Fitness trackers and apps are great, but these healthy tech picks are truly innovative, making them worth the investment. Seriously. No gimmicks, just genius
Altra IQ Smart Running Shoes
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Nope—these aren't the shoes from Back to the Future II, even though they sound like it. Think of them more like two little virtual running coaches. Whether you're aiming to shave seconds off your mile time, train for a marathon, or simply improve your form, Altra wants to help you achieve your goals with the new IQ Running Shoe (available late March 2016, $199.99; altrarunning.com). Created by and for runners (the founders are elite ultra runners) and powered by iFit, this shoe has a paper-thin, flexible multi-sensor system undetectably embedded in the midsole for maximum accuracy.
The IQ transmits data to an iFit app or tracker via Bluetooth, then provides individual analysis and real-time coaching on the run. It tracks things like landing zone (heel vs. midfoot vs. forefoot), pace-based cadence, ground contact time of both feet, acceleration force, and foot favoring, as well as the usual time, distance, and splits. Plus, the shoe features Altra's signature natural foot-shaped toebox and zero drop for a balanced and comfortable run.
So what does that all mean? You'll be able to fine-tune the biomechanics of your form, which can, in turn, prevent injuries. For example, you'll learn instantly during your run if you're over-striding and you'll get an audio cue to try pumping your elbows back and not letting them swing past your hips. This shoe is designed to help new runners avoid poor technique and make experienced runners more efficient when pounding the pavement.
Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells
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Now you can ditch the notebook or whiteboard and fully focus on your form. Bowflex's "smart weights" ($499; bowflexselecttech.com) feature an integrated, electronic accelerometer (a sensor that detects motion) that records reps and weight lifted and provides users with an audible cue when they've completed each rep properly. (Find out How to Pick the Right Size Dumbbells for Your Workout.) View your stats on the dumbbell screen or on the connected 3DT app via mobile device. You can also flip through dozens of pre-loaded workouts in the app.
Bonus: The innovative design reduces the number of separate dumbbells from 32 down to only two—maximizing space for easy storage. You can adjust the weights in 2.5-pound increments from 5 to 25 pounds, and in 5-pound increments from 25 to 60 pounds with a simple turn of a dial to completely customize your strength workout. It's like taking the gym and a personal trainer home with you in one small, compact package.
Specialized Turbo Levo E-Mountain Bike
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It's hard to put the magical feeling of riding this bike into words, but we'll do our best here. Unlike other bulky e-bikes that lack clean lines, the Levo Turbo ($3,000; specialized.com) looks nearly identical to a traditional mountain bike. Its secret: It features a custom trail-tuned motor, integrated battery, and seamless speed sensor. Powered by your pedal stroke, the motor only kicks in when you need it most (say, climbing up a steep hill), but the transition is super smooth, not surge-y. It's all controlled with a small button on the bike's frame and the help of the Mission Control app (available on iOs and Android). The app monitors battery life, adjusts the motor output, logs your rides, and syncs with apps like Strava.
What does that mean for you? This bike will enable you to go farther and longer than before. Although we wouldn't recommend learning on this bike (as it's best to learn technical skills and not just power over obstacles), it's a perfect choice for someone who wants to access more trails or roll over certain features with ease; or someone who wants to keep up with a friend who's faster or more skilled; or commutes in a hilly area like San Francisco. No matter what the case, this bike takes nothing away from your riding ability. Instead, it injects a ton of fun into your experience.
Under Armour HealthBox
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If you're a data junkie, the Under Armour HealthBox ($400; UA.com and HTC.com) is a game-changer that streamlines your health and fitness routines with one easy-to-navigate system. It's the first connected fitness system to hit the market and includes a UA band, UA Scale, and UA Heart Rate. The band tracks typical data such as steps, distance, and sleep, and works with the chest strap to monitor your heart rate while the Bluetooth and wifi-enabled scale measures weight and body fat percentages of up to eight different people.
Each component works in conjunction with the UA Record app, which pulls data from each device to offer you a snapshot of your health based on four main components: sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition. The app is key as it takes all the hassle out of keeping tabs on your health. You'll no longer have to sync multiple devices or load your phone up with a bunch of apps. And of course, Record will also connect you to other users (think: your personal trainer or workout buddy) through social networks.
Sensoria Fitness Smart Sports Bra + Heart Rate Monitor
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If you're an endurance athlete, then you know all about the pains—literally—of monitoring your heart rate with a chest strap. Positioning the device under your sports bra feels bulky and can cause uncomfortable chafing during long efforts. Woof. Luckily, Sensoria came up with a simple solution for women: integrating the heart rate monitor into the lower band of a sports bra.
This high-tech bra ($139 with heart rate monitor, $69 without; sensoriafitness.com) provides you with accurate and consistent heart rate monitoring without the hassle of wearing a strap. The bra itself is sweat-wicking and breathable, offers medium support, and can be used with most Bluetooth heart rate monitors with standard snaps. Pair it with the Sensoria Fitness mobile app to easily track your fitness activity. It's also compatible with Polar H7 and Garmin Premium as well as some additional third party apps like Strava, Runtastic, MapMyRun, Endomondo, Runkeeper, PolarBeat, and RunMeter. (And check out The Best Sports Bras for Big Boobs.)
New Balance 3D-Printed Running Shoe
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Imagine a shoe that features cushioning completely customized to your unique foot and running style. Well, that fantasy could soon become your reality thanks to the New Balance 3D-Printed Running Shoe (available April 2016, select New Balance retail locations). The Boston-based brand teamed up with 3D Systems to create a midsole made of an elastomeric powder called DuraForm Flex TPU, based on underfoot pressure data from heel strikers. This breakthrough formula leverages the benefits of 3D printing to create the perfect balance of flexibility, strength, weight, and durability.
In other words, this cushiony 3D-printed midsole can be customized based on scans of your foot. New Balance can map what parts of the foot take the most impact and dial the midsole to suit your needs, and you'll walk away with a custom shoe designed specifically for you. (But Will 3D Printing Work On Fitness Gear?)
2XU Smart Hat with LifeBEAM Smart Technology
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If you're all about accuracy and ease, then the 2XU Smart Hat was made for you ($99; 2xu.com and life-beam.com). LifeBEAM, a leader in wearable technology, originally developed its smart technology to monitor the vital signs of pilots and astronauts in extreme conditions. A small bio-optic sensor is embedded near the brim of the hat and tracks a continuous heart rate, calories, and cadence with aerospace accuracy. It syncs in real time to most of your favorite fitness apps so you can keep tabs on all of your workouts.
Ideal for warm, sunny conditions, the hat is lightweight and breathable, thanks to side vents that maximize air flow. The best part: it looks just like a regular basic black hat you'd throw on before your workout. So you can benefit from precise data tracking in style without a lot of extra effort.
Gatorade Hydration Customization Platform
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This year, Gatorade is upping their game big time so that you can up yours. The sports nutrition and hydration company has a ton of innovation up their sleeves—the first of which is in the hands of elite athletes now and will trickle down to you soon.
By utilizing research from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, where numerous tests are conducted on athletes to gain insights on performance and hydration, Gatorade has developed a new water bottle with a smartcap (available summer 2016; gatorade.com) that allows you to completely customize your hydration for your workout. Simply choose your fuel pod (available in G and G2 formulas) and insert it into the unique smart cap of the bottle, then fill with water or a liquid of your choice to create a customized formula. The bottles come with custom athlete ID rings for easy identification and are ideal for longer efforts like half or full marathons where you might want to customize the amount of carbs you take in at different points during the race. (P.S. These are the Top 7 Ways to Stay Hydrated on Long-Distance Runs.)