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

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

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

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

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fitbit Versa 3

Fitbit Versa 2

Fitbit Inspire 2

Our review

Best overall

Best budget smartwatch

Best for the basics

Average price

$230

$180

$100

Battery Life

6 days

6 days

10 days

Features

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

Drawbacks

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

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

Which is the best Fitbit to buy?

The best Fitbit overall

Fitbit Versa

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

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

Cons: Occasionally uncomfortable, sometimes needs to be manually synced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best Fitbit for monitoring health

Fitbit Sense

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best Fitbit for tracking fitness

Fitbit Charge 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget Fitbit tracker

Gift for friend Fitbit Inspire 2

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

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

Cons: No built-in GPS, smaller screen

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

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

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

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

The best budget Fitbit smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we’re looking forward to testing

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

How to shop for a Fitbit

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

User-friendly features

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

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

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

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

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

Easy-access add-on features

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

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

Superior battery life

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

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

Versatile customization options

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

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

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

How I test Fitbits

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

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

Workout tracking

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

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

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

Tracking and comfort while sleeping

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

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

Battery life

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

App usability

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

The best deals on Fitbits from this guide

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

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

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

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

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

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The 4 best spin shoes for Peloton and other studio bikes

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best spin shoes of 2021:

How I test spin shoes

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

Here’s everything I considered while testing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best spin shoes overall with BOA

Giro Cadet Shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giro Cadet Men’s: 

Cadet (Men’s) (button)

Giro Cadet Women’s:

The best spin shoes overall with Velcro

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Men’s:

Quest Studio Shoe (Men’s) (button)

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Women’s: 

The best budget spin shoes with BOA

Specialized Torch 1.0 cycling shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget spin shoes with Velcro

Shimano RP1 cycling shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else I tested

Cycling shoes - what else we tested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A note on gendered shoes

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

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

How should spin shoes fit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOA vs. Velcro

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

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

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

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

Look Delta cleats vs. SPD cleats

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

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

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

SPD Cleat Set (small)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 5 best vegan protein powders that actually taste good

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

Here are the best vegan protein powders:

The best vegan protein powder overall

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

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

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

Cons: Expensive, flavored varieties contains some additives

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

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

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

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

The best tasting vegan protein powder

Aloha Organic Protein Powder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best vegan protein powder for athletes

Vega Sport 2

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

The best vegan protein powder for a meal replacement

GardenofLife1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best vegan protein powder for weight loss

Isopure protein

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

Pros: Low-calorie, tasty flavor offerings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A dietitian’s warning

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2020 12 07 at 12.13.56 PM

The best whey protein powders


The best natural protein powders


The best blender bottles


The best vegan protein bars


The best vegan meat and fish substitutes

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The 6 best treadmills of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best treadmills 0f 2021

How I test treadmills

At home gym equipment 4x3

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

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

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

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

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

The best treadmill overall

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best smart treadmill

2950Nordic

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget treadmill

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best upright folding treadmill

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best compact treadmill

Cubii1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best treadmill for quiet workouts

treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What treadmills I’m testing next

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

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

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

FAQs

What types of treadmills are there?

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

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

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

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

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

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


What are some key treadmill features?

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

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

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


Are there different size treadmill belts?

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

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

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


Are treadmills safe?

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

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


Do treadmills have a weight limit? 

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

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In leaked memo, Lululemon announces Mirror CEO Brynn Putnam will immediately step down from the connected-fitness brand

brynn putnam
Mirror CEO and founder Brynn Putnam.

  • Mirror founder and CEO Brynn Putnam is stepping down, effective immediately.
  • The announcement was shared in a memo sent by Putnam and Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald on Tuesday.
  • Putnam will stay on as an advisor through July 2022 and assist in identifying her successor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brynn Putnam is stepping down as CEO of Mirror, the Lululemon-owned connected-fitness brand she founded in 2016, as first reported by CNBC.

In a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald and Putnam announced she will stay on as an advisor to the company through July 2022 as it searches for a successor. Putnam’s resignation is effective immediately, according to the memo also shared with Insider by Lululemon a spokesperson.

“Sharing this now allows us to ensure a smooth transition as we identify the next CEO of Mirror, working with an external search firm to find the right candidate to drive the brand’s next phase of growth,” McDonald and Putnam wrote in the memo.

In the interim, Putnam and McDonald wrote that the company “is in very good hands” and will be led jointly by three current Mirror executives: Tess Hales, head of customer; Olivia Lange, head of operations; and Kristie D’Ambrosio-Correll, chief technology officer.

Lululemon acquired Mirror in June 2020 for $500 million, in the midst of the digital fitness boom that took off during the pandemic as Americans sought out alternative methods to work out at home. Over the past year, the company has installed Mirror pop-in shops within 150 Lululemon stores in the US, with the aim of reaching 200 by the end of 2021.

“We’ve set up really beautiful little workout spaces featuring the Mirror and weights and Lululemon mats and accessories,” Putnam told Insider in November 2020. “You can really get a nice workout experience in-store.”

Though Lululemon does not disclose Mirror sales or total number of subscribers in financials, McDonald told investors on recent earnings calls that the company has increased marketing spend to raise awareness of the brand, which is competing in an increasingly saturated connected fitness space.

“We’re monitoring how macro factors currently impacting the cost of digital marketing are creating some pressure on customer acquisition costs at Mirror,” McDonald told investors last month.

Lululemon expects Mirror to deliver between $250 million and $275 million in revenue in 2021.

Are you a Mirror employee or someone with a story to tell, contact this reporter via email at bbiron@insider.com or by encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-4706.

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The 11 best men’s athleisure brands, including styles that are surprisingly office-appropriate

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

Feat
  • Athleisure is one of the fastest-growing and most popular categories in fashion right now.
  • Clothing from athleisure brands is comfortable and can be worn for lounging, working out, and more.
  • Below, we’ve rounded up all of the best athleisure brands we’ve ever worn.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Over the past few years, athleisure has been one of the fastest-growing categories in clothing, but right now it’s more popular than ever – and for good reason. Drawing cues from true performance athletic wear and cozier loungewear styles, athleisure fills the gap between the two categories, making these pieces some of the most versatile clothes you can own and wear.

Whether you’re shopping for clothing that’s stylish enough for Zoom meetings yet comfortable enough for sitting on your couch, or you want clothes that you can wear to work out in before running errands and grabbing lunch, athleisure has you covered for it all.

Think of it as the easiest way to get dressed for daily life without having to put much thought and effort into it. No longer will you have to choose between form and function when it comes to your clothes.

Here are the best athleisure brands for men in 2021:

Nike

Nike

Nike‘s clothing is dependable, sporty, and fashionable all at the same time.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from XS-3XL.

Nike has a massive selection of tried-and-true sportswear that’s been backed by some of the world’s best athletes. The iconic branding translates well to the full spectrum of style — from casual everyday wearers to sneakerheads and streetwear enthusiasts. In other words, pretty much anyone can wear Nike products and look good in them too.

Nike is relatively affordable, provides unisex clothing, and has a generous size range. On top of that, you’ll be able to find comfy pullovers and sweatpants for a chill day at home or training sets for running.

What to buy:

Pro Dri-FIT T-Shirt (small)Sportswear Tech Fleece Full Zip Hoodie (small)Woven Shorts (small)Product Card (small)
Feat Clothing

Feat Clothing

If comfort is your number one priority, Feat is where you’ll want to shop.

Sizing options: S-XXL, most pieces have a relaxed, oversized fit.

You’ve probably seen Feat all over Instagram, and if you haven’t tried it already, now is the time. Founded in 2015, Feat makes comfortable daily essentials like hoodies, sweatshirts, and sweatpants — and when I say they’re by far the most comfortable athleisure brand on the market, I mean it.

The brand’s standout products are the BlanketBlend Hoodie and Crewnecks. Think of them as your most comfortable, warm, and cozy blankets turned into your best-fitting tops. Together, the combination makes for pieces you’ll never want to take off.

What to buy:

BlanketBlend Hoodie (small)BlanketBlend Crewneck (small)Roam Performance Short (small)Roam Performance Pant (small)
Vuori

Vuori

Vuori’s clothing is lightweight and comfortable, making it a breeze to both live in and work out in.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from XS-XXL. 

It’s obvious that Vuori takes its inspiration from the beach that’s just a stone’s throw away from its headquarters in Encinitas, California. So naturally, its clothes maintain an easy, laidback California aesthetic that is effortlessly cool without looking sloppy.

Whether you’re looking for stretchy performance pants or ventilated performance tees, Vuori has you covered. 

What to buy:

Tradewind Performance Shirt (small)Banks Short (small)Ease Performance Half Zip (small)Ponto Performance Pants (small)
Uniqlo

Uniqlo

If you simply need a good T-shirt without spending a lot of money, Uniqlo’s Dry T-shirts are the way to go. 

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from XXS-3XL. 

Although Uniqlo isn’t an athleisure brand specifically, it’s my favorite place to get comfortable basics at affordable prices. You’ll find an array of T-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, hoodies, and other pieces that fall into the category of athleisure. 

The brand does a great job of offering variety and budget-friendly options. AIRism, a lightweight material that makes clothes more breathable, UV Protection, which blocks sunlight, BLOCKTECH, a water-resistant material, and HEATTECH, a warmth-trapping material, are just some of the many technologies you can find.

What to buy:

Dry Color Crew Neck Short-Sleeve T-Shirt (small)Men Washed Jersey Easy Shorts (small)Men AIRism UV Protection Full-Zip Hoodie (small)Men Cargo Jogger Pants (small)
Rhone

Rhone

Rhone‘s athleisure clothing is made with its special GoldFusion technology, which keeps odors at bay no matter how long your day drags on.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from S-XXL.

Back in 2016, Rhone managed to raise nearly $113,000 to bring GoldFusion technology to its line of activewear. And now, it can be found in a wide range of both activewear and athleisure clothing. 

GoldFusion technology is Rhone’s proprietary, eco-friendly fabric treatment that leverages real gold particles to help fabrics dry up to three times faster. It helps keep your clothes fresh longer, too, which is perfect for high-intensity workouts. We’ve tested a handful of items from the brand and have loved them all. The Commuter Jogger is a personal favorite — it’s incredibly versatile and comfortable.

Swift Short Sleeve (small)7-inch Swift Lined Short (small)Bolinas Beach Poncho (small)Reign Classic Short Sleeve (small)
Todd Snyder

Todd Snyder

Todd Snyder fuses old-school style with high-quality materials to make super stylish, yet sporty clothes.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from XS-L. 

Todd Snyder is an all-encompassing menswear brand, but its Champion collection specifically is a great place to find stylish athleisure wear. The collaboration brings together the best of both worlds — high-end looks from Todd Synder and the undeniable sportswear history from Champion — to create timeless pieces you’ll want to wear casually and during workouts.

Todd Snyder has sweatpants, shorts, T-shirts, hoodies, and a lot more — and everything is available in plenty of colorways, so you can pick out your favorite shades or stock up on a few good ones to rotate between.

What to buy:

Muscle Tee (small)Midweight Warm Up Shorts (small)Midweight Popover Hoodie (small)Utility Cargo Sweatpant (small)
Adidas

Adidas

If you’re a fan of the classics, then look no further than Adidas to supply you with great performance gear that looks good too.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from XS-3XL. 

Even with the emergence of what seems like an endless supply of athleisure brands focused more on the leisure than the athlete component of their names, one company has maintained a position at the top of the mountain. And that company is Adidas. As one of the most sought-after brands worldwide, Adidas has you covered with athletic wear or fits for running errands. Thanks to a wide range of styles, Adidas can match just about any aesthetic, too. While many of its bestsellers are the brand’s trademark sneakers, you can also find a great selection of performance clothes that work well at the gym and for hanging out.

What to buy:

Trefoil Tee (small)3-Stripes Shorts (small)Z.N.E. Full-Zip Hoodie (small)Ultimate 365 3-Stripes Tapered Pants (small)
Public Rec

Rhone

Brought to life by a former JP Morgan banker, Public Rec makes the kind of athleisure clothing that you’d be comfortable wearing to work.

Sizing options: Varies by style. Most pants range from 28-44 waist with multiple inseam options available. Tops range from S-XXL. 

It started with a pair of sweatpants so popular that it attracted a 1,200-person waitlist — and things have ballooned from there. Public Rec specializes in technical leisure apparel for men, operating under the mantra that if you feel good, you’ll look good. The original bestseller is, of course, the All Day Every Day Pant. We tested them out and while they feel like sweatpants, they’re sized more like jeans, which means that they fit your body instead of hanging off of them. You’ll feel totally at ease wearing these pants out and about in your daily life, and if you’re working in a more casual environment, you could certainly wear them to the office as well.

What to buy: 

Go-To Tee (small)Flex Short (small)Weekend Full Zip (small)All Day Every Day Pant (small)
Twillory

Twillory

Twillory might be best known for its performance dress shirts, but the brand’s venture into athleisure shouldn’t be overlooked.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most options range from S-2XL. 

The collection includes a zip-up hoodie, joggers, T-shirts, polos, and henleys — and they’re all designed to be stretchy, moisture-wicking, cooling, and quick-drying.

However, the standout pieces are the joggers and the hoodie. The joggers have a nicely tapered fit, slanted side pockets, and a single pocket on the right side of the rear. Combined with the pattern of the material, these joggers look more like your favorite chinos than a sloppy pair of gym sweats.

The hoodie, which comes in matching materials and colors, is just as comfortable and completes the set. You can save $20 when you bundle the Athlounger Joggers and Athlounger Hoodie

What to buy: 

Performance Tee (small)Athlounger Hoodie (small)Athlounger Jogger (small)
Oliver’s Apparel

Olivers Apparel

Olivers Apparel covers the full gamut of athleisure with workout gear, loungewear, and performance gear you can get away with at work.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from S-XL.

Olivers Apparel came to life after a 2013 Kickstarter and has since become one of the best brands for stylish athletic wear. If your sense of fashion is clean and simple, then Olivers is perfect for you. While many sportswear brands use bold colors and patterns on its gear, many of Olivers’ clothes use solid colors and logo-less designs. 

Some of our favorite items include the Classic Sweatpants made from Supima cotton, and the Convoy Tee, which is made from 100% merino for a cozy, yet relaxed fit. 

What to buy: 

Apparel Surge Tee (small)Classic Hoodie (small)Classic Joggers (small)All Over Short (small)
Everlane

Everlane

Everlane is a dependable place to buy all wardrobe essentials, including athleisure.

Sizing options: Varies by style, but most pieces range from XS-XL. 

We love Everlane for everything from its cashmere sweaters and jeans to footwear and outerwear. The brand’s products are always responsibly made with a high level of quality and keen attention to style. 

While you can always rely on Everlane to find clothes that will help you look your best, you can also rely on them to find clothes that will help you feel your best. 

The brand just launched its new Track Collection, which includes a variety of organic cotton sweatsuits. You can find T-shirts, sweatsuits, and even sneakers at Everlane.

What to buy:

The Organic Cotton Crew (small)Sport Short (small)Track Crewneck (small)Track Pant (small)
Check out our other men’s style guides

The best places to buy men's sweaters
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The 5 best jump ropes of 2021 for an effective cardio workout

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Jumping rope is one of the best cardio exercises you can do at home, practically for free.
  • The best jump ropes are durable and adjustable in length and should ideally come with extra ropes or handles.
  • Our top pick, Crossrope Get Lean, has multiple weighted ropes, exchangeable handles, and its own workout app.

Most of us associate jumping rope with days on the playground but for the everyday athlete, it’s one of the best cardiovascular activities you can do as an adult, Andrew Laux, NASM-CPT, and personal trainer with fitness platform, Fyt, told Insider.

Though jumping rope gets your heart pumping, it also helps improve bone density, and builds strength and stability through your entire kinetic chain (your feet to your shoulders). Plus, it’s a fun workout you can do almost anywhere, Laux said.

Aside from learning how to use a jump rope, the one thing you need to gain the benefits of the workout is the rope itself. And if you think all jump ropes are the same, think again: Many manufacturers have made improvements and tech updates to jump ropes over the years, offering a variety of ease of use, adjustability, and weight options.

To find the best jump ropes for cardio, I tested brands like Crossrope, Rx Smart Gear, and SKLZ, relying on my own experience as a certified personal trainer and fitness writer, while also keeping in mind the important features a rope should have.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included some insight from Laux on the proper technique for jumping rope, as well as answers to a few FAQs and how I tested each of the ropes in this guide.

Here are the best jump ropes:

How we test jump ropes

best jump ropes 4x3

Each jump rope featured in this guide went through a series of tests to see how well they stacked up across these four categories: Ease of use, versatility, durability, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category factored into which jump ropes ultimately made this guide:

Ease of use: Jump ropes should be easy to use right out of the box (so long as you have your timing and rhythm down), but through the course of testing for this guide, we realized there’s plenty to a jump rope that can make it easy to use. First, is how comfortable the handles feel in-hand. We also considered the flexibility of the rope, if it rotated cleanly on the handle, and if it avoided getting tangled too easily.

Versatility: There are a variety of workouts you can do using a jump rope, and they’re not all just the standard motion you first think of. Whether we were doing double under, crossing the rope, or any other variation, we looked at how well the rope moved along with us at every turn. Even if our own jump roping technique wasn’t flawless, we still were able to see how versatile the rope was able to be.

Durability: Much of our jump rope tests occurred outdoors where the rope would constantly hit the cement beneath our feet. Because of this, the part of the rope hitting the ground would naturally start to file down. After spending several hours jumping rope with each pick, none of those we featured ended up snapping or even filing down dangerously close enough to breaking. 

Value: Jump ropes shouldn’t cost much to begin with but it is important not to just buy whatever the cheapest on the market is. Keeping in mind the three categories above, as well as a jump rope’s actual sticker price, is a great way to judge the overall value. Our top pick is even $99, which seems like a lot for a jump rope, but considering everything it comes with, and the fact it scored the highest in terms of ease of use, versatility, and durability, it’s worth every bit of that investment.

The best jump rope overall

Get_Lean_Set

Crossrope reimagines the tried-and-true jump rope by offering multiple weighted rope options, an easy-to-use handle clipping system, and a companion app with workouts and insight. 

Pros: Ropes come in multiple weight options, easy-to-swap soft handles, companion app has great workout guidance

Cons: Expensive

At $99, Crossrope’s Get Lean Set isn’t exactly inexpensive — but it’s not just any ole jump rope, either. 

This specialized jump rope set features ergonomic handles that are lightweight and easy to hold. The handles feature a quick clasp system making it easy to swap them in and out of the different weighted ropes. Each handle has a soft grip that won’t slip out of your hand, even when you start sweating — we’ve tested this in the humidity of NYC and the comfortable, tacky grips are a very welcome sight.

The other feature that makes Crossrope an attractive choice is its variety of rope weights. The Get Lean Set, specifically, comes with both a 1/2-pound rope good for advanced cardio exercises and a 1/4-pound rope that works well for HIIT routines and endurance training. As mentioned above, the handles just click in and out of the end of each rope for easy swapping. 

Crossrope also offers a companion smartphone application that comes standard with workout inspiration and routine guidance. The Lite version is completely free whereas premium access runs $10 per month. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best jump rope for speed work

wod jumprope

When speed and lasting performance are your main concerns, the WOD Nation Speed Jump Rope is your best option.

Pros: Comes with an extra cable, features a smooth bearing system for speed work

Cons: Susceptible to wear when used on hard surfaces

If you’re looking to perform quick tempo jumps, like high knees, crossover, or double unders, you want a speed rope, which moves faster, Louis Chandler Joseph, NASM-CPT, trainer at Dogpound in LA told Insider. “Speed ropes are also great for working hand-eye coordination,” he added.

WOD Nation Speed Jump Rope uses a patented four-metal ball bearing system in the handles. There is a bearing on the tip of each handle to hold the cable and another bearing in each handle for smooth rotations, and the handles are made of tapered nylon resin for a better grip.

This speed rope comes in nine colors and with an extra cable, replacement hardware, and a carrying bag. The cable is 2.5mm thick and 11 feet long, which you can easily adjust. 

WOD Nation’s jump rope comes with a “100% satisfaction guarantee,” so you can try it for 60 days and if you’re not completely satisfied, return it for a complete refund. (However, its return policy says it will only accept returns on unused items within 14 days of purchase, so that’s a bit confusing.) If you order through Amazon, you get 30 days to return. — James Brains, home and kitchen reporter

The best jump rope for beginners

SKLZ jump rope

The SKLZ jump rope is easy to use, lightweight, comfortable, and affordable, making it a smart choice for those just starting to jump rope. 

Pros: Easy to adjust, comfortable grip, smooth rotations

Cons: Comes with just one rope — no fancy additions

If you’re new to jumping rope, you need a straightforward jump rope that’s easy to set to your height and easy to swing. The SKLZ jump rope is all of this and more: The soft, padded handles allow for a solid, comfy grip, while the swivel on the inside of the handle makes for easy rotations and lots of control (which is super helpful for those jumping in small spaces).

It’s also lightweight, making it easy to move at a pace that works for you, especially as you tackle technique and eventually add in speed. 

Adjusting the rope is easy — just unscrew the handle, pull the rope through to the length for you,  push the plastic tab back, and cut the extra. Then, close the handle back up. Cutting the rope does means it’s a one-and-done adjustment so you can’t share your rope with someone of another height. But at under $15, your partner or roommate can buy their own cheap, too.

I tested this rope both indoors on carpet and outside on cement, and it lasted through lots of jump intervals. It’s definitely a no-frills cable but offers everything you need to get your jump rope routine started.

The best jump rope for multiple users

RX smart gear Rapid Fit Jump Rope

The Rx Smart Gear Rapid Fit Jump Rope allows you to easily switch between lengths, so the whole family can use it. Plus, it’s so smooth and comfortable. 

Pros: Easy adjustment and multi-user, smooth rotations, comfortable (and narrower) handle

Cons: More expensive than other ropes

If you’re 5-feet tall and sharing this rope with your 6-foot-tall partner, you can both use this Rx Smart Gear jump rope without anyone compromising proper length. The Rx Smart Gear Rapid Fit Jump Rope allows you to swap between sizes, just by pressing the end of the handle, removing the cover and pulling the rope to the top (to make it shorter) or bottom (to make it longer).

The standard size of the Rapid Fit Jump Rope works for people 5- to 6-feet tall. There’s also a short cable option that’s a better fit for anyone under 5 feet, as well as a longer cable for those over 6 feet. 

To be adjustable, this rope has long, thin handles. This shape has the added benefit of being easy to grip while you flick your wrists on the spin, and it offers good control over the rope so you can dial up or down the speed. 

This adjustable jump rope also comes with a carrying case. The price point is higher than other models, but it’s cheaper than buying two high-quality jump ropes of different lengths.

The best budget jump rope

Tone It Up Jump Rope

The lightweight Tone It Up jump rope comes in at under $10, while still offering an easy-to-use rope that’ll last through countless cardio sessions. 

Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, soft and comfortable handles, easy to use and adjust

Cons: Not as durable as others; if you don’t cut the rope, it twists as you jump

For a super affordable jump rope, the Tone It Up offering costs less than $10 and is available at Target, while still delivering all the basic necessities of a cardio jump rope. At less than 13 ounces, the lightweight design makes for easy rotations and quick rounds. The padded foam handles also make for a soft feel as you hold onto the rope through each jump. 

To adjust the cable, simply unscrew the end of the handle, and move the plastic stopper tab to the spot that works with your height — the cable is short enough for those 4-foot-9 and long enough for those 6-foot-6. While you can shove the excess rope back into the handle, I suggest cutting off any extra (particularly if you have a lot of excess). The wound-up rope inside the handle occasionally made the rope twist up as I hit my rotations. 

To top off the benefits of this purchase, you’ll also support a women-owned brand.

What else we tested

RXSG EVO GO Speed Rope

Rx Smart Gear EVO GO Speed Rope ($125): If you’re looking for a truly lightweight rope for picking up speed on your feet, this rope has a well-designed handle that makes it comfortable and easy to whip the rope around. This rope comes at a fixed height. It didn’t make our main list because of its expensive price tag, but we do love this rope for speed work. 

SKLZ Speed Rope ($25): Another rope that handles well, works fast, and makes for smooth transitions, this SKLZ Speed Rope is also super affordable. The sturdy handles felt heavier than other speed ropes, and the adjustable rope itself stands up against kinks. The biggest downside is you need a wire cutter to remove the extra material, which isn’t always easy to get your hands on.

Jump rope FAQs

What’s the proper jump rope technique?

Jumping rope is dauntingly easy — but the right technique is very helpful to master the cardio skill. Andrew Laux, NASM-CPT, and personal trainer with fitness platform, Fyt, offers three tips:

1. First, think of it like a pogo stick. “Keep your body in a straight line but relax your muscles and joints so you can easily absorb the jump and get ready for the next,” he said. Bend your knees slightly and jump on the balls of the feet to help with that impact.

2. It’s important to keep your shoulders back and chest tall (think of this as like having good posture).

3. And finally, look out on the horizon. “Once your eyes drop to your feet, your form will crumble,” Laux warns. 

When it comes to your actual jump rope workout, Laux loves jumping to his favorite song, resting for one minute, then repeating for another few pump-up jams. If you’re just starting out, though, he suggests going for just 10 seconds of effort, then resting for 20 seconds.

As you get better and can do five to 10 rounds, build the work interval, and decrease the rest break.

“Once you build up your strength and fitness levels and slowly build up your jump duration, you will find yourself jumping for longer time periods like 5 minutes or even 10 minutes nonstop,” he said. “It takes time, but you will get there.”

Learn more in How to jump rope in 4 easy steps, and a few fun workouts you can do at home.


What features should a jump rope have? 

If you’re considering which jump rope to buy, think about how you want to use it. “The heavier the handles, the harder the shoulder and forearm workout,” Laux explains. “The lighter and thinner the rope, the faster you can spin the jump rope around and around.”

Anything labeled as a speed rope will likely feel lightweight and fast, while a more straightforward rope (usually plastic with foam handles) may be slightly heavier and likely, more affordable. 

The most important thing to consider once you know the kind of rope you want is its length. If a rope is too long, it might be harder to find your rhythm. Conversely, one that’s too short may increase your chances of tripping.

Make sure to check out the brand’s sizing guide before you buy. Then, to measure a jump rope to your height, step in the middle of the rope with both feet, ensure the rope is symmetric and taught, and adjust it so the bottom of the handle reaches your armpits, said Louis Chandler Joseph, NASM-CPT, trainer at Dogpound in LA.

You can always test out the rope and decide if you want it to be shorter or longer, too. Once you have a length you’re comfortable with, use scissors or wire cutters to clip the ends of the cable so you don’t have annoying and unnecessary lengths of the rope hanging off the handles. 

Also, Chandler Joseph suggests hanging your rope for storage — though, some ropes (like the Rx Smart Gear rope) do come with their own carrying case, making it far easier to stash away. Just try to avoid any kinks or bends, no matter how you chose to store them.

Expert sources

  • Andrew Laux, NASM-CPT, and personal trainer with fitness platform, Fyt

  • Louis Chandler Joseph, NASM-CPT, trainer at Dogpound in Los Angeles

Read the original article on Business Insider

I ditched my alarm clock and it transformed my fitness and productivity

Alarm Clock
People who switch between day and night shifts may be more likely to develop certain illnesses.

  • Social jetlag is a condition that arises partially due to rising at an “unnatural” time on weekdays.
  • People who switch often between day and night shifts are more likely to develop Type II diabetes.
  • Those who suffer from social jetlag have a higher risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I loathe the sound of my alarm clock. It makes absolutely no difference which sound I set it to, I’ve tried everything: my favorite song, birdsong, a relatively neutral ringing.

I simply cannot stand the sound.

I’m not a serial “snooze button-pusher” nor am I the sort to leave a smartphone ringing for three minutes before getting up to switch it off. There really is no sound I dread more than that of my alarm clock.

I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one who feels that way; I imagine many late risers who regularly have to get up early feel similarly.

That’s precisely why I want to know what it’s like to get up without an alarm clock in a normal working week.

I’m doing this not just for fun but also because I want to prove something: I wrote an article about how a year of getting up at seven in the morning from Monday to Friday (an hour earlier than I’m used to) had been bad for my health and had prompted people to write to me from all over the world – from New Zealand to the Netherlands.

I’ll admit that some went to the effort of writing to me just to let me know how much of a whiny millennial I was but the majority seemed to feel the same: people were saying their productivity was adversely impacted when they had to get up earlier.

Don’t fight your body clock

The good news is that we’re not imagining these problems; there’s a scientifically recognized phenomenon called “social jetlag” that’s responsible for your symptoms.

Every human being has a body clock and everyone’s ticks differently.

That’s why some of us are “early birds” and some of us are “night owls”.

If we constantly work against our body clock, it can have negative health consequences.

What happens when you finally listen to your body clock?

My self-test was based on an experiment conducted by Kenneth P. Wright from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2013.

He took 13 participants to camp in the Rocky Mountains for a week.

The aim of the study was not simply to get people out of their everyday lives and allow them to get up without an alarm; it was also to minimize the influence of artificial light.

Wright came to the conclusion that the participants’ “social jetlag” saw an improvement after just one week and that their sleep rhythm had adapted to sunrise and sunset (although I should probably start clarifying now that I didn’t sleep in the forest for a week then go to work every morning).

What I did was this:

  1. I tried to get up without an alarm clock.
  2. I kept light pollution to a minimum (i.e. no television and typing on the mobile phone after sunset, as little lighting as possible)
  3. I kept the blinds open so daylight would enter the room.

I warned my boss and colleagues I might be late for work in the morning but I assumed I wouldn’t suddenly sleep past 11.00 am the next morning.

I usually get up at eight in the morning, or so I thought. When I’ve set my alarm after 8.00 am in the past, I’ve often woken up before the alarm has even started going off. But then again, maybe I’ve been wrong all along.

Monday

Fried egg
Is my egg trying to tell me something?

I was in bed at 11.00 pm and woke up on Monday at 8.06 am.

When I arrived on time at nine that day, a colleague asked me if I’d started my experiment. When I said I had, most couldn’t believe it, with some saying: “You’re more punctual than you are getting up with an alarm clock!”

In truth, I did cheat, just a little: I didn’t quite rely on my body clock.

When I awoke to the sight of bright sunlight in the morning, I flinched and checked the clock.

It said 7.05 am, so I turned over and dozed off for another hour. I decided not to check the clock until I felt ready to get up.

The first morning didn’t go too well: it turns out it’s just as hard to do without artificial light as it is to get up without an alarm clock.

I just couldn’t resist the temptation to turn on the light in my room in the evening.

There are perks to steering clear of your smartphone or skipping TV in the evening: you automatically go to sleep sooner because the artificial light doesn’t keep you awake (or perhaps you just fall asleep because you have nothing to do?)

Our body follows a biological rhythm that’s centered around daylight and this rhythm can vary from person to person – and even from animal to animal and plant to plant.

“There is hardly a single function in the body that isn’t centered around the rhythm of the day. Our body clock regulates all of our internal processes – be it the concentration of calcium, magnesium or potassium in the blood up or the presence of enzymes,” says Till Roennerberg, professor at the LMU and considered one of the leading experts in the field of the human body’s internal clock.

Roenneberg distinguishes between two types of sleepers: larks (early risers) and owls (as the name suggests, more nocturnal people), in between which there are many varying degrees.

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I’d gone to bed at 11 the night before and woke up at 8.03 am.

I cheated, but again, it wasn’t deliberate! At half-past seven, I briefly woke up, checked my watch and then dozed for another half an hour.

I don’t know why I kept waking up – I think it may have been fear of oversleeping and not turning up at the office until past 11.00 am.

There’s a simple reason for waking up without an alarm clock: it’s healthier because the hormone melatonin regulates our body’s day-night rhythm.

When the melatonin concentration in the blood rises in the evening, we get tired. When it dips again in the morning, we wake up.

The problem with alarm clocks is they often pull you out of sleep, even though your body’s melatonin level isn’t at a high enough level for you to wake up naturally. That’s why we often feel shattered all day long.

Of course, it’s still only my second day of the “no alarm clock” routine, but I feel uncannily fresh and awake. Tuesday is also my weekly barre-workout day (it’s essentially a mixture of ballet and workout).

At the end of the lesson, we always do about 100 different forms of sit-ups and two minutes of planks.

Normally I’m completely exhausted during the last set of exercises and can barely hold my arms up, but my workout was easier than ever.

The dance class ends at 9.00 pm and I already know it won’t be easy for me to fall asleep today – I usually have that problem when I do sports in the evening.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, I woke up at 8.00 am exactly after going to bed the previous night at about 11.30 pm, prior to which I’d been awake for quite a while.

I’d done it. I hadn’t looked at my watch in the morning. I got up when I thought I felt rested and awake, and only checked the time afterward.

My colleagues say it’s possibly the most boring experiment of all time, mostly as I wake up so consistently. However, this also confirms what I’d predicted: 8.00 am is my time and I need at least eight hours of sleep.

To prep myself for the experiment, I actually took part in a conference on chronobiology.

Chronobiology is the study of the internal clock and has been a serious subject for some time. Three scientists received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in October 2017 for their research in chronobiology. They succeeded in deciphering the genetic mechanisms that emanate from the internal clock of fruit flies.

Not only did I learn at the conference that we are more similar to fruit flies in terms of our internal clock than we think; I also learned that the internal clock changes according to age (older people sleep less and usually get up earlier) and that it ticks a little differently in men and women. Our internal clock even determines how effective medicines work for us.

After a day with scientists from LMU, Harvard, and Oxford, I almost had the feeling that our whole life was ultimately determined by our inner clock. Those who permanently fight it are more susceptible to diseases.

I’m so optimistic that I’ll be able to get up at eight o’clock without an alarm for the rest of the week that I arranged to meet an eBay seller at nine in the morning the next day to pick up a vacuum cleaner.

Thursday

Laughing woman leather jacket bench
I was drinking cocktails a until a little too late on day three – which worsened my sleep quality.

As it turns out, I was a little too optimistic the day before. I woke up at 8.48 am after going to bed at midnight.

When I made the appointment with the eBay seller, I was unaware that I would end up in a cocktail bar with my colleagues later that evening.

When I drink alcohol, even if very little, I sleep very poorly. I only had a small beer and a gin and strawberry cocktail and yet there I was in bed, lying awake until well past midnight.

When I woke up in the morning, I still assumed it was probably around eight o’clock again. But then came the shock: it was 8.48 am. Not only was that day the first I would get into work after 9.00 am, I was also late to pick up the vacuum cleaner.

I showered, brushed my teeth, got dressed and put on my makeup in less than 12 minutes (I’m setting a personal record for that by the way).

Thankfully, the seller wasn’t in any hurry that morning and was waiting for me.

Friday

On Friday, I went to bed at 11.30 pm and woke up at 8.35 am. I slept a little longer than on the first days of my experiment, but on Fridays, it’s not a big deal as I work from home.

I feel now as though I have a pretty good idea of when I’m asleep in the morning and when it’s time to wake up. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I could sense it was about 8.30 am.

Maybe it’s also something to do with getting used to daylight in the room after five days. I’ve noticed I barely felt tired during the week. Usually, I find myself very lethargic after lunch or in the late afternoon and notice that I often have to yawn.

The week left me feeling very rested every day and feeling tired around half-past ten at night

Saturday

I went to bed on Friday night at about midnight and ended up waking up on Saturday at 8.17 am.

Isn’t that remarkable?

Even though it’s a Saturday and I have the chance to sleep for as long as I want, I feel totally rested and awake at 8.17 am – much to the chagrin of my boyfriend who had come home from a business trip on Friday and probably would have liked a lie-in.

This Saturday I’m Facetiming my family in Austria. My mother tells me – without knowing about my experiment – that I look very fresh and that the dark shadows under my eyes, which I often have, have almost disappeared.

woman hiking mountain hill climbing walking trekking
On day seven, I felt so energised, I climbed a 1,668 metre summit.

The fact that I’d been waking up almost every day at the same time – without an alarm clock – shows I have found my inner clock, to some extent. And it shows my current lifestyle fits well with my inner clock but, of course, this isn’t always the case.

In March, researchers at the University of Colorado published a study according to which people who frequently switch between day and night work are 40 percent more likely to develop Type II diabetes. Previous studies have concluded that people who suffer from social jetlag have a higher risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity.

German researcher Till Roenneberg, therefore, advises companies to create working time models that fit their employees’ internal clock.

Sunday

woman hiking trekking climbing walking mountains pine trees forest evergreen woods
No, this is not Photoshop. That’s me, just before I climbed the summit.

On Sunday, I went to bed at 00.55 am and woke up at 9.38 am. I’d gone to the cinema for a late show, meaning I went to bed later than usual the day before. Sunday was the only day that week I didn’t wake up before nine.

My week without an alarm clock had a definite effect on my fitness. My boyfriend and I went to the mountains for lunch to go hiking. We decided not to take an easy walk, but to climb a summit of 1,668 meters. We managed to cover 580 meters (or 170 floors according to my health app). And I realized how easy everything was. Even the steepest passages, I climbed with such ease that my boyfriend – who was just a little envious – was panting behind me. I’d been hiking the previous week and had found hiking trails that were much flatter were much more difficult for me.

Back to using the alarm clock

I woke up at 5.40 am after having slept at 22.15 pm. Welcome back to reality. Being rudely awoken at that time to catch a train after the experiment I’d done, now I remembered how terrible the sound of the alarm clock was.

But it’s not just that. I noticed how fatigued I was all day after having to get up so early. It’s like the day is running away like a blurry film before my eyes. I’m already looking forward to going back to bed in the morning yet when I go to sleep at night, there’s no salvation.

Luckily, I already know I don’t have to get up until eight the rest of the week. The fact that this time matches my internal clock has been clearly demonstrated over the past week.

I usually woke up naturally between eight and half-past eight – even without an alarm clock and at the weekend when there was no compulsion to get up.

Of course, Till Roenneberg and other experts in chronobiology would probably criticize me, as my self-test would not be suitable for a scientific journal.

I can only speak from my personal experience this week but it’s showed me I’m much fitter and more productive when I listen to my body clock.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 7 best rowing machines of 2021 for your home gym

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

There are few machines that deliver the same kind of calorie-burning, full-body workout as an at-home rower. In 30 minutes, you’re able to enjoy a low-impact, high-cardio exercise that’s great for people of any age or fitness level. As long as you row with proper form, this versatile workout can complement a pre-existing routine while also standing on its own as a source of weekly exercise.

It’s because of that effectiveness, and the fact many people work out at home, that rowers are increasingly popular. If you don’t like running on a treadmill or saddling onto a stationary bike, a rower is the next best thing – and to some, it’s regarded as an even better form of exercise.

I agree. There’s something wholly different about a 45-minute rowing routine that feels far more taxing and exhausting than a run on a treadmill or a streamed Peloton class. Those two do deliver tiring workouts but I walk away from a rowing class truly noticing its full-body results.

But while all rowers deliver similar cardio benefits, not all are designed similarly. In addition to a variety of resistance types and rower sizes, some stow easily while others feature touchscreens and streamable, on-demand classes.

To find the best available, I tested a number of machines that span every use case, resistance type, and price. My goal was to find rowers that deliver a serious cardio workout that are also a valuable addition to a home gym – and I’ve listed my favorites below.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included tips on how to shop for a rower, answers to a series of FAQs, and insight into how I tested each rower featured.

Here are the best rowing machines:

How I test rowers

Ergatta rowing machine

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

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

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

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

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

The best row machine overall

Concept2 Model Indoor Rowing Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget rowing machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best interactive rowing machine

Ergatta Digital Rower

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

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

Cons: Expensive 

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our review of the Ergatta Connected Rower here

The best smart rowing machine

Hydrow

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

Read our full review of the Hydrow Rowing Machine

The best digital-resistance rowing machine

Screen Shot 2020 07 09 at 4.16.00 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best water resistance rowing machine

Man rowing on a WaterRower at-home row machine

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

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

Cons: Expensive, included monitor is fine but limited

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best rowing machine for beginners

Sunny Health Fitness SF RW5515

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAQs

Is rowing better than running? 

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

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


Can you row every day?

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

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

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

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


Can you lose weight by using a rowing machine?

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

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

How to shop for a rowing machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to row with good form

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

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

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

Read the original article on Business Insider