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The upside to a couple of years of totally adjusting our sweat routines: We finally had the opportunity to reexamine what type of activity brings us happiness; peace of mind; an escape; or pure, fresh ambition. Maybe you tried a new virtual exercise class, took your typical sidewalk runs to the woods to switch things up, or bought yourself a kettlebell for the very first time. (*High fives!*)
Whatever your newfound fitness priorities, WH editors and our extended fitness fam know exactly what you need to crank up the motivation and fall back in love with your routine (because, ahem, we tested it all ourselves). That’s why this year’s Fitness Awards are organized by activity type, so you can pinpoint the gear and gadgets to optimize any pursuit—be it an endurance race, a heavy deadlift, or an epic mountain climb. Oh, and we’ve got the recovery tools and accessories to help you bounce back harder and faster from all of the above.
The goal is twofold: Fire up your workout motivation and achieve your fitness goals (and gains!) in a truly mindful, joy-inducing way. Now, let’s get you geared up.
You don’t have to belong to a swanky studio to work every muscle from head to toe. Make resistance training something you want to do from anywhere (basement corners count!) with these clever picks.
Best For Resistance Band Training
See ya, palm pain. A kit that includes four TRX strength bands and a set of handles means ultimate comfort and precision for any movement you choose.
Best Micro Weights
Magnetic Hex Weights
You’ve got 8- and 12-pound dumbbells, but your curls are stuck in between. Well, these “microloads” will magnetize to any DBs you’ve got so you can keep your at-home gym under control, but your gains on the up and up.
Best Connected Device For Small Spaces
The Vault is the size of a small bookshelf and can store an entire weight set, yoga mat, yoga blocks, resistance bands, and beyond. Grab your equipment, stream an on-demand resistance class, and you’re set. Then, hide it all away afterward when friends and fam come over.
Most Versatile Weights
4-Piece Starter Kit
“I was blown away at how functional these weights were, thanks to the unique shape and ergonomic design,” says Jacqueline Andriakos, WH health and fitness director. Depending on which handles you hold them from, the weights function as standard dumbbells, like a medicine ball, or like a kettlebell. “They’ve made me excited to strength train daily from the comfort of my living room.”
Best For At-Home HIIT Training
Once you hang the straps, the apparatus allows for strength moves as well as metabolic conditioning HIIT exercises (think: sprints using the waist attachment).
Best For Erasing Wrist Pain
Pushup Bar Workout Blocks
Kate Hudson is a fan of these simple-yet-genius supports. Place them beneath the palms in moves that put pressure on the wrists, like planks, pushups, and renegade rows. Ahh, relief!
Best Strength Training Sneaker
Women’s UA Project Rock 4 Training Shoes
The training shoe’s sturdy sole grounds your feet when lifting heavy, yet the foam materials propel you off the floor during explosive activity.
Best Smart Weights
The cult-favorite “invisible” at-home gym just got a major new accessory. You can now purchase smart weights to use during your MIRROR sweat sessions; they feature a sensor that allows you to track your progress and get a more personalized workout, including load recommendations and more. (Psst, ankle weights are also available!)
Best Gym Membership App
Missing the gym? Equinox’s app gives you access to top tier instructors and on-demand classes so you can maintain a strength training (or, any training!) regimen anywhere.
Best Size-Inclusive Legging
Compressive Pocket Legging
Enter: high-waisted leggings that stay in place through an entire lifting session, pass the squat test, come in all sizes (for real!), and boast a pocket. You’ll want a pair in every color, trust.
Best Virtual Fitness Community
Sweat Den Virtual Membership
Meet the Denver-based powerhouse husband and wife team Ross and Kelsey Sheahan, who constantly craft expert strength-training programs for all levels and bring an empowering, supportive energy to every workout. (There’s a reason WH tapped Kelsey to create our 2022 Total-Body Band Challenge, live January 1!). You’ll feel like you’re sweating with family, trust. (Virtual memberships start at $50/month.)
Best Weighted Gloves
Weighted Training Gloves
These 1-pound gloves add a hint of spice to shadowboxing, Pilates, and bodyweight workouts. And they look pretty badass too.
Best For Shaking Up Your Routine
Add a board game vibe when the going gets meh. The pair also makes a great gift for a fit-focused friend.
Best For Improving Your Form
The future of fitness is here: The platform uses computer vision technology to analyze your motion as you jump, squat, and more to provide real-time training feedback, like form corrections. And you only need your computer and the $20/month membership—no other fancy (read: pricy!) equipment necessary.
Best Weighted Foam Roller
Ranging from 11 to 55 pounds, the tube functions as both a heavy load you can lift, press, push, and more, *and* a foam roller to help those muscles recover. So cool!
Best Follow-Along Strength Workouts
Hey, not everyone is a professional trainer and feels comfortable programming a strength workout. No prob, because Ladder has you covered with seven expert trainers (including WH advisory board member Lauren Kanski) who regularly create fresh follow-along workouts you can do on your schedule.
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Running…or rowing…or tennis…we’re here. Get inspired to brave a new endurance pursuit (or stick to an old fave) with these options.
Best Sports Bra For Large Chests
Calling runners who need extra support (C-DDD cups): The weightless design is like butter on the skin—yet it holds you up.
Best Distance Sneaker
This pair of distance kicks from On (a brand beloved by serious runners) is lightweight and features a bouncy, cloudlike cushion.
Best Tennis Skirt
Varsity Tennis Skirt
Several WH editors took up (or restarted!) tennis over the past year. And why not play in a chic, classic style from a yogi-fave brand?
Best Lightweight Running Jacket
Run With It Jacket
We adore this zip-up from Athleta for its flattering fit and function. It makes for a perfect top layer on a cool morning walk or run, and has little storage pockets for necessities.
Meet the connected rower that was first to the game. The sleek and quiet technology makes you excited to hop on, stream on-demand classes, and nail that stroke.
Best Medium Support Running Shoe
Women’s Gel-Nimbus 23 Running Shoes
$129.95 (13% off)
The Nimbus is a reliable neutral-support shoe that still packs max cushion for a more comfortable ride.
Best Wearable For Runners
Fenix 6 Pro Solar Edition
$614.99 (25% off)
This watch is ideal for the multi-sport athlete. “During quarantine, when races were canceled, I took up cycling,” says Khatib. “I used my watch to track my riding.” The athlete and activist also uses the gadget to track her swimming for triathlon training and events. “It’s easy to use and very stylish!”
Best Cycling Shoes
Rapha has the chicest cycling kicks (and gear!) in the game with true functionality and quality to back up the price tag.
Best At-Home Cardio Class
This is one of the few at-home fitness apps (which launched in August) that accurately captures the in-person experience. Barry’s X features both live and on-demand workouts, and the video quality is *chef’s kiss*. The workouts are a breeze to follow along with if you’re not sure what to do in the gym but are intimidated by the IRL Barry’s environment or don’t have a studio near you.
Best Face And Hair Covering
Coolnet UV Multifunctional Headband
“As a Muslim athlete, I practice modesty by covering my hair and arms. This buff allows me to do so while staying cool.” —Rahaf Khatib (@runlikeahijabi)
Best Overall Running Shoe
Ultraboost 21s Running Shoe
I have always been a huge Ultraboost fan,” says Caitlin Carlson, WH contributing fitness editor, who has run five-plus marathons in these kicks. “This pair is def the best yet! I love that they look really cool but actually perform.”
Best Running Sock
Experia Thin Cushion Running Low-Cut Socks (3 Pack)
You can stop searching for the perfect running sock—we found it. The cut hits at the right spot on the ankle to protect against rubbing and to avoid slippage. Plus the pair features cushioning on the balls of the feet and heels for added comfort.
Best Bike Helmet
Here’s the solution to the bulky helmet problem. The innovative design allows this protector to reduce to half its size for no-hassle cycling and commuting. Oh, and it looks modern and cool, too.
Best Low-Impact Sneaker
This shoe from Allyson Felix (the most decorated U.S. track-and-field athlete in Olympic history) wins for low-impact cardio, like those daily walks so many of us have gotten used to.
Best At-Home Cycling App
No connected bike? No prob. Finally, an app that lets you bring the community vibes to any stationary one.
Best Trail Walking Shoe
Women’s Alpine Sneaker
These sneakers are cushion-y and lightweight, with a non-slip sole to keep you grounded whether you’re on gravel, wet grass, and more.
Best Arm Protection
Sun Protection Cooling Arm Sleeves
These cooling arm sleeves provide sun protection while keeping you cool, says Khatib. “They’re light, and you hardly feel them while training.”
Best Overall Walking Shoe
Women’s Seventy8 Sneaker
Log miles and miles and miles strolling the neighborhood in this adorable retro style sans blisters or discomfort.
You might only think “cardio” with a climber (and you’ll get a serious heart rate-revving sweat, no doubt!). But this upgraded apparatus with classes lets you push, pull, and hang on it in creative ways to sneak in a resistance banger.
Best Trail Running Shoe
Cyklon Trail Running Shoe
We can describe these trail shoes in three words: light, stabilizing, breathable. The BOA dial lace-up system also ensures a truly perfect fit. What more could you want while off-roading?
Best Jump Rope
RPM x FP Movement Jump Rope
This take-anywhere cardio tool is adjustable so you can hop, skip, and jump with a rope that’s right for your height.
Best Swim Goggles
Blue Magic Mirror Silver
Fans of these goggles consistently rave about the visibility and leakproof design. As one reviewer said, “Get these now, take care of them, and you will save tons of money for years to come.”
Best Hands-Free Sneaker
Madrid Eco-Knit Slip-On Sneakers
For anyone who struggles to bend over to put their shoes on (such as those with arthritis and older adults), the Kizik brand’s main selling point is that you can easily wiggle your foot into the shoe without struggle. “I’ve got a very long spinal fusion that previously made it impossible to bend enough to put shoes on without a shoe horn,” one Amazon reviewer shared. “I also had almost completely inability to tie shoes. These shoes solve both problems.”
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Are you more of a slow burner? We found the softest athleisure and coolest new gear for yoga, walking, Pilates, and sculpt-style workouts.
Best Light Hand Weights
Soft Dumbbell Walking Hand Weight Set
These soft weights have hand straps and are sand-filled, a perfect way to add a little oomph to indoor or outdoor strolls or barre and Pilates workouts.
Best App For Low-Impact Workouts
Tone & Sculpt
This female-founded app has a variety of workouts for less than $8/month. In addition to on-demand classes, they offer meal plans, healthy recipes, and a forum where members share transformations. “I particularly love trainer Danyele Wilson‘s energy and motivating attitude,” says WH health and fitness director Jacqueline Andriakos.
Best Travel Yoga Mat
PRO Travel Yoga Mat
The material is thin and lightweight, making it convenient to trek with you to and from the studio—and you won’t slip during hot classes.
Best Budget-Friendly Bra
Calm Cross Back Sports Bra
Type of sports bra that scores you compliments at your local studio. Made of silky smooth material, this less-than-$40 steal will become your go-to for yoga, Pilates, barre, or even just lounging around the house or during travel.
Best Weighted Pilates Ring
Power Ring (10 Lb.)
The latest from cult-fave brand Bala, these rings feel high-quality and add resistance to any movements that involve pressing, lifting, or swinging. Pick up a set of three with 10-, 8-, and 5-pound rings.
Best Splurge Sports Bra
Prana Lace Sports Bra
“This sports bra is my absolute favorite, especially for my Brooklyn Barre,” says Julie Granger, personal trainer and the founder of The Studio Paris. “It offers great support while being very elegant, which is exactly what you are looking for when doing barre.”
Best Low-Impact Legging
Instill High-Rise Tight 25
Made from a thick, luxe fabric, these recently launched bottoms are truly high-waisted yet not constricting. While they’re designed to be a yoga pant, you can also do higher-impact activity without fuss, like running or HIIT.
Best Pilates Reformer
Frame Fitness Reformer
“Finally, the connected machine Pilates fanatics have been waiting for!” says Andriakos, who considers Frame the Peloton for the slowww burn. The reformer—which has on-demand classes and folds up to slide under the bed when you’re not using it—ships January 2022.
Best Biker Short
Instinct Gloss Bike Short
Here’s a high-fashion alternative to the basic black legging. “I love this model because of the glossy look, which brings a bit of rock and roll to my outfit,” says Granger. “Add a pair of white sneakers and wrap a hoodie around your waist, and you can go straight from yoga to brunch with your friends.”
Best Hijab For Low-Impact Activity
One Piece Stretch Sports Hijab
“While I don’t run in it, I love this sports hijab for my low-impact workouts, such as walking, yoga, or light lifting and stretching. I also use it to go grocery shopping in or run errands after a gym session. It’s light and easy to pull on and off.” —Rahaf Khatib, @runlikeahijabi
Best Sustainable Bra
Women’s Activewear Sports Bra
“I live in this sports bra,” says Andriakos. “It feels buttery soft and has a sweet message about its sustainable design on the front—one of those bras I will do laundry to wear again ASAP.”
Best Yoga Strap
Align Yoga Strap
This strap boasts over 700 perfect 5-star ratings on Amazon thanks to its sturdy, wide design that helps it stay put in your hands and on your feet during yoga or everyday stretching.
Best Biker Short With Pockets
Spacedye Team Pockets High Waisted Biker Shorts
Beyond Yoga is beloved for its commitment to sustainability and size inclusivity—and their apparel lives up to the hype. These shorts stay put and feel like a second skin. Did we mention the deep smartphone-sized pockets?
Best Barbell For Beginners
A weighted bar (this one is 15 pounds) is clutch for everything from curls to rows to back squats. This aesthetically pleasing buy is also a great tool to perfect your form with before progressing to barbell training.
Best Low-Impact Sneaker
ZoomX Superrep Surge Running Shoes
This sneaker is the best for low-impact bodyweight training, according to Granger, who is particularly a fan of the White/Green Glow model. “It provides great support and is very light and extremely comfortable. It adds style to functionality.”
Best Resistance Band For Beginners
Professional Latex Elastic Band (6-Yard Roll)
Granger calls this “an absolute must-have.” With this band, you can work your arms, glutes, outer and inner thighs, abs…you name it. “Commonly used by physical therapists around the world, TheraBands allow you to make any low-impact exercise more challenging, without risking injury,” she says.
Best Crop Top
Joanna Crop Top
We stan a crop top that easily pulls over the head and features no frustrating fastening. The color-block panels make this style really pop.
Best Flared Yoga Pant
Sunset 70’s Bell
The bell-bottom stretch pant is b.a.c.k.—and more stylish than ever. Strut your stuff in these in Pilates and yoga, on a walk and/or errands, or rock ’em during a strength training session.
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The elements are no match for the innovations here. Swim, hike, and more in these functional—yet stylish—choices.
Best Water Sandals
Women’s Original Universal Sandal
There is simply no better sandal to toss in your pack while hiking in the event of running into a creek, waterfall, lake, etc. Or, wear them to the beach for outdoor water activities. Tevas have stood the test of time (and are trendy again!) and only cost $50. They can be thrown in the wash, too.
Best Workout Dress
The Exercise Dress
This exercise dress is a cult-favorite item—and it’s been redesigned to factor in consumer feedback. They made the straps adjustable, equipped the built-in shorts liner with pockets, added leg grips so the shorts don’t ride up, and removed the center seam from the bodysuit liner.
Best Hiking Boots
Kaha GORE-TEX Boots
L.A.-based trainer Simone Tchouke hiked the U.S. peak Mount Whitney last year, and calls out how these kicks protected her ankles on tricky terrain.
$123.47 (35% off)
With its endless compartments, plastic cover to keep your stuff dry during rain, and hydration pouch, you won’t find a more practical and comfortable sack.
Best Lightweight Layer
Atom LT Hoody
Make this your top layer for fall hikes. It repels moisture and stops the wind without overheating you.
Best Running Sunglasses
Cool shades? For running? Groundbreaking. They won’t slip, they’re polarized, and they look fab.
Most Versatile Bag
Everywhere Belt Bag
In addition to holding what you need for a hike or long walk, this bag (wear fanny pack–style or cross-body) is the best for dashing through the airport hands-free or booking it to make your workout class on time.
You’ll find us spritzing on this water-resistant sunscreen that gives a glow before any outdoor go.
Best Running Gloves
Merino 250 Glove
Warm. Soft. Touchscreen compatible. These check all the boxes for solid winter running gloves.
Best Portable Equipment
Weekender 10′ Inflatable Paddle Board
“I love that its portability lets me get out on the water more often,” says WH features director Kristin Canning. This SUP is only 17 pounds when inflated and packs up smoothly.
Best Hot Weather Top
Natural Run Form Tank
Despite having “run” in the name, this crop is ideal for a slew of sweaty activities; it’s WH health and fitness director Jacqueline Andriakos’ go-to for hiking. The material is soft and breathable and quick-drying.
Best Hair Wrap
Protect the ’do in wet or humid conditions. The lining of the hair wrap is hypoallergenic and made of silicone for H2O protection.
Best Hiking Socks
Moab Anniversary Hiker Crew Tab Sock
Keep your feet dry and blister-free with these cushioned socks.
Best Outdoor Vest
City Puffer Vest
What’s not to love about a stylish vest that will also keep your core toasty?
Best Reusable Food Containers
Insulated Food Jar
These jars help your food stay hot or cold, and they’re leak proof.
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Athletes of all stripes will tell you: You must rest as hard as you train. This group of goods makes that idea both habit- and happiness-inducing.
Best Cold Pack
Reusable Ice Pack
Hello, hands-free ice packs! The adhesive sticks the little healers (that come in a variety of sizes) directly on your sore spot.
Best Recovery Cream
The lesser-known cannabinoid CBN may relieve aches and promote sleep. It’s one of the plant-based ingredients in this cream.
Best At-Home Compression Therapy
Normatec 2.0 Leg Recovery System
Compression therapy is an awesome way to recovery passively, and now you can do it in the comfort of your own home. Watch TV or work on your laptop, all while you recover.
Best Hot And Cold Therapy
This contrast therapy device lets you alternate between hot and cold, but it holds a charge and doesn’t need to be plugged in. Not for nothing, it looks super cool too.
Best Red-Light Therapy
dpl Flex Pad
Red-light therapy is all the rage, but no product is easier to use than this flexible pad. It attaches anywhere to target tension.
Best Foam Roller
GRID 1.0 Foam Roller
Multiple WH eds think the hollowed-out roller gives as solid a sports massage as you can get alone on your bedroom floor.
Best High-Tech Sports Bra
ANY-WEAR™ Sports Bra 4.0
Compatible with the new Whoop 4.0, this racerback features built-in sensors to detect info from multiple places on the bod.
Best Wearable For Mental Recovery
Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular
In the watchOS 8 update, the Breathe app is renamed as the Mindfulness app. You’ll still get the Breathe reminders in addition to “Reflect” opportunities to focus on a “mindful intention” for just one minute. Try it post-workout as part of your recovery routine.
Best Low-Maintenance Recovery Tool
These are “the easiest, lowest maintenance form of recovery,” according to NYC-based trainer Kristina Centenari. She add that weakness and lack of mobility in your toes will impact your feet, ankles, and work its way up your joints. “You’ll be surprised how training your feet and helping your toes spread out will lead to better recovery and less overall pain.”
Best Recovery Shoes
ORA Recovery Slide
“These slides are amazing after a long run, ride, or tough workout,” Centenari says. “The shoe has the same meta rocker that Hoka uses in their running shoes that allow you to easily glide through your stride. But its open-toed structure lets your toes spread out and breathe. It also has a higher bed of soft cushion so there’s very little impact with every step.”
Best On-The-Go Recovery Tool
$179.00 (10% off)
“I love my Hypervolt Go because it’s small and accessible enough to take with me— it’s also silent so I can use it almost anywhere,” Centenari says. “Vibration tools do a good job of calming your nervous system down in the immediate moment. When you feel like there’s a build up of physiological stress in your body from training and/or just life, getting your nervous system to calm down is hugely beneficial.”
Best Plant-Based Protein Powder
“I love Four Sigmatic’s superfood protein because it differentiates itself from most other brands by using functional mushrooms as its base ingredient,” Centenari says. “Plant-based protein helps with muscle repair after strenuous exercise.” The mushroom ingredients purportedly help with focus, endurance, and could reduce stress and fatigue.
Best Sauna Blanket
Infrared PEMF Go Mat
Perfect for travel or your WFH chair, this mat uses PEMF and infrared to help you feel grounded and relaxed.
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Say hello to your soon-to-be new favorites, no matter your sweat ritual.
Best Running Water Bottle
SpeedShot Plus Handheld Flask
“This bottle has gotten me through multiple marathons,” says contributing fitness editor Caitlin Carlson. “It’s really nothing fancy or new but after testing several options over the years, this is the one that’s stood the test of time.”
Best Gym Bag
Studio Tote Nylon Medium
“Every time I use this crossover shoulder bag-backpack I am guaranteed at least one compliment or ‘where did you get that?’ ” says Carlson. “It’s super functional and has that sporty-chic vibe!”
Best Daily Use Water Bottle
LARQ Bottle PureVis
These bottles look so sleek and have a built-in water purifier.
Best Home Exercise Set-Up
Thick Large Exercise Mat 6’x6′
For those of us still jumping around in our living rooms, consider this dense mat the new must-have to make your space really feel like a home gym.
Best Sweat Towel
Copper Sure Rapid Dry Sport Towel
Quit irritating your skin with ratty rags and invest in this fast-drying microfiber option. Note the adorable print that looks lovely atop a yoga mat.
Best Cleansing Wipes
Face and Body Wipes
Trainer Simone Tchouke picked up hiking during quarantines, and she never leaves these wipes at home. They’re great for quick sweat removal or cleaning your hands before a mid-hike snack.
Best Workout Underwear
Airbrush Invisible Thong
They’re stretchy, they’re soft, and they leave no trace (that is, panty lines). It’s a buy-them-in-every-color type of love.
Best Hydrating Drink Mix
The electrolyte packets from Cure, in flavors like berry pomegranate, are free of unrecognizable ingredients (hallelujah!), taste delish, and come in cute portable packaging.
Bes Hat Liner
Clear eyes, can’t lose…on your run, that is! Stick this disposable liner in your running or workout hat to absorb sweat and keep your face dry.
Best Do-It-All Pack
This pack is so sleek and sophisticated, yet sporty. You can use it on run-commutes, hiking trails, the works.
Blender And Hydration System
“This blender works amazingly and is aesthetically pleasing on my countertop,” says New York City–based personal trainer Kehinde Anjorin, who uses it to make post-workout shakes and green smoothies at night. “Obsessed.”
Best Phone Protector
Apollo II Thermal Phone Case
Ever have your phone die or drop to 50 percent battery in seconds due to extra cold (or hot) weather? This (cute) sleeve will keep it protected, whether you’re on the slopes or the trails.
Best Day-To-Night Bag
Mara Phone Sling Crossbody Bag
Stow your headphones in this bag for to and from the gym, then take it out at night with your wallet and lip balm.
Best Fitness Jewlery
This female-founded company makes “sweatproof” jewelry that will style up any workout ‘fit.
Best Gym Bag Shower Essentials
Wash & Go Minis
This clean beauty brand made a gym bag-size set of their shower essentials. Stock up with you can: This is a limited release.
Best Pre-Workout Drink
For a pre-workout energy boost, this plant-based, no-sugar-added drink packs 10 grams of protein, 200 milligrams of caffeine—and it tastes delicious.
Best Workout Earbuds
Play the soundtrack to any run or workout through these crisp Pods that feature “transparency mode” so you can still hear the world around you.
Best To-And-From Top
AirLuxe ‘At the Hip’ Pullover
This super-soft topper is the ultimate piece to toss on after a yoga or gym session.
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Jacqueline Andriakos, CPT, is the Health and Fitness Director at Women’s Health, where she oversees all health and fitness content across WomensHealthMag.com and the print magazine.