24 great gifts for the fitness lovers in your life

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Fitness gifts Janji

Everyone has a fitness goal they’re trying to meet, whether it’s to build muscle, train to run a marathon, or increase their flexibility. No matter those goals or workout preferences, we’ve got a gift that’ll help them get there.

Maybe they need a new set of resistance bands that’ll help boost their workouts, or perhaps gifting them a long-sleeve workout shirt will keep them motivated throughout winter – there are plenty of gift ideas that work within your budget and their fitness level.

Since everyone’s fitness experience looks different from the next, we made our best effort to include a wide variety of apparel, gear, and equipment that can accommodate any and all fitness goals. Below are 24 of the best fitness gifts

Here are 24 gift ideas for the fitness enthusiast

A resistance band set

TB12Kit

TB12 At-Home Looped Band Kit, $95, available at TB12

The TB12 At-Home Looped Band Kit is known for its versatility, which is why Insider Reviews has deemed it the best resistance band set for multiple exercises. With a selection of both long and short looped bands, an included carabiner, and a door anchor, this kit is well-equipped for all the variety that comes with your fitness routine. 

Running gear fit for cold weather

Person running in Janji jacket - best fitness gifts

Janji Thermal Zephyr Runner Jacket, from $188

The cold, wet weather of fall and winter doesn’t mean running outside is put on the back burner for a few months — it just means being better prepared.

Janji’s Thermal Zephyr Runner Jacket is the perfect addition to any runner’s cold temperature apparel closet; it’s comfortable, lightweight, and comes in a bright, vibrant color that greatly increases visibility. This is the winter running coat they’ll wish they always had. 

Training shoes fit for at-home workouts

Fitness gifts Under Armour

Under Armour Men’s and Women’s UA Project Rock 3 Training Shoes, $140, available at Under Armour

These training shoes are an excellent option for at-home workouts, complete with a compression mesh Energy Web that’s designed to give back the energy that they’ll exert throughout the workout. This pair is also included in the Project Rock collection, so it comes with a stamp of approval from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson himself.

A new pair of running shoes

Running shoe

On Cloudstratus running shoes, from $169.99

No matter if they’re training for a 5k or have their sights set on a full marathon, the Cloudstratus running shoes from On can help them get there. The Cloudstratus features horizontal and vertical cushioning, ample foot support, and a wide-fit design, making it a great shoe for runners of all types.

A grid-textured foam roller

Fitness Gifts TriggerPoint

TriggerPoint Foam Roller, $34.95, available at Amazon

The TriggerPoint Foam Roller is an excellent gift for those who’ll need to massage out knots or trigger points with several different surfaces during recovery. This foam roller is made of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), which absorbs impact, is resistant to water and other elements, and is also easy to clean.

An elliptical machine they can use at their desk

fitness gifts

Cubii Pro Seated Under-Desk Elliptical, $349, available at Amazon

This little elliptical machine easily tucks under a desk so even the busiest among us can remain active from home. From personal experience, it’s really quiet and actually kind of fun. It also syncs with Apple and Android phones, Apple Health, and Fitbit to track ongoing performance.

Grippy socks perfect for pilates or barre

Fitness gifts Gaiam

Gaiam Grippy Yoga Socks, from $9.98, available at Amazon

These socks have durable grips along the bottom for stability during pilates or lounging around the apartment. They’re especially great for the transition between working from home and working out from home. 

A mini massage gun

Theragun Mini

Theragun Mini, $199, available at Amazon

For quick pre- and post-workout muscle relief, the Theragun Mini is a handy, easy-to-use option that provides quite the punch in such a little package. This is Theragun’s most affordable model, so it’s a great starting point for anyone looking for their first massage gun.

Delicious and lean nutrition powder

Fitness gifts Huel

Huel Black Edition, from $75, available at Huel

If they’re not switching up their diet along with their workout regimen, all that cardio and weightlifting might just be going to waste. Encourage them to eat healthier with a single purchase or membership to Huel for delicious powder, which they can add to smoothies, harvest bowls, chia bowls, and more.

A machine-washable yoga mat

Fitness gifts Yogi Bare

Yogi Bare Teddy Yoga Mat, $69.95, available at Amazon

The Teddy Yoga Mat is our favorite washable yoga mat, and the machine-washable aspect is a true game-changer. In addition to easy cleaning, the Teddy is quite grippy, provides a soft surface for landing, and has a natural rubber bottom to avoid mid-workout slips.

A relaxed fit workout shirt

Fitness gifts Saxx

Saxx Aerator Workout Shirt, $50, available at Saxx

The Aerator is built for both high and low-intensity workouts, and its relaxed fit allows for a full range of motion regardless of their fitness routine. Plus, as the cold weather approaches, they can never have too many long sleeve workout shirts.

A colorful water bottle

FItness gifts Purist

Purist Maker Vacuum Water Bottle with Element Top, $40, available at REI

This insulated water bottle keeps their drink hot for up to 12 hours and cool for up to 24 hours while they work up a sweat, and the leakproof design means there are no stains or spills in their future. 

Wireless headphones

Fitness gifts Jabra

Jabra Elite Active 75t True Wireless In-Ear Headphones, $179.99, available at Best Buy

This pair of wireless earbuds are noise-canceling, water- and sweatproof, and are able to hold a 28-hour charge. Whether for working out or simply listening to music on the go, they’ll appreciate this addition to their day-to-day.

A sweat-wicking headband

Fitness gifts Treadbands

Treadbands All Terrain Headband, $17.99, available at Amazon

No one really thinks about fitness headbands — that is, until their hair starts getting into their eyes and mouth as they’re doing burpees. This non-slip style from Treadbands is an easy way to combat that annoyance, and it comes in a variety of lovely pastel and neutral colors.

Our best overall biker shorts

Athleta Shorts

Athleta Ultimate Stash Pocket Short, $59, available at Athleta

The versatility of Athleta’s Ultimate Stash Pocket bike short is what landed it the best overall slot in our buying guide, and they’re just as reliable while spinning or biking as they are while running or training. These shorts are highly comfortable and come with a few thoughtful features that make it one of our go-tos for breaking a sweat.

Versatile workout shorts

TenThousand

Ten Thousand Workout Shorts, from $58, available at Ten Thousand

Ten Thousand describes its workout shorts as “the only training shorts you’ll ever need,” and we agree. Ten Thousand’s fitness gear has been put to the test by various athletes and exercises worldwide, so you can be confident your gift will be durable and long-lasting. 

An upgraded jump rope

Get_Lean_Set

Crossrope Get Lean Set, $99, available at Crossrope

The Crossrope Get Lean Set elevates the average jump rope by including weighted ropes and ergonomic handles. Crossrope also has a companion app full of workout guidance, so it’s an especially useful gift if they’re looking to switch up their workout routine.

A smartwatch

Polar fitness watch - best fitness gifts

Polar Ignite fitness watch, from $229.95

A fitness watch is an excellent investment they’ll appreciate for years, and Polar’s Ignite is a great full-featured watch that’ll support them however they like to keep active.

It offers heart rate monitoring and integrated GPS, is water-resistant up to 30 meters, and even recommends daily workouts. The fact it’s comfortable and lightweight makes it the perfect workout companion, too. 

A health and fitness app subscription

Fitness gifts Centr

Centr App Subscription, from $10 per month, available at Centr

Centr was designed to be a one-stop-shop health and fitness app that’s made for nutrition, training, and overall lifestyle. They’ll be able to find meal prep and training materials from real coaches and dieticians right at their fingertips.

And lest we forget, this workout app and fitness plan come courtesy of Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor), so you know it’s expert-approved. 

A shaker bottle for easy protein drinks

Fitness gifts blender bottle

BlenderBottle Radian Insulated Stainless Steel Shaker Bottle, from $19.98, available at Amazon

If they make a protein shake after working out, they need a shaker bottle like this in their workout kit. The stainless steel whisk is great for mixing smooth drinks, and the copper shade is a style upgrade from the plastic one they’ve been using for years. 

Their own boxing gloves so they can stop renting sweaty ones at the gym

The best fitness gifts for all levels

Sanabul Boxing Gloves, from $21.48, available at Amazon

Sorry, but using boxing gloves that many, many other people have used before isn’t hygienic at all. Get your favorite boxer their own pair of gloves and choose from eight different colors for the one that matches their personal style best. If they’re looking to track their punches, we also recommend Hykso Wearable Punch Trackers.

A cult-favorite heavy bag

Fitness gifts Everlast

Everlast 40 lb. Heavy Bag, $54.99, available at Dick’s Sporting Goods

Everlast has a legacy in the fitness world for a reason, and its Heavy Bag lives up to the hype. The 40 lb. version is fit for lighter, more cardio-intensive workouts.

Additive-free protein powder

Fitness gifts Naked Whey

Naked Whey Protein Powder, from $21.99, available at Amazon

Insider Reviews chose Naked Whey as the best additive-free protein powder, most notably because whey protein is the only ingredient in the formula. If they’re looking for grass-fed, additive-free protein powder, they’re likely not going to find anything more “naked” than this.

Exercise resistance bands for arms

Fitness1

P.volve Exercise Bands, $29.99, available at Amazon

These resistance bands are great for at-home or on-the-go toning workouts. They’re lightweight so they’ll travel well, and because the stretchy bands are attached to fingerless gloves, they won’t dig into your skin like with the traditional ones that look more like giant rubber bands.

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The 5 best electric scooters of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Electric scooters are a convenient and fun way to commute to work or run errands around town.
  • The best electric scooters should have a reliably long battery range and travel at speeds of up to 20-plus mph.
  • Our top pick, the Ninebot KickScooter by Segway ES4, has a dual-battery design that gets up to 28 miles of range.

Electric scooters have gone from curious novelties to a bonafide form of transportation thanks to advancements in tech and the rise of e-scooter rental services like Lime and Bird.

And I can’t overlook the fact they’re just plain fun to ride.

But more people have also discovered that owning their own is incredibly convenient – I know I have. Whether it’s a quick jaunt to the store, a ride to a friend’s house, or just commuting from a distant parking lot to the office, there are numerous times when having an e-scooter has proved incredibly handy for me.

If you’ve been considering buying an electric scooter of your own, I highly recommend it. But the most important question to ask yourself before buying is what you plan to use it for – after that, there are plenty of models that stand out from the crowd. To help, I’ve compiled the following guide of the best electric scooters I’ve tested, perfect for a variety of people and use cases.

I’ve also included some insight into how to shop for an electric scooter, as well as how I tested each of the scooters featured in this guide.

Here are the best electric scooters of 2021:

How I test electric scooters

Each of the electric scooters in this guide went through a series of tests to determine how well they compared against these four categories: Range, portability, versatility, and value. Here’s how I specifically considered each category while testing:

Range: Most electric scooters are defined by the range they’re capable of delivering, and this is the top factor to consider. To test this, we compared the on-paper range to how it fared in real-world tests. Where range begins to take a hit on almost every model is when you start riding uphill or traveling at its top speed for extended periods of time (and we’ve noted in the review of each model where this was the most significant).

Portability: Being able to easily transport a scooter is a vital consideration for anyone living in an apartment building or someone who plans on commuting part of the way on a scooter. Portability means not just how much it weighs but whether it folds up and is easy to carry. 

Versatility: Versatility also means that a scooter can handle a wide range of uses, from fun rides to commuting to running errands. Judging a scooter’s versatility meant seeing if it was capable of operating outside of its typical use case (within a set of safe parameters, of course).

Value: Value is a combination of the three categories above and how it relates to what it actually costs. This can often mean that it’s better to spend a little more on a quality scooter designed to last and function properly, as opposed to spending less on something you’ll need to replace more often. 

The best electric scooter overall

Ninebot KickScooter by Segway ES4

For excellent all-around performance, including good range and speed, the Ninebot KickScooter by Segway ES4 is a great option for riders looking for a versatile, easy-to-use model.

Pros: Up to 28 miles of range on a single charge, features a dual-battery design, large wheels allow for very minimal offroad travel, speeds up to 18 mph

Cons: Long battery recharge time

The Ninebot KickScooter by Segway ES4 has been on the market for several years and yet, it remains one of the top all-around models. Not only does it offer a solid and accurate range of 28 miles on a single charge, it can also hit top speeds in excess of 18 mph.

That level of performance is due in part to its dual-battery design. Equipped with both a built-in and removable power cell, the ES4 provides good versatility when it comes to staying charged, too. 

The ES4‘s solid 8-inch wheels allow it to roll over large obstacles and provide a smooth ride on a variety of surfaces. Front and rear shock absorbers increase the level of comfort and help smooth out your commute. That’s especially important when zipping along at top speed, which tends to amplify every bump in the road. Fortunately, the ES4 offers a relaxing and fun ride across a variety of terrain.

Other nice features include a front-facing LED light, as well as user-customizable lights on the side and undercarriage to aid in visibility in lowlight conditions. A small, but easy to read, LCD screen displays current speeds and the battery’s charge level, while electric and mechanical braking systems allow for a good sense of control. This model even folds down nicely for easy transport and comes with IPX54 water resistance for use in poor weather conditions. 

Because the ES4 uses two batteries to keep it running at such a high level, it takes a little longer than some other models in this guide to recharge. It can take more than six hours to power this scooter up to its full capacity, which can require a bit of planning depending on your needs. The ES4 can function as a traditional kick scooter in a pinch, though. 

Although there are other options that cost less, few of them offer the same level of performance and convenience in such a well-designed package as the ES4.

The best budget electric scooter

Gotrax XR Ultra

The budget-friendly Gotrax XR Ultra electric scooter provides good speed and range, along with more than few unexpected features, without putting a major dent in your wallet. 

Pros: Inexpensive, weighs 27 pounds, sturdy tires, has both disc and electric brakes

Cons: Limited features

While the top end of the electric scooter market continues to push the envelope in terms of speed, range, and portability, many of those models remain too expensive for the general consumer. As with most products, however, the technology eventually trickles down to price points that are more palatable to the general public, delivering a lot of bang for the buck in the process. Such is the case with the Gotrax XR, a budget e-scooter that offers a level of performance that will meet most people’s needs, without making them feel buyer’s remorse afterward. 

The XR Ultra‘s top speed of 15.5 mph and a max range of 17 miles seems unimpressive when compared to other–more expensive—competitors. But its sub-$400 price tag makes this model a much more approachable option for those looking to dip their toe in the e-scooter waters. Put in other terms, this is the Toyota Camry of electric scooters. It is affordable, reliable, and offers good performance–just don’t compare it to a Mercedes S Class. 

One of the best elements of the XR Ultra is its very smooth and comfortable ride. This scooter glides along at a steady pace, its 8.5-inch inflatable tires rolling over most obstacles with ease. The XR’s folding frame and 27-pound weight should make it a favorite amongst budget-conscious commuters as well. In an effort to keep costs down, Gotrax didn’t including any kind of suspension, however, which means this model performs best on smooth, paved surfaces. 

That isn’t to say that the XR Ultra doesn’t have a good feature set. The scooter comes with both a disc and electric braking systems with regenerative properties. It also includes a bright LED headlight and an LCD screen that displays speed, distance, battery life, and a number of other items. An integrated kickstand is a nice touch, as is the IP54 water resistance rating too. 

While I think the Gotrax XR Ultra is the best budget e-scooter on the market, it should be noted that there are plenty of other models that are available at a lower price. With those other options, you’ll more than likely find yourself having to make compromises in terms of speed, range, and weight in order to save a little cash. The XR Ultra doesn’t have any of those glaring compromises, bridging the gap between a truly budget scooter and the more expensive higher-end quite nicely.

The best electric scooter for commuters

Xiamoi Mi Electric Scooter

Lightweight and capable of folding down to a surprisingly small size, the Xiaomi Mi M365 is an electric scooter built specifically with commuters in mind. 

Pros: Folds down for easy portability, weighs 27 pounds, comes standard with front and rear taillights

Cons: Only rated to carry riders up to 220 pounds

When selecting an e-scooter for use as a daily commuter, I want something that’s lightweight and easy to carry around, without compromising on performance. That’s exactly what I found in the Xiaomi Mi M365, which manages to provide 18.6 miles of range and a top speed of 15.5 mph while tipping the scales at a shade over 27 pounds. Add in a small battery charger and the ability to fold down to a smaller size and the M365 is easy to recommend to anyone who places an emphasis on portability. 

And don’t let that lightweight fool you, it still has plenty of features packed into its design. For instance, it comes with front and rear lights, wide shock-absorbing tires, and an LED indicator for battery life. It also has a regenerative braking system that feeds power back into the battery, as well as a companion app for customizing settings and tracking distance, speed, and other metrics.

This scooter even has a power-saving mode that helps extend the range by limiting the rate of acceleration and its top speed. Turning that mode on also makes the M365 more accommodating to beginners. 

It’s clear Xiaomi put a lot of thought into making the M365 easy to use. This is especially evident in its folding mechanism, which allows it to shrink down to a more compact size in under three seconds. I appreciate that simplicity when entering and exiting trains, climbing stairs, riding elevators, or even taking the M365 in and out of a car trunk. While folding e-scooters are hardly a rarity, the speed and fluidity at which this one operates is a great feature.

In order to achieve the M365‘s relatively low weight, Xiaomi used a minimalist design and a lightweight aluminum frame. Because of this, the scooter is only rated to carry riders weighing up to 220 pounds. The frame itself is plenty durable and can certainly support someone who exceeds that weight limit, but a heavier passenger cuts into performance, reducing both its range and speed.

Weight limit aside, the Xiaomi Mi M365 is in a class by itself when used as a daily commuter. Lightweight and easy to carry, it offers a good blend of range and speed and delivers a smooth ride.

The best electric scooter for performance

Outstorm Maxx Ultra High Speed Scooter

If you’re in the market for a fast scooter with long-range, the Outstorm Maxx Ultra-High-Speed is exactly what you’re looking for. 

Pros: Up to 52 miles of range and speeds to 56 mph, maximum weight capacity of 485 pounds, can ride on gravel, dirt trails, and in sand

Cons: Extremely heavy at 100 pounds

When moving up to the performance level of the e-scooter market, prices can increase substantially. While the models found at the top end of the scale are indeed fast and powerful, they can also cost several thousands of dollars. The Outstorm Maxx Ultra-High-Speed flirts with a $2000 price tag but ultimately delivers a lot of bang for the buck, striking an intriguing middle ground when it comes to performance and cost. 

So, what exactly does a performance scooter at this price point have to offer? In the case of the Maxx, it provides a top speed of 56 mph and a range of up to 52 miles. This is achieved thanks to its dual motors, which can produce as much as 3200 watts of power at their highest level of output. It also allows the scooter to carry a maximum weight of 485 pounds and ride not only on paved surfaces but also on dirt trails, gravel, and sand. The Maxx does well on hills too, powering up steep inclines without missing a beat. 

This scooter features three different speed modes and two power modes, which made it easy to find a good balance between speed and range. A digital readout prominently displays how fast the scooter is currently moving and shows battery life and distance traveled. A regenerative braking system helps feed energy back into the battery throughout the ride, while a bright LED headlight makes riding at night much safer as well. The Maxx also features a hydraulic shock system, 11-inch tires, durable running boards, and electronic cruise control. 

Of course, all the high-performance components used in the Maxx‘s construction come at the expense of weight. This model weighs in at a whopping 100 pounds, which means it isn’t an especially good choice for commuting. Yes, it can fold down to a smaller size for ease of storage, but that doesn’t make it any easier to lift or move around when the battery is dead. Thankfully, with its large 60V power cells, it doesn’t run out of juice all that often. 

In terms of performance scooters, the Outstorm Maxx Ultra High Speed is a relative bargain, offering plenty of speed and range in an attractive package. But it also provides a smooth, comfortable ride as well, both on and off-road. Because it falls into the pricier end of the market, it definitely isn’t a model for most people. Riders who are willing to pay the extra money will find that it more than delivers on its promise of exhilarating two-wheeled thrills.

The best electric scooter for kids

Razor E100 scooter

Built with kids in mind, the Razor E100 is stable, comfortable to ride, and easy to control, while managing to remain nimble and fun. 

Pros: Offers a stable ride perfect for kids to learn on, easy to maneuver, favors safety over performance

Cons: Limited long-term durability, 26-pound weight could be a lot for kids to carry, not many features

Razor has been designing scooters—both electric and kick models—for a variety of age groups for years. Over that time, the company has learned that the features that you look for in an adult model are quite different than those for kids. While speed and range are of the utmost importance to the former, safety and stability are the chief concerns for the latter. That design philosophy is evident with the E100, an e-scooter that is sure to delight younger riders. 

The E100 provides a top speed of 10 mph and offers a ride time of about 40 minutes between charges. Yes, the range of this model is measured in minutes rather than miles, which is another departure from the adult scooter market. Forty minutes of continous use is a fairly long time by kid standards, however, providing a reasonable amount of range before the battery runs dry. 

With its 8-inch pneumatic front tire, the E100 provides a nice, smooth ride. Coupled with the scooter’s rear-wheel-drive system, this shifts much of the weight to the back, enhancing stability and balance as a result. Hand brakes and a thumb throttle make learning to ride quick and easy too, making this a scooter even younger kids will feel comfortable on quite quickly. 

As with any product designed for kids, long-term durability is always in question. To alleviate those concerns, Razor used a steel frame in the construction of the E100, giving it a very solid feel overall. Those materials do end up adding some weight to the scooter, which tips the scales at 26 pounds. By adult e-scooter standards, that is quite svelte but younger kids may find the E100 unwieldy to lug around.  

Compared to most electric scooters designed for adults, the Razor E100 doesn’t have a lot of features and amenities. Still, thanks to its ease of use and uncomplicated design, kids will find this model a lot of fun to ride around. After all, their goal isn’t to commute to and from the office but to ride with friends and enjoy some time outdoors. For that, this is a wonderful choice.

How to shop for an electric scooter

As the electric scooter market has grown and diversified, there are now a number of categories that help to define it. The most obvious of those categories is whether or not a specific model is designed with kids or adults in mind.

Those made for the younger crowd tend to be smaller, less expensive, and slower. They often have less battery life as well, which translates to a shorter range. Conversely, adult scooters are built for, well, adults, and as such, they are larger, faster, and heavier. They also tend to be more expensive. 

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to choosing an electric scooter, price is one of the major defining factors. At the lower end, you’ll find budget models that come with less expensive components, smaller batteries, and slower top speeds. Mid-tier e-scooters typically fall into the commuter segment and offer a nice blend of range and speed, with prices reflecting those upgrades.

At the high-end of the market, you’ll find performance models that can potentially cost more than $1,000 but are also quicker, more nimble, and have a longer range than their competitors. 

Range

When shopping for an e-scooter of your own, there are some important specifications that you’ll want to keep in mind. Probably the most important of those specs is the range a scooter offers. Each scooter manufacturer offers an estimated range for a given model, which is defined as the distance it travels on a single charge. That distance is directly impacted by the size of the battery, the weight of the rider, and the surface type of surface that it is ridden on.

The outside temperature can also have an impact on the range, with colder temps drastically reducing the life of the battery. In real-world conditions, you can expect to ride anywhere from 10-40 miles before having to recharge.

Speed

Another defining characteristic of an e-scooter is its top speed. Its actual number varies greatly depending on the model and manufacturers will often boast of speeds in excess of 25 or even 30 mph, although in practice those numbers aren’t always accurate.

The size of the motor and battery, along with the weight of the rider, each have an impact on the level of performance. This results in many scooters cruising along in the 5-10 mph range, particularly when not riding on a flat, even surface. 

Still, shoppers are encouraged to consider the top speed of a model very carefully. A faster model may seem more fun, but it can be much more challenging to control. Quicker acceleration and more power can come in handy, particularly for commuters, but safety should be a primary concern as well.

Inexperienced riders are encouraged to choose slower, more stable options while still learning to ride. Additionally, faster scooters also tend to burn through their battery life more quickly, reducing range as result. 

Portability and weight

If you’re the kind of owner who plans to just keep your scooter in the garage and only ride it around the neighborhood, then portability probably isn’t something you’re all that concerned with.

Those who plan to use a scooter for commuting should pay close attention to its weight. Lugging it on and off the subway, or up and down several flights of stairs, can be quite a challenge, especially if your particular model wasn’t built with that in mind.

As with buying a bicycle, the components used in manufacturing an e-scooter have a direct impact on how much it weighs. Budget models tend to have smaller batteries and motors, which of course weigh less than their larger, more powerful counterparts. However, the other components found on these types of scooters often weigh quite a bit more, which keeps the price down but pushes the weight up.

More expensive models tend to have a more powerful drivetrain but are made from high-quality, lighter components. The result tends to be a scooter that costs more, performs better, and is easier to carry around. 

Some electric scooters that have been specifically designed with commuters in mind may even offer the option to collapse down to a smaller size for ease of transport. Scooters that fold up and can be stored in a carrying case or bag have become so common that they now fall into a category entirely of their own.

Usually, these types of scooters sacrifice some performance for improved portability, making them very compelling options for those placing a high value on convenience rather than speed or range.

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Insider Reviews’ All-Time Best: The top 100 products our team has ever tested

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

Here at Insider Reviews, we’ve tested a lot of products, from cheap knick-knacks that are surprisingly useful to big investment pieces you need to make your life more productive, comfortable, and enjoyable. Along the way, our team of experienced service journalists has discovered our all-time-favorite products, and we want to share them – all 100 – with you.

All-Time Best is our collection of can’t-miss products in the sea of everything you can buy online today. They’re the products we can’t live without, the ones that make our eyes light up and that we recommend to everyone we know IRL. Through tens of thousands of hours of testing, these products across the categories of tech, home, kitchen, style, beauty, outdoors, fitness, pets, and parenting stand out as the best of the best.

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The 5 best Fitbit trackers and smartwatches of 2021 to improve your health and fitness

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • All of Fitbit’s wearables track steps, calories burned, workouts, and sleep patterns, often automatically.
  • We compared every current Fitbit to find the best in the lineup, from its smartwatches to its basic trackers.
  • Our top pick, the Versa 3, has all the smartwatch basics plus built-in GPS, a huge display, and long battery life.

A fitness tracker or smartwatch is an incredible tool to help you pay more attention to patterns in your health, get serious about fitness training, or even just increase your daily step count.

One of the brands at the forefront of the industry is Fitbit, a company whose wearables track everything from daily steps and workout pace, to sleep patterns and stress levels. A Fitbit helps you better understand when to push yourself in a workout, when to take a moment to decompress, or when the fatigue or irritability you feel is from poor sleep.

As an avid runner, personal trainer, and fitness journalist, I’ve tested more fitness trackers than I can count, even before they became a staple on people’s wrists. My first tracker, the Fitbit Flex, would light up with a few red dots to notify me I’d hit my daily step goal. This was revolutionary information at the time and I loved it.

Fitbit’s lineup of trackers looks far different today, chock-full of innovative trackers and smartwatches meant for a variety of people. To narrow down the best, I decided to test every Fitbit available. I used them on runs, hikes, running errands around town, and even while sleeping to compile those best fit for any lifestyle.

I’ve also included insight into how to shop for a Fitbit, as well as the testing methodology I used. If you’re deciding which Fitbit is best, here’s a quick breakdown of the most mainstream contenders:

Fitbit Versa 3

Fitbit Versa 2

Fitbit Inspire 2

Our review

Best overall

Best budget smartwatch

Best for the basics

Average price

$230

$180

$100

Battery Life

6 days

6 days

10 days

Features

  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 20 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in music storage
  • Large display for mindful minutes
  • Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant connection
  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 15 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m
  • Large display for mindful minutes
  • Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant connection
  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 20 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m

Drawbacks

  • Watchband can stick
  • Phone sync can take time
  • No built-in GPS or music storage
  • Slightly less modern display compared to Versa 3
  • No built-in GPS or music storage
  • Smaller screen

If you still have questions, check out my more in-depth reviews below, along with a few other options for different needs.

Which is the best Fitbit to buy?

The best Fitbit overall

Fitbit Versa

With automatic activity tracking and a huge screen, the Versa 3 has nearly all the perks of the Fitbit line at a not-totally-absurd price point plus a stylish design. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water-resistant up to 50 meters, oxygen saturation reading, mindful minutes, battery life

Cons: Occasionally uncomfortable, sometimes needs to be manually synced

The Versa 3 stands out for its bright, colorful face and big display that clearly shows any stats. There are a lot of pros to this watch:

During a run or bike ride, the large display is especially great for quick glances at your pace in real time as you move. You can also easily check other stats — total time, average pace, heart rate zones — just by tapping the watch face, even mid-activity. The device buzzes to let you know when you’ve switched between fat burn, cardio, or peak zones. 

In the Fitbit app, you can see the complete overview of your cardio numbers, including time spent in those various heart rate zones, active zone minutes, average, minimum, and maximum heart rate, calories burned, and steps taken. With all this data, the Fitbit also determines your VO2max, the top marker of fitness level.

The Versa 3 has built-in GPS, so you can also go for a run or walk without your phone, which I particularly love to unplug and focus on your steps without losing the data behind how many I got in today.

The Versa 3 also has automatic activity tracking, which is such a nice feature when you forget to hit start on your runs. In addition to straight cardio workouts, you also have easy shortcuts to tracking Bootcamp, Pilates, yoga, circuit training, and weight workouts. 

The sleep tracking on the Versa 3 also stands out among other devices in the line, as it reveals your time awake, in REM, deep sleep, and light sleep, plus the percent of the time you spend below resting heart rate (aka “restoration”). All these stats lead to an overall sleep score that makes it easy to see the quality of your sleep.

You also get health-promoting tips based on sleep and activity, like when the watch told me I spend more minutes in deep sleep on days my step count hits more than 11,000 (fascinating!).

The final thing worth mentioning about Fitbit, in general, is the Relax app. This comes on each watch, but it’s best on the Versa 3 because you just have to press play and it gives you a pretty visual of the Versa’s large screen. You then just follow along for deep inhales and exhales. You can check the mindfulness tap on the Fitbit phone app to see what your starting and ending heart rate is, as well as log how you’re feeling from very calm to very stressed.

The Versa 3 (as well as the Sense) will connect to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to help you check off errands or set reminders, without your computer or phone. You can even pay through the watch.

Lastly, you can control music from Spotify, Pandora, or Deezer, and even answer calls right on the watch face. If you have an Android, you can send voice-to-text responses, too. 

The only big downfall to the Versa (and the Sense) is that sometimes the watchband stuck to my skin — especially at night or when I didn’t dry it off after a workout. I do have sensitive skin, but it left a mark at one point, which went away quickly.

Also, because I close all the apps on my phone pretty often, sometimes I’d need to manually sync the watch to the phone app to see my full list of stats. This sometimes took longer than I wanted it to, especially after software updates.

Lastly, this is certainly not the cheapest watch on our list, but it still comes in below competitor models like the Apple Watch.

The best Fitbit for monitoring health

Fitbit Sense

The Sense smartwatch has a ton of added features, focusing on heart health and stress management, giving you a more holistic look at your well-being. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water-resistant up to 50 meters, oxygen saturation reading, mindful minutes, EDA scan, ECG readings, stress management score

Cons: Expensive

The Sense offers a more complete picture of your health, tracking not just your physical activity but also your mental state. 

For starters, the Sense offers automatic exercise and sleep tracking, and the stats that come with those readings. 

More excitingly, this smartwatch offers electrodermal activity (EDA) readings. This is a measurement of tiny electrical changes on the skin which is meant to indicate your stress levels. To get a reading, you open the EDA scan app on the watch, hold your palm on the screen, and then do a mindfulness session as it reads your EDA. After, the watch will tell you how many EDA responses it calculated (fewer means you were calm), plus your starting and ending heart rate. It gives you an option to log how you’re feeling (calm or stressed), too. 

Using those EDA readings, heart rate data, sleep patterns, and your exercise for the day, the Sense will also give you a stress management score. I was surprised by how low my score was when I actually felt stressed, but I chalk that up to a balance of physical activity and a healthy amount of sleep. 

Lastly, the Sense also reads your blood oxygen levels at night and can act as an electrocardiogram (ECG) reader with the accompanying app. This means with the touch of the screen, the watch analyzes your heart rate and looks for atrial fibrillation (or AFib, which shows an irregular heart contraction and can signal a major health issue).  

The less flashy but super-useful features including the ability to answer calls via Bluetooth, sync your calendar, pair the watch with Alexa or Google Assistant, and pay through your watch.

To get all these features, you do have to pay a rather hefty price, and it can take some time to add things like EDA scanning to your regular health routine. But if you’re trying to seriously clean up your overall health or want accountability to stay on track, the Sense’s many features are worth the price.

The best Fitbit for tracking fitness

Fitbit Charge 4

The Charge 4 hits a budget-friendly price point while offering stellar activity tracking in a smaller footprint than a smartwatch. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water-resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, slim design, long battery life

Cons: Black-and-white display, smaller screen, no music storage

If you want a tracker to record your workouts and daily movement with a few nice-to-haves, but you don’t care about fancy features like a big, colorful screen; answering calls via your watch, or connecting with Alexa or Google Assistant, then the Charge 4 is your match. 

This tracker records and displays you all the stats you want from your workout: current and average exercise pace, distance, heart rate zones, total time, steps taken, and calories burned. Within the Fitbit app, you can also see a map of your run, complete with intensity zones showing where your heart rate climbed highest and dipped lowest. 

The Charge 4 has built-in GPS, so you can run without your smartphone if you want your hands free or the battery is low, which is rarer for a tracker this small.

You also still have the option to sync your calendar and get alerts on events, plus you can read text messages and see when you’re getting calls. The Charge 4 also comes with access to the Relax app for two minutes of deep breathing with dots to follow for each inhale and exhale instead of a video. This device also has Fitbit’s in-depth sleep tracking.

The battery life on the Charge 4 is longer than either Versas or the Sense. The design is smaller and takes up less space around your wrist, which is nice for more petite people. 

However, that also makes the screen smaller for reading and navigating, which can be a huge drawback for some. 

The best budget Fitbit tracker

Gift for friend Fitbit Inspire 2

If you want a straightforward activity tracker to tell you how much you’ve moved today and how good of a workout you got, the Inspire 2 offers the best of Fitbit’s basic features at under $100.

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, water-resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, slim design, battery life

Cons: No built-in GPS, smaller screen

This mini-sized watch has the best of Fitbit’s signature features, including automatic sleep and activity tracking, constant heart rate tracking, and mindfulness encouragement via the Relax app. Better yet, it has the longest battery life of all the Fitbits — and it’s under $100. 

You can also get smartphone notifications like calendar alerts, texts, and calls on the Inspire 2 (though you can’t answer your phone directly on the watch).

The slim design is nice for people who aren’t used to something on their wrist, and the minimalist display, while small and harder to read for some people, makes it easy to see what’s important without being inundated with stats and info.

The biggest downfall is that you need your phone every time you head out for a walk or run in order to track mileage and other stats. But that’s not even a huge concession for most people.

The best budget Fitbit smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 2

If you want the big screen of the Versa 3 and the Sense but don’t need to answer calls from your watch or have a built-in GPS, the Versa 2 is a fabulous option to save a little money ($50).

Pros: Cheaper than the Versa 3 or Sense, automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, water-resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, long battery life

Cons: no built-in GPS, music storage only works with Deezer and Pandora’s premium service

The Versa 2 has the big, bright screen of Fitbit’s leading smartwatch models (i.g., Versa 3 and Sense), albeit with a little less modern-looking display (though the clock face and straps are all customizable).

It automatically tracks activity and sleep, offers a sleep score, has 24/7 heart rate tracking, and offers guided breathing exercises. It displays real-time pace and distance when you’re on the move. The Versa 2 has 15 exercise modes to record, which is 5 less than the newer models, but still includes all the biggies like running, biking, hiking, swimming, weights, and Bootcamp. 

You can connect the watch to Amazon Alexa and control music via apps like Spotify. You also get phone notifications like texts and calls (you can’t answer calls through the watch, though you can use voice replies to texts) and can pay with the watch.

The major thing you’re giving up by opting for the older model is built-in GPS. That means you’ll need your phone with you when you go out for a run, walk, bike ride, or hike. But realistically, most of us take our phones with us running for safety or communication, so this might not be as big of a deal-breaker as it sounds. Plus, built-in GPS drains your battery faster, so you’ll score a longer battery life.

What we’re looking forward to testing

Fitbit Luxe: Fitbit recently announced a new fashion-forward fitness tracker to its lineup, the Luxe. The device is about the size of the Charge 4, but with sleek metal finishes and luxe wrist bands, and the more advanced features of the Versa 3. The device is currently on pre-order and will ship this spring. Our tech team will be testing the device, so check back for updates on how it compares to its predecessors.

How to shop for a Fitbit

Fitbit was one of the first brands in the fitness tracking space when it came out with its step counter. Since then, its devices have evolved with the needs of its customer base, allowing it to maintain one of the top spots in a growing market of fitness trackers and smartwatches. There are good options from other brands like Suunto, Apple, and Garmin but Fitbit continues to deliver high-quality products that excel in a few key areas:

User-friendly features

Ease-of-use is everything when it comes to any technology, but especially a device you intend to use every day. Fitbit’s found success as a brand thanks to its easy-to-use interfaces and superior activity and sleep tracking. 

What makes Fitbit such a successful brand — and one worth the money — is that all its devices, no matter the price point or type (tracker versus smartwatch), come with all the foundational features you want in a health and fitness tracker. This includes the ability to automatically track sleep and activity, which is the best thing about the brand, in my opinion.

Then, all the models track pace, distance, and calories burned during your workouts, and calculate your heart rate training zones, including fat burn, cardio, and peak. For sleep, you not only get the total hours you slept, but the time you spent in deep and REM sleep, plus the percentage of time you spent below your resting heart rate. 

With some models, these stats are easier to access than others — namely, the Sense, Versa 2, and Versa and 3 because their larger screens are easier to read at a glance. But even with the smaller, more narrow faces of the Charge 4, the numbers are very large which is really nice to have. The Inspire 2 is definitely the hardest to glace stats quickly off of.

The Fitbit app itself, accessed via your phone, is easy to navigate and clearly displays steps, miles, active zone minutes, daily calorie burn, mindfulness days, exercise, and activity per hour. It also reminders you to take 250 steps per hour. Additionally, you can track your menstrual cycle, food and water intake, and weight (though these require more manual entries). 

Easy-access add-on features

Fitbit now also offers a Premium membership, through which you get access to guided meditations, video workouts, goal setting and challenges, and more in-depth health insights, particularly for your blood oxygen level readings, heart rate variability, and breathing rate. 

All of these features are accessed through the Fitbit app, so this is mostly just a plus for Fitbit as a brand. However, most of the new Fitbit devices come with a complimentary free trial, after which it’s $10/month or $80/year, and the upgrade unlocks special features for some devices. The Sense, for example, includes a six-month free trial of Premium, which also offers special mindfulness and mediation features through the watch’s special electrodermal activity sensor. The Inspire 2 comes with a year-long free trial. The Versa 3, Versa 2, and Charge 4 all come with a 3-month free trial.

Superior battery life

Each Fitbit in the line has top-notch battery life, lasting days even with auto-activity and auto-sleep tracking turned on, so you don’t have to worry about charging it every night. 

Officially, the battery for all Fitbits featured lasts from six days up to 10 days, depending on the device and your usage. In my experience, the Versa 2, Versa 3, and Sense last an average of six days on one charge, the Charge 4 for seven days, and the Inspire 2 a whopping 10 days.

Versatile customization options

For starters, there are the devices themselves: The Fitbit line is a range of smartwatches and other wearables, all with different features and price points, so you can choose the one that best fits your style and health goals. 

Then, Fitbit offers plenty of options to customize the look of your device. Each watch or tracker comes with a basic band, but all have different colors and material bands you can purchase for customization, from stainless steel mesh for a professional look to expressive prints to more breathable sports bands. The only watch on our list that doesn’t offer a sport-specific band is the Inspire 2.

You can also customize the watch faces, both for aesthetics and readability, and to personalize shortcuts on the devices and what’s displayed on the main app page. The Sense and Versa 3 have the most options for watch faces; you can even download third-party designs or use your own photos, which you can’t do with the other models.

How I test Fitbits

Several FitBits on Orange Background - FitBit Deals Amazon Prime Day 2021

In addition to testing past iterations of Fitbit trackers and smartwatches when they were launched, I tested each on the list below for several days (some weeks, even) wearing them 24/7 in most cases. I wore each during different types of workouts, from runs and walks to strength sets and yoga. I also wore the trackers to bed and for mindfulness sessions. Here are the key features I looked for when testing:

Workout tracking

To successfully record stats during a workout and easily check these as you go, it’s important that a watch clearly displays numbers, and quickly and continuously connects to the GPS, particularly if it’s built into the watch. I judged the trackers and watches on whether I could easily see my current pace, distance, and time, and if I had quick access to see other metrics like average pace and heart rate. 

Additionally, I ran another fitness tracking app on my phone to test the accuracy of the watch’s distance and pace. For every Fitbit featured, the numbers were always relatively close (and within the normal range you’d find if you compared almost any other fitness tracker). 

Because Fitbit offers automatic tracking, I also did a few workouts without manually pressing the start button to confirm that it picked up my movement, which it almost always did. 

Tracking and comfort while sleeping

I wore each of these watches and trackers to bed to test the automatic sleep tracking. I checked these stats in the morning to make sure it recorded my time in bed and wake-up times throughout the night. I also wore the devices when occasionally taking naps throughout the day, which they also picked up on. 

The devices needed to be comfortable enough to wear all night in order to get those stats, too. While the bands occasionally stuck to my skin if I got sweaty at night, it never disturbed my sleep — I only ever noticed this after waking up. 

Battery life

I tested the battery life of each Fitbit by charging it to 100% battery and wearing it through workouts, nights of sleep, and throughout the day to see how long each would last. They all surprised me, too — the life lasted even after several workouts, including those using the built-in GPS (which typically drains batteries quickly). The Inspire 2 was the most impressive for battery life. 

App usability

One huge perk of Fitbit is the built-in stress-reducing apps, so how easy these were to use was a key part of testing. I tried Fitbit’s mindfulness program, the Relax app, on all devices, and the EDA scan app on the Sense, which contributes to stress management numbers. I looked for ease of use, visuals, and the stats provided after recording a mindfulness session, like changes in heart rate. 

The best deals on Fitbits from this guide

Depending on the model, you can get pretty lucky when Fitbit deal searching. The Sense, Charge 4, and Inspire 2, for instance, see regular price drops throughout the year, discounting them by up to $50. We also see a ton of all-time lows during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, like the Charge 4 available for only $120. 

To track your steps and exercise — and to help keep your budget on track, too — we rounded up the best deals you can take advantage of. Below, find sales on models like the Versa 3, Sense, and Charge 4. Here are the best deals we found.

Here are the best Fitbit smartwatch and tracker deals available now.

Charge 4 (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Sense (medium, Preferred: Amazon)

Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best spin shoes for Peloton and other studio bikes

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

To narrow down what’s best, I did two things: Rode hundreds of miles worth of spin classes and consulted with two experts on what makes a quality shoe. The experts were NASM-certified personal trainer and spin instructor, Nicky Swierszcz, who spoke on fit, sizing, cleat styles, and shoe designs, and Dr. Ryan Minara, D.P.M., Chief of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, and former Podiatry Captain for the New York City Triathlon.

My actual on-bike testing comprised 11 total pairs of cycling shoes with the goal being to find a pair capable of providing a supportive and comfortable ride in both an at-home and in-studio spin setting – and I’ve compiled my four favorites below.

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

Here are the best spin shoes of 2021:

How I test spin shoes

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

Here’s everything I considered while testing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best spin shoes overall with BOA

Giro Cadet Shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giro Cadet Men’s: 

Cadet (Men’s) (button)

Giro Cadet Women’s:

The best spin shoes overall with Velcro

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Men’s:

Quest Studio Shoe (Men’s) (button)

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Women’s: 

The best budget spin shoes with BOA

Specialized Torch 1.0 cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget spin shoes with Velcro

Shimano RP1 cycling shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else I tested

Cycling shoes - what else we tested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A note on gendered shoes

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

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

How should spin shoes fit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOA vs. Velcro

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

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

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

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

Look Delta cleats vs. SPD cleats

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

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

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

SPD Cleat Set (small)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found “the time period with the largest frequency of pedalcyclist fatalities overall is 6 pm to 8:59 pm (21%), followed by 9 pm to 11:59 pm (17%).” Although the study was conducted year-round (meaning it likely wasn’t always entirely dark around 6 pm), those numbers still paint a stark picture and suggest visibility was one of the main factors.

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

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

Here are the best bike lights of 2021:

The best bike light overall

Cygolite bike light

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget bike light

Malker budget bike light

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best easy install bike light

Obsidian bike light

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

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best bike light for trail riding

NiteRider mountain bike light

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

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

The best solar-powered bike light

Solar-powered bike light

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

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

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

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

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

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

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

The best rear bike light

Rear-facing bike light

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

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

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

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

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

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

The best waterproof bike light

Waterproof bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

How we test bike lights

Best Bike Lights Pattern 4x3

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

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

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

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

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

FAQs

How many lumens do I need for my bike light?

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

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

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


Are bike lights waterproof?

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

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


Do you need a light on your bike at night?

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

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


How far should a bike light shine?

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

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


How else can I improve visibility while riding?

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

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The 5 best vegan protein powders that actually taste good

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

Here are the best vegan protein powders:

The best vegan protein powder overall

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

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

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

Cons: Expensive, flavored varieties contains some additives

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

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

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

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

The best tasting vegan protein powder

Aloha Organic Protein Powder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best vegan protein powder for athletes

Vega Sport 2

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

The best vegan protein powder for a meal replacement

GardenofLife1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best vegan protein powder for weight loss

Isopure protein

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

Pros: Low-calorie, tasty flavor offerings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A dietitian’s warning

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

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

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

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The best whey protein powders


The best natural protein powders


The best blender bottles


The best vegan protein bars


The best vegan meat and fish substitutes

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The 5 best bathroom scales for weighing yourself in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bathroom scales can be helpful for those trying to achieve certain health or fitness goals.
  • It should be highly accurate, reliable, and have good value-for-cost.
  • Our top pick, the Amazfit Smart Scale, was one of the most accurate and consistent scales we tested.

Weight doesn’t equal health, and the average person is best off not weighing themselves regularly for a healthy mental state, says Laura Iu, RD, a New York-based nutritionist who specializes in intuitive eating and disordered eating recovery.

But some people do need to take note of their weight – namely, older adults who need to avoid unintentionally dropping pounds or those under specific directives from their doctors to monitor it for medical conditions. Other groups, like athletes and bodybuilders, may need or just want to track their weight for professional reasons, as well.

If you are in the market for a scale, it’s highly important to invest in one that’s accurate. For this guide, I tested several models head-to-head for accuracy and reliability. I also dive deep into what to look for when shopping for a bathroom scale, as well as the other models I considered and answers to common FAQs.

Here are the best bathroom scales:

How I tested for the best scale

To test the accuracy and reliability of each scale, I weighed myself using each device and recorded each reading, then reset the scales and weighed myself again. I noted which scales produced dramatically different results between the two trials. I then calculated the standard deviation of the data set to identify statistically significant outliers.

I also weighed a standard 10-pound barbell plate on all but one of the scales (the Amazfit would not produce a reading for an inanimate object) as an additional accuracy test.

Scale Accuracy Test

Scale Tester bodyweight – Test 1 Tester bodyweight – Test 2 Standardized 10lb weight
Amazfit Smart Scale 112.9 112.8 unable to read
FitTrack Dara Smart Scale 113.1 112.7 10.1
Renpho Smart Scale 114 112.8 10.2
Eufy Smart Scale C1 113.7 112.6 10.1
Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale 112.7 112.7 10.3
EatSmart Products Digital Bathroom Scale 114 113 10.4
Ozeri Precision Bath Scale 114.7 113 10

While using each scale I also paid attention to the user experience, noting how simple and intuitive each device was to use, as well as any issues a customer might want to know about.

I also tested the accuracy of two smart scales. The experts I spoke with for this piece warned that smart scales’ report of anything other than pounds is unreliable, so it was unsurprising that the two gave me with wildly different readings. While they tested accurately for actual weight (see chart above), I can’t claim either to be accurate for smart readings.

Dara vs AmazFit

  Body fat Muscle mass Water Bone mass Basal Metabolic rate (BMR) Protein rate Visceral fat index
Dara 20.2% 43.2 lbs 54.8% 5.5lbs 1253 kcal 19.4% 2
Amazfit 29.3% 77.6 lbs 50.2% 4.61 lbs 1176 kcal 12.3% 3

The best scale overall

AmazFit Smart Scale
The Amazfit Smart Scale is our top pick for best scale since it’s accurate, consistent, and well-priced.

The Amazfit Smart Scale offers accuracy, consistency, and smart features at a fair price.

Pros: Accurate and reliable, attractive design, easy to use, larger surface area, under $50

Cons: Smart features are generally overrated, some kinks in its corresponding app

Our tests found the Amazfit to be one of the most accurate and consistent scales in our consideration. What’s more, no other scale we tried offered both high accuracy and smart features, particularly at this price point. Additionally, its platform is relatively large, making it comfortable to use for those with bigger feet, and its subtle gradient design makes it an attractive bathroom fixture.

Though the accuracy of “smart” scales overall is strongly doubted by experts (see FAQs), users may still be curious to see additional body metrics like heart rate and body fat percentage. Those two stats appear on the display after your weight reading, and you can use the corresponding app — now called Zepp  — to see other details and store your data. Otherwise, the app is only necessary if you want to change the units of measurement from kilograms to pounds.

The app itself, which syncs with the scale via Bluetooth, has a few small issues (mostly pertaining to incomplete translation from Japanese to English) but overall is intuitive, user-friendly, and provides detailed explanations of each metric it provides.

The best scale on a budget

Etekcity digital scale
The Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale is the best cheap scale as it’s still accurate with no frills.

The Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale is an accurate, no-fuss scale at a low price.

Pros: Accuracy, reliability, price

Cons: 400-pound limit

If you’re looking for a simple, trustworthy bathroom scale just to weigh yourself, the Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale has you covered. At just $20, the Etekcity beat out other budget-friendly options in our trials for accuracy and reliability. 

It displays your weight to the second decimal place, the LCD screen is bright and easy to read, and the scale itself feels sturdy and comfortable on which to stand. It’s little wonder this scale is a time-tested hit with Amazon reviewers as well as our reviewers.

The best smart scale

FitTrack Dara scale
The smart scale, FitTrack Daram uses an intuitive phone app to give you a detailed body profile.

The FitTrack Dara scale pairs with a slick phone app to give you a detailed body profile.

Pros: Highly accurate weight readings, easy to use, user-friendly app

Cons: Smart features are generally overrated, expensive, smaller platform

The FitTrack Dara is a sleek device that feels high-tech and easy to use. It works as a basic bodyweight scale of course, and our trials found it to be accurate and reliable. The scale itself only displays a weight reading, but many more metrics are included in the smartphone app, which syncs with the scale via Bluetooth. 

Experts warn to be wary of smart scales in general as it’s not actually possible to accurately measure body fat percentage, hydration, muscle mass, and other traits with this kind of device — it merely provides an estimate based on the other physical data you input like age and height. Regardless, we liked using this scale and its corresponding app, which automatically keeps a record of your weight and other metrics with a clean, user-friendly interface that is easy to use and intuitive to understand.

The best scale for the visually impaired

Taylor Electronics talking bathroom scale
The Taylor Talking Bathroom Scale is the best scale for seniors as it’s sturdy, reasonably priced, and reads the weight aloud.

The Taylor Talking Bathroom Scale is sturdy, reasonably priced, and reads the weight aloud.

Pros: Audible reading, sturdy, simple to use

Cons: Reliability in question

For those with visual impairments, a display-only scale is inconvenient at best and fully unusable at worst, hence the creation of talking scales to give audible readings. Additionally, typical small bathroom scales can be too unsteady for people with balance or mobility issues.

This Taylor Talking Bathroom Scale is well-rated on Amazon by folks with visual impairments: In addition to its LCD display, an automated voice reads the measurement aloud in five different languages (English, Spanish, Greek, German, and Croatian). It’s also made of glass and stainless steel, so its weight makes it sturdy, ideal for those with balance issues. Additionally, its design is simple and easy to use.

Some users do report reduced accuracy as the product ages, though we were not able to test this one ourselves. Still, at $38, it’s still good value for all of its accessible features.

The best high-weight capacity scale

MyWeigh XL550
The MyWeigh XL-550 can hold up to 550 pounds and still measure accurately and reliably.

The MyWeigh XL-550 is reliable, accurate, and is designed to measure and hold up to 550 pounds.

Pros: Accommodates bodies up to 550 lbs, wide platform

Cons: Expensive, limited availability

Most scales on the market max out around 300 or 400 pounds and tend to have accuracy issues for folks weighing 250lbs or more. But the MyWeigh XL-550 is designed for large bodies, able to accommodate up to 550 lbs in weight. It has a large, sturdy platform — 14.7″ x 12.5″ — to comfortably accommodate people with wide stances. The scale talks (in four languages) to tell users when it’s ready and what their reading is, though this feature is optional and can be turned off. 

Note that if you need a larger platform or higher weight capacity, the same brand makes the XL700, which has a  20″ x 12″ platform and theoretically reads higher weights more accurately (up to 700 pounds); however, it’s much harder to get a hold of and costs over $100. For this reason, we recommend the XL-550 for the vast majority of people as it’s well-reviewed across the board by consumers and professionals alike.

What to look for in a bathroom scale

Accuracy and reliability are the two main factors you want in a bathroom scale, no matter the type. A trustworthy scale will give you correct and consistent readings that accurately reflect changes in your body, and you won’t be misled by too-high or too-low readings. Since there’s no way of knowing from the box whether or not a scale is as accurate as it claims to be, we recommend one of the scales we’ve tested for accuracy.

Smart scales are all the rage, telling users not only their weight but also their body fat percentage and other metrics. Experts warn, however, that these readings are gross estimations and may be much higher or lower than the reality. They determine your body fat, muscle mass, and BMR by calculating off your body weight and height, not measuring your actual fat and muscle masses. (Case in point, the Dara and Amazfit gave me two completely different body composition profiles.) 

Therefore, it may not be worth it for the average shopper to dole out top dollar for these extra features, but curious-minded folks might enjoy seeing the estimations anyway. 

When evaluating products, value-for-cost is always a factor. There are scales available at every price point, starting at under $20 and going up to over $100. You want the price you’re paying to justify the features promised, and be comparable to similarly-priced competing products in terms of accuracy, reliability, and usability. 

Lastly, consider what specific traits you might need, personally, in a bathroom scale. Talking scales, which read the measurement aloud, may be helpful for people who are blind or visually impaired. For folks in large bodies, you’ll want a scale with a higher weight capacity and potentially a larger platform to accommodate a wider stance.

What else I considered

What else we recommend

  • Renpho Smart Scale ($28): The Renpho was slightly less accurate than some of the other scales we tried, but it’s a hit with Amazon reviewers, boasting over 160,000 ratings and a 4.5-star average. 
  • EatSmart Digital Bathroom Scale ($25): The EatSmart had some consistency issues in our trial, but it’s sturdy, attractive, and competitively priced.
  • Weight Guru Bluetooth smart scale ($50): We weren’t able to include this scale in our trials, but it’s very highly rated by both Amazon reviewers and our own. Some have reported issues with accommodating large bodies even when well under the weight capacity, but overall users rave about this scale and its Bluetooth integration with smartphones and FitBits.

What we don’t recommend

  • Eufy C1 Smart Scale ($28): Our trials found this scale to be less consistent than the others, though not dramatically — it fluctuated just over one pound between readings.
  • Ozeri Precision Bath Scale ($13): The Ozeri is a temptingly low price, but our tests and numerous customer reviews determined that the Ozeri was somewhat inconsistent in its readings.
  • MyWeigh XL-550 Talking Scale ($50): If you need a scale that can accommodate heavier bodies with wider stances, but doesn’t need the full capacity of the XL700, this MyWeigh model has a capacity of 550 lbs and a larger-than-average platform on which to stand. Not to mention, it’s about half the price.

What we’re looking forward to trying

  • Withings Body Cardio Premium Wi-Fi Smart Scale ($120): This scale is already on the market, but Withings recently announced a new feature called “Vascular Age,” which examines your heart health relative to your chronological age to determine your relative vascular health. Like other “smart” metrics, we’re approaching this one cautiously, but it did spark our curiosity. 

FAQs

When is the best time to weigh myself?

Family medicine physician Dr. Abisola Olulade, who is based in San Diego, recommended that you weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything for the most accurate evaluation.


How accurate are scales, in general?

Even though research shows both personal and medical-grade scales can be quite imprecise, most people weighing themselves don’t really need down-to-the-ounce precision so much as a general idea of how their bodies are changing. In other words: They’re good enough. Dr. Olulade advises using one scale consistently — even if it’s not the most accurate device, you’ll be better able to track changes using a single controlled device.


Do smart scales really work?

Sort of, but they’re not as precise as you might hope. The only way to get a truly accurate picture of body composition is with an air displacement chamber or MRI, which are expensive and generally only used by specialists and researchers.

Smart scales estimate body composition by sending a weak electrical current up into your body and measuring the resistance with which it’s met. This result is compared to other info your scale already has about you, such as age and gender, to come up with a body composition estimate. In one Consumer Reports trial, even the most accurate smart scales were found to be off by up to 21% in body fat percentage readings.

Despite inaccuracies, some shoppers might want to see those estimations just for fun or out of curiosity. Smart scales are safe to use, so recreational use is fine — just don’t plan to use it as a serious health management tool.

Expert sources

Laura Iu, RD, CDN, CNSC, RYT is a registered dietitian, nutrition therapist, and certified intuitive eating counselor who practices privately in New York City. Iu has worked in hospitals including NYU Langone and Mount Sinai, and is affiliated with The Greater New York Dietetic Association, The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, and The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH).

Abisola Olulade, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego. She is also affiliated with Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center in North Carolina.

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The 6 best treadmills of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best treadmills 0f 2021

How I test treadmills

At home gym equipment 4x3

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

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

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

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

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

The best treadmill overall

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best smart treadmill

2950Nordic

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget treadmill

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best upright folding treadmill

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best compact treadmill

Cubii1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best treadmill for quiet workouts

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What treadmills I’m testing next

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

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

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

FAQs

What types of treadmills are there?

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

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

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

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

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

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


What are some key treadmill features?

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

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

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


Are there different size treadmill belts?

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

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

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


Are treadmills safe?

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

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


Do treadmills have a weight limit? 

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

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The 5 best wetsuits of 2021 for surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Wetsuits protect you from cold water, allowing you to surf, swim, or dive longer than if you didn’t wear one.
  • Choosing a wetsuit depends on how you’ll use it as surfers have different needs than kayakers, for instance.
  • Our top pick, O’Neill’s Psycho Tech, features water-resistant neoprene, durable stitching, and a comfortable fit.

For anyone who doesn’t live in the tropics, wearing a wetsuit while surfing is a necessity. Paddling out to a break with water temperatures below 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit without a generous helping of rubber ranges from slightly uncomfortable to downright deadly. But wear the right wetsuit and you’ll quickly forget all about the hypothermia-inducing water temp (for the most part).

Surfing isn’t the only water sport one might wear a wetsuit for, however. Paddleboarders, kayakers, and divers, among others, also don neoprene getups to keep cold water from cutting their outings short – but not every wetsuit is a jack-of-all-trades type of suit. What one person might need for kayaking might be too cumbersome or ill-fitting for a surfer.

To help anyone shopping for a new suit, I’ve field-tested a number of wetsuits from top brands like O’Neill and Rip Curl, consulted with diving and surfing enthusiasts, and conducted plenty of research to come up with a list of the best currently available.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included answers to a few FAQs, including the differences in suit types and thickness, as well as some insight into the best way to care for your wetsuit and how to pick out a diving suit.

Here are the best wetsuits:

The best wetsuit overall

ONeill wetsuit

The O’Neill Psycho Tech is made with water-resistant neoprene to keep it from retaining water, and its top-notch stitching makes it almost watertight.

Pros: Warm, almost watertight stitching, lightweight, quick-drying

Cons: A little pricey

O’Neill’s Psycho Tech is the kind of cozy, stretchy, almost watertight suit that becomes oh-so-precious to cold-water surfers when winter storms roll through and leaky seams threaten to end surf sessions early.

If there’s one company I’d put all my good faith in keeping me from the wrath of hypothermia, it’s the late, lauded laureate and godfather of the modern wetsuit, Jack O’Neill.

O’Neill puts a lot of money into research and design, and while the US military doesn’t exactly endorse or use any single wetsuit, they’ve frequently sent personnel out in O’Neill suits. That alone may or may not speak volumes to you, but the US military is not known to be one to skimp on matters of national security.

This wetsuit is flexible, and I’ve found it to hold up in temperatures considerably lower than their rating. My old Psycho II model from 2009, which saw heavy service through 2010 and has seen service in most of the years since, is still, shockingly, in pretty good shape. The new Psychos are miles ahead, but there aren’t enough problems or even one single tear in my suit that warrant tossing mine out just yet.

Cleanline Surf, the Pacific Northwest’s coldwater surf aficionados, called the Psycho Tech “the pinnacle of wetsuit technology and performance.” The site goes on to taut it for being lightweight, warm, durable, and flexible — I don’t disagree.

Also, the TechnoButter neoprene rejects water so well that it stays light even when wet, and it dries much faster than most suits.

The best budget wetsuit for women

RipCurlDawn

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits cost less than $200, feature an easy-to-use rear zip entry, and have both stitched and glued seams for added durability. 

Pros: Easy in and out via a rear zip entry, stitched and glued seams, inexpensive (as far as wetsuits go)

Cons: Its 3/2 millimeter thickness won’t keep you warm very long in colder water temps

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits are extremely flexible, thoroughly stitched, taped, and glued, and very reasonably priced.

The suit has been a bestseller for several years and being blindstitched, glued, and taped for under $200 certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation. It also comes in both men’s and women’s designs, but, I must make a full disclosure: I’ve never owned one, though I’ve envied them from close and afar over the years. 

The best budget wetsuit for men

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VISSLA’s 7 Seas is economical but doesn’t cut any corners to deliver a functional wetsuit at a fair price.

Pros: Price tag, sleeve gaskets, stitching and gluing, 1-year warranty

Cons: Neoprene retains water and gets a little heavy

I tried VISSLA’s 7 Seas model in New York this late spring and was hot in the 3/2-millimeter full suit. That’s a good sign. I also caught up with an old friend on Montauk who’s in his third season with the same model, which is as much as most people ask of even a luxury suit. That was good enough for me.

It fit me exceptionally well, which is a shock because I’m six feet tall, generally, stay shy of 160 pounds, and almost no company designs standard suits sized for stick-figured string beans like me.

The seams are held together by double blind-stitching and taped three times over, which somewhere around five years ago was unthinkable for a suit under $200. Matter-of-factly, this suit is designed in much the same way one of my nicer suits from about 10 years ago was, only that one cost me about twice as much. The suit’s also backed by respective 1-year warranties for both the neoprene and the stitching.

Although the neoprene retains water and gets heavy, the suit is remarkably stretchy — maybe stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex suits — and the wrist gaskets that are located a few inches above the cuff really kept water from getting up my sleeves and slowing my paddling. Further, taking water up the sleeves in fall or winter is shockingly chilling.

I also liked the fuzzy lining, which is akin to Patagonia’s, but, again, this suit is less than half the price (at the time of this publishing). While Patagonia’s suits are nice, and I love mine, I don’t see any need to step up unless you really feel like spending the extra money or you’re going to be surfing in exceptionally cold waters where you’ll probably want the best technology you can get.

The best non-neoprene wetsuit

Patagonia wetsuit

There are other non-neoprene suits emerging on the market, but my Patagonia suits have lasted through a lot, and it will take a lot for another suit to knock them off their throne.

Pros: Long-lasting (as long as if not longer than most neoprene suits), neoprene-free, almost petroleum-free, very warm, so you can often get away with a thinner suit

Cons: Not cheap, maybe a little stiffer than neoprene suits

Patagonia’s current crop of wetsuits comes via a biochemical company called Yulex. Yulex manufactures neoprene from the guayule plant, a hardy shrub native to the Southwestern United States that’s used to make rubber that’s both renewable and nearly chemical-free.

The latest Yulex-branded suit now has a new patterning intended for “improved fit and increased mobility.” Yulex’s brand of rubber often had a reputation among wetsuit users as being stiff compared with neoprene, which isn’t generally a good thing for water enthusiasts. However, the suits do feature a fuzzy synthetic liner that makes the inside of the suit feel silky smooth while also doing well to make me feel warmer in frigid water. 

The company now uses a water-based glue in all its suits, eliminating the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were used for decades. The new suit also includes solution-dyed fabrics that reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions by 86% and 96%, respectively.

Of course, as goes with the Patagonia story, everything is Fair Trade Certified, and you’ll also get Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee, so if you’re not thrilled with your new suit, you can send it back.

What excites me most about this suit is that, although Patagonia hasn’t made the leap to zipperless suits, the corrosion-resistant zipper on this suit is now actually replaceable, so if it wears out before the wetsuit does, you can extend its life a little longer. This is great news because oftentimes the collar or zipper area is the first thing to wear out on a wetsuit.

Learn more about Patagonia and Yulex’s bio-rubber here.

The best wetsuit for paddlesports

Screen Shot 2018 08 07 at 5.16.06 PM

If you’re tired of hanging up your paddles for the winter, O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is just enough to keep you comfortable as water temperatures reach the 60s and maybe the 50s. 

Pros: Flexible, breathable, affordable

Cons: The chest rubber can be overly sticky

Because our bodies are mostly out of the water when paddling, we tend to work up a sweat beneath a neoprene wetsuit. While any combination of layers can do the trick, I’ve found that a farmer john-style (sleeveless) wetsuit with flatlock seams works best unless you’re dealing with temperatures below 50° F or so, at which point I’d opt for a dry suit. Stohlquist makes a good one for men and women.

Since you’re getting such a thorough upper body workout, I’d suggest avoiding sleeves, which apart from causing you to overheat also tend to constrict movement and cause chafing. O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is 2 millimeters thick and comes with flatlock seams, and at less than $100 can’t really be beaten.

If it’s a little cooler, you might want one with full-length legs (the women’s model, the Bahia, comes in a 1.5mm), or a 3mm. O’Neill doesn’t make the sleeveless suit in a 3mm, but Aqua Lung does, for men and women. Anything above 3mm tends to get a little too hot for paddlesports, at least if you’re not getting in the water.

If you want to spend even a little more money — unless you’re surfing in one of these suits, keep in mind that quality might not be quite as paramount — Patagonia’s Long John (men’s) and Long Jane (women’s) are $169 and worth it. They’re made of the same non-neoprene Yulex rubber as Patagonia’s other suits, but flatlock-stitched so that they breathe a little better.

Wetsuit FAQs

What different kinds of wetsuits are there?

Apart from temperature, what you’ll be doing in or on the water is a major deciding factor for which wetsuit is best. If you’re swimming or surfing, a floaty, hydrodynamic closed-cell or single-piece suit is likely your best bet. These are either chest- or back-zipped and come with different sleeve and leg cuts.

But if you’re diving, a closed-cell wetsuit allows too much water flow between it and your skin. You’ll find yourself feeling stiff and cold, and stiff and cold are never what you want while diving for long periods of time. An open-cell wetsuit provides suction between the skin and suit that’s nearly watertight. While these types of suits are a pain to get in and out of, they keep you much warmer and allow for much greater flexibility underwater.

Editor’s note: If you use a little eco-friendly dish soap, getting into an open-cell wetsuit is much easier.

Open-cell suits usually don’t have zippers apart from the wrist and leg cuffs but closed cells come in a variety of different zipper configurations. Some manufacturers are starting to develop zipperless models, too, which could eliminate zippers altogether — at least on more expensive suits.


What are the differences in wetsuit zipper types?

Back-zip suit: Back-zip wetsuits are the original design, and almost always cheaper than chest-zip or zipper-less suits. They’re fine for swimming in temperate waters on relatively warm days, but I’ve found that having cool water seep down your back on a chillier day — or in the middle of winter, for that matter — can be miserable.

Chest-zip suit: Usually more expensive, chest-zip wetsuits tend to keep you warmer thanks to a smaller, well-protected zipper that sits on the front of the suit. This also makes them the most difficult to get in and out of, but, overall, we think they’re worth it. They tend to last longer, and some even allow for the neckpiece to be replaced, which is often the first thing to wear and tear on a wetsuit.

Zipperless: I haven’t yet tried out a zipperless wetsuit, though I’ve been hearing positive buzz about O’Neill’s Hyperfreak Comp zipless model. It would be more of a performance suit than most require, and it’s hard to say whether the lack of a zipper will, in turn, stretch the suit more or keep us warmer, but we will see how they fare over time and update this guide with our findings.


How thick should my wetsuit be?

Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, and the core is most often thicker than the extremities to keep your body temperature up while allowing for more mobility in the arms and legs. This is why you’ll see two — or sometimes three — numbers, listing the core’s thickness first (e.g., 3/2, or 4/3/2).

Temperature rating corresponds with thickness, for the most part, but varies some from company to company and material to material, but here’s a basic rule of thumb:

  • Mid 60s to low 70s: 2 mm
  • Low 60s to high 60s: 3/2 mm
  • Low 50s to low 60s: 4/3 mm, or 4/3/2 mm
  • Low to high 40s: 5/4 mm, or 5/4/3 mm
  • High 30s to low 40s: 6/5 mm or 6/5/4 mm
  • Upper 30s and below: While a good 6/5- or 6/5/4-millimeter suit can do you well in the upper 30s, it’s tough to stand it any colder. There are 7/6- and 7/6/5-millimeter wetsuits, but they become impedingly stiff at that point. A good 6/5 or 6/5/4 with hood, boots, and gloves will take care of most of us through winter.

What sizes do wetsuits come in? 

Size charts vary from company to company, so make sure to have a look at the chart to be sure which one fits you best.

Unless you get a custom suit, none are likely to fit you perfectly but you should be able to get close enough.


What are wetsuits made out of?

Not all wetsuits are created equal, and while most are made of neoprene — and come from the same factory in Taiwan, despite different brand names — it’s the stitching and seams that make all the difference.

  • Overlock stitching: This is the most basic stitching, and it will let water flow through your suit like Victoria Falls. Okay, not really, but I save these cheap suits for spring and summer, or when it’s not exactly board-short temperature, but a constant flush is actually refreshing.
  • Flat stitching: This is probably a little fancier than the stitching they taught you in Home Economics class. By no means is it watertight, but it lies flatter and holds up better than basic overlock stitching.
  • Blindstitching: Blindstitched suits have even narrower stitching than flat-stitched ones, and the seams are usually glued, which does a pretty good job of preventing water seepage.
  • Sealed, taped, glued: This is a definitive step up, and usually what you’ll find with blindstitched suits. Once you get into blindstitching, you start to notice that very little water seeps through your suit, and you stay relatively dry inside. The best of these suits are also sealed and taped both inside and out, but the full combination is where suits start to get above the $500 price tag, which isn’t crucial for most. Still, if you plan to be surfing in sub 55-degree Fahrenheit temps, we highly recommend forking over the extra dough.

How to take care of your wetsuit

All outdoors equipment requires a little love to survive its life expectancy and, hopefully, beyond. Protect your wetsuit and it protects you — at least from the cold.

Here’s what every first-time wetsuit owner should know: 

Wash your suit every time you use it, or at least as frequently as you can stand to. Wetsuits take on everything you put into them, from your sweat, sunscreen, seawater, and yes, urine. While it may not damage your suit, it will surely smell bad.

And even though Helen Hunt does it, it’s not exactly a good idea to pee in your wetsuit, for obvious reasons. Regardless of whether or not you decide to relieve yourself in your suit, get a wetsuit shampoo, and follow its instructions well. Do NOT use any old soap for this, or you’ll be sorry.

Store your wetsuit in a dry, shaded area with plenty of ventilation. We all know what happens to wet things in confined spaces, but hanging your wetsuit to dry in the sun is surely the quickest way to end its life.

Hang your wetsuit loosely on a thick-framed clothes hanger, a proper wetsuit hanger, or fold it loosely. If you hang a wetsuit on a sharp wire hanger, it will stretch out. If you fold it too tightly, it’ll crease. I roll mine up when I travel to avoid creasing.

How to choose a diving wetsuit

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A simple, closed-cell suit like a surfing wetsuit works above the surface where you have heat from the sun and little pressure, but when you get below the surface, it can get stiff and cold. An open cell suit will keep you much warmer and more flexible, whether you’re freediving or using scuba tanks. 

I’ve never actually owned an open-cell diving suit — I use a surfing suit to dive, which I assure you is less than ideal — so I called on a lifeline: an old friend who spends his workdays and sometimes his nights underwater in the marrow-chilling depths of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. If anyone has earned the authority to deem a wetsuit good or bad, we figure it might be a commercial diver, after all.

A commercial diver’s input

The array of both open cell and closed cell diving suits in the locker where he works is almost exclusively with Beuchat and Cressi wetsuits, and while many of the members of the dive team do wear closed cell suits to work, they don’t last as long — maybe that’s intended. Open cell suits are snug, and almost suction-cup your skin, which is extremely efficient for keeping you warm, but makes them very difficult to get on and off.

When we would go spearfishing together — I in my 5/4-millimeter closed-cell surfing wetsuit, he in his 7-millimeter open-cell diving suit — I’d be in and out of my suit in half the time it took him to roll his on and off. But, by the same token, he could still feel his hands and feet after an hour of diving. Meanwhile, my lips would be turning blue.

Bottom line: If you’re going to be in even moderately cold water, save yourself the agony of freezing and put up with the nuisance of stretching into a skin-tight open cell suit.

How to shop for a dive suit

If you’ve never worn or owned a diving wetsuit before, you’ll probably want to go to the local dive shop and have the pros sort you out, or at the very least fit you.

When picking out a diving suit, color, or rather pattern, is a consideration that goes beyond aesthetics. If an experience with wildlife is what you’re after (even if you’re not in search of dinner), then a camouflage suit is probably a good idea, simply because you won’t startle as many creatures as quickly as you would with a black suit, or one of any color, really.

Also, note that camouflage is relative: If you’re going to be in open water, you’ll want a rhapsody in blue, and if you’re going to be in kelp, coral, or rocks, you probably want to look for a more greenish-brown pattern.

A few drawbacks

The main downfall of many closed-cell suits is that they are made of or coated with a softer, more delicate rubber-like neoprene skin which, while it keeps you warmer and leaves you agiler in the pressured depths, is highly prone to tearing.

Also, always make sure your wetsuit is wet when you’re pulling it on, and follow instructions for care and maintenance like these, from Aqua Lung. Never leave any wetsuit in the sun but especially not a suit with skin material, which will melt and stick to itself, a tragedy not covered by any warranty far as I’m aware.

Aqua LungBeuchat, Cressi, and Mares are companies that have all been around since recreational diving has, more or less, and they all have similarly long legacies and popular standing with commercial and recreational divers alike.

Pros: Tighter-fitting, more watertight, keeps you warmer, less constricting

Cons: Can be more expensive, much more delicate, difficult to don and doff 

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