It's T3 Awards 2021 Week this week and now we move on to the Fitness winners. Whether you want to know the very finest protein powder to aid recovery and muscle growth, or the running and workout shoes that have wowed us the mostest, here's where you'll get definitive answers. Fitness has become something of an obsession in the Plague Years. Many have embraced it, while others have worried more than ever about their lack of it.
We prefer the pursuit of fitness to be something to feel positive rather than anxious and paranoid about. Having the best kit is certainly of great help. So, screw in your running earbuds, lace up your high-tech running shoes and prepare to pump modular iron. These are the T3 Awards Fitness champions of 2021.
Best Fitness Headphones: Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro
This category is still commonly called the best running headphones, but of course earbuds of this type are great for any kind of sweaty activity. Powerbeats of one type or another have now won this T3 Award 4 years running, which tells you something about how good they are.
The true wireless Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro can now usually be had for substantially less than their launch price. That's helped power them back to the pinnacle in 2021. Their fit and sound quality are still ahead of the pack, and now they're affordable too. They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the large number of cheap imitations of these buds must be very flattering indeed for Powerbeats Pro.
Not everyone likes the over-ear hooks, however. If that includes you, the best new fully in-ear workout earbuds are Jaybird Vista 2. With noise cancelling, improved sound over the old Vista, a secure fit and virtual indestructibility on their feature list, they are a great pair of fitness headphones.
In truth, if Vista 2 had come out just a little earlier, they'd have been real contenders for the crown here, but since they were officially released just one day before this was written, Jaybird will have to come back next year for another shot.
The Best Fitness Headphones shortlist
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro
Jaybird Vista 2 – Highly Commended
Anker Soundcore Spirit X2
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats
Bose Sport Earbuds
Best Running Shoes: Adidas 4DFWD
Running as a recreational activity has never been as popular as it is now. Thanks to the pandemic and the fact that people had more time to look after themselves, many people turned to running to maintain their health and retain their sanity while the world went into lockdown. As a result, the best running shoes are more popular than ever.
Knowing this, it’s all the more impressive that the Adidas 4DFWD is the winner here. It’s not as if there weren't plenty of other great running shoes last year: the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit provides a plush running experience coupled with excellent energy returns and the Asics Metaracer is just an amazing racing shoe, full stop.
What makes the Adidas 4DFWD stand out from the crowd is its innovativeness. It isn’t just a great running trainer but also an impressive feat from a technological and manufacturing point of view. The 3D-printed midsole is way more advanced than the one found on the Adidas 4D Run 1.0 and does its job beautifully while being somewhat noble too.
As well as that and in line with Adidas’ efforts to reduce plastic waste in the oceans, the 4DFWD’s Primeknit+ upper uses 50% recycled content and no virgin polyester. The fit of the shoes is simply sublime and thanks to the stylish design, the Adidas 45DFWD doubles up a sneaker, all the while retaining its best running shoe qualities. A magnificent win for Adidas.
The Hoka One One Mach 4 wins ‘Highly Commended’ award this year in the ‘Best Running Shoes’ category for offering possibly the most affordable high-performance running experience for runners who don’t mind a bit of extra cushioning under their feet. These versatile running shoes represent the perfect balance between performance and injury prevention and just look funky overall.
The Best Running Shoes shortlist
Hoka One One Mach 4 – Highly Commended
Brooks Hyperion Tempo
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit
Saucony Kinvara 12
Best Running Watch: Garmin Forerunner 245
Choosing a Best Running Watch winner is no easy task, since there is one to suit just about every level of runner. You could start with the Fitbit Versa 3, which is more than adequate for beginners, and a very nice little smartwatch and general health and fitness device to boot. Then you might work your way up to the Coros Pace 2, which packs in a lot of run-friendly technology for not a lot of money. From there you could go flat out with the more hardcore likes of Garmin Forerunner 745 – built specifically for triathletes – the Polar Vantage V2 or the trail runner's favourite, Suunto 7.
However, the watch that still hits the sweet spot for us is the Garmin Forerunner 245. It's compact but powerful and, unlike some more high-end Garmin watches, it doesn't absolutely bombard you with extraneous features. Garmin also has the best app and online features, and most users, amongst the running watch fraternity.
The aforementioned Coros Pace 2 picks up a Highly commended badge. It's a superb option for runners on a budget, with advanced features such as the option to track running power on the wrist. Add a beautiful screen, long battery life and fast, accurate GPS and optical heart rate sensor and you have a serious bargain for serious run training.
• Read our Garmin Forerunner 245 review
• Read our Coros Pace 2 review
The Best Running Watch shortlist
Garmin Forerunner 245
COROS Pace 2 – Highly Commended
Fitbit Versa 3
Garmin Forerunner 745
Polar Vantage V2
Best Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge 4
The fitness tracker market has gone a bit weird in recent years, as people have understandably tired of paying over the odds for devices that do little more than count your steps. As wearable brands have piled in more features to address this, the line between fitness trackers – or fitness bands, as they used to be called – smartwatches and running watches has blurred.
However, the best fitness trackers still have a lot to offer and that's certainly true of the Fitbit Charge 4. Despite its compact size, it's a fully-featured running and fitness device that incorporates accurate GPS, and heart-rate tracking that works even during intense exercise. Fitbit also offers a wealth of additional features via its app, and services such as Fitbit Premium.
Charge 4 is keenly priced but for sheer value for money you can't really beat the Huawei Band 6, which scoops a Highly Commended nod from us. The app and support infrastructure can't match Fitbit's but the watch itself is highly impressive for such an affordable thing.
The Best Fitness Tracker shortlist
Fitbit Charge 4
Huawei Band 6 – Highly Commended
Amazfit GTS 2e
Garmin Venu Sq
Best Workout Shoes: Under Armour TriBase Reign 3
The Best Workout Shoes shortlist
Even with gyms closed, there's been a huge growth in interest in shoes specifically built for workouts, in recent times. First Reebok, with its CrossFit-focused shoes and then Nike Metcon helped popularise the genre but now Under Armour has taken the workout shoe to new heights of performance, comfort and even a little bit of style.
The TriBase Reign 3 offers enough stability and traction for lifting, but is flexible enough to use on cardio machines and take to flow classes. With a durable yet breathable upper, it's the perfect workout companion and able to everything short of spotting for you. That's why it's the best workout shoe you can buy.
Taking a very different approach, Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 picks up a Highly Commended gong from us. These minimalist or 'barefoot' shoes are flexible, comfortable and provide excellent grip even during more challenging workouts.
• Read our Under Armour TriBase Reign 3 review
• Read our Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review
Under Armour TriBase Reign 3
Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 – Highly Commended
Nike Metcon 6
Reebok Nano X
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
Best Home Weights: Bowflex Selecttech 2080 Adjustable Barbell and Curl Bar
Bowflex needs no introduction, the brand is well-known for it’s adjustable dumbbells and kettlebells. As a matter of fact, the Bowflex SelectTech 1090i Adjustable Dumbbell became a double award winner at last year’s T3 Awards. And it seems like we can't have a year where Bowflex doesn’t win a T3 Award as its Selecttech 2080 Adjustable Barbell and Curl Bar is the winner of the ‘Best Home Weights’ category at the T3 Awards 2021.
The Bowflex Selecttech 2080 Adjustable Barbell and Curl Bar is truly a one-of-a-kind home gym equipment: as the name suggests, it’s an adjustable barbell that doubles up as an adjustable curl bar. The clever design enables you to switch between weights easily and progress your workouts steadily at home without having to house a colossal amount of weight plates and a full-sized Olympic barbell.
Although originally we were a bit concerned about the comparatively low maximum weight of the barbells (with all the weight plates attached), we were genuinely surprised how versatile the Bowflex SelectTech 2080 Barbell was when we actually got around using it. This barbell can handle a lot of different exercises, as long as you don’t try to do deadlifts with it but admittedly, that’s not an exercise many people do in their living room.
For those who have a bit more money to spend on home weights and would like to go heavier, we would recommend getting the weight extension and maybe even a weights bench with a barbell rack so you can really target the pecs. Essentially, for under $/£1,000, you can build a home gym decent enough to do full body workouts but without it taking up all your living space. And all thanks to the Bowflex Selecttech 2080 Adjustable Barbell and Curl Bar.
The Best Home Weights shortlist
Bowflex SelectTech 2080 Barbell with Curl Bar
Eleiko Training Kettlebell
Mirafit Rubber Dumbbells
NordicTrack Select-A-Weight 55 Lb. Dumbbell Set
ONNIT Primal Kettlebell
Best Home Gym Equipment: Peloton Bike+
Putting it as diplomatically as we can, it's been a mixed year for Peloton. However, there could be no complaints about the updated Peloton Bike+. It's clearly the best exercise bike for most people – although the likes of Wattbike and Wahoo serve the really hardcore cycling market better.
The appeal of the Bike+ doesn't end there, though. With its huge touchscreen and access to Peloton's range of live and recorded workouts with top PTs, this slickly engineered (and marketed) workout aid is nothing less than a full-on fitness hub.
For its mix of motivation, premium design and brilliant marriage of hardware and software, Peloton Bike+ is a worthy winner here. However, if you want an even greater challenge, spare a thought for our Highly Commended 'runner up', the NordicTrack RW900 Smart Rower. This is rather like a Peloton, but with rowing, and rowers are generally acknowledged as the most effective workout machines for cardio and full-body workouts. NordicTrack's mean and lean machine is also somewhat more affordable than Peloton's… That's if you can find it on sale, at any rate. Demand is rightly high for this one.
• Read our Peloton Bike+ review
• Read our NordicTrack RW900 Smart Rower review
The Best Home Gym Equipment shortlist
NordicTrack RW900 Smart Rower – Highly Commended
Bowflex Treadmill 22
Mirafit Heavy Duty 260kg FID Weight Bench
Wattbike Atom (2nd Gen)
Best Protein Powder or Snack: Huel Black Edition
Mass gainers are a special type of protein powder that contains higher amounts of carbs and sometimes dietary fat to help athletes put on weight easier. There are other ways to put on weight when training rigorously, of course, but admittedly, eating only chicken, rice and broccoli will deprive your body of key micronutrients, not to mention the monotonous of this diet.
On a scale of pure protein powder to full-on mass gainer, this year's T3 Awards winner in the Best Protein Powder or Snack category, the Huel Black Edition, sits somewhere in the middle. Two scoops of this vegan supplement (one serving, 90 grams) is 400 calories and contains 40 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbs and 18 grams of fat, not quite your usual 1,000+ calorie weight gainer shake but not quite as lean as a 100+ calorie protein powder.
What makes the Huel Black Edition better than the rest is its macro mix: it’s not as overwhelming as other mass gainers, making it perfect for people who might be opposed to supplementing their diet and aren’t used to taking shakes in the first place. Better still, the Huel Black Edition tastes slightly less gritty and 'earthy' than your standard Huel, a criticism that often comes up when people talk about vegan supplements.
The Huel Black Edition is also jam-packed with minerals and vitamins: according to Huel, the Black Edition contains "ideal amounts” of all the 27 essential vitamins and minerals. It is also naturally gluten-free (made with tapioca starch), uses all-natural sweeteners and flavors and also contains green tea extract, a source of polyphenols, a natural antioxidant.
Also in this category, Barebells is Highly Commended for its Vegan Protein Bar. This protein bar is deceivingly delicious and packs 15 grams of muscle building protein in each bar. It comes in two flavours, Hazelnut Nougat and Salty Peanut, both of them being way more appetising than a cold-pressed seed and fruit bar.
The Best Protein Powder or Snack shortlist
Huel Black Edition
Barebells Vegan Protein Bar – Highly Commended
Dioxyme Grass-fed Ultra Whey Protein
Grenade Carb Killa High Protein Bar
Naked Nutrition Naked Mass