Best Heart Rate Monitors
In this day and age, there are so many different types of technology devices that have an integrated heart rate monitor built into them that it is almost commonplace to have one. Indeed, smartwatches, fitness bands, and even some headphones will implement this technology. Of course, standard heart rate chest straps are always a feasible option. No matter the type you are after, there is a specific criterion that you need to analyze; such as the overall design of the device and the other functionality it has. It is very important for those of you with heart problems or prior heart issues to keep an eye on your heart rate at all times.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Features an omnidirectional EXO antenna with GPS and GLONASS reception
It is water rated for up to 100 meters
Integrates a 3-axis compass, altimeter, and barometer
Top 10 Picks
1. Garmin Fenix 3
Features an omnidirectional EXO antenna with GPS and GLONASS reception
It is water rated for up to 100 meters
Integrates a 3-axis compass, altimeter, and barometer
Not exactly a lightweight watch
The notifications can be a nuisance
Garmin is probably best known for their GPS devices. Were you aware that some of them, such as the Garmin Fenix 3, also function as a heart rate monitor? It is not a standard chest strap that takes the number one spot but, instead, a GPS watch.Read more
Simply by placing this on your wrist, the Fenix 3 has the capability of measuring your heart rate. As such, an additional chest strap is not necessary.
This is far from a heart rate-only device. It has GPS functionality and in conjunction with the altimeter, barometer and 3-axis compass, it has excellent outdoor navigation. Also, it has fitness training features with running metrics.
In “watch mode”, the batter on the Fenix 3 will last up to three weeks. However, this is reduced to 40 hours and 16 hours in UltraTrac mode and GPS training mode, respectively.
With a black silicone band which is both appealing and resistant to discoloration, a water rating of up to 100 meters, and a 1.2-inch chroma display, this has all the goods.
This utilizes wireless technology, which has specific advantages over Bluetooth, and you can use one or more hot spots to sync your data with Garmin Connect.
As a heart rate monitor, the Fenix 3 is good enough to sell itself as is. But, when you combine all the other functionality and superb design, it becomes a no-brainer to invest in this GPS watch.
2. Polar H7
It is waterproof
The integrated battery should last several months
Features Bluetooth technology and is compatible with several devices
Can be difficult to unscrew the back-access panel to get to the battery
A fitness tracker with a heart rate sensor goes as good together as chocolate does with milk. It is almost unfair to have one without the other and the Polar H7 not only has it but as an overall product is second to none.Read more
Through the power of Bluetooth technology, this device provides a live feed of your heart rate (and does so with super accuracy) in conjunction with certain compatible training applications.
Past its ability to operate as a heart rate monitor, this also has software that can count your calories. As simple as it seems, it is handy for many to monitor how many calories they are burning.
Polar advises that you detach the transmitter from the chest strap to enhance the battery life. If you do so, the integrated coin battery should last you several months.
To adapt to many sizes, this device comes in extra-small through small or medium through XX-large. As long as you have the strap secured in place, no irritation or discomfort should be present.
As mentioned earlier, this utilizes Bluetooth technology. This makes it compatible with devices such as the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and the 5th generation of the iPod Touch, among others.
About the only minor complaint that is present with the Polar H7 Fitness Tracker is that the back-access panel to access the battery is difficult to unscrew. However, in terms of its performance, it is worth it alone.
3. Bose Soundsport Headphones
Has both Bluetooth and NFC connectivity
They are both water-resistant and sweat-resistant
Due to their comfort and stability, a seal is created
A dedicated fitness app would have been nice
Wait, what is a pair of headphones doing on this list? Was there a mistake? Nope, it is not an illusion as Bose’s SoundSport Pulse Wireless Headphones feature a built-in heart rate monitor while also acting as a standard pair of headphones.Read more
Not only does this have a built-in heart rate monitor but it also has PerformTek sensor technology. Both of which combine to make a more than suitable heart rate device.
Clearly, these are wireless headphones and as such, they can be used to listen to your audio devices. But, this can also be used in conjunction with several popular fitness apps.
Per a single charge, you can expect around five hours of battery life. While this is not the most impressive battery life, it should suffice for most who only utilize them moderately.
Being both sweat and weather-resistant, these are truly feasible in any kind of conditions you can think of. Also, a gentle seal is created when you insert them in your ears to increase the audio performance.
With both Bluetooth and NFC pairing, connecting your device to these headphones is an absolute breeze; granted the device you are attempting to sync has the proper technology.
It is pretty obvious that you live in an intuitive world when you become witnessed to Bluetooth headphones that can measure your heart rate. While it seems like something that only Jimmy Neutron could concoct, it is a reality at the forefront.
4. FitBit Charge 2
Can operate at nearly any temperature
Has an impressive battery life of up to five days
Programmed to track calories burned, active minutes, distance, etc.
Does not have a standalone GPS
The notifications are very basic
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Fitbit Charge 2 is one of the most popular heart rate monitors on this list, bar none. With its diverse and in-depth functionality and superb battery life, it is not too difficult to see why.Read more
Besides the basic ability to measure your heart rate, which Fitbit warns the accuracy will be affected by certain variables such as the location of the device, the Charge 2 has personalized breathing sessions that are based directly on your current heart rate.
While this does not have a standalone GPS, when using a connected GPS, you can view real-time statistics on metrics such as your distance and pace. In addition, the ability is there to track your sleeping patterns.
Clearly, one of the best aspects of this wristband is its superb battery life. With normal use, you should be able to crank out up to five days of battery before needing to recharge it.
For some people, a fitness band represents a sense of style. As such, multiple color selections are available for you to choose from. Also, this band is rated to operate in temperatures as low as 14 degrees and as high as 113 degrees (both in Fahrenheit).
Integrated modern technology allows the Fitbit Charge 2 to sync wirelessly to over 200 compatible devices; ranging from iOS devices to Windows.
A standalone GPS would have been a nice addition and the notifications do leave a lot to be desired. However, these two minor drawbacks should not stop you from highly considering this excellent device.
5. Scosche Rhythm Armband
Has built-in Bluetooth and ANT+ technology
Is rated per IP67 for waterproofness
It works with a multitude of popular health and fitness apps
Despite its claims, users have noted the band can become soaked with sweat
Being compatible with several popular health and fitness apps, this armband is not only suitable as a heart rate monitor but also as a standalone fitness tracker. In addition, with optical sensor technology, the heart rate functionality is highly accurate.Read more
To ensure that this device is as accurate as possible so you get your money’s worth, Scosche has implemented patented optical sensor technology.
With the ability to act as a fitness tracker, you can monitor important metrics such as your calories burned, total distance and pace. Plus, this is compatible to work with several health and fitness apps for further functionality.
Without allowing it to charge, and running it on a fully charged battery, you can get a maximum of eight hours. This is not too bad and for most, should be an adequate-enough amount.
This armband is rated per IP67 standards of waterproofness. It is also claimed that it is sweatproof; however, as one user noted the band can become drenched with sweat. Also, there are multiple color options available.
Thanks to the built-in dual-mode processor, this is both ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible. So, you can actually transmit data to multiple ANT+ displays and Bluetooth devices.
The battery life can leave a little to be desired for fitness junkies but its work as a heart rate monitor is fantastic thanks to its optical sensor technology for improved accuracy.
6. Garmin Run
The strap is both flexible and soft
Comes with a sliding adjuster to accommodate different sizes
Has an ultra-fast response time
It is not machine washable
Does not support the technology for Bluetooth
It is fair to assume that when you see this next heart rate monitor, the Garmin HRM-Run, does not integrate Bluetooth technology, you will immediately move on with no interest. But, give the HRM-Run the light of day as, despite this, it is a superb device.Read more
No doubt, the HRM-Run lives and breathes through its functionality as a heart rate monitor. Thankfully, it does so very well and as one reviewer reported, it has a rapid fast response time when measuring your heart rate.
This device is highly noted for its capability of providing you with six different, advanced running dynamics that can be used with Garmin Forerunner watches. Some of which include ground contact time, vertical oscillation and stride length.
If you were to use this for approximately one hour per day, according to Garmin, then the battery in the HRM-Run should last for up to one year.
In case you were not aware, this is a chest strap. Some may be fearful that this will cause discomfort and irritation but with its combination of thin plastic and nylon fabric, it is both soft and flexible.
One of the HRM-Run’s shortcomings is the fact that it does not have an integrated Bluetooth chip. Instead, it only utilizes ANT+ which is a bit limited with the modern technology.
Wristwatches, fitness bands, and headphones are great, but sometimes a good old-fashioned chest strap will do the trick just fine. The Garmin HRM-Run is a terrific consideration thanks to its supreme comfort, heart rate accuracy and fast response time.
7. Moov Sweat
Overall, the heart rate monitor is very accurate
Features sweatproof technology
Includes real-time audio coaching
Some may not want to wear a “silly looking” headband
It works better in conjunction with the Moov Now (which is a separate device)
Some say the device is small and easy to lose
Despite some people who are worried about their physical appearance (in terms of their attire) and may not want to wear a “tacky” headband, the Moov HR Sweat is an ideal option as it provides real-time audio coaching for your training.Read more
Moov claims that their team of experts were able to discover the best combination of placement and technology to deliver the most precise heart rate reading they could with their HR Sweat.
What is super convenient about the HR Sweat is, in conjunction with the Moov App, you can receive real-time audio coaching that will guide you through your workouts.
First off, this is a rechargeable battery. Now, unfortunately, its six-hour battery life is not that spectacular. But, it is also not as if you will need to re-charge your battery every day (unless you are a gym rat).
Moov designed this sweatband, which does go on your forehead, for athletes. As such, the material is highly-breathable, sweat-absorbing, quick-drying, comfortable, and lightweight.
The Moov HR Sweat can be used as a heart rate monitoring device with several applications with the power of Bluetooth technology. However, it is worth noting the audio coaching is only possible through the Moov app.
Could this be labeled as tacky? One could see it that way but hey, wearing a headband is not the worst thing in the world. Besides its clear functionality as a heart rate monitor, it will also absorb the sweat coming down your face which is a bonus.
8. Wahoo Tickr X
Has built-in memory and does not always require a smartphone
Measures other running dynamics such as cadence and ground contact time
Works with several health and fitness apps
When not connected, the data is more limited
The advanced running metrics do not get sent to running watches
Much like the Garmin HRM-Run, the Wahoo TICKR X is yet another chest strap, heart rate monitor. What is beneficial about this model is that it has built-in memory and can be used without a smartphone (although you can sync the data to it later).Read more
Wahoo has designed personalized heart rate training into their TICKR X and this allows you to view your real-time heart rate to work out more efficiently. As a cool tidbit of information, this is actually the official heart rate monitor of Team Sky.
The TICKR X seconds as a fitness tracker and can deliver you with some important dynamics including the calories that you burn, various running analytics, indoor spin cadence, and rep counting.
Included with this device is a standard coin-cell battery and if used in moderation, it should last you a good year. Obviously, this will vary depending on use.
Because this is adjustable from 23 inches to 48 inches, it is suitable for a wide range of body sizes. In addition to this, it has an IPX7 water rating which means it is waterproof up to five feet.
The devices you can sync this heart rate monitor to are nearly endless thanks to ANT+ and Bluetooth functionality. Such devices include smartphones, tablets, and GPS watches. But, due to its internal memory, it is not mandatory to sync to such devices to use it.
There is a reason this is the official heart rate monitor for Team Sky. The impressive combination of its software, waterproof design and various forms of connectivity make it suitable for any athlete around the world.
9. Garmin Premium
Incredibly easy to wash when the time is needed
Is compatible with several other Garmin devices and various others
On average, the battery should last around a year
Does not have Bluetooth technology
Can be a pain to get on and off as it is a solid strap
If you are literally simply looking for a heart rate monitor and nothing more, there may not be a more ideal device than this bad boy from Garmin. As such, this is simply an ANT+ product and does not feature Bluetooth technology.Read more
With your connected device, during an activity, this chest strap will transmit your heart rate data directly to it. Thus, providing you with instant feedback so you can monitor how much effort you are outputting.
This is as cut and dry as it gets. It does not have much functionality past its use as a heart rate monitor. For those only seeking this, it could not be a better match.
Much like other heart rate monitors that do not run off a rechargeable battery, you should be able to get around a year of use out of this; if used in moderation.
Being crafted from a very soft fabric, irritation and discomfort should not be an issue with this device strapped to your chest. Also, it is adjustable so you can tailor it to properly fit.
As soon as you connect to a device, which must be ANT+ compatible, it will automatically be recognized in the future. It is even optimized to be used in highly-crowded areas, guaranteeing signal interference will not be an issue. But, it does not have Bluetooth technology.
Simplicity is certainly not always a bad thing and that is apparent with this heart rate monitor from Garmin. The lack of Bluetooth and diverse functionality could be seen as drawbacks, but that is looking at the glass half empty.
10. Suunto Spartan
It utilizes GPS technology to track certain metrics
Has easy-to-follow graphs
Features a breadcrumb view and GPS route navigation
The interface is a bit sluggish and unattractive
For whatever reason, you need to connect to a computer to update the software
Besides Garmin, Suunto is one of the leading manufacturers in the world of GPS watches. Their Spartan Watch also happens to integrate a heart rate monitor and while the watch itself can be a bit sluggish, the design is still great overall.Read more
On the screen, there is a daily heart rate that you can monitor that displays your minimum heart rate. In addition, while you sleep, you can monitor your average heart rate.
Yes, this is a GPS watch. It has the ability to track your speed, pace, distance, altitude and various other metrics because of it. In addition to this, an unprecedented 80 sports modes have been pre-installed.
As you can see the percentage of the battery, you will know at all times when it needs to be recharged. On average, you can expect around three to four days on a single charge.
With an improved slimmer fit and several color options to choose from, everyone should be satisfied with the appeal and fit.
As this is basically a smartwatch, you can receive smart notifications from your smartphone.
For the price, an interface that was more profound would have been nice. It is a bit sluggish but besides that, there is too much to like to not consider an investment.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
All heart rate monitors are different in one way or another. However, they all share the distinct similarity of providing you with your heart information. But, why is it so important to keep track of this, especially while you are exercising? The reality is that your heart rate is an ideal indicator if you are trying to determine the effort you are putting in. Although, it can also be an important component of monitoring your overall health as you age. Because when you age your pulse rate and regularity can alter, this can lead to potential heart conditions that need to be addressed. Possibly, this could end up saving your life.
But, what makes a great heart rate monitor. For one, you want it to provide precise readings of your heart rate. If the measurements are constantly off and you notice they are not consistent with other readings, it is not going to do you much good in the long run. Also, the response time can also be a factor. Would you rather have instantaneous results or have to wait several seconds for the heart rate monitor to catch up?
Another design aspect that all heart rate monitors will have in common is they will have an integrated battery with a limited life. But, and here is where they differ, some will be rechargeable and some will need to be replaced when they stop working. The best way to explain further is to break down the certain types. For example, let’s start with GPS devices. Because GPS technology requires so much juice, the battery life will be significantly reduced the longer you use the GPS. However, for those without GPS and that run off a rechargeable battery, this is not an issue.
What about rechargeable versus non-rechargeable? Is one superior? It is not as if a rechargeable battery will last forever but, for the most part, it cuts back on the number of regular batteries you will use. With that being said, regular batteries (and you will often see coin batteries in chest straps) are not necessarily bad. Truth be told, most chest straps will have a coin battery and for some, you can enhance the battery by detaching the transmitter from the chest strap.
Everything so far has addressed the internal design, the software and battery. Now, though, it is time to shift gears and analyze the physical design of heart rate monitors. Once again, the details you need to pay close attention to will differ based on the type you are looking into. Take, for example, wristwatches, fitness bands, and even armbands. Many will see these types of devices as fashion statements. So, if this is important to you, look for multiple color options and the overall appeal of the product. But, what is also vital is the water rating or lack thereof. Is it rated to withstand certain amounts of water and sweat? This is important not only if you wanted to measure your heart rate while swimming, but also if the device is exposed to rainfall.
Then, there are chest straps. You may be looking to avoid this due to the fear of skin irritation and discomfort. Yet, granted that the fabric is soft and the design is comfortable, irritation should not typically be a concern.
In some way, shape, or form, your heart rate monitor will connect to other devices. For the most part, they provide superior information this way and without it, the functionality would be sorely lacking. At the end of the day, it comes down to a simple question of whether you want Bluetooth, ANT+, or both. Most people know what Bluetooth is, the technology that allows you to sync compatible device together, but may be unsure about ANT+.
Relatively speaking, it works the same way. It is a wireless technology that allows monitoring devices to “talk” to one another. Just like Bluetooth, the door needs to open both ways and each device must have the ANT+ protocol. But, as most smartphones use Bluetooth as their primary wireless technology, ANT+ is not typically ideal if you want to sync to your smart devices.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Results from trail running can be slightly interrupted if your device features GPS tracking. If you run into an area without signal or with heavy foliage, your heart rate in this time may not be recorded. While this isn't the end of the world, it is useful to know.
It is not recommended to wear a wrist monitor constantly. This can cause irritation, rash, and bad odor. Just as you take breaks from exercise, you should take breaks from your device. To clean it, you can use mild soap and water and a scrub brush. Make sure the device fully dries before putting it back on and exercising to avoid foul smell or irritation.
Other Factors to Consider
This is where certain heart rate monitors will separate from others. It is quite amazing the number of technology devices that integrate a heart rate monitor. This can include smartwatches, fitness bands, headphones or simply chest straps. Clearly, this is one of the biggest decisions that you need to make because each type will have their unique advantages. For example, with a GPS watch from Garmin. With GPS technology, and possibly a built-in altimeter and barometer, you could have the power of navigation. But, GPS functionality can also provide you with fitness metrics such as speed, pace, distance, and altitude. Speaking of which, this is practically what a fitness band is.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How do you calculate target heart rate?
A number that is going to become of use to you is your target heart rate. However, the average person is not going to know the algorithm on the top of their head. Plus, there are a decent number of variables that go along with it. Here is the simplest way to calculate your target heart rate. First things first, you need to figure out what your resisting heart rate is. To do so, take your pulse for one minute immediately after you wake up from a deep sleep. From there, calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your current age from 220.
With these two numbers, subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum. This is known as your heart rate reserve and now you need to get the lower limit (by multiplying the heart rate reserve by 0.60 and then adding it to your resting heart rate) and upper limit (same process except with 0.80, not 0.60). Take these two numbers, add them together, then divide by two to get your target heart rate.
q: Can a heart rate monitor help you to lose weight?
Do not get the wrong impression; yes, heart rate monitors can help you lose weight. Now, here is where you could get the wrong impression. While they can assist you in this, it is still up to you to be determined and motivated enough to lose weight. In addition, a heart rate monitor is not going to select the foods you eat and how active you are. However, what it is going to do is ensure that you spend most of your training time in the correct zone (granted that they are programmed with these different types of training zones).
As such, this device is going to accurately control the duration and effort of your exercise regimen. But, it will not magically transform you into the model that you depict in your head overnight.
q: Will a heart rate monitor help you avoid potential injuries?
Helping you lose weight is not something that heart rate monitors will be guaranteed to do. But, when it comes to helping you avoid potential injuries down the road, this is one of their biggest benefits. You may be perplexed to how a simple glance of your heart rate can end up reducing the chance of injury. However, once you take into consideration that several injuries are simply caused by over-training, it becomes clear. See, a heart rate monitor is going to inform you when your body has recovered properly.
It does so by analyzing your resting heart rate. If you were to run a marathon, it is going to take your heart several days (sometimes a few weeks) to settle to its resting rate. As such, it may feel like you are okay but your monitor is going to truthfully inform you if you are or if you need to rest more.
q: Why are there inaccurate readings?
Just because your heart rate monitor is outputting inaccurate readings, it may not be because it is defected or with a poor design. If this is the case from day one and after you try the remedies below then yeah, it could either be a defect or that inadequate of a design. However, if it starts out by measuring your heart rate accurately and then suddenly starts to sway off course, there could be a few reasons why. For one, the sensor pads, that are on the back of the device, may not be in full contact with your skin.
This is often the case for chest straps as you need to ensure that it is snug with your torso. However, there may be something that is blocking the connection and if so, remove it.
q: When should you use a heart rate monitor?
This may not be any news to you but the best time to you use a heart rate monitor is when you are physically active. Now, this does not necessarily indicate you must be running a marathon or pumping iron in the gym. Even if you are going for a casual stroll, you can use a heart rate monitor effectively. Probably their greatest benefits are helping athletes find the right intensity to workout and striving to help people achieve new fitness goals.
Yet, they can also be helpful when you are sleeping. Some heart rate monitors will measure your heart rate during the night and then you can analyze the data accordingly.
q: How do you keep them clean?
Just like anything else in the world, heart rate monitors can get dirty, sweaty, and flat-out nasty. Even if they are designed to resist sweat, you will still probably be able to smell the results. But, as has become a theme throughout this guide, the cleaning process will differ based on the heart rate monitor that you possess. For example, chest straps and fitness bands (talking about just the band) will need to be cleaned in warm water with a neutral detergent. In regard to fitness bands, be sure to remove the band (if you can) as you just want to do this with the strap and not the computer.
As far as the display goes, whether for watches or fitness bands, wiping it down with a cloth should do the trick.
- The Best Heart Rate Monitors for 2019, Online Magazine ,
- Best heart rate monitors: Top watches, chest straps and fitness trackers, Fitness Website ,