Employees are tired of meetings. They’re burned out from looking at their computers and Zoom fatigue is on the rise.
The number of meetings has skyrocketed during the pandemic. By February 2021, employees were spending 2.5 times as many minutes in meetings, according to an analysis from Microsoft.
If you can’t reduce your meetings, but want a change of scenery, a walking meeting could be a good solution. Plus, research has shown that walking is one of the best things you can do to counter the effects of sitting all day.
A 2016 study conducted by the University of Miami published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease found that replacing one regular meeting a week with a walking meeting increased the amount of high-intensity physical activity happening in a week by 10 minutes. This suggested that the walking meetings were having a positive impact on the worker’s health.
The small pilot study only looked at 17 people who worked at the university in office jobs. The participants were given accelerometers to track how fast they were moving over time.
In the first week of the experiment, the participants were asked to go about their week the way they normally would. For the second two weeks, they were asked to set up a 30-minute walking meeting once a week with the other members of the study.
Here are some of the other added benefits the researchers observed:
Some said they were more focused on the meeting itself, since they couldn’t be on their computer working on other tasks.
The walking meetings kept their agendas on track, and the meeting ran efficiently.
Some used it as a way to de-stress during the busy day.
The meetings were easy to add to work routines, suggesting that it wouldn’t be too difficult to apply this to a larger group.
Although the study was relatively small, the researchers pointed out some ways to expand. They recommended that future studies increase the number of walking meetings each week and that they look at the effects on a larger number of participants.
Like many people, the list of things I check when picking up my phone throughout the day has become pretty long. Email, Slack, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few of the apps I find myself compulsively refreshing out of habit.
I recently added another metric to that list: the way my voice sounds. That’s because I’ve been wearing Amazon’s Halo band, a fitness tracker that analyzes the tone of your voice in addition to gathering other more traditional health data points. The Halo band includes a microphone for listening to your voice and uses machine learning to assess whether you sound positive, energetic, tired, or annoyed among other moods.
It’s interesting to see a company like Amazon bring something new to the health and fitness space. And there are plenty of things Amazon gets right with the Halo when it comes to basic fitness tracking. But the features it developed to differentiate its fitness offering from those made by rivals like Apple and Fitbit – such as the tone analysis function – make me feel insecure rather than motivated.
You can always choose not to use the voice analysis feature and just wear the Halo as a regular fitness tracker, of course. But that doesn’t address the Halo’s biggest drawback, in my opinion, which is that you need to pay $3.99 per month after your first six months to get most of the Halo’s features.That makes it hard to recommend over trackers like the Fitbit Inspire 2, which is less expensive and in some ways offers more functionality.
Here’s a closer look at what it’s been like to use the Amazon Halo.
One of the Amazon Halo’s marquee features is its ability to analyze the tone of your voice. The capability, appropriately called Tone, can passively listen to your speech throughout the day and flag any notable moments at which you sounded particularly positive or negative.
You can also choose to have it evaluate your voice in real time, or turn the feature off entirely by shutting off the band’s microphone. Tone is designed to only recognize your voice and not those of the people around you. And you must set up the feature before using it, so it’s completely voluntary.
During the course of my review, I left the microphone on and allowed the band to monitor the tone of my voice throughout the day. Since the Halo band doesn’t have a screen, the app serves as your window into your health metrics, including how you sound. The app’s home screen greets you with a dashboard showing tiles for activity progress, sleep data, your tone, and body fat measurements.
Tapping into those tiles lets you view more information about that metric, such as notable moments at which you sounded particularly positive or energetic as it applies to Tone. While it was insightful on some level to see how I sounded during different conversations, it also made me a bit paranoid.
Now that I’ve been wearing the Halo, I often find myself checking the app after a work meeting or a social call with friends to see how I came across during the conversation. Apparently, I tend to sound more positive and energetic during work meetings (Halo uses words like “warm,” “appreciative,” and “proud” to describe my tone), while at times I sound irritated or dismissive in other conversations with friends or my husband.
I couldn’t help but question any interaction that Amazon had labeled as sounding irritated or tired. Who was I speaking to? What were we talking about? Is that what people think I sound like?
Amazon says the point behind Tone is to help you be more mindful in how you sound when speaking to others to improve your personal relationships. Dr. Don Cole, clinical director for The Gottman Institute, which specializes in research-based relationship counseling, says there’s value in understanding how you sound to others if there’s something to be learned from it.
The first three minutes of a conversation are especially important because they often dictate how the rest of the conversation could play out, Dr. Cole said to Insider. As such, understanding how your tone comes across in the beginning of a conversation could be helpful, especially for couples going through conflict, according to Dr. Cole.
But it’s important not to get too hung up on the results. Doing so could make it hard to establish a personal connection in the moment. “I think you can spend a lot of time worrying about, or thinking about, those moments rather than just experiencing the interactions,” Dr. Cole said. “And I think when we take ourselves out of the moment, sometimes there’s loss there.”
Amazon also has wellness programs and workouts that can help you improve certain metrics and stay healthy. For the Tone metric, it has corresponding video programs that are meant to help you improve conversation and listening skills.
But for me, it was unclear how watching a short seminar on how to be a better listener would help me sound more positive and less irritated during conversations when I don’t even know why my voice sounded that way to begin with.
The Halo‘s other headlining feature is its ability to measure and track your body fat. Amazon does this by taking a scan of your body through your smartphone’s camera and then generating a 3D avatar of your body and a body fat percentage through machine learning and computer vision.
Amazon says it’s nearly twice as accurate as leading smart home scales and comparable to methods a doctor would use in terms of accuracy.
To take a scan, you must first change into minimal clothing. And by minimal clothing. I mean practically nothing. For women, Amazon suggests wearing a bikini top and bottom or compression shorts with a bra or sports bra. After positioning the camera in the right place, the app will tell you to turn around a few times so that it can capture your full body.
Once the scan is complete, Amazon generates a percentage and 3D avatar in seconds. For privacy purposes, Amazon deletes body scans from the cloud by default after they’ve been processed unless you choose to save them. You can also delete body scan data anytime on the Settings menu (which I did immediately).
The ability to take a body fat scan from home on your smartphone is useful because it makes it easy to monitor changes in your body on a regular basis. That’s according to Dr. Amy Lee, head of nutrition at dietary supplement maker Nucific, who specializes in weight control methods and recently spoke to Insider about the Halo‘s body scan technology.
But Dr. Lee also said Halo users should take the results with a grain of salt, especially since it can be difficult for a system like this to fully understand nuanced differences in body composition.
The results also depend on how carefully the user follows Amazon’s directions when taking the scans. And data like this is only helpful if the user understands that it should be factored in with other data points, research, and conversations with your doctor, according to Dr. Lee.
In other words, don’t read too deeply into the single body fat percentage number that Amazon provides.
“If you’re doing this at home, and you have no baseline and education in nutrition, and you’re focusing everything you’re doing for the past week on the change of a number . . . you might find yourself going down [a] rabbit hole,” Dr. Lee said.
I’m exactly the type of person Dr. Lee described. When I saw my scan results, I immediately panicked and wondered why my doctor had never flagged my weight or body fat percentage to me as being problematic in the past.
I became fixated on the results, which was frustrating because I felt totally fine about my personal progress when it came to eating healthy and exercising regularly before taking the scan. Overall, the body fat percentage scan and Tone features left me feeling somewhat paranoid and a little insecure instead of motivating me.
As long as you’re paying for the subscription, there are tools in the app to help you manage your exercise, diet, and mental wellbeing. But maintaining a healthy body weight and fat percentage is a complex task.
And without more guidance about which programs to start with and how to contextualize these results, it’s hard to find this data to be useful or actionable.
For example, what I’ve learned from wearing the Halo is that I’m not in the healthy range of body fat percentage, but I’m a highly active person based on my Activity Score (more on that below). That felt like a confusing message to me, so I wish I had more information about why that might be the case or what to do next.
Fitness tracking and other features
There is one way Amazon has improved the fitness tracking experience: the way it tallies activity points. Rather than setting goals on a daily basis for calories burned, the Halo monitors your activity on a weekly basis. You earn points for every minute you move, with intense activity counting for two points per minute while moderate and light activity will get you one point per minute. It also deducts points when you’re too sedentary for long periods of time.
The weekly goal is set at 150 activity points, which Amazon says is the right range for maintaining a healthy heart citing the American Heart Association. If you hit 300 points, you’re considered to be very active.
I like this system because in some ways, it feels more encouraging than living by daily goals. I’m usually a religious Apple Watch wearer, and it’s made me obsessed with closing at least two of my rings every day if not all three. If I don’t have time for a full workout, sometimes I find that I won’t be active at all because I know that any hope of closing my Move Ring – the circular meter that fills up with calories burned from daily activity – is totally gone.
But the Halo’s weekly goals motivate me to move at least a little bit every day even when I’m not committing to a full workout. Taking a brisk 20-minute walk feels more productive when I know it’s going to contribute to my weekly goal compared to the Apple Watch, where it feels like that activity just falls into a black hole if it doesn’t get me to my daily goal.
The Halo also works well as a sleep tracker since it’s light and comfortable enough to wear overnight. But more importantly, it provides a relatively comprehensive set of data about your sleep, even scoring the quality of your sleep much like Fitbit does.
After wearing the watch to bed, the Halo app will issue a score that indicates the quality of your sleep as well as how much time you spent asleep, how long it took you to fall asleep, the time you spent awake, and how much time you spent in REM, light, and deep sleep. That’s much more thorough than the Apple Watch’s sleep metrics, which basically just tell you the duration of your sleep.
Amazon also offers a series of health programs under the Discover tab on the Halo app, which features videos based on partnerships with Exhale, Orangetheory, and many others that make it easy to jump into a workout or wellness exercise straight from your phone. You can filter these videos based on the type of workout, duration, difficulty, and the content provider. Unfortunately, though, you can’t filter these workouts by whether or not they require equipment, which is particularly important now that many people are exercising at home.
And since Amazon encrypts your health data, which is great for privacy, you must factory reset and re-pair your band with a new device anytime you want to access your account elsewhere. While I’m glad Amazon is taking the appropriate steps to secure your health data, this also makes it difficult to access these workout videos since I need to re-pair my band with a different device each time I want to view a workout on a larger screen.
Instead, I wish Amazon would at least make its Discover programs accessible on other devices upon logging in without carrying over the rest of your health data. Amazon suggests wirelessly casting workouts to a larger screen from your phone via AirPlay as a workaround.
But most of these features require Amazon’s $3.99 monthly subscription. Without that, you only get access to features like steps, heart rate data, calories burned, and the ability to log activity through the activity sessions feature. You also only get basic sleep data like the time you’ve spent asleep and awake, and your temperature while sleeping.
You lose the Activity Score, which was one of my favorite things about the Halo, as well as features like Tone, Body Fat, Activity Intensity (which rates the intensity of your activity), Sleep Score, Sleep Stages, and Insights, which highlight trends and patterns in your health and fitness data over time. Discover programs are also limited without a subscription.
There’s also no way to manage or cancel your membership from within the app. Instead, the app says you should visit the Your Membership & Subscriptions section of the Amazon app. A company spokesperson told Insider in February when this review was originally published that it planned to add a link that takes customers to the appropriate page for managing their membership.
It’s not unusual for companies to put some fitness tracking features behind a subscription paywall. Fitbit does this too through its Fitbit Premium service. But Fitbit still offers analysis of sleep and REM sleep in its free tier, and it just recently made its Health Metrics dashboard available to non-Premium subscribers. And since Fitbit’s trackers include a screen and can deliver smartphone notifications, they still offer more functionality for the price comparatively.
Ease of use and battery life
The Amazon Halo is easy to get started with, and the setup process is very similar to that of other smartwatches and fitness bands. Just download the Halo app, put the band on its charger, and follow the instructions.
My biggest concern about the Halo’s usability is the intentional design decision Amazon made to not include a screen on its fitness band. Amazon says this to prevent the band from becoming a distraction and taking away from the Halo’s primary purpose of serving as a discrete, comfortable health monitoring device.
But I feel like Amazon could have achieved this goal without omitting a screen entirely. Wearing a device on your wrist that doesn’t even tell the time feels like a missed opportunity. I would have preferred if the Halo had a small screen that only displayed the time and how many activity points you’ve achieved for the week without any notifications.
I’d even argue that requiring me to check my phone to see my stats is more distracting, since I’m likely to fall down the rabbit hole of check email and Twitter when picking up my phone.
Amazon does have an alternative if you don’t want to check your phone: Just ask Alexa. The company launched Alexa integration for the Halo in March, meaning you can ask Amazon’s digital helper for information about your activity, tone, sleep, and more. The feature is off by default, and you can choose to protect any health-related questions with a PIN.
Alexa’s usefulness depends on how comfortable you are with Amazon’s virtual assistant having access to your health data. But Amazon isn’t the only tech giant offering this type of integration; the Google Assistant on Google’s new sleep-sensing Nest Hub can also tell you information about your sleep when asked.
I’ve used Alexa to check in on my activity progress for the day. But I’d much rather have Alexa built into the band itself so that I could use it to set timers and alarms during workouts like I do with the Apple Watch.
Amazon’s fitness tracker can last for a decently long time on a single charge, which makes it great for sleep tracking. I got a little more than two days worth of battery life out of the Halo, but it would probably last longer if you have the microphone turned off and aren’t using the Tone feature.
Should you buy it?
Regardless of your opinion on the Halo’s Tone feature and its body fat measurements, there are more capable options out there for those in search of a simple and affordable fitness tracker. Although I like Amazon’s approach to activity tracking and appreciate the Halo’s comprehensive sleep tracking capabilities, there are too many drawbacks to consider.
The Halo‘s lack of a screen and the fact that you have to pay $3.99 per month after the first six months to get the best features, like Activity Score, make it tough to recommend. Yes, Fitbit also requires a subscription to access advanced features, but it still offers more detailed sleep data in its free tier compared to Amazon.
What are your alternatives?
Fitbit’s Inspire 2, which is currently available for $69.95, is a solid choice if you’re looking for an inexpensive and basic fitness tracker. It monitors metrics like sleep, calorie burn, activity, and heart rate, lasts for more than a week on a single charge, and reminds you to move when you’re too sedentary.
It also comes with a free one-year trial for Fitbit Premium, whereas the Amazon Halo only comes with a six-month trial. But if you choose to stick with Premium, you should note that Fitbit’s service is noticeably more expensive than Amazon’s at $9.99 per month.
If you’re more interested in training and recovery, the Whoop band is a screen-free fitness tracker that focuses on how your body recovers from workouts, in addition to other metrics. It’s gotten positive reviews from critics at CNET and PCMag, but it’s pricey at $30 per month.
The bottom line
Amazon tried to do something different with the Halo by making a simple, distraction-free fitness band that still manages to offer deeper health and wellness insights through a subscription.
The problem, though, is that I didn’t feel like the Halo’s most unique features – its ability to analyze the tone of your voice and calculate body fat percentage – were all that helpful. Instead, they just made me feel paranoid and insecure.
The one aspect of the Halo that I benefited from the most, its Activity Score, successfully motivated me to get moving every single day, regardless of my schedule. But that feature alone isn’t enough to justify a $3.99 monthly subscription on top of the $99.99 price.
Pros: Weekly activity goals are helpful, long battery life, works well as a sleep tracker
Cons: Features like Tone and Body Fat aren’t helpful, many features require a subscription, no screen for even telling the time
Fitbit announced the Fitbit Luxe on Monday, the company’s latest effort to make a wrist-worn fitness tracking device that looks more elegant than a traditional fitness band.
The Luxe, which starts at $149.95, is sleeker than its popular Charge 4 tracker but still includes some of the more advanced features found in pricier smartwatches like the Versa 3.
That’s significant because many wearable devices that prioritize style don’t come with as many health and fitness-oriented features.
The Luxe comes at a time when many companies are attempting to make their devices more appealing to style enthusiasts. Earlier this year, Garmin released the Lily, a fashion-forward smartwatch designed with women in mind.
Fitbit Luxe price and availability
The Fitbit Luxe is available to preorder on April 19 and will ship later this spring.
The base model with a silicone band costs $149.95
The special edition that comes with the Gorjana Soft Gold Stainless Steel Parker Link bracelet is available for $199.95 and also launches this spring.
What is different about the Fitbit Luxe
Physically, the Luxe has more in common with the Charge 4 than with the Versa 3. It lacks the large round face of a traditional smartwatch, instead featuring a thinner and longer look like Fitbit’s other trackers. Yet, like the Versa 3, the Luxe offers a full-color touch display while the Charge 4 is stuck in greyscale.
Like the Versa 3 and Charge 4, the Luxe offers a heart rate sensor, sleep tracking, and blood oxygen monitoring, but that last feature won’t be available at launch. Luxe owners can also get access to their stress management score, although this wristband does not have an EDA sensor for additional insights about how your body reacts to stress like the Fitbit Sense.
Instead, the Luxe examine metrics like activity levels, sleep, and heart rate to determine stress. The Luxe also comes with a six month trial of Fitbit’s $9.99-per-month premium service.
Fitbit is also bringing its health metrics dashboard, which was only previously available on smartwatches, to the Luxe and other trackers. This dashboard tracks metrics like breathing rate, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, skin temperature variation, and blood oxygen monitoring.
Both the Versa 3 and Charge 4 offer stand alone GPS, while the Luxe needs to be paired to a phone to track distance and pace. The Luxe has shorter battery life than the Versa 3 even though it lacks a battery-sucking GPS. Fitbit claims the Luxe gets up to five days of battery life, while the Charge 4 gets up to a full week and the Versa 3 lasts for six days.
Fitbit sells woven, sport, and leather bands for the Charge 4 and Versa 3. But only the Luxe is compatible with stainless steel mesh or linked bracelet bands in addition to leather, silicone, and woven bands. Fitbit partnered with the jewelry company Gorjana to create the $99.95 Parker Link bracelet band exclusively for the Luxe.
Should you preorder the Fitbit Luxe?
The Fitbit Luxe could be appealing to those who prefer wristbands over smartwatches but don’t want a device that has a sporty look like most fitness trackers. It lacks an onboard GPS, which might be a downside for avid runners, but offers many other fitness features.
The addition of high-end bands could make Fitbit stand out in the fitness tracker market. That’s especially true considering there’s less selection in this space as many tech companies have focused more on smartwatches than fitness bands in recent years.
Wearables that emphasize style and design also don’t typically come with as many health capabilities. The Bellabeat Time, for example, is a sleek watch that can monitor sleep, activity, and stress. But it doesn’t come with advanced features like blood oxygen saturation measurements, which is coming to the Fitbit Luxe in a later update, and skin temperature variation.
Peloton CEO John Foley says the company won’t stop selling its treadmill after US regulators suggested the company should recall the Tread+ over the weekend.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said Saturday it began investigating the Tread+ after 39 incidents, including one death, were linked to the machine. There have been multiple reports of children and pets becoming trapped or pulled under the back roller on the treadmill, according to the CPSC.
Foley responded to the CPSC statement saying the company has been cooperating with the investigation but has no plans to stop selling its $4,295 product.
“The Tread+ is safe when our warnings and safety instructions are followed, and we know that, every day, thousands of Members enjoy working out safely on their Tread+,” Foley said.
Peloton called CPSC’s warning “inaccurate and misleading.” The company also took issue with a harrowing video released by the agency which shows a child becoming trapped under the machine.
Foley said the treadmill was not designed for children and includes several warnings about keeping the product away from children.
“The Tread+ includes safety warnings and instructions in several places, including in the user manual, in a safety card left on top of the Tread+ tray on delivery, and on the product itself,” Foley said.
Foley also said Peloton is working on additional software that will provide additional safety measures.
Shares of Peloton fell about 5% in trading Monday following the CPSC’s announcement.
Consumer safety regulators issued an urgent warning on Saturday to people who own a Peloton Tread+, saying they should stop using the equipment after one child died and multiple others were injured after being sucked under the machine.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said the agency was aware of 39 incidents in which children and one pet got trapped under the machine.
In statement, it said: “CPSC staff believes the Peloton Tread+ poses serious risks to children for abrasions, fractures, and death. In light of multiple reports of children becoming entrapped, pinned, and pulled under the rear roller of the product, CPSC urges consumers with children at home to stop using the product immediately.”
Peloton on Saturday refuted the CPSC claims in a statement. It said: “The company is troubled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s unilateral press release about the Peloton Tread+ because it is inaccurate and misleading.”
It added: “There is no reason to stop using the Tread+, as long as all warnings and safety instructions are followed. Children under 16 should never use the Tread+, and Members should keep children, pets, and objects away from the Tread+ at all times.”
The Peloton Tread+ went on sale earlier this year, promising to offer runners the same “private fitness studio” experience enjoyed by users of its indoor bicycle. The Peloton Tread+ is similar to most treadmill machines, with its main differentiator being the smart screen and content library of live and recorded workout classes.
In March, Peloton CEO John Foley emailed owners of the Tread+ to inform them of a “tragic accident involving a child” and the machine, “resulting in, unthinkably, a death.”
To prevent future such accidents, he recommended adults removed the safety key after use, which would prevent the machine from operating.
“While we are aware of only a small handful of incidents involving the Tread+ where children have been hurt, each one is devastating to all of us at Peloton, and our hearts go out to the families involved,” Foley said at the time.
Health and fitness has always been at the core of Fitbit’s products, and the company is taking that one step further with the Fitbit Sense.
The Fitbit Sense was originally released in September at $330. But it’s now priced at $299.95, making it Fitbit’s most expensive – and most sophisticated – smartwatch.
What makes the Fitbit Sense unique is its ability to sense your body’s reaction to stress, a capability that rivals like the Apple Watch lack. The Sense can also monitor your blood oxygen levels (SpO2) and take an electrocardiogram (ECG), features that are starting to become standard on premium health watches from Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung.
Fitbit’s high-end smartwatch succeeds at giving users an incredibly detailed look at their fitness, health, and sleep. However, other Fitbit models like the $229.95 Versa 3 also offer many of the same features for less money. If you’re not concerned with taking an ECG from your wrist or getting an understanding of how your body reacts to stress, it’s hard to recommend the Sense over the Versa 3.
Fitbit Sense Specifications:
1.59 inches, 336 x 336 resolution AMOLED screen
Estimated at 6 days
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC
Heart rate monitor, accelerometer, GPS and GLONASS, SpO2 sensor, electrical sensors for EDA and ECG apps
Water resistant up to 50 meters
iOS and Android
Design and display
The Fitbit Sense isn’t exactly a high fashion accessory, but it’s comfortable enough and has a nice, crisp screen.
The watch comes in a 40 millimeter square-shaped aluminum watch case with a silicone strap, which is easy to put on and adjust. The AMOLED display is bright and vibrant, and the always-on display also makes it easy to glance at my wrist to check the time, even in direct sunlight.
The watch has one haptic-only button on the side that acts as a home button and felt intuitive to use. Press it once to illuminate the screen, double press it for shortcuts, and long press it for either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
The watch holds up to five watch faces in an app on the device, and to add more you must use the Fitbit app on your phone. Luckily, there are many free options that allow users to pick from a huge range of digital and analog faces. Fitbit offers some customization, but doesn’t support the level of personalization you’d get with the Apple Watch’s complications.
Overall, Fitbit’s accompanying smartphone app is straightforward and easy to use. Fitbit’s $9.99 Premium service, which you get a six-month free trial of when purchasing a Sense watch, is a big part of the overall experience. But non-premium members can certainly still benefit from the plethora of data provided by the watch and the occasional free session.
The Sense also does all of the many things one would expect a premium smartwatch to do. It answers phone calls if your phone is nearby, sends alerts when you get a text or an email, supports mobile payments through Fitbit Pay, and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
These options all work as they should with minimal fuss. I particularly enjoy using the smart alarm that vibrates in the morning when the watch senses that I’m lightly sleeping, which is less jarring than waking up to a traditional alarm.
There are a handful of third-party alarm and timer apps on the Fitbit app store, but don’t expect much more. Uber, Starbucks, Pandora, Walgreens, United Airlines and the New York Times have apps available. But the store’s offerings seem barren compared to Apple’s App Store.
The Sense, unlike other smartwatches, comes with an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor that helps measure your overall stress levels. This sensor detects small, electrical changes to your skin; the fewer electrodermal responses you get, the less stressed you are, according to Fitbit.
An app allows you to do a quick scan by placing your hand over the watch and staying still for two minutes. The watch vibrates to let you know when your scan is done, and prompts you to manually record how you feel. The sensor only works if your hand is completely still while touching the outside of the watch casing, so I found it difficult to truly relax while simultaneously keeping one hand glued to my wrist.
But my stillness clearly paid off when the app showed that I had zero EDA responses after my session and that my heart rate had dropped from 81 to 78 beats per minute. This was nice to see, but I honestly did not feel any less stressed than I had before.
These measurements are then compiled by the app into a Stress Management score, which ranges from one to 100. A higher number means that your body is showing less stress. The score looks at metrics like responsiveness (based on heart rate data and electrodermal activity), exertion balance (activity), and sleep patterns.
In addition to taking scans and issuing a Stress Management score, Fitbit also offers guided meditation sessions in the Fitbit app for Premium members that utilize this EDA sensor. A few introductory sessions are available for free.
Although I didn’t personally find the stress management feature to be all that helpful, bringing EDA sensors to smartwatches can be useful since you can’t really buy a standalone device to measure this type of metric. That’s according to Tanzeem Choudhury, professor in integrated health and technology at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, who spoke to Insider.
The EDA integration is certainly nice to have, but I understand why the technology hasn’t been sold as a standalone device. Until Fitbit explores new ways to make EDA scans feel more natural, it’s an interesting but only marginally useful statistic.
Blood oxygen readings
The Sense, like the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, comes equipped with a blood oxygen (SpO2) monitor. Unlike its competitors, Fitbit only allows SpO2 monitoring during sleep, meaning you cannot use the watch to get an on-demand SpO2 reading.
Fitbit says this enables the watch to establish a baseline of oxygen saturation that’s probably more consistent than a spot check.
Traditional pulse oximeters clip to the end of the finger and take measurements by passing light through the skin and tissue, as the Yale School of Medicine explains. Pulse oximeters on smartwatches can produce similar readings, but use a different technique to get their data. Smartwatches like the Fitbit Sense use LED lights to shine through the skin on the wrist and measure the reflection of the light instead of its transmission through the skin.
Choudhury says smartwatch blood oxygen sensors should work as accurately as their clip-on counterparts. While there isn’t enough data showing how smartwatch sensors compare to traditional pulse oximeters, she still thinks making this type of data more accessible is valuable.
“Tracking these continuously at home, you can flag when something is different and have someone look at it,” she said.
Fitbit also says its SpO2 feature shouldn’t be used for medical purposes and is only intended for general wellness. Apple has made similar remarks about the Apple Watch Series 6‘s blood oxygen sensor.
As for the lack of on-demand SpO2 data, some might find this to be a drawback, but I disagree. I feel that my watch sometimes offers too much information, which can lead to excess stress.
After months of use, I barely glance at my SpO2 data. My levels stay consistent, which means it’s not a metric that I need to check regularly like other frequently changing measurements such as heart rate and sleep quality.
Fitbit is currently working on a feature that notifies users when their SpO2 levels fluctuate, though there is no indication of when users might see that update.
Health and fitness
The Fitbit Sense is a solid fitness tracker, although it lacks some useful features of its competitors.
The onboard GPS is fairly accurate and only takes about 30 seconds to a minute to connect – the same amount of time it takes the Strava app on my phone to connect.
The watch consistently tracks my location, pace, steps, and heart rate while exercising around my neighborhood. There are also specific exercise modes for biking, bootcamp, circuit training, elliptical, golf, martial arts, yoga and many others.
Like the Apple Watch, you can set specific goals for your workouts – for distance, time, active zone minutes, or calories – and the watch will give you haptic feedback when you complete them.
This is a great feature, but unlike Garmin and Apple, the Sense does not allow for pace alarms. This means that there is no way to get a notification for when my pace is too slow. Also, unlike the Apple Watch, the Sense lacks the ability to quickly switch between exercise types mid-workout, which some might find helpful.
The Sense also allows users to take an electrocardiogram (ECG) by opening an app on the watch and placing their index finger and thumb on the metal corners of the watch casing. The readings are then stored on the Fitbit app where they can be viewed or exported as a PDF. I found this feature nice to have, but not one I used often.
Both the Versa 3 and the Sense have a Spotify app, but it’s only available for Spotify Premium users, and does not offer the ability to download songs directly to the watch. I found this disappointing, as it meant that I needed to bring my phone with me on workouts in order to listen to music. Premium users of both Deezer and Pandora can download some of their music directly to their Fitbit watch, while Spotify members cannot.
Fitbit says that it is continually working on their music offerings and hopes to eventually support the ability to use Spotify offline.
Sleep tracking and battery life
Without a doubt, the Sense shines its brightest when tracking sleep.
All Fitbit users get a sleep score that is based on time asleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep, and restoration – which includes sleeping heart rate and restlessness.
In Fitbit’s free tier, users get access to graphs breaking down the time spent in various sleep stages, as well as the estimated oxygen-level variations throughout the night. They can also see their 30-day average, as well as benchmark ranges for people in their particular age bracket and gender.
The premium membership unlocks the full spectrum of the Sense‘s sleep tracking capabilities. This includes detailed readings from the blood oxygen sensor, sleeping resting heart rate, and skin temperature readings. Premium users can also dive into looking more closely at the different stages of sleep, the time asleep, and sleeping heart rate.
The sleep tracking feels surprisingly accurate, and my sleep score often correlates to how rested I am feeling the next day. Even the temperature readings feel accurate – I can remember feeling warm the night before, and lo and behold, my app tells me that I was one degree above my baseline.
As cool as this glut of information is, I’m not exactly sure what to do with it or how I can use it to improve my sleep. The Fitbit app has a two-week program called “Habits for Restful Sleep,” which walks users through ways to get rid of bad sleep habits and start new ones. This sounds great, but in reality it’s just a screen with tasks for you to check off at the end of the day for two weeks.
Fitbit claims that the Sense gets up to six days of battery life on a single charge. Of course, battery life varies by use, and I found that it reliably gets close to four days with the SpO2 sensor turned on and the always-on display turned off.
The Sense also charges quickly. Fitbit says that you can get a full day of juice in a 12-minute charge, a claim that I found to be accurate.
Should you buy it?
Ultimately, the Fitbit Sense is a premium smartwatch that does almost everything right. The problem is that many of the Sense’s most useful features, like its long battery life and in-depth sleep metrics, are also found on the cheaper Fitbit Versa 3. That watch, which sells for $229.95, only lacks the nighttime temperature monitoring, the ability to take an ECG, and the EDA sensor, none of which are vital to the overall Fitbit experience.
That watch, which sells for $229.95, only lacks the ability to take an ECG as well as the EDA sensor, none of which are vital to the overall Fitbit experience. While the Sense includes a dedicated skin temperature sensor, the Versa 3 uses existing sensors to track changes in temperature but requires a premium membership.
Here are the biggest differences between the Fitbit Sense and Versa 3
Fitbit Versa 3
Always on display:
Automatic workout detection:
Heart rate monitor:
Ability to take ECG:
Up to 6 days
Up to 6 days
What are your alternatives?
Apple users interested in more advanced health metrics like SpO2 measurements and fall detection might benefit from the seamless iPhone integration and rich app store of the Apple Watch Series 6.
However, Apple’s smartwatch is more expensive than Fitbit’s since it starts at $399, and it’s lacking when it comes to battery life and sleep tracking compared to Fitbit.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is also a premium smartwatch and fitness tracker that features a blood oxygen sensor. Starting at $299.99, the Galaxy Watch 3 has solid fitness tracking features, good battery life, and the ability to download music from Spotify. But it doesn’t have the Google Assistant, is plain-looking, and the operating system can be un-intuitive.
Smartwatches from Apple and Samsung also come in an LTE compatible variant for those who are interested in getting calls, texts, and alerts when their phone isn’t nearby.
Fitbit is wonderful at offering its users the most insight into their exercise and sleep habits. The Sense‘s new lower price as well as its long battery life make it a great choice for those who consider sleep tracking a priority. But unless you are dying for an EDA sensor and the ability to take an ECG, skip the Sense and get the Versa 3 instead.
Pros: Good battery life, Great fitness and sleep features, Comfortable
Trail running shoes support and protect your feet from the ever-changing terrain of off-road jogs.
Choosing the right pair depends on if you want to run fast, keep your feet dry, or plan to run on pavement and trails.
Our top pick, Salomon’s Sense Ride 3, is a durable, neutral trail shoe that fits like a glove and has great traction.
Trail running is an amazing upgrade to road running if you’re looking to log miles with better scenery and a more intense challenge to your body. You’re often running uphill and your feet are constantly having to stabilize against imperfections in the trails like tree roots and rocks. This makes it so both your lungs and your muscles work much harder than a road run.
But because your foot tackles more than just smooth pavement, your shoes have to do more than a typical runner would.
You essentially want your trail running shoes to be akin to a hiking boot in that they’ll protect your feet against rocks, mud, and roots while having enough grip to keep you from skidding on loose terrain. Yet, you also need them to be supported and lightweight like a road running shoe, enough to keep your legs moving fast and feet from absorbing too much shock with each step.
Because there are so many more factors to consider, finding a great pair of trail running shoes can be harder than finding road runners. The right pair can take you on a gorgeous path through the woods and you’ll have a running experience like no other. Pick the wrong ones, however, and you could be in for a rough ride.
There’s certainly plenty to consider and to help, I’ve field-tested a range of different trail shoes fit for a variety of running styles – and I’ve included my five favorites below. At the end of this guide, I’ve also provided some tips on how to shop for trail running shoes, as well as the testing methodology I used in deciding which pairs made the cut.
The Salomon Sense Ride 3 has amazing traction on a variety of terrain, holds up on rough trails again and again, yet is still lightweight enough to keep you moving fast.
Pros: Capable of handling a variety of terrain, outstanding protection and durability, very comfortable with a molded, glove-like fit, superb traction
Cons: Heavier than I expected, unique lacing system takes some getting used to
On one hand, this neutral, everyday trail trainer features some of the best protection and durability of all the shoes I tested. It handled everything I could throw at it during runs that took me over splintery logs, down wet embankments, and through a loose gravel field. After two months of testing the Sense Ride 3, they still looked as good as new and my feet were untouched. Insider’s Health and Fitness Updates Editor Rachael Schultz adds she’s been running in the women’s Sense Ride 3 for two years now and they’re still as reliable underfoot as the first wear.
The shoes performed well on a variety of trails from steep technical inclines to pure slop (it was a rainy spring) with Salomon’s Contragrip MA outsole offering superb traction. The outsole’s diamond-shaped rubber lugs are long enough at 2mm for climbing muddy hills but not so aggressive that they slowed me down or clogged up with dirt afterward.
The Sense Ride 3s were the most comfortable of the shoes I tested, with a smooth contoured fit that seemed to swaddle my feet. There’s an internal sleeve in the shoe, which Salomon calls EndoFit, that’s designed to hug the foot and provide comfort. It delivered as did the molded OrthoLite insole that offered added cushioning.
The Sense Ride 3’s welded, stitch-free upper is deluxe, producing a glove-like feel with no hotspots. It’s also a gorgeous-looking shoe, with a minimalist design that’s not likely to go out of style.
Salmon’s patented Quicklace system took a little getting used to, however. Featuring thin but strong laces that you pull tight via a sliding button, Quicklace lets you fine-tune the fit to get just the right amount of lace pressure. While this is definitely a learning curve, it makes for quick adjustments if you need to loosen a bit mid-run. Also important to note is there is a hidden pocket on the tongue that you’re supposed to tuck the dangling laces into, as outlined in a short video from Salomon. This may be a pain for some, but honestly, so is lacing a shoe period.
The Sense Ride 3s were heavier than I expected, with my size 11.5 pair weighing in at over 12 ounces per shoe. Part of that is because of the thicker midsole compared to previous versions. The added weight is worth it though because Salomon’s plush Optivibe foam offered great energy return and a smooth ride while the shoe’s rock plate added another layer of protection. The shoe has a moderate 8mm drop, which suited most conditions well.
Put plainly, the Sense Ride 3 is a great all-rounder on the trails.
Pros: Light and fast, flashy design with a comfortable and durable fit, thick foam midsole for cushioning on terrain
Cons: Some stability issues on rocky, technical trails; high-stack height reduces ground feel
Hoka’s popular Clifton series of road running shoes was named our best cushioned trainer for men, and the brand’s EVO Speedgoat is a bit like a trail version of that highly-stacked shoe.
The entire Speedgoat line of trail shoes is named after legendary ultramarathoner Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer who has more 100-mile race wins than any other runner. There are quite a few key features that make the EVOs, specifically, ideal for speeding down trails:
For one, the EVO Speedgoat’s upper is stitched with a lightweight but tough material called Matryx that blends stretchy Lycra with tough Kevlar for a durable, water-repellent shell. I loved putting on these shoes, too. Their bucket seat design and stretchy laces fit my feet (which suffer from some bunion issues) perfectly, with ample room in the toebox.
Because this is a Hoka shoe, the EVO’s foam midsole is ample, to say the least. With a stack height of 32mm and a heel (31mm) to toe (27mm) drop of 4mm, these are tall, soft trail shoes designed with Hoka’s slightly curved meta-rocker design. The extra cushioning provides a bigger buffer when running over bumpy terrain and I often felt like I was floating on a cloud in these shoes. There’s almost no ground feel, however, which may not appeal to some runners. I didn’t have an issue, except on more technical trails with large rocks, where I often worried I’d turn an ankle (but didn’t, thankfully).
What I liked most about the EVO Speedgoats is the speed they allow. Weighing around ten ounces, these were one of the lightest shoes I tested and, on less technical trails, I’d flat out fly. Even when I was cruising along, I never felt I’d lose my footing thanks to the Vibram MegaGrip outsole, which features 5mm multidirectional lugs. Traction was superb and because the outsole extends in the back, the EVO Speegoats held their own when running downhill with the rear foam flare providing added stability.
As for the design, they feature a striking bright yellow and black colorway. The EVO Speedgoats are like the splashy sportscar of all the shoes I tested, but one built with the dependable all-wheel drive of a Subaru to help take you off the beaten path.
The best hybrid
The Nike Pegasus Trail 2 borrows design points from its beloved road-warrior brother, but is designed to get down and dirty, making it a unique hybrid shoe you’ll be comfortable using on everything from asphalt to mud.
Pros: A great commuter shoe that can handle both pavement and dirt, Nike’s React foam midsole provided ample cushioning, many highly functional and attractive design elements
Cons: A very heavy shoe, steep heel to toe drop caused some stability issues, couldn’t get a full locked-down fit
The Nike Pegasus Trail 2, as its name suggests, is the trail version of the popular Nike Pegasus road shoe line. The main similarity between the Pegasus Trail 2 and the road Pegasus 37 is the large chunk of Nike’s React foam, which forms the midsole of both models. React is a soft but responsive foam that I’ve liked on Nike’s previous road shoes and it’s a great match for the Trail 2’s city-to-trail design.
On one of my first runs in this shoe, I ran roughly a mile on the roads to a local park and then sped off down a winding, tree-lined path for a few more miles on soft ground before returning to the pavement to head home. This might not seem like a big deal but if you’ve ever tried to bring a serious trail shoe on the road – or a road shoe on the trails, for that matter – it’s not fun. The Trail 2 handled both surfaces well, though its mountain bike-inspired rubber outsole with 2mm lugs thrives in the dirt.
The Trail 2 has a stack height of 31mm in the heel and 21mm in the forefoot for a drop of 10mm. That significant drop did help generate forward momentum and I enjoyed being able to put the pedal to the metal with these shoes, particularly on lower-grade downhills.
As with other highly stacked trail shoes, I experienced some instability on steeper, more treacherous trails, particularly those lined with large rocks. This was particularly true when my legs were tired, which caused the shoes to feel wobbly. On the plus side, the generous amount of foam reduced the stress on my legs during longer runs.
I also liked the Pegasus Trail 2’s functional design elements including a faux gaiter on the heel collar that prevented dirt and debris from getting inside the shoe. The tough but breathable engineered mesh on the Trail 2’s upper was also a nice touch as was the water-repellent coating on the gusseted tongue and collar that prevented moisture from creeping in.
In terms of looks, the Pegasus Trail 2 is an eye-catching shoe. The pair I tested had a brash but appealing color scheme of pale yellow on the upper, neon green around the laces and heel counter, and teal on the neoprene tongue and collar. The shoe’s forefoot includes two toe fangs, which are a pair of rubber nubs that add traction when running uphill and look plain fierce.
The Trail 2’s were the heaviest shoes I tested (over 12 ounces in size 11.5) and while I wasn’t keen on that, a few of my fastest and most enjoyable runs were in them. These shoes perform extremely well both on and off the roads.
The best lightweight
If you want a zero-drop shoe to really feel the trail on your runs, the lightweight but well-cushioned Altra Timp 2.0 will keep you safe and moving fast.
Pros: A sleek and fast zero drop shoe that felt natural to run in, significantly lighter than previous version, Quantic foam midsole provides excellent cushioning
Cons: Narrower fit overall might not appeal to previous Timp fans, shoes require a fair amount of breaking in
Altra’s Timp line is a relatively new but beloved series of shoes, and to say that the 2.0 version has divided Timp devotees would be an understatement. The biggest change between Timp 2.0 and Timp 1.5 is the fit, which on the new version is tighter through the mid- and forefoot. In a word, these shoes feel snug. That’s somewhat unusual for Altra since the company has a reputation for creating shoes with a wide toebox that lets you splay out your toes in a way that mimics barefoot walking. You can still do that with the Timp 2.0, but everywhere else feels narrower.
Altra trimmed the shoe down and shed some of its weight. In my size 11.5s, each Timp 2.0 weighed around 10 ounces, which is equal to the speedy Hoka EVO Speedgoats above. These felt even lighter than the Speedgoats though and, overall, I loved the sleek and fast 2.0, which would make a decent racing shoe.
They do require some breaking in, however. When I initially put them on, my troublesome right foot with its bunion issue, felt squeezed. After loosening the laces a bit and taking them on a few tempo runs, I was hooked.
Most notably, this is a zero-drop shoe, which means both the heel and the forefoot are the same height off the ground. Despite that, the Timp 2.0 does has significant cushioning with a stack height of around 30mm. Altra uses its Quantic foam – a first for the Timp line – on the 2.0 and its plush but lightweight midsole felt fantastic even on bumpy trails.
The Maxtrac outsole provided decent grip and while the rubber lugs are on the small size (2mm), Altra deploys them in its Trailclaw outlay, which positions them beneath your foot’s metatarsals to provide better traction at toe-off. These weren’t my favorite shoes for wet and muddy conditions, but they certainly held their own on just about everything else.
Overall, I enjoyed the sensation of running in the Timp 2.0s. While zero-drop shoes aren’t for everyone, they do provide an experience more akin to running barefoot. When I padded over rocks or went sideways on steep embankments, I never felt unstable. I could just run, which is what it’s all about.
The best waterproof
If the trails you plan to run are wet, muddy, and full of river crossings, the best shoe to go with is the Saucony Peregrine 10 GTX which has a Gore-Tex upper and has the best grip of all the models I tested.
Pros: Gore-Tex upper keeps your feet dry even when crossing streams, excellent traction from an aggressive 6mm lug pattern on the outsole, low-to-the-ground profile provided excellent stability
Cons: Snug fit caused me some heel pain after runs, bottom of shoe retains dirt, quite heavy
The Saucony Peregrine 10 GTX is a low-to-the-ground shoe with a minimal heel (22mm) to forefoot (18mm) drop of 4mm. This is another shoe that helps you feel the trail, minus the jolts since they’re well protected. I had no stability issues with the Peregrine 10 GTX and plowed through a variety of terrain in them with confidence, including ankle-deep muck, piles of slippery wet leaves, and a small stream.
The one knock against Gore-Tex on any shoe is that it can cause a shoe’s upper to feel stiff and confining. However, I had no such problem with the Peregrine 10 GTX, which fit my feet like a comfortable glove. The Gore-Tex upper was less supple than some of the other shoes I tested and didn’t breathe as well – you’ll definitely want to air these out after your runs – but I barely noticed it once I hit the trails.
What I did notice was the superior traction from Saucony’s PWRTRAC outsole, which uses a sticky rubber compound and an aggressive, 6mm hexagonal lug pattern that kept me from slipping even on a rainy run through a field. On the downside, this is definitely not a shoe you’d want to use on the roads and the grippy outsole tended to retain some dirt after trail runs.
The Peregrine 10 GTX is well-cushioned and there’s a rock plate to protect your feet from sharp objects on the trail. Saucony’s FORMFIT design with its reinforced upper cradled my feet snugly if a bit too tightly on my slightly longer right foot. In the past, I’ve had issues with stiff heel cups causing me pain in my right heel after runs and this was the case with the Peregrine 10 GTX. After doing some research, I noticed at least one other reviewer had the same problem with the Peregrine 10, so you might want to consider going up half a size if this is an issue for you.
Other than that, my only other issue was weight. In size 11.5, the Peregrine 10 GTX tipped the scales at over 12 ounces, putting it amongst the heavier shoes I tested. When you consider what you’re getting with this fully featured trail shoe, however, including the waterproof benefits of Gore-Tex, those extra few ounces are worth it.
A note on fit
The main difference between a men’s and a women’s running shoe regards the exact shape of the foot. Men’s feet are often wider, and their heels tend to be a little bigger, thus the design of a running shoe needs to accommodate for this.
A variation in body mass also impacts the shape of the midsole, and the difference in Q-angles (the angle of incidence between a person’s knee cap and their quad muscle) means cushioning needs will vary, as well.
However, just because these shoes carry the “men’s” label, anyone can (and should) wear any piece of gear that fits them best, above all.
How to shop for trail running shoes
There are many things to look for in trail shoes but the first question you should ask yourself is, where do you plan on using them? If your runs are on a combination of roads and trails, you’ll want a hybrid shoe that won’t slow you down on concrete while giving you enough grip on dirt to prevent you from slipping.
If you see yourself regularly running on wet, muddy trails, you’ll want shoes with longer rubber lugs on their outsoles for better traction. You may even consider getting waterproof shoes fortified with Gore-Tex if you plan on running in the rain or if your trails have any shallow streams to cross.
If your local trails are rocky or you favor moving fast through difficult terrain, you may want a shoe with a reinforced toe cap to prevent sharp objects, such as sticks or branches, from piercing the front of your shoe. Also handy are shoes with rock plates, which are slabs of plastic or carbon fiber sandwiched between the midsole and the outsole of the shoe that shield your foot when running over jagged rocks.
Other features are more of a matter of taste: Do you want your trail shoes to have a pronounced drop? This means that the midsole is tilted forward with the heel higher than the toe portion of the shoe. Some runners feel having a heel-to-toe drop of 10 millimeters or more helps their running form by propelling them forward while the added rear foam protects their heels on bumpy trails.
Other runners, however, prefer zero-drop shoes where the heel and ball of your foot are the same height off the ground. Shoes without drops are typically better for more technical trails and less likely to cause you to turn your ankle on steep, uneven terrain. Some runners even say zero drop shoes help them feel the trail better.
How we test trail running shoes
Each trail running shoe in this guide went through a series of on-foot and on-trail tests to see how they across these four categories: Fit and comfort, performance, versatility, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category factored into what pairs of trail running shoes ultimately made this guide:
Fit and comfort: Though fit and comfort could be two separate categories, it was easy to lump the two together while testing for this guide. The right pair of trail running shoes should fit snugly across your foot while still leaving a small amount of space between the end of the shoe and your toes. If the shoe fits in this way, you’re likely to also enjoy as much comfort as possible — which is vital for longer runs over uneven and rocky terrain.
Performance: First and foremost, a trail running shoe should be designed for the trail (however vague the word “trail” might actually be). This means that a shoe built for rocky terrain should have lugs designed to absorb and grip jagged rocks. If it’s a pair meant for mud or other slick surfaces, the grip on the bottom should allow you to avoid taking a spill. And since they’re all running shoes at their core, they should function as a proper runner, too.
Versatility: There may not be a jack-of-all-trades-type trail running shoe that’s built to handle it all, but some do come extremely close. When testing for this, we wanted to see how well the shoes held up transitioning from pavement to trail, or when it went from mud to dirt to sand. We also judged how well the waterproof designation held up not just in rain but when fully submerged, as well.
Value: Value is essentially the combination of the previous three categories, along with the runner’s sticker price. Proper trail running shoes aren’t often inexpensive but investing in the right pair means you’ll spend less over time (as opposed to buying a budget pair more often and ultimately spending more money).
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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
The right workout clothing helps keep inconveniences like overheating, wet patches, and chafing at bay.
The best workout apparel offers a combination of high-performance materials, smart design, and versatile style.
We recommend Nike‘s workout gear for women overall, as it’s the best blend of price, performance, and variety.
Working out often forces us to feel discomfort. We’re hot, sweaty, tired, and, though we’re not exactly sure, we think we’re beginning to feel the onset of shin splints.
But the right activewear gear makes all the difference. It inhibits nuisances like chafing, wet spots, heat-trapping, blisters, and sometimes injuries. At a baseline, it reduces the number of unnecessary challenges so we can focus on the task at hand. Ideally, it helps us push ourselves a little further, and perform a little better. But, in general, it should simply make the act of moving a more enjoyable experience.
Below, we’ve ranked the best workout brands to shop based on Insider Reviews’ own testing. Each one excels in gear that’s functional, stylish, and performs well. The individual brands offer a variety of strengths: eco-friendly practices, comfortable athleisure, styles that can transition from yoga to the office, greater size ranges, and more inclusive options to name a few.
Here are the best workout clothes for women in 2020:
Nike caters to pretty much every sport with a variety of inclusive styles, making it our top pick for high-performance workout gear.
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).
While performance pieces have a reputation for being expensive, Athleta provides quality styles at more wallet-friendly price points.
Gap’s Athleta is a great combination of affordability, style, and functionality. Plus, we liked the company’s leggings quite a bit during testing. It also has a wide variety of activewear. Currently, it stocks gear for the following activities: yoga/studio, hike, commute/travel, and run/train. And you may get lucky with frequent discounts, so it’s always worth checking the sale section first.
However, head-to-head, Nike’s products have a slight edge when it comes to performance and comfort in our experience. But, it’s worth noting that they’re both excellent options we shop at frequently. Athleta is a B-Corp, so if a business’s ethics and practices are factored into your decision, Athleta may win out over Nike.
We trust Patagonia as much for form as we do for function. And while its prices aren’t the least (or most) expensive on the market, you’ll get a wide variety of items, a product that’s built to last, and the security of a generous return policy without a tight time limit. It’s also a big perk that the company is a B Corp, has donated 1% of its profit to environmental organizations since the ’80s, and won the UN’s Champions of the Earth award for entrepreneurial vision.
You may get lucky with a seasonal Patagonia sale, but you’ll probably only see discounts on its bestsellers — like the Synchilla Snap-T Fleece Pullover — in select colorways.
With sizes ranging from 00-40, Universal Standard has set the, well, standard for inclusive sizing in workout clothing.
Universal Standard is the place to go for cool, high-quality closet staples available in sizes 00-40. They also tend to offer items in regular, tall, and petite lengths. We love the company’s clothes because they’re comfortable and high-performing — but we’re equally invested in its commitment to making clothes for more people than the industry currently serves, especially since the average American woman is between size 16 to 18.
If you buy a piece from the core collection and, in the future, it no longer fits due to size fluctuation, the company has a Universal Fit Liberty policy that lets you replace it with your new size, within a year of purchase, free of charge.
However, Universal Standard doesn’t have the most expansive selection, and sometimes stock can be limited in certain bestsellers.
You won’t have to justify splurging when you buy your workout gear from Lululemon. Its styles are created with longevity in mind, which means you’ll save in the long run.
Lululemon is home to some of the best gear for yoga, running, training, and sweating. Its gear is pricey — a pair of plain black leggings can go for nearly $100 — but the comfort, utility, longevity, and style give it an edge that makes a higher upfront cost justifiable if you can comfortably make the splurge.
We’ve found ourselves wearing every piece on repeat, bringing the cost per wear down to something far more manageable.
With its size-inclusive styles and priority toward sustainability, Girlfriend Collective provides workout gear you can feel good about wearing.
Girlfriend Collective has some of the best leggings we’ve ever worn, and we appreciate the brand’s color variety, relatively low price points, and inclusive size range. We also like that Girlfriend Collective currently offers versatility in its colors — 14 total (five essential, and nine limited-edition) — and sizing (it’s available in three inseam lengths and sizes XXS-6XL) in its bestselling leggings. However, we wouldn’t recommend wearing these leggings to a hot yoga class or HIIT given their thickness.
Another perk is that the company prioritizes sustainability in its materials and processes. Its packaging is 100% recyclable, its compression leggings are made of 79% recycled polyester from 25 post-consumer water bottles, and its Cupro tees are made from 100% cupro, a fiber made from the waste of the cotton industry. And, while cupro saves a reported 682 gallons of water compared to cotton, the company also pledged to donate 10% of its net profits to Charity Water to offset any water usage that may occur during production.
However, slow fashion that’s also in high demand can lead to stock outages, and Girlfriend Collective doesn’t always have what we want available. We also wish it had a larger selection.
OutdoorVoices makes a few of our favorite athleisure items, and they’re another example of a company that does a great job of balancing form and function. Its gear transitions seamlessly from lounging on the couch to rushing through the airport.
But, we’ve had a few misses in the past with OV products (we’re not super fans of the popular Spring Leggings), and its prices are comparable to Patagonia, with a less generous — but pretty standard — return policy.
Janji also makes some of the best workout gear I’ve ever tested — in particular, its short-sleeve T-shirts and windbreaker running jacket. And while the company is running-specific, its gear transitions well to other activities.
But this also means the company doesn’t have a very diverse range of products (though, it’s line continues to expand with new gear every season). Still, I highly recommend shopping here. The company also has a social mission, and while prices on average are a little high, the price-per-wear has been great in our experience.
We loved Alo’s Airlift Leggings in our testing, but we can’t confidently say all of its pieces warrant their relatively high prices — though we’ve already found a handful of standouts. And the company carries less diverse inventory than most of the brands mentioned here.
With just four styles, Everlane’s activewear selection is on the smaller side — so we didn’t give them a top spot on this list. That said, the brand’s Perform Leggings rank as some of the most comfortable leggings we’ve ever worn. They’re on the thinner side, which means they aren’t sturdy enough for high-intensity workouts, but the Perform Leggings are great for yoga and pilates.
ADAY used to be our pick for “best workout clothes you can wear all day.” And while we love the brand’s stylish leggings and tops, the lack of performance styles it offers made it tough to keep on this list. We still highly recommend ADAY, though, especially if you’re looking for the best leggings you can buy.
Owning a hitting mat means you can practice and improve your golf swing whenever you want.
Our top pick is DURA-PRO, which is great for homes while durable like commercial driving-range mats.
We found options for all levels, from premium models for pros to budget options for beginners.
The golf swing has been called the athletic movement that most rewards consistency – and most requires upkeep. Practicing at home by hitting into a net or a tarp gives you a much better chance of repeating your swing, which is bound to improve your tempo, balance and consistency. A purpose-built artificial surface for hitting off is vital, because no lawn could handle the wear and tear and no carpet or pad will keep your hands and wrists safe from injury.
Having co-authored many golf instruction books and articles, I’ve learned from top teaching pros which qualities are most desired in a hitting mat. Like other types of golf equipment, these mats have undergone steady improvement through the years.
For the best results, you’ll want to stick to a mat that’s at least four feet by five feet so you can take your proper stance. However, if you prefer to sacrifice on size in the name of price or portability, we have a few options for you too.
The DURA-PRO Commercial Golf Mat is full-sized at four-by-five feet and range-tested for both durability and the natural-grass feel a superior mat needs.
What we like: Absorbs shock to wrists and elbows, non-slip, turf fibers thermally bonded to base
This quality-built range mat is big enough to stand on, which is a must for serious practice by improvement-minded players. Its hitting surface is 100% nylon for durability and a smooth glide of the club, while thick padding underneath absorbs shock at impact. The mat comes pre-punched with holes for rubber tees and even a receptacle for the wooden tees some purists prefer.
Artificial hitting surfaces can turn the soles of a golf club bright green, but this mat is non-staining. For what it delivers, the price tag is certainly reasonable.
What we like: Dynamics of ball-club impact closely mimic ball-striking on natural grass, can take wooden tees
The classic problem with hitting off mats is making swings that on a grass fairway would produce “fat” or “heavy” shots, and not realizing it. What you pay for in a hitting mat like this one is a real-grass equivalency that rewards fundamentally correct delivery of the club through impact. That’s on top of the expected characteristics, like durability, extra-dense turf fiber, comfort underfoot, stability, and yes, the capacity to accept and firmly hold a wooden tee wherever the golfer wishes to insert it. We’ve highlighted a four-by-five foot model, but the same mat also comes in five-by-five dimensions, for a slightly higher price.
What we like: Maximum durability and impact-feel in an entry-level mat, full-size for proper stance, non-slip padding, can suit varying clubs
There are construction elements built into golf hitting mats strictly to handle the harsh treatment of all-day use at public driving ranges. A good-quality mat for home use doesn’t need all that to deliver fine performance over the long term. This full-size mat from GoSports features a 15mm layer of non-slip foam padding for comfortable impact as well as for stability on any surface, indoors or outdoors. There’s a socket that accepts wooden tees along with range-style rubber tees at varying heights, to suit whichever club a player chooses to practice with.
The best for short-game improvement
The Rukket Tri-Turf Golf Hitting Mat is a compact, portable practice aid featuring three turf heights, to simulate rough, fairway, and close-cropped “collar” turf.
What we like: Challenges a player to learn the right touch on shorter shots, mimics different grass conditions, portable, doesn’t take up much floor space
This product shows that a mat doesn’t have to be full-sized to serve the golfer who’s serious about improvement. Best suited to the so-called partial swings that every player needs when inside 100 yards, it can be placed anywhere for a quick tuneup or longer practice session. Included are indoor practice balls that won’t dent your basement paneling. Built by a manufacturer known for quality, it comes with a 100% lifetime warranty and guarantee of satisfaction.
The best for alignment training
The SASRL Golf Trainer Mat is a portable, 13-by-24.4-inch swing aid that you hit off, leaving trace marks that indicate a correct or misaligned path through impact.
What we like: Portable, solid base, visual indicators for more productive practice
There’s more to golf practice than taking full swings to generate maximum power, as this simple yet intriguing portable mat demonstrates. Hitting the equivalent of 50- to 75-yard shots off this velvet-like surface allows the golfer to focus on a square clubface and get feedback on how well the arc of his or her swing matches up to the correct path, as indicated by the mat’s markings. A player can also “dial in” ball position relative to the feet and learn to match the bottom of the swing arc with that position. The mat is portable, but has enough weight and traction to stay in position on most swings.
What we like: Heavy rubber base is slip-resistant, hitting surfaces are varied, carry handle and ball tray add convenience
Newer golfers will often feel anxious before a round and frustrated after one — two occasions when the urge to practice tends to strike. A product like this portable, multi-surface hitting mat can serve as a security blanket for that golfer, helping to sharpen eye-hand coordination and overall feel for how hard to swing on shots of various lengths. An appropriate gift for any friend or relative who is getting into golf, this mat have plenty of built-in durability for its entry-level price. Tee receptacles and a tray that holds a good supply of practice balls add a nice convenience factor.
The best bike rack will hold your bike securely for 5 to 500 miles, without damaging your bike or car.
You also may want a bike rack that’s easy to unload solo and doesn’t prevent the trunk from opening.
Our top pick, the Thule T2 Pro XT 2, is durable, hitch-mounted, but allows trunk access and holds most bike sizes and tires.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Whether you’re loading your mountain bike to head to the trail, transporting your roadie to a race, or taking the entire family’s commuters for a scenic ride, a bike rack is an essential piece of equipment for any cyclist of any level.
Being able to safely and securely carry your bike wherever you go truly opens up the possibilities of where and when you can ride. For that reason alone, having a bike rack at your disposal proves just as handy as owning a bike lock or tire pump.
While testing the best bike racks currently available, we examined options from some of the top brands including Thule, Yakima, and Kuat. Our guide features racks that are user-friendly, can fit an array of bike types, and will keep your car from getting scratched. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail on what to look for in a bike rack and how we tested those on this list.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty hitch bike rack that still allows you to access your hatchback or truck bed, the Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack is an expensive but incredibly well-designed solution.
Pros: Tilts for easy hatchback access, holds a broad array of bike types, durable, versatile, and expandable
Cons: Expensive, confusing assembly instructions, heavy
The Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack is easy to install on your hitch (although it does weigh more than 50 pounds, so you might need a hand). And, once on, it has the ability to tilt up and down when needed, which lets you move it out of the way to access a hatchback or trunk. The entire process is actually simple enough to do with just one hand.
This bike rack has a frame-free ratcheting arm that quickly and easily secures up to two bikes with wheels from 20 to 29 inches, even fat tire models up to 5-inches thick. You can also add two additional trays to the T2 Pro XT, expanding its carrying capacity to four bikes.
As you’d expect from legacy brand Thule, this rack gets high marks for durability. It’s incredibly well-built and provides excellent stability, holding bikes of various sizes securely in place. The T2 Pro XT’s dual ratcheting arm system is intuitive, too, making it easy to transition to and from a ride with a minimum amount of hassle.
When designing this bike rack, Thule put a great deal of thought into the needs of its customers. Little details like being able to widen the distance between the wheel trays in order to accommodate larger bikes is a much-appreciated feature, and the kind of touch that makes this pick stand out as the best overall bike rack available.
That said, there are a few minor downsides to the T2 Pro XT: The durability makes it quite heavy compared to other models, and it’s expensive.
Pros: Holds a variety of bikes securely, doesn’t come in contact with the frame, easy installation
Cons: Must be used with crossbars, doesn’t come with built-in locks
The Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack is different from other roof-mounted bike racks in that you don’t have to remove your bike’s front tire to load it, and it’s able to hold your bike in place without directly touching the frame.
The HighRoad is easy to install and works by having two hoops that clamp securely onto the front wheel, holding it firmly in place. Once the wheel is in position, you turn a torque knob to lock it down further, limiting movement without damaging the wheel or frame. The rear wheel is then held in place with a strap, adding extra security and stability in the process.
Overall, this makes for a speedier load and unload while also minimizing the chances of scratching the paint or bending the frame. This is especially important for those who ride costly carbon fiber models.
Yakima’s HighRoad is fairly versatile in what it can carry. The rack accommodates bikes with 26- to 29-inch wheels and tires as wide as 4 inches, which should cover most road bikes, mountain bikes, fat tire bikes, and kids’ bikes.
As with all roof racks, the HighRoad keeps sight lines clear and doesn’t inhibit access to the rear of the vehicle. Loading and unloading can be quite challenging however, particularly for shorter riders or those with heavier bikes.
There also seems to be one blind spot in the design of this rack: While the HighRoad does support lock cores, it doesn’t include them out of the box. That means you’ll have to buy your own, adding about $60 to the overall cost.
The Saris Bones EX 3-Bike trunk rack is designed to fit nearly any vehicle, making it a great investment for any cyclist.
Pros: Lightweight, compact, easy to install, compatible with a wide range of vehicles for longeviety, made from recycled plastics
Cons: Restricts access to trunk or hatchback, pricier than other trunk racks
The most recent of the company’s classic Bones model, the Saris Bones EX 3-Bike brings updated styling and a new system for attaching the rack to a vehicle that makes it compatible with 90% of the cars, hatchbacks, and SUVs on the market, including vehicles with spoilers. This expanded compatibility means there’s a good chance the Bones EX 3-Bike will not only fit your current car but your next one, too.
The Bones EX is held in place by some of the best ratchet straps we’ve seen on a trunk rack. When properly installed, this model locks securely into position, holding two bikes, up to 35 pounds each. The entire system is designed to avoid touching the vehicle, which prevents scratches, scrapes, and dings. Those same ratchet straps also release quickly, making it a breeze to remove the rack when not in use.
The EX is made from 100% recycled injection-molded plastic, so it’s environmentally-friendly, highly durable, strong, and resistant to rusting. What’s more, it’s surprisingly light, tipping the scales at just 11 pounds. As with all of its products, Saris backs the Bones EX with a lifetime warranty.
It also features an integrated strap management system for a clean look that keeps the straps out of the way on the back of your car. The design also positions the 3 bikes on separate levels, lowering the chances the bikes will become intertwined while driving.
As with most trunk racks, the Bones EX makes it challenging to get into a trunk or hatchback. It’s also a bit expensive at $205. That said, the EX’s ability to fit on a broader range of cars makes that added cost a good investment for the future.
Best lightweight rack
The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is a lightweight hitch rack that’s durable, easy to load, and still allows access to your trunk.
Pros: Very lightweight, tilts for hatchback access, plenty of space between bikes, easy to load
Cons: Doesn’t hold bikes with fat tires or those that weigh over 40 pounds
The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is surprisingly light at just 31 pounds, thanks to its all-aluminum construction. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to install and, because it’s so lightweight, it’s easy to handle with just one person. This is truly invaluable for anyone who wants to remove the rack for everyday driving and re-install it for a few cycling adventures a year.
That lightweight does not compromise quality: The Sherpa 2.0 secures your bikes using a system that includes a front tire ratchet arm and a rear tire strap, locking your bike in place without the rack coming into contact with the frame. Folding tire cradles click neatly into place when in use, but efficiently slide out of the way when they aren’t needed. Each of these features work seamlessly together, making it easy to load and unload two bikes that weigh as much as 40 pounds each. All in all, loading and unloading bikes takes about a minute, which is ideal.
The Sherpa 2.0 also has a clever foot-activated pivot system that lets you open the rack and move it into position with the tap of your foot — incredibly helpful when your hands are full. And the rack is built to tilt out of the way, allowing unfettered access to the back of the vehicle it’s mounted on.
Unlike some hitch racks, the Sherpa can’t expand in size nor can it accommodate fat bikes. It’s lightweight limits the size of the load it can carry, too, which is why it caps out at bikes that weigh 40 pounds. Most conventional bikes fall below that threshold, of course, but this model would have issues with heavier e-bikes for instance.
Best budget roof rack
Swagman’s Upright roof-mounted bike rack is inexpensive, easy to install on cars with crossbars, and lets you quickly mount your bike without taking a tire off.
Pros: Inexpensive, installs easily onto existing crossbars, features a locking mechanism to hold the bike in place, fits a wide range of bike styles
Cons: Holds just one bike
I’ve had a car roof rack for many years, but I never had the proper accessories to mount my bike on top. Since I’m riding my bike a lot more now, I decided it was finally time to get one. When I started doing research on bike mounts, I realized they can be rather expensive, especially if you go to popular name brands.
I got a great deal and paid $119 for my mountain bike during eBay’s Prime Day-adjacent sale a few years ago, so paying a couple hundred for a single bike mount didn’t sit well with me. I went with the Swagman Upright mount simply because it’s cheap (I got two of them for less than one mount from a name brand) and it turned out to be great. It was easy to install, it keeps my bike secure, and is lockable. I did add a bungee cord for extra security, but I would’ve done that even with a more expensive mount. — Amir Ismael, style and grooming reporter
Best budget trunk rack
The Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it does have a simple, elegant design that easily meets the needs of most riders.
Pros: Affordable, holds a wide array of bike types, can easily fit in your trunk when not in use, lifetime warranty
Cons: Metal hooks could potentially scratch your vehicle, no locking mechanism
Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack is very simple, but it’s surprisingly versatile for a budget model. It can hold two bikes, and of a wide variety of bikes, including road bikes, mountain bikes, kids’ bikes, and even fat bikes, provided they don’t exceed the 35-pound weight limit.
Installation isn’t especially difficult, but it can be a bit confusing the first few times you put it on your car. Allen Sports even designed it to be compatible with most cars, hatchbacks, SUVs, and even minivans. Removing the rack is equally easy, requiring just a few seconds to take it off when not in use.
Loading bikes on and off the support arms is quick and easy, and the simple-yet-rugged straps ensure your bike doesn’t jostle about. There’s even a strap prevent the front wheel from bouncing back and forth, protecting your vehicle from potential damage. The Premier Trunk Rack does a great job of securely holding its cargo in place.
The price kicks in with the quality of the materials used; however, the Premier Trunk Rack still feels plenty sturdy and will likely last for quite a long time. Allen Sports even backs that up with a lifetime warranty on the Premier Trunk Rack.
There are a number of small details that remind us that it’s a low-cost model. For instance, over the course of a long drive, the securing straps can come loose, so you should check them at every gas stop. The metal clips on the ends of those straps also lack any type of protective coating, which could scratch a car’s paint. In another cost-saving move, the rack doesn’t have a locking mechanism to protect the bikes from would-be thieves. Those may seem like small oversights but they are important to consider, nonetheless.
Of course, the best thing about the Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack is its price. At $110, it’s a bargain when you consider everything it brings to the table.
How we tested
Each bike rack featured in this guide went through a number of on-vehicle tests to judge how well it compared across four categories: ease of installation, ease of use, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category factored into our decision making for which racks made this guide:
Ease of installation: Ordering a bike rack online means that you’ll most likely be tasked with installing the rack onto your car or truck yourself. Regardless if it’s a roof-, hitch-, or trunk-mounted rack, the installation process isn’t always an easy chore. This isn’t a complete dealbreaker but it is definitely a vital consideration.
Ease of use: A bike rack is inherently somewhat complicated, but it should be intuitive enough that you don’t have to references the owner’s manual to load or unload your bikes after the first go. Ideally, a rack will take just a few minutes to load or unload to not take time out of your actual ride.
Versatility: It’s hard to judge a rack on how many bikes it can carry since almost all racks are designed to haul a specific number, so it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Versatility, however, is a much better distinction, even if it’s a broader term. This means that a bike rack may be able to carry several at once but also that it has the ability to be used on different vehicles or could even offer the option of carrying something other than a bike.
Value: A bike rack’s value is the sum of the three categories above, as well as how much the thing actually costs. It’s smarter to spend a little more on a premium product than to spend less on a cheaply-built product, though there are plenty of budget bike racks that are solid and get the job done — two of which are featured in this guide.
How to shop for a bike rack
Having loaded and unloaded my fair share of road and mountain bikes from sedans, vans, trucks, and everything in between, I’ve learned that one bike rack does not fit all. Selecting the right rack requires research beyond just the type of riding you plan on doing. You’ll want to consider your vehicle, how many bikes you plan on transporting, how much you want to spend, and your preferred style of rack itself.
Depending on how you answer the above considerations, expect to decide between these three separate styles of bike rack:
Hitch rack: A hitch rack connects to your vehicle’s trailer hitch for easy loading and unloading. This style tends to limit rear visibility, weighs more than others, and can interfere with accessing the trunk or hatchback, but it also provides excellent carrying capacity and stability and is very easy to load and unload for one person. Tray hitch racks are generally better than hanging hitch racks because they’re easier to load and don’t grip the bike frame, which is important if you’re concerned about scratching your paint job.
Trunk racks: This style connects to the trunk or hatch of your car using straps, buckles, and hooks. When firmly secured in place, it can be surprisingly stable, although they do hinder rear visibility and make it difficult to access the trunk. On the plus side, these racks are lightweight, affordable, and easy to use.
Roof racks: Roof racks mount on top of your car or truck, meaning they don’t get in the way of sightlines or prevent you from accessing the back. They can also be fairly versatile, making it easy to transport things like kayaks or stand-up paddleboards, too. The downside of a roof rack is that they tend to be expensive and loading bikes all the way up onto the rack can be a challenge, particularly for a solo rider and shorter people.