.

Whether you’re going camping, to the beach, or to a picnic in the park, you need a reliable cooler. Though there’s still a time and place for a traditional cooler, soft cooler bags are a rising commodity – and for good reason. The best soft-sided coolers are lighter and easier to carry than their hard, rotomolded brethren. But they also don’t hold the cold for as long, and can’t fit as much as a bigger, hard cooler.

Because there’s so much variability, we tested the best soft coolers, including YETI soft coolers, on hikes, camping trips, fishing outings, and casual trips to the park. The best soft coolers can keep ice (and beer) cold for at least two days (realistically, if you’re opening it regularly), are comfortable to carry, and have enough room to fit all the snacks and drinks you want to take with you.

With dozens of hours spent testing, the following guide features our five favorites, all classified into categories they particularly excelled at – save for the Yeti soft cooler, which is our favorite soft cooler bag overall.

Here are the best soft coolers:

How we tested

hopperm30

Each soft cooler in this guide went through a series of tests across hikes, camping trips, fishing outings, and casual trips to the park to assess how well they stood up across these four categories: 

  • Capacity: The best soft cooler needs to have room for both all your drinks and food, as well as for the ice to keep everything cold. Some soft coolers come in dedicated sizes, which makes their capacity rating easier to judge, and also makes the shopping process simple: If you need more space, buy a bigger cooler. We also looked at how if the soft coolers offered storage for other essentials like smartphones, car keys, dry food, etc. 
  • Ice retention: A cooler bag is hardly reliable if it doesn’t live up to its namesake and keep ice for longer than a few hours. Thankfully, most modern coolers feature insulation technology that allows them to hold ice for several days — though we still put these claims to the test to see just how reliable each cooler’s ice retention actually was.
  • Portability: One of the hallmarks of a soft cooler is its portability. Be it via backpack-like straps, a pair of comfortable handles, or even a shoulder strap, it should be easy to haul around (even when full of ice, food, and drinks).
  • Value: Coolers of any variety can be expensive, and soft coolers are no different. However, the value of a soft cooler is more than just its sticker price and more so a combination of the three categories above and if it’s worth the investment. We always feel that it’s better to spend a little more on something that’s designed to last than to spend less more often on an inferior product. 

The best soft cooler overall

yetim30

YETI’s Hopper M30 tote-style soft cooler is the most durable cooler I tested (it will last years), plus it’s comfortable to carry, keeps ice frozen, and has a huge storage capacity. 

Pros: Sturdy, sleek, airtight

Cons: Heavy compared with some other picks (but that’s due to the quality insulation), stiff, expensive, may be overkill for casual day use

Some say Yeti coolers are overbuilt, and if you’re just looking for something to carry drinks to the beach a few days a year, you definitely don’t need to pay for this superior construction. But if you’ll be hauling the cooler on all sorts of outdoor adventurers, some of which will be multi-day, the higher price tag is worth it for Yeti’s durability and design.

Yes, it’s expensive, but before you scoff at the price tag of the Yeti soft cooler, let’s get something straight: Cheap soft cooler bags will keep your ice frozen but most fall apart after a few months. The Yeti Hopper M30 lasts literally years and years. 

The durability is real: I threw this cooler down a grip tape-lined set of stairs thinking it would lead to at least one abrasion. Nothing. I tipped it upside-down and left it that way for hours. Not a drip. I yanked, ripped, and pulled at the zipper in every wrong way with all my might. Not even the hint of a budge, and it was still airtight afterward.

What’s more, the brand offers a three-year warranty on Yeti soft coolers where many other manufacturers only offer one.

Aside from its durability, the Hopper also does an excellent job of keeping what’s stored inside chilled throughout the day, even in warm weather. Featuring the brand’s patented closed-cell foam, Coldcell Insulation, you can expect upwards of 15 to 20 hours of kept ice — give or take a few hours depending on how often you open and close it, if it’s left open for any amount of time, or if it’s sitting in direct sunlight.

Capacity-wise, it’s able to hold a surprising amount of both food and drink. Even when I stocked it with more cans my crew would need for a day out, there was still enough room to throw in a few sandwiches and some additional snacks. Its padded shoulder strap came is a lovely addition, making it more comfortable to carry when it’s full up and I was walking from car to campsite, hauling it down to the beach, or slinging it on my back while biking to the park. 

The bag itself is also fairly rigid and the zipper is quite tight if you’re not used to Yeti’s heavily-designed waterproof technology — so much so that you need two hands to do anything with it, which is the only remaining downside of the Hopper.

Read our full review of the Yeti Hopper M30.

The best soft cooler on a budget

aocooler

AO Coolers are less than a third of the price of our top picks, but they are still excellent at keeping food and drinks cold.

Pros: Affordable, thick insulation, durable exterior lining

Cons: Cheap zipper, inconsistencies in stitching

Budget coolers tend to have inferior insulation, weak stitching, or leakage issues, so we generally avoid recommending them. But AO Coolers buck the trend by offering relatively well-constructed options that are also affordable.

What makes its coolers particularly impressive is its 3/4-inch insulation and durable exterior lining, whether you choose the canvas, vinyl, or woven vinyl model. It’s worth noting that during testing, I could sometimes feel cool air escaping, but it wasn’t enough to cause my ice to melt at an alarming rate.

The AO Cooler size and capacity are best-suited for shorter outings like day hikes or picnics, so ice melt becomes less of an issue. That being said, if you take it on a weekend camping trip, you’ll probably need to replenish the ice once or twice — in my testing, this was especially true on hotter days.  

The stitching throughout isn’t the best and, out of the box, I noticed a few loose threads. These wouldn’t spell the end of the cooler even if they did go, but these inconsistencies and loose stitches, as well as the basic YKK zipper, do put it in a significantly lower category of durability than the Yeti soft cooler. At this price range, however, it’s the best soft cooler bag we’ve found.

If you’re just looking for a soft-sided cooler to keep sandwiches and drinks cool on your way to the beach or a picnic, this AO Cooler is the most worth your money.

The most versatile soft cooler

OtterboxTrooper

The OtterBox Trooper LT 30 is a sort of customizable Swiss Army knife of soft coolers, coming standard with an accessory mounting system while also offering a 30-quart capacity and insulation designed to keep ice for up to three days.

Pros: 30-quart capacity can hold plenty of ice and drinks for 2-4 people, padded shoulder straps make for easy transport, rugged and durable construction, accessory points allow for a wide variety of customization

Cons: May be bulky for on-the-go transport

From the brand well-known for its durable phone cases, OtterBox also makes a line of seriously impressive coolers, including a highly versatile soft cooler called the Trooper LT 30. Outfitted with accessory hooks that allow you to put everything on it from a bottle opener or dry box to tie-down loops or a hook for more gear, the Trooper LT is great for a wide variety of use cases. 

Following the brand’s standard approach for indestructible construction, the Trooper LT features a wide base that allows the soft cooler to stand on its own, a TPU-coated nylon exterior that’s puncture-proof, and a reliable clasp system that’s durable and leak-proof to trap the temperature in. The interior has a capacity of 30 quarts, which, during my testing, held a little more than a bag of ice (there’s even an ice-fill line drawn on, which I loved) plus a 12-pack of soda or beer, and a few chilled snacks. 

In my experience, carrying the Trooper LT was easy, even when full, as it comes with two padded backpack-like straps on the rear which can also turn into a shoulder strap if need be. Two exterior pockets can hold bottle openers or even a smartphone and have water-tight zippers for added security.

OtterBox lists the cooler as being able to hold ice for up to three days, which I found to be a close assessment. On a two-day camp trip, I was able to purchase just one bag of ice and it held up the entire trip, and on single-day hikes, there was very little water to drain after a few hours on the trail. 

Though I mostly used this on car camping trips or while hiking, its versatility allows it to work well while fishing, biking, or just hanging out in your backyard. It’s not exactly cheap, but this cooler isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and figures to be a durable addition to your outdoor kit for years. — Rick Stella, Health & Fitness Editor

The best soft cooler backpack

icemuleprocanvas

The IceMule Pro is lightweight, compactable, essentially waterproof, and it won’t break the bank.

Pros: Lightweight, fairly priced, stowable, features a burping valve to let out excess air, easy to clean

Cons: Insulation could be better

IceMule’s wonderfully-designed dry-bag-style coolers are insulated to the point of being just sufficiently padded to wear as a backpack without having precariously packed beer bottles digging into you. They’re also completely airtight thanks to the roll-top design, which eliminates the fail point of a zipper.

The IceMule soft cooler line has received a good deal of praise despite a few early hiccups with design, including torn inner lining, water getting between the exterior and interior linings, and a cheap, beach-ball-like air release valve.

As far as I can tell, all of these issues have been addressed and resolved, and having an IceMule Pro to zip back and forth between the dock and the apartment for fishing trips has been an absolute delight. And, when you’re not using it, it folds flat and stores easily. It also doubles well as a regular backpack.

The IceMule Pro soft cooler comes in either vinyl or canvas, and after having tested both, I feel a little more confident in and comfortable wearing the canvas. On the other hand, the canvas only comes in black, which may not be the best color for a cooler. 

Its insulation does leave a bit to be desired, though a lot of that can be attributed to how often I’d open or close the bag. IceMule rates the Pro as able to hold ice for up to 24 hours (and cold temperatures for as many as two days), but judging by how quickly the ice would melt while I used it, 24 hours seemed like a stretch. What this means is a little more water in the bag after a day’s use, and the need to re-up ice on days two and three if you’re camping.

The best multi-purpose soft cooler

REI Cooler Pack

REI’s Cool Trail Split Pack offers ample storage space for both chilled and dry food and beverages, making it the perfect day hike companion. 

Pros: An area for both chilled and dry goods, padded shoulder straps and back panel make for comfortable transport, features REI’s tried-and-true durable construction

Cons: Lacks the capacity of most dedicated soft coolers

Most soft coolers offer one area for storing and chilling your food and drinks. REI Co-op’s Cool Trail Split Pack blends the best of both worlds by featuring the ability to house both chilled and dry goods at the same time. 

It does this by splitting the pack into two sections: a cooler-like bottom for storing ice and anything that needs to be cold and a dry top for everything else (i.e. food, change of layers, smartphone, car keys, etc.). 

Because of that design, the Cool Trail Split Pack looks like a sort of boxy backpack, featuring padded shoulder straps, as well as a chest strap and a padded back panel for added comfort — something that was much appreciated while testing this on multi-mile hikes and longer-than-expected bike rides. The pack is manufactured out of recycled ripstop nylon (like what you’d find in REI’s tents) and a polyester interior, making it highly durable both inside and out.

In terms of performance, the pack was able to keep everything stored in the cooler section chilled for an entire day spent hiking or hanging at the park in the middle of summer. Ice would begin to melt throughout the day, and especially so when the cooler section was left open while taking a short break, but I never experienced any leakage, even if the pack was laid on its side or jostling around on my back. 

One minor drawback would be that the pack is good enough for nourishing maybe two or three people as its capacity is far smaller than others on this list. But with how much it makes up for that lack of capacity by offering a spot for dry good, it’s well worth the investment. — Rick Stella, Health & Fitness Editor

How to shop for a soft cooler

The best soft cooler for you is entirely dependent on how often you’ll use it and what you’ll use it for the most. If you’re just transporting your lunch to the office or bringing snacks to your kids soccer game, you don’t need to drop more than $100 and your main areas of consideration are ease of opening, size capacity, and comfort while carrying. 

However, fishermen, frequent campers, and hikers will probably want to look for a soft-sided cooler with these three features, plus one that will last a long time (read: durable) and is well-built to keep ice frozen longer. After all, a reliable soft cooler bag is the difference between grabbing a cold beer or soda instead of a lukewarm swill; having safely-chilled meat to grill up on a camping trip; or bringing home freshly-caught fillets or those that have spoiled in the heat on your boat.

Most often, anyone looking to buy a soft cooler wants closed-cell insulation. Open-cell insulation is basically polyurethane packaging foam; it’s lightweight, airy, and the air bubbles that form the insulation are loosely arranged, which isn’t terribly effective. Closed-cell, on the other hand, is a bit heavier and pricier, since the construction has individual air bubbles that insulate far better. But it’s the best design to keep ice (and whatever else is inside) cold. This is partly what makes coolers in the Yeti and Rtic tiers so much more expensive. Of course, we can’t deny that you’re paying for the name, too.

Check out our other cooler buying guides

yeti

The best backpack coolers


The best coolers


The best lunch boxes and lunch bags


The best water bottles

 

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The 7 best bike lights of 2021 for better visibility while cycling at night

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bike lights keep you visible in low-light conditions, alerting oncoming traffic or anyone else on the road.
  • The best should be easy to take off and put on and have a battery capable of lasting for hours of riding.
  • Our top pick, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL, comes with a headlight and taillight and has several light modes.

Being safe while riding your bike requires more than just putting on a helmet and riding within your means – you’ll also want to guarantee you’re highly visible to those around you with a quality set of bike lights. Even if you don’t plan on riding at dusk or when it’s completely dark, bike lights are one of the most important cycling accessories to have and it’s better to have them and not use them to not have them at all.

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “the time period with the largest frequency of pedalcyclist fatalities overall is 6 pm to 8:59 pm (21%), followed by 9 pm to 11:59 pm (17%).” Although the study was conducted year-round, and it may not have always been entirely dark around 6 pm, those numbers do paint a stark picture. The fact most of those time frames take place in low or no lighting suggests visibility was one of the main factors.

As a resident of New York City, and with my go-to mode of transportation being my bike, there aren’t many days during the spring and summer that I don’t spend at least a little bit of time pedaling around my neighborhood. I ride during all hours of the day, too, be it commuting to work or getting in a ride on the weekends, and I find myself biking in low or no light conditions often.

But just as I’d never leave my apartment without a helmet, I always make sure to pack along a set of bike lights – no matter how long I plan on being out. It doesn’t take an in-depth study to know that bike lights are an indispensable part of any cycling kit and something that can very well save your life.

Throughout my years of cycling, I’ve learned firsthand the immense value of a quality set of bike lights (and how dangerous a poor set can be). I’ve also come across my fair share of bike light variety; there are some designed to be highly portable and easy to install, while others are intended for trail riding.

Below, I’ve rounded up seven of my favorites from brands like Malker, NiteRider, and MPowerd. I’ve also included some tips on how to show for a bike light, as well as insight into the testing methodology I used in deciding which lights ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best bike lights:

How we test bike lights

Best Bike Lights Pattern 4x3

Each of the bike lights featured in this guide went through a series of tests to determine how well they compared across these four categories: Brightness, ease of use, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into deciding which lights made this guide:

Brightness: Judging a bike light’s brightness isn’t just about its lumen output or its actual brightness, but more so the quality of the light and what kind of settings it offers. As mentioned in the section on how to shop for a bike light, quality bike lights can vary in lumen output between 200 to 1,000 lumens, though this depends on where you plan on riding. To test for this, we looked at how effective the light was at making us visible without blinding oncoming traffic, while also providing some illumination of our surroundings. 

Ease of use: A bike light that’s hard to install, or even difficult to turn on and switch between its light settings, isn’t one that’s going to be particularly thrilling to use over and over again. If the light is easy to use, you’ll be more inclined to use it. Plain and simple. It’s also preferred that a light doesn’t require much toggling while you’re riding (or, at the very least, is easy to use).

Versatility: Being able to use a single set of bike lights on multiple bikes isn’t exactly a dealbreaker but it is nice to have that flexibility if need be. Additionally, a light that offers multiple brightness settings or a variety of light modes makes it far more valuable than just a standard, single beam light. 

Value: A bike light’s value isn’t just what its sticker price says but more so a combination of the three categories above, and how that compares to what it costs. There are plenty of valuable lights in the $15-$40 range, capable of fitting a range of budgets without sacrificing much quality. 

The best bike light overall

cygolite

For a reasonable price, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set includes a bright headlight and taillight to make your early morning or late night commutes safer.

Pros: Incredibly bright, long battery life, easy to mount, several useful lighting modes

Cons: Uses Mini USB (rather than the more common Micro USB)

The Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set comes with the Streak 450 Lumen headlight, which lasts for up to 100 hours on a single charge, and the Hotshot SL 50 Lumen taillight, which lasts for 200 hours on a single charge.

The lights charge using a Mini USB cord that you can plug into your computer or a cube. Since many electronics these days rely on Micro USB (not mini), you may want to keep a Mini USB cord with you on your rides so you aren’t stranded with dead lights. Or, if you see the low battery indicator turn on, be sure to charge the light before you go out.

The headlight has seven lighting modes: boost, high, medium, low, steady pulse, walking, and daylighting, which consists of powerful flashes that make you stand out in broad daylight. The taillight also has a lightning mode as well as five other modes of varying flash tempo and brightness. — James Brains, home & kitchen reporter

The best easy install bike light

bike light

If you’re looking for a light that’s just as easy to install as it is to take off your bike, consider picking up the surprisingly well-built and bright TeamObsidian Bike Light Set.

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

Cons: Doesn’t come with batteries, not designed for trail riding

One of the benefits you sacrifice with the low cost of the TeamObsidian Bike Light Set is usability out of the box. Batteries aren’t included. Despite having to buy five AAA batteries (I recommend getting rechargeable versions), there’s a lot to like about this set.

The headlamp produces 200 lumens of light. Both lights have three lighting modes — high, dimmed, and flashing — and are designed to withstand water, snow, heat, and dust. Installation is effortless and tool-free. And, the lights have quick-release mounts so you can take them with you and avoid potential thefts.

TeamObsidian stands behind the quality of its bike lights by offering a “100% no-hassle lifetime guarantee.” The company specifically states that it will refund your money if you’re dissatisfied for any reason. And, if the lights break, it will send you new ones. — James Brains, home & kitchen reporter

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

Malker’s bike lights are a great budget buy for anyone looking for a set of easy-to-install front and taillights — they even have a variety of light settings which add to their versatility. 

Pros: Easy to strap onto a bike’s handlebars and seatpost, comes with front and rear lights, has multiple light settings including a strobe function

Cons: Light modes can be hard to toggle, not robust enough for all riding conditions

These LED lights from Malker have been a go-to of mine for several years, as they’re extremely easy to put on and take off and incredibly cost-effective — I often see them on sale for under $10. The fact they come as a set of four (two standard, front-facing lights, and two red, rear-facing lights) only adds to their utility. 

Aside from their price and ease of use, what I like about these lights from Malker is how lightweight they are. I’m able to stash them in my backpack before I head out for a ride, but can also just leave them attached to my bike and they don’t take up too much space or get in the way of anything while I bike.

If I lock my bike up, their strap-on style makes it easy to just unhook them and put them back in my bag (or even a pant pocket), though it is worth noting to make sure the lights are completely off when stashing them. Several times I thought I’ve turned them off, only to find them still on but on a different light setting next time I go to use them (or the battery would just be completely sapped). 

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

If you prefer to take your mountain bike off-road at night and you have a little extra to spend, consider the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light.

Pros: 1800 lumens output, long distance beam that maintains uniformity, excellent for trail riding at night

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

What sets the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light apart from the other lights in our guide is that it gets brighter than your average car headlight. There are five modes: high, medium, low, walk, and flash.

The light is designed to stand up to the elements with Dupont fiberglass reinforced nylon housings and a borosilicate glass lens, which is resistant to extreme temperature changes. The eight-step power gauge tells you how much battery power is left, and you can easily swap out batteries so you aren’t left in the dark while you wait for your light to charge.

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

MPowerd’s Luci Solar Bike Light is a convenient, versatile light that runs for upwards of 15 hours on a single charge and is easy to install almost anywhere on a bike’s frame.

Pros: Recharges via solar power, close to around 15 hours of use on a single charge, easy to attach all over a bike, lightweight, offers four different light modes, comes with a rear light

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

It’s easy to see the versatility of MPowerd’s Luci Solar Bike Light; not only does it deliver more than enough capacity for even the longest of day rides but its ability to recharge while I ride is a wonderful perk. Add in the fact that this kit also comes with a solar-powered taillight, and this bike light package is quite intriguing.

Both lights are easy to attach via an adjustable silicone strap that works well on just about any part of a bike’s frame. The straps keep them snug, too, as I never felt as though the light would fall off, even if I was riding off-road or on a particularly bumpy street. I did think that the light’s magnetic clasp into the solar charger would come apart, but it stayed secure the entire time. 

Output-wise, the front light delivers 100 lumens while the taillight provides 40 lumens. Each has multiple light modes including a flashing option or different brightness levels, and a built-in battery level indicator lets you know when it’s time to recharge it. The lights also have a Micro-USB slot, so they aren’t only dependent on solar power for juice. 

Its $65 price tag is on the higher end for bike lights, but I do feel as though its versatility as solar-powered light makes it worth the investment — this is something that’s designed to last for several years while also being able to save you heaps of money on replacement batteries.

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

The Femto Tail Light from Lezyne is a lightweight, easy-to-use tail light that helps dramatically improve nighttime visibility, both behind your bike and on the sides. 

Pros: USB rechargeable, easy to install, lightweight enough to pack in a backpack when not in use, 270 degrees of visibility

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

Front bike lights are important, of course, but it can be just as vital to have something on the back of your bike to improve your visibility, as well. The Femto from Lezyne is one of the best I’ve used, as it’s light weight enough to not take up much space in my backpack when not in use and easy to install when it starts to get dark out (I can even pop it on without having to fully get off my bike). 

Although tail lights may seem like a dime a dozen (there are plenty available via Amazon), this one from Lezyne nabs this spot thanks to its wide range of visibility (270 degrees) and decent price point (I often find it for under $20). Tack on its easy-to-use mounting strap that lets you attach it almost anywhere, and you have a highly versatile rear bike light that can be used on everything from commuters and road bikes to mountain bikes and cruisers.

It’s also USB chargeable which I found to be quite useful as I could just plug these in after a few sessions of riding with them instead of looking around my apartment for or buying batteries.

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

The Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight keeps you visible from the front and sides with its powerful headlight and helpful sidelights.

Pros: Has sidelights, 500 lumens, lightweight and compact, easy to remove, two-year warranty

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

When mounted just right, the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight has two amber safety sidelights that make you visible to drivers on your sides. There are four light modes: high (500 lumens), medium, low, and pulse.

On high, the battery lasts for about 90 minutes, and on pulse, it lasts for up to 12 hours. The light mounts right onto your handlebars and has a quick release feature so you can take your light with you. It charges using a Micro USB charging cable. And, Light and Motion backs the quality of this product with a two-year warranty.

How to shop for a bike lights

When choosing a bike light, look at the number of lumens it’s capable of producing, as this tells you how bright the light is. Many models give you this number right in their name and, based on our testing, the advertised lumens rating is accurate for the best units, though the brightness may dwindle as the battery loses juice.

For headlights, the number of lumens you need depends on where you’ll be cycling. For riding trails at night, you need at least 1,000 lumens. For urban roads where there are streetlights, 200 lumens will do. And, taillights should produce between 40 and 100 lumens of output since they are mainly there so others can see you.

Do be careful not to use extremely bright flashing headlights while cycling, too. This can disorient drivers and make it harder for them to see you.

Also, anything above 300 lumens could potentially blind oncoming traffic. So, consider dropping down to a dimmer setting when cars are coming — much like you might use the high beams on your car. If you’re concerned about drivers seeing you from behind, consider installing two rear lights: One that flashes and one that remains steady.

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The best ice makers we tested in 2021

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Our pick for the best maker for nugget ice, the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, while making ice.
  • Ice makers can replace your ice trays, make ice in minutes, and keep your cooler full all day.
  • The best ice maker overall is the NewAir Countertop Ice Maker.
  • This machine had the most size options and largest water tank of any that we tested.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

If you like to entertain or just want a faster alternative to filling and refilling plastic ice trays, consider a portable ice maker. Most ice makers can produce a handful of cubes in under 10 minutes, and the more powerful models can make upwards of 20 pounds in 24 hours. For comparison, it takes three to four hours to turn water into ice in the average freezer.

Ice makers may be classified as “portable,” but since they’re heavy and typically need to be kept upright and level, you shouldn’t move them around too much. The manuals for every ice maker we tested recommended leaving space between the ice maker and heat sources, like stoves or vents. The higher the ambient temperature, the longer ice will take to form.

Most ice makers make bullet ice, which is cylindrical with a rounded base and a hollow middle. Bullet ice starts to melt fairly quickly, and most ice machines do not have insulated baskets for long term storage, so if you’re running one during a party, you will have to periodically empty it out.

We tested five ice machines and spoke to Ken Ho, co-owner of cocktail creation and consulting company One Cocktail at a Time, about what sets a good ice maker apart from the competition. After our research and testing, we chose the three ice makers below as the best ones you can buy in 2021.

Here are the best ice makers of 2021

Our methodology

Two glasses of water with ice from two of the machines we tested

We put five ice makers through a series of tests to determine which ones performed consistently well. We chose ice makers that produced between 26 and 28 pounds of ice daily. We found this to be the market average.

Speed: Each ice maker we tested promised to make a certain amount of cubes in a certain amount of time, so we tested the accuracy of those claims.

Capacity: We measured the water reservoir capacity by filling it with a quart of water at a time until we reached the max line.

Ice quality: We noted if the ice came out broken or whole, and whether or not the ice cubes made on the same setting were similar in shape and size. 

If the machine had multiple size settings, we evaluated the sizes separately.

We also compared the melting speeds of ice produced by the ice makers and ice from traditional cube trays in two separate tests: one where the ice cubes were placed in glasses of water, and one where the ice cubes were left out. In general, ice from the machines melted slower than ice from the traditional trays.

Noise level: We evaluated if we could have a conversation at normal volume while each machine was running.

Ease of use: We noted how easy it was to lift the machines and keep them level, as well as how much effort it took to drain the machines. We also examined each machine’s interface, and judged them on simplicity and intelligibility.

The best ice maker overall

Our best overall ice maker, the NewAir Countertop Ice Maker in black, on the counter.

The NewAir Countertop Ice Maker‘s three quart water reservoir and three ice sizes are great if you like to entertain or prefer all your drinks chilled.

Pros: Three ice sizes, large water tank capacity, ice is evenly shaped across sizes

Cons: Bulky, small ice is on the thin side 

At three quarts, this ice maker’s water tank had the largest capacity out of all the machines we tested. After running two small cycles, one medium, and one large, there were still over two quarts left. Regardless of the size you select, each ice cycle produces nine pieces of ice and takes under 15 minutes to complete. This speed is standard among ice makers with one or two sizes, but I was impressed by the NewAir‘s consistent timing in all three sizes.

Draining the leftover water was easy because the NewAir‘s drainage port is conveniently located on its side near the bottom, as opposed to underneath the machine. If you shut off the machine mid-cycle, any ice formed will drop back into the water tank. 

The small ice started losing shape just from the heat of my hand; the medium and large ice cubes were more substantial. However, this was the case for all of the ice makers I tested.

Countertop Ice Maker (button)
The best budget ice maker

Our best budget ice maker, the Magic Chef Portable Ice Maker in white, on the counter.

With a small countertop footprint and two ice sizes, the Magic Chef Portable Ice Maker is perfect for small spaces and camping.

Pros: Can be used outdoors, runs quietly, small and large ice produced in under 10 minutes

Cons: Not easy to drain, white finish attracts dust

The Magic Chef doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it delivers on its key promise: you will get nine pieces of small or large ice in 15 minutes or less. This is enough ice to fill an eight ounce glass. The ice came out fully formed and the cubes were identical in size and shape. The large ice cubes did not take much longer to form than the small ones, and I found that the Magic Chef actually over-delivered on its claim: both sizes were ready to use in under 10 minutes. The noise level was no higher than other machines, which is especially useful if you’re bringing the ice maker into a small space.

The drainage port is on the underside of the machine, so it requires some finagling to open it and place a vessel for catching the excess water underneath. I did notice that some hair and dust particles stuck to the machine and were super visible on the white exterior. The Magic Chef can be used outdoors, but as with all ice makers, the manufacturer recommends that you leave it in its final position for about an hour before using it.

27-Lb. Portable Countertop Ice Maker (button)
The best ice maker for nugget ice

Our pick for the best maker for nugget ice, the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, while making ice.

The Opal Nugget Ice Maker does one thing and does it well: it makes chewable nugget ice.

Pros: Runs quietly, one water tank is enough for an hour of ice production

Cons: Bulky, takes longer to produce enough ice to fill a glass

Nugget ice has its devoted fans, but there are few countertop nugget ice makers on the market. Unless you have an ice maker built into your refrigerator, making the perfect mint julep can feel impossible. Enter the Opal Nugget Ice Maker: it’s a portable machine that produces one pound of crushed ice in an hour. 

The Opal is about $200 more than our other picks, but that’s a pretty standard price for a nugget ice maker. The machine took about half an hour to produce enough nugget ice to fill a 12 ounce glass from top to bottom. This is not surprising, since nugget ice is small and condenses in glasses. After running the machine for an hour, you’ll have enough ice for two or three full glasses.

The ice pieces are frozen solid and evenly shaped. The interface is simple and the machine is sleek; though it takes up over a foot of counter space, it is not an eyesore. 

Part of the machine’s bulk can be attributed to a side water tank, which enables you to triple the Opal‘s water capacity and continuously make ice for several hours in a row. It was easy to connect with a clearly labeled tube in the back of the machine.

Opal Nugget Ice Maker (button)
What else we tested

Frigidaire Portable Compact Maker: This ice maker is almost identical to the Magic Chef. It was relatively quiet and made nine cubes in nine minutes. However, it only makes one size of ice and it cannot be used outdoors, which is why it lost out on a top spot.

Luma Comfort Clear Ice Maker: This was the only machine that produced traditional cube shaped ice and claimed to make clear ice. While the ice was noticeably less cloudy, there were a few other flaws that kept this ice maker from being a top pick. The ice cubes froze into a solid rectangle and were not easily broken apart. Additionally, the small cubes had divots in the middle, which increased the surface area and therefore led to faster melting.

What we look forward to testing

Igloo Portable Ice Maker: This machine is similar to the bullet ice makers we tested, and its selling points are a three quart water tank and a small countertop footprint. Our current top pick has a three quart tank, but takes up more space. 

Igloo Flip-up Door Portable Crushed Ice Maker: This is more multi-purpose ice maker than the others we tested; it produces crushed ice and two sizes of bullet ice, and dispenses water. We are curious to see if it performs all of those tasks equally well.

FAQs

Semi-clear ice cubes frozen together from the Luma Comfort Clear Ice Maker.

How do you clean your ice maker?

All ice makers have specific cleaning instructions in their manuals, and the process was largely the same for the five machines we tested. Dilute basic detergent with room temperature water and wash the inside of the water tank and ice basket with a soft cloth.


How does an ice maker work?

Portable ice makers use the same mechanical freezing cycle as refrigerators and freezers, just on a smaller scale. Because they’re not connected to a water line, you have to fill up the ice maker’s water reservoir to make the ice. Unlike a chest freezer, a high ambient temperature can significantly slow down the speed of a portable ice maker.


Why does bullet ice melt faster than cubes or spheres?

Melting speed is determined by the surface area to volume ratio. Large ice spheres melt slower than traditional ice cubes because spheres have a lower ratio. Bullet ice, with its hollow center, has a higher ratio and therefore melts faster. 

“The two main purposes of ice are to chill the cocktail and to dilute it. With that in mind, depending on how you build a cocktail and how you like to enjoy it, ice plays different roles,” said Ho. Fast-melting ice results in a diluted but colder drink, while slow-melting ice keeps a drink concentrated but not as cold.

You can read more about when and why to use different ice shapes and sizes here.

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The 9 best dehumidifiers in 2021

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white frigidaire dehumidifier in a living room between an armchair and coffee table
  • Dehumidifiers help remove excess moisture from the air to prevent mold and remove allergens.
  • The best dehumidifiers are from Frigidaire, HomeLabs, and Honeywell.
  • We also include budget-friendly, portable, and small-space options.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

The purpose of a dehumidifier is to remove excess humidity from the air, keeping your room dry and helping prevent mold and mildew growth.

You might need a dehumidifier if:

  • Your room feels stuffy and humid
  • You see mold and mildew, and the area smells musty
  • There are wet spots or condensation on the windows and walls
  • You or your fellow inhabitants experience upper respiratory problems like sneezing and coughing

You can also use a hygrometer to directly measure humidity levels in your house. “We recommend keeping the relative humidity in your home between 30-50%. High humidity can increase ground-ozone levels, dust mites, and mold – all of which can be allergy or asthma trigger[s],” said Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

We found the best dehumidifiers for rooms of various sizes and different needs. See the FAQs section for information on how to shop for a dehumidifier, how to clean your unit, and more.

Here are the best dehumidifiers of 2021

Our methodology

white homelabs dehumidifier on the ground next to a bicycle

In our first major rewrite of this guide, we consulted allergy, skincare, and HVAC experts to learn more about how a dehumidifier can help your health and what features to look for. We spoke to Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA); John McKeon, CEO and founder of Allergy Standards Limited (ASL); Jeanine Downie, MD, FAAD, Director of Image Dermatology PC; and a spokesperson for The Home Depot

Using their insights, along with our own research and knowledge of the space, we picked a few dehumidifier options per category. Down the line, we plan to personally test these dehumidifiers to choose one best pick per category.

The best dehumidifiers overall

white frigidaire dehumidifier in a living room between an armchair and coffee table

Our best dehumidifiers are quiet, efficient, Energy-Star certified, and look sleek rather than clunky.

High-Efficiency 50-Pint Dehumidifier with Built-In Pump (medium)Dehumidifier (medium)TP50WK Dehumidifier (30-pint) (medium)
The best dehumidifiers for small spaces

small vremi compact dehumidifier on top of a table next to vases

Whether you have a closet or small bathroom that smells musty, small dehumidifiers can efficiently remove moisture from the air without taking up too much space.

Small Dehumidifier (medium)Compact Dehumidifier (medium)
The best dehumidifiers for large spaces

ivation large-capacity dehumidifier on the floor next to an armchair

Large basements and living rooms will benefit from the following dehumidifiers. Large dehumidifiers also often have the perk of more advanced features like custom settings or auto-shutoff.

70-Pint Energy Star Dehumidifier (medium)70-Pint Dehumidifier (medium)
The best portable dehumidifiers

small white eva-dry wireless mini dehumidifier in a cabinet in front of spices

“For smaller spaces or rental units, I recommend including portable dehumidifiers to keep the space feeling fresh,” said a spokesperson for The Home Depot. Portable dehumidifiers are also great for small closets, cabinets, traveling, and gym bags.

Wireless Mini Dehumidifier (medium)Mini Dehumidifier (medium)
FAQs

Why do you need a dehumidifier? 

A dehumidifier helps maintain the optimal level of humidity in your room so it’s not too humid. It reduces the growth and incidence of mold, mildew, and dust mites.


Dehumidifier vs. humidifier: what’s the difference and which do you need? 

A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to the air. 

If your room feels stuffy and you see condensation or mold, you need a dehumidifier. It’s commonly used in bathrooms, basements, closets, boats, and RVs, but you can use it anywhere else in the house, too. 

If your room feels dry and your skin is irritated, you need a humidifier. We tested the best humidifiers here.


What to consider when buying a dehumidifier 

Dampness level: Dehumidifiers come in different sizes depending on how much moisture they can remove in 24 hours. Here’s what size to buy based on how humid your room is:

Dampness level Characteristics Dehumidifier size Room size
Moderately damp Musty aroma in the area during humid weather 25-39 pint capacity Small (closets, small bathrooms)
Extremely damp Always damp in the area regardless of season 40-59 pint capacity Medium (bedrooms, small basements, large closets)
Wet Visible condensation on ceilings and walls 60+ pint capacity Large (large basements)

How the unit removes moisture: It will either have a built-in pump or a direct drain. “A dehumidifier with a built-in pump allows you to run the drain hose up to a window, sink or elevated drain. A unit with a direct drain will funnel the water directly into a sink or basement drain,” said a spokesperson from The Home Depot. 

Energy performance: To get maximum efficiency out of a unit, look for those that are Energy Star-certified.

Automatic or useful features: Look for a unit with an adjustable humidistat, which will automatically turn your unit on and off to maintain the preset humidity level. Other useful features, according to The Home Depot, include:

  • Automatic shutoff: Turns your unit off once the tank is full 
  • Digital display: Shows the relative humidity level and other settings
  • Filter sensor/indicator: Tells you when it’s time to replace the filter
  • Programmable timer: Lets you run the unit only at certain times of the day
  • Auto-defrost: Keeps your unit from freezing in cold temperatures 

It’s also worth pointing out that many AC units have built-in dehumidifiers. If your AC unit is in your desired room, check first to see if it has a dehumidifier and whether it works well. We tested the best air conditioners here.


How does a dehumidifier work? 

A dehumidifier works by blowing moist air over coolant-filled coils, causing the moisture to condense into water droplets. The condensation then drips from the coils into a receptacle. The collected water is directly drained out or pumped into another area like a sink, depending on the unit you have.


Is a dehumidifier good for your skin?

“Dehumidifiers decrease the incidence of dry skin,” said Jeanine Downie, MD, FAAD, Director of Image Dermatology PC. They also reduce irritation due to allergens like dust mites and mold. If your dehumidifier removes too much humidity from the air, however, it may dry out your skin. 

“It’s important to note that if the humidity starts to drop below 30% it can have a negative impact on health, including drying out of the eyes and mucous membranes,” said McKeon. “Very dry air can also result in dry skin, worsening of eczema, and irritation of the airways.” You should continue to monitor humidity levels and how your skin feels as you use your dehumidifier.


How do you clean a dehumidifier? 

There are two parts to focus your attention on: the air filter and the tank. Clean the air filter under your faucet often (once a week). Wipe down and dry out the tank after every use to reduce mold and mildew growth within your dehumidifier.

Check out our other home-climate-control guides

best air purifier 2021 lead
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The 5 best gaming mice of 2021

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6 of the gaming mice we tested laid out on a mouse pad
  • Wireless gaming mice have become technogically sophisticated and accurate enough to live to their steep prices.
  • Wired gaming mice can be had for a reasonable price, however, and are largely unmatched in terms of response time.
  • Our pick for the best gaming mouse is the Razer Viper Ultimate.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

For decades, computers (PCs) have been powerful and fun tools, and for just as long we have wanted to play games on them. From games that are uniquely suited to PC to those best realized on robust hardware, PC gaming covers a broad range, and it attracts all kinds of players.

While game controllers are still prevalent at esport events, it’s the computer mouse that continues to let the best players excel as they vie for dominance in games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Starcraft, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The domain of gaming mice isn’t limited to just PCs either, as console games like Fortnite and Call of Duty now allow players to use mouse and keyboard setups-let me say, the advantage is real. It’s completely worth becoming a keyboard and mouse user for multiplayer games that support them on both PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

As a former game designer, I can tell you that most games are born and developed on PCs. The whole idea of aiming a weapon in a game, of selecting units, building defenses, and clicking on a target are PC and mouse centric. Accuracy, response time, muscle memory, reflex, etc. – these tend to make the difference between playing well and losing, and it all gets funneled from the player and into the game via the mouse.

Below are the best gaming mice I’ve tested for 2021 so far, broken down by subcategory and led by a pick for the best gaming mouse overall.

Here are the best gaming mice of 2021

The best gaming mouse overall

The Razer Viper Ultimate mouse on a white background

The Razer Viper Ultimate is wireless and has the best mix of sensitivity, grip, weight, look, and feel.

Pros: The feel when moving, lightweight (74g), enduring battery life, subtle but cool look (with RGB), truly ambidextrous shape, surface texture, color options

Cons: Unnecessary charging dock, bloated Razer software suite, high price

My current favorite gaming mouse is the Razer Viper Ultimate, and aside from a few small qualms (like the pushy software), it offers a premium gaming mouse experience while still hitting a nice weight at 74g to provide an overall responsive and enjoyable feel. 

In order to meet the needs of different gamers’ grips, Razer offers a variety of models (including the Basilisk and DeathAdder), and the Viper Ultimate is the company’s ambidextrous, wireless, and premium gaming mouse. It’s not only a great feel, weight, and responsiveness, but also a welcome texture that varies between the palm and sides of the mouse.

As part of the ambidextrous design, the Razer Ultimate has a two-button cluster on both sides. It also has a compartment on the underside where the USB dongle can be stored for travel and such. The battery life is good and extended smartly with a rating of up to 70 hours. 

In addition to the standard black design, a few different color options are offered (Quartz/Pink, Mercury/White, and Cyberpunk 2077/ Yellow), and Razer includes a matching Razer Mouse Dock Chroma (RGB). I think the dock is superfluous as the mouse can be charged (and used while charging) with just the USB cable, though I suppose the dock helps give the mouse a premium feel. (A cheaper version without the dock is available, but only directly from Razer.)

The standard black is like a reinvention of the classic Razer style: sedate when off, but spiffy when the Razer logo lights up and breathes on the palm wrest.

Being the best overall gaming mouse, the Viper Ultimate is at home playing a first-person shooter (FPS) or a real-time strategy (RTS), running wired or wirelessly, and even outside of games. It feels complete without any corners cut and its weight is low enough to be an ultralight without that being the central feature.

Viper Ultimate (button)
The best wired gaming mouse

Logitech G203 mouse on a white background

With its gaming-quality responsiveness, grip, buttons, and lighting, the Logitech G203 Lightsync is the essential wired gaming mouse.

Pros: The distilled shape, clicky buttons, well set scroll wheel, four available colors, low price, lightweight (85g)

Cons: G203 Lightsync adds more RGB options, but G203 Prodigy has plenty for less; plain cable for a gaming mouse

Unlike the Razer Viper Mini, which is too compact for me, the Logitech G203 manages to have a wonderful shape at a good weight. The sensor is not as fancy as many gaming mice, but the feel, glide, and wired performance are nevertheless gaming grade.

It has six buttons and a scroll wheel, with the sixth button letting the user select the mouse’s DPI sensitivity. It’s a nearly ambidextrous shape with only buttons four and five on the left side limiting its utility for left-handed gamers. 

The Lightsync part of the name refers to its prominent RGB features, and the lit G logo and light band are the flashiest aspects. But really, the G203 Prodigy seems to be the same stalwart mouse as the G203 Lightsync. Both G203 models are relatively inexpensive ways to upgrade a gaming setup. Whether you want to play online with friends leisurely, or actively spend time training your accuracy and speed, the G203 can well meet your needs.

The cable is plain and far from the nylon/paracord cables common to gaming mice, but that might only be noticed when transporting the mouse. The G203 can usually be had at a low price, and it’s a great first gaming mouse.

G203 (button)
The best budget wireless gaming mouse

Logitech G305 on a white background

The G305 Lightspeed is an excellent, AA-battery-powered, wireless gaming mouse that should please nearly everybody not concerned with RGB or weight. 

Pros: Quality shape and materials, four available colors, simple to use, great battery life

Cons: Heftier weight (99g), no RGB lighting, no internal battery or play charge option

The Razer Viper Ultimate is the best overall gaming mouse, but for a wireless gaming mouse that’s a little more straightforward and utilitarian, the cheaper Logitech G305 Lightspeed just nails it. Among wireless mice, the G305 is simple to get going and easy to use. This is also a rare case where I don’t think the software is really necessary, because the G305 is very much ready to go out of the box. DPI levels and battery life are easy to adjust and monitor without software.

Pop the G305 open, insert the included AA battery, remove the small USB dongle, and pop the cover back on. The USB dongle goes into the PC, and it’s time to flick the power switch (on the mouse’s underside) to on. What’s left then is to hit the DPI button located on the top between the great scroll wheel and the lone LED light, and dial in to the desired comfort zone via the desired DPI sensitivity. (Of course, the software is there if you need to reassign buttons or update firmware.)

From there, the G305‘s excellent shape and strong, welcoming build takes center stage. Because this mouse is so easy to set up and use, and because it lacks RGB or anything visually that screams “gaming mouse,” the G305 might not immediately stand out in a sea of gaming mice. But in use, it’s excellent all-around. The G305’s one real concession towards style is to offer blue and lilac shell colors to go with the more standard black and white.

In addition to accuracy, responsiveness with satisfying clicks, the requisite six buttons, and stalwart battery life, the G305 even promises to hold up better than most against abuse (including abuse from traveling). This mouse is perfect both as a first wireless gaming mouse (before getting into the premium territory) and for outfitting a new esports team. If there is one thing that holds the G305 back, it’s the weight, which is listed at 99g (I measured 97g). Those with a light touch, and those that often pick up the mouse may find it a touch too heavy. Then again, it’s tougher and simpler than most gaming mice.

G305 Lightspeed Wireless Gaming Mouse (button)
The best ultralight gaming mouse

Glorious Model O mouse on a white background

Glorious nailed the wired ultralight category with the Model O, a purpose-built mouse with the right amount of gaming flare.

Pros: Pleasing Pixart sensor, welcoming shape, four skates that ensure a nice glide, flair, lightweight (67g), fair price

Cons: The software is functional but needs some real TLC, side buttons are just ok

These days, the weight of a gaming mouse is a specification that is just as important as size and sensitivity. It’s almost like we are deep in the midst of the rise of the ultralight mice. It’s a trend whose merits are fairly easy to test out, as comparing two similar gaming mice that are mainly separated by 20-40g in weight will show very noticeable differences, even to the point of affecting play. 

It’s in this weight-focused zone that the wired Glorious Model O fits so well. Sure, it looks like gamer hardware with its honeycomb shell, generous RGB lines (even in the scroll wheel) and bearded Glorious logo, but it has the internals to match its looks. The 67g weight and Pixart sensor pair well together in a light and pleasing design.

It’s a good shape, the RGB is not too distracting, and the cord is a nice change from what has been standard for gaming mice. No details have been overlooked, though the software isn’t my favorite (at least the software isn’t bloated). 

With style, lightness, and solid performance in hand, what’s left to be concerned about in this ultralight category is durability. Fortunately, unlike some newer mice, the Model O has been on the market and in the hands of a demanding community long enough to inspire confidence in its build, and since it is a wired mouse, there is a lot less to worry over. (Wired mice users don’t have to deal with wireless signal strength, battery life or even a lost or broken USB dongle.)

The Model O succeeds at everything it set out to do, which helps to make it a nice alternative to some of the mice from bigger brands. I would stick with the matte black or white and avoid the glossy variants as glossy shells don’t wear as well and tend to show damage and dirt.

Model O (button)
The best MMO/MOBA gaming mouse

The Razer Naga Pro with two of it's exchangeable skins

The Razer Naga Pro takes everything great about the Naga Trinity, improves it, and makes it wireless.

Pros: Modular design of the left button cluster and number of available buttons, sensor accuracy, battery life, suitable for larger hands and some different grips

Cons: Steep price, bulky weight (117g), three hot-swappable plates can become clutter

If you’ve been looking at the other picks in this guide, then you may have noticed a few trends such as lighter designs and ambidextrous shapes. The Razer Naga Pro has neither of these characteristics. Furthermore, unlike those other category winners, the Razer Naga Pro comes as part mouse, part mouse kit. 

The mouse part of the Razer Naga Pro has the latest in Razer’s optical sensor tech as well as their wireless tech. (The Naga Trinity is the cheaper wired version.) It also has an internal battery with a battery life of up to 150 hours. It has a distinct right-handed ergonomic shape, but it’s weighty at 117g, and it’s the only mouse pick in this guide that offers a tilt scroll wheel.

It’s also the only mouse in this guide that is modular as it offers a trio of panels for its left side. On the left side, it can host two buttons, six buttons, or even twelve buttons. The twelve-button panel gives the mouse a whopping 20 buttons (including two from the tilt wheel and one on the underside), which is way too many for me but often desired in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). 

The panels are affixed magnetically and can be changed quite easily. I prefer the multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA-friendly, six button panel, which is reminiscent of a Logitech G604 configuration. Underneath the modular panel is where the wireless USB dongle can be stored.

The Naga Pro offers that trio of configurations, making it a truly premium, semi-modular wireless mouse. The Naga Pro supports a charging dock but it isn’t included, which is addition by subtraction in my mind as the user can still use the included cable to charge or play over a wired connection. In addition to the standard and important 2.4Ghz wireless connection available through the USB dongle, the Naga Pro also offers a Bluetooth connection for those times when mobility and battery life are more important than performance.

While the modular left side and plethora of button options set the Naga Pro apart from smaller mice, it’s also a promising option for those with larger hands, especially if they tend to rest their palm completely on the mouse.

Naga Pro Gaming Mouse (button)
What else we considered

In this guide I’ve talked a lot about wireless gaming mice, and at each turn, the weight of the gaming mice was always a concern. Thus, one category that might be missing here is the ultralight wireless gaming mouse category. Wireless ultralight mice are very much on the cutting edge, and several ultralight wireless mice have recently hit the market. Here are three that we considered and liked but ultimately did not make the cut.

SteelSeries Aerox 3 Wireless

The Aerox 3 Wireless is a snazzy wireless ultralight. It has the feel and the looks, but it’s less polished all-around than I would like. For example, it has a power-saving feature that I dislike greatly. The mouse will sleep after one to 20 minutes. This is adjustable in the software (5 minutes default, 20 minutes max) but cannot be disabled. The part that bothers me is that in order to wake the mouse, I have to click a button whereas other mice wake on being moved. 

Still, it has a fun take on RGB with a thin light ring on the bottom that comes through the holey shell, and it uses a well-designed USB-C cable. (Many mice require a proprietary micro-USB or USB-C connection while the Aerox 3 is meant to be used with other USB-C cables.) It also has an IP54 rating for dust and water protection. 

Pros: SteelSeries shape with an ultralight style and weight, impressive gaming performance, good for everyday use outside of games, supports play-charging and fast-charging, internal battery, Xbox One support, price

Cons: Various settings depend on the PC app, fresh but not necessarily distinct in look, right-handed, click to wake battery management

Logitech Pro X Superlight

The Pro X Superlight is cutting edge. It’s a wireless ultralight that pushes the extremes to get down to a rated 63g weight (closer to 61g really). It packs Logitech’s most efficient and most precise sensor without sacrificing battery life. It also manages to have a traditional mouse shell which ought to be good for anyone wanting a very light gaming mouse but also a sedate look. There is no RGB to be found on the Pro X Superlight unless you count the lone, usually dim LED on the top.

On the bottom of the mouse there is a great compartment which houses the USB dongle, and by removing the little magnetic door, the mouse can get even lighter. That said, this mouse might be too light. Parts of it feel excellent, like the scroll wheel, while other parts feel hollow, like the thin shell. I’ve also found that my main mousepad causes the Pro X Superlight to stutter. 

Pros: Great feel, traditional shell design, impressive sensor sensitivity, supports play-charging, internal battery, long battery life

Cons: DPI adjustments are initially PC app-dependent, basic looks, finicky back thumb button, could take some getting used to, plain looks, price

Glorious Model O Wireless

The Glorious Model O Wireless is very much the wireless ultralight that Glorious has promised. Rated at 69g (I’ve got it just under 70g), it brings with it so much that was great about the wired Model O. It has a great shape that only falls short of ambidextrous due to the placement of the thumb buttons. A great lookin matte black (or matte white) with satisfying primary buttons and scroll wheel along with good thumb buttons. Happily, it does have a DPI button (up top) and a DPI light (on the underside) as well as the same, nice RGB lighting and logo placement as its wired cousin.

The new Glorious-developed BAMF sensor is different from the wired Model O, but the feel is consistently accurate. The battery life is not incredible but it’s ok, especially since it can charge while being used. The Model O Wireless is not without its quirks. The included USB-C cable has a right way up both when connecting to the mouse and when connecting to the USB-C dongle connector. There’s new software as well, the Glorious Core. It’s a step up from previous Glorious software, but it still raises an eyebrow when first run, when updating, and even when checking battery level; it’s slight roughness that I suspect will be smoothed out through updates. Still, I think Glorious delivered with the Model O Wireless. It’s great while gaming and happy doing day to day stuff. And let’s not forget the pleasing price. It’s only shortfall is that after much time spent with both mice, I prefer the more expensive Viper Ultimate’s shape.

Pros: Very purpose-focused, ultra-lightweight (67g), attractive design, the RGB lighting, the low price

Cons: Thumb button placement could be better, the software experience, the USB-C cable trident design, no storage spot in the mouse for the USB dongle

How to pick the best gaming mouse

Grip & feel: There is a lot of tech that goes into the design and manufacture of a gaming mouse, but ultimately, if gripping and moving the mouse doesn’t feel right, then look elsewhere. A brief period (from a few hours to a week) of readjustment may be necessary, but gaming mice are meant to be responsive and to glide with accuracy. Gaming mice are also meant to serve different kinds of hand sizes and grip techniques. Many gaming mice have the same sort of sensor and features, but offer a different shape. There is a range starting with the ambidextrous and symmetrical shaped mice on one end, the classic right-hand shaped mice in the middle, and the extremely hand-fitting ergonomic shaped mice on the other end. Those with larger, heavier hands may find ergonomic mice like the Razer Basilisk Ultimate to be suitable to their grip. Others will likely find themselves gravitating between the truly ambidextrous mice and the classic right-handed shape.

Of course, even with the right grip, if the buttons aren’t responsive, if the wheel isn’t consistent, if the tracking is too floaty, then it isn’t the right mouse.

Weight: A big feature for gaming mice of yore was adjustable weights. Modern trends, however, see gaming mice vying for lighter weight all around. Ultralight mice, a category of gaming mice that are under 80g in weight (and tend to be closer to 60g), are gaming mice focused on being light and responsive even at the cost of fancy features like modular buttons. But even those gaming mice that stay away from being called “ultralight” have shed weight. Weight affects the feel, and feel does affect performance as well as enjoyment. 

Wired versus wireless: Gaming mouse technology is truly amazing, and wireless gaming mice can offer just about everything that a wired mouse can without much in the way of compromise. But why opt for a wireless gaming mouse over a wired one? To be precise, it is a comfort thing. Without a cable tethering the mouse, the mouse is more comfortable to use, and less likely to take you out of the game (or even your work zone) to fuss over the cable. Of course, wired gaming mice offer great features at a much lower price and without having to worry at all about power or even the rare signal concern. What’s nice for those of us who have a hard time choosing between the two is that many wireless mice offer the ability to use the mouse while charging with a cable or even with the mouse turned off. One could use the mouse with the cable until it became irksome and then switch to wireless mode. 

Wireless power: If opting for a wireless gaming mouse, then there needs to be some consideration for how the mouse will be powered. Good wireless gaming mice are both power efficient when in use and smart about saving power when not in use. Finding that the mouse has a low battery or, even worse, a dead battery should be a rare thing, even as rare as once a month. Cheaper wireless gaming mice tend to use AA batteries while more expensive mice have internal batteries. Mice can be charged through their included cable (either micro-USB or USB-C) or in some cases through a charging cradle or even, in the case of the Logitech Powerplay, a charging mouse pad. As mentioned above, I like mice with internal batteries and the cabled play-charge option. I can go wireless until I hit low battery, plug in, and keep going.

Bluetooth vs USB dongle: Wireless gaming mice tend to use a USB dongle in order to connect via a 2.4Ghz wireless connection for maximum performance and ease of use. Often, the dongle can be stored inside the mouse to help keep it from getting lost during travel or storage. Many mice do, however, offer the ability to connect via Bluetooth. The idea here is to allow for a dongle-less connection, say to a laptop with built-in Bluetooth. This is an option when mobile, or I suppose if the dongle has been misplaced. The fancy performance of the gaming mouse will be restrained by the Bluetooth connection, but in many cases, the battery life will be extended considerably, which could be helpful when on the move.

Bundled software: Gaming mice are generally quite good at just working when connected to Windows, however, accessing and adjusting various features will typically require special software from the manufacturer. Even the Glorious line of mice uses software and should, out of box, have their firmware checked. Gaming mouse software is useful for adjusting RGB lighting and button assignments as well as power options for wireless mice. Adjusting DPI sensitivity out of the box can usually be done without software (by cycling through presets using a certain button on the mouse), but there is at least one instance I know where even that was relegated to the software. As with all such software, some apps are more focused and stable while others are more bloated and need regular updates.

Build: The mouse brands mentioned in this guide, including Logitech and Razer, have a good reputation for build quality. Just be reasonably good to a gaming mouse (don’t throw it against a wall, take it into a bathroom or to the beach), and it should provide years of excellent performance without issue. Aside from the buttons and scroll wheel, gaming mice have almost no moving parts, and the thing most likely to wear down first are the PTFE feet on the bottom that provide the glide. A mouse that gets dirty from messy food items should be cleaned and put back in service. If a button fails/is failing, the manufacturer should be contacted regardless of what the warranty states. When transporting a gaming mouse, be careful of the cable and buttons (an internal pouch on a backpack usually works).

Price: Wired gaming mice like the Logitech G203 and Razer Viper Mini are priced at $39.99 while the ultralight wired Glorious Model O is $49.99. The wireless Logitech G305 Lightspeed is $59.99, but premium wireless gaming mice with internal batteries range up to $149.99. While some people consider computer mice to be a free-with-purchase kind of thing, the $40-$150 range really isn’t bad for something that might be used all-day everyday while still lasting for years on end.

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The 5 best gaming routers of 2021

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Collage of gaming routers, including Netgear, D-Link, and TP-link on blue background 4x3
  • Having a solid wireless router is one of the most important aspects of online gaming.
  • Some of the best gaming routers offer support for the latest version of Wi-Fi, multiple bands, and more.
  • Embracing these new technologies can give you the edge in just about any online game.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Most people are content to use the routers provided by their internet service providers. Those devices rarely support the most advanced networking technologies, such as tri-band mesh and more powerful processing, however, and some can barely keep up with everyday activities such as streaming video. Anyone looking to improve their online gaming experience should probably start by replacing that ISP-provided equipment with their own gaming router.

But it can be hard to figure out what router to buy. Does it have to support the latest version of Wi-Fi? What is the most recent version of Wi-Fi, anyway? How important is the number of Ethernet ports, wireless bands, or antennas? It’s no wonder so many people end up using whatever router their ISP provides when answering all these questions can be so overwhelming.

Preference also comes into play. Someone who wants to be on the leading edge of wireless networking has very different needs from someone who just wants to have a better time gaming online without breaking the bank in the process. There is some good news, though, and it’s that there are many routers capable of serving a wide variety of needs. These are some of the best wireless routers for gaming.

Here are the best gaming routers of 2021

The best gaming router overall

Netgear Nighthawk Pro AX5400 WiFi Gaming Router (XR1000)

The Netgear NightHawk XR1000 offers high speeds, great bandwidth, and a variety of customization tools.

Pros: High data transfer speeds, extensive controls

Cons: Tedious setup, companion apps are slow to load

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 boasts a variety of features—Wi-Fi 6 support, Quality of Service (QoS) controls, and a companion mobile app—that should allow it to appeal to PC, console, and mobile gamers alike. It’s not the most powerful router on the market, but it’s a versatile device that offers an affordable way to improve your network’s performance.

Wi-Fi 6 offers several improvements over previous generations of Wi-Fi, including longer ranges, increased bandwidth, and improved transfer speeds. In my tests, the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 stays close to the maximum 100 Mbps download speed afforded by my network from up to 45 feet away despite multiple obstructions. (It offers better Wi-Fi 5 performance than my existing router, too, which would be worth the upgrade by itself.)

Many of the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000‘s features are enabled via the DumaOS 3.0 software. The QoS controls allow you to prioritize the performance of specific devices on the network, which means you could automatically limit the bandwidth someone else is using to stream Netflix while preserving the quality of your gaming PC’s connection, for example.

Netgear also offers details about connections between the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 and other devices on its network via the Netgear Nighthawk mobile app. Unfortunately that app is more of a necessary evil than a valued companion. I find it slow to load, occasionally unresponsive, and somewhat vexing, but it is also the easiest way to update the router’s firmware. 

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 does have a few shortcomings, however, such as the inclusion of just four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one USB 3.0 port. This should be fine for predominantly wireless setups, but the limited number of wired connections might prove frustrating for some.

Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 (button)
The best budget gaming router

D-Link DIR-867-US

The D-Link DIR-867-US is a step up from ISP-provided routers that doesn’t break the bank.

Pros: Affordable, offers basic quality-of-life features such as MU-MIMO support

Cons: Doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6, lacks USB input

The D-Link DIR-867-US is an affordable router said to offer speeds up to 1,750 Mbps when a device is connected to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It also boasts multi-user, multi-input, multi-output (MU-MIMO) support and Quality of Service (QoS) controls. The former provides better transfer speeds when connecting to many devices, and the latter offers controls to prioritize the traffic of some devices over others.

The DIR-867-US‘s wireless connectivity is complemented by four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports that can offer a stable wired connection to compatible devices. The router doesn’t feature any USB ports, however, which means peripherals such as printers and other office equipment will have to rely on Wi-Fi or Ethernet to join the network. That means those four Ethernet ports could fill up faster than you might have expected.

There’s no denying that other routers offer many benefits over the DIR-867-US. It doesn’t support the latest version of Wi-Fi, it’s limited to just two bands, and its wired connectivity is lacking compared to other options. But it still offers better performance than many ISP-provided routers, and its low price makes it more accessible to people who are gaming on a budget.

DIR-867-US (button)
The best gaming router for enthusiasts

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 on a white background

The ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 is a next-gen router with support for Wi-Fi 6E, 2.5GbE, and a variety of tools meant to improve in-game performance.

Pros: Wi-Fi 6E support, optional 2.5GbE connectivity, many features

Cons: Expensive, not as many Ethernet ports as some models

The ASUS GT-AXE11000 is the best gaming router for enthusiasts because it includes support for Wi-Fi 6E, which allows the router to offer faster speeds (up to 11,000 Mbps), improved bandwidth, and increased security compared to its predecessors. The router will have to be paired with other devices that support Wi-Fi 6E to provide all these benefits, of course, but anyone looking to experience the future of wireless connectivity should appreciate this offering.

In addition to Wi-Fi 6E, the ASUS GT-AXE11000 includes four Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports for local networking and two options for connecting to the internet. The first option is a 2.5GbE port that’s said to unlock Wi-Fi 6E’s full potential. The second option is to use two GbE WAN ports with WAN Aggregation to achieve a similar result. (Which option is right for a given network mostly depends on the ISP.) There are also two USB 3.0 ports that can be used to connect peripherals to the network.

ASUS crammed many quality-of-life features into the GT-AXE11000 as well. It supports Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, offers similar Quality of Service (QoS) features as other routers, and includes parental control settings. ASUS claims the router also offers “triple-level game acceleration,” which gives priority to devices connected via the dedicated gaming port, favors those devices over others on the network using adaptive QoS, and includes a 90-day free trial to the Outfox gaming network that claims to offer the fastest connection to many game servers.

ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 (button)
The best gaming router for wired gaming

TP-Link Archer AX6000

The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is the best router for wired gaming because of its bevy of Ethernet ports and 2.5GbE WAN connection.

Pros: Offers many Ethernet ports, supports Wi-Fi 6, includes common quality-of-life features

Cons: Somewhat expensive

The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is the best router for wired gaming because it offers eight GbE (LAN) ports in addition to Wi-Fi 6 connectivity enabled by a 2.5GbE (WAN) port. Having that many Ethernet ports should make it easy to provide a wired connection – which is generally more stable than even the best wireless connection – to almost every gaming device nearby. (To say nothing of improved streaming on set-top boxes, a better Wi-Fi network enabled by multiple wireless access points, and other benefits enabled by setting up a wired connection.)

TP-Link says the Archer AX6000 offers maximum transfer speeds of up to 4,804 Mbps via the 5GHz band and 1,148 Mbps via the 2.4GHz band for a combined total of nearly 6,000 Mbps. Those are under ideal conditions, of course, and you’ll only enjoy those speeds outside your home network if your internet service provider supports them. Performance will also vary based on how many devices are connected to the network, but integrated Quality of Service (QoS) settings should make it easier to prioritize gaming hardware over other devices.

The Archer AX6000‘s other handy features include a mobile companion app called Tether that can be used to set up the router, parental control software, the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant, and built-in security tools. The router also features two USB 3.0 ports (one Type-A port and one Type-C port)that can be used to connect peripherals to the network.

All of those features, combined with the multitude of GbE ports and Wi-Fi 6 support, should make the Archer AX6000 a compelling option for people seeking reliable performance who don’t necessarily want to break the bank to buy a router with leading-edge technologies.

Archer AX6000 (button)
The best gaming router for wireless gaming

Linksys Hydra Pro

The Linksys Hydra Pro is the best router for wireless gaming because it offers Wi-Fi 6E support as well as mesh networking enabled by the company’s Velop technology.

Pros: Wi-Fi 6E support, 5GbE (WAN), mesh networking support

Cons: Expensive, limited wired connectivity

The Linksys Hydra Pro is the best router for wireless gaming because it complements its support for Wi-Fi 6E with a 5GbE port that should make it easy to take full advantage of the most powerful internet connections. Linksys says it can handle more than 55 connected devices at once with a maximum coverage area of 2,700 square feet and transfer speeds up to 6.6 Gbps. You probably won’t enjoy those speeds at the edge of the router’s coverage area, but Linksys says its Velop Intelligent Mesh technology is “designed to deliver gigabit WiFi speeds to every corner of your home or business,” so even far-flung devices should have fast connections — assuming you’ve built a network of Wi-Fi satellites.

This router’s main downside is its limited wired connections. It only offers four GbE (LAN) ports and a single USB 3.0 Type-A port. That should be enough to connect a few devices  — presumably the PC or console you’re planning to play games on — but it does mean you’ll have to be strategic about which devices will enjoy the full benefits of a wired connection. The same goes for the single USB port; whichever peripheral is connected to that slot better earn its spot. If you aren’t planning to connect very many devices to this router via Ethernet, however, its support for Wi-Fi 6E and mesh networking should more than make up for its lack of ports.

Linksys also offers a companion mobile app to manage the Hydra Pro, and the router’s security features can be used to automatically install firmware updates, manage parental control settings, and establish a guest network. With just four external antennas, the router is also less ostentatious than some of the other members of this list, which could be an added benefit for people who don’t want their networking equipment to detract from their decor.

Another considerable downside of the Linksys Hydra Pro is its price. It doesn’t cost quite as much as the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000, but it’s pretty close, and both routers cost hundreds of dollars more than the rest of the entries on this list. Whether or not Wi-Fi 6E is currently worth the premium over Wi-Fi 6 will likely be a matter of the Wi-Fi 6E-supporting devices you have or plan to connect to the network in the near future. If you want the best wireless performance possible, however, there’s no denying that Wi-Fi 6E is the way to go.

Hydra Pro (button)

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The 4 best spin shoes we tested in 2021, compatible with exercise bikes like Peloton

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The right cycling shoe can mean the difference between a great ride and terrible foot pain.
  • I tested 11 pairs and consulted a SoulCycle instructor and a podiatrist to find the best spin shoes.
  • Our top pick, the Giro Cadets, deliver superior breathability, support, and comfort.

Whether you’re the proud owner of a new Peloton or you’re tired of sweating in rental shoes at a studio, a great pair of cycling shoes is an integral part of enjoying your spin class and getting a great workout. The wrong pair of shoes could lead to cramping, discomfort, or blistering, and the best cycling shoe is the one you don’t have to think about at all.

But the cycling shoe market is broad, and Olympic road cyclists, mountain bikers, and SoulCycle lovers all have different needs. This means there’s not exactly a one-size-fits-all spin shoe designed to tackle it all.

For help narrowing down what to look for, I consulted with two experts: NASM-certified personal trainer and spin instructor, Nicky Swierszcz, who spoke on fit, sizing, cleat styles, and shoe designs, and, Dr. Ryan Minara, D.P.M., Chief of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and former Podiatry Captain for the New York City Triathlon.

My actual testing comprised 11 separate pairs of cycling shoes worn over hundreds of miles worth of spin classes. The intent was to find a pair capable of providing the most supportive and comfortable ride in both an at-home and in-studio spin setting. My top picks balance value and comfort to ensure you get the most out of your workout.

A note on gendered shoes

Athletic shoes tend to be gendered not because of style but because of slight differences in the typical morphologies of male and female feet. Male feet tend to be slightly wider in both the toes and the heel, but according to Dr. Minara, this may not be true across the board. He stressed the importance of trying any athletic shoe on – regardless of whether or not it’s designed for men or women – before you use it in order to ensure you’re getting the right fit for your foot shape and size.

Several of the shoes we recommend come in both men’s and women’s sizing, but individual comfort and fit matter much more than the gendered label on the shoe.

Here are the best spin shoes:

How we test cycling shoes

After consulting Swierszcz about what criteria to look for in a well-made cycling shoe and top brands on the market, I narrowed my picks down to several pairs of shoes in a variety of styles. I received samples from the brands and tested 11 pairs of cycling shoes at low- to mid-range price points that still offered the durability and high-quality construction of a good cycling shoe. I wanted to test the difference between BOA closures and Velcro, and I threw in one that laced up for good measure. 

Here’s everything I considered while testing:

Value: Cycling shoes come in a wide range of budgets, and serious road cyclists may spend upwards of $500 on a pair of shoes made from top-of-the-line materials that can give them a competitive edge on the bike. But if you’re only clipping in to ride a stationary bike in a spin studio or at home, there’s no need to drop so much cash.

I limited my selections to shoes that cost, at most, $200. Swierszcz said to expect to spend at least $100 on a pair of cycling shoes. Shoes below that price point will start to suffer in the quality of materials used to construct the shoe.

Ride test: I wore each pair of shoes for at least three 45-minute spin classes — a combination of pre-pandemic in-studio classes and rides on my SoulCycle at-home bike — to test for fit and comfort. My top picks were worn for several more rides to test beyond the break-in process. Throughout my rides, I took mental notes of any hot spots or discomfort I felt with each shoe. The best shoes were ones I didn’t have to pay attention to at all. Getting lost in my ride — and not worrying about foot pain — was the best marker of a good shoe. 

I also noted how easy they were to take on and off and how easily I was able to walk around in them off the bike.

My top picks are the shoes that best balanced quality, comfort, and value.

Long-term testing: We acknowledge that issues may crop up with long-term use, and we want to test these shoes for their longevity and ultimate value for your investment. We are continuing to test each of our top picks, and we will update this guide with any issues we encounter.

The best spin shoes overall with BOA

Giro Cadet Shoe

The Giro Cadet cycling shoe comfortably cradles your foot as you ride thanks to the combination of a BOA closure and comfortable ankle padding that doesn’t make the shoe feel bulky.

Pro: BOA closure tightens uniformly, Velcro straps stops toe shifting, nice padding around ankle, split tongue, breathable, very lightweight

Cons: Slippery when walking around off the bike, runs slightly small

After testing 11 pairs of cycling shoes, you might think they’d all start to blend together, but the Giro Cadet shoe very quickly set itself apart. The BOA closure allows for uniform tightening across the shoe which led to an exemplary feeling of security, and the added Velcro strap ensured that my toes didn’t shift back and forth as I rode.

It’s the shoe I favored for personal use, so it’s also the pair I clocked the most miles with. There’s no considerable break-in process, so I was able to have productive rides right out of the gate, and the shoe has done nothing but get more comfortable over time. Where lesser shoes caused pinching, hotspots, and occasional numbness, I was able to all but forget about the Cadets and get lost in my ride — a surprisingly tough metric for some of these shoes to hit. 

I have a high instep, so where other shoes would cut into the front of my ankle, the Cadet compensated for it with a flexible tongue that has a slit cut down the middle of it to account for the tendons that flex in that area as you ride.

The Cadets are lightweight and breathable and have enough padding in the ankle to keep you comfortable without adding considerable bulk to the shoe. I did find that the Cadets ran about a half-size small, so size up if you’re between sizes.

Giro Cadet Men’s: 

Cadet (Men’s) (button)

Giro Cadet Women’s:

The best spin shoes overall with Velcro

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio cycling shoes

Engineered specifically for a high-heat, high-humidity spin class setting, the Pearl Izumi Quest Studio shoe is exceptionally breathable and sweat-wicking. 

Pros: Developed for studio use, antimicrobial mesh upper stays breathable, familiar fit for SoulCycle riders, three Velcro straps make shoe highly adjustable, good grip when walking around off the bike

Cons: No split tongue, long Velcro straps may hang over side of shoe slightly, runs small

If you’re a frequent SoulCycle rider, the fit of the Pearl Izumi Quest Studio will likely feel quite familiar. The cult-favorite spin studio pairs with Pearl Izumi to create the rental shoe you’ve likely used many times. While the Quest Studio isn’t exactly the same, it’s similar enough that when I first slipped my feet into them, I recognized it immediately. SoulCycle fans making the first leap to their own pair of shoes might want to choose this one for the familiarity alone.

Aside from a familiar fit, the Quest Studio still stands out as a great shoe on its own. Many cycling shoes that spin class enthusiasts opt for were originally developed for road cycling, but the Quest Studio — as its name suggests — was developed specifically for a studio setting. Increased breathability and sweat-wicking take the fore to compensate for a hot, sweaty indoor environment thanks to an antimicrobial mesh upper.

Three Velcro straps make for a highly adjustable shoe with plenty of room for those who may need to keep one section looser to adjust for wide feet or a high instep. I did find the straps were pretty long, so if you’re tightening them all the way, there might be some overhang, but nothing that gets in the way of your ride.

My one complaint is that many cycling shoes have a notch in the top of the tongue to account for the tendons at the front of your ankle, and the Quest Studio is missing that. If you’re sensitive to pressure in that area, it might cause some discomfort. I found myself noticing it a bit during sprints.

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Men’s:

Quest Studio Shoe (Men’s) (button)

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Women’s: 

The best budget spin shoes with BOA

Specialized Torch 1.0 cycling shoes

A BOA closure automatically ups the cost of a cycling shoe, but the Specialized Torch 1.0 manages to keep it affordable without compromising on quality or comfort.

Pros: More affordable than a typical BOA shoe, added padding under tongue, fits true to size, lightweight, comes in bold colors

Cons: Velcro strap at toes is thin, no specialized women’s/men’s fits, compatible with Look Delta cleats only

Where many cycling shoes limit their color palettes to black and white with the occasional pop of color, the Torch 1.0 shoes from Specialized go bold with offerings of neon red, green, and blue. Of course, you can still get a black or white pair if you want to keep it simple, but those bold colors — along with the very friendly price point for a shoe with these features — were what first attracted me to this pair.

The shoes back up some flashy presentation with a very similar closure style to the Giro Cadets. A BOA closure gives you excellent uniform support, while a Velcro strap towards the toes aims to prevent toe shift. The Velcro strip on the Torch 1.0s isn’t as robust as the one on the Cadets, so I’m not sure it does a ton of work, but it does add some peace of mind.

A unique feature of the Torch 1.0s is some additional padding under the tongue, which gives you a bit more comfort on the upstroke as you pedal. It’s nothing that affects the fit of the shoe too drastically, and it doesn’t add any bulk, but it’s a nice touch on a part of the shoe that is often neglected.

Though Specialized sees the Torch 1.0 as a beginner road cycling shoe, it checked all my boxes for a great shoe for spin class — supportive fit with no pain points or hot spots, great ventilation, and my mind wasn’t on my feet while I rode.

The main shortcoming here is that Specialized doesn’t offer a specific men’s or women’s fit, so if the construction of the shoe doesn’t work for your foot’s anatomy, there’s no alternative fit to try. The Torch 1.0s are also the only shoe we recommend that isn’t compatible with SPD cleats, though we recommend Look Deltas for spinning anyway.

The best budget spin shoes with Velcro

Shimano RP1 cycling shoe

The Shimano RP1 is outstandingly comfortable with an upper that’s plusher than many other cycling shoes, but with only two Velcro straps, the fit isn’t quite as adjustable as other pairs.

Pros: Excellent padding makes for a comfortable ride, fits true to size, good grip when walking around off the bike

Cons: Only two Velcro straps, no specialized women’s fit

Many cycling shoes are incredibly streamlined for increased aerodynamics and therefore aren’t always the cushiest. A few of the shoes I tried had so little padding that it affected my ride in a negative way, but the Shimano RP1 shoe has plenty of padding — probably more than a road racer would want. But their loss is the spinner’s gain. The RP1 really cradles the foot for a comfortable ride.

It’s also the most budget-friendly shoe I tested, but it’s still constructed from excellent materials including nylon mesh panels for breathability and a ventilated glass-fiber-infused sole. Shimano is also one of the most trusted players in the cycling market, producing cycling gear for a century and cycling shoes in particular since the ’80s. 

The concession you’ll have to make with this shoe lies mainly in adjustability. The shoe’s closure consists of only two Velcro straps, and the top one does the bulk of the work. I found this shoe felt less secure around the middle part of my foot unless I really tightened the top strap. In doing that, I found it created some hot spots in my instep if I overtightened. With some practice, I was able to find the sweet spot for a comfortable ride, but you simply won’t get the same custom fit of a three-strap shoe.

The RP1 also only comes in a men’s fit. I didn’t notice any major differences in how the RP1 fit me when compared to a women’s engineered shoe, but it does have a bit of a wider toe box than a women’s fit. Regardless of your gender, this is going to be a great option for those with wider feet.

What else I tested

Cycling shoes - what else we tested

Giro Trans BOA ($160): The Giro Trans BOA was this close to being the best overall BOA cycling shoe in this guide. It’s got excellent support thanks to the BOA/Velcro closure combo, is breathable thanks to mesh ventilation panels, and I think it just looks cool. 

But Giro is slowly phasing it out in favor of new models. It’s also only available in a men’s fit starting at a size 39, so those with smaller feel could be out of luck. The Trans BOA only supports Look Delta cleats, while the Cadet supports both Look Delta and SPD, so the Cadet is the more versatile shoe all around.

Tomasso Pista ($125): The draw of the Tomasso Pista is that cleats come included and pre-installed on the shoe, which is great for beginners. But recently, the price jumped up by nearly $40. It was previously available for around $85, which would have made it a great budget buy. 

The quality of the shoe itself is lesser than some of the other equivalently-priced models I tested, and the fit felt bulky in a way that other shoes didn’t, so it’s just not worth it at the increased price.

Giro Empire E70 W Knit ($160): I was first intrigued by this shoe because it had laces — a rarity in the cycling shoe market. And those laces ended up being its downfall, not because they performed poorly but because I was constantly worried they would get caught in my pedals or come untied during my ride. They never did, but the stress wasn’t worth it. 

I did appreciate how lightweight these shoes were, though, and the breathability provided by the knit upper was top-notch.

Fizik Tempo Powerstrap R5 ($120): The Velcro closures on this shoe are unique in that the bottom one crisscrosses the shoe to pull it tight in a more uniform way than a strap that merely crosses over the top. But the upper was much stiffer than other shoes I tested and lacked the padding around the ankle I had hoped for. The lack of flex led to cramping for me. I had high hopes for the unique design, but was ultimately disappointed.

Shimano RP4 ($94): The Shimano RP4 takes a unique approach with its BOA closure. Instead of having the wire tighten the whole shoe, it pulls a wide strap over the instep closed. I had a problem with how far up the strap came on the shoe, causing it to dig into my ankle and make for a very uncomfortable ride. I think a BOA closure is better suited to securing the shoe itself rather than a single strap.

Giro Techne ($100): The Techne is Giro’s version of the classic three-strap Velcro cycling shoe. The fit and the ventilation were pretty baseline, but the three straps created a lot of bulk on the shoe that made it feel more unwieldy. Pulling the straps tight led to a lot of overhang. While none of this affected the ride, the shoe was simply beaten by better performers in the space.

Pearl Izumi Select Road v5 ($82.50): This was another shoe I really liked that fell victim to being phased out by the retailer. Another offering from Pearl Izumi, it felt very similar to the SoulCycle rental shoe I’d grown accustomed to. But at this point, it’s only available in very limited sizes. If you can snag it in your size on sale, it’ll be a great budget buy. 

How should a spin shoe fit?

Both Swierszcz and Dr. Minara repeatedly emphasized that the most important fit factor in choosing your cycling shoes is an adequate feeling of support for your entire foot. You want the shoe to fit snugly so your foot doesn’t slide back and forth as you pedal. Friction from loose shoes can cause blistering and a general feeling of instability on the bike.

A shoe that’s too tight can cause cramping, numbness, or tingling in your foot as you ride. Numbness is the most common problem Dr. Minara sees in cyclists who wear ill-fitting shoes, especially in those who have wide feet. “Many cyclists will also develop a very specific problem called a Morton’s neuroma,” Minara told Insider, “Which is inflammation of a very specific nerve called the common digital nerve.”

Swierszcz often sees riders overtightening their shoes. “It’s a psychological thing,” she said. “People think the tighter their shoe is, the more secure their foot will be and they won’t fall off the bike or whatever their fear might be. You want something that feels supportive and stable but isn’t squeezing your foot. The less you have to think about your feet as you ride the better your experience is going to be.”

As with any shoe, the more you wear a cycling shoe the more it molds to the shape of your foot. Some tightness can be overcome by breaking the shoes in, but don’t continue to ride with a shoe that’s exceedingly uncomfortable or takes away from the quality of your ride. 

“Don’t take it for granted if your foot hurts. There’s usually a reason for it, and that reason usually can be addressed,” said Minara. Ignoring pain can lead to prolonged issues both on and off the bike. If you’re having trouble finding a shoe that fits properly, Minara also suggested consulting a podiatrist to discuss a custom orthotic — and bring your cycling shoes with you when you do.

One of the hardest parts of shopping for a cycling shoe is navigating different brands’ sizing charts. Cycling shoes are measured in European sizes, but each brand’s sizing scheme deviates slightly. Some brands also don’t offer half sizes. In that case, Swierszcz recommends sizing down. The best advice we have for ensuring you get the right size is to simply try them on. All the retailers we link to have a buyer-friendly return policy so you can exchange for a new size if necessary. For each of our picks above, we explain how sizing tends to run.

BOA vs. Velcro

A BOA closure employs a ratcheting dial that tightens a stainless steel wire to close your shoe. Twisting the dial clockwise makes the shoe tighter and pulling the dial upward releases the mechanism.

BOA closures have two distinct advantages: speed and uniform tightening. With the simple twist of the dial, your shoe is perfectly tightened and you’re ready to hop on your bike. Releasing the dial allows you to slip the shoe off your foot in one swift motion. In a triathlon, every second counts — just as it does when you’re late to spin class.

All the BOA shoes we recommend in this guide have just one dial, and therefore one wire that’s doing the work of tightening your shoe. That wire adjusts uniformly as you tighten it, meaning your entire shoe will be adjusted proportionally, providing immediate support for your entire foot. This is important for preventing hotspots or pain points. The disadvantage, though, is that you can’t personalize the fit quite as much.

Velcro closures use the same technology you sported on your light-up sneakers as a kid, but that doesn’t belittle their effectiveness. It’s one of the simplest ways to secure a shoe when laces are going to get in the way. A shoe that features multiple Velcro straps also allows for a more personalized fit — simply pull as tightly as you need for each section of your foot to feel supported and secure. Those with higher insteps or wider feet can choose to keep one section of the shoe looser for more breathability or to mitigate uncomfortable tightness. Swierszcz has a wide foot, so she takes advantage of this flexibility. “If I’ve been teaching a lot, I’ll keep the center strap a little bit looser, just so my foot can breathe doesn’t start cramping.”

Look Delta cleats vs. SPD cleats

Almost every top spin bike on the market requires you to clip your shoes into the bike pedals in order to ride — that’s why you’re shopping for special shoes for spin class, after all — but the mechanism by which your shoe attaches to the pedal varies. The piece that clips in is called the cleat, and there are several styles on the market, but the two most prominent ones are SPD cleats and Look Delta cleats.

SPD cleats, or two-bolt cleats, attach to the sole of the shoe at two points. They sit at the center of the ball of your foot and provide a localized point at which the power transfers from your foot to the pedal. 

Clipping in and out of the pedals is a bit easier with SPD cleats than Look Deltas and so are favored by mountain bikers and those who ride in traffic who may have to react quickly to changing conditions. SPD cleats are also considerably smaller than Look Delta cleats and are therefore easier to walk around in off the bike.

SPD Cleat Set (small)

Look Delta cleats, or three-bolt cleats, attach to the sole of your shoe at three points in the shape of a triangle. One point reaches toward your toes and two points sit at the ball of your foot. This provides a much larger surface area that attaches your shoe to the pedal creating a most stable base for your foot.

Swierszcz prefers a Look Delta cleat because of the increased support they provide. Because of the larger clip-in mechanism, Look Deltas can be more difficult to clip in and out with, especially for beginners. This leads to a disadvantage if you need to unclip quickly, but in a class setting, you won’t have to worry about accidentally coming out of your pedal and losing your rhythm.

All the shoes we recommend in this guide are compatible with Look Delta cleats — and if you’re just using your shoes for spin class, that’s the type we recommend. Both Peloton and SoulCycle use a Look Delta cleat system as do many smaller spin studios and home bike brands. In fact, Peloton supports only Look Delta cleats unless you were to swap out the pedals entirely for ones with an SPD hookup. Both the At Home and in-studio SoulCycle bikes have dual-sided pedals — one side supports Look Delta cleats and the other supports SPDs, so you can ride with whatever cleat you prefer.

Look Delta Bike Cleats (small)
How to attach Look Delta cleats

Most cycling shoes don’t come with cleats included, so you’ll need to buy them separately and therefore attach them yourself. Look Delta cleats are easy to install — simply screw the three bolts into the bottom of the shoe. The cleats have some vertical allowance so you can position them closer to your toes or closer to the arch of your foot depending on your preference and riding style. 

Swierszcz recommends beginners centralize their cleats over the bolt holes and allow them to adjust themselves over time as you ride. “Everybody’s physiology is set up slightly differently. Range of motion and pedal stroke are going to be different from person to person, so start with your cleats in a neutral position and let the repetitive motion break them in over time as you ride.” 

That said, you shouldn’t notice too much movement in your cleats from ride to ride. That’s likely a sign that you didn’t tighten the bolts enough. If that happens, reset them to center and make sure to tighten down your cleats a bit more.

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