The 4 best spin shoes for Peloton and other studio bikes

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 both 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’ve just bought a new Peloton or you’re tired of sweating in rental shoes at a studio, quality cycling shoes are important to enjoying your spin class and getting a great workout. The wrong pair may lead to cramping, discomfort, or blistering, and the best cycling shoe is the one you don’t think about at all.

But the cycling shoe market is broad, and Olympic road cyclists, mountain bikers, and SoulCyclers all have different needs. This means there’s no one-size-fits-all spin shoe capable of doing everything.

To narrow down what’s best, I did two things: Rode hundreds of miles worth of spin classes and consulted with two experts on what makes a quality shoe. The experts were 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 on-bike testing comprised 11 total pairs of cycling shoes with the goal being to find a pair capable of providing a supportive and comfortable ride in both an at-home and in-studio spin setting – and I’ve compiled my four favorites below.

I’ve also included some insight into how I tested the shoes, the difference between BOA laces and Velcro and how they should fit, and how Look Delta cleats differ from SPD cleats.

Here are the best spin shoes of 2021:

How I test spin 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 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 the side of the 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. 

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.

How should spin shoes 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 the center and make sure to tighten down your cleats a bit more.

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The 7 best bike lights of 2021 for increased 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, Cygolite’s Streak 450 Hotshot SL, comes with a headlight and taillight, and has several light modes.

Being safe while riding your bike requires more than putting on a helmet and riding within your means – you also want to guarantee you’re visible to those around you. Even if you don’t ride at dusk or when it’s completely dark, bike lights are a vital cycling accessory to have.

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found “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 (meaning it likely wasn’t always entirely dark around 6 pm), those numbers still paint a stark picture and suggest visibility was one of the main factors.

As a resident of New York City, and my go-to mode of transportation being my bike, I’ve learned firsthand the value of a quality set of bike lights (and how dangerous a poor set can be). I’ve also come across a lot of variety; some are designed to be portable and easy to install, while others are intended for trail riding.

Below are seven of the best bike lights for night riding. I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for bike lights, as well as insight into how I tested the lights featured in this guide.

Here are the best bike lights of 2021:

The best bike light overall

Cygolite bike light

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 budget bike light

Malker budget bike light

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, small enough to be used as bike wheel lights 

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. They’re even lightweight and unassuming enough that they can be used as bike wheel lights, too. 

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 easy install bike light

Obsidian 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 bike light for trail riding

NiteRider mountain bike light

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, great mountain bike light

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.

These lights from NiteRider can hold up in a variety of conditions but they’re especially great for trail riding and make for a quality set of mountain bike lights. 

The best solar-powered bike light

Solar-powered bike light

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 a worthwhile bike light for night riding — 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

Rear-facing bike light

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

Waterproof 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.

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. 

FAQs

How many lumens do I need for my bike light?

The exact number of lumens you need for a bike light depends on where and when you’ll be riding. For urban or city riding, a front-facing light capable of doling out up to 200 lumens is preferred, while rear-facing lights should offer anywhere from 40 to 100 lumens. If the city where you ride doesn’t have many streetlights, look for a light with a higher lumen output.  

If you intend on doing any nighttime trail riding or mountain biking, opt for something brighter, in the range of roughly 1,000 lumens. The best mountain bike lights 

It’s also important not to use a light that’s too bright. These can disorient oncoming traffic and will do more harm than good. Lights with a lumen output of just 300 lumens may partially blind onlookers, so “brighter is better” isn’t something you should aim for. I also recommend opting for a light that can dim at the press of a button. This allows you to avoid blinding anyone approaching you while still staying visible.


Are bike lights waterproof?

Not all bike lights are waterproof, though there is a large selection of lights that are. Our top waterproof pick above, the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight, is an excellent option that also features sidelights and multiple brightness settings. 

It’s worth noting that bike lights that aren’t waterproof should still be able to hold up in light rain (though a torrential downpour or a full-on submerge of the light should be avoided, if possible).


Do you need a light on your bike at night?

Yes. There’s no question that you need at least some amount of light on your bike while riding at night. This is also true when riding in low-light situations like dusk or dawn. You can also use a smaller light (like our budget recommendation) as a bike wheel light to increase your visibility. 

Riding without a light on your bike is extremely dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death. 


How far should a bike light shine?

Front-facing bike lights should be seen at least 500 feet away, while rear-facing lights should be seen at least 600 feet away.

However, bike lights aren’t all marketed in terms of distance their light shines, so it’s important to understand a light’s lumen rating (explained above) and to use that to determine which bike light is best.


How else can I improve visibility while riding?

Bike lights aren’t the only way to be more visible to those around you while on your bike — you can also wear reflective clothing or use a bike helmet light (I recommend the Chapter from Thousand for this). You can even throw some lights or reflective tape on a backpack and use smaller lights as bike wheel lights. 

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The 5 best vegan protein powders that actually taste good

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Supplementing with plant-based protein powder is a healthy way to reach your daily protein goals.
  • Vegan protein powder builds muscle and supports recovery just as well as whey or dairy proteins.
  • The best vegan protein powder should taste good, mix well, and have a simple ingredient list.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Erika Villalobos-Morsink, RD, a dietitian based in New York City.

More and more people are cutting animal products where they can for their health and the environment. For fitness buffs or folks who like to add a little protein boost to their smoothies, that means switching over from a dairy-based protein like whey or casein to plant-based proteins.

Studies show plant-based proteins are actually pretty comparable to whey or casein when it comes to helping you build muscle. But, like all supplements, it’s important to pick a vegan protein powder that’s derived from high-quality ingredients; has a clean, unadulterated formula; and, of course, that tastes good.

Here are the best vegan protein powders:

The best vegan protein powder overall

TB12 protein powder
TB12 is our top pick for best vegan protein powder and best pea protein powder thanks to its clean formula and delicious taste.

Though it’s a little pricey, TB12 Plant-Based Protein tastes great, mixes well, is sugar-free, and offers a great macronutrient profile with plenty of protein.

Pros: Great taste, high protein, low carb/fat formula, packed with BCAAs, single ingredient list

Cons: Expensive, flavored varieties contains some additives

Tom Brady’s diet has become sporting folklore and launched an entire brand: The TB12 Method. This includes a TB12, which is not only our top overall pick but also the best pea protein powder.

For starters, this plant-based protein powder is tasty, even with just water, which is a very important factor if you’re going to be drinking protein powder daily. Also, the macronutrient profile of this one is solid with one scoop of this powder delivering 110 calories, 20 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fat, and 0 grams of added sugar. It also contains all of the essential branch chain amino acids, which are essentially the building blocks of protein, to help your body recover and form muscle.

We also love that the unflavored option has only one ingredient: pea protein.

Note that while the chocolate and vanilla both taste delicious, they do contain the additives of guar gum (for texture) and natural sweeteners of stevia and monk fruit. Our nutritionists say these aren’t unhealthy, perse, but can cause digestive issues for some people. A healthier option is to use the single-ingredient unflavored variety and add your own cocoa powder at home.

The best tasting vegan protein powder

Aloha Organic Protein Powder

Though it’s lower in protein and higher in carbs, Aloha Organic Protein Powder is the best-tasting vegan protein powder we’ve found. 

Pros: Tastes amazing, clean ingredient profile, organic plant-based protein powder

Cons: Expensive, low in protein, high in carbs, only 15 servings per tub

Once you’ve choked down enough protein powders, like I did for testing this article, you start to really value formulas that taste good. When I tried the Aloha Organic Protein Powder, I actually let out an audible “Wow, that’s good.”

It was more complex than just chocolate, with the flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa. I drank this on its own and tried it mixed with oatmeal, both of which were great.  

The downside for some may be that this protein powder not only requires two scoops for the serving size, but that amount packs only 18 grams of protein and 11 grams of carbs, which is on the high end for most protein powders.

Still, the nutritional profile is great. We love that this is a certified organic plant-based protein powder. And you can pronounce every ingredient that’s in this powder, and it’s free of GMOs, dairy, gluten, and sugar alcohols (which can cause stomach distress). The protein is a blend of hemp, pea, brown rice, and pumpkin seed protein, which studies show makes for the best essential amino acid profile.

The real issue is the cost: For $30 (or $27 if you subscribe and save), you only get 15 servings, which comes out to $2 per serving. That’s expensive if you use protein powder regularly. Still, this is a great option if you’re just looking to supplement some of the time.

The best vegan protein powder for athletes

Vega Sport 2

Vega Sport Protein Powder Premium offers a high-protein blend, tastes great, has a full BCAA profile, and is NSF certified.

Pros: Higher protein content, tastes great, smooth texture, third-party tested

Cons: Expensive

With 30 grams of protein per serving and a complete BCAA profile, Vega Sport protein powder is formulated to help athletes and active folks recover from tough workouts. When I tested, it tasted great and gave me the protein I needed to hit my 200-gram daily goal. 

The ingredients are premium, too. The protein blend is made up of four sources — pea, pumpkin seed, organic sunflower seed, and alfalfa protein — and it contains ingredients such as tart cherries to potentially aid recovery and probiotics for enhanced gut health. 

When I followed the instructions to combine the powder with 12 oz water or milk, I found this protein to be a little too watery for my liking. Of course, you can add less water, but even then, it didn’t have the same frothy and creamy texture of the TB12 or Aloha protein. 

However, we love that Vega Sport protein powder is NSF certified, meaning it’s independently tested for quality and safety. This way, you know the company is confident in its product and you’re not ingesting any BS fillers or dangerous chemicals.

The best vegan protein powder for a meal replacement

GardenofLife1

Garden of Life’s Raw Organic Meal is a hearty meal replacement powder that offers 20g of protein per serving, is made with peas, sprouts, and legumes, and packs probiotics for improved digestion.

Pros: Consumer Lab-certified meal replacement powder, high protein offering, diverse protein source, low in sugar, inexpensive, probiotics, certified organic plant-based protein powder.

Cons: Only 130 calories per serving, not the best flavor

If you’re looking for a vegan protein powder to have in lieu of a meal replacement, we love Garden of Life’s Raw Organic Meal as it’s certified by Consumer Labs to have a safe and accurate formula and packs 20g of protein per serving.

The only catch is one scoop is just 130 calories, which is less than half of what a healthy meal should deliver. However, you can use this powder in a smoothie or combine with a higher-calorie oat milk to beef up the energy delivery. 

The organic, plant-based protein powder delivers 1.5 billion CFU of live probiotics and 13 digestive enzymes, has 5g of fiber per serving, and less than 1g of sugar per scoop. The vegan protein is also derived from over a dozen different plant-based sources like pea, sprouted brown rice, and quinoa, which helps diversify its nutritional offering.

Garden of Life offers its organic plant-based protein powder in either chocolate, vanilla, lightly sweet, or vanilla chai and while the flavors aren’t terrible, they do leave a little to be desired — all the more reason to use the powder in a smoothie. 

The best vegan protein powder for weight loss

Isopure protein

Isopure Plant-Based Protein gives you 110 calories and 20 grams of protein and is relatively cost-effective.

Pros: Low-calorie, tasty flavor offerings

Cons: Small tub, few flavors to choose from, expensive per 20g of protein

Isopure’s Plant-Based Protein stands out due to its taste and texture but also that it offers 20 grams of vegan protein at just over 100 calories. For bodybuilders or folks who follow a strict calorie diet, this means you’re not ingesting unwanted fat, carbs, or calories.

I also like that Ispoure’s organic pea and brown rice protein combo is easy on the stomach. It’s one of the cheapest powders on our list, too.

My only major gripe with this powder is that you only get 20 servings in one canister, which means some people will need to restock twice a month. It comes in just four flavors — chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and unflavored — which is fine if you typically add your protein to a smoothie but can get dull if you’re a water-and-blender-bottle type person like me.

Is plant-based protein as good as whey or casein?

whey protein powder supplement
Whey protein is most commonly found in a powder form which can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, or plain water.

Plant proteins have long gotten a bad rap compared to animal proteins. For the average person, protein from plants — beans, soy, legumes, quinoa — is not only sufficient for keeping your systems running, but is much, much healthier for your body than animal proteins.

And when it comes to building muscle mass, plant protein actually works nearly as well as animal-based proteins — better, in some cases. While most studies, including a 2020 study in Nutrients, show whey protein continues to reign supreme when it comes to stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS) — that is, the rebuilding of your muscle fibers after a workout to be stronger and thicker — that same 2020 study found that soy actually prompted MPS  better than casein.

What’s more, a small 2019 study in the journal Sports found that whey and pea protein had comparable effects on men’s body composition, muscle thickness, and strength and lifting performance after eight weeks of training.

Additionally, plant-based protein powders are often a blend of multiple sources (e.g., pea, brown rice, pumpkin seed), which a 2018 study in Amino Acids shows gives vegan protein powders a comparable essential amino acid profile to that of animal-based proteins.

A dietitian’s warning

In speaking with Erika Villalobos-Morsink during the fact check of this guide, she paused when recommending the consumption of vegan protein powders with the exception of Aloha’s Organic Protein Powder. Her reasoning is that anything that’s not been evaluated by a reliable third party like the Clean Label Project shouldn’t be considered entirely safe for consumption (and may have harmful heavy metals present in greater amounts than its protein counterpart).

This advice is also relevant when shopping for both standard whey protein powders and natural protein powders. A third-party program like the Clean Label Project or Consumer Lab provides added insight into what you’re consuming, as well.

Check out more guides to protein powders and plant-based eating

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The best whey protein powders


The best natural protein powders


The best blender bottles


The best vegan protein bars


The best vegan meat and fish substitutes

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The 6 best treadmills of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Treadmills offer an excellent way to increase or maintain your routine cardio and keep fit.
  • The most important qualities to look for in a treadmill are its power, reliability, and run comfort.
  • Our top pick, the ProForm Pro 2000, features iFit workouts, has a cushioned tread, and easily folds up.

Few exercise machines have endured the changing landscape of at-home fitness like the treadmill. Not only do they work well for anyone maintaining cardio fitness but they also help runners prepare for things like 5Ks or half marathons. They can even complement a weekly workout routine, especially for those who don’t have time to run outside.

Treadmills are also simple to use. You simply run or walk on the belt and a motor moves it under your feet at whatever speed you select. Some offer high-tech features like touchscreen displays and live-streamed classes, while others offer a more basic, just-hop-on-and-run experience.

As a frequent gym-goer and the Insider Reviews fitness editor, I’ve run more miles than I can count on treadmills advanced, basic, or otherwise. For every mile logged on something like NordicTrack’s Commercial 2950 or ProForm’s Pro 2000, I’ve logged an equal amount (if not many more) on the standard treadmills found at a local gym – i.e. one without an interactive screen attached to it.

I leaned on this experience to comb through and test a number of high-quality treadmills currently available. The following guide features a range of treadmill types at various price points in hopes of helping you find the best option for your fitness needs.

You’ll also find answers to a selection of treadmill FAQs, as well as some insight into how I tested treadmills featured in this guide.

Here are the best treadmills 0f 2021

How I test treadmills

At home gym equipment 4x3

Each treadmill featured in this guide went through a series of extensive tests (i.e. I ran on them a lot) to see how well they compared across these four categories: Performance, features, quality, and value. Here’s how the categories specifically factored into which treadmills made the cut:

Performance: How a treadmill performs comes down to a few basic aspects, including how comfortable it is to run on (and how shock absorbing it is), if it’s able to avoid sounding like you’re loudly pounding the ground with each step, what its tread feels like underfoot, and how wide the running area is. Though not all treadmills reliably check each of these boxes, a healthy combination of at least three of those often translates to high quality. 

Features: Some modern treadmills, like those from NordicTrack or ProForm, feature a built-in interactive screen that streams workouts, tracks output metrics, and improves the treadmill’s performance. For models that don’t have a screen, I looked at how intuitive it was to increase and decrease the treadmill’s speed and whether it offered an incline or decline mode. Even those that aren’t decked out with the ability to stream workouts are still feature-heavy enough to warrant a spot in your home gym.

Quality: If used often, treadmills can take a consistent beating, mostly due to a runner pounding on it step after step after step. This means the best treadmills should feature a sturdy and durable tread, a high-quality design that won’t become compromised even after a full year or more of use, and that features an interface or series of buttons and dials that can avoid popping off or being unusable. 

Value: The value of a treadmill is less about its sticker price and more so the combination of the three categories above compared to its initial (and sometimes recurring) investment. I factored in everything when selecting treadmills across each featured category and often feel that it’s worth it to spend a little more money on a product that’s designed to last than to spend less, more often on something inferior. 

The best treadmill overall

treadmill

The ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill is a race-trainers dream that’s versatile enough for the casual runner, too. 

Pros: Good motor, large running belt of 22 by 60 inches, includes both an incline and a decline setting, offers good interval training features, has access to iFit workouts

Cons: Customer service may be disappointing if you have problems, very heavy treadmill

Runners looking for a treadmill with good all-around training capabilities and a host of useful features will like the reasonably-priced ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill

It has a 3.5-horsepower motor, which allows it to stand up to daily use, and it boasts a belt deck that measures 22 by 60 inches, which is perfect for most runners. When you’re training for races with hills, you’ll appreciate this treadmill’s ability to reach a 15% incline and a 3% decline, which better simulates hills than most other treadmills — it’s easy to adjust it both up and down, too, even while running. 

The ProForm Pro 2000 also has a number of tech features, including a 7-inch screen that streams iFit’s interactive workouts, a music port for iPods, and a built-in fan that works well to keep you (somewhat) cool as you run. Its tread features what the brand calls ProShox Cushioning, which is designed to lessen the impact on your feet and knees while running. Though a true, long-term test of this would better judge its viability, even a handful of runs on it showed that this made a difference (even if it was minimal). 

What truly makes this treadmill stand out is its inclusion of the above-mentioned iFit workouts. Not only are these excellent ways to keep motivated, but the platform offers some genuinely unique workouts. One day you could be running through France and the next through Vietnam. The globe-spanning locales add a level of quality to the workouts you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere.

Another perk of the iFit workouts is how the trainers leading the runs entirely control the incline, decline, and speed, allowing you to focus strictly on running. This is something that’s incredibly welcome as fumbling with a treadmill’s controls while in a full stride isn’t always the most fun (and can easily mess with your cadence). The ProForm Pro 2000 comes with one free year of iFit, too, so you won’t have to worry about shelling out a monthly payment for at least 12 months.

Its price is also in the range of what you’d expect to pay for a full-featured treadmill. Most interactive workout machines run in the $2,000 range, and the fact this undercuts that average by a few hundred dollars makes it an appealing choice for anyone looking to add a treadmill to their home gym.

The best smart treadmill

2950Nordic

NordicTrack’s Commercial 2950 is a highly versatile treadmill that offers automatic incline control, an HD 22-inch touchscreen, and a deep library of interactive classes from iFit. 

Pros: Now features automatically adjusting resistance and speed, the iFit library offers a wide range of in-studio classes and runs through real-world locales, offers Bluetooth connectivity and WiFi support

Cons: Expensive

The Commercial 2950 treadmill from NordicTrack is one of the most full-featured machines I’ve tested, coming with everything from automatic incline control and Bluetooth connectivity to Google Maps integration and personalized workout stats. My favorite feature, however, is its access to iFit’s expansive library of interactive workouts. 

With iFit, you’re able to run essentially anywhere, yet still from the comfort of your home. The service’s roster of trainers offers a wide range of run types that aren’t just confined to a studio or their home (where they do film some of the classes). Rather, you could be running through real-world locales that offer a breath of fresh air from standard treadmill routines. I found this to be a welcome deviation from the tediousness of normal running. Though iFit does cost $39 per month, a free year of the service comes standard with the purchase of all new treadmills.

In addition to those workouts, the rest of the 2950 is a premium. The automatically adjusting resistance feature mentioned above is a game-changer, and, as the name suggests, allows the trainers to fully control the incline, decline, and speed of the treadmill as you run along. All you have to worry about is just running — which does well to keep you focused and motivated instead of worrying about fumbling with controls. 

One nitpick could be that the iFit interface can be a little clunky and slow to use sometimes, and the service occasionally crashed mid-workout (though did tend to load right back up in the exact same spot I was running). This didn’t happen enough to be concerning, nor did it detract from my overall experience. 

What holds the 2950 back from nabbing the top spot in this guide is its price, which is roughly double the cost of the ProForm Pro 200. It’s hard for treadmills that have as much as the 2950 in terms of features and available workouts to cost much less than $2,500, so this is still a worthwhile investment for anyone who  

certainly isn’t cheap but few treadmills with this much to offer both in terms of features and available workouts will necessarily be “affordable.” Still, it’s worth the investment for those who want access to a huge library of interactive classes and a premium-built treadmill. 

The best budget treadmill

treadmill

Compared to other budget fold-up treadmills, the Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill has nice features and good performance.

Pros: Very good price point for an entry-level treadmill, will save space with a fold-up design, runs quieter than most budget-priced treadmills, works better for walkers and light runners

Cons: Only a 55-inch belt length, not really made for high-end running workouts, longevity is questionable

Saving space with a fold-up treadmill is a great idea for a lot of people. However, most fold-up treadmills don’t offer a lot of power.

With those natural limitations of fold-up treadmills in mind, you’ll like the Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill, which works well for walkers and anyone on a budget (and isn’t really made for runners looking for high-end workouts). Think of it as like an entry-level treadmill, or something that can be a complement to a wider range of at-home equipment. 

It has a 55-inch belt length, a maximum 10 mph speed, and a 2.25-horsepower motor. The T101-04 treadmill is easy to fold up for storage, which is great for anyone with minimal space in their home or apartment.

You can’t beat the value, too. If you want something simple, straightforward, and cost-effective that has the basic features necessary for just running and walking, the T101-04 from Horizon Fitness is the treadmill you need.

The best upright folding treadmill

treadmill

The LifeSpan TR3000i uses an extensive shock absorption system to take some pressure off your joints while running.

Pros: Good price for a mid-range treadmill, unit folds up to save storage space, extensive shock absorption system, good feature set versus other models in this price range

Cons: Not really designed for high-end workouts, build quality of treadmill is questionable

Some people dislike working out on a treadmill because of the pressure it places on their joints. The LifeSpan TR3000i attempts to alleviate some of this pressure by using a shock absorption system in the treadmill’s deck.

It has a 20 x 56-inch running surface, 15 incline levels, and a 6-inch LCD screen that shows your time, calories, distance covered, steps, heart rate, speed, and incline. The eight shock absorber elements in the deck ensure that it remains both stable and comfortable to run on. As mentioned on other models, long-term testing would be a better indicator of just how well the shock-absorbing works, but it’s easy to notice the difference in the TR3000i compared to others. If you at all have foot, knee, or joint issues, you’ll want to at least consider this one when shopping.

Beyond its shock-absorbing capabilities, the TR3000i has a number of fun features to give you variety in your workouts, too, including a tablet holder, a USB charging port, and compatibility with iPods. It also has built-in speakers, folds up for easy storage, and physical console buttons that are sometimes easier to use when making adjustments than only relying on the touchscreen.

The best compact treadmill

Cubii1

The Cubii Pro is an easy-to-use, under desk exercise machine that’s more of an elliptical than a treadmill but still allows you to log some quality cardio no matter if you’re sitting down for lunch or powering through a backlog of emails. 

Pros: Small, easy-to-use machine that delivers an effective cardio workout, has up to eight different resistance settings, offers companion app support

Cons: Not strictly a treadmill, might not be as intense for hardcore fitness buffs

Though the Cubii Pro isn’t exactly a treadmill in the traditional sense (and is more of an elliptical style machine than anything else), its unobtrusive nature makes it a convenient addition to anyone’s home gym. The machine simply sits on the floor, be it under a desk, next to a coffee table, or literally anywhere around the house, and lets you pedal away for as long as you like. 

The machine delivers low-impact cardio that may benefit those unable to run on a treadmill due to sore joints, and its quiet operation even allows it to be used while watching TV, talking on the phone, or listening to music. With eight different levels of resistance, it affords as easy or as difficult a workout as you like, too. 

A companion smartphone application lets you keep track of all your logged workouts and lets you set weekly and monthly goals or share your progress with friends. The app is also compatible with services like Fitbit or Apple HealthKit, so if you prefer the interface of those, all workout data can easily sync to them.

At $349, it’s certainly not a drop in the bucket but it is far cheaper than even the budget model on this list. For convenient, low-impact cardio exercise, the Cubii Pro is as versatile and easy to use as it gets. 

The best treadmill for quiet workouts

treadmill

The 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill delivers excellent performance and runs quieter than most treadmills.

Pros: Strong steel frame that will support a lot of weight, unit runs quieter than most treadmills, large treadmill belt area for tall runners, includes a large motor to compare favorably to gym treadmills

Cons: Extremely high price point, very heavy equipment that is difficult to move around

Few treadmills made for use at home will deliver the kind of quiet performance that the 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill delivers. It’s made for tall or heavy runners looking for a tough workout, but you’ll pay more than $3,000 for the kind of quality that this 3G Cardio unit delivers.

It has an Ortho Flex Shock suspension system to minimize the stress of impact for runners, and the 22 by 62-inch platform is perfect for running.

The 3G Cardio comes with many pre-programmed workouts and a fitness level test. You have access to speed and elevation settings, heart rate control, and workout customization.  This treadmill also has a 4.0 horsepower motor and 3-inch rollers for great performance.

As you would expect with a treadmill with such a high price point, the 3G Cardio Elite consists of thick steel tubing in the frame. It’s also rather expensive, so this is really only for serious runners who want a treadmill that will last a lifetime.

What treadmills I’m testing next

Technogym MyRun ($2,980): Technogym’s lineup of cardio machines offers a quality experience on par with the likes of NordicTrack and ProForm, though instead of having iFit workouts, it has its own streaming platform called Technogym Live. The classes on the MyRun tread allow users to run with a trainer, take to a digital beach, or develop a set of goals to work toward. Its full-color display not only streams the content in high-definition but also supplies helpful analytic data that inform how well the workout is going. 

Matrix Fitness Treadmill TF30 XR ($2,999): A premium-priced treadmill, Matrix Fitness’ Treadmill TF30 XR is the entry-level version of the TF30 lineup, but it still offers a quality run experience. This model comes with a built-in screen, speeds up to 12.5 miles per hour, and an incline up to 15%. It also folds up to nearly 90-degrees, making it easy to store. Since I live in a small Brooklyn apartment, this one is very intriguing. 

Sole Fitness F80 Treadmill ($1,599): Sole’s F80 tread looks like some sort of Swiss Army Knife of treadmills, as it has a number of visible bells and whistles. There’s an on-board screen that tracks distance run and calories burned (among other stats), handle grips for heart rate monitoring, and a tablet holder (for when you’d rather stream Netflix than watch your mileage slowly tick up). This is close to the kinds of treadmills you’d find at your local gym, so I’m curious as to how it’d function as an at-home option. 

FAQs

What types of treadmills are there?

Basic: The most basic type of treadmill only works for walkers. They will have simple tracking features, such as speed, distance, and time. Most basic units will have a short bed that works better for a walker’s stride than for running.

And you’ll find limited shock absorption features here, which isn’t great for runners. Such treadmills will fold up for easy storage (although some more expensive treadmills also can fold up for storage).

Mid-range: These treadmills will work for walkers or runners. For walkers, a mid-range treadmill should have longer support arms, allowing you to balance yourself easier. The belt bed will be a bit longer than the basic treadmill but those with longer running strides may still struggle.

You’ll see better tech features in this price range, including a heart rate monitor worn on the chest or pre-set training programs.

Top-end: The highest quality of treadmills will contain long belt beds with good shock absorption, making them perfect for runners. To gain these features, such treadmills rarely will fold up for storage, meaning they require a lot of free space. They will deliver greater maximum speed levels and greater levels of incline, too.

These treadmills consist of the highest-quality materials. You’ll receive Wi-Fi connectivity and extensive pre-set exercise programs with these models.


What are some key treadmill features?

Interactive exercise programs: Treadmills may have pre-programmed workouts that can help you with weight loss, cardiovascular performance, speed workouts, or hills training. These programs will allow you to set the length of exercise time, but they will automatically change the speed of the treadmill and the incline to match the parameters of the pre-programmed workout.

The ability to incline, decline, and adjust the speed: To help with training for running on hills or for additional calorie burn, the treadmill needs to offer an incline. Most treadmills can reach at least a 12% incline grade. Some treadmills even give you a simulation of running downhill with a decline grade of around 3%.

You should be able to adjust the incline, speed, and program in use through the touchscreen monitor. The screen also gives you information on the time elapsed, calories burned, distance traveled, your heart rate, and more. 


Are there different size treadmill belts?

Yes, there are, and it differs for what runners need versus walkers. Runners need a treadmill belt bed of roughly 55-60 inches long, while walkers can use one closer to 45-50 inches long. Taller people will need an even longer belt bed. Remember that the length of the treadmill isn’t the same as the length of the bed.

The treadmill length (and width, for that matter) must accommodate the base portion of the unit that doesn’t move, as well as the bed’s motor housing at the front of the unit.

A treadmill belt bed should be at least 22 inches wide for runners which provides plenty of space in case you have a misstep. Walkers can successfully use a narrower bed than runners, such as 18 or 20 inches.


Are treadmills safe?

Many treadmills contain a safety line that hooks into the unit and clips to your shirt. Should you stumble, the safety line disconnects from the treadmill, causing it to shut down immediately. This is a helpful safety feature and it prevents situations where the person using the treadmill falls and gets launched into a wall. 

It’s also recommended that you unplug your treadmill when not in use for added safety. This assures it won’t accidentally turn on if a child or pet is around it. 


Do treadmills have a weight limit? 

Based on the size of the motor and the shock absorption capabilities, a treadmill may give you a maximum user weight recommendation. You should be able to find this listed in its online user’s manual or listed on its specifications sheet. 

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The 5 best golf balls of 2021

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  • It’s more important to understand your clubhead speed and course tendencies than to buy an expensive golf ball.
  • Be patient, too – You’ll need to test balls on your own to truly know which kinda suits you best.
  • Our top pick, the Titleist AVX, is a premium golf ball that’s durable and works well for those with slower swings.

Between sporting goods stores, online outlets, and your local pro shop, picking out the right golf ball can seem like picking the best circle in a sea of identical circles. While all golf balls may more or less look alike, they won’t all play the same way.

Although there’s plenty of technical details that go into golf ball manufacturing, I’m here to help with the selection process and narrow down your choices. This decision largely depends on two things: How well you know your game and what you want the golf ball to do for you.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. If you’re a beginner golfer looking for ammo, buy the cheapest balls you can. There are loads of options in stores and online that are great for this.

If you consider yourself an average to an above-average golfer, this guide is likely more your speed. And although this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s based on my own personal playing preferences and research; I’m a regular golfer who’s written about the game and its equipment for the last five years, and I’ve spent plenty of time playing with, testing, and analyzing almost every golf ball on the market.

To find your best ball, work from the green backward. You want a ball that’s optimized to your wedges and irons first since you’ll use those clubs most. After that, calibrate the rest of your game to fit the ball that works best for your approaches and around the greens.

Below are five of the best golf balls that work well for a variety of play styles, including my favorite overall, the Titleist AVX. I’ve also included some insight into how I tested each of the featured golf balls, as well as answers to a few FAQs.

Here are the best golf balls 0f 2021

How I test golf balls

The traditional advice for picking a ball is to hit them close to the green and work backward to find the one you like best and that performs well for you. Most everyone plays an adjustable driver these days and you can adjust the driver to the ball that serves other parts of your game best. 

I’ve played golf for 20 years and have written about equipment for five. I’ve been as low as a 12 handicap with a better-than-average short game and I value balls that respond to chips and wedge shots. 

The balls showcased here are designed to suit a majority of players who swing less than 100 mph with their driver and have a tendency to visit a lot more of the course than better golfers. 

To test the golf balls featured, I first looked at premium tour balls with high compression cores with multiple layers around them and urethane covers. These types of balls are the best performing balls even for mid-handicappers. Because my short game is one of the areas I feel most confident, I play a premium ball that I can spin near the greens. Urethane is grabby and responds well to shorter clubs, and I do find that when I catch one with the driver, it flies farther than a mid-tier ball. 

I then took each of these balls out to my local course and worked with them on the chipping green, as well as in actual rounds of play. If any of these balls showed up in my bag on the days I played, I was happy to give them a go. 

While testing, I looked for which balls I was able to stop close to the hole. All the balls listed here do that well with both the Snell and Wilson models being particular standouts for my game. Off the tee, I liked the AVX’s performance best, followed by the Bridgestone. 

A small thing about balls and your equipment is that sound plays a huge role in how we like or respond to a piece of equipment. I’ve always felt the Bridgestone balls don’t sound as solid off the club as I’d like. The performance of them is fine enough but something about the sound always throws me off a little, which is why I’ve leaned toward Titleist a lot over the years with Bridgestones often being a backup. 

When I’m playing a little worse, I find cheaper balls to play that still perform really well: Snell and now Mizuno.

The best golf ball overall

A putter on the green hitting a neon Titleist AVX golf ball into the hole

The Titleist AVX is a premium ball that works for slower swingers and is incredibly durable.

Pros: Soft feel, low spin off the driver for longer distance, good durability. 

Cons: At $50 per dozen, these are pricier than other premium balls, and better players may not benefit from them as much. 

The ProV1 lines get a lot of love from the tour pros and everyday players alike, but the AVX is built for the amateur golfer who likely has a slower swing speed. The ball feels soft around the greens and really pops off the driver. 

It’s a premium golf ball that suits an everyday player and has recently replaced the ProV1s in my bag, which requires much faster swing speeds than I’m able to generate. 

For a slower swinger, you need a ball that responds to shorter shots and allows you to hone in your chipping and pitching yardages. The AVX allows for that while giving me a few more yards off the tee because of its lower spin rates and ball flight. I’m not afraid of using the yellow ones, either. 

The best budget golf ball

A single Snell Golf MTB-X golf ball in front of its box

Snell Golf’s MTB-X offers a high level of performance that you don’t find elsewhere at this price point.

Pros: Long off the tee, responsive off your irons and wedges

Cons: Frustrating shipping delays and Snell only allows customers to buy them two dozen at a time. 

Dean Snell set out on his own after a trailblazing career that saw him develop not one but two premium golf balls: Titleist’s ProV1 and TaylorMade’s TP Series golf ball. Few golf ball engineers know more about the physics and manufacturing of a golf ball than Snell, and his DTC company has formed a cult-like following since he founded it. 

Snell’s MTB and MTB-X regularly appear on the top lists of the major industry raters, and it’s easy to see why after playing with them. There’s virtually nothing Snell’s MTB-X does from a performance standpoint that the industry-leading ProV1 does markedly better. It’s long off the tee and incredibly responsive with both wedges and irons. 

Snell Golf makes it easy to see if this ball is best for you, too, as each box of a dozen costs just $34 (though there is a limit of two dozen per customer at a time). I play these balls as often as I play anything else these days.

The best tour golf ball

A pair of Bridgestone Golf Tour B RXS balls on the putting green

The Bridgestone Tour B RXS maximizes driver distance with a new cover designed to help spin (and stop) wedge shots.

Pros: Built for swings less than 105 MPH, sticks to the green on approaches, slow swingers can still compress this ball

Cons: Driver distance may lag compared to other balls in its segment

Bridgestone made plenty of noise with casual golfers when it signed Tiger Woods but the move made sense: The brand had been making his Nike balls for years. 

Bridgestone was among the first manufacturers to provide a road map for swing speeds to correlate to the balls that you should play and even offered ball fittings at golf expos around the country. Its Tour B series has a ball for golfers of all levels and the line routinely ranks near the top in ball speed, meaning your ability as a regular player to compress it like your faster swinging friend increases. 

Better players may want to use the company’s calibration to determine the best ball for them, but from its e Series value balls to the premium category, Bridgestone is a brand you should try if you haven’t. And, go ahead, too. Get the Tiger Edition balls with TIGER stamped on the side. We can all dream. 

The best new golf ball

The Mizuno RB Tour X golf ball sitting on top of its box

Mizuno’s recently released RB Tour and Tour X ball is an impressive new tour ball that costs under $40 and delivers some serious driving distance.

Pros: Solid distance off the tee, good feel off the irons

Cons: Wedge shots not as responsive as others in this category

I’m a golf geek, so I like trying out new equipment. But that doesn’t mean I’m not skeptical of it either. Although I play Mizuno irons, I was unsure how well its new tour balls would play but when these arrived, I was pleasantly surprised.

Like most golfers, I don’t like losing expensive golf balls. When my game is out of whack, I switch gears to cheaper balls to save the headache. I decided to put these Mizunos in play because they had solid rankings and I particularly liked how they felt off the tee, holding their own against my regular balls. 

I found them to be very pleasing with my mid-irons but a little less responsive on shots around the green, particularly those out of the bunker where they kept rolling past the pin despite a well-executed shot. But at $35 per dozen, these are a solid alternative if you’ve run out of Snells and like to tinker and play different balls.

Mizuno RB Tour X

RB Tour X (button)

Mizuno RB Tour

The best golf ball for control

Wilson Staff Model R box of golf balls on a white background

The Wilson Staff Model R grips like a spider around the greens, giving you a bit more grab on short shots on the green.

Pros: Great around the greens, matte finish gives a different look, good, all-around performance

Cons: The matte finish might throw you off and the ball can look dirty. 

The matte finish on the Wilson Staff Model R seemed like a marketing ploy when I first got these, and the company even claimed that inconsistencies in the paint might cause distortion in playing. I was dubious but I came to like the softened matte finish and I felt as though the ball was much more grabby around the greens on wedge shots and approaches while also playing well off the driver. 

The different look of the ball was appealing to me because while I do like playing a yellow ball, I reserve that for the fall when the leaves are on the ground. I felt like I was able to spot this ball better and it just felt different when I picked it up. Certainly not as slick as your usual ball and that did seem to contribute to its greenside performance. 

It’s hard to find a foothold in the landscape of premium golf balls but I think the Model R is definitely worth a try if you find you’re having a lot of chips each round.

FAQs

Why didn’t you cover the ProV1? 

Everyone that plays golf already knows about this ball. The ProV1 revolutionized golf balls and golf and changed the game in nearly every way. When I was playing my best, I loved the ProV1x. It might have just been psychological but I hit that ball really far and it was great around the greens. The only ball that was as consistent as that for me was the pick from Snell Golf.


What do three-piece, four-piece, and five-piece mean when I’m shopping? 

This is both complicated and not complicated at the same time. This refers to the number of layers a ball has that cover its inner core. You can go deep into this stuff and the layers aren’t really marketing fluff. 

In short, the layers and their composition affect the performance of a golf ball. Some golf-centric sites do breakdowns and cutaways of golf balls to show you different layers, though that gets a bit too technical for this guide.


Shouldn’t I play what tour pros play?

Not exactly. Just as your car is not tuned to NASCAR conditions, neither should your golf equipment be. Tour Pros get a special level of service and have highly honed swings. Don’t just pick up what they’re playing or what is advertised during their telecasts. 

If you’re serious about golf, find a ball that has the properties you need. I need to be longer off the tee, so I play a ball that gives me maximum distance but that doesn’t neglect that I’ll miss a lot of greens and need to get up and down. There are a lot of choices and the most expensive one isn’t often the best.


I’m new to golf and lost. What should I play?

New golfers should always strongly consider playing a cheaper ball since you’ll likely lose quite a bit during the learning process. As you get better, you will want a better ball because it does actually perform better as you hit the center of the clubface more often, but extreme amateurs should stick to budget picks when possible.

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The 7 best rowing machines of 2021 for your home gym

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  • At-home rowing machines deliver high-cardio, low-impact workouts that strengthen muscles and burn calories.
  • Rowers come in four resistance varieties: Water, air, magnetic, and hydraulic, each with its own benefits.
  • Our top pick, Concept2’s Model D, is durably built, comfortable to use, and has smooth-running air resistance.

There are few machines that deliver the same kind of calorie-burning, full-body workout as an at-home rower. In 30 minutes, you’re able to enjoy a low-impact, high-cardio exercise that’s great for people of any age or fitness level. As long as you row with proper form, this versatile workout can complement a pre-existing routine while also standing on its own as a source of weekly exercise.

It’s because of that effectiveness, and the fact many people work out at home, that rowers are increasingly popular. If you don’t like running on a treadmill or saddling onto a stationary bike, a rower is the next best thing – and to some, it’s regarded as an even better form of exercise.

I agree. There’s something wholly different about a 45-minute rowing routine that feels far more taxing and exhausting than a run on a treadmill or a streamed Peloton class. Those two do deliver tiring workouts but I walk away from a rowing class truly noticing its full-body results.

But while all rowers deliver similar cardio benefits, not all are designed similarly. In addition to a variety of resistance types and rower sizes, some stow easily while others feature touchscreens and streamable, on-demand classes.

To find the best available, I tested a number of machines that span every use case, resistance type, and price. My goal was to find rowers that deliver a serious cardio workout that are also a valuable addition to a home gym – and I’ve listed my favorites below.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included tips on how to shop for a rower, answers to a series of FAQs, and insight into how I tested each rower featured.

Here are the best rowing machines:

How I test rowers

Ergatta rowing machine

Each rower featured in this guide went through a testing process to gauge how well it performed across these four categories: Ease of use, experience, reliability, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which rowers ultimately made this guide.

Ease of use: Row machines have a naturally low learning curve — the general idea is to just sit down and row. But we know there’s more to it than that. Ease of use also refers to the process of setting up the machine set up in your home, how easy it is to get started, whether there’s a companion app, and if that learning curve (however steep) dramatically impacts the following category: your experience.

Experience: Working out for fun may seem like an oxymoron but it is important to at least somewhat enjoy the sweat your breaking. Since a row machine delivers a full-body workout, you want one that won’t feel like some sort of grueling game of tug of war. Ideally, a proper row machine offers smooth operation, an engaging platform (whether that means it offers digital feedback or is just fluid to use), and is comfortable to use. 

Reliability: If the rowing machine you invest in doesn’t last longer than a few months, you’ll likely be cursing whatever inclination you had to want to buy it. Put plainly, at-home workout machines aren’t cheap and the one you ultimately end up spending a large chunk of money on should work and work often. 

Value: Value is a mixture of the categories that came before it, as well as some attention to its actual sticker price — but this doesn’t mean that more expensive models should be ignored. It’s better to spend more money once on a machine that’s reliable, easy to use, and delivers a fun workout than to struggle with a different cumbersome budget model every few months. 

The best row machine overall

Concept2 Model Indoor Rowing Machine

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine brings the gym to your home with its sturdy build, smooth gliding action, comfortable design, and superb quality.

Pros: Smooth gliding operation, ease of assembly, large size to accommodate tall people

Cons: Pricey and requires a bit of space (9 feet by 4 feet) but worth it

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine features solid aluminum front legs, steel rear legs, a flywheel with air resistance, and a maximum user weight capacity of 500 pounds, making it our top pick. 

Essential for executing powerful and uninterrupted strokes, the Model D’s flywheel has a damper for adjusting its air resistance, granting you complete control of the resistance yourself. The harder and faster you row, the more wind the flywheel generates and the more drag you’ll feel.

With an air resistance rowing machine, you’d expect a bit of noise, however, the Model D runs fairly quiet. Although not completely silent, it’s quiet enough for rowers to listen to music or watch television at a normal volume during workouts.

The easy-to-read performance monitor (PM5) tracks stroke rate, calories expended, distance, pace, and watts. It has several built-in programmable workouts and games to motivate you during a workout. The rower’ also quick and easy to assemble and disassemble, and can be taken apart and rolled for storage.

Although the Model D isn’t inexpensive, it’s a worthwhile investment in your health and comes with limited five- and two-year warranties. — Helen Mao

The best budget rowing machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

At a very reasonable price, the Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine offers a versatile workout with its independently moving arms and smooth hydraulic resistance for continuous rowing action.

Pros: Low price, independent arms for a full range of movement, and ease of assembly and folding

Cons: Resistance declines as piston heats up during long rowing sessions; short warranty (90 days for parts/one year for frame) 

The Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine is small but mighty — and an excellent value at $120. Although it’s compact and quiet, this hydraulic resistance rowing machine provides a big workout with a smooth-gliding padded seat and separate arms for a full-body workout.

What makes the BodyTrac Glider so special is its versatility in arm movements. Unlike many models where you pull a single handle attached to a chain or cord, this erg has two arms that allow for a full range of motion and mimic real boat-rowing movements.

This means you can row forward or backward, move your arms in circular directions, pull the handles close together for a conventional stroke, or hold the grips apart to exercise different arm, shoulder, and upper back muscles. Because the arms operate independently of each other, you’re able to focus a workout on each arm individually. 

Sturdy with a steel frame and aluminum center beam, the BodyTrac Glider supports up to 250 pounds. It assembles easily and folds up for storage, as well. The single hydraulic piston/cylinder is located under the unit for convenient adjustment with a manual control dial.

The machine is able to maintain a variety of consistent levels of resistance for roughly 30 minutes of hard rowing. As with most hydraulic rowers, fluid in the hydraulic piston heats up, which decreases resistance. When this happens, you’ll need to pause and increase the resistance setting. Always make sure you turn the control dial itself and not the heated piston/cylinder. Another downside to hydraulic resistance models is the chance of the piston leaking oil.

The BodyTrac Glider also has a simple and easy-to-use monitor, which features more functions than you’d expect on a machine this affordable. — Helen Mao

The best interactive rowing machine

Ergatta Digital Rower

The Ergatta Connected Rower combines the rush of video game racing with the fitness benefits of a full-body exercise to deliver one of the most interactive rowing machines available. 

Pros: Motivating video game-inspired workout platform, beautiful design, features a folding design for easy stowing

Cons: Expensive 

Like similar smart fitness equipment from brands such as Peloton or NordicTrack, the Ergatta Connected Rower utilizes a giant onboard screen to display its on-demand workouts and exercises. But unlike its aforementioned peers, the workouts aren’t led by an instructor belting out the next movement or exercise but are instead comprised of a series of video game-inspired routines that prove just as motivating as those high-energy classes.

What this means is that the Connected Rower pits you against the machine for its goal-based plans and interval workouts, while also allowing you to compete against other Ergatta users in simulated races. Regardless of the event, the software delivers an addictive experience that drives you to want to continuously do better. Fitness trackers found a way to gamify daily fitness and the Connected Rower follows the same path. 

The physical rower is an aesthetic wonder, too. Made of Cherry wood and featuring a traditional water rowing mechanism, Ergatta clearly intended for the rower to be more than just a means for getting fit — it wanted the rower to also please in terms of look and feel. The water rowers soothing swoosh of water adds to an already enjoyable experience, as well.

Perhaps its one downside is the fact the rower’s not cheap. But since few interactive workout machines like are, this isn’t entirely surprising. After an initial $2,199 price tag for the machine (and a $199 shipping cost), there’s a recurring $27 fee for access to the library of on-demand classes (which is also par for the smart workout machine course). 

In all, the Ergatta Connected Rower delivers a full-body workout disguised as an interactive gaming experience — and it’s one of the most enjoyable we’ve tested.

Check out our review of the Ergatta Connected Rower here

The best smart rowing machine

Hydrow

The Hydrow Rowing Machine aims to be the Peloton of at-home rowers with an immersive content experience that delivers a complete, full-body workout.

Pros: Extensive library of motivating classes and rowing events, delivers a full-body workout, features quiet, electromagnetic resistance

Cons: Expensive

Connected fitness equipment continues to grow in popularity — and for good reason. Not only does it provide an interactive method for keeping fit but the classes and streamed content themselves serve as powerful motivation to push on. In the rowing space, one of the best to deliver the kind of connected content fans of NordicTrack and Peloton have come to love is Hydrow and its aptly named rower, the Hydrow Rowing Machine

Built with an aluminum and steel frame on a flat, anthracite polymer body, the Hydrow is a durable and sturdy rower. Attached to the front of the machine is an HD touchscreen where you’re able to access its library of interactive workouts. These workouts include everything from on-demand routines, open swim-style free rows, whole body-specific workouts, and live classes.

The machine also comes with the ability to read your heart rate via an included monitor and features a whisper-quiet electromagnetic resistance. Hydrow does well to not only provide classes that highly motivate you to finish a row but it also creates a competitive environment where you can see how you rank with other global users or anyone else using your machine. 

With a sticker price of $2,245 and a recurring monthly fee of $38 for access to the classes, it’s certainly not cheap — but few connected fitness machines of this caliber ever are. It’s worth the investment.

Read our full review of the Hydrow Rowing Machine

The best digital-resistance rowing machine

Screen Shot 2020 07 09 at 4.16.00 PM

NordicTrack’s RW900 combines the stimulation of instructor-led courses with the versatility of both air and digital resistance to offer one of the best at-home rowing experiences. 

Pros: Interactive workouts, easily folds up, utilizes a dual resistance design

Cons: Expensive, iFit membership costs $39 per month (after the first free year)

Though NordicTrack may be more well known for its stationary bikes and treadmills, the company’s offered high-quality row machines for quite some time — and its RW900 is the brand’s crown jewel. Featuring a 22-inch HD touchscreen display, a library of interactive workout classes led by real trainers, and a fold-up design, this rower is worth every bit of its $1,699 price tag.

What makes the rower particularly impressive is its dual resistance. So, while rowing away during a class, an instructor has the ability to digitally adjust the resistance based on how they want you to row. But if it’s either too much or you want to kick your workout up a few notches, there’s the ability to manually adjust the air resistance. An easy-to-use air control is located on the wheel which allows for quick adjustments, even between strokes. 

Like any workout machine with a massive touchscreen attached to it, the RW900 shines with what it offers in terms of workouts via its iFit interactive platform. Be it in studio routines from its roster of iFit trainers or more calming sessions in real locations around the world, the options are incredibly versatile. There are even yoga and cross-training courses to mix things up a bit.

The rower also offers stat tracking which tells you how long you row each week along with calories burned and row wattage and allows for up to four different users on the same iFit profile. All new purchases also come with a free year of iFit (which is typically $468 per year or $39 per month), so you won’t have to worry about a monthly recurring charge for access to the library of content for at least the first year.

The best water resistance rowing machine

Man rowing on a WaterRower at-home row machine

The elegant WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine uses water resistance to make you feel like you’re truly sculling on the open water.

Pros: Gorgeous appearance, meditative whooshing sounds, and simulation of open-water rowing sensations 

Cons: Expensive, included monitor is fine but limited

If the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine looks familiar, that’s because it’s the base unit used by Ergatta for its Connected Rower (our pick above for the best interactive row machine).

For an indoor rowing machine, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine comes closest to recreating the sensation of actual outdoor rowing as it features a flywheel that pushes through water in a heavy-duty tank. It even delivers soft and soothing swooshing sounds of water while rowing, too. 

In addition to controlling resistance through your strokes — the harder and faster you row, the greater drag the flywheel encounters — you can increase resistance by adding water to the tank. In essence, the more water there is, the heavier the drag on the flywheel, and the harder your workout.

Maintenance of the machine is easy, too. Just fill the tank using the included siphon pump and drop in a chlorine tablet every six months. There’s no need to empty the tank, even before storing it. Although the machine doesn’t fold up, it’s easy to store upright and the weight of the water stabilizes the erg in an upright position.

You can assemble the frame without any tools, and the instructions come on an included DVD. Because wood expands and contracts due to environmental conditions, you may need to tighten the bolts every once in a while.

With a comfortable, stable seat that rolls smoothly along dual rails, you’ll experience an excellent workout where you can keep track of distance, time, and calories burned as displayed on the S4 monitor. The rower comes with a three-year warranty on its parts, as well as a five-year warranty on the frame.

The best rowing machine for beginners

Sunny Health Fitness SF RW5515

Quiet, smooth, and stable, the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine provides varying magnetic resistance levels for a wide range of workouts. 

Pros: Economical with eight levels of resistance, easy to fold and store

Cons: Only okay cord quality, rail might be too short for tall people

The reasonably priced Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine offers quite a few convenient features: a comfortable, cushioned seat; anti-grip handles; an LCD monitor that tracks stroke counts, time, and calories burned; and eight levels of knob-adjusted magnetic resistance for various intensities.

Level two is good for warming up before progressing to levels three and four for a more vigorous workout. Levels five and higher are more intense, perfect for long cardio-building rowing sessions. Level seven is for endurance and all-out sprints while level eight offers the greatest resistance (and hardest workout).

Able to support up to 250 pounds, the Sunny’s Magnetic Rowing Machine has a 48-inch-long rail in which the padded seat rolls smoothly and quietly. The rower is able to easily fold up for convenient storage and even has built-in wheels. It’s easy to assemble and relatively compact, taking up minimal space when folded up and very little square footage when open. — Helen Mao

FAQs

Is rowing better than running? 

According to a study done by Dr. Cameron Nichol, who is a former Olympic rower, rowing activates more muscle groups than just running. In addition to activating roughly 85% of your body’s muscles and upwards of nine different muscle groups, rowing also helps strengthen your back, tone your arms, and benefit both your upper and lower body.

Ramon Castillon, president of the boutique studio, Row House, told Insider that “rowing is the perfect answer to [finding the most effective workout] because it’s extremely accessible” to both beginners and advanced rowers. 


Can you row every day?

In short, yes. But like any workout routine, it’s important to not overdo it or consistently push yourself over your limit. Personal trainer, Irving “Zeus” Hyppolite, told Insider that people tend to try to do too much and that there’s an actual limit on how much your body can handle.

Hyppolite says three to five days a week of exercising from 45 minutes to an hour (including warm-up and cooldown) is a good standard. Once you start doing more than that, you’ll be expending the same amount of energy for more minimal benefits, he added. 

Personal trainer, Bryan Goldberg, previously shared with Insider that too much exercise can impede any progress you’re making, despite how beneficial it may seem in the short term. 

Though both Hyppolite and Goldberg referenced exercise in general, this can be used as a rule of thumb for rowing. As long as you’re not rowing to utter exhaustion every day of the week, it’s fine to jump on daily. However, it’s likely more useful to give yourself some days off to rest.


Can you lose weight by using a rowing machine?

Consistent exercise is just one component of being able to manage your weight, so it’s irresponsible to say that a rower can be singularly able to help you lose weight. Caley Crawford, NASM CPT and Director of Education for Row House told Insider that “it’s crucial that you partner a strong and healthy diet with your exercise routine.” 

Crawford added that full-body strengthening (like that which rowers can offer) does have its benefits in regards to fat loss. But keep in mind, that it’s not the only thing you should focus on. Weight training, proper rest, and a well-rounded diet are vital, as well. 

How to shop for a rowing machine

With so many different kinds of rowers, it’s important to examine each model to choose one that best fits your needs and keeps you motivated and injury-free. You’ll want to consider features like:

Resistance: Different types of resistance include magnetic (electromagnets slow the erg’s metal flywheel), air (wind from the spinning flywheel creates drag), hydraulic (resistance is created by hydraulic fluid in a piston or two connected to the erg’s handles), and water (the flywheel pushes against water in a tank).

Size: The machine should be large enough for you to straighten your legs and maintain proper rowing form, yet small enough to fit into your workout space.

Maximum user weight capacity: Models vary in how much they support but many accommodate 220 to 265 pounds or more.

Foldability: Some machines (usually magnetic and hydraulic resistance) fold up for easy storage, while others (often air and water resistance) don’t. 

Monitor: A monitor or computer tracks information like distance, duration, speed, and/or calories burned while rowing.

Seat: It should be contoured and large enough to keep your backside comfortable while allowing you to maintain proper form.

How to row with good form

To get the most out of your workouts and avoid injury, remember that proper rowing form consists of an initial drive phase followed by a recovery phase. Here’s how to execute it: 

  • For the drive, start first with your legs and once those are extended and your back is vertical, use your arms to pull the handle into your body. Your finished position should be your legs fully extended, the rower’s handle pulled into your body with your wrists in line with your forearms. From here, you’ll move onto recovery.
  • The first step of recovery is to straighten your arms and pivot your body from your hips, making sure to avoid hunching forward or bending backward. This fluid motion will then have your legs flexing in until your shins are completely vertical.

Finally, don’t think of this exercise as a race. Focus on perfecting your form, not on how fast you can row.

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The 5 best bike helmets of 2021 for city commuters, mountain bikers, and casual riders

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  • Bike helmets offer vital protection for all cyclists, and can save their life in the event of a crash.
  • The best should fit comfortably, protect from blunt and rotational impacts, and be highly visible.
  • Our top pick, POC’s Octal X SPIN, has great ventilation, a highly protective design, and enhanced visibility.

It’s easy to understand the importance of a reliable bike helmet. No matter if you’re a city commuter or a mountain biker, the helmet you wear should ultimately succeed at one highly crucial job: Protecting your head in the event of a crash or collision.

And although there’s always the risk of injury when you hop on a bike, the rigorous set of standards modern bike helmets are held to helps dramatically reduce that risk. They protect your head from the force of impact but also do well to avoid limiting your vision or coming loose and falling off as you ride. Some manufacturers have even gone a step further by implementing new technology (MIPS and SPIN) that better protect a wearer.

As an avid cyclist dating back to when I first learned how to stay balanced on two wheels, I’ve worn, tested, and crashed in a number of bike helmets. I’ve seen firsthand their utility while flying down a downhill mountain bike course, commuting to work on the busy streets of Brooklyn, NY, and cycling upwards of 40 or 50 miles on the weekends (among many other settings).

It’s because of that experience that I compiled the below guide to my favorites currently available. And although I couldn’t reasonably test each helmet for how well it protected my head in a crash, I did judge other important factors like fit, comfort, weight, ventilation, and, ultimately, its value.

After testing dozens of helmets, I settled on five standouts that are worth the investment. At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a bike helmet and shared some insight into how I test them.

Here are the best bike helmets:

How we test bike helmets

Best Bike Helmets 4x3

Each helmet picked in this guide went through a thorough testing process to determine if it’s worthy of a recommendation (and, ultimately, your investment). To do this, we looked at a number of factors, consisting of comfort, fit, safety features, and value. Here’s how each of those categories factored into what helmets made the cut:

Comfort: If a bike helmet isn’t comfortable while worn, you’ll be less inclined to want to throw it on, even if you’re just quickly running to the store. The best bike helmets should certainly feel like you’re wearing something but not to the point where you’re either constantly adjusting it or counting down the seconds until you can take it off. 

Fit: Similar in the way an uncomfortable helmet isn’t ideal, an ill-fitting one is just as miserable. A poor fit can also jeopardize how well it keeps you safe in the event of a crash or direct impact. Many modern helmets feature adjustable sizing, too, allowing you to customize a perfectly dialed fit.

Safety features: How a bike helmet protects your head in a crash is, hands down, its most important feature (and the entire reason why you’re wearing a helmet in the first place). Look for safety features such as MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) or those with WaveCel technology, as these are advanced systems designed to reduce the force of impact on your head. 

Value: A helmet’s value is the combination of the categories that come before it (plus, of course, its price). If you’re paying a premium sticker price, you should expect a premium product in terms of safety, fit, and comfort. Going the budget route isn’t taboo but do make sure that if you’re looking to save a few bucks, the helmet you purchase should still be effective at keeping you protected (we included a reliable budget pick that checks this box).

The best bike helmet overall

Person riding a bike wearing a POC helmet

The POC Octal X Spin is well ventilated, comfortable, and offers enhanced visibility and safety features that benefit cyclists and commuters alike.

Pros: Lightweight, well ventilated, highly visible, enhanced coverage and SPIN system for better protection

Cons: Some riders may have to size up from the non-SPIN models, the appearance will not appeal to everyone, POC’s crash replacement policy is not as generous as some brands, expensive

Whether I’m riding a hundred miles on the road or five miles to the shops, the OCTAL X SPIN is the helmet I pick for 90% of my riding. POC is relatively new to the cycling industry, but its focus on safety, along with a distinctly Scandinavian aesthetic, won the brand a loyal following.

To make the Octal X SPIN, POC took its popular road cycling helmet, the Octal, and gave it a few tweaks to make it equally suitable for trail use. Along with a shell that fully covers the lining — a common feature of off-road helmets — POC added SPIN technology. SPIN, which stands for Shearing Pads Inside, is designed to protect against oblique impacts — something many standard helmets don’t do well.

While CPSC regulations don’t require protection against these impacts, POC offers SPIN tech to people who want protection above and beyond the legal minimum. The main function of a helmet is protecting your brain, so POC made this its main selling point for the Octal X SPIN.

Safety might be a good reason to pick the Octal X SPIN, but you won’t be let down in terms of performance either.

The Octal X SPIN covers more of the back and sides of a wearer’s head compared to a conventional road helmet. This makes the Octal a safer choice, especially for riding off-road where low-speed falls and hits to different parts of the head are likely.

Despite its larger size, the Octal doesn’t feel heavy in use, and the scales confirm it weighs in at a very competitive 267 grams for medium. The larger footprint didn’t seem to impact ventilation, either. Even on slow climbs, the helmet provides ample airflow. 

The best versatile bike helmet

Person wearing a Bern bike helmet

Bern’s Watts 2.0 is a highly versatile bike helmet that’s as useful for a city commuter as it is for a casual mountain biker — and its compatibility with upgrades increases its seasonal utility.

Pros: Great for all-season riding, be it around town or on a single-track mountain bike trail, compatible with add-ons like a goggle clip, reasonable price tag, comes in a variety of colors, has MIPS

Cons: Sizing may be inconsistent with what you’re used to

Bern’s been a major player in the bike helmet industry for some time now and its Watts 2.0 is the perfect example of its years of experience. Versatile, customizable, and available in a variety of colors, the Watts 2.0 is the best helmet for someone who doesn’t just ride one specific way. 

For example, I tested this not just as a daily driver while I commuted to work or biked around Brooklyn to break a sweat; I also wore it while on a short mountain biking trip with friends and it provided more than enough support (and comfort). You’d likely want something a little more robust if you were, say, downhill mountain biking, but for casual single-track riding, it’s effective. 

The helmet itself is light enough, too, that I never felt it weighing heavy on my head, even across longer rides. It also features a custom fit system that makes it easy to literally dial in how snug you want the helmet to feel. This is even easy to do while riding. It also features MIPS for added protection.

The Watts 2.0 also features a stylish design (which always seems to be one of Bern’s calling cards) and comes in a few different matte-specific colors: Black, sand, forest, ocean blue, green, and blush. The accents on each color option are a nice touch, too. 

The best bike helmet for commuters

Thousand Heritage Bike Helmet

The Heritage line from Thousand are among the most stylish bike helmets on the market but they’re also functional, acting as a great option for city commuters or those who ride bike-share.

Pros: Available in a variety of colors, made with durable leather straps, features a dial fit system, has a pop lock that allows you to lock it up with your bike, easy-to-use magnetic buckle

Cons: Best used only for commuting or casual rides around the city

Thousand’s Heritage line of bike helmets blends moto and skate style design to deliver a stylish and modern look — which is why I’ve not been the least bit surprised to see so many people wearing them around Brooklyn, NY. But that’s not to say its style is the only reason why they’re popular; they’re also the perfect commuter helmet.

The Heritage is the first helmet I grab for when I’m biking to work, running errands around town, or even hopping on my bike to log 20 or 30 miles on the weekends. It’s comfortable, easy to take on and off, and features a dial system that makes it easy to find the perfect fit. 

It also costs $89 which is just a little more than our budget option, the Priority Loop. That means that it’s not only an impressive commuter helmet but it’s cost-effective, too. 

Thousand offers the Heritage in three different sizes (small, medium, and large) and it comes in 12 different colors — I’m particularly a fan of the Terra Cotta option (seen above). 

The best budget bike helmet

Two people wearing bike helmets

The Loop uses a unique design to reduce its size by almost 50%, making it perfect for stashing in your bag when you’re not riding.

Pros: Collapses to a smaller size, portable, easy to travel with, protective design, easy to use, great for bike share fans

Cons: Not as robust as some higher-quality models

Most people who ride bike share bikes do so without helmets. But it makes sense; it’s not easy to carry around a full-sized helmet on the off chance you decide to rent a bike. This is where the Loop comes in.  

It’s as safe and comfortable as a regular helmet but when collapsed, it takes up just half the space in your bag. If you use bike share bikes regularly or as part of a daily commute, the Loop will quickly become something you never leave home without.

When in use, the Loop acts like any other bike helmet, complete with ventilation and an adjustable elastic fit strap. It passed the same set of stringent tests that determine its ability to prevent brain injury in the event of a crash or fall as any other helmet, too.

The Loop locks in its expanded position dependably and never collapsed during our testing. The hidden air vents and elastic strap make for a comfortable fit and it comes in two sizes and four colors, meaning there should be a combo for everyone.

The best aspect of the Loop is how it behaves when not in use. Instead of requiring a special tie-down on the outside of your backpack or hanging awkwardly off your messenger bag, the Loop collapses into itself and can be stashed in a bag, drawer, or desk.

At only 330 grams, the Loop is light, too. If you use bike share systems or electric scooters on a regular basis or intend to borrow a bike while traveling, this is a fantastic alternative to riding helmetless. At less than $80, it’s also a cheap way to stay safe as you make your way around town.

The best bike helmet for visibility

Thousand Helmets

The Chapter from Thousand comes with an attachable 50-lumen rear taillight that’s capable of running for up to one hour of solid light or two hours of blinking light.

Pros: Comes with a 50-lumen taillight that magnetically affixes to the back of the helmet or can attach to your bike, stylish design, features MIPS technology, easy to use clasp system

Cons: Light offers just one hour of battery life of solid light (though it does offer two hours of blinking light)

If you bike regularly, chances are you find yourself riding in low light (or even night) conditions quite often. Riding with a light attached to your bike is a common practice but having a light affixed to your helmet helps dramatically improve your visibility. Though more helmets are starting to come standard with light functionality, our favorite is the Chapter from Thousand.

The Chapter comes with a 50-lumen rear taillight that attaches magnetically to the back, which can also be affixed to your bike via an included adapter. Fully charged, the light stays on for up to an hour in solid light mode, and up to two hours while blinking. The ability to pop on or off the taillight gives the helmet great versatility for the everyday rider, as it doesn’t force you to lug it around every time you hop on your bike.

Other features include a small visor designed to improve your field of vision, Thousand’s signature PopLock that allows you to attach it to your bike via your bike lock, and an easy-to-use magnetic clasp system for easy on and off. It also has MIPS built into the helmet for added safety against impacts.

What also sets the Chapter apart is its modern design. Thousand’s made a name for itself designing stylish bike helmets and the Chapter continues that trend. The helmet comes in either an all-black colorway, a navy finish with a sort of tortoiseshell visor, and a vibrant matte white with a rose gold visor. 

The lab testing process

In general, cycling helmets are designed to prevent a traumatic brain injury in the event of an impact. All helmets sold in the US must pass a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) test, meaning they satisfy certain criteria that help reduce the risk of brain injury.

There are generally four tests each helmet must pass. These tests are:

1. Peripheral Vision Test: A helmet must not block a rider’s vision

2. Positional Stability Test: The helmet must not come off a rider’s head during a fall

3. Retention Strength Test: A helmet’s straps do not stretch too much to allow the helmet to come off during an accident

4. Impact Attenuation Test: The helmet is capable of significantly reducing how much force is exerted on a wearer’s head when it hits a hard surface

In recent years, systems such as MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) and SPIN (Shearing Pads Inside) have been included in helmets to help prevent brain injuries stemming from multiple impacts or oblique collisions.

These technologies go beyond CPSC requirements but can be helpful if a specific type of collision happens.

How to shop for a bike helmet

Since the jack-of-all-trades bike helmet is mostly a thing of the past, it’s important to consider the kind of riding you plan on doing before purchasing. If you’re a road biker, you’ll likely want one that’s aerodynamic and lightweight while commuters should opt for a helmet with some sort of built-in light or visibility marker.

Even if you’re just casually riding around your neighborhood, you still want to find the correct helmet (likely one that teeters more towards comfort than aerodynamics while still offering a premium level of protection).

Above all, a bike helmet should excel at protecting your head against all sorts of impacts, be it a light crash or something more severe. Research the lab testing standards and how well certain helmets rate in those tests before buying. A good rule of thumb is to always side with helmets that have MIPS or SPIN technology, as those are the latest innovations designed to protect against a wider range of rotational forces upon impact. 

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The 4 best exercise balls we tested in 2021

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

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  • 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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider