Best Running Heart Rate Monitors Tested
Running is a way to test the body. We do this for the same reason we test our minds: to push ourselves to our limits and come out the other side stronger than we were before. The more we run, the more physical stress we can endure, and the more we can better our sport.
Overworking, however, can prevent you from improving, or even cause permanent damage. A heart monitor can help you understand as well as push your limits. By having trackable data and readings you can see your progression in the long-term and know when you’re pushing too far in the short-term.
We have compiled a list of heart rate monitors, advice, and tips that can help you improve your workouts. As always, you should always seek a medical opinion if you suspect something is wrong or if you are unsure about the intensity or quality of your workouts. But for those looking for a way to track their performance and improve their run, we know these heart monitors will more than get the job done.
- Garmin Forerunner 235
- Smart notifications
- Convenient wristband design
- Scosche Rhythm+
- Works with apps
- Bluetooth and ANT+ capabilities
- Fitbit Charge 2
- Extended battery life
- Sleep tracking
Best Running Heart Rate Monitors
Garmin Forerunner 235
- Larger than average screen
- Smart notification system
- Wrist mounted heart sensor
- Water resistant up to 30m
- The Forerunner is not a budget watch
- Comfortable armband strap
- Lightweight and breathable
- Works with most popular fitness apps
- Sweatproof and waterproof
- Measures distance, pace, and more
- Bluetooth and ANT+ capabilities
- 8-hour battery life
- Hard to charge on the go
Fitbit Charge 2
- Call, text, and calendar alerts
- Sleep tracking and silent alarms
- Real-time readings
- GPS and Bluetooth capabilities
- Connect to almost any fitness tracking app
- Convenient wristband design
- Interchangeable bands
- Long battery life
- Personalized readings and runner profile
- Wrist readings are more likely to be inaccurate
Suunto Smart Belt
- Ultra lightweight, color coded
- Battery is a long last CR2032 3v lithium, replaceable if needed
- iPhone, Android, and computer compatible
- Reasonably priced
- Does not process data in real time
- Comfortable alternative to a chest band
- GPS, Bluetooth, and bike computer
- Comes in three unique colors
- Ultra durable and secure tang closure strap
- 5 different workout zones with coded LED light display
- Water and sweat resistant
- MIO Link personalized fitness app
- Track heart rate, speed, and pace
- Wrist readings may be more inaccurate
- No screen display
Wahoo TICKR X
- Pairs with over 50 different fitness tracking apps
- Can count reps for you automatically
- Has built in memory so you can track without your phone
- Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ capability
- IPX7 waterproof construction
- Treadmill mode and running analytics
- Slightly more expensive than the previous version
Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor & Fitness Tracker
- Waterproof heart rate sensor
- Compatible with Apple iPhone and Android devices
- Accurate heart rate data, user friendly
- Fits snugly and comfortably
- Can sync with most gym equipment, treadmills, etc
- Short battery life
TomTom Runner GPS Watch+Heart Rate Monitor
Light weight and sleek design.
Easy to track activities with external heart rate monitor.
GPS feature makes syncing, tracking and sharing data with friends easy and convenient.
Short battery life.
Storage fills quickly.
Only usefull for running and treadmills.
Garmin HRM TRI
It is one of the lightest and smallest heart rate monitors making it easy to carry around on your wrist.
Stores data when not in use and displays it later when needed.
Supports the variability of the heart and gives the dynamics of running.
The battery life is long, all depends on how you use it.
Has very easily adjusted straps that makes it feel comfortable when having it on.
Straps sometimes tear fast when mishandled. Handle with a lot of care.
Polar RCX3 Heart Rate Monitor
Some issues with GPS connectivity.
- Coaching app is a useful tracking tool that speaks directly to you
- Very accurate
- Wears comfortably
- May have issues with device/pp support
- Band isn't most absorbent
- Low price
- Easy to use
- Good for beginners
- Compatiable with a lot of equipment
- Chest strap comfortable and flexiable
- Very accurate
- Issues with battery life/ replaceability
- One button system can be difficult to manage
- Limited memory
- Very accurate
- Easy access battery case
- Band designed with nubs so not to slip
- 2 Quality apps
- Battery life issues
- Some technical/ connectivity issues with the app
With a heart rate monitor you can target specific beats per minute (bpm) in terms of calculated training, and add a bit of interest to your jog for the more casual runner. There are two basic formats that these devices come in. A chest strap and a watch or wristband. The wrist located monitors use optical sensors to detect the blood racing through your veins and calculate heart rate from there. They’ve proven to be a new and exciting option in terms of monitors, but if you want true accuracy there still isn’t much of a substitute for the chest strap.
Our Criteria for the Best Heart Rate Monitors
Having an efficient working out session is the main objective of any work out session. Though others might consider an intense work out session, intense doesn’t necessarily equate to better results. In order to hit your fitness goals then you will definitely need to have all the correct information with regards to your heart rate workout zone where your work out yields are efficient, safe and most important results that are beneficial.
A heart rate monitor is a portable device typically worn either on the wrist, on the head, or across the chest. Finger sensors on certain fitness and cardio machines, such as a treadmill or elliptical, can also measure your heart rate. These devices capture signals from your heart and display or record the rates. Heart rate monitors are able to achieve this being a very efficient sporting accessory to many people who want to keep track of their work out sessions. The above best HRM trackers all have excellent accuracy.
Fitness isn’t just about the amount you exercise, it’s also about the intensity of that exercise. A heart rate monitor (HRM) is your pacer, telling you when to speed up or slow down to achieve results. To select the best model for you, consider two factors:
- The type of Monitor: Many monitors normally use sensors that are located on the athlete’s’ wrist or their chest. Monitors that have chest straps tend to be more accurate; wrist monitors only offer more convenience while working out.
- The type of monitor features available: The more expensive models of fitness trackers are able to operate in a very efficient way with many additional features for athletes.
Apart from the above, you should look at what the HRM device has to offer in terms of features. Also, your sporting activities will determine the type of HRM device you but and what features will suit you in helping you achieve your fitness goals. There are several types of GRM devices that an athlete can consider buying.
Pulse Points—Types of Monitors
These trackers are worn very close to the pulse points found on the athlete’s body. It’s best to always give a though at where you want to wear your fitness tracker as this will determine their accuracy. Also, this will play an important role in determining the features you want your ideal HRM device to have and how the device will help you in achieving your fitness goals. Some of the pulse points in the body are chest and wrists. Depending on the location of the pulse point there is a different type of HRM device for the pulse point.
There are 3 types of pulse points heart rate monitors depending on where they are being worn (the pulse point).
Chest Strap type of HRM devices
HRM devices of this type is worn around the chest using a chest strap and must have a wristwatch device to help collect accurate data. Though some more recent models have been developed with Bluetooth connectivity hence easy display of data on the athlete’s smartphone.
Pros: They are able to provide continuous and accurate heart-rate data readings. They enable free and comfortable movement and hence perfect for all sporting activities because they offer minimal interruption during training sessions. They are more stylish than the traditional wrist like HRM devices.
Cons: Must wet the strap worn around the chest initially to get reading from the device. For those who do not prefer carrying their phones might find this device challenging due to the Bluetooth connectivity aspect part of the tracker.
Wristwatch type of HRM device
They are the most preferred type of trackers. They resemble a normal watch. They have a variety of designs and styles with regards to their functionality and have been on the market for long. To read data collected you only need to press a particular button or just touch the rim of the HRM device.
Pros: These models may need any chest strap (this is totally dependent on the type of fitness tracker you want to purchase and also the manufacturer). Newer models come with many features with even Bluetooth connectivity. Easy to check the data collected.
Cons: certain workouts may be challenging and be interrupted when reading the HRM device. Takes time to provide the reading of the data collected. If you experience challenges in reading the device, you will have to wet the back of the tracker to get reading.
Continuous-Reading HRM Wristwatch
They are also worn on the wrists. They are more advanced devices and are able to offer correct and updated reading without using a chest strap. The watch is worn around the wrist just above the bone on your wrist and must have a snug fit; this will guarantee very correct and accurate data. The fit should be similar to that of your normal wristwatch.
Pros: They are able to provide continuous accurate heart-rate data readings minus a chest strap. They fit all sporting activities and offer less interruption to workout sessions. You can easily read them compared to the fitness trackers that are touch watch type.
Cons: They are the most expensive type of HRM trackers compared to the chest strap models and touch watch type. You will find some lacking some of the basic features of fitness trackers.
Heart of the Matter – Targeting your Correct Workout Zone
The HRM device has three main important zones that it targets during exercise. These zones vary and hence have different rates, athletes are advised to know and understand the different workout zones. As this plays an important role in determining how effective their workout sessions are. The 3 zones include:
The Warm-up Workout Zone.
This zone occurs when you begin your workout and the pulse rate starts to rise. Though it’s important to note that the pulse rate normally ranges between 50% to 60% of the maximum. Ideal for beginners who are just starting to work out as it reduces chances of self-injury during a workout. This simply refers to low-intensity sporting activities. Though it normally means that the intensity of the activity will not help you achieve your fitness goals. At this zone there is still a reduction in the level of cholesterol, exposure to some illness. This zone has many health advantages and as you increase your work out intensity, the frequency of workout and duration of the workout. It requires at least 150 minutes of weekly workout sessions.
The Fat-Burning Workout Zone
In this zone, the pulse rate of the heart is between 60% to 70% of the maximum level. Unlike the warm-up workout zone, you will need to exert yourself to a higher degree meaning you increase your work out intensity, the frequency of workout and duration of the workout. You still continue enjoying all the health benefits associated with the warm-up workout zone and are able to burn more fat and calories.
The Cardio Workout Zone
In this level or workout zone, your pulse rate is ranging between 70% to 80% of the maximum pulse rate. This exercise intensity allows you to strengthen the cardiovascular system and be able to burn more fat and calories compared to the two previous zones. It’s important to note that this zone also means more muscle burning which is ideal for those athletes who want to achieve the maximum fat reduction.
The basic models of HRM devices offer almost all of the 3 target workout zones. Devices that can be considered to be more advanced have 3 to 6 target workout zones. With the possibility of having multiple target workout zones, you have the comfort of pre-programing your HRM device for an option of many different workouts like aerobic, endurance & anaerobic variations. If the HRM device you want offers only one type of aerobic target workout zone, you will have to reprogram the device every time you feel like changing your workout/ exercise parameters.
Other Important Factors Worth Considering
Features of an HRM Tracker
The basic kind of HRM trackers are able to time your exercises/ workout and also give you constant and continues data that shows whether your pulse rate is high, average or low during your entire workout sessions. Most models of HRM devices can be easily partnered with foot pods, they are attached to the shoelaces hence be able to track your running speed, cadence, and distance. Some models come with built-in GPS receiver abilities that can track a runner’s speed and the distance covered, they also offer functionality in navigation and elevation. The more advanced a device with an extensive array of features the pricier it may be to purchase.
Target zones: The HRM device has three main important zones that it targets during exercise. These zones vary and hence have different rates, athletes are advised to know and understand the different workout zones. As this plays an important role in determining how effective their workout sessions are.
Recovery mode of the HRM: Tracks the amount time it will take the athletes’ heart to resume its resting and normal pulse rate. It is a perfect indicator of determining the level of your cardiovascular fitness also important if the training/ workouts sessions you take part in, involve sprints and/or interval workouts.
Time in with regards to the target workout zone: Its main job is to track the amount time spent on exercising and working out within your focuses target workout zone. Some workout zones and training goals will demand for more time compared to others. Efficient when focusing on time tracking of the various workout zones.
Calorie counter features: Estimates the total amount of calories that are burned during a particular exercise. This is very useful especially if the workouts sessions you take part in, involve workout programs like weight-loss programs. Also functions effectively for athlete’s involved in training sessions that focus on gaining mass and more muscle.
Speed & distance focused monitor: this is the ideal type of HRM trackers for runners. This is usually the most important feature of a fitness tracker that most runners focus on when shopping for an HRM tracker. It’s able to perform calculations of the speed of a runner, measure the total distance the runner has covered during a given workout session. All this is done using an inbuilt GPS receiver that is normally used for outdoor sporting activates or by foot pods for sporting activities done indoors (also for outdoor geographical regions with limited reception of satellite connectivity). The foot pod utilizes the presence of an accelerometer, for it to determine a stride’s average length.
Digital interface of HRM Trackers: The digital interface wirelessly connects the monitor of the HRM tracker to the users’ smart device or a computer/ laptop. With this feature, a user has the luxury of downloading their workout data and hence analysis, share or store for future reference. This can be done through a wireless connection, Bluetooth connectivity or a remote type of computer connection. It’s very efficient, however, it is very challenging to those athletes who do not know enough technical stuff and would prefer simpler models of HRM trackers.
Tethering Capabilities of the HRM Tracker: Very useful to athletes who want to enjoy their workout sessions and enjoy the presence of their phone in close proximity. The tracker connects to the smartphone wirelessly hence enabling wrist-top kind of control of the functions in your phone functions like social media, texts, notifications, music and other fitness applications. Best for athletes who feel they need their smart devices close when working out.
Coded transmitter in HRM trackers: its function is to encrypt transmissions that come from a sensor on the chest-strap to the unit on the wrist and prevents any chances of crosstalk with other wireless HRM trackers.
Sport-specific HRM tracker features: These include features like speed for runners and for cyclists cadence feedback or counter for pool laps and/ or stroke recognition (swimming athletes).
Below are some of the frequently asked questions with regards to a good heart rate monitor. We have researched and looked at what others had for questions and concerns when searching for similar products.
Q. What kind of activity can I use a heart rate monitor for?
A. All heart rate monitors can be used by anyone who is involved in any sporting activity.
- Those involved in jogging and walking can just use the HRM as much as the elite athletes and be able to track their recreational workout session. Hence get maximum satisfaction from their workout.
- Runners, short and long distance, will need a HRM to make sure they reach their target zones during their training and keep the runner at the aerobic base when having easier workout sessions.
- Those involved in cycling can also keep track of their performance during tempo, endurance and the interval rides. regardless of where you are riding your bike: trail, road or on a stationary trainer like a treadmill. HRM for cyclists have some models that are able to offer feedback through a foot pod or the cadence sensor.
- Triathletes can also use the HRM, in their sessions. The best trackers for them are those that have features that are swim and cyclist related features. These features are like pace, number of strokes, type of strokes and the distance covered.
- Hikers, skiers and climbers are not left out either, using a HRM helps them to keep track of their condition when at a peak ascent.
- Athletes and individuals focusing on weight loss. The HRM not only offers effective dietary regime to these people but it also helps in their daily normal workout sessions. They show the amount of calories burnt in each workout and can assist in reaching the fitness goal with regards to fat burning. Its also used to determine the amount of mass and muscles you have been able to gain.
- Athletes dealing with injuries also find the HRM to be useful related to recovery time, this is not only for patients recuperating from cardiac related incidents. Data collected helps in making sure there is full recovery of strength and the amount of endurance is steady.
Q. What is a Heart Rate Monitor?
A. A heart rate monitor is a portable device typically worn either on the wrist, head, or across the chest. Finger sensors on certain fitness and cardio machines, such as treadmill or elliptical, can also measure your heart rate. These devices capture signals from your heart and display or record the rates.
Q. I am a beginner athlete and have never used a HRM before, is in important for me to keep track of the rate of my heart?
A. To some the question might be considered stupid, however if your intention is to have a more active training then monitoring your heart rate ,might not be that important. But if you are an athlete who would like to keep tabs on your average and normal heart rate then you could get one of this amazing sporting trackers. Something that is able to note your heart rate whenever you check your weight or sleeping, or just going through your daily activities in the office, home or gym. You can either go for the more advanced HRMs or the basic ones suitable for one’s general health (the type that monitors the pulse and counts).
The trackers offer general health advantages and benefits to the users, however where they really offer great dividends is during workout sessions and training. Keeping track of ones bpm during any training session or workout enables the athlete to ensure that he or she is working out at the ideal intensity hence be able to achieve their fitness goals.
The other advantage of adding an HRM as part of your training gear is that they help you in coming up and putting together a training schedule that is more goal oriented, offering the correction combination of training sessions with the correct amount of working out intensities. Especially useful for athletes who are recovering from injuries or preparing for a high-intensity sporting activity.
Q. What is the ideal budget for a good and reliable HRM?
A. Knowing your budget is very crucial when shopping for any sporting gear. From around $40 an athlete can get a basic reliable HRM that is worn around the chest. The basic HRM can be paired with one’s smartphones to ensure maximum efficiency in data collection and accuracy, you can get simple models like the Strava and the Endomondo. If you are ready to go deeper into your pocket, you can get a high-end HRM that goes to as high as $600. This type of HRM is top notch and has a range of high quality features like a GPS, a built-in OHR. The amount an athlete is willing to spend on an HRM should totally depend on the seriousness of the training one is involved in, the efficiency of the tracker and one’s fitness goals. More elite and advanced athletes will look for something that offers in-depth data accuracy and analysis. But for beginners or those involved in general fitness workouts will opt for something that is more pocket-friendly and keeps track of one’s progress. All in all, with a good budget you can get something that will definitely suit you and help you with your fitness goals.
Q. Which type of HRM should I purchase?
A. Buying an HRM is just like making any regular tech purchase, most buyers will be confused by the many models and fancy features that they don’t know how they function. Having some basic questions that will act as your guide will help a lot.
- Are you looking for something that will enhance your current fitness tools and compatible with other smart devices that you have (laptop or preferred smartphone)?
- Is the HRM compatible with the mobile app or fitness software and apps that you are currently using?
- Is this your first fitness device to get?
- Or are you starting with a clean slate?
- Do you value comfortability, accuracy, and convenience more compared to style and design?
- What’s your preferred battery life?
- What’s the duration of your normal training session, or what’s the intended sporting activity?
All these questions and factors are important before you start searching for your ideal HRM.
Q. How can I use a Heart Rate Monitor Before, During, And After My Workout?
A. Below is a simple guide on how to use your heart rate monitor before, during and after the workout.
Prior to the start of your workout, measure your resting heart rate. In order to effectively exercise, you must elevate your resting heart rate to your various zones: your target heart rate, maximum heart rate, and the levels in between.
Wear the heart rate monitor for the entirety of your workout. Notice how your heart rate fluctuates during different types and intensities of exercise. If possible, record your heart rates to use as a reference afterward. If you have a smartphone, there are many apps available that can record your heart rate while you exercise.
Following your workout, take a look at your active heart rate and compare it with your resting heart rate. Make a plan for your next workout to alternate zones and intensities.
Q. What Are the Benefits of Using a Heart Rate Monitor?
A. Heart rate monitors can make calculating your heart rate simple and often do not disrupt your workout. These devices also can centralize your heart rate information on the device and reduce the need to keep a log or journal. However, a heart rate monitor might not be ideal for everyone. Deciding to use one is a decision for you and your healthcare provider.
Q. How should I clean my HRM?
A. As always, it is important to consult any cleaning instructions provided with any equipment you have purchased. While you may be eager to wash a chest, head, arm, or wristband that has absorbed a lot of sweat, you should be cautious about immersing any part of your heart rate monitor unless you are absolutely certain it’s waterproof.
It’s important to note that even though HRM’s are important in all sporting activities, it’s not ideal for everyone. And it is highly advised for one to consult with their health provider if they plan on getting a heart rate monitor. This is because a medical professional can offer individualized heart rate information based on your medical history and fitness goals.
Here are some sources we used while conducting our research:
- Data vs. Feelings, Sporting Website, ,
- Who Has The Most Accurate Heart Rate Monitor?, Consumer Information, ,
- Top 10 Best Heart Rate Monitor Watches, Sporting Website, ,
- Best running watch for runners, triathletes, gym workouts and fitness, Sporting Website, ,
- The Best Heart Rate Monitors of 2017, Consumer Website, ,