Helmets absorb energy and slow the movement of your head, which minimizes impact to your brain. In other words, they save lives and lessen would-be serious injuries. Most helmets, though, are sport-specific—and not all are created equal. Look for one that’s safety certified and provides some rotational protection. If a helmet has been certified safe by Virginia Tech, the de facto authority on helmet safety for many sports, that’s a good indicator you’re buying a quality lid. Safe helmets ring in at all price points, and while you don’t want to cheap out on your cranium, cost can often have as much to do with style as safety. Here are 10 of the best helmets you can buy right now, by sport.
1. Best for Gravity Biking: Giro Insurgent Spherical Helmet
Protecting your chin, cheeks, and the rest of your noggin with a full-face helmet is imperative while downhill mountain biking. The only caveat is most tend to break your collarbones in a significant crash. Giro’s Insurgent Spherical Helmet provides the best head protection money can buy, and reduces nasty collateral damage thanks to a flexing gasket along the lower edge of the helmet. It boasts best-in-class safety features including Giro’s signature MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) ball-and-socket design, which uses two separate liners that rotate independently of one other in an accident. The outer EPS layer is optimized for high-speed impacts and the inner EPP layer has the rebound to best protect against slower impacts. Surprisingly light, the Insurgent is well-ventilated for comfort and to keep goggles and glasses from fogging.
2. Best for Trail Riding: Fox Speedframe Pro
When a helmet earns a five-star rating from Virginia tech, it’s already in an elite class. The Speedframe Pro is a stellar choice for any trail or enduro ride. Fox took a 360-degree approach to safety by implementing a rotational impact-deflecting MIPS liner, an easy-to-adjust visor, and an internal harness that cinches to fit heads of all shapes. The Pro version is built with a dual-density EPS liner, washable antimicrobial helmet pads, and a Fidlock buckle that makes for easy and off, even with gloves on. You don’t have to worry about the visor being in the way. It adjusts to accommodate most goggles and glasses. If you want to save a few bucks, opt for the Speedframe, which doesn’t have the cool buckle, but does have all the same safety features at $50 less.
3. Best for Kayaking: Sweet Protection Rocker
Getting rowdy on your local river? Sweet Protection’s full-coverage paddling helmet provides maximum protection for your head and face, whether you picked a bad spot to roll or you’re swimming for the nearest eddy. The shell and liner benefit from the elasticity of injection-molded thermoplastic and the rigidness of carbon fiber. The visor and ear pads are replaceable should you want to refreshen things up after repeated dunks. And the helmet comes in a full-face version for extra protection whilst steep creeking.