The 5 best bike lights for better visibility while cycling at night

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

Living in New York City means my go-to mode of transportation is my bike. Whether I need to run errands during the week or want to get some exercise on a long weekend ride, there aren’t many days during the spring and summer that I don’t spend at least a little bit of time pedaling around Brooklyn.

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. Bike lights are an indispensable part of any cycling kit and one 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 five of my favorites from brands like Malker and NiteRider. At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to show for a bike light, as well as insight into the testing methodology used to decide which lights ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best bike lights:

The best 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.

The best easy install

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.

The best on a budget

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, too. 

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).  — Rick Stella, fitness and health editor

The best 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 side 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.

How we test bike lights

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. 

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The 7 best compression socks for runners, seniors, and anyone looking to improve circulation

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Compression socks help speed muscle recovery and potentially improve athletic performance.
  • The garments also improve blood flow for venous or lymphatic issues for pregnant women or the elderly.
  • Our top pick, CEP’s Progressive+ Compression Socks, are incredibly comfortable and won’t sag through the day.

Compression socks are one of those garments that seem gimmicky, but science actually backs up their biggest claimed benefit: Improving your circulation.

“Compression socks help the vascular system move blood and other fluids, which can help manage swelling and inflammation,” Jenelle Deatherage, a physical therapist at the UW Health Sports Rehabilitation Clinic, told Insider.

At its foundation, the garment works by squeezing the walls of the veins and leg tissues to help blood work its way against gravity to the heart. The compression also helps the flow of lymph fluid, which helps remove cellular waste and circulates bacteria-fighting white blood cells throughout your body.

Deatherage added that several categories of people may benefit from wearing compression socks, including athletes who could look to enhance their workouts. This is especially true for runners.

“There’s not great research on performance, which is what a lot of patients look for, but the good news is that there is some research that shows [compression socks] might help with muscle fatigue and reduce soreness if you wear them during a workout,” she explained.

Because of those inherent benefits, compression socks have become quite popular in recent years – and that popularity has brought with it a surplus of options. To help narrow down what’s available, we tested dozens of styles across brands like Swiftwick, CEP, and Sockwell. Our guide features socks that provide great comfort, are relatively durable, and are fit to wear in a variety of situations.

At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some insight into who Detherage says may benefit most from compression socks, tips on how to shop for them, and the best methods for how to use and wear them.

Here are the best compression socks:

The best overall

compression socks

Whether you are a runner or just someone who wants to relieve lower leg ailments, the CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 provides all-day comfort.

Pros: Incredibly comfortable, thinner, won’t sag over the course of the day

Cons: Expensive, sizing can be tricky so be sure to measure before ordering

The CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 (available in men’s and women’s sizes) stand out from the other socks on our list due in large part to the fact they offer unparalleled comfort — and should be considered by anyone, despite a steep price tag. 

The brand’s parent company, Medi, has been producing medical compression products for over 70 years. The founder of CEP, who is an Ironman competitor, leveraged Medi’s technical knowledge and designs for athletes.

Made of polyamide and nylon (60%), elastane (25%), and polypropylene (15%), CEP’s socks offer precise 20-30mmHg graduated and consistent compression so they won’t sag as the day goes on.

The Progressive+ 2.0 Socks also feature a halo top band that lands right below the knee. This keeps your socks in place and the front ribbing allows air to flow through to cool your skin’s surface. Per CEP’s website, the company offers a six-month guarantee that covers wearing the socks up to 150 times before the compression lessens. 

These socks are recommended for anyone who suffers from shin splints, Achilles issues, or plantar fasciitis. They’re also great for runners looking to rehab their leg after a long run or workout. 

The best on a budget

compression socks

The SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are the least expensive pair in our guide, yet they stay up and provide reliable comfort.

Pros: Inexpensive, relatively durable, snug fit

Cons: Available in just two sizes

Though the SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are about one-fifth the price of our top pick, they rival it in performance. These socks have a graduated compression rating of 15-20mmHg, which is slightly less than the CEP socks but still supplies sufficient compression for blood circulation.

The socks are made of breathable and lightweight spandex and nylon, which helps to wick away sweat and moisture from your feet. SB Sox come in 11 different colors and two sizes: S/M and L/XL.

Though they seem thinner and lighter than other picks on this list, SB Sox socks hold up well through numerous wears and washes. Plus, they provide a snug fit that doesn’t feel too constricting. More sizing options would be welcome, though.

The best for circulation

sockwell

If you experience circulation problems due to chronic health issues, the Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks may be your best bet for achieving leg comfort.

Pros: Lightweight, maintain their snugness all day long

Cons: The top of the sock might warp over time, only comes in two sizes

For people with venous or lymphatic issues in their legs, compression therapy can help move blood through the veins and tissue better, which in turn promotes healing and prevents ulcers and other issues. Compression stockings are one of the easier options to put on and less cumbersome than medical bandages, says a 2014 study in CMAJ.

The Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks (available in men’s and women’s sizes) are made in the United States using bamboo rayon (31%), merino wool (31%), stretch nylon (30%), and spandex (8%). This combination helps with moisture management, thermoregulation, and odor control.

What’s more, these are one of the firmer pairs from Sockwell offering compression of 20-30mmHg. A 2019 study analysis in BMC Geriatrics found elderly folks with chronic blood flow issues (venous insufficiency) and swollen legs who wore class 2 compression stockings (pressure between 20 and 30 mmHg) regularly were less likely to have leg ulcers come back compared to wearing lower compression class 1 stockings (pressure below 20 mmHg).

These Sockwell socks have four zones of graduated compression beginning at the ankles and moving up. Since the compression starts at the ankles, the toes remain comfortable. There are four colors for men to choose from and eight in the women’s style.

The best for post-workout

compression socks 1

After running countless miles, slipping on a pair of Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks can decrease soreness and help your muscles recover.

Pros: Great for easing muscle soreness, cushioned bottom, durable, 4 sizes, 14 colors

Cons: Might not be tight enough for everyone’s needs, long drying time

The Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks come in four sizes, which is helpful for ensuring you get the right fit — the appropriate sock size gives you the appropriate level of pressure. Constructed of 82% polyamide and 18% elastane, these socks feature ultra-zone ribbing which targets ankle and arch stabilization, which is ideal for runners with weaknesses in these areas.

The 200 needle count construction is designed to make the socks denser, durable, and reduce stretching over time. They’re sweat-wicking, too, but don’t tend to dry out very quicky, so are best worn in cooler weather. Zensah offers the socks in 14 colors, including Black, Heather Grey, and Neon Pink. 

The best for runners

Aspire Socks

Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve help relieve muscle soreness and prevent or relieve shin splints — something any runner can appreciate.

Pros: Offers comfortable compression for runners, promotes blood flow, helps relieve shin splints, and wicks away moisture

Cons: Can be difficult to put on

Swiftwick’s compression socks run the gamut of everything from knee-high versions for those looking for full leg relief to no-show options for golfers. For runners, its Aspire Twelve socks are an excellent option to help relieve muscle soreness, prevent or care for shin splints, and provide stability and comfort. 

Comprised of a blend of 43% nylon, 11% spandex, and 46% olefin, the Aspire Twelves don’t just offer the benefits of compression but also help wick away moisture to keep your feet dry. They work well to keep on even after your run as you’ll continue to reap the benefits of compression as you recover. 

The best for standing all-day

compression socks

If your job requires you to be on your feet for most of the day, give your lower legs a break with Sockwell’s Circulator Graduated Compression Socks.

Pros: Good for reducing foot and ankle swelling, incredibly comfortable, inexpensive

Cons: Concerns about durability, socks may only come up to mid-calf in taller people

The Sockwell Circulator Graduated Compression Socks have a lot of the same features as our pick for best circulation, the Sockwell Elevation socks. They both have four zones of graduated compression from the ankle on up, which keeps the toes feeling comfortable, and each is made of a combination of spandex, bamboo rayon, stretch nylon, and merino wool.

But the main differences are that the Circulator socks have moderate compression (15-20mmHg) and cost a bit less ($30 per pair).

The Circulator socks only come in two sizes. but there are nine colors to choose from, including Black Stripe, Charcoal, Black Solid, and Port. Regardless of the size, the socks aren’t very long, so they’re best used for people with shorter builds. 

The best patterned

Vim Vigr socks

Vim & Vigr combines form and function with its fashion-forward compression socks that you’ll just love to be seen in.

Pros: Stylish, comfortable, available for both men and women

Cons: Can get expensive

First and foremost, Vim & Vigr compression socks work. After all, no amount of aesthetic creativity would be able to make up for compression socks that don’t do much by way of compressing. Luckily, that’s not the case with these.

I’m particularly fond of Vim & Vigr’s medical-grade compression level, which are designed with a Gradient Knitting Technology to help promote circulation in your calves. The socks feature a structured leg but a flexible toe and heel so that you’re supported where you need it but still able to move. These socks offer moderate to firm compression, with somewhere between 20 and 30 mmHg depending on the style.

Regardless of your selection, however, you’ll find that Vim & Vigr helps to prevent swelling in your legs, and alleviates pain and achiness. I found that these socks were just as helpful during runs as they were during HIIT workouts — especially as the weather gets colder and circulation becomes increasingly important.

What sets Vim & Vigr apart are its fun, unique designs. Not only is there a wide range of colors to choose from but the brand also offers several interesting patterns. I’m a fan of the color block options, as well as a Rugby Stripe pattern for men.

Vim & Vigr offers wide calf versions of all their socks for both men and women, so you don’t have to be uncomfortable even when donning a tight pair of socks. If you don’t need medical-grade compression, you can always opt for the brand’s moisture-wicking nylon material, or the remarkably warm merino wool composition. You could also check out Vim & Vigr sleeves, which compress your calves without encasing your feet.

Who should wear compression socks?

Anyone can wear compression socks but they do figure to benefit some groups more than others. This predominantly includes athletes, pregnant women, and elderly people, though anyone who sits or stands for long periods of time at work should consider them as well.

Deatherage suggested that if you work out in the morning before sitting at a desk or standing all day, where your calves and ankles stay at the bottom of the gravity chain, it’s smart to wear compression socks post-workout. This helps with swelling and gets blood back to the heart.

Conversely, if you sit all day and prefer to work out at night, wearing compression socks while exercising after work may allow for less fatigue in the lower legs and can help enhance circulation.

Athletes

Concerning the exact impact of compression socks on athletes, Deatherage told Insider that their effectiveness is still somewhat undecided. There is some research that confirms that wearing compression garments helps improve running endurance or cycling sprints, while others say it doesn’t change a thing.

A recently-published analysis in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine looked at 21 studies and found that a small number do show that wearing compression socks during exercise improved performance. Mostly, though, the studies showed wearing the special socks during a grueling workout helped fit folks feel like their leg muscles were firing better, fatiguing less, and, after the workout, less sore.

Even if it’s just a placebo effect, those training hard, particularly for long endurance events like a marathon, wearing compression socks during workouts and after for recovery may help make training easier.

“When looking at the cost-benefit ratio and considering what research is out there, it’s not a bad idea,” Deatherage said. “And it’s an easy thing to do.”

Pregnant women

Besides runners, Deatherage says pregnant women may benefit from compression socks, as they’re more prone to swelling. Venous issues are also particularly high for pregnant women as they have a larger volume of blood pumping through their bodies. 

Some 40% of pregnant women develop varicose veins, while the risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is four- to five-fold higher for moms-to-be compared to non-pregnant women. Wearing compression socks or stockings during pregnancy can potentially help reduce swelling and discomfort, improve circulation, and minimize varicose veins.

Seniors

Elderly people with deep vein thrombosis, those who just had surgery on their legs, or anyone trying to minimize varicose veins or blood clot concerns, might also benefit from compression socks. The catch is here is that these more serious vascular issues, including varicose veins, would benefit more from medical grade compression socks, Deatherage added, which requires a doctor prescription and are often more expensive.

How to shop for compression socks

If you’re simply looking for workout recovery or want relief from more minor issues of swelling or soreness, say on long flights or during long work shifts on your feet (like nurses), you may see advantages from more moderate compression socks, Deatherage said. This includes socks with ratings of about 10-20mmHg, which stands for millimeters of mercury (a measurement of pressure).

When shopping around for compression socks, Deatherage said that besides a sock’s mmHg rating, the most important thing to look for is comfort, saying that “compression socks only work if you wear them.”

Look for a pair in which the material feels comfortable against your skin, and a set that feels snug but not too tight — you don’t want to restrict your movement. If you can find a pair that offers customization for your size, that’s even better.

Compression sock ratings

As noted above, the compression in the stockings is measured in mm Hg. Specifically, compression socks are rated based on blood pressure. The majority of compression socks either have a moderate pressure rating of 10 to 20 mmHg or a firm rating of 20 to 30 mmHg.

None of the socks we reviewed have a rating above 30 mm Hg, but there are specialty shops where you can find these if needed. Graduated compression socks, the most common type, are tighter near the ankle than at the calf to avoid cutting off circulation.

Fabrics used

Most compression socks are made from a blend of synthetic fabrics that provide a snug and stretchy fit. In the reviews that follow, we let you know what materials are used in the construction of the socks but unless you have an issue with a specific material, you should let performance be your main guide in choosing the best compression socks.

How best to use compression socks

There is a bit of a paradox associated with wearing compression socks. You may have purchased them to deal with leg swelling. Yet, this same swelling makes it hard for you to put them on. So, what can you do? There are countless resources on the web to help you out, plus we’ve compiled a few tips here, as well: 

  • Apply talcum powder or cornstarch to your feet before putting your socks on.
  • Wear dishwashing gloves to get a better grip.
  • Roll the socks before you put them on so you can just roll them up your legs.
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The 6 best bike helmets, for road cyclists, commuters, or casual riders

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • 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.

Bike helmets aren’t the same polystyrene buckets they used to be. They’ve since become so specialized that the helmet one might use for commuting differs greatly from what they might grab for a road bike ride – and that’s a good thing. Now, anyone can leverage that variety and specialization to find a helmet suited perfectly to their needs and ride style.

The most important bike helmet feature is that it should be highly protective. Of course, you hope to never get to the point where you need it to perform its ultimate function of protecting your head, but no matter where you live, hopping on a bike comes with plenty of injury risk.

Thanks to a rigorous set of standards, modern helmets 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. Helmet manufacturers have even started going a step further and implementing new technology (MIPS and SPIN) that build off those guidelines and protect you even better.

So, what exactly is the best bike helmet? Considering we couldn’t reasonably test each helmet for how well it protected our head in a crash, we were still able to judge other important factors like fit, comfort, weight, ventilation, and value.

After testing dozens of helmets, we settled on six that are worth the investment. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a bike helmet, as well as insight into our testing methodology.

Here are the best bike helmets:

The best overall

POC Octal 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 budget

bern helmet

The Bern FL1 Trail combines the styling of helmets five times its price with great venting and an adjustable fit for a performance that belies its incredible value.

Pros: Great value, highly vented and adjustable, looks and weight on par with top brands

Cons: Sits a little high on the head, visor is not adjustable

It might seem counterproductive to throw hundreds of dollars on something designed to break. Luckily, all helmets approved for use in the US have to pass the same tests, meaning that while cheaper helmets might weigh more or offer less venting, they’ll protect you just as much as their higher-end counterparts.

With the FL1 Trail, the compromises are minimal. Bern uses the same in-mold 18 vent construction as its top of the line helmets but manages to save money by using a non-brand-name adjustment dial on the rear closure mechanism.

The helmet also offers a visor to protect from rain, sun, and trailside vegetation. It doesn’t feel that much different in use to more expensive helmets thanks to its light weight of just 271 grams, along with plenty of venting.

The best for racing

giro helmet

Giro’s Aether is a slimline helmet that doesn’t compromise on breathability, aerodynamics, or safety, making it a great choice for racers.

Pros: One of the safest helmets on the market, lightweight and aerodynamic, comes in a variety of colors to match your bike or kit

Cons: The Aether is expensive, but you only get one brain, this is more of a road style helmet and off-road riders will have to wait for mountain bike appropriate model

Giro’s long been synonymous with the highest level of performance in bike racing. Its helmets have won bike races in just about every category, and the brand has routinely innovated not just performance but also safety.

Two of the biggest trends in cycle helmets have been aerodynamics and multiple impact protection (MIPS) — each of which driven by Giro. Until recently, however, both required compromises resulting in racers often owning several helmets. Giro’s aerodynamic models were fast on the flat but tended to be heavy and poorly vented, making them a bad choice for hill climbs.

The Aether is a no-compromises racing helmet. Instead of placing the MIPS layer by a rider’s head, Giro sandwiched it between EPS foam layers, resulting in a more comfortable and aerodynamic helmet. Eleven vents make the helmet virtually disappear on climbs, too.

Of course, the Aether’s best benefit is one nobody wants to test. Impact protection with the MIPS spherical system is better than ever before and now the helmet’s fit and ventilation are uncompromised meaning that, should the worst happen, you’ll always be the best protected.  

A new Spherical MIPS system is built into the helmet and provides more impact protection and less inconvenience. The adjustable Roc-Loc 5 fit system also means that the helmet retains its fit.  

The best portable

stack helmet

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 — it makes sense, too. 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 for commuters

ThousandChapter1

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 a 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, of 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. — Rick Stella, fitness & health editor

The best high visibility

lumos helmet

The Lumos fits and feels like a regular helmet, but its host of high-tech features make it a great pick for anyone who rides in the dark. 

Pros: Highly visible and noticeable to drivers, wireless controls let you signal turns without taking your hands off the bars, easy setup, and a good fit

Cons: Proprietary charger, heavier than a standard helmet, lacks the adjustability of high-end helmets

For half the year, I ride home from work in the pitch black. I make every effort to light myself up like a Christmas tree with both flashing and steady rear and front lights, as well as reflective clothing. It wasn’t until I tried the Lumos helmet that I realized drivers knowing where I was is only part of the safety equation. To be truly safe, they also need to know where I’m going.

When it’s too dark for drivers to see hand signals indicating a change in direction, the Lumos uses an automatic rear warning light to signal braking and a handlebar-mounted signal to indicate changes in direction. Just like a car, the Lumos gives you red brake lights and orange turn signals.

The Lumos helmet also includes white LED lights on the front and red LEDs on the rear, meaning you’re visible even when not braking or turning. When combined with a sensible outfit and bike lights, the Lumos really does feel like the safest way to get home in the dark.

While the Lumos helmet might lack the adjustability of truly high-end road helmets, it’s designed more with commutes in mind and isn’t likely to see much use in 100-mile road races.

Overall, the Lumos is not a replacement for lights but it is a great addition to the safety toolkit of any cycle commuter. If you’re riding home in the dark, this helmet really stands out as a great choice for safety and visibility.

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. 

How we test bike helmets

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, it’s 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).

Check out our other bike gear guides

thule bike rack
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The 6 best golf hitting mats of 2021 to improve your swing at home

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  • Owning a hitting mat means you can practice and improve your golf swing whenever you want.
  • Our top pick is DURA-PRO, which is great for homes while durable like commercial driving-range mats.
  • We found options for all levels, from premium models for pros to budget options for beginners.

The golf swing has been called the athletic movement that most rewards consistency – and most requires upkeep. Practicing at home by hitting into a net or a tarp gives you a much better chance of repeating your swing, which is bound to improve your tempo, balance and consistency. A purpose-built artificial surface for hitting off is vital, because no lawn could handle the wear and tear and no carpet or pad will keep your hands and wrists safe from injury.

Having co-authored many golf instruction books and articles, I’ve learned from top teaching pros which qualities are most desired in a hitting mat. Like other types of golf equipment, these mats have undergone steady improvement through the years.

For the best results, you’ll want to stick to a mat that’s at least four feet by five feet so you can take your proper stance. However, if you prefer to sacrifice on size in the name of price or portability, we have a few options for you too.

Here are the best golf hitting mats

The best overall

DURA PRO Commercial Golf Mat
This mat has commercial-grade features at a more affordable price.

The DURA-PRO Commercial Golf Mat is full-sized at four-by-five feet and range-tested for both durability and the natural-grass feel a superior mat needs.

What we like: Absorbs shock to wrists and elbows, non-slip, turf fibers thermally bonded to base

This quality-built range mat is big enough to stand on, which is a must for serious practice by improvement-minded players. Its hitting surface is 100% nylon for durability and a smooth glide of the club, while thick padding underneath absorbs shock at impact. The mat comes pre-punched with holes for rubber tees and even a receptacle for the wooden tees some purists prefer.

Artificial hitting surfaces can turn the soles of a golf club bright green, but this mat is non-staining. For what it delivers, the price tag is certainly reasonable.

The best for tournament competitors

Real Feel Country Club Elite Golf Mat
The ultimate in natural-turf performance, this mat even accepts wooden tees.

The Original Real Feel Country Club Elite Golf Mat, built to suit top players, is super-durable yet loaded with “playability” features demanded by tournament golfers.

What we like: Dynamics of ball-club impact closely mimic ball-striking on natural grass, can take wooden tees

The classic problem with hitting off mats is making swings that on a grass fairway would produce “fat” or “heavy” shots, and not realizing it. What you pay for in a hitting mat like this one is a real-grass equivalency that rewards fundamentally correct delivery of the club through impact. That’s on top of the expected characteristics, like durability, extra-dense turf fiber, comfort underfoot, stability, and yes, the capacity to accept and firmly hold a wooden tee wherever the golfer wishes to insert it. We’ve highlighted a four-by-five foot model, but the same mat also comes in five-by-five dimensions, for a slightly higher price.

The best on a budget

GoSports Pro 5x4 Golf Hitting Mat
Six different teeing positions make this mat work for right- and left-handed golfers.

The GoSports Pro 5×4 Golf Hitting Mat is a hit with recreational golfers who practice for enjoyment and to keep their swings feeling smooth and rhythmic.

What we like: Maximum durability and impact-feel in an entry-level mat, full-size for proper stance, non-slip padding, can suit varying clubs

There are construction elements built into golf hitting mats strictly to handle the harsh treatment of all-day use at public driving ranges. A good-quality mat for home use doesn’t need all that to deliver fine performance over the long term. This full-size mat from GoSports features a 15mm layer of non-slip foam padding for comfortable impact as well as for stability on any surface, indoors or outdoors. There’s a socket that accepts wooden tees along with range-style rubber tees at varying heights, to suit whichever club a player chooses to practice with.

The best for short-game improvement

Rukket Tri Turf Golf Hitting Mat
Highly portable, this mat is convenient for use anywhere.

The Rukket Tri-Turf Golf Hitting Mat is a compact, portable practice aid featuring three turf heights, to simulate rough, fairway, and close-cropped “collar” turf.

What we like: Challenges a player to learn the right touch on shorter shots, mimics different grass conditions, portable, doesn’t take up much floor space

This product shows that a mat doesn’t have to be full-sized to serve the golfer who’s serious about improvement. Best suited to the so-called partial swings that every player needs when inside 100 yards, it can be placed anywhere for a quick tuneup or longer practice session. Included are indoor practice balls that won’t dent your basement paneling. Built by a manufacturer known for quality, it comes with a 100% lifetime warranty and guarantee of satisfaction.

The best for alignment training

SASRL Golf Trainer Mat
Permanent stripes help guide your club.

The SASRL Golf Trainer Mat is a portable, 13-by-24.4-inch swing aid that you hit off, leaving trace marks that indicate a correct or misaligned path through impact.

What we like: Portable, solid base, visual indicators for more productive practice

There’s more to golf practice than taking full swings to generate maximum power, as this simple yet intriguing portable mat demonstrates. Hitting the equivalent of 50- to 75-yard shots off this velvet-like surface allows the golfer to focus on a square clubface and get feedback on how well the arc of his or her swing matches up to the correct path, as indicated by the mat’s markings. A player can also “dial in” ball position relative to the feet and learn to match the bottom of the swing arc with that position. The mat is portable, but has enough weight and traction to stay in position on most swings.

The best for beginners

Champkey Tri-Turf Golf Hitting Mat
Versatile and well-constructed, this mat includes a tee receptacle and a tray for practice balls.

Affordable and rugged, the Champkey Tri-Turf Golf Hitting Mat is divided into three grass heights to introduce the player to “real golf” conditions.

What we like: Heavy rubber base is slip-resistant, hitting surfaces are varied, carry handle and ball tray add convenience

Newer golfers will often feel anxious before a round and frustrated after one — two occasions when the urge to practice tends to strike. A product like this portable, multi-surface hitting mat can serve as a security blanket for that golfer, helping to sharpen eye-hand coordination and overall feel for how hard to swing on shots of various lengths. An appropriate gift for any friend or relative who is getting into golf, this mat have plenty of built-in durability for its entry-level price. Tee receptacles and a tray that holds a good supply of practice balls add a nice convenience factor.

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The 5 best commuter bikes, for running errands around town or getting to work

  • Commuter bikes offer a cost-effective and fitness- and environmentally-friendly way to run errands or get around town.
  • The best are comfortable to ride, handle a variety of casual terrain, and hold up in an array of weather and road conditions.
  • Our top pick, Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s Franklin 3, has a comfortable, upright design and features high-quality components.

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Editor’s note: Due to fluctuating stock, some of the recommendations on this list are either temporarily out of stock or currently back-ordered. We will update this piece with new information when we can.

Working from home, I miss having the opportunity to commute to work. Depending on the weather, I used to roller skate or bike the roughly 13-mile trek each day. Sure, it took a bit longer than driving but I started the day on a positive, energetic note and was in the best shape of my life.

More cities are now encouraging their residents to commute by bike, creating bike-only lanes in urban areas. Therefore, now is the best time to use a bike to get around town, run errands, or just enjoy some time outside.

But it seems as though just about every bike brand offers not just one, but multiple versions of something dubbed a “commuter.” To help, I’ve tested a number of the top commuter bikes from companies like Brooklyn Bicycle Co., Priority Bicycles, and Schwinn to find the best currently available.

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to best shop for a commuter bike, as well as the testing methodology I used in narrowing down which bikes ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best commuter bikes:

Best overall

The Franklin

If you want a comfortable, attractive commuter bike that comes fully assembled, the Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Franklin 3 is a smart solution that’s built to last.

Pros: Assembly is included in the price, beautiful design, durable construction, comfortable to ride

Cons: Only three speeds

Brooklyn Bicycle Co. focuses on building bikes that are designed for durability, comfort, and style. This focus is apparent in the Franklin 3. The step-through frame makes mounting your bike effortless regardless of what you’re wearing, and it’s made of lightweight steel so you can easily carry the approximately 33-pound bike up and downstairs.

The rear hub and shifter are made by Shimano, one of the top names in the industry. And, the bike comes with puncture-resistant tires. Both the saddle and grips are made of vegan leather for maximum comfort.

The Franklin 3 is a three-speed bike, but there are also single-speed and seven-speed options. The bike comes in small/medium or large. And, it’s available in five colors: ivory, matte coral, gloss black, sea glass, and cardinal red. If you’d prefer a top tube that is closer to parallel with the ground rather than the step-through frame, check out the Bedford 3.

Editor’s note: Brooklyn Bicycle Co. says that it plans to restock the Franklin via its website in late Spring. 

Best for beginners

cyclecooprei

The Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 offers a smooth ride, excellent maneuverability, and is light enough to store in your walk-up apartment.

Pros: Comfortable seat, easy for novices to operate, locking front suspension fork, excellent customer service

Cons: Expensive

After a hiatus from the bicycle space, REI launched Co-op Cycles in 2017 with the goal of providing fun and freedom on two wheels. As the name suggests, the CTY 2.1 is specifically designed to be used in the city.

Several of the parts come from top names in the industry, too. The crankset, shifters, derailleurs, rear cogs, hydraulic disc brakes, and brake levers are Shimano. The hubs are Joytech. And, the chain is KMC Z8.

The suspension fork features a locking mechanism so you aren’t bouncing around while riding on smooth surfaces. And, there’s 360-degree reflectivity to keep you visible both day and night, though you’ll still want lights.

This is the main bike I use for fitness and when tooling around town. From the moment I picked it up to test, I was blown away by REI’s customer service. I had to drive about an hour away to get to the closest store, and they were insistent on making sure it fit me correctly.

The CTY 2.1 is also incredibly responsive. On one ride, the brakes reacted quickly, saving me from crashing into a car that pulled out of a drive without looking. And, I have no problem handling the windy trails in my city. The biggest negative for me is that the pedal reflectors fell off after 400 miles.

Best electric

PriorityCurrent

The Priority Current is a low maintenance e-bike that delivers a smooth, easy ride, and its 50-mile electric range 

Pros: Can handle a variety of terrain, has a 50-mile range when fully charged, rides smoothly and doesn’t feel like it’s jolting you when first pedaling, requires very little maintenance

Cons: E-bikes are expensive, the fenders can rub on the tires if nudged out of place

If you’re often commuting long distances or live somewhere near a number of hills, I highly recommend considering an e-bike. The pedal-assistance native to e-bikes makes biking, be it to work, the store, or just around town, a much more pleasant experience (plus, who doesn’t like showing up to where they intend to go not covered in sweat?). 

My favorite e-commuter is Priority’s Current, which also happens to be Insider Reviews’ top choice for all e-bikes in general. The Current offers 50 miles of range on a fully charged battery, handles a variety of terrain with ease, and is just an all-around joy to ride. The fact it needs essentially no routine maintenance makes it an even more attractive option. 

The bike itself is a Bosch-heavy setup, featuring a Bosch motor, battery, and head unit — and its reliance on one brand for these components is a huge reason why maintenance is so simple. It has five different pedal-assist modes, so I’m always able to easily customize exactly how much oomph I want it to provide, and it has a top speed of 28 mph of assisted speed which always seemed like more than enough. 

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Current is its price — though e-bikes hardly ever fall into the range of “budget.” But it’s more than just a simple commuter and can be something you’re able to reliably ride for a long time. — Rick Stella, health & fitness editor for Insider Reviews

Best under $300

Schwinn bike

The Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Bike is a great entry-level alternative if you want to give bicycle commuting a try without spending a lot of money.

Pros: Affordable, relatively easy to assemble, attractive, comes with fenders and rear rack, lifetime limited warranty

Cons: Several of the parts come from no-name manufacturers

For under $300, you get a lot with the Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Bike. The bike comes partially assembled and finishing the job is easy enough for a novice, so you may not need to spend extra for expert help.

There are both back and front fenders to protect you from the grime the tires might kick up. And, you can carry your work items using the included rear rack. The frame is made of steel and features a cool retro urban style. The spring seat provides a comfortable, upright ride. Schwinn backs the quality of this bike with a lifetime limited warranty.

Best full-featured

State_Bicycle_Co_ _Amazon

The State Bicycle Deluxe 3 Speed City Bike comes with everything you need to commute in all types of weather so you don’t have to worry about purchasing extras a la carte.

Pros: Attractive appearance, comes with all you need to start commuting to work, handles an array of road conditions

Cons: Hard to assemble, complaints about flimsy parts

The State Bicycle Deluxe 3 Speed City Bike comes with a rear rack, a front basket with drink holder, fenders, and a chainguard. These features all help get you and your work gear from point A to point B while protecting you from debris and water your tires may kick up. Like our top pick, the Franklin 3, this is a Dutch-style bike, which means you ride in a more upright position for greater comfort and visibility.

There are three styles of the City Bike: The Keansburg, The Elliston, and The Rylee. The main differences are the colors, though The Rylee’s frame has a step-through geometry, while The Elliston and The Keansburg have top tubes that are more parallel to the ground.

How to shop for a commuter bike

The most important consideration when buying a commuter bike is comfort. If riding a bicycle isn’t enjoyable, then you’re never going to keep at it and it’ll just collect dust. Fortunately, when you purchase a bike online, retailers often work with local shops to assemble the bike and provide the necessary final tweaks to ensure the fit a proper fit.

Online purchases also give you the option of assembling the bike on your own. In my experience, it’s worth the extra money to have a professional do it. The experts have the right tools, plenty of experience, and will likely finish the job in a fraction of the time it’ll take you.

If you’re looking to spend more, we recommend considering an electric bicycle. With e-bikes, you can get as much or as little help as you want on your commute. This is especially helpful if you encounter hills on your route or you just want to get home quickly after an exhausting day. Don’t be confused: An e-bike provides powered assistance but you still need to pedal.

How we test commuter bikes

In our testing of commuter bikes, we chose to focus on affordable entry-level bicycles. This means that each option in this guide is non-electric and costs less than $700. We also wanted to make sure that, within those parameters, each bike was able to perform well across these four categories: Ride experience, maintenance demands, comfort, and value.

Here’s how each category contributed to which bikes ultimately made it into the guide:

Ride experience: A commuter bike isn’t going to wow you with its off-road prowess or on-road speed, but it should still be fun to ride. This means looking at how well it handles city riding as much as cruising through the park or taking a ride through your neighborhood. We also looked at how each bike’s handling affected its ride style, and if it’s something we actually looked forward to riding, no matter if we wanted to go to the store or break a quick sweat.

Maintenance demands: Recurring maintenance costs are inevitable but it’d be nice not to have to get something fixed on your bike every other month. Though commuter bikes may not be pushed to their limits while simply riding to a local coffee shop, we still pushed the tested models to their limits to see if any components were unnecessarily stressed or showing signs of wear and tear. 

Comfort: Perhaps the most important aspect of a commuter bike (and most bikes, in general) is how comfortable it is. If it’s not something that’s pleasant to ride, you’re not likely going to want to ride it very much. Comfort also extends not just to the seat but the handlebar shape and type of material used on the grips. 

Value: A combination of the categories before it, value looks not just at how much a commuter bike is but if it’s truly worth the sticker price. It’s always better to spend more for quality and durability once than to spend less more often. 

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The 8 best running socks for marathon training, blister prevention, and cold-weather runs

  • Running socks manage moisture and provide cushioning to prevent blisters and hot spots on long runs.
  • A quality sock is made of sweat-wicking materials, has targeted cushioning, and lasts through dozens of washes.
  • Our top pick, the Rockay Accelerate Running Socks, is durable, comfortable, and wicks moisture.

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Running doesn’t require much equipment. While fancy gear might make runs more enjoyable, some would argue all you need is a quality pair of runners. However, there’s another key piece that shouldn’t be forgotten: a reliable pair of running socks.

These two pieces of running apparel work in tandem to keep your feet happy from heel to toe and as most runners know, happy feet make for a much more enjoyable run. You may think any old pair of socks might do but we strongly encourage you to try out a pair of running-specific socks instead.

We all tend to have strong opinions on which brands are best but it’s important to note what works for one runner may not work for another. That’s why we tried a variety of options perfect for a variety of runners. At the end of this guide, we lay out what to look for in a pair of quality running socks and how we tested here:

Best running socks overall

Rockay socks

The Rockay Accelerate running socks are comfortable, moisture-wicking, and made from durable, high-quality materials with a focus on sustainability.

Pros: Comfortable, durable, moisture-wicking, made from thoughtfully sourced materials, provide support where you need it most

Cons: Expensive

Socks were the first product to be released from the Danish running company, Rockay, and after testing a pair of its Accelerate, I was immediately impressed. They’re incredibly comfortable thanks to a blend of organic merino wool, polyamide, and elastane, and I appreciated the seamless construction. Its focus on using eco-friendly methods and materials is a nice touch, too. 

The blend of materials allows for impressive moisture-wicking capabilities to help prevent blisters. My first test run was on an unseasonably warm day but my feet never felt overheated and stayed dry throughout the run. 

Durability-wise, these socks wash incredibly well. As with most of my running gear, I try to hang dry everything since heat can damage the synthetic materials often used in athletic clothing. However, there were a few times these socks slipped their way into the dryer and I was pleased to find that their performance was unaffected. If you do have any issues, these socks are guaranteed for life, so you can receive another pair, no questions asked.

Another positive of these socks is the support they offer. They have just the right amount of compression in the arch of the foot, providing a snug fit without being uncomfortable. This fit also prevents them from slipping around in your running shoes, so any rubbing that might cause blisters can be avoided.

The Rockay Accelerate socks are available in multiple colors and range in sizes from extra-small to extra-large. A sizing chart is available to help you find the best fit, too. I felt that they ran just a tad bit smaller than true to size. Keep in mind that these will have a snug fit around the foot because of the compression arch, making them feel smaller than normal socks. While these are on the more expensive end, you’re paying for quality and for socks that will last.

Best for durability

darn tough socks

The Darn Tough Tab No Show Light Cushion socks are durable, have a seamless toe for added comfort, and are a merino wool/nylon blend which wicks away sweat to keep your feet dry.

Pros: Durable, no seams for added comfort, wool and synthetic blend to wick away sweat, resist odor, all-weather appropriate

Cons: Not many colors to choose from, can be expensive

If you run your socks into the ground — or, more accurately, until they’re covered in holes and falling apart at the seams — it’s worth investing in a pair from Darn Tough for its lifetime warranty. True to its name, these durable running socks will last through countless jogs and arduous trail run. But Darn Tough’s warranty policy says if you don’t find its socks to be the most comfortable, best-fitting pair you’ve owned, or if they come apart for any reason other than being chewed by dogs, burned around the campfire, or one being lost to the laundry monster, you can ship back your faulty pair and receive credit for a new pair. 

You probably won’t need to use that great policy, though. All of its socks are thoughtfully designed to withstand some of the toughest sports, and it shows in the attention to detail given to the Tab No Show Light Cushion running socks. It’s a wordy name but these socks live up to it. The no-show style is subtle and the tab provides extra cushion where your running shoe meets the back of your ankle to prevent chafing.

Another winning feature? These socks are seamless, so your toes won’t be subjected to any uncomfortable rubbing.

As far as material goes, you won’t find any cotton here. These Darn Tough socks feature merino wool blended with nylon and lycra spandex. You may think wool is only reserved for cold weather running but not in this case. These are all-weather socks that wick away moisture to keep your feet dry and blister-free. Wool also helps resist odor, so even after a sweaty run, you’ll be far less likely to offend anyone when you take off your runners.

These Darn Tough socks are available in both Men’s and Women’s styles and come in Small, Medium, and Large sizes that correspond with your shoe size.

Best for all-around comfort

running socks

The Balega Hidden Comfort No Show running socks have a seamless design crafted with synthetic materials and elastane throughout to make for a better fit and prevent blisters.

Pros: Synthetic materials keep feet dry, mesh construction for added breathability, heel tab to help prevent slippage, seamless design, multiple colors to choose from

Cons: Some reviewers reported slippage, they don’t have targeted cushioning

Even if you’ve been running for a relatively short amount of time, Balega is likely a brand name you’ve heard. I own a few pairs of these socks myself and can confidently say these are some of the most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn.

They’ve seen their fair share of runs but they’ve also been through trips to the grocery store, as well as some intense Netflix binge sessions on the couch. In other words, they’re so comfortable you’ll probably find yourself wearing them even when you aren’t running.

Each pair is carefully crafted to help runners perform at their best. The seamless design of the Hidden Comfort running socks reduces the friction that causes blisters. They have a reinforced heel and toe for increased durability and the top of the sock is constructed with mesh construction for extra breathability and comfort.

These are no-show socks with a heel tab at the opening that makes them easy to slip on. It also reduces chafing and prevents them from slipping down into your shoes. The elastane provides added stretch and comfort, too.

These socks come in sizes ranging from small to extra large. It’s important to size correctly so you get the best fit and minimal slippage. There is also a fun variety of colors to choose from if you like to add a little flair to your running kit.

Best for cold weather

running socks

The Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew socks are designed for cold weather running, with a longer length for extra warmth and a wool blend that keeps your feet toasty and dry.

Pros: Wool and synthetic blend keeps feet dry and blister-free, mid-crew length for extra warmth, 200 needle construction for warmth and cushioning without the bulk

Cons: Not many color choices, expensive

If you live in a location where winters bring cold and snow, yet you don’t call it quits on your running routine, you need a pair of running socks specially designed to keep your feet warm. Smartwool is known for a wide range of specialized socks and its line of cold weather running regularly receives positive reviews from runners who often brave the cold. 

Read more: The best winter running shoes

These socks are mid-crew height, perfect for wearing under your running tights for added warmth, and preventing the cold ankles that often result from wearing no-show socks. It may sound silly but when it comes to running in the cold, every bit of skin coverage makes a difference.

These Smartwool socks are made of 55% merino wool for warmth, nylon for breathability, and elastane for flexibility for stretch. They’ll wick away moisture to help keep your feet dry and free of blisters. If you’re afraid that warmth equates to added bulk, you won’t have to worry in this case. The 200 needle construction allows for high-density cushioning while keeping these socks lightweight.

Smartwool designed the PhD cold weather socks in both men’s and women’s styles for a better fit and they come in small, medium, and large sizes. Unfortunately, you won’t have many colors to choose from but in this case, comfort and warmth will likely be more important than style as you brave those chilly weather conditions.

Best on a budget

saucony socks

The six-pack of Saucony Performance No-Show socks gives you the most value for your money and keeps your feet dry and comfortable.

Pros: Affordable, synthetic fabric to keep feet dry and blister-free, heel tab to prevent slippage, arch compression for added support, comes in multiple colors

Cons: Can’t be bought in single pairs, non-specific sizing

You’ve likely heard of Saucony, a brand known for its well-made running shoes. However, like many running shoe brands, Saucony also makes athletic socks geared towards runners. If you’ve just splurged on a new pair of running shoes and want to save some bucks, or you simply don’t want to spend a lot on socks, these are a great option.

For less than $20, you can get six pairs of socks, and having more socks means you’ll be less likely to run out before having to do laundry. These socks come in plenty of fun color combinations and are available in both men’s and women’s styles. Unlike most others on this list, these don’t come in multiple sizes but men’s will fit an 8-12 shoe size and women’s will fit a 5-10 shoe size.

A heel tab helps prevent slippage and arch compression provides extra support. You won’t find any cotton here, either, with all synthetic materials for sweat-wicking and comfort, and mesh construction for added breathability. These are all features found in a more expensive running sock, for a fraction of the price.

As a more lightweight sock, these aren’t recommended for winter running but otherwise, they’ll do just fine at the gym, on the road, or on the trails.

If you are looking for just one pair to try, you’ll be out of luck as these only come in six-packs. However, for such an affordable price, it’s worth it to try them for yourself.

Best for preventing blisters

toe socks

With a place for each toe, a breathable mesh upper, and sweat-wicking materials, the Injinji 2.0 Lightweight No-Show toe socks are a great option if you’re prone to blisters.

Pros: Individual toe coverage helps prevent blisters, Synthetic fabric to keep feet dry and comfortable, mesh upper for breathability, heel tab to help prevent slippage, come in multiple colors

Cons: Can be tricky to put on, some reviewers couldn’t get used to the individual toe style

These toe socks may look a little odd but as they say, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Having a place for each individual toe prevents them from rubbing together — one of the main causes of blisters.

Injinji is a California-based company, with its roots in wanting to develop a seamless sock that allowed for more natural foot movement and toe splay. From this, the patented five-toe sock was born.

In addition to preventing any skin-to-skin friction that causes blisters, the Injinji 2.0 is made from synthetic materials to wick away sweat and keep feet dry and comfortable. A mesh top also allows for more breathability. If you prefer the minimalist style of running toe shoes like Vibram’s FiveFingers shoes, these socks also make a great liner for additional comfort. These socks perform just as well in traditional running shoes, too.

The Injinji 2.0 is a unisex sock but it comes in four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra-large. Sizing is important here since these conform to every contour of your foot — toes included. 

While they may not be for everyone, if you’ve been in a standoff with stubborn reoccurring blisters, these socks may be just what you need.

Best for compression

Aspire Socks

If you experience muscle soreness or shin splints after your runs, Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve compressions socks help reduce the pain.

Pros: Promote blood flow and help reduce muscle soreness, olefin wicks sweat to keep your feet dry

Cons: Expensive, hard to put on 

Swiftwick is a mainstay in the compression sock industry and its Aspire Twelve knee-high socks are perfect for the runner looking for more than just muscle relief, but shin relief as well. Made of 43% nylon, 11% spandex, and 46% olefin, not only do they offer supreme compression and a snug fit, but they wick sweat away, as well. This is especially useful for hot and humid summer runs.

Running in these socks provides response lower leg support thanks to its minimal cushioning. They also function well to help recover after a long run or whenever you feel the muscles in your legs start to tighten up and feel sore. 

It’s worth pointing out that these socks (as well as many similar compressions socks) aren’t always the easiest to put on. We recommend reaching into the sock and pulling out the heel before putting your foot in and pulling the rest of the sock on. They’re made to be really snug on your lower leg, so this isn’t something that just needs to be broken in either. 

Aside from getting them on, the Aspire Twelve’s perform well work wonders to help with sore muscles. They’re a bit expensive at $30 per pair but most compression socks of this quality are hardly cheap. — Rick Stella

Best for fun ankle patterns

Zensah

With a range of fun patterns to choose from, the Zensah Limited Edition Mini Crew-Length running socks allow you to show off your personal style without sacrificing high-quality performance.

Pros: Tons of fun patterns and colors to choose from, comfortable, light compression for added support, moisture-wicking material to help prevent blisters

Cons: On the expensive side

Just because you’re decked out in running gear doesn’t mean you can’t make a statement. If you want to stand out from the pack, a crazy pair of running socks is the perfect way to do so, and the Zensah Limited Edition running socks rise to the occasion. Don’t be fooled by the limited edition in the name. Whether you want to show some holiday spirit, or share your love for donuts, there are tons of fun prints, patterns, and colors to choose from.

These socks look fun but when it comes to performance and comfort, things get serious. Zensah is a brand known for tight-fitting compression products but even if you aren’t looking for compression, their snug fit keeps them from sliding down during your runs. They also have a seamless toe and a lightly cushioned sole for added comfort, and they’re anatomically designed with a specific left foot and right foot fit.

The nylon, spandex, and polyester blend allow for breathability and help these socks dry quickly, protecting your feet from any blisters. Silver ions in the material help keep any odors at bay.

The mini crew height of these Zensah running heights makes them just tall enough to show off your chosen design, without having them take over your entire calf. They’re available in small, medium, and large sizes that correspond to your shoe size.

How we test

Each pair of running socks featured in this guide went through a series of on-foot tests to see how well they compared across these four categories: Fit and comfort, features, durability, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category factored into what socks ultimately made this guide and what sub-categories we chose to spotlight: 

  • Fit and comfort: Though fit and comfort could be two different categories, they’re very closely related when it comes to running socks. You ideally want your running socks to fit snug enough to not rub inside your shoe (even if they get wet and want to start sliding around). This is as true for no-show socks as it is for both ankle- and shin-high options, too. The more comfortable and well-fitting a running sock is, the more enjoyable your running should be. 
  • Features: Using the term “features” to describe the makeup of a running sock may seem odd but different brands do include a variety of unique traits that make them more well-suited for different types of runners (and their needs). For instance, a brand like Swiftwick specializes in compression while Injinji’s socks are geared toward reducing the development of blisters. 
  • Durability: No matter if you’re a casual running or you’re training for a marathon, your running socks will take a beating — and having to deal with holes forming or a sock tearing at its seams can be especially frustrating as you prepare for a run. Though we didn’t push each pair to its absolute end, we did go on enough runs wearing each featured pair to get a reasonable idea of how long they’d last.
  • Value: Value is the combination of each category above, as well as how a running sock’s actual stick price factors into its worth. We do think that it’s more beneficial to spend a little more on a premium product that’s designed to last than to opt for a poorly-made budget option and have to spend that reduced cost more often. 

How to shop for running socks

Since there are so many options, it’s tricky to wade through what’s available. Luckily we’ve done the legwork for you, rounding up a group of socks outfit with the features you need most.

Before we get into our favorites, we’ve outlined what to pay attention to so your feet can meet their best match.

  • Material: One of the most important things to consider is material. Synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, and nylon are your best bet because they help wick away moisture and prevent blisters. A wool blend can also be a good choice to keep your feet warm and dry — especially if you’re running in the winter. You’ll want to avoid anything that’s 100% cotton as it will only hold in moisture, making for very sweaty and uncomfortable feet.
  • Cushioning: The cushioning and the thickness you desire in your running socks is a matter of personal choice, and luckily there are all types to choose from. Plenty of running socks are also designed to provide cushioning in places that are more likely to develop blisters.
  • Height: The height of your running socks can be a matter of personal style, but it can also serve a more useful purpose. Maybe you’re tired of chafing the backs of your ankles. Or maybe you’ve noticed that mid-calf ankle socks have roared back into style, rejoining us from the 1980s. Either way, it’s enough reason to try out a pair of crew length running socks. On the other hand, if you prefer a subtler look, no show or quarter-length socks are also available. 
  • Specialized Features: Aside from the basics, there are also socks designed to meet running specific needs and issues. Compression socks are a good option if you want to improve blood flow through your legs and ankles, or you want additional arch support. If you’re especially prone to blisters, some runners swear by toe socks.
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The 7 best compression socks for runners, nurses, and others

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Compression socks are one of those garments that seem gimmicky, but they actually have science behind them to help improve your circulation. At its foundation, the garment works by squeezing the walls of the veins and leg tissues to help blood work its way against gravity to the heart. The compression also helps the flow of lymph fluid, which helps remove cellular waste and circulate bacteria-fighting white blood cells throughout your body.

There are a few categories of people who might benefit from this improved blood and lymph flow: athletes looking for better performance and/or recovery; folks with venous or lymphatic issues in the legs, like elderly people with deep vein thrombosis or pregnant folks trying to minimize varicose veins; and anyone with blood clot concerns. People also like to wear compression socks to improve circulation on long flights or long work shifts on their feet (like nurses), where the improved circulation may help reduce soreness.

Many studies show wearing compression socks can help improve blood flow to your lower limbs, promoting healthier vein functioning and healing. Venous issues are particularly high for pregnant women as they have a larger volume of blood pumping through their body. Some 40% of pregnant women develop varicose veins, while the risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is four- to five-fold higher for moms-to-be compared to non-pregnant women. Wearing compression socks or stockings during pregnancy can potentially help reduce swelling and discomfort, improve circulation, and minimize varicose veins.

When it comes to athletic performance, the jury’s still out on just how effective compression garments, including socks, can be. Some research confirms that wearing compression garments helps improve running endurance or cycling sprints, while others say it doesn’t change a thing.

However, a recently-published analysis in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine looked at 21 studies and found that a small number do show wearing compression socks during exercise improved performance. Mostly, though, the studies showed wearing the special socks during a grueling workout helped fit folks feel like their leg muscles were firing better, fatiguing less, and after the workout, less sore. Even if it’s more placebo than anything, for anyone training hard, particularly for long endurance events like a marathon, wearing compression socks during workouts and recovery may help make your training plan easier.

While researching the best compression socks, we tested dozen of styles across brands like Swiftwick, CEP, and Sockwell. Our guide features socks that provide great comfort, are relatively durable, and are fit to wear in a variety of situations.

Here are the best compression socks:

Best compression socks overall

compression socks

Whether you are a runner or just someone who wants to relieve lower leg ailments, the CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 provides all-day comfort.

Pros: Incredibly comfortable, thinner, won’t sag over the course of the day

Cons: Expensive, sizing can be tricky so be sure to measure before ordering

The CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 (available in men’s and women’s sizes) stand out from the other socks on our list due in large part to the fact they offer unparalleled comfort — and should be considered by anyone, despite a steep price tag. 

The brand’s parent company, Medi, has been producing medical compression products for over 70 years. The founder of CEP, who is an Ironman, leveraged Medi’s technical knowledge and designs for athletes.

Made of polyamide/nylon (60%), elastane (25%), and polypropylene (15%), this CEP socks offer precise 20-30mmHg graduated and consistent compression so they won’t sag as the day goes on.

The Progressive+ 2.0 Socks feature a halo top band that lands right below the knee. This keeps your socks in place and the front ribbing allows air to flow through to cool your skin’s surface. Per CEP’s website, the company offers a six-month guarantee that covers wearing the socks up to 150 times before the compression lessens. 

These socks are recommended for anyone who suffers from shin splints, Achilles issues, or plantar fasciitis. They’re also great for runners looking to rehab their leg after a long run or workout. 

Best budget

compression socks

The SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are the least expensive pair in our guide, yet they stay up and provide reliable comfort.

Pros: Inexpensive, relatively durable, snug fit

Cons: Only comes in two sizes

Though the SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are about one-fifth the price of our top pick, they rival it in performance. These socks have a graduated compression rating of 15-20mmHg, which is slightly less than the CEP socks but still supplies sufficient compression for blood circulation.

The socks are made of breathable and lightweight spandex and nylon, which helps to wick away sweat and moisture from your feet. SB Sox come in 11 different colors and two sizes: S/M and L/XL.

Though they seem thinner and lighter than other picks on this list, SB Sox socks hold up well through numerous wears and washes. Plus, they provide a snug fit that doesn’t feel too constricting. More sizing options would be welcome, though.

Best for circulation

sockwell

If you experience circulation problems due to chronic health issues, the Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks may be your best bet for achieving leg comfort.

Pros: Lightweight, maintain their snugness all day long

Cons: The top of the sock might warp over time, only comes in two sizes

For people with venous or lymphatic issues in their legs, compression therapy can help move blood through the veins and tissue better, which in turn promotes healing and prevents ulcers and other issues. Compression stockings are one of the easier options to put on and less cumbersome than medical bandages, says a 2014 study in CMAJ.

The Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks (available in men’s and women’s sizes) are made in the United States using bamboo rayon (31%), merino wool (31%), stretch nylon (30%), and spandex (8%). This combination helps with moisture management, thermoregulation, and odor control.

What’s more, these are one of the firmer pairs from Sockwell offering compression of 20-30mmHg. A 2019 study analysis in BMC Geriatrics found elderly folks with chronic blood flow issues (venous insufficiency) and swollen legs who wore class 2 compression stockings (pressure between 20 and 30 mmHg) regularly were less likely to have leg ulcers come back compared to wearing lower compression class 1 stockings (pressure below 20 mmHg).

These Sockwell socks have four zones of graduated compression beginning at the ankles and moving up. Since the compression starts at the ankles, the toes remain comfortable. There are four colors for men to choose from and eight in the women’s style.

Best for post-workout

compression socks 1

After running countless miles, slipping on a pair of Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks can decrease soreness and help your muscles recover.

Pros: Great for easing muscle soreness, cushioned bottom, durable, 4 sizes, 14 colors

Cons: May not be tight enough for your needs, long drying time

The Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks come in four sizes, which is helpful for ensuring you get the right fit — the appropriate sock size gives you the appropriate level of pressure. Constructed of 82% polyamide and 18% elastane, these socks feature ultra-zone ribbing which targets ankle and arch stabilization, which is ideal for runners with weaknesses in these areas.

The 200 needle count construction is designed to make the socks denser, durable, and reduce stretching over time. They’re sweat-wicking, too, but don’t tend to dry out very quicky, so are best worn in cooler weather. Zensah offers the socks in 14 colors, including Black, Heather Grey, and Neon Pink. 

Best for runners

Aspire Socks

Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve help relieve muscle soreness and prevent or relieve shin splints — something any runner can appreciate.

Pros: Offers comfortable compression for runners, promotes blood flow, helps relieve shin splints, and wicks away moisture

Cons: Can be difficult to put on

Swiftwick’s compression socks run the gamut of everything from knee-high versions for those looking for full leg relief to no-show options for golfers. For runners, its Aspire Twelve socks are an excellent option to help relieve muscle soreness, prevent or care for shin splints, and provide stability and comfort. 

Comprised of a blend of 43% nylon, 11% spandex, and 46% olefin, the Aspire Twelves don’t just offer the benefits of compression but also help wick away moisture to keep your feet dry. They work well to keep on even after your run as you’ll continue to reap the benefits of compression as you recover. 

Best for standing all-day

compression socks

If your job requires you to be on your feet for most of the day, give your lower legs a break with Sockwell’s Circulator Graduated Compression Socks.

Pros: Good for reducing foot and ankle swelling, incredibly comfortable, inexpensive

Cons: Concerns about durability, socks may only come up to mid-calf in taller people

The Sockwell Circulator Graduated Compression Socks have a lot of the same features as our pick for best circulation, the Sockwell Elevation socks. They both have four zones of graduated compression from the ankle on up, which keeps the toes feeling comfortable, and each are made of a combination of spandex, bamboo rayon, stretch nylon, and merino wool. But the main differences are that the Circulator socks have moderate compression (15-20mmHg) and cost a bit less ($30 per pair).

The Circulator socks only come in two sizes, though there are nine colors to choose from, including Black Stripe, Charcoal, Black Solid, and Port. Regardless of the size, the socks aren’t very long, so they’re best used for people with shorter builds. 

Best for fun patterns

Vim Vigr socks

Vim & Vigr combines form and function with its fashion-forward compression socks that you’ll just love to be seen in.

Pros: Stylish, comfortable, available for both men and women

Cons: Can get expensive

First and foremost, Vim & Vigr compression socks work. After all, no amount of aesthetic creativity would be able to make up for compression socks that don’t do much by way of compressing. Luckily, that’s not the case with these.

I’m particularly fond of Vim & Vigr’s medical-grade compression level, which are designed with a Gradient Knitting Technology to help promote circulation in your calves. The socks feature a structured leg but a flexible toe and heel so that you’re supported where you need it but still able to move. These socks offer moderate to firm compression, with somewhere between 20 and 30 mmHG depending on the style.

Regardless of your selection, however, you’ll find that Vim & Vigr helps to prevent swelling in your legs, and alleviates pain and achiness. I found that these socks were just as helpful during runs as they were during HIIT workouts — especially as the weather gets colder and circulation becomes increasingly important.

What sets Vim & Vigr apart are its fun, unique designs. Not only is there a wide range of colors to choose from but the brand also offers several interesting patterns. I’m a fan of the colorblock options, as well as Rugby Stripe pattern for men.

Vim & Vigr offers wide calf versions of all their socks for both men and women, so you don’t have to be uncomfortable even when donning a tight pair of socks. If you don’t need medical-grade compression, you can always opt for the brand’s moisture-wicking nylon material, or the remarkably warm merino wool composition. You could also check out Vim & Vigr sleeves, which compress your calves without encasing your feet.

How to shop for compression socks

Compression sock ratings

The compression in the stockings is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Specifically, compression socks are rated based on blood pressure. The majority of compression socks either have a moderate pressure rating of 10 to 20 mmHg or a firm rating of 20 to 30 mmHg.

None of the socks we reviewed have a rating above 30 mm Hg, but there are specialty shops where you can find these if needed. Graduated compression socks, the most common type, are tighter near the ankle than at the calf to avoid cutting off circulation.

Fabrics used

Most compression socks are made from a blend of synthetic fabrics that provide a snug and stretchy fit. In the reviews that follow, we let you know what materials are used in the construction of the socks but unless you have an issue with a specific material, you should let performance be your main guide in choosing the best compression socks.

How best to use compression socks

There is a bit of a paradox associated with wearing compression socks. You may have purchased them to deal with leg swelling. Yet, this same swelling makes it hard for you to put them on. So, what can you do? There are countless resources on the web to help you out, plus we’ve compiled a few tips here, as well: 

  • Apply talcum powder or cornstarch to your feet before putting your socks on.
  • Wear dishwashing gloves to get a better grip.
  • Roll the socks before you put them on so you can just roll them up your legs.
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The 7 best yoga mats of 2021, including sweat-resistant, eco-friendly, and travel options

  • Yoga is one of the best ways to improve flexibility, center your mind, and achieve a sense of relaxation and calm. 
  • A solid yoga session starts with the quality of the mat under your feet. 
  • The best yoga mats offer grip, sweat-resistance, and cushion under your joints. 
  • Our top pick, the Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat, is sweat-resistant and textured to keep from slipping.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Whether you’re brand new to the ancient practice of yoga and looking into your first ever mat, or you’re a seasoned yogi on the hunt to replace your worn-out asana surface, a new yoga mat is one of those purchases that seems simple, yet quality and details can make all the difference.

If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you know that not all yoga mats are created equally. Each style and material caters to a different set of needs, goals, and specific types of yoga. Those who favor heart-pumping flow classes, or who work up a sweat easily, will enjoy their practice a lot more if their mat has special sweat absorbing properties, for example. Meanwhile, those who travel often will benefit from an easily packable, lightweight mat for maintaining a daily practice on the road. Subtle design changes between mats can even help or hurt your unique movement patterns and may cause unusual aches or pains in any pose.

Read more: The best yoga accessories to elevate your home practice in 2021, according to yoga instructors

You probably never knew there was so much to consider. To help make your purchasing decision easier, we sweat-tested a number of the top yoga mats on the market and compiled this guide to find the best mat depending on your priorities, from perfect pose alignment to eco-friendly materials. Read more about how we tested, as well as what you should look for when shopping for a yoga mat, at the end of this guide.

Here are the best yoga mats:

Best yoga mat overall

manduka mat

The Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat provides just the right amount of padding without being too thick and clunky, and the price stays low even with its sustainable materials and no-slip grip.

Pros: Ideal padding cushion your body,  no-slip grip texture, eco-friendly materials, lifetime guarantee, multiple length options

Cons: Expensive

We love this mat’s thicker sister, the Manduka Pro’s 6mm, but it can be a bit bulky and hard to roll-up. The Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat is a perfectly padded mat to keep your hands, knees, and feet cushioned against any hard floor and support your back as you relax into savasana without being too thick a roll under your arm.

It’s a bit pricy, but the Manduka ProLite mat doesn’t deteriorate over time like others, and if it does flake, peel or fade, the brand offers a lifetime guarantee on their mats.

What’s more, my 13 years of practicing yoga have taught me the importance of a mat that doesn’t just absorb sweat. The Manduka ProLite‘s closed-cell surface repels moisture which keeps it more sanitary and makes it easier to clean and treat. But at the same time, you want a non-slip surface and Manduka’s “proprietary dot patterned bottom” prevents the mat from sliding across the floor, no matter how hot your yoga room gets.

Manduka makes the ProLite mat in two lengths so that more height-gifted yogis can stretch out without fear. Plus, the mat is completely non-toxic, 100 percent latex-free, and even promises a clean manufacturing process.

Best affordable yoga mat

Gaiam yoga mat

The Gaiam Print Premium Yoga Mat is highly affordable and features a ton of fun design options to bring a smile to your face while you practice.

Pros: Affordabile, fun designs, trusted brand, widely available in-store

Cons: Less durable, will degrade over time

The Gaiam name is respected and trusted in the yoga community. Made from PVC material (free of the six specific kinds that have been linked to health risks), the Gaiam Print Premium Yoga Mats has great cushioning under-hand yet is still lightweight and portable. This mat comes in a variety of fun colors and prints which can definitely make your practice more enjoyable.

The main benefit of this mat is the price point makes it very affordable compared to some of the other top-ranked yoga mats out there.

One downside: This mat won’t last forever. In addition to your basic yoga mat wear and tear, both the material and the printed design are susceptible to sun damage. 

The Gaiam Print Premium Mat’s non-slip surface works well for most casual users but if you sweat a lot during your practice, you may need more traction and a grippier surface than this mat offers. As an introduction to your yoga practice without a hefty investment, or even as a backup choice for when your heavy-duty mat is drying, the Gaiam Print Premium is a solid option. 

Best travel yoga mat

Manduka eKOSuperliteMidnight 01

Manduka’s Eko SuperLite Travel Yoga Mat is slim and lightweight enough to bring with you no matter how far you roam without compromising grippiness.

Pros: Lightweight, thin enough of fold, great grip, durable material

Cons: Thin 

Lightweight travel mats let you keep up with your practice on the road without borrowing a questionable yoga mat from your hotel.  The Manduka Eko SuperLite Travel Mat is the lighter, thinner version of Manduka’s top-ranked Eko option.

It’s made of a woven scrim material that won’t tear or stretch either with use or in your suitcase. It’s thin enough to be foldable, so you can tuck the mat away into your backpack or your carry-on without added weight or bulk. It also features a sweat-resistant closed-cell design so your mat will stay drier and cleaner for longer, and has Manduka’s trademark grippiness which you often lose in travel mats.

The Manduka Eko SuperLite is also made from natural rubber that is specifically not harvested in the Amazon. And it’s more affordable than other travel mats, which is ideal considering this option is too thin and flexible to be your every day mat.

Best eco-friendly yoga mat

Prana

The prAna E.C.O. Yoga Mat is made from 100% thermoplastic elastomer, which means it’s non-toxic, sustainably made, and completely recyclable.

Pros: Environmentally friendly, non-toxic materials, recyclable

Cons: May not be grippy enough for some

This mat is made from 100% thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), so all the environmental costs of manufacturing synthetic rubbers and plastics are eliminated from the prAna E.C.O. Mat equation. Once you’re ready to trade your mat for a new one, the material of this is completely recyclable so it won’t clog up a landfill somewhere.

TPE is also UV resistant, so your E.C.O. Mat won’t fade or deteriorate with sun exposure. It’s completely latex-free, chloride-free, and PVC-free. The best benefit of TPE is that it’s extremely lightweight: a 72-by-24-inch mat with a thickness of 5mm still weighs in at only 2.2 pounds.

On the yoga benefits side, the E.C.O. yoga mat is known to be super sticky so your hands and feet won’t slide, but the TPE material may not be the most cushioning option for those looking to protect their knees and backs from the hard pressure of the floor. The mat is double-sided, though, so you can rotate front-to-back and top-to-bottom to get a seriously long-term, even wear on your mat even with heavy use.

Even if you’re just looking for a lighter mat or an eco-friendly option to shake things up, the prAna E.C.O. Mat is a low-cost way to try something new.

Best yoga mat for sweaty yogis

jade yoga mat3

Whether you’re a yogi who sweats a lot during workouts, or you enjoy the sweat-inducing practice of Bikram, the JadeYoga Harmony Mat is what you need to avoid slipping and sliding. 

Pros: Non-slip surface, plenty of cushioning, multiple length options, multiple color options

Cons: Some may find the cushioning too much for their preference, expensive

If your yoga practice works up enough of a sweat that most mats become dangerously slippery, JadeYoga’s Harmony Mat will keep you safe. Made from natural rubber with tiny dots instead of a smooth, sleek surface, the Harmony Mat’s design provides great traction and minimizes slipping. The texture is small enough it goes unnoticed by your hands and knees, even after a 60-minute session. 

The mat is incredibly comfortable, too. Featuring thick enough cushioning to protect your knees and back from getting dinged while practicing, it’s not too thick to hinder movement. 

JadeYoga offers the Harmony Mat in two different sizes, as well as a dozen different colors and prints. It is on the spendy side at $85 for the longest option, but for sweaty yogis, that’s often cheaper (and way more convenient) than purchasing a mat plus absorbant towel.

Read our review of the JadeYoga Harmony Mat.

Best washable yoga mat

YogiBare1

The Yogi Bare Teddy is machine washable without sacrificing quality or durability over time and use.

Pros: Machine-washable, grippy microfiber top, natural rubber bottom stays in place, comes in a variety of fun patterns

Cons: Requires a washing machine, not very padded

Though most mats are easily cleaned with a simple spray and wipe down, if you use it outside or tend to heavily sweat while you practice, it’s convenient to have a mat that can be thrown in the washing machine. The Teddy from Yogi Bare is machine washable. I was surprised to find during testing that the washer didn’t compromise its integrity; its natural rubber base and microfiber top stayed as intact as when I first bought it, even after multiple washes.

Even if the Teddy wasn’t machine-washable, it’d still be a great yoga mat. Its microfiber surface is grippy, especially after I’d been sweating a bit on it, and it’s just padded enough that it provides a soft landing whenever my feet (or wayward knees and elbows) hit the ground. It comes in fun patterns and cololrways.

Cheaper than many other mats on this list, its is well worth the investment considering how easy it is to keep clean. — Rick Stella 

Best yoga mat for alignment work

liforme yoga mat

The Liforme Mat has a printed alignment system on the surface that will help you find your symmetry, balance, and proper footing in any pose.

Pros: Eco-friendly, extremely sticky, doesn’t wear over time, alignment lines

Cons: One-size-fits-all alignment doesn’t fit all bodies, very expensive

No matter what kind of yoga you practice, proper alignment is an important part of learning the poses and transitions. The first thing you’ll notice about the Liforme mat is that discreet lines, shapes, and markers are etched into its surface to help you place your limbs accurately and mindfully as you move through your practice. Liforme’s mat is also slightly longer and wider than most traditional yoga mats, so you’ll never feel cramped or confined.

The Liforme mat’s also has an incredibly grippy surface thanks to their proprietary blend of natural rubber and sustainably-sourced felt to cushion your knees, hips, and hands. The mix also keeps you from slipping and sliding when the sweating starts.

Continuing the eco-friendly trend, each layer of the PVC-free mat is heat-bonded to avoid toxic glues and adhesives, and even the alignment marking system is etched into the surface to avoid synthetic dyes.

If you’re not the most flexible of yogis or if you’re on the shorter side, you may have trouble hitting the alignments recommended by that pattern on the mat, but if your limbs happen to line up with the printed system and you’re looking to go deeper into perfect alignment, the Liforme mat is the one for you.

What else we tested

YoGo Travel Yoga Mat: This mat is lightweight and rolls up really small, making it ideal for packing in a suitcase. It uniquely comes with durable buckles and handles which makes for easy carrying. However, it got beat out by the Manduka Eko SuperLite for Best Travel Mat since they are both the same thickness and made from sustainable rubber, but the Manduka is $20 cheaper.

Manduka Pro’s 6mm: This mat is thicker (6mm) and longer (up to 85 inches) than most mats, making it great for anyone with joint aches and pains. If you don’t need extra padding, this creates unnecessary bulk, so we left it off our main list. But if you need a bigger or more cushioned mat, this is also backed by Manduka’s lifetime garuntee.

How to shop for a yoga mat

There are a number of factors to consider when shopping for a yoga mat that best serves your needs. Size and portability are important to many yogis, mainly because you’ll often tote your mat along with you — unless you do your practice in the comfort of your own home. Some mats are longer than others, so keep that in mind, especially if you’re taller. 

While certain people like sticky mats that help their feet from sliding around, others find them annoying, providing too much hold when they want the freedom of movement. The same goes for a mat’s relative thickness or thinness. Most yoga mats are relatively slim but others are thick for extra protection and cushion for your joints. 

Consider the durability and the types of materials used, too. You want a mat that’s going to last, isn’t made with harsh or harmful chemicals, and is easy to wipe clean after a sweaty session of hot yoga.

How we tested

Each yoga mat featured in this guide went through a series of on the mat tests to see how well they stacked up across these four categories: Performance, durability, ease of cleaning, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category contributed to which yoga mats ultimately made the cut:

  • Performance: How a yoga mat performs encompasses a variety of uses. This could mean how grippy it is for helping you hold poses or reliably move a hand or foot even if you’re a little sweaty, or it could be how comfortable or padded the mat is. In categories such as the best lightweight yoga mat or the best yoga mat for sweaty yogis, we looked at those features specifically (instead of docking points for a lack of padding or too much grip) when choosing what to feature. 
  • Durability: It may not seem like it but yoga mats can take a beating, especially if you use it often. Be it puddles of sweat or the constant barrage of knees, elbows, heels, and shoulders, a yoga mat is under constant pressure. Because of this, you ideally want one built to stand up to this kind of abuse and that’s designed to last for several sessions.
  • Ease of cleaning: Sweat is nearly inevitable when you practice yoga — even during a particularly mellow session. It’s recommended that you clean your yoga mat after every use (especially for anyone who sweats heavily) and a mat that’s easy to clean is a necessity. 
  • Value: Value is the combination of every category we judged the yoga mats on plus it’s actual price point. We like to think that it’s better to invest more in a quality mat that lasts than to spend the money on several cheap mats in the same amount of time. When choosing our budget pick, we also wanted to make sure it wasn’t some shoddy mat but something that delivers premium quality at a more wallet-friendly price. 

Other yoga coverage from Insider Reviews

yoga class black woman men BIPOC

The best yoga accessories to elevate your home practice in 2021, according to yoga instructors

Using accessories like yoga straps, blocks, bolsters, and towels can help ensure proper alignment and deepen your practice.

The best yoga blocks

Yoga blocks are an important tool for yogis at any level. Whether you’re looking to deepen your flexibility, venturing into new pose territory, or just trying to go easy on your joints and muscles, yoga blocks are key.

The best yoga socks

Built for form and function, yoga socks provide extra stability in your yoga poses, which is especially helpful when you start to sweat during hot yoga. 

The best workout clothes for women

With moisture-wicking fabric, cleverly-placed mesh panels, and thoughtful cut-outs, much of today’s athletic clothing is truly meant for athletic pursuits. It’s a far cry from our days of grabbing the oldest shirt in our closet, cutting off the sleeves, and calling it a top.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best folding bikes

  • Folding bikes offer riders the chance for recreation and exercise even if they have limited storage space around their home, place of work, or at school. 
  • This style of bike does tend to be more expensive than standard frame bicycles but they can also be stored much more securely, thus minimizing loss via theft.
  • Some brands offer electric versions of folding bikes capable of cruising at speeds around 20 MPH and that have ranges reaching nearly 50 miles between charges, making them ideal for urban commuting.
  • Our top pick, the Tern Node D7i Folding Bike, feels like a standard framed bike, offers a smooth ride, and even has a built-in light that makes it great for night riding.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Over the years, folding bikes have grown from a small niche part of the greater bicycle market into an established, respected category. Though manufacturers have produced this type of bike for well over a century (and even issued them in limited numbers to troops during both World Wars), folding bicycles are only now gaining mass-market appeal as more health- and eco-conscious consumers turn to cycling as a better way to commute, run errands, and recreate.

This growth in popularity means that there are more and better folding bike options available than ever before, making them worth more than just a passing consideration. Even Connor Swegle, co-founder of Priority Bicycles in Manhattan, NY, has long been a fan of folding bikes, despite Priority not offering any in its lineup.

“[Folding bikes are] a great solution for so many commuters,” Swegle told Insider. “They’re perfect for people storing a bike at work or who have limited storage space at home. If they don’t have a bike room at work or a garage, a bike they’re able to just carry or tuck away is ideal. As people look to cut down on the amount of other transportation they use, folding bikes are one of the best options.”

To help those in the market for a folding bike, we tested models from brands like Tern, Brompton, and GoCycle to find the best currently available for a variety of use cases. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a folding bike and the other models that almost made the cut, as well as insight into our testing methodology.

Here are the best folding bikes:

Updated on 1/5/2021 by Rick Stella: Updated the sections on how to shop for a folding bike and the testing methodology we used, checked the availability of each recommended bike, and updated the prices and links where necessary.

Best folding bike overall

Tern Foldable Bike

The Tern Node D7i Folding bike rides almost like a standard fixed frame bike, easily handling mile after mile of varied terrain.

Pros: Stable ride on varied terrain, built-in lighting system, suitable for adult riders of all sizes

Cons: Expensive, large for the category

If you want a folding bike that feels like a regular bike, the Tern Node D71 folder is your best bet. With 24-inch wheels, a seat post that raises to accommodate an adult of above-average height, and adjustable handlebars, you might forget this bike actually folds down to half its size.

For that smooth, steady ride that approximates a standard bike, you’ll be paying a good deal of cash given this folding bicycle‘s nearly $1,100 price tag. But there are myriad features that add value to add up to a fair price.

For instance, a built-in lighting system keeps you safer when riding at night and won’t ever require a change of battery thanks to an internal power hub that siphons your kinetic energy to keep the lights on. Seven gears allow you to easily make your way uphill and make cruising along on level ground a breeze. 

At 33 pounds, it’s also light enough to be easily carried up a few flights of stairs. It does still feature a rugged enough design that makes it suitable for occasional off-roading, too.

On-road, you might find yourself wishing for a few more gears, as any avid cyclist might find themselves easily pedaling along even in seventh gear. Of course, with the benefits of those larger-than-average wheels for a folder so too comes a folding bike that’s still a bit clunky when folded down.

But for the person who wants both convenience and a solid, reliable bike, the Node D7i is a great choice.

Best folding bike for commuting

Ubike Lifestyle

The Bike USA Ubike Metropolis Folding Bike is easy enough for riders of any experience level to enjoy and stable and responsive enough for urban cycling.

Pros: Ships 90% assembled and requires minimal maintenance, easy to adjust seat and handlebars, durable alloy frame

Cons: Maximum rider weight of 250 lbs, pedals not durable enough

If you need a bike that’s reliable and nimble enough to get you across town, then the Ubike Metropolis is for you. While not the right choice for a cross-country tour, given its moderately-sized 22-inch wheels and its three-gear hub, this bike is perfect for the daily grind.

Those 22-inch wheels might not be great for open road cycling but they do allow for deft turns and plenty of control — they take up less space when the bike is folded, too. Though three gears isn’t many, it’s all you need for the city. Just use first gear when going uphill, second for most of the commute, and third on those rare open breakaways when you need some speed.

Twin hand brakes allow for quick stops while the durable frame and smooth, responsive gear system provide safe and comfortable riding on a variety of road surfaces. 

Rider weight is limited to 250 pounds, and watch out for occasional issues with loose pedals. Overall, this is a fine choice for the urban commuter who wants to travel to and fro under his or her own steam.

Best ultra-compact folding bike

Brompton M6L Lifestyle

You could ride your Brompton M6L Folding Bike for mile after mile and then fold it up and stick it anywhere from a car trunk, a closet shelf, or a mid-sized suitcase.

Pros: Packs down very small, responsive ride, weighs just 26 pounds

Cons: Expensive, folding mechanisms take a while to master

The Brompton M6L is one seriously compact folding bike. So compact, in fact, that you’re able to fit it in a suitcase and check it onto a plane (no special bag required). Maybe you want to tuck it into the trunk of a Mazda Miata or carry one under each arm while your partner handles the grocery bags. At 26 pounds, and with wheels just 16 inches in diameter, this is the most compact folder we’ve seen. 

With that small size comes this guide’s largest price tag (for a non-electric bike, at least) and to be honest, this bike is a bit frustrating initially.

The process of unfolding the M6L for use and for folding it down after a ride is a multi-step process that can be confusing and annoying the first few times you do it. But once you master its hinge and locking mechanism, you’ll be able to get it set up or packed down in less than a minute. 

The M6L features six gears, twin hand brakes, and smooth pedaling action. Riding feels safe and natural despite its small tires, which allow for plenty of agility and are able to handle most urban and suburban terrain with ease.

Best affordable folding bike

Vilano Urbana Lifestyle

If you want to cover a few city blocks a few minutes faster, then the Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike is a great choice at a great price.

Pros: Great low price point, very lightweight and compact, easy to ride

Cons: Maximum rider weight of 200 lbs, single-speed not ideal for hills

When you are paying well under $300 for a bike, you can’t expect it to do very much. This is why you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the fact Vilano’s Urbana folding bike works fairly well within the context of those expectations. This bike isn’t all that fast, it’s far from rugged, and after a 15-mile ride, you’d probably be sore and ornery. But none of those define the purpose of this folding bike.

The Urbana is a perfect example of what Connor Swegle meant by a last-mile solution. This bike weighs just 21.5 pounds and folds down into dimensions of one by two by three feet, making it extremely easy to carry. This lets you finish your journey with ease and at speeds many times greater than you’re able to walk.

As a single speed bike, the Urbana might not be great for a hilly city like San Francisco, but it’s easy to ride and a good deal of fun given how light and responsive it is. And while rider weight is limited to 200 pounds, the bike’s seat and handlebars can be raised or lowered to accommodate users of varying heights.

If you’re watching your budget, concerned about storage space, and looking to make your short commute more efficient and enjoyable, you’re looking in the right place with this one.

Best electric folding bike

Gocycle Lifestyle

The Gocycle GX folding e-bike zips along at 20 miles per hour and covers up to 40 miles on a single charge, so it might replace a car just as easily as it replaces a subway or bus commute.

Pros: Fast and long-range, quick and easy folding, daytime running lights for safety, easy and comfortable ride

Cons: Very expensive

Folded up, Gocycle’s electric folding bike occupies roughly the same amount of square feet as a desk chair. Unfolded and underway, it cruises along with a top speed of about 20 mph and has a range of around 40 miles — or even more if you opt for the battery upgrade. You can also track your battery life (AKA range) and speed on the LED display set between the ergonomic handlebars of this capable e-bike.

For all the complexity you might expect from an electric folding bike that’s fast and long-range, it’s the simplicity that sets Gocycle’s GX apart.

Take, for example, the fact all wiring and tubes are completely internal, without anything sticking off the hand brakes or snaking around the frame. Then there’s the simple three-speed mechanical shifter for when you’re pedaling yourself. And finally, not only are height adjustments quick and easy, but the bike folds down in less than 30 seconds.

There is one drawback, however, and you surely saw it coming: Its price. This ebike costs $3,299, or more than a perfectly decent used car. But you can’t fold up a car and bring it on the elevator or tuck it in a closet. 

What else we considered

LumosHelmet thumb08

While the folding bikes above are some of the best out there to be sure, depending on your budget, your interests, or your aesthetic preferences, there are other units to consider, and these are a few more bikes that almost made the cut.

Vektron D7i: The Vektron D7i is a great ebike with almost the same range and speed as the Gocycle GX, and it costs a good deal less. And while that was almost enough to earn it the ebike slot on our list, the exposed tubing, chain, gears, and other components were what kept it as our also considered. In terms of design, this bike comes up just a bit short, though for performance and price, it’s well worth you considering it, too.

SwinX Children’s Folding Bike: For a kids’ folding bike, the SwinX’s model is a fine choice because it can be used by most kids anywhere from preschool to age 10 and can be fitted with training wheels.

Oyama CX8: If you want a folding bike that comes equipped to carry a bit of cargo, consider the Oyama CX8 Folding bike, which comes with a rear rack perfect for a backpack, briefcase, or well-secured bag of groceries.

How to shop for a folding bike

You have to consider first and foremost what cycling experts refer to as use case. This means considering how, when, and where you plan to use your folding bike. 

If your bike is purely for commuting, then an electric folding bike might be the best choice. Do keep in mind that an e-bike (outfit with a burly battery) might be too heavy if you have a third-floor walkup apartment.

Those looking for recreation and exercise may want to consider one of the larger folding bikes that approximates the feel of a standard bicycle. And if you’re only concerned about what Swegle calls the last mile solution (i.e. getting from a subway stop to the door) then a smaller, more affordable folder is perfectly fine.

But folding bikes aren’t cut out for everyone. If you have plenty of storage space, intend on logging a few century rides, or you’re looking to spend less than $500, a folding bike likely isn’t for you.

 

How we test folding bikes

Each bike featured in this guide went through several rounds of testing to see how well it performed across five different categories: Ease of use, portability, ride quality, build quality, and value. Here’s what we looked for specifically across each category.

Ease of use: Perhaps the chief concern over whether a folding bike is worth the investment or not is how easy it is to actually fold when you’re done riding and unfold when you’re ready to take it out. Most have their own unique learning curves but the best should take only a matter of a minute or two to unfurl and a similar amount of time to stow.

Portability: When folded, these bikes should be easy to carry and stow, and shouldn’t be as cumbersome as a normal bike. The way in which these bikes fold into themselves is an important consideration of its portability, as is its weight and whether it can slide into a closet, needs dedicated garage space, or can sit in a hallway without forcing you to climb over it each time you walk past.

Ride quality: With a non-traditional shape comes the likelihood of non-traditional ride quality — but it doesn’t have to be that way. The ride experience will undoubtedly be different than a normal commuter bike but the best folding bikes (and those featured in this guide) don’t feel so different that it’s like learning an entirely new hobby. After all, it should be just like riding a bike. 

Build quality: Folding and unfolding a bike presents a new kind of wear and tear not typically associated with bicycles, so build quality is vital. Each bike’s hinges and joints should be able to hold up to literally thousands of folds/unfolds without showing much degradation.

Value: Most folding bikes do carry with them a more expensive price tag than a standard commuter, though the price is often a reflection of the advanced engineering required to make it a quality bike that also happens to fold into itself. For value, we considered the previous four categories as a sum of their parts, and how that reflects the final sticker price. 

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The best pull-up bars

  • A proper at-home pull-up bar should be easy to install and able to support your weight without wobbling or bowing – and is a great addition to anyone’s home gym setup
  • Adding a pull-up routine to your weekly workouts helps strengthen your upper body, builds muscle, and improves your grip strength – so long as you’re using the right bar. 
  • We spoke to New York City-based personal trainer, Brad Baldwin, about how to pick out the right pull-up bar, the benefits of doing the workout, and how adding it to your fitness routine can have a major impact. 
  • Our top pick, the Garren Fitness Maximiza pull-up Bar, features comfortable foam grips and unobtrusively fits in any standard doorframe. 

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Pull-ups aren’t for the faint of heart. I remember the days of easily cranking out a dozen or so pull-ups while hardly breaking a sweat. But after years of cheeseburgers and sitting at a computer, easy pull-ups are harder to come by. Fortunately, there are a number of pull-up bars on the market that fit the needs of anyone looking for a new addition to their home gym.

But first, I highly recommend first consulting with a physician before starting any exercise program. I learned this the hard way when I tried to rattle off some pull-ups after years of sedentary living, and quickly tore a muscle in my shoulder. Don’t be like me. 

Why you should start doing pull-ups 

The benefits of incorporating pull-ups into your weekly routine are many. From improving upper body strength to building muscle, pull-ups can have a significant impact on your fitness goals. According to the New York City-based personal trainer, Brad Baldwin, pull-ups are “the king of back exercises.”

“[Pull-ups] force you to work at a higher intensity,” Baldwin told Insider. “They’re great for creating that coveted V-shaped torso and for getting stronger.” 

For anyone looking to begin strength training, it’s smart to start with dips and push-ups on your way to performing a pull-up. You might also try mounting your pull-up bar lower or standing on a box. Pull yourself up to the bar with your feet on the ground at an increasingly difficult angle. Thankfully, the bars I included in this guide are versatile enough to help you work up to your goals. 

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve included some helpful tips on how to shop for an at-home pull-up bar and what to consider, as well as some insight into the testing methodology.

Here are the best pull-up bars:

Updated on 12/15/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the section on why you should start doing pull-ups, added more to our testing methodology and how to shop for a pull-up bar, checked the availability of all recommended picks, and updated the prices where necessary. 

Best pull-up bar overall

pull up bar 1

The Garren Fitness Maximiza Pull Up Bar is easy on your hands, installs effortlessly, and is made of long-lasting chrome steel.

The Garren Fitness Maximiza Pull Up Bar is made of chrome steel and comes with three sets of mounting hardware, two of which support up to 300 pounds of weight. The medium-duty door mount supports 150 pounds and isn’t recommended for use above waist height.

You can also use the bar without door mounts for sit-up foot support and other light exercises. The bar is adjustable and fits doorways between 26 and 36 inches wide, and can be installed so that a door is still able to close. 

The bar features non-slip, extra-long foam grips. Garren Fitness cautions against using the Maximiza for gymnastics, and they suggest applying your weight cautiously during the first few exercises to ensure the bar is safely installed (a smart practice with any pull up bar.) Garren Fitness provides a full satisfaction guarantee, so you can get a no-questions-asked full refund if you’re not satisfied for any reason.

Pros: Comfortable foam grips, unobtrusive, solidly built

Cons: Installation requires drilling into door jamb, foam grips may wear from heavy-duty use

Best ceiling-mounted pull-up bar

pull up bar 2

If you are interested in doing a variety of pull-ups and you don’t want to use your door frame, the Ultimate Body Press Ceiling Mounted Pull Up Bar is your best bet.

Pros: Three padded gripping positions, easy installation, sturdy construction

Cons: Some complaints of manufacturer defects

The Ceiling Mounted Pull Up Bar from Ultimate Body Press has three high-density foam grip positions for standard, wide-grip, and 20-inch parallel-grip pull-ups or chin-ups. This model has a powder-coat finish for added durability. The 14-inch reversible risers are designed to fit either 16- or 24-inch joists.

The mounting kit comes with instructions, a template, and mounting hardware. You will need a drill, tape or pencil, and a step ladder. Ultimate Body Press offers a fairly nebulous 100% satisfaction guarantee with this product. The fact the bars aren’t welded to the mounting brackets could affect long-term durability (though perhaps the satisfaction guarantee would cover it). 

Best pull-up bar for beginners

pull up bar

If you are interested in doing pull-ups but don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Iron Gym Pull Up Bar is an excellent solution for beginners.

Pros: Inexpensive, versatile, easy to mount and remove, 300-pound capacity

Cons: Contains plastic parts

The Iron Gym Pull Up Bar works much like the Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym. It hangs on a doorframe and stays in place through leverage. You can also remove the pull-up bar to perform sit-ups, push-ups, and dips.

The bar is made of a combination of plastic and steel, and it comes with everything you need to assemble the unit, including a hex open wrench. There are foam grips for standard and wide pull-ups. However, the parallel grip handles are fairly small and awkwardly positioned. Lastly, this model comes with a comprehensive workout and nutrition guide.

Best doorframe pull-up bar

pullup bar 4

If you are looking for a pull-up bar that you can effortlessly attach to your doorframe and take down when you’re done, the Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar will serve you well.

Pros: Three grip locations, 300-pound capacity, unlikely to damage your doorframe

Cons: Wide grip may be too wide for some, recent quality concerns, doesn’t fit all doorframes

The Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar has three padded grip positions for hammer grip, close grip, and normal grip pull-ups. The 300-pound weight capacity makes it so you can use this model with a weight vest. There is some assembly required, and all of the tools needed are included with the bar.

The Multi-Gym Pro adjusts for height and works with doorframes that are up to 6 inches deep and 33 inches wide. The bar can be placed on the floor to assist with push-ups and sit-ups. And, Perfect Fitness stands behind the quality of this model with a one-year warranty.

Best budget pull-up bar

SunnyHealthBar

At under $30, the Sunny Health & Fitness Doorway Pull-Up Bar is not only a bargain but a quality pull-up bar that’s easy to install and won’t hinder being able to open or close your door. 

Pros: Securely installs into a doorframe and allows the door to still shut completely, costs less than $30, features padded grips

Cons: Only supports weight up to 220 pounds

The Sunny Health & Fitness Doorway Pull-Up Bar may not have many bells and whistles, but it’s basic nature (and wallet-friendly price tag) is what makes this product so attractive. Installing the bar requires drilling a couple of brackets into either side of the doorframe you wish to use it on, then the bar’s telescoping arm extends to fit snugly into place.

Brackets may seem like overkill but they work wonders in making sure you don’t end up slamming into the ground should the bar come loose. Even with the brackets and bar installed, any door is still able to fully shut without being interfered with — which adds even more to this bar’s ease of use. 

It’s worth pointing out that the bar only supports weight up to 220 pounds, and its position on the door could create a situation where hit the top of your head on the doorframe if you’re not careful. With a price tag south of $30, however, these are minor drawbacks to an otherwise impressive budget pull-up bar.

Best freestanding pull-up bar

stamina pull up bar

The Stamina 1690 Power Tower allows you to perform platform push-ups, sit-ups, knee and leg raises, dips, pull-ups, and more.

Pros: Wide range of exercises, easy to assemble — no drilling or door frame needed

Cons: Issues with wobbling, expensive compared to traditional bars, takes up a lot of space

The Stamina 1690 Power Tower is a free-standing full-body workout unit made of durable steel and fitted with padded foam in five sets of grip locations. The overall size of the assembled tower is 49 inches long by 42.5 inches wide by 81 inches high. The base of the tower features no-slip endcaps.

Stamina states that the capacity is 250 pounds, but as noted below, it’s closer to 200 pounds in practice. In addition to pull-ups and chin-ups, this model is designed for tricep dips, sit-ups, push-ups, and leg raises, though there is no backrest to assist with the leg raises.

How to shop for an at-home pull-up bar

At-home pull-up bars aren’t a one-design-fits-all market, as there are several different styles to choose from, each with its own advantages. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common at-home pull-up bar type:

  • Cantilever: One of the most popular pull-up bar variations is the cantilever-style, molding-mounted bars. They don’t require permanent alteration to your home and are easy to install and remove. They feature several grip options, too. However, when shopping for these doorframe pull-up bars, pay attention to the dimensions of the bar and what size frames they work on to ensure you get the proper fit.
  • Mounted: Then there’s a class of pull-up bar that requires drilling and mounting of the unit. We included ceiling-mounted and door-mounted options in our guide. They tend to be rated for heavier weights but are less portable. Wall-mounted bars are also available but we didn’t find any models worth recommending.
  • Power towers: The final group of pull-bars is called power towers. These are freestanding units that do not require drilling and are often compatible with a wide array of exercises. However, power towers typically cost more, have a large footprint, and many models have problems with wobbling when heavier individuals are performing intense workouts.

How we test pull-up bars

Each pull-up bar featured in this guide went through an array of tests to see how well it compared across these four categories: Ease of installation, build quality, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which pull-up bars made this guide:

Ease of installation: How easy an at-home pull-up bar is to install is a vital feature as you not only want to avoid fumbling with a confusing setup, but you also want to be confident that once it’s installed (and installed correctly) that it’ll keep in place. It’s reasonable to doubt the reliability of a pull-up bar that sits precariously in your doorway, so this was one of the first things we assessed when testing. 

Build quality: Relying on a pull-up bar to hold your weight comes down not just to the above category but to its build quality, as well. If it’s susceptible to being easily bent or its components are shoddily built-on and likely to fall off, the pull-up bar will be far less comfortable, and safe, to use.

Versatility: A pull-up bar’s versatility is sort of an extension of its ease of installation as most will require you to take them off if you intend to shut the door whose door frame it resides in. There are some, however, (like our top pick) that allow you to still close the door even after they’re installed. This category also refers to the actual build design and if it allows for multiple grip positions or not.

Value: A pull-up bar’s value comes down to a combination of the three categories above, as well as how much it actually costs. It’s not always about spending the most money to get the best pull-up bar, though it is better to shop for a premium, well-built product. While it may be expensive at first, it does save you the hassle of having to buy several, cheaper options more often. 

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