Women’s Running presents the winners of its annual Tech Awards for 2018.
In today’s busy world, it seems like we’re constantly connected—to our phones, our email and every addictive social media app imaginable (we’re looking at you, Instagram). And while sometimes the latest technology can feel overwhelming, most of the time, tech advancements have the ability to elevate our lives in different ways.
It’s time to unleash your inner techie because we’ve rounded up the best gear to hit shelves in the last year. We tested more than 30 different gadgets on the run to come up with our 16 finalists. Whether you’re new to fitness or a hard-core athlete, these products will keep you pushing to reach a goal, live an all-around healthier life or provide the stats you need to accomplish your next personal best.
Suunto 9, $599
Made for the seasoned athlete, this watch can track more than 80 different activities and features GPS navigation, wrist-based heart rate, a step and calorie tracker, a sleep monitor and more. Water-resistant up to 100 meters, this watch can accompany you by land or by sea.
Geek-out factor: You won’t need to worry about a dead battery with this rechargeable watch, which makes it perfect for ultrarunners and multisport endurance athletes alike. Depending on the setting, you can record up to 120 hours while using GPS. The watch even has a smart reminder system that will prompt you to change to a different setting to help you save the charge during a workout.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, $450
Whether you’re focused on your next race or just need some extra motivation, this watch is made to keep you pushing while on the run. Featuring GPS navigation, all-day stress tracking, wrist heart rate, smart notifications (you’ll never miss another text or email!) and VO2 max measurement, to name a handful, there are few things this watch can’t do. Another feature we love: auto goal. After you start to use the watch regularly, it will determine a daily step goal for you to reach—it’s like having a personal trainer right on your wrist!
Geek-out factor: Bring your music with you anywhere you go, no other device (besides a pair of Bluetooth headphones) required. The watch can hold up to 500 songs, so you don’t have to worry about a lack of variety.
Polar M430, $200
This watch is the perfect introduction to the world of GPS and activity monitoring for beginner to intermediate athletes. Our testers loved its comfortable material and intuitive functionality. A built-in heart rate monitor continuously tracks your intensity.
Geek-out factor: Take the five-minute Polar fitness test so the watch can gauge your fitness level and help you set goals (the test doesn’t require you to elevate your heart rate, so you can do it while recovering from a run on the couch!). If you’re new to running or looking to step up your distance to a longer race, you’ll love the Polar Running Program, used in conjunction with the Polar Flow website. Once you select a distance you’ll be assigned a nine to 15-week personalized training plan to help you reach your goal.
Normatec Pulse Recovery, $1,495
Who needs a masseuse when you can have massage therapy in the comfort of your own home? Recommended for the serious athlete wanting to make an investment in their performance, the Normatec system massages your legs in a specific pattern to enhance blood flow and accelerate recovery. Our testers loved how fresh their legs felt the next day when using it after a hard workout.
Geek-out factor: Starting at the foot and working its way up your leg, the system focuses on three different massage techniques: pulsing, gradients and distal release to work fluids out of your extremities.
Hyperice Hypervolt, $349
After using the Hypervolt for only five minutes on a tight IT band, one of our testers exclaimed, “I noticed a huge difference—it felt so much looser!” Not only is this cordless massage tool lightweight and easy to use, but it can also hold a charge for up to three hours—lending itself to many uses before needing to be plugged in.
Geek-out factor: Choose from three different settings to find the right pressure that feels comfortable for you (although one tester noted the tool was pretty intense). It also comes with four different head attachments for different massage angles.
Jaybird X4 Wireless Sport Headphones, $130
Hitting shelves this fall comes the newest addition to the Jaybird family: the X4. With eight hours of battery life and different sizing options to fit a variety of ears, these headphones are versatile yet sturdy enough (sweat-proof and water-resistant) for a trail run, cross-training sesh or simply taking a call while out and about.
Geek-out factor: Our testers were impressed with not only the level of comfort, but also the sound quality. One tester commented, “The overall clarity and quality of the sound was really remarkable. I’ve never had a pair of headphones that sounded this clear while I was working out.” Time to crank the tunes!
H2O Audio Surge BT Waterproof Headphones, $100
Extremely lightweight with a sleek style, these wireless headphones are built for the athlete who doesn’t want to worry about fidgeting with an earpiece mid-run. Our testers loved the simplicity and easy-to-adjust volume and commands.
Geek-out factor: There’s no need to worry about the weather or working up a major sweat when you’re rockin’ these buds because they’re completely sweat- and waterproof—making them the perfect companion, rain or shine.
JVC Wireless Sport Headphones HA-ET90BT, $150
We’ve all been there: You’re about to step outside to go on a run, and you grab your headphones…only to realize they’re in a huge tangled knot. Well, JVC just solved your problem. These completely wireless headphones thrilled our testers—not only because of the lack of wires, but also because they stayed in place while on the run. A rotating hook, called the Pivot Motion Fit, helped our testers secure the buds while working up a sweat.
Geek-out factor: These headphones are literally wireless. Made for the runner who wants to focus on her stride, pace and anything else besides adjusting her headphones on the run, these buds eliminate any frustration that comes with having cords. They also come with a little pouch and belt clip to safely store them when not in use.
TaoTronics TT-BH16 Sport In Ear Earbuds, $40
Sometimes you just need a dependable, simple and affordable pair of headphones. These earbuds check all the boxes. Our testers were impressed by the comfort and the sound clarity as well as the easy-to-use volume controls.
Geek-out factor: Instant and reliable Bluetooth connectivity. One tester pointed out the connection “was much more stable than my other wireless headphones, which was a huge improvement.”
Aftershokz Trekz Air, $150
Wait, these headphones don’t go in your ears? Yes, you read that correctly. Bone conduction technology allows these headphones to rest on the outside of your head, right in front of the ear, for an experience unlike any other. Our testers loved the freedom of being able to hear cars and surrounding noises while still enjoying their tunes—safety first!
Geek-out factor: You can clearly hear music without any buds directly in your ears (did we mention that already?). If you have smaller ears and usually have trouble with standard in-ear headphones fitting properly, these may quickly become your new best friend.
Fitbit Versa, $200
Fitbit’s latest smartwatch sports a fashion-forward, lightweight design and has features ahead of its time. Ideal for someone wanting more insights into their daily activity levels, this watch records your sleep, tracks your steps and can even pay for your next Starbucks drink (when connected to your account, of course). While our testers were impressed with all the different features, it may not be ideal for a serious runner as the battery drains quickly while using the connected GPS, especially when the display is set to stay on while running.
Geek-out factor: One of the most unique features on this smartwatch is the female health tracker. The watch lets you track your monthly cycle right on your wrist and estimates your fertility window.
Misfit Path, $150
Suited for the casual athlete, the Misfit Path has a classic analog look with modern features. At first glance, you may be surprised to learn that this watch measures your steps, determines three different sleep categories (awake, light and restful sleep) and assesses your activity level, distinguishing between light and vigorous—which can all be viewed within the app. Our testers loved the watch’s versatility but would recommend it for someone who doesn’t need to check their pace or stats during a run.
Geek-out factor: No need to constantly worry about charging your watch—the Misfit Path has a replaceable battery that lasts up to six months.
Suunto 3 Fitness, $229
Ideal for someone starting a fitness routine, this smartwatch has a sleek design that you can wear on the road or out for a nice dinner (and look stylish on both occasions). With 70 different sport modes, our testers loved that the watch also tracked indoor activities by heart rate—so you can still monitor your effort regardless of a Bluetooth connection. Other features include detailed sleep monitoring, step counter and a recovery/stress-measurement tool.
Geek-out factor: Call this watch your new personal trainer. With adaptive training guidance, the Suunto 3 can create a seven-day training plan based on your previous recorded workouts and fitness ability. From there, the watch guides you to reach your activity and intensity levels for the day.
Strava Summit, $2–$6 Monthly
“Strava is like Facebook for athletes,” one of our testers summarized—and we couldn’t agree more. Strava Summit allows you to upload your workouts directly from select watch manufacturers (Fitbit, Polar, Suunto and Garmin, to name a few) and analyze your performance by segment as well as download training plans to help you perform your best at your next race. With filtered leaderboards, you can keep an eye on the competition and push yourself to beat your digital peers.
Geek-out factor: The Beacon feature allows you to send real-time updates to your friends and family when you begin a workout, sending them a text message so they can check on your location and have peace of mind if you’re setting out for an extended excursion.
Soul Electronics Run Free Pro Bio, $150
You’re not imagining things if you think there’s a voice in your head while running with these buds. The Soul earbuds are made for the intermediate to experienced runner looking to improve their efficiency and master their form with a built-in coach that relays advice to make adjustments as you run. Our testers were shocked when the earbuds suggested to “tilt your head up” while charging a hill—How did they know I was looking at the pavement?! wondered one tester. Secure buds and a long-lasting battery life make these a must if you’re looking for ways to minimize your injury risk.
Geek-out factor: These earbuds are the first in the world to use artificial intelligence to figure out your run gait and form and give you real-time voice control tips to help you make corrections.
If you’re an extremely serious athlete, you may be interested in investing in this headset. The product helps stimulate the motor cortex in your brain with low neuromuscular electric stimulation in order to improve brain-to-muscle neuron connections and engage motor pathways. Simply put, it can strengthen the signals and reduce the time it takes for your brain to tell your muscles to perform certain movements—which can lead to improvements in athletic ability. Users wear the headset for 20 minutes prior to a workout for the best results. It usually takes at least three weeks (in elite athletes) to see improvements in performance.
Geek-out factor: This headset is priming your brain to work more efficiently during a workout. Besides all the physical work that goes into preparing for a race, this simple stimulation may be just what you need to gain an edge over your competitors.