The 4 best exercise balls we tested in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best exercise balls:

The best exercise ball overall

exercise ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best portable exercise ball

DynaPro Exercise Ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best exercise ball for bigger bodies

tall man exercise ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget exercise ball

exercise ball 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to look for in an exercise ball

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

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

Exercise ball benefits

man family exercise ball

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

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

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

Why exercise balls are an important part of a home gym

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best bike lights:

How we test bike lights

Best Bike Lights Pattern 4x3

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light overall

cygolite

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best easy install bike light

bike light

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

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

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

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

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

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

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

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

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

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

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

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

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

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

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

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

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A note on gendered shoes

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

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

Here are the best spin shoes:

How we test cycling shoes

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

Here’s everything I considered while testing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best spin shoes overall with BOA

Giro Cadet Shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giro Cadet Men’s: 

Cadet (Men’s) (button)

Giro Cadet Women’s:

The best spin shoes overall with Velcro

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Men’s:

Quest Studio Shoe (Men’s) (button)

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Women’s: 

The best budget spin shoes with BOA

Specialized Torch 1.0 cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget spin shoes with Velcro

Shimano RP1 cycling shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else I tested

Cycling shoes - what else we tested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How should a spin shoe fit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOA vs. Velcro

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

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

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

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

Look Delta cleats vs. SPD cleats

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

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

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

SPD Cleat Set (small)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best headlamps of 2021, for hiking, camping, or doing housework

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Headlamps offer a hands-free way of hiking or camping at night, and can also be used around the house.
  • The best headlamps should offer long battery life, fit comfortably, and have variable light modes.
  • Our top pick, BioLite’s Headlamp 330, is lightweight and comfortable, and has a sweat-wicking headband.

A headlamp is one of the most important pieces of anyone’s outdoor kit. Unlike an ordinary flashlight, which requires you to physically hold it in your hand, headlamps conveniently affix to your head to illuminate whatever’s in front of you. That could be a hiking trail, a dark campsite, or even under the hood of a car – no matter its use case, that convenience can’t be understated.

But not all headlamps are created equal. Some are designed specifically for, say, trail running, built to be lightweight on a runner’s head, while others are more robust, intended to pump out hundreds of lumens for several hours. And there are plenty more that are just useful enough to get the job done, which are perfect for stashing in a camp tote or in your car’s glove box.

As an avid camper for much of my life, I’ve long respected the value of a proper headlamp – it’s literally a night and day difference navigating a backcountry campsite in the pitch black as opposed to wearing a headlamp. But the same headlamp I use while backpacking differs from what I use while car camping, or what I grab to go biking or running. Needless to say, I’ve worn plenty of headlamps – some good, some awful, and many in between.

Just as my needs vary regarding the types of headlamps I need for the kinds of activities I enjoy, so, too, does the design and innovation native to what’s on the market. To find the best, I decided to field test a variety of headlamps from brands like BioLite and Ledlensder. Below are my six favorites, perfect for everything from camping and cycling to working around the house.

I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a headlamp and what to keep in mind, as well as the testing methodology I used to narrow down which models ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best headlamps:

How we test headlamps

Best Headlamps (amazon; BioLite) 4x3

Each of the headlamps featured in this guide went through a number of tests to determine how well they compared across these four categories: Comfort, brightness, battery life, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which headlamps made this guide:

Comfort: Since you’ll be wearing a headlamp on your head for what could be upwards of an hour or more at a time, it’s vital that the one you choose is comfortable. To test for this, we looked at the materials used in the headbands, how it felt to wear the headlamp for an extended period of time, and if it remained comfortable while doing normal tasks like setting up camp or even just walking around. 

Brightness: The best headlamps should have a number of variable brightness settings and some even allow for custom control over the size of the beam. What makes brightness settings so important is that you don’t always want a headlamp that’s on full blast the entire time you need to use it. Having the ability to toggle between a range of settings is an important feature.

Battery life: A headlamp is no good if its battery only lasts a couple of hours. Sure, you could buy one that takes batteries but you don’t want to be lugging around a bag of batteries everywhere you go with it (this is especially true for backpackers). 

Value: The exact value of a headlamp is dependent on how you intend to use it, but at the very least you should look for one that does well in the three categories above. And while there are decent budget options available (we’ve included one in our guide), buying the cheapest headlamp you find isn’t something we recommend doing. Often, it’s best to spend a little more on a product designed to last. 

The best headlamp overall

biolitelamp

No headlamp I’ve tested has been near as comfortable as the BioLite HeadLamp 330. With a balanced, comfortable fit and a sweat-wicking headband, it’s our favorite headlamp for any outdoor activity. 

Pros: Durable, moisture-wicking headband, balanced with light and battery in front and back, respectively

Cons: Doesn’t take AAA or AA batteries as backup, the lithium-ion battery is not removable (you can’t get a spare battery to take with you and swap out, but a power pack would fix that), 330 lumens is bright, but could be brighter (still, it saves on battery)

Headlamps may seem like lightweight, unrestrictive tools (or toys) but having those extra few ounces bobbing up and down on your forehead for several hours at a time takes its tolls. Not only are some of the heavier and more powerful options a literal drag, but they’re also annoying, even if you don’t realize it. I didn’t.

With the BioLite HeadLamp 330, its 330 lumens of output is a good balance between what most of us need to be able to see in the dark and how long the battery life lasts, which is a respectable 40 hours on the low setting and around 3.5 hours on high. It also makes a good reading light and avoids reflecting off the pages of your book or magazine to blind you.

I took the HeadLamp 330 fishing at night, hiking to camp, hiking just to hike, and generally just stumbling about in the dark behind my father’s woodshop, which is, for all intents and purposes, a treacherous deathtrap of wood and metal scraps. Yes, dearest reader, I take my job, and your safety, extremely seriously. I’m glad to report that, throughout the testing process, there was not a single visit to the emergency room.

In all seriousness, the best thing about the HeadLamp 330 is how well balanced it is. With the light in front and the battery pack in the back, you don’t feel the strain of a light and a battery pack dragging your forehead down.

The most notable spec about this headlamp is that the light and battery are separate, which puts a lot less weight on your forehead, and the light itself. The whole kit, I might add, weighs only 69 grams, or less than 2.5 ounces.

One common problem we see a lot with headlamps is that the joint where the light meets the base loses its threads or just breaks altogether, especially when the batteries are in the same pivoting unit as the light. BioLite does away with any such worry.

Speaking of pivoting, the light pivots up and down between four positions, which is, in my opinion, just enough. There’s also a red light, which makes it a lot easier for your eyes to readjust after you flick it off.

The small on/off button (gray, left of center) can be a little hard to find at first, but you’ll learn to love it because you’ll find that you won’t accidentally activate the epileptic test strobe in your hiking partner’s face, and it’s actually positioned right where you want to be (at least, if you’re adjusting it with your right hand). — Owen Burke

The best budget headlamp

Vitchelo headlamp

The Vitchelo V800 Headlamp is affordable and reliable, ready to illuminate objects both near and far even in adverse conditions.

Pros: Durable and weather-resistant, affordable price, white and red strobe functions

Cons: Easily turns on by accident, no floodlight setting

The Vitchelo V800 headlamp punches well above its weight. For a light that costs only around sixteen bucks, it has attributes you’d expect from a unit valued at double that price, or more. It has three brightness settings for its white light and a strobe feature, which can be valuable during an emergency when you want to be spotted by responders or when you’re assisting with emergency response and need to stay in touch with your team. The headlamp also has a solid and flashing red light.

Thanks to an IPX6 waterproof rating, this headlamp should be impervious to damage from rainfall or even a quick drop in a puddle or stream — just don’t wear it while you scuba dive. And at its low output setting, the white light can shine for up to 120 hours with fresh batteries, so you’ll have ample time to work, search, travel, or conduct other activities.

One reason I would not recommend this for a backpacker or camper is that the buttons are easily pressed by gear tumbling in your bag. A headlamp shining in a pack all day might mean dead batteries when you need it at night. That’s not much an issue when the unit is stashed in a nightstand or in your emergency prep kit, though — just make sure it’s not on when you close the drawer or the bag and you should be good.

The best high-power headlamp

Ledlenser H7R Signature headlamp

The H7R Signature from Ledlenser delivers up to 1200 lumens, has seven light settings, including an SOS function, and can even be controlled with Bluetooth via a smartphone.

Pros: Seven different light settings, including an SOS distress signal that blinks in Morse code, offers up to 1200 lumens, rated IP67 against water and dust, has Bluetooth capability with a compatible smartphone for custom light settings

Cons: Expensive

Just about any Ledlenser headlamp could slot into one of the categories in this guide, but the H7R Signature gets the nod thanks to its incredible light output of up to 1200 lumens. Now, of course, you likely won’t need that much power all the time, but when you do, it’s incredibly handy to have it at your disposal. 

The H7R Signature impresses across the board, too, not just regarding its power. It comes with an easy-to-adjust head strap that stays comfortable, even after prolonged use (though, it may start to feel a little heavy due to a heavy-ish, rear-mounted battery). It’s clear Ledlenser took the time to properly balance it, as well, so even if that battery is a little heavy, it never feels awkward or like your head has to tilt too far to one side.

One of the best features of the H7R is its 7 different light modes, which include Power, Low Power, Boost, Blink, Position, SOS, and Strobe. The SOS function is particularly interesting, as it flashes a strobed distress signal that sends an SOS in Morse Code when activated. Many of the other light modes, like Position and Strobe, are also designed to alert people of your position.

The H7R features a rechargeable internal battery, so you won’t have to worry about lugging any batteries along with it, and it’s also rated IP67 against dust and water. Bluetooth capability also allows the headlamp to be controlled and customized via a compatible smartphone.

Perhaps its lone downside, however, is the fact it costs $175. Though this isn’t a dealbreaker, it is a lot to spend on a headlamp. The H7R is designed to last for several years (if not upwards of a decade), so the investment is a sound one, especially if you’ll be using it often.

The best rechargeable headlamp

BioLite_HeadLamp750_Front

The Headlamp 750 from BioLite is as good as rechargeable headlamps get, offering up to 750 lumens of output, a fit that stays comfortable for hours, and a Run Forever mode that lets it operate as you charge it on-the-go.

Pros: Comfortable headband, 8 different light modes that can all be individually dimmed, Run Forever mode lets you charge it while it operates, low profile design

Cons: Expensive

The BioLite name is synonymous with quality portable lighting and its new Headlamp 750 continues that tradition in an impressive way. Much like our best overall pick, the Headlamp 330, the 750 takes traditional headlamp tech and adds more to it than you ever thought you needed. 

Want to charge it while you’re using it on-the-go? The 750 can do it. How about 8 different light modes, each with the ability to dim? It has that, too. The 750’s strength is in its versatility, and it’s the kind of headlamp that you’d want to bring with you on weekend camping trips, multi-day backpacking treks, the occasional nighttime hike, or literally anything — it works as well for getting under the sink or working on your car, too. 

As mentioned, the 750 offers up to 8 different light modes to choose from: Red flood, white spot, white flood, spot and flood, white strobe, 30-second burst, rear red flood, and rear red strobe. Not only will you be able to have complete control over what the headlamp illuminates and how it illuminates it, but you’ll also be visible to whoever’s around you. 

Then there’s its Run Forever feature that allows you to plug in a portable power bank to keep the headlamp charged even while it’s running. Though the idea of lugging around a power bank only to have it hanging off the back of your head doesn’t sound comfortable, sticking it into a backpack or opting for a lightweight battery pack is recommended. 

It’s also extremely comfortable. BioLite’s 3D SlimFit construction means the headlamp’s components are built into the band itself, reducing what can unnecessarily snag (and making it incredibly low profile in the process). The power unit built into the back of the headlamp also distributes its weight evenly to avoid it bobbing up and down on your head — something many headlamps have a hard time actually doing but the 750 seemed to do it well during our tests.

At $100, it’s certainly not a cheap headlamp but if it holds up as well as it did during our time with it, you likely won’t be spending much more on a headlamp for quite some time. It’s highly durable, comfortable wear, and packed with useful features for just about any use case. 

The best headlamp for cycling

Hleane Rechargeable LED Zoomable Headlamp

Wearing the Hleane LED Zoomable Headlamp is like strapping a headlight to your head with its maximum brightness setting of 1800 lumens.

Pros: Amazingly bright light, great price point, long operating life

Cons: Only two output settings and it’s rather heavy

The top setting of the GRDE Zoomable headlamp is so bright you won’t even use it in many situations. But when you’re on a bike at night and contending for space with cars and trucks, or while you’re pedaling your way down a mountain trail, you’ll love the awesome output power of this lamp. The 1800-lumen beam fully illuminates the trail or road far ahead of you, and it’ll be almost impossible for an oncoming motorist to miss seeing you.

This headlamp is heavier than I’d recommend for use by a climber or distance trekker but for the cyclist or for use on a shorter hike where gear weight isn’t much of an issue, it’s a great choice.

Its beam can be focused and adjusted to best suit the conditions ahead of you, though the limited brightness settings — which are high or low — are a drawback. This is not the light to strap on as you hide out in a hunting blind hoping to stay unnoticed by attentive wildlife, for example.

The GRDE headlamp can be operated using regular batteries but is also plug-in rechargeable, and can be juiced back up using a wall’s AC outlet, a car plug adapter, or a USB cable. It is rated to last for up to 100,000 hours of operating life.

The best headlamp for home projects

COAST_FL75

The Coast FL75 Focusing headlamp can throw 405 lumens of brightness but best of all, you can use its focusing ring to narrow or widen the beam. 

Pros: Bright and crisp light quality, easy to change the shape of the beam, clips for securing band to hat or helmet, extremely long beam throw

Cons: Limited brightness settings, short battery life, no strobe option

I own and often use a Coast FL75 and it’s my first choice for any project around the house I work on after dark — like cleaning the grill in the evening, checking on my scarecrow sprinkle set up, or adding some extra air to the tires of my bike.

Like all Coast lights, this headlamp creates a remarkably clear, crisp white light that makes it easy to see what you’re doing. It’s a great choice for illuminating anything that’s close at hand, though most people will likely be more interested in its long-distance throw capacity.

If you need to see objects or terrain more than 400 feet in front of you in a total darkness scenario, the Coast FL75 headlamp is a good choice. In fact, its beam is rated to stretch out 459 feet at its top 405-lumen output. Even the lowest setting of this light is still bright, rated at 53 lumens.

Here’s the thing: That’s a drawback, not an asset. This light’s low setting is far too bright for many uses, such as viewing a map or reading at night when you want to preserve your night vision and avoid disturbing others (or attracting attention to yourself). The Coast FL75 only has three output settings and they could reasonably be called Pretty Bright, Really Bright, and Whoa OK That’s Super Bright.

If you only plan to use a headlamp as you work, during power outages, or as you survey the scene of an accident as a first responder, then you probably don’t have the need for a dim setting but you do have the need for bright, crisp light. This one certainly offers that.

And, if you want something a little beefier, consider the FL85, with 615 Lumens and a 183-meter beam.

How to shop for a headlamp

First and foremost, a headlamp has to be bright enough for the task at hand. But the type of beam a light creates is every bit as important as its sheer lumen output. While the tendency is often to check the lumen rating of a headlamp and treat that like the most important metric for judging a headlamp, the type of beam is a better deciding factor than the intensity of the light alone. For example:

  • A cyclist needs a powerful lamp that throws a beam dozens of yards ahead, letting him or her see plenty of the roadway or trail.
  • Mechanic benefit from a wider beam pattern that illuminates a broad swath of the area close at hand.
  • If you’re camping, consider a headlamp with variable light settings, a red light option, and one that offers long battery life (especially for backpackers). 

You also have to consider features such as strobe effects, a red light option, battery life, and weight. The way those and other secondary attributes assist you in your hobbies or work should help you choose the headlamp best fit for you from our guide. 

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The 7 best compression socks of 2021 for runners, seniors, and anyone looking to improve circulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best compression socks:

How we test compression socks

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

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

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

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

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

The best compression socks overall

compression socks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget compression socks

compression socks

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

Pros: Inexpensive, relatively durable, snug fit

Cons: Available in just two sizes

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

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

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

The best compression socks for circulation

sockwell

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

Pros: Lightweight, maintain their snugness all day long

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

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

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

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

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

The best compression socks for post-workout

compression socks 1

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

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

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

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

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

The best compression socks for runners

Aspire Socks

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

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

Cons: Can be difficult to put on

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

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

The best compression socks for standing all-day

compression socks

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best patterned compression socks

Vim Vigr socks

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

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

Cons: Can get expensive

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

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

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

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

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

Who should wear compression socks?

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

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

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

Athletes

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

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

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

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

Pregnant women

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

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

Seniors

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

How to shop for compression socks

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

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

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

Compression sock ratings

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

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

Fabrics used

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

How best to use compression socks

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

  • Apply talcum powder or cornstarch to your feet before putting your socks on.
  • Wear dishwashing gloves to get a better grip.
  • Roll the socks before you put them on so you can just roll them up your legs.
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The 5 best sets of dumbbells of 2021 for your home gym

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best dumbbells:

The best dumbbells overall

Best dumbbells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best app-connected dumbbells

Best dumbbells

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

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

Cons: Max weight of 60 pounds

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

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

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

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

The best dumbbells for comfort

Best Dumbbells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget dumbbells

Best dumbbells

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best traditional dumbbell set

Best dumbbells

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

Pros: Feels familiar, great grip, stable when lifting

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

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

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

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

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

How to properly use dumbbells

Best Dumbbells

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

You’ll want to focus on two things:

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

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

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

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

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

How to shop for dumbbells

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

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

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

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

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

Our testing methodology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 8 best places to buy workout clothes for women

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Wearing the right workout clothing helps keep you cool, comfortable, and prevents chafing.
  • The best apparel should use performance materials, feature a smart design, and have a versatile style.
  • We recommend Nike‘s activewear for women overall, as it’s the best blend of price, performance, and variety.
Best activewear for women 4x3

Even though all of us own workout clothes, it’s rare to come across a top or shorts that you truly love. But comfortable, well-fitting women’s workout clothes can make or break your motivation to go for a run, hit the gym, even just take your dog for a walk. And if that workout clothing is flattering and makes you feel good, well, that’s just the holy grail.

Well-designed workout clothes for women should be made of technical fabrics that wick sweat away, dry quickly, and potentially provide a slight compression to help your body feel supported. It should also be well-designed so that nothing rides up or falls down, and it doesn’t make you chafe.

As a fitness editor for nearly a decade and a woman, I’ve not only tried a lot of women’s activewear brands but I also know the struggle of finding workout clothes that actually fit your body correctly. Whether you’re looking for cheap workout clothes to just get you to the gym, athletic wear that looks flattering in photos, or simply the best place to buy a new pair of shorts for the summer, I’ve got you covered.

Below, I’ve ranked the best workout brands to shop based on my personal testing, as well as input from the countless women I quiz about the athletic wear they’re wearing. The brands featured here all hit the sweet spot of price for the quality and offer inclusive sizing and fits.

The best places to shop for women’s workout clothes:

The best workout clothes for women overall

sportswear windrunner hooded windbreaker qJlX5L

Nike caters to pretty much every sport with a variety of inclusive styles, making it our top pick for high-performance workout gear. 

Size range: XS-3X, short and tall

Nike has the best balance of price, performance, and variety in its workout gear. A pair of leggings can go for upwards of $70, but you can find plenty of $40-$60 options, and the site semi-frequently offers discounts. Nike items also have a good price-per-wear breakdown thanks to an expert handle on performance engineering and technical materials across categories.

There’s something for athletes of pretty much every sport: running, golf, soccer, training, tennis, basketball, softball, skateboarding, swim, and lacrosse — and all different types of gear, from women’s running shoes to swimwear and compression layers. And they’ve expanded their activewear to have more inclusive sizes (from XS to 3X) and styles (for example, high-performance hijab options). That being said, its sizing can be hard to nail down, especially for sports bras that notoriously run small. –Mara Leighton

What to buy

Pro Shorts (small)

One Icon Clash 7″ Shorts (small)Icon Clash Tank Running Tank (small)
The best budget workout clothes for women

Amazon’s Core 10 brand makes cheap workout gear that fits and stays put.

Amazon’s Core 10 makes workout gear that is comfortable, sweat-wicking, and well-designed for around $25 per item.

Size range: XS-XXL; some styles go up to 3X

Good budget workout gear is incredibly hard to find. While we love the price point, size range, and accessibility of brands like Old Navy Active, performance fabrics and thoughtful design features like light compression and phone pockets will make your workouts far more comfortable, especially if you’re just starting out.

We really like Core 10, one of the uber-popular Amazon-owned fitness brands that makes surprisingly reliable workout gear. In our experience, its bike shorts stay put on runs and do a good job of wicking away sweat. The company makes everything from yoga pants to running capris to sports bras to workout tanks, all usually between $18 and $35. You can even customize your own leggings, choosing the waistband, length, style and color. The brand also just partnered with Reebok to make an exclusive line with the fitness giant.

The fabrics, obviously, aren’t going to compete with the quality of the higher-end leggings or tops. But to supplement your workout closet with a few cheaper pieces or get you into something until you see if your new running hobby is here to stay, Core 10 has you covered.

What to buy

Muscle Tank (small)All Day Comfort High Waist Yoga Short with Side Pockets (small)Longline bra (small)‘Build Your Own’ Flashflex Run Capri Legging (small)

The best women’s workout clothes for runners

Athleta running

Athleta’s running apparel is comfortable, moisture-wicking, reasonably priced, and comes in a wide range of sizes and styles to fit different body types.

Size range: XXS-3X

Among all the running brands on the market, Athleta is our top pick because it nails the sweet spot of price and quality and has a huge range of offerings for runners. When it comes to its running gear, we love that nearly all the tops and bottoms are moisture-wicking and lightweight to keep you flying through your miles.

Its gear is well-designed too, so the majority of the shorts don’t fall down or ride up, and reasonably priced, with most tops falling between $40-50 and shorts $50-60 (its leggings and sports bras are on the pricier end at $70-100 and $50-60, respectively).

In addition to price and quality, we love the fit of Athleta’s clothing. For starters, the brand offers a wide range of sizes on 70% of its portfolio, from XXS to 3X, and plans to offer extended sizing across all categories by the end of 2022.

What’s more, everything tends to run at least one size bigger compared to how other athletic brands are sized, which is refreshing in a world of sizing that makes you feel bad about yourself. Overall, this fosters a more positive and body-inclusive running community.

What to buy

Phenomena Bra B-DD (small)Vapor Scoop Tank (small)Ultimate Stash Pocket 7″ Short (small)Accelerate Shortie (small)

The best workout clothes for women that’s worth-the-splurge

The best worth-the-splurge women's workout clothes - Femme people standing in workout gear by a mountain

Lululemon gear fits well and flatters most figures, performs for all types of workouts, and holds up through many washes, making it worth the splurge.

Size range: 0-20

You don’t have to drop tons of money to get a good workout in, but, if you choose the right brand, smartly investing in $100+ leggings or $60 workout shorts can deliver not only more luxurious and comfortable fabric but also more nuanced and thoughtful designs that make your workout (or errands) more comfortable. Lululemon is the apex of that worth-the-splurge market.

People from our team have tried tons of different items from Lululemon, and I have personally worn an array of tops, bottoms, bras, jackets, even scrunchies from the brand (the perks of seven years as a fitness writer).

For starters, all its gear just looks higher quality and more put together, which is a priority for some people. But moreover, everything is pretty well designed and stays put whether you’re moving through a yoga flow or hitting box jumps at CrossFit.

Its leggings and shorts come with small nice-to-haves like phone and key pockets, strategically-placed reflective features for dark runs, and, most notably, adjustable ties on the inside of the waistband so you can synch the bottoms tighter for a more flattering fit and comfortable workout. Most of my leggings and tops from the brand have been washed dozens and dozens (and dozens) of times and still have a rich color and sleek look (although the Align leggings notoriously pill inside the thighs).

To top it off, its cuts and styles are very flattering for pretty much every figure (although everything fits small so the sizing is frustrating for most women).

What to buy

Fast and Free Tight II 25″ Non-Reflective Nulux (small)All Tied Up Tank (small)Enlite Bra Weave High Support (small)Align Super High Rise Short 10″ (small)Speed Up Shorts (small)

The best sustainable workout clothes for women

Girlfriend Collective - femme people standing in a row in workout gear

Girlfriend Collective’s workout clothing is thoughtfully designed with buttery-soft fabric for a wide range of sizes, and everything from its fabrics to its packaging is mostly or 100% recycled materials.

Size range: XXS-XXXL

The cult-brand Girlfriend Collective is one of our favorite women’s workout brands, and they just so happen to be sustainably made. Let’s start with the fact that the brand designs its activewear to fit a huge range of body types and its leggings and sports bras are beloved by everyone from a size small to a size XXXL for their comfort and cuteness.

Then, the brand uses recycled materials for everything, most often post-consumer water bottles that have been turned into soft, recycled yarn, but also sometimes the factory-floor scraps of that fabric.

Mostly though, we love Girlfriend collective because of its minimalist approach to its designs, offering all the basics, but designed near-perfect and in a range of coordinated colors. Its classic leggings are actually the perfect pair: high-waisted, slightly compressive, squat-proof, and made with super soft fabric crafted from 25 recycled post-consumer plastic bottles (79% recycled polyester).

Its low-impact sports bras are made from the same recycled polyester (from 11 bottles), while they probably won’t support you through box jumps and jump rope, they are cut with a wide rib band so you can wear the set sans shirt to rock that uber-cute monochrome kit look during yoga, hikes, weight-lifting days, or just running out for coffee.

The brand also makes bike shorts, fun (and functional) unitards, and a bunch of loungewear like joggers and fleeces, all of which are made from mostly or entirely recycled materials. The activewear runs on the pricier side (although still cheaper than a lot of its competitors) but you’re paying for higher quality and better sustainability practices.

What to buy

Paloma Bra (small)High Waist Full-Length Leggings (small)Bike Unitard (small)R&R Lightweight Jogger (small)

 

 

The best plus-size workout clothes for women

Superhero Fit - femme people standing in a row in workout gear

Superhero Fit uses soft fabrics, flat-lock seams for minimal chafing, and specifically designs its apparel to support and move with sizes Large and up.

Size range: L-7XL

Despite the fact that the average woman is a size 16 or 18 (XL-2X), it is incredibly difficult to find many options for great workout gear above a size 12, let alone, say, a size 24, which is when the fashion industry ventures into “plus-size” or “extended sizing.” However, there are a few plus-size athletic apparel brands that excel at what they do.

One of the newer darlings on the block is Superhero Fit, a brand of high-quality, sweat-wicking activewear designed specifically for people sizes L thru 7X. It doesn’t have a huge selection, but the brand makes one awesome sports bra, one legging, one Capri, and one bike short, each in a variety of colorways (and the option to go monochrome, which we love).

Each piece of activewear is designed using ultra-soft, sweat-wicking, quick-dry fabric with slight compression, strategic gusseting for mobility, and flat-lock seams to minimize chafing. The sports bra supports medium-high impact activities.

When we talked with a group of plus-size outdoor adventurers on what gear they can’t live without, multiple women said they’re obsessed with how comfortable and supportive Superhero Fit is.

What to buy

Superhold Pocket Leggings (small)Superhold Pocket Capris (small)Superhold Sports Bra (small)Superhold Pocket Bike Shorts (small)

The best outdoorsy workout clothes for women

The best place to buy outdoorsy clothes for women

When you need technical fabrics with UPF, merino wool, and abrasion resistance, Title Nine has some of the best clothes to move in without breaking the bank.

Size range: XS-XL, 4-12

Finding technical clothing that actually fits American female bodies is one of the biggest gripes in the outdoor industry. Title Nine makes outdoor gear specifically designed for hips, booties, and any curves you’re rocking.

What’s more, it has every type of outdoorsy woman covered, whether you like to hike in super technical pants with a ton of pockets, or you prefer form-fitting leggings; whether you like your adventure gear to be loose and breezy or more curve-hugging and flattering.

All of its gear is designed to hit that sweet spot of fashion and function. Its hiking shorts are the perfect length to flatter and prevent chafe, and they hold up against the elements; its sun shirts are quick-dry, offer UPF 50, and come in an array of necklines in case you want something a little showier; and the brand even makes girly gear like sweat-wicking, move-with-your-body dresses, skirts, skorts, and rompers.

To top it off, its prices are in a reasonable category considering not only the technical fabrics and thoughtful features used in the designs, but also the sky-high prices across competitors in the outdoor apparel industry.

What to buy

Sunbuster 2.0 Full Zip Hoodie Sun Shirt (small)Indestructible 2.0 Hiking Shorts (small)Level Up Dress (small)Clamber Pants (small)

The best-looking workout clothes for women

The best place to buy cute women's workout clothes - people running wearing Outdoor Voices workout gear

Outdoor Voices is The Brand for Instagram-worthy workout sets, and the quality and fit of its activewear make it well-worth the buy.

Size range: XS to XL, sometimes XXS thru XXXL

Perhaps the original Instagram darling, Outdoor Voices is well known for its flattering designs, bright colors, and matching workout sets. Its leggings, shorts, sports bras, and tops are all made from high-quality, sweat-wicking material that keeps you cool and comfortable everywhere from the gym to a hike to running errands.

What really sets Outdoor Voices apart from competitors are its on-trend colorways (this season is full of pale lemon and bright pink) and its flattering fits. The best-selling Hudson shorts, for example, are high-waisted and cut in a way that lifts and flatters your booty. Its shorts never cut in at the waist or give you chafing between the thighs. Its best-selling Doing Things Bra has a super comfortable rib band, flattering scoop neck, and a stylish back to help provide medium support.

Perhaps the most noteworthy option among OV’s collection is its cult Exercise Dress (I own three colors), which has a lightweight, onesie spandex under layer and with a looser overlay so you can run, jump, play, and sweat without worrying about anything falling out, all while looking ridiculously cute.

The brand isn’t the most size-inclusive with the majority of its line only running from XS to XL. But if that is your size, we love that you can mix and match OV pieces to create eye-catching, monochrome kits.

What to buy

Hudson 2.5″ Short (small)The Exercise Dress (small)Rectrek Shorts (small)Move Free Tank (small)

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best men’s workout shirts of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A great workout shirt provides benefits like moisture-wicking technology, stretch fabric, and odor control.
  • It’s important the shirt also fits comfortably and performs well during activities like strength training or running.
  • Our top pick, Ten Thousand’s Versatile Shirt, excels in terms of fit and performance and is my go-to for any workout.

Ask any fitness enthusiast about their preferred style of workout shirt and they’ll likely spend a few seconds listing off things like moisture-wicking fabric, innovative cooling technology, or sweat-activated fabrics. While these may sound like a collection of buzzwords, the application behind these concepts are both staples and must-haves in the world of workout clothing.

For years, the who’s who of brands like Nike, Under Armour, and Reebok were the major players in the workout shirt market, constantly innovating on their own in-house tech while keeping tabs on what competitors put out. But as of late, a number of smaller companies have elbowed their way into the conversation with some fresh, unique takes on the humble workout shirt.

Be it a unique manufacturing process that makes use of real gold particles or a revolutionary fabric designed to not just wick moisture but to actively cool a wearer’s body temperature, today’s workout shirts are full of inventive and practical variety.

It’s because of that variety that deciding which workout shirt to buy isn’t always a straightforward decision. Perhaps you enjoy working out at home, or maybe you primarily exercise by running or cycling. Maybe you do a little of everything.

For me, I fit into the latter camp and feel as though there’s plenty of room in my wardrobe for an array of reliable workout shirts. Not only does a mixed bag of options help reduce how often I have to do laundry but different shirts work better for different workouts.

For example, I prefer a shirt with some sort of stretch design or increased range of motion when lifting weights but grab for a tee that does well to wick moisture before I hop on my bike or go for a run. Though those differences in features may seem small, they have a major impact both on my performance and comfort – and they’re incredibly important considerations when shopping for a workout shirt.

To help find the best currently available, I tested (and continue to test) an array of the latest releases to find those that excel at not just being comfortable, functional, and high quality, but are ultimately worth investing in, too. Though this guide gets updated often, the shirts featured are an accurate snapshot of exactly what I wear when working out each week.

Here are the best men’s workout shirts:

The best workout shirt overall

TTVersatile

Ten Thousand’s Versatile Shirt lives up to its name by being one of our favorite multi-purpose workout shirts — it’s great for anything active, be it cardio, strength training, HIIT exercises, or cycling.

Pros: Comfortable workout shirt that’s good for almost any workout or activity, flatlock seams prevent chafing, doesn’t hold onto odors, sweat-wicking and quick-dry fabric work well

Cons: Fit can differ from what you’re used to but double-check using the brand’s interactive fit guide before buying

Ten Thousand’s workout gear is a staff favorite, and when it comes to workout shirts designed to perform over a variety of exercises, it’s the brand’s Versatile Shirt I grab over and over again. Not only does it fit comfortably but it pulls off being both minimalist and functional, making it great for weight training, running, cycling, and even yoga — there’s a reason it has the word “versatile” in its name.

Made of 84% polyester and 16% spandex, the shirt features a breathable design that, along with its sweat-wicking and quick-drying tech, allows it to remain comfortable no matter how warm or sweaty I’d get. Even when temperatures cooled off, this shirt still performed well, and I especially appreciate its flatlock seams which avoid chafing of any kind (which is a must on my longer runs). 

Similar to how Rhone uses gold particles in its fabric, Ten Thousand infused its Versatile shirt with a silver ion anti-odor treatment. After intentionally wearing it for a 15-mile bike ride followed by an hour resistance band workout, the shirt did well to avoid hanging onto any odors, even if my own self was ready for a full-on shower. 

I do recommend reviewing Ten Thousand’s fit metrics as the medium shirt I tested was just slightly on the shorter side (and I’m roughly 5’8″). The chest, shoulders, and arms all fit properly but I would’ve liked just a bit more length (and may try the Large next time). The site does have a highly useful interactive fit chart that showcases different model body types across each size to give you a good sense of how it’ll fit once you try it on. 

The best workout shirt for runners

Nike Dri Fit shirt

Yes, it wicks moisture and sports the Nike logo but the Nike Dri-Fit Miler helps runners go the distance, thanks to flat seams to avoid chafing and reflective details to increase visibility.

Pros: Reflective details offer increased visibility, flat seams reduce chafing and feel comfortable on the skin, and the Dri-FIT tech actively wicks moisture

Cons: Despite a reflective pattern, dark colors not recommended for runners who run at night

Based entirely on the amount of constant rubbing and chafing a runner experiences on even short jaunts, the type of athletic apparel they choose needs to satisfy a particularly high standard. Nike, a brand that needs no introduction, knows a thing or two about workout gear and has excelled for decades at manufacturing some of the industry’s best, and most innovative, active clothing.

The story remains the same with its Dri-Fit Miler, an athletic shirt designed specifically for runners.

Led by its patented Dri-Fit technology, the Miler excels at wicking moisture but also proves capable of staying dry no matter the mileage — a feature that dramatically impacts both comfort and performance. With a dropped hem in the back of the shirt, it offers more coverage than most other running shirts and its flat seams help avoid excess chafing while feeling soft on a wearer’s skin.

Perhaps its best and most important feature is the reflective pattern Nike used to keep runners visible throughout their run. Be it morning, afternoon, or dusk, the reflective details shine brightly when hit with headlights or a flashlight, helping alert those passing by to the runner’s position. Though running at night requires an entirely different approach, the shirt still reflects in the dark. However, the dark colors aren’t recommended for those who prefer running when the sun’s gone down.

The best workout shirt for odor control

Rhone Reign shirt

Rhone’s Reign sets itself apart with GoldFusion technology that wicks moisture, controls odors, and decreases drying time.

Pros: GoldFusion technology is as innovative as anything on the market, odor control that actually works, fast drying time, and a comfortable, stylish fit

Cons: Premium price tag

There are innovative workout shirts and then there’s the Rhone Reign, a shirt that features actual flakes of real gold and uses the company’s GoldFusion technology. Hardly a gimmick, GoldFusion has a three-pronged impact in that it actively wicks away moisture, combats odor, and dramatically decreases drying time.

So, not only does the technology keep you dry and comfortable but it keeps even the worst gym smells at bay — a feature the rest of the people at the gym would surely love, as well.

Though GoldFusion is its rightful claim to fame, the Reign shirt still scores highly in other areas like fit and comfort. Essentially a performance synthetic tee, it’s capable of holding up to almost any workout, activity, or sport and remains comfortable throughout. With raglan sleeves and flatlock stitching, it achieves a better fit throughout without chafing or irritating your skin.

Rhone may have only just come onto the athletic apparel scene in recent years but armed with its GoldFusion technology and a casual, modern fit, the Reign lives up to its name.

The best workout shirt for hot weather

arctic cool shirt

Powered by HydroFreeze X technology, Arctic Cool’s Crew Neck shirt utilizes an innovative fabric that works to lower your body temperature while also wicking sweat. 

Pros: Innovative HydroFeeze X cools body temperature and actually works, UPF 50+ rating blocks 98% of harmful UV rays, antimicrobial cooling tech is machine-washable and never fades, and it spreads moisture across the shirt as it wicks to improve dry time

Cons: Plain style and color choices

Rhone’s Reign may have gold flakes in its fabric but Arctic Cool’s plainly-named Crew Neck shirt has its own ace up its sleeve: HydroFreeze X technology. Flashy name aside, HyrdoFreeze X is more than just marketing-speak. It’s a type of fabric that, while wicking moisture, dramatically lowers your body temperature.

As you sweat, the fabric absorbs that moisture and disperses it across the material. As air moves over the surface of the shirt, it creates a cooling effect that can make you feel up to 30 degrees cooler. Once it moves through the shirt and cools down, any excess moisture is then wicked completely from the garment. Better yet, the tech is antimicrobial, meaning it’s able to sustain a lifetime of washes and still perform.

Though the shirt itself is a bit plain, the HydroFreeze X fabric offers a premium fit that’s capable of supporting a variety of exercises and activities. Additionally, each shirt is rated at UPF 50+, so it offers a high level of sun protection, blocking up to 98% of harmful UV rays.

The best-fitting workout shirt

Person wearing Saxx Aerator workout shirt

The Saxx Aerator is one of the best-fitting athletic shirts I’ve worn as it’s cut to better fit your arms and chest without looking boxy through the rest of the shirt. 

Pros: Great fit, comfortable, works well for a variety of workouts like HIIT, running, or biking, comes in a L/S variety

Cons: Limited color options

Though Saxx is known mainly for its inventive line of, shall I say, supportive underwear, the brand also makes a selection of workout apparel. One such shirt (which is also available in a long-sleeved version) is called the Aerator, and after wearing it for several months, I’m a huge fan.

Perhaps my favorite part about the shirt is how it fits. It features a flattering cut that’s bigger in the chest and slimmer through the waist. This allows it to achieve a more fitted look that stays true to size and doesn’t look boxy or ill-fitting. Not only does this make me feel more confident while wearing it but a shirt that fits correctly just functions better. 

The Aerator is available in three colors, and while each is solid and works well for anyone’s personal style, the fact there are only three may seem basic to some — to be fair, this is a minor nitpick. 

I’ve mainly worn this shirt while running or doing at-home workouts, and it’s perfectly held up for all of it. Even during the humid summer months when it can get drenched in sweat in a matter of minutes, it avoids feeling too heavy or bogging me down, and its moisture-wicking tech seems to work as advertised. The Aerator quickly became one of my workout apparel staples and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. 

The best workout shirt for cold weather

under armour shirt

Under Armour’s HeatGear Armour long sleeve shirt makes frigid winter runs a bit more manageable. 

Pros: Second-skin fit allows for layering without sacrificing performance, soft and lightweight, HeatGear fabric stays warm in the coldest temperatures, four-way stretch offers wide range of movement, and Under Armour compression helps improve performance

Cons: Limited to wearing in cold to moderate weather

Under Armour made its name designing and manufacturing some of the best compression athletic gear on the market and its HeatGear Armour long sleeve shirt is the perfect example of the brand’s innovations. Featuring a second skin, compression-style fit and lightweight construction, the HeatGear Armour is a form-fitting shirt that offers comfortable support.

With a four-way stretch design, it not only avoids hindering your performance but also accentuates it by allowing for movement in any direction. The shirt lives up to its HeatGear name by truly shining when temperatures drop as the fabric was built for keeping you warm in frigid weather. It even boasts a UPF 30+ rating, which helps protect against harmful UV rays — something anyone’s capable of being exposed to year-round.   

The long sleeve tee also wicks moisture and dries quickly which is an incredibly welcome feature for those who like to run outside and break a sweat. No more plodding away on an indoor treadmill, Under Armour’s HeatGear Armour allows anyone to enjoy a training session outside of the gym, even in the dead of winter.

The best workout shirt for casual wear

reebok shirt

With a stylish cut and quick-dry fabric, Reebok’s Supersonic 2.0 fits in at the gym, at home, or the bar after a workout.

Pros: Stylish cut, effective moisture-wicking technology, quick-dry fabric that performs in any environment, and its loose-fitting torso allows for a greater range of motion

Cons: Fitted design may not be suitable for all body types

A company mostly synonymous with sneakers, Reebok’s athletic apparel is just as impressive as its shoes. With the Supersonic 2.0, the Adidas subsidiary takes a stab at offering performance fabric designed to wick sweat, dry quickly, and look good in the process. With an athletic cut and stylish design, not only does this shirt deliver on performance but it’s also capable of being worn all day, every day if you so please. 

Made of 95% polyester and 5% spandex, the Supersonic 2.0 is lightweight and highly breathable and is as capable of wicking away moisture as it is helping avoid excessive sweat spots. That means you can wear it to the gym and, even after an intense workout, still wear it while meeting up with friends or heading back to work.

Featuring a fitted cut to hug a wearer’s upper torso, the bottom flows freely allowing for a wide range of movement. No matter if it’s an afternoon of basketball, an hour of lifting weights, or simply going for a run, the fit stays true throughout and performance is never limited. Reebok’s Supersonic 2.0 is about as functional and versatile of an everyday shirt as it gets. We do recommend washing it regularly, though.

What else I’m testing

The market for workout shirts is broad, which makes it seem like there’s an endless amount of options to choose from. What this also means is that there’s no shortage of workout shirts showing up on my doorstep for testing. While the above shirts are tried, tested, and approved, the following shirts are currently being reviewed to see if they have what it takes to make it into the spotlight. 

Here are the workout shirts I’m currently testing: 

Hylete Calavera Tri-Blend Crew: One of my favorite parts of Hylete’s Calavera is that it looks like a normal tri-blend shirt I’d throw on with a pair of jeans yet it performs just as well as some of the workout shirts featured in the main guide. I was originally skeptical that it’d just feel like wearing a cotton shirt (and come with all the same drawbacks) but I was quickly convinced otherwise after wearing it through a particularly sweaty home boxing session. Hylete offers a wide variety of similar shirts, too, each with fun graphics and colorways. 

Janji Runterra TeeThe Insider Reviews team has written at length and often about the quality of Janji’s workout apparel, and it remains one of our favorite brands to wear when breaking a sweat. One of its shirts I’ve been wearing recently is the Runterra Tee, a technical cotton blend shirt that’s highly comfortable, blocks odor, and that uses volcanic ash to thermoregulate the body. That’s a mouthful to just simply say this shirt is an active person’s dream. I wear it often for just about any activity and never feel I’ve made a bad choice.

Tracksmith Harrier TeeTracksmith’s Harrier quickly became one of my go-to running shirts after wearing it just once while on a run. Featuring a classic design, the shirt wicks moisture, dries quickly, and blocks odors, which is essentially everything a quality running shirt should offer — and it does it all thanks to a Merino wool blend. 

Workout shirt glossary

Just as there’s variety in the available options, there’s also variety in a wearer’s desired application or workout style. Perhaps a runner wants a more lightweight option or a fitness buff desires something that looks good every day, no matter the activity.

Regardless of intent, there’s a suitable workout shirt designed specifically for everyone. A great workout shirt doesn’t just get the job done but does so without sacrificing performance, comfort, or style. 

Here are some of the most popular styles and features of men’s workout shirts:

Sweat-wicking: Sweat-wicking shirts work to remove moisture from your skin. They also don’t soak up any of that moisture (like a cotton tee might), allowing them to avoid feeling overly heavy as you work out. 

Odor control: Fabrics with odor-control technology help minimize lingering odors. There are several ways manufacturers are able to do this, either constructing the shirt of merino wool, having it feature a highly breathable design, or, in the case of Rhone, use gold particles infused into the fabric. 

Quick-dry fabric: Workout shirts with quick-dry fabrics are often made from merino wool, polyester, or nylon (or a blend) and are designed to be highly breathable. 

Four-way stretch: This type of fabric allows for greater freedom of motion, helping the wearer feel less hindered while running, lifting weights, or doing moves like lunges or burpees. 

How we test workout shirts

Each shirt featured in this buying guide went through several rounds of testing across a variety of workouts and activities. These workouts include weight training sessions with resistance bands, medicine balls, and dumbbells, 30-minute cardio sessions of either an outdoor run, outdoor bike ride, or an indoor stationary bike ride, and indoor interval training routines. 

No workout shirt is the perfect, one-style-fits-all, so each selection also lists a few drawbacks to consider, be it sizing and fit issues, an expensive price tag, or lack of color choice. New product styles and releases are always being considered for future updates, as well. 

Here are the four categories we judged each shirt on during testing:

Fit: An ill-fitting workout shirt won’t exactly motivate you or push you through to the end of your workout, no matter if you’re out for a run or using resistance bands at home. When testing, we looked at everything from how stretchy it was and how well it moved along with us, if the armholes allowed for proper range of motion, and if there was enough coverage through the bottom. 

Performance: Performance is essentially the execution of a workout shirt’s fabric tech, especially today. How well does it wick sweat or control odor? Is it breathable and does it avoid chafing? A workout shirt’s performance is one of the most important factors we considered because the last thing you want to be thinking about while working out is why your shirt feels like a hundred pounds drenched in sweat or what the foul smell might be. 

Fabric tech: Innovative fabric tech is now the norm in every manner of workout gear as brands have adopted everything from gold-infused materials and multi-stretch fabric to active cooling and UPF protection. Since these are now standard practice, it raises the bar in terms of judging how well a workout shirt applies the tech. 

Value: The value of a quality workout shirt is less about how much it costs and more about the combination of the three categories before it, as well as what its final price is. We often say it’s better to spend more on a premium product than to spend less, more often on something that’s shoddily designed and won’t last. 

A note on fit

Though the workout shirts featured in this guide have the name “men’s” in them, they’re not strictly for cisgender men. The cut and design of the shirts may differ from similar clothing intended for women but anyone is able to wear whatever shirt they feel comfortable in.

This is especially true in the world of workout apparel where comfort and performance are far higher priorities than what specific gender they’re intended for — and each of the shirts featured below was tested with those features in mind. If you’re looking for workout clothing that more closely identifies with the fit and design of women’s apparel, check out our guide to our favorite women’s workout clothing brands

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The 6 best hydration packs of 2021 for day hikes, long-distance runs, and other outdoor activities

  • It’s crucial to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly in the heat.
  • Hydration packs make it easy and comfortable to carry liters of water on a run, hike, or bike ride.
  • Our top pick, Osprey’s Skarab 18 is comfortable for running or hiking and holds 2L of water as well as essentials.

You know it’s important to stay hydrated on a hike, run, bike ride, or literally any adventure that involves some amount of exercising. But carrying a water bottle and having to constantly stop to pull it out of your pack gets old very quickly.

Hydration packs are the ideal way to make carrying and accessing water easier and minimize stoppage time. The best hydration packs not only have a pouch big enough to hold 1+ liters of water, but they also provide storage for snacks, layers, a first aid kit, and any other essentials you might need on a day hike or run. What’s more, the pack also needs to be comfortable, breathable, and quick-drying to not weigh down your adventure.

The number of hydration packs on the market can be overwhelming, but we’ve rounded up six of our favorites from brands like Osprey, CamelBak, and Salomon.

For longer hikes and backpacking trips, check out our guides to the best backpacks for men and for women.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are the best hydration packs:

The best hydration pack overall

Osprey hydration pack

Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the only day-hiking hydration pack I wear, thanks to its high-quality construction, customizable fit, and easy-to-access water reservoir.

Pros: Comfortable to wear even over several hours, extra-wide clip-on water reservoir allows for easy cleaning and refills, 2.5-liter capacity is perfect for long day hikes, offers plenty of interior storage, and the ventilated foam frame helps avoid excess sweat

Cons: Too small for longer backpacking trips

Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be my favorite hydration pack.

I’ve found it to be the ideal size for a day hike, weighing just over one pound with enough storage space for hiking essentials. Its foam frame allows for great ventilation and keeps my back cool and mostly sweat-free. Like all its packs, Osprey decked out the Skarab with plenty of straps to allow for the ultimate custom fit, regardless of whether I’m wearing it or I pass it on to a friend.

But what makes this bag truly shine is the large, 2.5-liter water pouch, which does quite well to keep me hydrated on all but the longest day hikes. Additionally, its extra-wide clip opening makes it easy to add more water or clean the reservoir after use. The pack even has a magnetic bite valve attachment that allows it to quickly attach to the Skarab’s sternum strap, allowing for easy access.

Added extras like stretch mesh pockets on the side of the pack, a scratch-free stash pocket, removable hip belts, and external bungees for more gear are Osprey staples and only add to the pack’s overall quality. Osprey’s Skarab 18 is simple when it needs to be yet is still a highly versatile and technical pack. 

The best hydration pack for male runners

camelbak hydration pack

Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course. 

Pros: Weighs just five ounces without water, mesh back panel and harness aid in ventilation, new Crux reservoir allows 20% more water per drink, and its leak-proof valves are easy to flick on or off

Cons: Doesn’t offer much in the way of storage (not that runners need much of it, anyway)

A running-specific hydration pack should sinch down tight and comfortable, and be able to carry enough water for long miles. Camelbak’s HydroBak has a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation and keeping you cool. Its reflective accents help with visibility for early or late runs. 

Uniquely, the HydroBak features a Crux reservoir which lets you pull a full 20% more water with each swig. That means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on your stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push for less wasted water and no fumbling with the tube while running.

CamelBak also outfitted the Crux with a leak-proof cap and coated the tube with its anti-microbial HydroGuard technology, which is 100% BPA free and reduces the risk of bacteria growth.

Though it’s small, the HydroBak still features a few zippered pockets perfect for keeping energy gels, granola bars, and some cash for those well-earned post-run beers.

The best hydration pack for female runners

salomon adv skin 8

The Salomon ADV Skin 8 is specifically designed to sinch down on the female figure, and can carry 1 liter of water with the option of adding a reservoir in the back.

Pros: Female-specific design, adjustable to fit different chest sizes, soft material, 2 soft 500ml flasks included, many mesh and zipper pockets, room to carry warm layer

Cons: Expensive, straws can be a bit tricky to adjust

While females can wear any hydration pack, they’ll be the most comfortable in the Salomon ADV Skin 8. Designed by one of the leading trail running brands today, the ADV Skin 8 is uniquely shaped to sinch down tight around female curves so your pack isn’t throwing off your momentum. Specifically, this pack was crafted to alleviate pressure on your breasts and has an adjustable drawcord fasten in the front for a personalized fit. I’m small-chested and have lent this vest to friends as large-chested as 34DD who say it’s just as comfortable for bigger breasts.

While you can slide a traditional reservoir in the back of the pack, the other feature that makes Salomon running vests so great is their integrated soft flasks. Two half-liter water flasks sit on either side of your chest in a soft mesh pocket, allowing for quick water access mid-run.

Additionally, this pack has mesh and zippered pockets strategically placed in nooks and crannies, as well as down the back, to stash everything from car keys to a warm layer. You can even move the elastic cords and loops around to carry trail running poles wherever feels most comfortable to you.

I’ve been running in this hydration vest for two years and the only bad words I have to say about it is it’s expensive (but, in my opinion, worth it for runners) and the straw on the included flasks might need to be cut down, which can be a little tricky to do. –Rachael Schultz, Health and Fitness Updates Editor

The best hydration pack for day hikes

platypus hydration pack

The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering 7 liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir. 

Pros: Plenty of storage options despite its modest 7L capacity, external tool and gear loops, capable of fitting many different body types, comes standard with huge three-liter BigZip water reservoir and magnetic hose, and FloatAir back panel offers comfort for even the longest day hikes

Cons: Expensive

Platypus’s Duthie A.M. 10.0 has plenty of internal and external storage options with a 7L capacity, perfect for short jaunts into the backcountry or several mile excursions. Its strategic approach to organization also means you won’t be digging past your car keys to get to your snacks — everything has its own place in the pack.

When it comes to the Duthie’s hydration capability, few companies deliver as well as Platypus. Featuring a large three-liter reservoir, the brand’s patented BigZip water pouch features a magnetic hose clip and also offers wearers the ability to route the house in multiple ways — a welcome function not typically seen in hydration packs.

For hardcore day hikers who also have other activities in mind, the Duthie also offers a useful carry system designed to hold pads or full-face helmets and even sports a fleece-lined pocket perfect for stashing a pair of shades.

Additionally, the pack easily conforms to a variety of body shapes and sizes with just a few adjustments of its straps and hip belt. After finding the perfect fit, Platypus’ FloatAir back panel keeps you mostly sweat-free and comfortable, no matter how long the hike.

The best hydration pack for cycling

gelindo hydration pack

Forget reaching down for any built-in water bottle holders because with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, staying hydrated while biking is as easy as simply drinking out of a straw.

Pros: Insulated water reservoir pocket keeps liquids cool for up to four hours, mesh back panel keeps airflow at a maximum, interior organization capable of holding a variety of items without feeling cluttered, and its easily adjustable straps are capable of fitting almost any body type

Cons: Limited reflective details

While most bikes have space for attaching a water bottle holder, a hydration pack makes staying quenched much easier and Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack is perfectly fit for the job.

This pack has an insulated pocket to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, which will keep your water cool for up to four hours. The pack is also designed to keep your body heat from warming the water. 

Gelindo included several storage pockets capable of holding energy bars and car keys, and bigger compartments to hold a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tubes. Organization also scores highly as it’s easy to reach for and access any of the interior contents, no matter how full the pack gets.

It’s no secret cyclists care about comfort and with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, finding a perfectly comfortable fit is easily done via its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. Furthermore, its ergonomic mesh back allows for steady airflow to keep you from overheating, keeping you comfortable throughout the entirety of your ride.

The best hydration pack for commuting

gregory hydration pack

Gregory’s Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easy-access water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.

Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying 3L water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack

Cons: Expensive

Even just commenting to wor requires energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gregory’s Inertia 30 is designed to not only quench thirst but also to pack a work day’s worth of gear. Be it a laptop, notebook, tablet, or otherwise, the Inertia offers enough interior storage space to tote along whatever the day calls for.

It even features several exterior pockets perfect for storing items that need to be quickly accessible, as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.

Gregory includes a quick-drying 3L water reservoir that has a built-in drying hangar, perfect for airing it out to avoid mold or mildew buildup. The Inertia’s dedicated hydration sleeve makes it easy to just toss the reservoir into the pack, and it automatically stabilizes the pouch’s weight to the center of your back. Gregory even made the reservoir’s tube magnetic, making it easy to take on and off.

Though we chose it for its ability to act as a commuter bag, the Inertia 30 also excels as a day-hiking pack, offering exterior loops for trekking poles, compression straps on either side, and load lifters that help stabilize the pack when it gets heavy.

At $120, it’s not the cheapest bag of the bunch but considering what it offers, and the Gregory name also means supreme durability, the Inertia 30 is worth every penny.

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The 6 best water bottles we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A refillable water bottle is a great sustainable option for staying hydrated while you’re on the go.
  • The best should be durable, easily portable, and able to keep your beverages cold or hot for hours on end.
  • Our top pick, the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth, features rugged construction and excellent temperature retention.

Reusable water bottles are a must for anyone who wants to quench their thirst without leaving a trail of landfill-clogging plastic in their wake. But just like travel mugs, choosing a water bottle isn’t as simple as picking the prettiest option or the cheapest one.

If your bottle is mostly going to sit on your desk or travel from room to room in your home, your needs are quite different than if you want a lightweight companion for a weekend hike or a leak-proof option that rattles around in your gym bag without soaking everything inside.

To find the best currently available, we tested and researched a variety of bottles and bottle types. The following guide includes versatile stainless-steel options, inexpensive but reliable plastic bottles, and even a sturdy one for glass lovers. We also include picks for anyone who wants a bottle with a high-end design and a collapsible water bottle for situations when weight and portability are paramount.

At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some insight into how to shop for a water bottle and what to keep in mind when picking out which bottle fits your lifestyle best.

Here are the best water bottles:

The best water bottle overall

a vacuum insulated water bottle that people swear by

The Hydro Flask Wide Mouth water bottle is durable, keeps water ice cold for hours on end, looks cool, and is easy to use. 

Pros: Very durable, great at keeping drinks cold or hot, easy to use, compatible with three kinds of lids, comes in high-capacity options

Cons: Heavy, expensive, flip top may leak, not dishwasher-safe

Hydro Flask is a great choice if you hate gulping warm water in the summer. It also offers some much-appreciated versatility, with a wide opening that fits three lids depending on your needs: A flip lid with a loop, a flex cap with an even larger loop (included), and a straw lid for more convenient sipping. We like having the option to switch out lids, and the wide mouth also makes it easy to load this bottle up with ice. You can choose between 18-, 32-, 40- and 64-ounce capacities and a number of fun colors.

During Outdoor Gear Lab’s testing, ice resisted melting for nearly a full 24 hours, and water was ice cold for more than a full day. The insulated stainless steel also keeps drinks warm for several hours, so Hydro Flask can pull double-duty as a travel mug for coffee and tea. 

This thing is seriously rugged, too. Like all stainless-steel water bottles, it can dent when dropped, but in Outside’s tests, it managed to survive being pelted with large rocks and getting backed over by a Toyota Camry and a Chevy Silverado. After all that punishment, it sustained a quarter-inch dent and one small scratch.  It also has a loop on the lid that makes it easy to carry one-handed.

Insider Reviews senior reporter Owen Burke calls Hydro Flask water bottles “lightweight and nearly indestructible” (he tested the 24-ounce version). But he found the silicone loop on the lid to be “not the most durable thing in the world, and it will eventually break.” Nearly every member on the Insider Reviews team uses a Hydro Flask. You can read about their experiences on why they like the company’s products.

It’s heavier than other bottles (the 18-ounce version weighs in at 11.6 ounces, the 32-ounce closes in on 1 pound) so serious hikers looking to save on weight might want to consider lighter options.

The flip-top is not leak-proof, so consider sticking with the flex cap if you want to toss your bottle in a bag without worrying. A few also complain of a slight metallic taste. Finally, this bottle is hand-wash only – steer clear if you live and die by the dishwasher. — Saundra Latham

The best plastic water bottle

Camelbak

If you prioritize price or weight over temperature retention, consider the inexpensive and easy-to-use Camelbak Chute water bottle

Pros: Lightweight, inexpensive, durable, easy to carry, gulp-friendly spout, dishwasher-safe, comes in high-capacity options

Cons: Lid is tricky to lock down, won’t keep your water cold for long, may “sweat” with condensation on a hot day

Stainless-steel water bottles like the Hydro Flask have a lot of pros, but they’re heavy. A plastic water bottle like the Camelbak Chute is cheaper and a lot lighter. In fact, the largest 50-ounce Chute weighs a measly 7.6 ounces. If you’re not quite that thirsty, no worries: There are 20-, 25-, and 34-ounce versions, too.

Like the Hydro Flask, the Chute has a wide mouth that makes it easy to fill and load up with ice, and the large spout means you can gulp until you’re content instead of dealing with a valve that restricts flow, which is common on other water bottles. It also has a loop on the cap, making it easy to clip to a backpack or hook around a finger or two.

Though the Chute may not be as tough as stainless steel, it’s still relatively rugged for a plastic water bottle. It’s made of BPA-free, dishwasher-safe Tritan plastic that is engineered to resist cracking. Even better, most say the bottle doesn’t impart any funky plastic taste to their water.

A few minor issues: Other testers have found that it can be tricky to lock the cap down onto the lid while drinking, though they still appreciate having the option to keep the cap from springing back and bonking them in the nose. Of course, plastic isn’t great at regulating temperatures, so if you need to keep drinks hot or want to keep them cold for longer, take a look at the pricier and, of course, heavier stainless-steel Chute.  — Saundra Latham

The best glass water bottle

glass water bottle

The Lifefactory Glass Water Bottle is a better choice for the most discerning palates and a more eco-friendly choice for anyone concerned with green living.

Pros: Glass won’t alter the taste of water, more recyclable than other options, silicone sleeve provides good grip and protection from bumps and drops, compatible with three kinds of lids, dishwasher-safe

Cons: Heavy, glass is less durable than plastic or stainless steel, flip-top may not regulate flow well enough for sippers, may “sweat” with condensation on a hot day

If you hate that metallic or plastic taste you get with other water bottles, you’ll love the Lifefactory Glass Water Bottle, which keeps water fresh and untainted, even after a full day sitting in the bottle. You don’t get the aftertaste that metal or plastic tend to impart.

The Lifefactory is also a good option if you’re worried about the chemicals in plastic and want something that is more readily recyclable.

No, glass bottles won’t survive as many drops as stainless steel or shatter-resistant plastic, but the Lifefactory bottle is protected by its substantial silicone sleeve. The sleeve also provides a grippier surface for holding the bottle. Since glass “sweats” more than other materials, this is a feature most users should appreciate.

You have a few lid options with Lifefactory water bottles: A silicone flip cap (included), a straw cap, and a leak-proof classic cap meant for those who want to toss the bottle in a bag without worrying. Other testers have said the wide mouth makes it easy to fill, though they do note it can be easy to misthread the cap, raising your risk of leaks. The bottle is dishwasher-safe, even with the silicone sleeve on.

Other issues are minimal: The flip cap can pop off and doesn’t regulate flow well enough for users who may just want a sip. Of course, like all glass bottles, the Lifefactory is heavy — the 22-ounce bottle is just over a pound — so it isn’t the best pick when weight is a big concern. — Saundra Latham

The best water bottle for design lovers

S'well bottle

S’well Stainless Steel Water Bottles are a great blend of form and function, keep your water cold, and look amazing doing it.

Pros: Wide range of beautiful designs, great at keeping drinks cold or hot, relatively durable, doesn’t “sweat”

Cons: Heavy, expensive, narrow mouth, not dishwasher-safe

S’well has become something of a phenomenon in a few short years, thanks in part to powerful backers like Oprah and massive retail partners like Starbucks and Target. Stainless-steel S’well bottles are always a standout on store shelves thanks to their eye-catching designs, whether you like wood grain, marble, metallic, animal print, or more.

Insider Reviews deputy editor Malarie Gokey loves her stone-style S’well bottle for its slick design, ability to keep drinks cold, and its trusty lid. There are three sizes  — 9, 17, and 25 ounces — and the smaller two bottles can fit in standard cup holders.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the design of a S’well bottle, but its triple-walled body means it’s just as good as the Hydro Flask and similar bottles at keeping drinks cold or hot – up to 24 or 12 hours, respectively. Users note that the bottle doesn’t sweat, keeping their hands dry. S’well bottles should stand up to a good amount of abuse, but reviewers note that like any steel bottles, they can sustain dents and dings if dropped.

S’well features a simple twist cap that receives high marks for its ease of use, and it really is quite leak-proof. Though S’well’s classic bottles have a narrow opening many reviewers say they’re still able to fit standard ice cubes inside. S’well offers a flip-top sport lid, but if a straw lid is more appealing, S’well won’t be an option. You’ll also want to hand-wash these bottles, a common recommendation for stainless steel.

These aren’t the lightest water bottles around – the 25-ounce bottle weighs in at a pound, similar to the 32-ounce Hydro Flask. You can’t ignore the fact that S’well bottles are on the pricier side compared with others.  — Saundra Latham

The best flexible water bottle

Vapur water bottle

The collapsible Vapur Element weighs just one ounce unfilled, so you may even forget it’s in your bag.

Pros: Very lightweight, inexpensive, freezable, can be rolled up when empty, integrated carabiner makes for easy carrying, easy-to-use flip-top design

Cons: Slow to dry out, may spring a leak after extended or heavy-duty use

“Water bottle” may not be the best way to describe the Vapur Element. In fact, Vapur bills the Element as an “anti-bottle,” which does sound a lot cooler than “water pouch.” Made of a flexible BPA-free plastic, the Vapur can be squished, folded and rolled up when empty. Best of all, it weighs only about an ounce. There are two sizes: 24 and 34 ounces, though Vapur makes similar anti-bottles that are smaller and larger.

It’s the perfect water bottle for backpackers and anyone who’s always on the go. Insider Reviews deputy editor Malarie Gokey brings the Vapur with her every time she travels because it’s so easy to carry. It’s often in her bag during the weekend, too.

As if weighing next to nothing and flattening for easy packing isn’t enough, the Vapur has a few more tricks up its sleeve. It’s freezable, which means your water stays colder longer, and the mouth is wide enough to accommodate ice cubes. Despite its flexibility, it’s still designed to stand up on its own.

The cap has an integrated carabiner that can be used to clip the bottle onto a backpack or belt, or keep it neatly rolled up when it’s empty. The mouth is also large enough to allow a brush inside, and the bottle is dishwasher-safe.

As for cons, most have to do with durability and cleaning. Over time it may start to leak from the seams, especially if you’re rough on it. Some reviewers say it’s also difficult for the Element to thoroughly dry out between uses. While the lining is antimicrobial, germophobes may want to look elsewhere. — Saundra Latham

The best collapsible water bottle

Hydaway water bottle

If you feel like you spend much of your life on the road or on a plane, the Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle is the travel essential you can’t go without.

Pros: Lightweight, collapsible, great for travel or for folks on the go, easy to carry

Cons: Some customers have noted that it’s difficult to “un-collapse” the bottle after being collapsed

Not all collapsible water bottles are bottles. Some are pouches like the Vapur, some are basically water bags, but none of these are quite as cool as the Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle. It’s cylindrical, maintains its shape even as you empty it of liquid, and has a lid with a sippy top. But once you’re done drinking or need to get through TSA, you can collapse the Hydaway into a flat disc that won’t take up a huge amount of space in your bag.

Rather than toting about a bulky bottle that has nothing in it, you can simply compress the Hydaway and, as the name suggests, hide it away. Even though the water bottle can be collapsed to take up no space at all, when it’s full, it can actually contain up to 20 ounces of water. So don’t think that you’re cheating yourself of much-needed hydration simply by choosing a bottle that’s super portable.

The Hydaway is made with food-grade silicone and plastic, which have both been tested by third parties and certified safe. The bottle is also BPA-free and dishwasher safe for added convenience. Thanks to its watertight seals throughout, you won’t have to deal with any leakage from this bottle, and there’s a carry handle that easily fits your finger or a carabiner so you can attach the Hydaway to a backpack or piece of luggage.

While some silicone leaves its contents with a rather plasticky taste or odor, I didn’t have this problem at all when I tested out the Hydaway. — Lulu Chang

How to shop for a water bottle

Shopping for a reusable water bottle doesn’t have to be an arduous process, and comes down mostly to how you intend to use the bottle. The most important features to keep in mind when deciding how you’ll use it are the materials used to manufacture the bottle, the amount of liquid it’s able to hold, the durability of the bottle, and whether it’s easily portable. 

Here’s how each of those features factors into which bottle is best for your lifestyle:

Materials: The bottles featured in this guide are made of either stainless steel (Hydro Flask), glass (Lifefactory), or plastic (Camelbak and Vapur). If you plan on being on the go often with your bottle, consider buying a plastic or stainless steel model, as those will always be far less likely to shatter than glass. The Lifefactory glass bottle is quite durable but no matter how much reinforcement its rubber exterior provides, glass can still easily break. 

Capacity: Most brands offer their reusable bottles in a variety of capacities, with some of the smallest holding anywhere from 8 to 12 ounces of liquid, while the larger bottles can hold upward of 64 ounces (or more). If you’re shopping for a bottle to have around the house, a larger bottle would certainly suffice, though it would be harder to take on the go should you decide to tote it along to the office or anywhere else. 

Durability: This is sort of a 1b to materials’ 1a in terms of importance, and again depends on if you plan on just keeping the bottle around your house or taking it on the go. Stainless steel bottles can handle far more of an everyday beating than a glass or plastic bottle, so if you plan on commuting or traveling, stainless steel is the way to go. 

Portability: Though stainless steel water bottles are consistently the best for portability, a bottle like Vapur’s collapsible is also a great option for the frequent traveler or commuter. The fact it’s able to fold down to something as big as a small wallet makes it easy to store in a backpack, purse, or even your pocket. Stainless steel bottles are inherently portable thanks to their durability but they will take up far more room in a bag. 

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