The 2022 GQ Fitness Awards: The Best Workout Clothes, Gear, Tech, and Accessories30 min read
It’s a weird time to talk about fitness. Gyms are open again, your office frenemy keeps pestering you to join his run club, and new variants continue to spring up with a startling frequency; a return to some semblance of normalcy—whatever that means—no longer feels just a few months away. All that uncertainty, though, also represents an opportunity to reevaluate what working out looks like in the first place. So over the last year, GQ went deep to find some answers, testing a dizzying array of sneakers, dumbbells, and smartwatches (plus one gnarly pair of compression boots!) for our annual Fitness Awards. However you get your sweat on, there’s something here bound to pique your interest.
Finally canceled your gym membership? We tracked down the equipment you need to transform your living space into a makeshift Equinox. Still hitting two-a-days to make up for precious hours lost during quarantine? Some buzzy new gear will help those mirror selfies pop. Perfectly content to get your steps in taking a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood? Cop a pair of shoes designed to maximize your mileage—and earn you knowing nods of approval from the judgemental teens on your block.
Sure, the state of working out might be in flux, but no matter what the next few months throw your way, Deion Sanders’ endlessly quotable soundbite stills hold true: if you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good. These 77 products—from budget-friendly recovery essentials to big-ticket home gym upgrades—helped us look, feel, and play our best over the last (very strange) four quarters. We promise they’ll do the same for you.
The GQ Fitness Awards Table of Contents
In case you’re looking for something specific:
- Best Workout Clothes: Shirts, Shorts, Hoodies, Outerwear, Underwear, Tights, Socks
- Best Workout Accessories: Hat, Sunglasses, Gym Bags
- Best Workout Shoes: Running Shoes, Trail Running Shoes, Gym Shoes
- Best Fitness Tech: Fitness Trackers, Workout Headphones
- Best Home Gym Equipment: Bikes, Workout Machines, Weights, Prehab and Recovery Tools
Best Workout Shirts
Best Everyday Tee: LifeLabs CoolLife
LifeLabs’s CoolLife tee beat out the competition this year thanks to its proprietary fabric: a silky, moisture-wicking polyethylene that uses a whole lot of slick R&D to keep your body temperature low when you’d normally be shvitzing through your shorts. If the patent-backed tech doesn’t faze you, all you really need to know is that the fit—trim without being clingy—and the feel—soft enough to pull double-duty as an undershirt—warrant its inclusion on their own. Oh, and it comes in half a dozen discreet colors and costs a mere 50 bucks. See what we’re saying?
Best Running Tee: New Balance Impact Run
We’ve tested many, many great-looking running shirts that suck to actually run in—that immediately get bogged down with sweat and leave our nipples looking like something out of a David Cronenberg movie. This gem from New Balance on the other hand, is made from gauzy ultralight ICEx fabric that wicks efficiently and won’t chafe; sometimes the best thing you can say about a running shirt is that you completely forget about it.
Best Long-Sleeve Tee: And Wander PowerDry
You know those days when you wake up, check the weather app, and then feel your resolve to get in a morning run dissolve like so much sugar in your java? And Wander’s double-knit jersey tee is made for those days. To keep you motivated, the Japanese outdoors label linked with the cold-weather whizzes at Polartec to borrow some of their cozy-fabric expertise. The result is a lightweight, long-sleeve tee with two nifty pockets at the back, so you can hop out of bed and hit the streets like you’re fresh off your fourth cup of joe.
Best Tee for Heavy-Duty Lifting: Omorpho G-Top
Most workout tees distinguish themselves by promising to make you faster, but Omorpho’s Gravity Sportswear collection takes the opposite track. The Portland brand’s G-Top shirt is powered by MicroLoad, a poly-spandex blend that strategically distributes small amounts of weight across your torso, turning rudimentary core exercises into a struggle worth the second-glances. It looks funky (and might trigger your trypophobia) but it’s hard to argue with the results.
Past Years’ Winners That Still Can’t Be Beat
Last year, we named Ten Thousand’s Durable shirt the best in its category, and for good reason: it’s flatteringly cut, treated with odor-fighting silver ions, finished with chafe-free flatlock seams, and built from a heavy-duty poly-cotton blend that’ll stand up to pretty much anything. (Somehow, it still costs less than $40 a pop.) Rhone’s Reign tees are aptly named: They’ve literally reigned supreme atop our annual Best Workout Shirt rankings for as long as we’ve been doing them. They come with everything: an airy, odor-fighting, sweat-wicking, nipple-hiding fabric, plus an engineered, seamless fit that hugs the body in the right places and stays loose elsewhere. Which means no matter what year it is, or how stiff the competition gets, they’re always going to be in the conversation.
Best Active Tank Top
Best Running Tank: Lululemon Fast and Free singlet
Breaking news: Lululemon makes really good workout clothing. The Canadian sportswear juggernaut behind the most popular leggings on the planet specializes in pricey yoga gear worth the splurge, but in 2022 its repertoire includes a whole lot more. Take, for example, its Fast and Free running singlet, a sweat-wicking tour de force cut from ultra-breathable (but mercifully non-translucent) mesh. Any guesses what you’ll feel like wearing it? We’ll give you a hint: it’s all in the name.
Best Tank With Serious Fashion Cred: Telfar performance halter tank
How do you keep the momentum going after being crowned GQ’s 2020 Designer of the Year? If you’re Telfar Clemens, the Queens-born creative force behind one of the buzziest labels in the business, you launch your very own TV channel, work tirelessly to make your smash-hit bags accessible to the masses, and then, naturally, debut a brand new line of sleek performance sportswear. (Even rave kids have to sweat out the toxins every now and then.) Expanding into activewear can be a tricky proposition, but the brand’s stretchy nylon fabric sticks the landing with flair. On its website, Telfar maintains that the line is “engineered for athletes and aesthetes” alike; if you consider yourself either, there’s few radder ways to flex your stuff at the gym.
Best Everyday Tank: Satisfy Running MothTech muscle tee
Satisfy’s MothTech muscle tee might be a mother’s worst nightmare, but it’s a runner’s dream. Hidden inner pocket? Check. A dozen-plus eye-grabbing color options? Check again. Detachable care label for extra comfort? C’mon, now. The real clincher, though, are the small ventilating punctures carefully placed throughout the upper body to mitigate sweating when you’re on the move. The brand calls them “strategic cooling zones”, but let’s be honest: they’re moth holes, and they’re sick.
Best Workout Shorts
Best Training Shorts: Ten Thousand Interval shorts
Over the last year, something strange happened: Ten Thousand’s Interval shorts—light, breathable, available in a range of inseam lengths—started cropping up with a startling frequency in gyms across the country. A new contender for squat rack supremacy had arrived, and it came courtesy of a brand founded less than a decade ago by two guys with no real experience making workout gear. Sweat-wicking, quick-drying, and with pocket space aplenty, the Interval is the purest expression of Ten Thousand’s commitment to pitch-perfect exercise duds. Its gradual rise might not be enough to put a dent in its Portland-based competitors’ market projections, but it’s just enough to keep them on their toes.
Best Running Shorts: Miler Running base running shorts
It took decades for the menswear crowd to catch onto what hardcore runners have known all along: short shorts look really damn cool. The only downside to those ultra-high inseams? Lack of pocket space. Miler’s glitzy running shorts solve for all that by hooking you up with a trio of interior pockets, including a handy moisture-blocking option specifically for your phone. It doesn’t hurt that they’re made in New York out of mesh imported from Switzerland, and lined with anti-chafe Italian microfibers to keep your gams protected. Finally, shorts as cosmopolitan as you pretend to be.
Best All-Purpose Shorts: Outdoor Voices High Stride shorts
When you’re squeezing in a quick workout between Zooms, you need a pair of shorts that won’t let the world know you’ve been hanging out in gym clothes for 12 hours straight. Like all of OV’s goods, the brand’s High Stride shorts will serve you equally well banging out supersets or running laps on the track—but the range of handsome colors and sweet 5-inch length means they’ll look fantastic running errands too.
Past Years’ Winners That Still Can’t Be Beat
Last year, we praised the technical bona fides of Olivers’ pared-down All Over shorts. The fabric is soft, stretchy, sweat-wicking, and water-repellent, and the trio of pockets—two on the hips, one hidden within—will keep your stuff secure on the go. Sure, the Cali brand isn’t breaking new ground here, but its shorts deserve some shine for their dependability alone. In 2020, we named Tracksmith’s signature running shorts—fashioned from plush, antimicrobial mesh—the most stylish on the whole damn planet. (Frankly, we think they’re some of the best-looking workout shorts, period.) Almost a decade into its run, the Boston label is still at the top of its game, consistently churning out serious running gear that transplants Chariots of Fire–era aesthetics onto modern, marathon-ready wares. The Van Cortlandt shorts can’t guarantee you’ll deliver a PR, but every time you pull them on you’ll feel like one’s coming.
Best Workout Hoodies
What separates a regular old hoodie—the kind you wear to bum around the house on a lazy Sunday afternoon—from a designated workout hoodie? Sometimes, not much. But when the Swoosh is involved, the answer becomes a bit more complicated. Nike’s Forward hoodie is the result of the company’s most ambitious material innovation in years, the first iteration of a sustainability-minded push decades in the making. Thankfully, all those R&D dollars paid off: the Forward hoodie feels impossibly lightweight given how much heat it retains—and its roomy, slightly oversized fit means it’ll look just as sick with running shorts as it will some tech-y cargos when you can’t make it to the gym. At first glance, Jacques’ Signature hoodie—crafted in Italy out of a stretchy, abrasion-resistant cotton blend—seems pretty similar to its Portland counterpart. But the New York label specializes in workout gear made to the same exacting standards as your sharpest tailoring, all of it designed to take a serious beating; these are sweats that put the suit in sweatsuit. Not entirely sold on either option? Take a quick gander at New Balance’s Made in USA core hoodie, one of the first styles the Boston brand debuted under the aegis of Aimé Leon Dore mastermind Teddy Santis. Cut from a hefty French terry in a quartet of easy-wearing colors, it seasons the athletic-leaning silhouettes New Balance is famous for with the retro flavors Santis knows better than almost anyone else—and adds a drizzle of ‘90s-era nostalgia to the recipe for good measure. A workout hoodie, then, might just be a hoodie you like so much you can’t wait to show it off at the gym, no matter its provenance.
Past Years’ Winners That Still Can’t Be Beat
Fourlaps’ Equip Hoodie is one of the best around—so much so, in fact, that we awarded it top honors in this category last year. The fit is trim, the material is seriously stretchy, there’s a handy zip pocket for your valuables, and it’s got those performance thumbholes at the cuffs (if you’re into that sort of thing and know what to do with ‘em). There’s a myriad of practical reasons to love the Vuori Ponto Performance hoodie, plenty of which we touched on in 2020: the sweat-wicking fabric is the ideal non-suffocating weight for year-round workouts; the flat-lock seams prevent chafing; and the half-zip front, a new flourish, affords your neck some welcome breathing room. But the main reason we’re re-upping it here? Its incomparable softness. (Like, “newborn kitten napping in a cashmere sweater” soft.) If your skin starts to crawl at the mere thought of less forgiving fabrics, it’s the gym hoodie you’ve been searching for.
Best Fitness Outerwear
The best part of fashion’s ongoing obsession with all things athleisure? Some of the illest gym clothing around comes from independent labels with zero hangups about how your fitness gear should look. Exhibit A: Adsum’s Camp Hero vest, crafted from a water-repelling nylon-spandex blend printed with a trippy ripstop pattern that puts the typical fare at Modell’s (RIP) to shame. Adsum calls it an “active layering piece”; we’d call it the coolest way to stave off the elements when the forecast throws a wrench in your workout plans. The ragtag group of lads behind Palace are skaters first and foremost. But over the last few years, the British label has expanded its purview to include left-field collaborations with Arc’teryx, Rapha, and Umbro—the type of big-name partners that bolster any brand’s performance bona fides. Palace’s Front Runner jacket imbues the hallmarks of its cheeky approach to streetwear—the retro-doused colors, the splashy logo hits, the forgiving silhouettes—with serious technical flourishes, like mesh-lined lightweight nylon and reflective detailing. What more can you ask for from a running jacket? If you’re Grace Wales Bonner, a lot. Since 2020, the foremost tracksuit virtuoso of her generation has linked with Adidas—the brand that damn-near invented the style in the first place—routinely churning out superb riffs on the form that look sick with sneakers and a workout tee, and even sicker with flared trousers and razor-sharp boots. Ever wondered why all the scene-y fitness buffs you know are dressing like a Richie Tenenbaum’s sleazy kid brother? She’s the reason. Cop yourself an Adidas x Wales Bonner track jacket and join their ranks.
Best Workout Hats
On that final sprint home, the last thing you want your hat to do is get in the way. JJJJound’s Victory cap is so discreet you might forget you’re wearing it. Like everything the internet’s favorite moodboard-turned-lifestyle-brand makes, there’s nary a logo in sight—but unlike JJJJound’s perennially sold-out totes and tees, it’s designed for performance, not Instagram notoriety. A breathable mesh exterior keeps your dome aerated, while a terry sweatband keeps sweat (and your luscious flow) out of your line of vision. Not really feeling it in white? All good: Cayl’s Trail-Logo baseball cap is equally stellar, and comes in sleek-as-hell black. Oh, and it’s made with Pertex’s Quantum Air technology, which sounds like it should be the MacGuffin in a new Star Wars spinoff, but is really just a fancy way of saying it’s ridiculously lightweight, highly permeable, and super wind-resistant. If you want to top off your workout fits with a touch more flair, Ciele’s GoCap might be your groove. It’s made out of a quick-drying fabric that offers UPF +40 protection, in the type of splashy colors your dad gravitated towards when you were a kid. Plus, the pliable brim means you can shove it in your back pocket without stressing it getting bent out of shape.
Best Gym Bags
In 2022, gym bags should do a lot more than haul around your sweaty workout duds; they should also look really cool doing it. Herschel’s Cordura holdall lives up to the mandate. Sure, it’s big enough to hold all your stuff, but with its old-school design and trail-ready detailing (to say nothing of that indestructible Cordura exterior), it’s a no-frills workhorse you won’t be embarrassed to leave by your cubicle. Ditto Rain’s waterproof duffle bag, a sleek, sturdy carrier crafted from the same weather-busting polyurethane the Danish brand uses in its top-notch raincoats. Then there’s Saint Laurent’s mesh duffle, which is what happens when your laundry hamper gets really into bodybuilding, and then makes a mint speculating on crypto. Hey, at least you’ll never have to worry about IDing your bag in the locker room—but don’t blame us if someone “accidentally” walks off with it while you’re on the treadmill.
Best Workout Sunglasses
Finding a solid pair of workout sunglasses has never been easier: gleaming, wraparound shades—the kind you wore warming the bench on your high school volleyball team—are everywhere right now. But that also means there’s a daunting amount of options to sift through, not all of them up to snuff. SunGod’s Ultras sunglasses are the real deal. The UK-based carbon neutral brand equips its signature sunnies with hard-wearing frames, water- and scratch-resistant lenses, and then does ‘em all up in screaming neon hues. Not quite sporty enough for you? Rudy Project’s Tralyx+ sunglasses are designed for maximum eye coverage and come outfitted with aerodynamic vents by the temples to keep the air flowing while you’re smashing PRs. (Adjustable nose pads and temple tips guarantee a snug fit when the wind’s buffeting your face). Looking to up the fashion quotient a smidge? Try a pair of Metalwood and Garrett Leight’s MP-14 sunglasses, a collaboration between the lovable crew of golf freaks making the sport cool again and the Venice, CA eyewear obsessives A-listers turn to before big premieres. The thermoplastic frames are lightweight and flexible, the anti-reflective lenses are just tinted enough, and the whole package still looks like a righteous flex miles away from the course.
Best Workout Underwear
You could easily blow a month’s rent on the slickest workout gear money can buy, but if your underwear is shot, none of it will make a difference. Falke Ergonomic Sport System’s boxer briefs are lightweight, stretchy, and made from cool-to-the-touch silk blended with insulating, antimicrobial merino wool. (That flexible, non-slip waistband means you never have to worry about a wardrobe malfunction when you’re straining to hit your one-rep max.) Prefer your designated gym undies cosigned by a real-life sports legend? Brady Brand’s boxer briefs—built for maximum comfort on and off the gridiron—are endorsed by the greatest quarterback of all time, and come in a handy pack of 5. CDLP’s long performance boxer briefs are perfect for logging time on the bike—indoors and out. Sweat-wicking, quick-drying, and with carefully placed mesh panels for extra ventilation, they’re exponentially sturdier than the cheaper schlock you’re constantly fidgeting with, but never feel like they’re cutting off circulation to your legs.
Best Compression Shorts
Alo Yoga’s Warrior compression shorts are so damn good they might just convince you to wear compression shorts. The nylon-spandex fabric moves with you (and helps keep your junk secure) while the flat-seam construction and gusset paneling ensure no one glimpses your, uh, downward-facing dog when you’re splayed across the mat. Don’t let the name deceive you: there’s nothing normal about Pas Normal Studios’ balance short tights, cut from a sweat-absorbing, odor-blocking fabric with a subtle logo hit by the thigh. Thanks to their sleek Scandi design, they’ll look great solo or layered beneath a pair of thigh-baring shorts.
Best Workout Tights
Come on now, you’re probably thinking. How much tech can you possibly pack into a pair of tights?! Hold my pint, say the British fitness buffs at Pressio. Using the brand’s Muscle Alignment Power Print technology, Pressio’s power tights are engineered to reduce soreness and expedite recovery time, while the eco-friendly, circular-knit fabric locks down key muscle groups to bolster performance. The next time you’re headed to the gym, check your skepticism in the changing room: wearing these really will make you feel more powerful. If your calves are crying out for a little wiggle room, District Vision’s TomTom half tights are short, but they don’t skimp on the details. The Italian-milled recycled fabric is plenty nice, but the true X factor is the trio of pockets (including a crucial interior option for your keys). There are regular-ass pants with less storage space, and few of them come in shades of purple this fetching.
Best Workout Socks
Thankfully, “fun” socks have finally gone the way of skinny jeans (…for now, at least). But Comrad’s knee-high compression socks are just that—unabashedly fun, tie-dye joints that increase circulation, relieve aches, and make you smile every time you glance down at them. Ditto Soar’s ankle socks, which wrap a whole lot of tech in a highlighter-hued package. Temperature-regulating yarns keep your dogs cool, an open mesh construction keeps them breathing easy, and a compression band by the arch keeps them from wriggling free just when you were about to lap your gym nemesis on the elliptical. Don’t sleep on specialty athletic socks, either. Under Armour’s Curry playmaker crew socks—cushioned, grippy, endorsed by the reigning NBA Finals MVP—will help you swear off those no-name 5-packs for good. And Rapha’s trail socks are some of the best we’ve seen yet, largely thanks to their ultra-durable merino-nylon make and office-appropriate good looks.
Best Workout Headphones
Not all headphones can withstand the stress of a sweaty 45 minutes in the gym, but Beats’ latest wireless earbuds check the necessary boxes and then some. The secure-fit wingtips ensure they won’t pop out of your ears, the IPX4-rated water- and wind-resistance guarantees they won’t wriggle free halfway through your set, and the active-noise cancellation means you can finally tune out the ruckus in the adjacent squat rack. (When you need to stay ahead of oncoming traffic, flip them to Transparency mode to dial the effect back a touch.) The crisp sound quality you’ve come to expect from the brand—along with super-fast syncing abilities—makes them primed to become your new workout buds in more ways than one.
Best Road Running Shoes
The Bondi is the plushest model from the brand that’s synonymous with cushioning, and the biggest compliment we give the new Hoka Bondi 8 is that they didn’t mess it up. The all-white versions are a hit with hard-working nurses; you’ll see the all-blacks on bartenders and art handlers with cool tattoos. But it is first and foremost a running shoe, and the most notable thing about doing big mileage in these is how normal they feel. The “fat shoes” that upended the market over the last decade now just look and feel like regular shoes, and virtually every brand is playing cushioning catch-up. Hoka won, in other words, and the Bondi 8 is the victory lap.
Of course, some of those rival ultra-cushioned shoes are pretty damn good. Nothing about the New Balance SuperComp Trainer feels normal—it’s got an aggressively rockered shape for a surfy, springy ride that will leave you feeling like you’re floating somewhere above the ground. More down to earth is the Asics Novablast 3—the Japanese brand has a proud history of providing workhorse shoes for dedicated pavement pounders, and this is another hit in that category (just with a little more foam). And the most radical shoe we tried all year was the ON Running Cloudmonster. The brand blew up their trademark CloudTec cells to brobdingnagian scale for the softest step you’ll find on this side of jogging on sand.
Of course, sometimes you want to go fast. The problem? Wearing a state-of-the-art racing shoe when you don’t have a number pinned on is sure to generate some eye-rolls from your running buddies. (They’re expensive and not at all durable—training in these is roughly the running version of playing pickup hoops in a full NBA uniform.) The real action is in where that tech is trickling down to the every-day shoe. Take the Nike Pegasus Turbo Next Nature. It uses the springy space-age foam of the Kipchoge-tier shoes but subs the carbon plate and tissue-thin construction for a practical upper that’s 50% recycled material. You’ll be setting PRs and saving the planet. Or, consider the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, which achieves similar results with the opposite strategy—adding a stabilizing carbon plate to a more-conventional foam adds a layer of confidence when you turn up the heat.
Best Trail Running Shoes
The most exciting footwear launch of the year came the tiny Canadian brand Norda, which set out to make a better trail-running shoe from absolute scratch. The Norda 001 starts with Dyneema—this hyper-technical fabric is more often found in the sails of racing yachts and in handmade ultralight backpacks, but in these kicks it’s the thinnest, most confidence-inspiring upper we laced up all year. That gets stitched onto a beefy all-terrain Vibram sole for an extremely durable, incredibly cool looking shoe that just feels right when you’re moving as fast as you can over broken terrain.
On the other hand, if your idea of a great trail-running shoe is “just like my road shoes with all-terrain sole,” that’s cool too. For a long-distance trainer, look no further than the Saucony Xodus Ultra. It’s got the same pillowy cushioning tech as the brand’s long-distance tarmac shoes, just with beefy lugs for traction when things get loose. And for going fast, check the Hoka Tecton X, which takes inspiration from the racing side of road shoes, where carbon plates and springy foams are obliterating world records. It was only a matter of time until this tech made it off-road, and the Hoka uses not one but two parallel carbon plates for maximum efficiency on the rough stuff.
Best Gym Shoes
Nike’s Metcon line is practically synonymous with the do-it-all gym shoe, and the new Metcon 8 is still the best option for a workout that involves both squats and sprints. On the other hand, if you’re looking to hit a squat PR, reach for the Under Armour UA TriBase Reign 4 Pro. They’re flexible and versatile as far as pure lifting shoes go, but at its heart is a flat, firm base that’s happiest when it’s got the weight of a heavily loaded barbell pressing into it. Meanwhile, the coolest innovation in gym shoes we saw is the Reebok Nanoflex Parafit TR. These trainers are part of Reebok’ truly impressive collection of adaptive models—serious hardware for people of all abilities. In this case, a zip closure that makes them easy to get in and out of. It’s great for people with dexterity challenges, but the kind of touch that could be appreciated by any athlete.
The biggest trend in bikes over the last decade has been the gravel bike—a road-style bike with fatter tires and some other concessions to unpaved use. But “gravel bike” doesn’t mean just one thing: it’s a spectrum from road-racing bikes that happen to accept a slightly wider tire to dedicated dirt machines. Canyon’s Grizl is on the burly end—a more-upright position and copious mounting points for racks and bags make it a capable platform for 12-hour dirt road missions or multi-day bikepacking expeditions. But it’s made from lightweight, responsive carbon fiber, and Canyon has Tour de France pedigree—sub in some skinnier tires and this machine would have no trouble mixing it up in a fast group ride.
Sometimes it makes sense to cut against trends—maybe all you want is an extremely good normal-ass bicycle. In that case, may we direct you to the All City Super Professional? It is the ideal combination of a classically-proportioned frame made of old-school steel with the crisp shifting and practical gearing of modern components. It’s the best bike for simply working up a sweat while ripping around town.
And, of course, sometimes you want to eat up miles as quickly as possible. Aluminum machines from Cannondale have been a go-to pick for serious racers for nearly two decades now, and the CAAD13 Ultegra continues that proud lineage with up-to-date tech like disc brakes and 11 speed rear cassette. An aluminum bike hasn’t won the Tour de France since Bill Clinton was the president, but it is still the most cost-effective way to create an ultra-stiff and lightweight racing machine. If you train your legs off and pick up some aerodynamic carbon wheels for race day, you and your Cannondale are all but guaranteed to leave some much more expensive hardware in your wake.
Best Fitness Trackers
The Garmin Epix 2 is the Cadillac Eldorado of dedicated sports watches: it’s got stress, sleep, heart rate, hydration, and respiration tracking—plus sport modes for everything from hiking and running to pickleball and snowshoeing. And with 16 days (!) of battery life, does all without quitting. On the other hand, less is more for some athletes, who are after steady GPS tracking and not much else. That’s where the Coros Pace 2 shines: at a feathery 29 grams, it’s the least obtrusive way to get your workouts logged and onto Strava that currently exists.
Of course, some people want the full Dick Tracy—they expect their smartwatch to send texts and track their Amazon packages. The answer here has been the Apple Watch since it came on the market. And the new Apple Watch Ultra can do more than ever: it will help you retrace your steps in the backcountry, call for help with a dedicated siren, and work as a dive computer for scuba. But the improvements we’re most excited about are more incremental: Next generation GPS will allow far more accurate tracking through big cities, and the Ultra’s battery life—while still not at the level of the dedicated fitness trackers—is finally long enough to track an Ironman or a sunrise-to-sunset hike.
Other trackers work in the background—no vibrations or noises, just all-day, all-night passive monitoring for a clearer picture of your overall health and fitness. And no tracker allows for easier 24/7 tracking than the Generation 3 Oura Ring. It has all of the tracking we loved about earlier models, most of all the daily “readiness score” that provides an extremely useful glimpse of your body’s overall status in the morning. The latest model adds next-gen sensors for heart rate, temperature, and blood oxygenation, so it’s more accurate than ever. But the thing we came to appreciate most about the Oura is a little simpler: Unlike the competitors that rely on straps and bands—and invariably feel gross after a run on a hot day—the sleek metal of the Oura is a cinch to keep clean.
Best Home Gym Equipment
Best Smart Fitness Machines
It takes a pretty special machine to get our attention at this point in the connected home fitness revolution—and that’s exactly what happened when we got a chance to play around with the Frame Reformer, which will begin deliveries later this year. It takes Pilates (a favorite workout of David Beckham and LeBron) out of the studio and into your house with Peloton-style instruction and easily-adjustable resistance. With a rad-looking matte black frame and 24-inch swivel display, it won’t look out of place in your crib (or on the Death Star).
If lifting is more your speed, consider the Tempo Move, one of the best smart home gym setups that we’ve seen in recent years, and the one that’s least likely to pollute your living space with jock energy. That compact Ikea-looking cabinet in the corner? You’d never guess it was concealing a set of pastel smart weights, collars, and plates that track your reps. Just add a TV and an iPhone: your phone syncs up with the brand’s “Core” technology to chart your form while the TV streams the workout.
Meanwhile, things are heating up on the water. Peloton just entered the smart-rower space—and they’re going to have to fight hard to get past Hydrow, the company that has been leading in this category for years. Their latest machine, the Wave, has all of the same immersive workouts and real-time feedback of the original—it’s just smaller, more affordable, and easier to stow away than its big brother.
Speaking of Peloton: The company is going through a bit of a rough patch, which meant big price cuts on their marquee devices. That rough patch has more to do with the post-pandemic economy than the essentials of Peloton’s business. (Have you ever heard anyone complain about the build quality on their Peloton? We sure haven’t.) What this all means: Now that it’s so competitively priced and you can actually get one within a few weeks of ordering, the classic Peloton Bike is hands-down the best exercise bike on the market if it wasn’t before.
If you prefer running in place, look no further than the Technogym My Run treadmill. While we love the sleek, understated looks—and the fact that the high-horsepower motor can keep up when you’re pushing the pace past 5 minutes per mile—our favorite feature is something they left out. In place of a built-in tablet to use the treadmill’s impressive connected features, there’s a slot for you to supply your own iPad. It’s smart future-proofing: these treadmills are built to last a lifetime, and no built-in screen is going to be able to keep up with whatever the propellerheads in Cupertino have whipped up 15 years from now.
We’ve been a fan of kettlebells for bedroom workouts forever: They don’t take up much space and allow all kinds of dynamic full-body moves with a single weight. The Powerblock adjustable kettlebell ups those advantages even further. Simply select the right mass (from 12 to 35 pounds) with a nifty magnetic pin, and suddenly you can use the same kettlebell for tricky Turkish get-ups as you do for heavy swings. If you need more weight than that, head straight to the Nüobell 80-pound adjustable dumbbells. A simple click allows you to select the ideal weight in five-pound increments, and they’re good looking enough that you won’t feel compelled to hide them out of the way—which is good, because they’re some of the heaviest adjustable weights on the market.
Best Recovery Tools
The Best Massage Devices
The myofascial release tools from PSO-Rite have developed a cult following that’s hard to understand until you have one pressed up against a deep tendon that’s badly in need of a little love. The newest model, the PSO-Back, is made to target the lower lumbar anatomy—after just a few minutes using the weight of your body to work on those tissues you’ll feel like you’re standing three inches taller.
On the other hand, if you find yourself in need of a little mechanical assistance for your post-workout massage, you’ll likely be reaching for a massage gun. These tools have been a fixture of locker rooms and sidelines for years now, but don’t lose sight of just how much better they’ve gotten since the first models. They’re smaller, lighter, and quieter—and no device exemplifies that progress like the 1.5 pound Hypervolt Go 2 from Hyperice. There are more powerful guns on the market—including the brand’s own full-scale Hypervolt—but this is the device we found ourselves reaching for most often. You know how the convenience factor means you take the best pictures with your iPhone even if you own a fancy mirrorless camera? It’s a bit like that.
Best Smart Mattress Topper: Eight Sleep Pod Pro 3
Recovery is perhaps the most important component of fitness, and sleep is by far the most important part of recovery. And you’ll be amazed at how well you sleep when the Eight Sleep Pod Pro 3, which is Adjustable between 55℉ and 110℉, is keeping you the correct temperature. This new model will monitor your sleep and health metrics (think sleep stages, HRV, heart and respiratory rate) while you’re conked out—no more sleeping in a wearable sounds great, right?
The Best Scale: Withings Body Cardio
The bathroom scale is a polarizing fitness device, but by-the-numbers health-conscious folks will have a hard time passing up the siren song of this gadget. It reads you like a book, from your weight (of course) to your body composition, and then sends the evidence to your phone for you to chart and revisit at any time. Athletes will love the up-to-date readings of their body muscle and mass, but even a guy whose main form of exercise is walking to the subway will get a kick out of the hydration level meter that’ll let you know when you’ve been skimping on your daily H20.
The Best Recovery Sandals: TAKAHIROMIYASHITA TheSoloist x Oofos slider sandal
Oofos slides are a podiatrist’s dream. The brand’s patented footbed is specifically engineered to reduce stress on your back and feet, cradling your arches in cushy memory foam—perfect after you pound your dogs with plyo jumps or pickup hoops. This year, the recovery staple received a jolt of fashion-y energy courtesy of the reclusive avant-garde designer Takahiro Miyashita and his penchant for eye-grabbing, delightfully esoteric graphics. The only thing better than that telltale “aaah” feeling you’ll get the moment you slip them on? The chorus of “ooohs” that’ll follow wherever you wear ‘em.
The Best Compression Device: Therabody Recovery Air Jetboots
Compression boots massage your legs to promote blood flow and recovery. (It’s the perfect pairing with a Great British Bake Off marathon after an intense workout or when you’re rehabbing an injury.) The conventional approach is to connect a large central pump to both boots—it’s a lot of tubes and cables. But with the genius new Recovery Air Jetboots, Therabody got rid of all that: two separate pumps at the bottom of each boot communicate wirelessly and operate independently. In terms of gee-wizz tech and pure convenience, think of it like the difference between tangled wired headphones and AirPods.
Best Fitness Nutrition
Best Pre-Workout: Black Magic Bzrk pre-workout
One of our biggest complaints with any sort of supplemental powder when we open them up for the first time: Where is all the product? So the first time we cracked a tub of Bzrk, we loved to see the container was actually filled to the rim. No matter which of the seven core flavors you reach for—one that tastes freakishly like classic lemon-lime Gatorade—one scoop of Bzrk will fuel you through even the toughest workout without bringing a case of the all-too-common pre-workout jitters.
The Best Hydration Powder: Gnarly Nutrition Hydrate
Sometimes plain old water just doesn’t hit the way you need it to—after a 90-minute jog on a hot and humid day, or (let’s be real) after one too many hazy pints. Your H20 will be a little more hydrating—and taste a lot better—with a spoonful of Gnarly’s electrolyte powder stirred in.
The Best Protein Powder: Myprotein Whey Forward
Most plant-based protein powders—even the really good, expensive ones—are hard to mix and chalky once you do. To make their Whey Forward protein powder, Myprotein figured out how to feed microorganisms plant sugars to create the exact same protein you get from dairy-derived whey. It’s up to you whether you consider that “vegan,” or not, but the upshot is 20 grams of easily-digestible, smooth-mixing protein that doesn’t involve an animal at any point. The mint chocolate chip flavor in particular feels like a treat—but without the dreaded synthetic sweetener taste.
CONTRIBUTORS: Emily Abbate, Tyler Chin, Chris Cohen, Yang-Yi Goh, Avidan Grossman, Lori Keong, Mick Rouse
Styled by Brandon Tan
Prop styling by Suzy Zietzmann
Grooming by Melissa DeZarate for Kalpana