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

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best bike lights:

How we test bike lights

Best Bike Lights Pattern 4x3

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light overall

cygolite

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best easy install bike light

bike light

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

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

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

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

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

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

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

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

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

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

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

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

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

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

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

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

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

A note on gendered shoes

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

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

Here are the best spin shoes:

How we test cycling shoes

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

Here’s everything I considered while testing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best spin shoes overall with BOA

Giro Cadet Shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giro Cadet Men’s: 

Cadet (Men’s) (button)

Giro Cadet Women’s:

The best spin shoes overall with Velcro

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Men’s:

Quest Studio Shoe (Men’s) (button)

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Women’s: 

The best budget spin shoes with BOA

Specialized Torch 1.0 cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget spin shoes with Velcro

Shimano RP1 cycling shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else I tested

Cycling shoes - what else we tested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How should a spin shoe fit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOA vs. Velcro

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

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

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

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

Look Delta cleats vs. SPD cleats

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

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

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

SPD Cleat Set (small)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 7 best compression socks of 2021 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.
  • They 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 throughout 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 their foundation, compression socks work by squeezing the walls of the veins and leg tissues to help blood work its way against gravity to the heart. The compression also improves 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 benefits, compression socks have become quite popular recently – and that popularity 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:

How we test compression socks

The compression socks featured in this guide each went through a series of on-foot tests to see how well they compared across these four categories: Fit, function, durability, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into how we tested each pair of compression socks and how it influenced which made this guide:

Fit: A compression sock is far more able to perform its primary function if it fits the wearer properly, both in terms of the actual size as well as how well it stays fitted throughout the day. To test for this, we judged how true-to-size the socks were and also looked at if they avoided sagging when worn for anywhere multiple hours in a row to a full day. 

Function: Most compression socks feature a compression rating that indicates how tight (or loose) they are, and their function is tied entirely to these ratings. A wearer’s needs may fluctuate wildly (and are certainly different from person-to-person), so to test this, we looked at how many size options and ratings each brand offered and if they catered to a wide range of needs. 

Durability: Compression socks aren’t often cheap per single pair, so it’s important that they’ll last – and for multiple months, at that. This meant stress testing the socks in environments they wouldn’t typically be worn to see how well they held up. If some faltered by sagging easily or tearing, then we knew they’d likely break down far quicker in the long run than we’d like.

Value: Testing the value of a compression sock takes more than just looking at its sticker price. Rather, true value is a combination of the above three categories plus how much it costs. We often think it’s better to spend more on a quality product that lasts as opposed to spending less more often. 

The 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 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 budget compression socks

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 compression socks 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 compression socks 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 compression socks 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 compression socks 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 compression socks

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 5 best sets of dumbbells of 2021 for your home gym

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Dumbbells are an effective fitness tool for anyone looking to build and maintain strength.
  • The best vary in style, with some allowing for quick weight adjustments while others are compact for easy storage.
  • Our top pick, the Powerblock dumbbells, essentially replace 28 pairs of weights and adjust from 5 to 90 pounds.

Dumbells are among the most common and sought-after pieces of workout equipment, no matter if you’re at an actual fitness center or working out in your own home gym – and it’s not hard to see why. Not only can they be effective when used correctly but they’re highly versatile, too, capable of sufficing for a number of workouts like curls, presses, or rows.

It’s because of that multi-purpose use, however, that finding dumbbells typically goes one of two ways; either it’s far too expensive to buy multiple weights or they’re just entirely out of stock. This sort of Catch-22 makes actually shopping for dumbbells a much more arduous task than it needs to be.

But within that problem came a reasonable solution: more brand competition. And while the influx of brands dukes it out to develop the next great dumbbell, the true winners are those looking to buy them. Now, this doesn’t mean the market is flush with options but it does mean there are few more quality choices on the market (of which are, hopefully, in stock and available for purchase).

Take Powerblock, for instance, a brand that’s been around for several years but is finally starting to gather more attention thanks to a highly innovative take on the standard dumbbell. In essence, one Powerblock dumbbell takes the place of up to 28 different pairs of weights. Not only is this efficient but it’s also cost-effective as it’s not anywhere near the price of buying those 28 sets of weights on their own.

Powerblock is but one of dozens of companies trying their hand at offering a worthy dumbbell, and I saw to it to try as many of them as I could. Below are my five favorites across categories such the best budget-friendly option, the best app-connected dumbbell, and even the best traditional set.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to properly use dumbbells, insight into what to consider while shopping for dumbbells, and the specific testing methodology I used in choosing which weights to feature.

Editor’s note: Due to the constant fluctuation of online inventories, we’re doing what we can to keep up with out-of-stock items or those available in limited supply. We review each product’s availability weekly to assure the guide is properly updated, though sometimes this means one or more of the included items may be sold out, or available via a third party.

Here are the best dumbbells:

The best dumbbells overall

Best dumbbells

Powerblock’s dumbbells are highly versatile in that they offer a wide range of weight variation in just one, easy-to-stow form factor — if you can find them for sale, buy them.

Pros: Max weight of 90 pounds, relatively affordable, sturdy and natural feeling

Cons: Slightly awkward weight-changing mechanism, may be a little long at max weight

The first time I saw these sitting in a weight room, I figured they’d be horribly awkward to lift. The rectangular dumbbells appear large and clunky, but I was surprised by how well they moved during workouts like Romanian deadlifts or chest presses. 

Like the Fatbells below, Powerblock dumbbells feature a handle that’s more centered in the apparatus. The weight surrounds your hands on all sides and as a result, they feel comfortable to move. They’re also constructed from steel, making them feel stronger and sturdier compared to other options built from plastic.

My favorite aspect of these dumbbells is that they’re able to load up to 90 pounds, which is enough to ensure you get plenty of mileage out of them as you get stronger. I’ve used these sparingly but they will, without a doubt, be my first purchase when I start building my ultimate home gym. 

To be finicky, I’d say the selecting mechanism isn’t as efficient compared to Bowflex’s dial system. With Powerblock, you select the weights directly on the bell with a vertically-set pin. Changing the weight requires you to pull the pin from the side of the bell and move it either up (lighter) or down (heavier). While it’s not as smooth to use as a dial, it’s not a complete dealbreaker.

The weight plates still sit on either end like a standard dumbbell, so despite looking foreign, they feel familiar and aren’t any more substantial than a heavy pair of dumbbells. Overall, these will save you from buying 28 pairs of individual dumbbells — or roughly 2,565 pounds of weights. That’s thousands of dollars of savings on its own.

Powerblock’s Home Rack Stand, which the brand sells for $179, makes it far easier to hoist the weights onto your lap or shoulders for presses. It’s not a necessity but having used the stand myself, I recommend it.

The best app-connected dumbbells

Best dumbbells

If you’re a techie, or simply meticulous about tracking sets and reps, the Bowflex SelectTech 560 app-connected bells are for you.

Pros: Tracks sets and reps via a companion app, space-saving, easy to change weight

Cons: Max weight of 60 pounds

These dumbbells pair via Bluetooth to the Bowflex app which allows them to automatically record lifted weight, as well as all sets and reps per exercise. This is useful for tracking total volume, especially when your progress is smaller.

Other than the Powerblocks, these are the only other adjustable dumbbells on our list. They’re not as sturdy as our overall pick, though they’re a solid pair of dumbbells that look sleek and save a ton of space. They also come with a floor stand for better storage.

The knurled handle provides plenty of grip and the square plates on each end feel secure for even more dynamic movements like snatches and cleans. Also, the squared-off shape of the weights keep you stable while doing pushups.

Compared to Bowflex’s SelectTech 552 dumbbells, which only go up to 52.5 pounds, these adjust to an even 60 pounds. That’s a decent amount of weight for most people and should serve you well for almost any exercise. Do keep in mind that as you get stronger over time, there’s a decent chance you’ll outgrow these weights and need more than 60 pounds in a dumbbell.

The best dumbbells for comfort

Best Dumbbells

You won’t find these in any commercial gym but the Thompson Fat Bells are an innovative take on the classic dumbbell.

Pros: Very comfortable, more natural to lift, made from durable cast iron

Cons: Expensive, have to buy multiple pairs, not space-friendly

The handle is inside a spherical weight, which centers the load entirely and evenly around your wrist. This allows the dumbbell to feel more comfortable and natural.

Invented by powerlifting legend Donnie Thompson in 2006, Fat Bells are a unique take on the kettlebell — though, to me, they’re interchangeable with dumbbells, too. As Thompson explains on Rogue.com, “it’s a perfect geometric shape for maximizing optimal performance.” Your hand is an equal distance away from every portion of the sphere for a perfect geometrical design.

What I like about these is that you’re able to become one with the weight. Instead of holding a clunky piece of iron, you have a compact load you’ll hardly notice —other than the fact it’s heavy. They do feel slightly off at first due to the fact you’re not used to where the weight is centered but you’ll get over that quickly. I like to use them for moves such as chest presses and rows, since I typically go heavier, and these feel more secure.

Fat Bells aren’t cheap and you’ll most likely need to buy more than one pair. If you’re looking to splurge on your home gym, I’d say opt for one moderate pair (35-50 pounds for men and 15-35 pounds for women) so you have the most versatility with them. 

The best budget dumbbells

Best dumbbells

Though these dumbbells from Titan Fitness require you to buy weight plates, the handles themselves are one of the best deals you’ll find.

Pros: Inexpensive, can handle as much weight as you own, great grip, space-friendly

Cons: Requires weight plates, not as easy to load as adjustable dumbbells

I’d never used this brand personally but the loadable handle on these is very similar to the pair I own. The biggest plus is how affordable they are compared to other options. Of course, you’ll have to buy weight plates but if you’re a home-gym owner, there’s a good chance you have some sitting around already. If that’s the case, these are your best bet. We also recommend investing in a set of barbell collars to stop the weights from sliding off of the handles.

The sleeve, or end of the dumbbell, fits standard Olympic weight plates. If you already own a squat rack and a barbell, then the plates you have should suffice — though it’s worth it to double-check before purchasing. Another plus is that these handles from Titan Fitness are 20 inches, meaning you’re able to load them with a lot of weight. If you’re a stronger lifter, then you won’t be limited to just 90 pounds for moves like rows and chest presses. For reference, many powerlifters and bodybuilders can press and row weights well over 100 pounds.

Lifting dumbbells loaded with Olympic plates can make some exercises awkward. The plates are large enough in diameter compared to typical dumbbells they’re able to disrupt your range of motion. This tends to be problematic for moves like curls, lateral raises, and extensions while chest presses and rows should be unaffected. Another minor nitpick is that having to manually load plates manually isn’t as easy as using adjustable dumbbells. 

The best traditional dumbbell set

Best dumbbells

The CAP Barbell 150-pound Dumbbell set (with rack) is a great starter set for beginners and feels (and looks) the most familiar. 

Pros: Feels familiar, great grip, stable when lifting

Cons: Have to buy multiple pairs which can get expensive, takes up a lot of space, included weight only goes up to 25 pounds

Practically speaking, these aren’t the best dumbbells you can buy but, as the saying goes, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. These dumbbells don’t offer any sort of fancy weight mechanism or require a complicated method for use —and that’s their major appeal.

The handles are nicely knurled (i.e. they feature a pattern of angled lines etched into the steel of the dumbbell) so they won’t slip out of your hands, and the hexagonal rubber ends won’t roll around on the floor. From personal experience, I like using this type of dumbbell for heavy chest presses since they feel stable in my hands and the weight is more evenly distributed compared to the modern models in this guide.

Now, the downsides: You have to buy multiple pairs to have access to a variety of weight. This means the cost adds up rather quickly. Plus, the more dumbbells you own, the more space it’ll take up, so you’ll likely have to buy a dumbbell rack to hold your increasing collection.

Many of the most affordable sets, like our pick here, only go up to 25 pounds. This is great for exercises like curls, light presses, or squats, but it’s likely you’ll graduate from that weight quickly. But if it’s familiarity you seek, this is the set for you. 

How to properly use dumbbells

Best Dumbbells

Getting that toned look most people covet comes down to reducing body fat percentage and gaining muscle mass. The former comes down almost entirely to your diet while gaining muscle involves a balanced weight-training regimen in addition to the diet.

You’ll want to focus on two things:

  1. Placing tension on your muscles by lifting weight
  2. Increasing the total volume (or, amount of weight lifted) over time

To find this, multiply your total reps for one exercise by the amount of weight used. For example, if you do dumbbell chest presses for three sets of 10 reps with 50 pounds, multiply 30 (sets times reps) by 50 to get 1,500 pounds for that exercise. If you were to lift 55 pounds for just one of your sets next week, you’d increase your total volume to 1,550.

Your goal for each workout should be to slightly increase your volume for each move. Add volume by adding weight or increasing your total reps. 

A general rule of thumb is to find a weight you’re able to use for three sets of eight reps. Add one rep to each set each week and once you reach 12 reps, add five pounds and start back at eight reps.

It’s good to have a light, moderate, and heavy pair of dumbbells if this is your primary source of exercise. That way, you can increase your total volume without having to pump out an insane amount of reps with a lighter pair.

How to shop for dumbbells

Before you start the process of finding a set that’s right for you, it’s important to know what a dumbbell is and why they’re an important investment for your home gym. Put plainly, a dumbbell consists of a central handle with weight on either end capable of ranging anywhere from 5 to 100 pounds.

Dumbbells are a versatile foray into weight training for beginners, too. Anything you’re able to do with a barbell, you can do with a dumbbell — albeit with lighter weight. Lifting dumbbells is a great way to teach yourself moves like the squat, overhead press, and row before graduating to the heavier weight a barbell often affords. They’re also less cumbersome than barbells and much easier to store in your home or apartment. 

More advanced trainees benefit from the fact dumbbells allow you to better isolate your muscles unilaterally (one side at a time), as your right and left sides need to work independently to balance the weights. In turn, you’ll strengthen your weaker side, which translates to stronger and more efficient lifts overall.

According to personal trainer, Chris Parnell, lifting with dumbbells is also a great way to give your abs extra attention. He asserts that, compared to barbells, dumbbells challenge your body’s stability more. With a barbell, you work with a singular mass versus the dumbbell that uses two separate masses.

“Dumbbells provide the beginner or advanced lifter with an opportunity to exercise using compound movements [moves that move more than one joint at once] with low to high intensity using two separate masses,” Parnell told Insider.

Our testing methodology

Each set of dumbbells in this guide went through a series of tests to see how well they compared across these four categories: Design, quality, portability, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which dumbbells made this guide:

Design: Dumbbell design is mostly straightforward, though unique innovations from brands like Powerblock and Bowflex have turned the humble dumbbell into a versatile all-in-one gym. What I mean by this is that both of the dumbbells featured in this guide from those brands are designed to be several sets of dumbbells in the form of just one set.

This means you don’t have to buy a set of 5 lb weights, a set of 15 lb weights, and a set of 25 lb weights. You buy either of those and you have the adjustability to hit any weight you’d need. The design choices I looked for in standard dumbbells were how well they felt while holding and if they were versatile for a variety of lifts. 

Quality: Most steel dumbbells feature a quality that allows them to last literal decades (if taken care of) before you’d even need to think about replacing them. Because of this, it’s easy to spot a dumbbell that’s made of anything other than quality metal. Thankfully, this never was an issue during testing. This category was useful when judging how well the adjustable systems of the Bowflex and Powerblock dumbbells would hold up over time. 

Portability: Yet another category where praise heaps onto the adjustable dumbbells are portability. When you’re forced to buy multiple sets of dumbbells in different weights, the problem of how to store them can add up quite quickly. Though some come with their own stand like the traditional set from CAP, not all options are that convenient. 

Value: Considering how expensive dumbbells can get when buying multiple sets (and especially when stock is low and demand is high), value is a key component. But it’s also important not to buy an inferior set if it’s your only option. I view value as the combination of the categories listed above as well as its final sticker price — and feel that spending more on a quality product is better than spending less, more often on something that’s second-rate.

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The best yoga pants in 2021, according to a yoga instructor who’s tested dozens

  • As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I live in yoga pants.
  • I went on a proper search for the best yoga pants and the top choices on the market.
  • I’ve rounded up my favorites, including my top maternity leggings, below.

There are few clothing items as versatile as the yoga pant. They’re not only great for yoga class but also ideal for running errands-and sprints. This is why they’re a staple in so many of our wardrobes. All yoga pants aren’t created equal, though. And the difference between poorly and expertly-made leggings can determine whether your yoga practice is distracted and fidgety or calm and blissful.

As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of yoga pants with my fair share of ill fits and too-thin see-through fabric. These years of informal testing led me to know exactly what to look for when formally sampling the yoga-pant market. Specifically, the material’s comfort and cut are the two most important factors.

As a yogi watches their breath and tackles challenging physical postures, a nagging fold of fabric that needs to be adjusted (and readjusted) can take them right out of the peaceful moment that they were working so hard to achieve. That’s why the best yoga pants are the kind that you don’t notice you’re wearing.

The ideal material, on the other hand, can vary based on what you want your yoga pants for. For example, the ideal hot yoga pants won’t be made from the same fabric as those for a fall outdoor class. And maternity yoga pants’ material won’t compress as a performance pair might.

With these considerations in mind, we scrutinized some of the most popular and newest pants on the market. The details on our testing process are below.

How we tested

To assess how the cut and fabric felt and moved in different situations, I wore each for a diverse range of activities. I sported each pant for three yoga sessions and one non-yoga workout. Each pant was also my attire for one full day of varied activities, from running errands to watching Netflix. Each bottom was washed twice.

The best yoga pants in 2021:

The best yoga pant overall

Best yoga pants   Best Overall Yoga Pant   Everlane 4x3

Everlane’s Perform Legging is comfortable for all-day wear, yoga, and other workouts. Its high quality and relatively low price distinguishes it from comparable pants.

Pros: Comfortable, ethically made, affordable

Cons: Thin material, so these aren’t great for outdoor yoga (or wear) in cold weather.

When most people think of yoga pants, Everlane isn’t among the first brands that come to mind. But since discovering this legging, I have been recommending it widely.

As a nod to their focus on ethical production, the bag that housed the leggings announced that it “is made from recycled plastic,” and the tag on the pants invited me to visit their website to learn more about the “ethical manufacturing process.” I took them up on the offer and the site took me to a factory in Sri Lanka and told their story. Yoga is more than a physical practice. It’s also a philosophy and way of life, which has a strong focus on ahimsa, or non-harming. It felt good to know that the pants’ production was aligned.

But it wasn’t just the backstory that made me fall in love with these pants. They’re thin and sleek with few seams and made from recycled nylon and elastane. The light compression from the extra-high waist, reminded me to use my ab muscles, even in simple poses like tadasana (mountain pose). And, most importantly, when I put them on, they felt so good that they made me want to get on my mat and practice yoga. Not all pants can inspire a workout.

During my yoga practice, the leggings checked all the boxes. They were flexible, so easy to move in, and they were comfortable. They lived up to the hype of being made from a “premium performance fabric from a renowned Italian mill.” 

I also appreciated that these pants have no visible logo. My yoga practice is a time to step away from the material world, and the absence of a small symbol of consumer culture was a nice touch. They’re also well below the $100+ yoga pant price point at $58 per pair, leaving more cash to fit in the cute pocket in the waistband.

The best outdoor yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best for Outdoor Yoga   Alo 4x3

The Alo High-Waist Lounge Legging is ideal for outdoor yoga classes in cooler climates, or for indoor low-intensity yoga classes and workouts. 

Pros: Warm, soft

Cons: Not great for indoor high-intensity yoga or exercise

As the pandemic has shuttered studios, many teachers have moved classes to parks and parking lots with socially distanced mats. This has been great for those of us who need to practice with others so can’t just Zoom a class. But what do we wear? Thin yoga pants are great for feeling free and agile during practice, but they’re not great for winter walks or outdoor classes in cooler weather. 

Of all of the pants that I tested, the Alo High-Waist Lounge Legging was the only one that had a level of thickness to provide strong protection from the wind chill of cold days. They’re still flexible, though, with Alo’s signature four-way stretch. 

When I wore these outside, they were perfect, and for lounging indoors or doing light movement, like restorative yoga or stretching, they were also great. But when I wore them indoors for more intense workouts, they were too hot for my comfort. 

Overall, these pants with Alo’s “velvety” Alosoft fabric are a dream. As the name would suggest, they feel incredibly soft against your skin, and the ribbing at the waist and ankles make them even cozier and more flattering. 

The best non-legging yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best Non Legging Yoga Pant   Sweaty Betty 4x3

The Sweaty Betty Gary Yoga Pants are a great alternative to leggings on days when you don’t want to feel constricted.

Pros: Comfortable, great for modesty

Cons: The thin material is not great for outdoor classes or colder climates

While you may be questioning your decision to ever wear skin tight jeans after months of quarantine, the question about why we wear tight pants is especially relevant in yoga. When I went to India to study with my yoga school, they warned us Americans that our idea of “yoga pants” wouldn’t be acceptable attire there. Looser pants were the norm. 

But the problem with baggy yoga pants can sometimes be that the fabric flies all around and makes movements clunkier. And in inversions, loose trousers may even succumb to gravity and fall down from your ankles to your hips. 

I love Sweaty Betty’s Gary Yoga Pant because they’ve thought of all of that. These pants are loose, comfortable, and lightweight, but they also work well for practice. They’re tapered at the ankles, so they didn’t fall when I was upside down. Plus, the polyester/elastane blend fabric was roomy and stretchy enough that I could move into deep poses carefree. As Sweaty Betty advertises, they’re “100% squat proof.”

When in-person yoga becomes the norm again, I’ll probably mostly wear traditional leggings, but on days when I want to feel less constricted, these would be my go-to pants.

The best pant for hot yoga

Best yoga pants    Best for Hot Yoga   adidas x Karlie Kloss 4x3

The adidas x Karlie Kloss Primeblue High-Waist Long Tights‘ thin and airy design make them perfect for sweaty sessions. 

Pros: Light weight, affordable price, sustainably crafted

Cons: Prominent branding, too thin and airy for cold weather, can’t be tumble dried

Even with most hot yoga studios temporarily closed, many aficionados find ways to get in a heated practice at home by blasting space heaters and shoving blankets underneath doors. For these steamy classes, the right yoga pants can make a big difference. When drenched, certain fabrics’ compression and thickness leads to too much weight and cling to be comfortable. The adidas x Karlie Kloss Primeblue High-Waist Long Tights are a great thin option that avoids those pitfalls.

The pants are great for any workout, but especially good for sweaty activities like runs and heated classes. They’re made from primeblue, a material partially made of upcycled plastic, which would have otherwise ended up in oceans. They also have elastane.

These pants were comfortable for cardio workouts and unheated yoga as well. But they were less ideal for outside wear, at least in the fall and winter. Each leg has six small holes about half way down, and there’s a thinner, ribbed fabric interspersed with the main material. These touches made the leggings ideal when my heart was pumping but less so for running errands on a windy day.

Also, the branding made these pants feel less able to switch from a workout to a dressier engagement. The branding, a small “Aeroready” on the back waist, and 10 inches of “Karlie Kloss” and the Adidas logo down the hip make it clear that these are exercise leggings.

The best high-waisted yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best High Waisted Legging 4x3

If you love high-waisted yoga pants, the Alo High-Waist Airlift Legging is a great pick for comfort and style. 

Pros: Versatile, comfortable

Cons: Have to be hand washed separately

When I first tried on the Alo High-Waist Airlift Legging, I felt like I was getting dressed up. The double-knit Airlift fabric’s silky sheen and high waist made them feel more sophisticated than the yoga pants I had been wearing every other day. 

High waists vary. Some land below my belly button while others nearly reach the bottom of my sports bra. I appreciated that these pants were of the higher variety. Having a higher waist supports my yoga practice because the touch of pressure on my stomach nudges me to engage my core. I’m not sure if it was that engagement, the micro-performance fabric, or both, but the pants did smooth my mid-section. And with the higher high waist, I didn’t have to worry about the pants rolling down during forward-folding poses like uttanasana or paschimottanasana. 

Another advantage of these pants is that they’re thin, but not too thin. The light fabric and its four-way stretch is great for postures that call for deep stretches, like split pose, but they’re not so light that they expose what’s under them — in other words, no visible underwear lines. The front smoothing panel is great for that protection or, as Alo says, “commando comfort.” 

The best maternity yoga pant

The Best Maternity Yoga Pant - Beyond Yoga

If you’re a yogi with a bump, these pants will give you a fit that rivals those of your pre-pregnancy pants. 

Pros: Soft, comfortable and great fit

Cons: Limited duration of usability; the extra high waist is great for a bump, but with this extra fabric, they may not be ideal far beyond pregnancy

Maintaining my yoga practice during pregnancy was crucial, not only because I’ve been practicing daily for years and wanted to keep up my strength and flexibility, but also because a prenatal practice has been shown to reduce labor pain and length. As my bump grew, however, my yoga classes—and pants—had to change. Traditional vinyasa flows became too intense, and the waists of my favorite leggings kept getting lower and tighter. It was time for prenatal classes and new yoga wear. 

Of the maternity pants that I tried, the Beyond Yoga Spacedye Love The Bump Midi Maternity Legging stood out as the best. Most yoga apparel companies don’t make maternity pants, but Beyond Yoga is one of the exceptions. Their expertise in the space showed. 

These leggings are buttery soft and fit exactly like my favorite pre-pregnancy pants. The one exception, however, is the super high waist. This top portion can be worn up, reaching just below your bra, or folded down for a more traditional yoga pant look. Personally, I preferred wearing the waist up, so that during practice, the pants would stay in place perfectly.

As I sat in squats and reached my limbs into bird-dogs, the leggings’ Spacedye fabric, which delivers on its promise of an “ultra soft feel,” stretched with me like a second skin. And as my belly has expanded over the past few weeks since I first wore them, the fit has remained just as good. I’m excited to have these pants see me through the rest of my third trimester and beyond.

What else we considered:

Best yoga pants 4x3
  • Lululemon Groove Pant Flare Super HR ($98, sizes 0-14): As expected from Lululemon, these pant’s Nulu™ fabric is light and soft. They’re great for all day wear, and the high waist adds to their comfort. They weren’t a top choice, though, because their flare cut makes them less ideal for a fast-paced yoga practice. In inversions and seated forward folds, the excess fabric was a bit distracting.
  • Outdoor Voices Springs 7/8 Legging ($78, sizes XXS to XXXL): These were the only yoga pants that I got compliments on. Outdoor Voices’ signature color block design helps these leggings to stand out from competitors and is a creative way to have their pants be immediately recognizable as Outdoor Voices without needing a logo. I was comfortable in these leggings working out, running errands, and practicing yoga, and I also loved how they looked. But they didn’t make the top list, because I found the textured polyester and spandex fabric less comfortable than that of the other pants.
  • Beyond Yoga Heather Rib Jogger ($110, sizes XS to XL): These are another great option for a non-legging yoga pant. They’re very comfortable, and when I put them on I didn’t want to take them off for days. That said, they didn’t make the top choices, because they’re more fitted than I would like when I’m looking for a non-legging pant. A large part of the appeal of the non-legging pant to me is to not have a form-fitting shape, and these felt a little too close to leggings for me.
  • Seraphine Maternity Activewear & Yoga Power Leggings ($59, sizes XS to XL): At nearly half the cost of the other maternity leggings we tested, these are a great option if you want to invest less in pants that you’ll only be wearing for a couple of trimesters. Though I didn’t find the fit as ideal as that of the top maternity pic, these were comfortable and held up across activities. The pant legs are made of a sweat-wicking material, which made it feel like there’s some distance between me and the fabric. (This was nice at a time when I’m already feeling constricted enough!) And, the belly band is made of soft jersey material, which was comfortable to wear over my bump all day long.
  • HATCH Before, During, and After Legging ($98, sizes XS to XL): I loved these leggings. Made of 92% modal and 8% spandex, the fabric is super soft. Though they feel as cozy as pajamas, they don’t look like them, and can be easily dressed up with a nice top and non-athletic shoes. These aren’t explicitly yoga pants, but they worked well in maternity-style yoga classes, which exclude sweaty, vigorous sequences. What these pants lacked in yoga-pant-perfection, they made up for in their versatility.
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The best rowing machines of 2021 for your home gym

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

There are few machines capable of delivering the same kind of calorie-burning, full-body workout as an at-home rower. In the span of just 30 minutes, you’re able to enjoy a low-impact, high-cardio exercise that’s fit for people of any age or fitness level. As long as you know how to properly row, this versatile workout not only serves as a quality complement to a pre-existing routine but it can also stand on its own as a prime source of weekly exercise.

It’s because of that effectiveness, and the fact many people prefer working out at home, that rowing machines are more popular now than ever – and are increasingly becoming staples in people’s home gyms. If you don’t like running on a treadmill or aren’t particularly fond of stationary bikes, a rower is the next best thing – and to some, it’s regarded as an even better form of exercise.

I tend to agree. There’s just something wholly different about finishing up a grueling 45-minute rowing workout that feels far more taxing and exhausting than a run on a treadmill or a streamed Peloton class. Those two do deliver tiring workouts, no doubt, but I walk away from a row routine truly noticing its full-body results.

But while all rowers deliver similar cardio benefits, not all are designed the same. In addition to a range of resistance types and rower sizes, there are models that are easily stowable, as well as a new crop of smart rowers touchscreens and access to on-demand, streamable classes. In other words, there’s plenty of variety.

To find the best currently available, I tested a number of machines that span every use case, resistance type, and price point. My goal was to find rowers that delivered a serious cardio workout while proving to be a valuable addition to a home gym setup – and I came away with a strong list of favorites.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a rower, answers to a series of FAQs, and a rundown of the testing methodology I used in deciding which rowers made the cut.

Here are the best rowing machines:

Our testing methodology

Ergatta rowing machine

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

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

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

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

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

The best row machine overall

Concept2 Model Indoor Rowing Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget rowing machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best interactive rowing machine

Ergatta Digital Rower

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

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

Cons: Expensive 

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our review of the Ergatta Connected Rower here

The best smart rowing machine

Hydrow

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

Read our full review of the Hydrow Rowing Machine

The best digital-resistance rowing machine

Screen Shot 2020 07 09 at 4.16.00 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best water resistance rowing machine

Man rowing on a WaterRower at-home row machine

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

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

Cons: Expensive, included monitor is fine but limited

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best rowing machine for beginners

Sunny Health Fitness SF RW5515

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAQs

Is rowing better than running? 

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

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


Can you row every day?

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

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

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

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


Can you lose weight by using a rowing machine?

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

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

How to shop for a rowing machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to row with good form

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

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

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

Check out more Insider Reviews fitness guides

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The best budget gear for building a garage gym

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 7 best whey protein powders, backed by strength coaches and dietitians

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Quality whey protein powder should have a tolerable taste, mix well, and offer maximum protein with minimal extras.
  • Our top pick, Naked’s Whey Protein, is a clean, additive-free powder that contains only whey protein.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice in NYC.

Protein, a macronutrient every cell in your body contains, is essential for your health. If you’re an athlete, casual gym-goer, or just want to lose a few pounds, protein also helps you build and retain muscle. Taking whey protein is an effective and inexpensive way to add more of the macronutrient to your diet.

In short, whey is the liquid leftovers that come from the cheese-making process. This liquid is dried into a powder, which is then sometimes (but not always) mixed with sweeteners while keeping calories, carbohydrates, and fats to a minimum.

But there’s more to picking out the right whey protein than just grabbing whatever you find at the store. While some are formulated with different additives, others pack more protein per serving or are designed to keep more of the protein’s natural nutrients.

At the bottom of this guide, we’ve included insight into what whey protein is and why it’s beneficial, as well as the safety precautions associated with taking whey protein and the best places to purchase it. We’ve also provided some background on the sources used, as well as our own expertise.

Here are the best whey protein powders:

The best overall whey protein powder

Naked Whey Protein

When Naked Nutrition calls its Naked Whey Protein additive-free, it means it as this protein powder has literally just one ingredient: Whey protein derived from grass-fed cows.

Pros: Contains just whey protein from grass-fed cows, low carbohydrate and fat count per serving, has 5.9 grams of BCAAs per serving

Cons: Not completely devoid of sugar (though there aren’t any artificial sweeteners or flavors), hard to mix, and can sometimes be chunkya

Many of Naked Nutrition’s products live up to the brand’s namesake of being literally naked, though perhaps none do it quite as well as its flagship protein powder, Naked Whey. Comprised of a single ingredient (whey protein from grass-fed cows), Naked Whey is a clean, additive-free product that has no artificial sweeteners, no artificial colors, and no artificial flavors. 

From a protein standpoint, one serving of Naked Whey (2 scoops of powder which is roughly 30 grams) delivers 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fat, 120 calories, and just 2 grams of sugar. Each serving also has 5.9 grams of a combination of the BCAAs isoleucine, leucine, and valine. BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) may help build protein in muscles and aid in recovery.

A few drawbacks (or, rather, nitpicks) would be the Naked Whey isn’t the easiest to mix, and requires quite the shake in a shaker bottle to create a smooth, drinkable combination, though you’re likely to still encounter a few clumps. The taste of this is also very plain and almost dairy-like (which makes sense, of course), but Naked does offer the protein in Chocolate, as well as Vanilla and Strawberry in its Less Naked Whey, which has a few more additives. 

Naked Whey comes in either a 5 lb. tub for $90 or a smaller 1 lb. option for $22 — and Naked Nutrition even allows customers to set up recurring monthly deliveries at a discounted rate. 

If an additive-free protein powder is what you seek, Naked Nutrition’s Naked Whey, with just the single ingredient of whey protein, is about as simple and straightforward as it gets. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best mixing whey protein powder

Cellucor Whey Protein

If you’re looking for a powder that mixes easily and tastes great, Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate & Concentrate Blend Powder is one of the best and most affordable options.

Pros: Great taste, affordable, mixes smoothly, 24 grams of protein per serving, excellent for baking, third-party tested

Cons: 130 mg of sodium per serving, contains artificial sweeteners

The Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate & Concentrate Blend Powder not only tastes good and has 24 grams of protein per serving, but it’s also the most affordable option in our guide at 71.4 cents per serving and 3 cents per gram of protein. Each serving also only has 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 120 calories.

There are seven flavors to choose from, including whipped vanilla, molten chocolate, and cinnamon swirl. Cellucor recommends mixing two scoops with five to six ounces of your preferred beverage, but you can adjust the amount of liquid to fit your tastes. The company also suggests mixing the powder with yogurt, oatmeal, and pancakes. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

The best sugar-free whey protein powder

 Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey

The Platinum Hydrowhey by Optimum Nutrition may be expensive, but it mixes well and boasts 30 grams of protein per serving with zero grams of sugar.

Pros: 30 grams of protein per serving, third-party tested, superb mixability, no sugar

Cons: Contains high-fructose corn syrup

A single serving of Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey yields 140 calories, 30 grams of protein, one gram of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and no sugar. It’s made of hydrolyzed whey protein, which breaks down the protein into smaller pieces for better absorption and easier digestion. 

You can choose from seven flavors: cookies and cream overdrive, chocolate mint, velocity vanilla, chocolate peanut butter, supercharged strawberry, turbo chocolate, and red velvet cake, which was the highest-rated flavor on Bodybuilding.com. I think that turbo chocolate tastes great, too.

Optimum Nutrition uses artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and high-fructose corn syrup (which gets counted as a sugar on food labels).

Optimum Nutrition claims you can easily mix this protein with just a spoon and I can confirm this is true. While this may not seem like a strong selling point, I’ve forgotten my shaker bottle at home many times and have had to mix my protein with a spoon or knife at work. When I tried this with other brands, I always got clumpy, gross-tasting shakes. — Andrew Gutman

The best customized whey protein powder

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Gainful offers a unique approach to protein powder by offering personalized blends that are formulated specifically to the person ordering it, based on their fitness goals, diet restrictions, and other vital factors.

Pros: The custom is able to serve a wider range of users, doesn’t just rely on whey protein but pea, brown rice, and organic oat, as well, has a team of registered dietitians formulating the blends

Cons: Not the most economical in terms of amount and cost

One of the more unique protein powder options is Gainful, a brand that formulates personalized blends based on your specific needs. This could include weight and fitness goals, the amount you’re active each week, or if you have any dietary restrictions. It even lets you choose options dedicated to getting better sleep or improving gut health. 

It’s an interesting approach that succeeds in making the protein you order seem one-of-one. That is, not only does Gainful say it’s formulating a specific blend of protein for you, but when you get it and see what exactly is in it (especially compared to other protein powders), it feels exclusive.

Gainful takes its customization even further by offering flavor packets that mix with the powder to create different taste profiles. My sample came with both rich cocoa and cafe mocha, but the brand offers a variety of others like chocolate peanut butter, strawberry cream, and matcha green tea. You could consume the standard protein on its own, but it’s a very bland flavor when you do (it doesn’t necessarily taste bad, it’s just not very exciting). 

The nitpick I’d have with Gainful is that it doesn’t feel like you’re getting much protein for how much you spend. I tend to consume protein most days of the week, and I was able to work through the $39 bag in a little under three weeks. You can opt to get more per shipment (and Gainful can set up a recurring monthly delivery), though the price could feasibly double.

Despite its expensive price compared to others in this guide, what you get with Gainful isn’t offered anywhere else. You’re essentially paying for a premium dietitian service to tailor a protein powder specifically to your needs — for people who keep close tabs on their nutrition and diet, that’s invaluable. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best GNC whey protein powder

GNC1

GNC’s AMP Wheybolic protein powder offers 40 grams of protein per two-scoop serving, as well as 6.2 grams of leucine, and works great as either a pre- or post-workout supplement.

Pros: Now comes in popular Girl Scout flavors, packs 40 grams of protein and 6.2 grams of leucine per two-scoop serving

Cons: Might be too sweet for some, contains sucralose and other artificial sweeteners

The GNC name is synonymous with workout supplements, and its own branded protein are among its most popular items, specifically its GNC AMP Wheybolic powder. The brand supplied a tub of the powder in the Thin Mints flavor, which is sure to catch the attention of anyone who’s a fan of Girl Scout Cookies (it also offers Girl Scout Coconut Carmel aka Samoas and Girl Scout S’mores). 

Each two-scoop serving of the powder offers 40 grams of protein, 6.2 grams of leucine, 210 calories, 7 grams of net carbohydrates, and 2 grams of total sugar. The powder mixes well in water (after about 20 seconds or so of shaking) and never felt chunky or like there were leftover bits that hadn’t fully mixed. 

I used this protein primarily as a post-workout drink, though did also test it post-workout and on non-workout days. The Thin Mints flavor is heavy on the chocolate and mint, so if you like sweeter protein powders, this is exactly what that is. I’m not a huge sweet protein powder drinker myself, so would often choose to use this in moderation. 

A single $65 tub of the powder comes with 25 two-scoop servings, which is just shy of enough for a month’s worth of use — especially if you prefer to drink it on both workout and non-workout days. 

Our nutrition reviewer, Samantha Cassetty, did point out a few things to be cautious of after we spoke to her during testing. First, is the inclusion of sucralose. As we’ve mentioned in other protein powders, sucralose is a sweetener that may upset some people’s stomachs during ingestion. Cassetty pointed out that the powder also includes the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium, has artificial flavoring, and contains carrageenan, a somewhat controversial additive that’s been studied limitedly. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best-tasting whey protein powder

Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Powder

The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder packs 24 grams of protein into each serving and is one of the better-tasting powders according to experts and buyers.

Pros: Tastes good, relatively affordable, third-party tested

Cons: Complaints about the formula changing, contains an artificial sweetener

The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder gets its sweetness from a little bit of sugar (1 gram per serving) and acesulfame potassium, which is an artificial sweetener also known as Ace-K.

Each serving has 120 calories, a gram of fat, three grams of carbs, and most importantly 24 grams of protein. Optimum Nutrition has also curated a number of recipes in which you can use the powder. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

The best fat-free whey protein powder

MyProtein whey powder

The Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate Protein is a great option if you want as much protein packed into each scoop as possible without extra fat, carbs, or calories.

Pros: Excellent product purity, a high concentration of bound protein, fat-free, low in sodium

Cons: Concerns about quality control, contains artificial sweetener, not third-party tested

Depending on the flavor you choose, the Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate Protein fits up to 22 grams of protein into each 25-gram serving.

It does this with little or no fat or sugar and only 90 calories per serving. The sodium content is also low at 25 mg per serving. 

Labdoor independently tests dozens of whey protein powders, and the site recommended the Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate because it scored high in Labdoor’s ingredient safety, nutritional value, and product purity tests. The testers found there were 21.9 grams of protein in every 25-gram serving.

There are a few complaints worth mentioning, too. Make sure you buy the whey isolate and not just the whey concentrate (If you follow our links, you should be fine). — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

The best lactose-free whey protein powder

Dymatize

If you’ve found protein powders leave your stomach feeling queasy, consider the lactose-free Dymatize ISO 100 Whey Protein Powder.

Pros: Lactose-free, 91% of calories are from protein, less than a gram of sugar and fat, third-party tested

Cons: Complaints of foreign objects found in the powder, contains an artificial sweetener, 160 mg sodium per serving

The Dymatize ISO 100 Whey Protein Powder is the only lactose-free option on our list but it’s not the only one that uses hydrolyzed isolate protein—the Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey does, too—which is supposed to help with digestion and absorption.

Each serving has 25 grams of protein, less than a gram of fat, 120 calories, and 2 grams of carbs, including less than 1 gram of sugar. There are 13 flavors to choose from, including cinnamon bun, fudge brownie, gourmet chocolate, and chocolate coconut

Labdoor recommends the Dymatize ISO 100 as one of the best whey protein powders. In its tests, the powder had high scores for nutritional value and product purity, including less than one part per million of six harmful substances. Around 91% of the calories in this powder come from its protein content. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

What else we tested

performix iowhey

Animal Whey

I like Animal because the company doesn’t make gimmicky claims or rely on pseudoscience to sell its products. What you see is what you get and what you get is 120 calories, one gram of fat, 2 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein per serving. Animal uses whey protein isolate as its primary protein source, it’s moderately priced, and it’s third-party tested.

This wasn’t included, however, because it’s no better than any other pick. Compared to Optimum Nutrition or Dymatize or Cellucor, it’s slightly more expensive and isn’t as lauded by fans. It barely missed the cut. 

Pro Jym Protein Powder

A fan favorite, Pro Jym is comprised of four different proteins: whey protein isolate, micellar casein, egg albumin, and milk protein isolate. According to creator, Dr. Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., this extends the rate of digestion for better protein synthesis. It comes in three flavors: chocolate cookie crunch, cookies and cream, and s’mores, and contains 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, and 24 grams of protein per serving. 

Pro Jym missed the mark for two reasons:

  1. You pay more for three times the amount of fat and carbs as Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey, so it doesn’t fit into our minimum fillers criteria.
  2. It’s not a pure whey protein powder. 

Performix ioWhey

I personally like this protein powder because it tastes great, it’s easy on the stomach, and there are minimal extras. One serving of Performix ioWhey is 100 calories, zero grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and 22 grams of protein. 

My major issue is that Performix claims ioWhey is absorbed 36% more efficiently than other brands, which is why their protein per serving is low. That sounds great but since the product isn’t third-party tested, there’s no way to know if this is true or if the company’s selling you less protein per serving.

For the price per serving, you’re better off buying Optimum Nutrition or Dymatize ISO 100 if you’re willing to shell out for a premium protein. — Andrew Gutman

What is whey protein?

man making protein shake shutterstock

There are three main types of whey protein:

  • Whey protein concentrate (WPC): This is a concentrated protein that keeps more of the nutrients. Most non-isolate proteins are comprised of WPC.
  • Whey protein isolate (WPI): This is similar to WPC but most of the carbohydrates, fat, and fat-soluble vitamins have been removed, so the powder has a higher percentage of protein. Typically, isolate is digested more quickly and, therefore, more agreeable for some. For that reason, most trainers and registered dieticians recommend opting for WPI, though it’s often more expensive.
  • Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH): WPH is considered pre-digested since it breaks down the amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — to help with quicker absorption.

Is it safe to consume? 

Before you increase your protein intake significantly, check with your healthcare professional since people with certain maladies, such as calcium deficiencies or low blood pressure, could experience adverse effects from whey protein. 

It’s also important to note that protein powders aren’t regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and some companies dilute their protein with useless fillers, which is why certain brands subject themselves to third-party testing as a way to verify the quality of their product.

To know if a protein is tested, look for a seal from either NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice. This doesn’t mean that untested proteins are a subpar product but it’s good to be aware. You are, after all, putting this stuff into your body. Other than looking for brands that are third-party tested, here are different ways to spot a quality protein:

  • Ensure that protein is the first ingredient on the label. “When you look at a label, it’s in descending order so the ingredient in the highest amount will be found at the top of the list,” Maryann Walsh, a registered dietician and the owner of Walsh Nutrition, told Insider. “Look for labels that have protein at the beginning with fewer ingredients accompanying them.”
  • Typically, you want a whey powder that contains at least 20 grams of protein per serving. All of our picks do.
  • Try to steer clear of excess sugar. As for artificial sweeteners, research on how they affect our weight and health is mixed.

How much should you consume? 

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein consumption is about a gram for every 3 pounds of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, that equates to 60 grams of protein per day. Experts suggest that taking up to twice that still produces benefits.

When it comes to fitness-specific goals, like gaining muscle or losing fat, Jeb Stuart Johnston from Stronger U recommends ingesting up to one gram per pound of bodyweight. His claim is backed by a study via the University of Stirling

“For someone who’s trying to gain muscle mass and work out, taking in more protein helps speed up protein synthesis [the process in which your muscle fibers utilize protein to repair and grow],” Johnston said. “For a person who’s strictly trying to lose weight, taking in more protein helps retain the muscle you already have.” 

Based on Johnston’s recommendations, a 200-pound man would have to consume 200 grams of protein per day. That’s equivalent to 2 pounds of chicken breast. Supplementing with whey protein, he explains, is a convenient way to get more protein without grilling up another piece of bland chicken.

Where to buy whey protein

man protein powder shutterstock

When it comes to buying protein, one convenient ordering option is Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” program, since it can save you up to 15%. You’re able to cancel your subscription at any time, too. What’s great about this program is that it automates ordering products that you replenish regularly.

For instance, if you take a serving of protein powder every day and there are 30 servings in a container, you can have a new tub delivered every month without lifting a finger.

Personally, I like to buy my protein from Bodybuilding.com. I usually try a different brand of protein each time I order more, so Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” program doesn’t make sense for me, although it’s a smart option for many people. Bodybuilding.com has reliable customer reviews and it routinely offers deals on popular brands. As a bonus, it offers free shipping on orders over $75.

To figure out the cost per serving on your own, take the product’s price and divide it by the number of servings in the container. Since the amount of protein per serving varies by brand, it’s also useful to look at the cost per gram of protein. This is easy to calculate by dividing the cost per serving (as calculated above) by the number of grams of protein per serving. — Andrew Gutman

Expert sources

  • Jeb Stuart Johnston, nutrition and strength coach at Stronger U
  • Maryann Walsh, a registered dietician and the owner of Walsh Nutrition

This piece was also medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, and a nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.

About our writers’ expertise

In developing this guide, we tested close to a dozen of the top protein powders available from brands like Cellucor, Optimum Nutrition, and Naked to find the best across a variety of categories. 

The co-author, Andrew Gutman, is a former associate editor at Muscle & Fitness magazine, has competed in a bodybuilding show and two Strongman competitions, and has been lifting weights regularly for more than 10 years. He’s tried dozens of different whey protein powders.

Our guide features powders that have a taste you can stomach, a high protein content, and minimal fat, carbs, and calories. Guides Editor, Les Shu, is a former research chief at Men’s Fitness who oversaw the fact-checking of the magazine’s nutrition and exercise articles.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 7 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 seven of my favorites from brands like Malker, NiteRider, and MPowerd. 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 I used in deciding which lights ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best bike lights:

The best bike light overall

cygolite

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best easy install bike light

bike light

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

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

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

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

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

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

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

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

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

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

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

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

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

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

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

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

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

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 6 best treadmills for your home gym

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

Editor’s note: Due to high demand, some of the selections are either limited in stock or back-ordered. We will update this piece with new picks or purchase options as best we can.

Few exercise machines have endured the changing landscape of at-home fitness quite like the treadmill. They’re great for maintaining cardio fitness, preparing for road races like 2-milers or 5Ks, or serving as a complement to a weekly workout routine – especially for anyone who doesn’t have time to run outside.

Treadmills are also incredibly simple to use. You just run or walk on the belt, and a motor moves it under your feet at whatever speed you select. Some even offer a variety of different features, including touchscreen displays and live-streamed classes, that’ll help you gain exactly the kinds of training and health benefits you need.

As a frequent gym-goer (prior to the pandemic, of course) and current fitness editor, I’ve run my fair share of miles on treadmills advanced, basic, or otherwise. For every mile logged on something like NordicTrack’s Commercial 2950 or ProForm’s Pro 2000, I’ve logged an equal amount (if not many more) on treadmills without an interactive screen attached to them and those a bit more typical of a standard fitness center or gym.

This experience proved vital when combing through and testing the allotment of treadmills currently available – and helped me better understand why someone may prefer a certain model over another. The following guide features a range of treadmill types at various price points in hopes of helping you find the best option for your fitness needs.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a treadmill as well as insight into the testing methodology used for deciding which made the cut.

Here are the best treadmills:

The best treadmill overall

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its price is also in the range of what you’d expect to pay for a full-featured treadmill. Most interactive workout machines run in the $2,000 range, and the fact this undercuts that average by a few hundred dollars, makes it an appealing choice for anyone looking to add a treadmill to their home gym. It can easily support any fitness routine, whether it’s the centerpiece of your weekly workouts or a supplement to a more comprehensive plan.

The best smart treadmill

2950Nordic

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

The 2950 certainly isn’t cheap but few treadmills with this much to offer both in terms of features and available workouts will necessarily be “affordable.” Still, it’s worth the investment for those who want access to a huge library of interactive classes and a premium-built treadmill. 

The best budget treadmill

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best upright folding treadmill

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best compact treadmill

Cubii1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best treadmill for quiet workouts

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treadmill FAQ

 

Basic

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

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

Mid-range

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

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

Top-end:

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

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

Key treadmill features and terms

As treadmills evolved, companies began adding a suite of high-tech features. However, don’t focus entirely on the bells and whistles of expensive treadmills. Pay attention to its physical parts, too, to find the best possible unit for your needs.

Exercise programs

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

Horsepower

Any treadmill motor with a continuous duty measurement of at least 2.0 should be sufficient for most people. Smaller motors work better for walkers and larger motors work better for runners.

Incline and decline

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

Length

Runners need a treadmill belt bed of roughly 55-60 inches long, while walkers can use one closer to 45-50 inches long. Taller people will need an even longer belt bed. Remember that the length of the treadmill isn’t the same as the length of the bed.

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

Safety line

Treadmills will contain a safety line that hooks into the unit. You’ll clip the safety line to your shirt. Should you stumble, the safety line will disconnect from the treadmill, causing it to shut down immediately. This is a nice safety feature, and it prevents those common TV and movie gags where the person using the treadmill falls and gets launched into a wall.

Speed

The speed with which the bed rotates on the treadmill is measured in miles per hour. Most people don’t need anything over 10 mph, but those seeking heavy-duty interval workouts can find speeds up to 15 mph in a top-end treadmill.

Support rails

A treadmill made for walkers, especially elderly walkers, should have long support rails on the sides that you can grip while using the treadmill to steady yourself.

Touch screen controls

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

Weight limit

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

Wi-Fi connection

Through a Wi-Fi connection, you can gain access to simulated video workouts. Or you can play streaming movies on the display screen, giving you some entertainment as you’re workout out on the treadmill.

Width

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

How we test treadmills

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

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

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

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

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

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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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