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
- Scosche Rhythm+
- Fitbit Charge 2
- Suunto Smart Belt
- MIO Link
- Wahoo TICKR X
- Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor & Fitness Tracker
- Polar RCX3 Heart Rate Monitor
- TomTom Runner GPS Watch+Heart Rate Monitor
- Garmin HRM TRI
- Moov HR
- Polar FT1
- Polar H10
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Running Heart Rate Monitors
1. 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
The Forerunner boasts full GPS tracking technology, a water resistant body and, most importantly, the amazingly detailed/useful Garmin Connect software. The real kicker though is that the Forerunner measures your resting heart rate and records data for all day use. Therefor it’s the perfect companion for fitness freaks who want to know every stat about their body.
2. Scosche Rhythm+
- 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
The Scosche Rhythm+ is a great HR monitor for those who enjoy using a variety of fitness tracker apps and don’t want to bother with a chest strap monitor. The armband is lightweight and breathable and easy to wear. With Ip67 waterproof construction, it is ultra-resistant against sweat and submergible up to 1 meter. It has bluetooth and ANT+ capabilities, accurately measuring speed, distance, pace, and heart rate. When fully charged the monitor can last up to 8 hours, but may be harder to charge when on the go. Because of this and the bright display, it may also be more difficult to use for those who want to use it to track a sleeping heart rate.
3. 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
The Fitbit Charge 2 is a fantastic fit in the Fitbit wristband line. It is compatible with most fitness tracking apps or you can use the Fitbit fitness app that provides a customizable runner profile where you can track your activity, log your meals, and plan your workouts. The OLED display allows you to receive call, text, and calendar alerts as well as see your readings in real-time. The wristband itself is interchangeable so you can personalize your style and fit. The battery life is impressive and means you can use your Fitbit all day and then wear it at night to track your sleep and wake with a silent alarm.
4. 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
The Suunto Smart Belt’s claim to fame is being the smallest and lightest heart rate monitor in the world. Once you see it you’ll understand why. Its mini sized display is tiny to say the least. One hundred percent waterproof, it’s a great option for triathletes although, unfortunately, it does not send information in real time. This monitor can be worn as a belt or independently when combined with Movesense compatible sports apparel. Don’t be deceived by the size, this is a high-quality heart rate monitor.
5. MIO Link
- 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
The MIO Link is a wristband heart monitor that offers a convenient alternative to chest band monitors. It has a durable but flexible band in three different unique colors that fits with a secure double tang closure. The Bluetooth compatibility means you can use GPS, connect to bike computers, and use a variety of fitness tracker apps including the MIO Link specific fitness app. There is no screen display so you can’t see your readings without your phone, but it does have LED lights that correspond with the 5 different workout zones available. It is water-resistant so you don’t have to worry about sweat while you’re tracking your heart rate, speed, and pace.
6. 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
The Wahoo Fitness Tickr X is a high-performance follow-up to the original Wahoo heart rate monitor. Although slightly more expensive, it has many more features than is definitely worth the investment. With Bluetooth and ANT+ capabilities, it pairs with over 50 different fitness tracking apps and has 3rd party app compatibility. Wahoo also has its own app that can count reps for you and provide a personalized running profile. The IPX7 waterproof construction means the monitor is submergible up to 5ft and is sweat resistant. The chest band design isn’t as convenient as an armband, but the internal memory means you can leave your smartphone behind and keep all your readings for later.
7. 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
- Accurate readings unless battery is low
With over 4,000 (majority positive) reviews on Amazon, a great monitor to start with is the Polar H7. This heart rate monitor provides live data feedback to compatible Bluetooth fitness tracker apps. The H7 includes a comfortable chest strap made from soft fabric and a waterproof heart rate sensor. Polar Gym Link connects with compatible gym equipment for indoor exercise time. Athletes can also program the monitor to count calories burned.
8. Polar RCX3 Heart Rate Monitor
Good for training purposes in monitoring pace over time
Tracks routes, speed, and distance
Offers immediate feedback
Set personal heart rate zone goals
Comes with a user sensor manual
Some issues with GPS connectivity
The Polar RCX3 Heart Rate Monitor comes with a watch and an external heart rate monitor. The device offers immediate data feedback when your exercise session is complete. Runners can set their own workout zones for optimal heart rate monitoring and training. The GPS tracks your distance, speed, and route.
9. TomTom Runner GPS Watch+Heart Rate Monitor
External Heart Rate strap for more accurate readings
Sync, track, and share data with Bluetooth connection
Short battery life
Storage fills quickly
Only usefull for running and treadmills
TomTom is a company that empowers movement. Whether it's a GPS for your car or your wrist, TomTom will accurately log where and how far you've traveled. The TomTom GPS + Heart Rate Monitor Watch takes your fitness to a higher level while keeping track of data and heart rate. Data tracking includes: time, distance, pace, calories burned, and location. The watch is lightweight and comfortable with easy-to-use one button control. Pair the watch with an external heart rate monitor for increased tracking. Then sync with TomTom MySports or one of many other Bluetooth wireless fitness tracking apps. Simply recharge with the included USB charging cable.
10. 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
This monitor was originally made for use with triathletes. Now it has become a great tool for everyday runners and athletes as well. It is the lightest and smallest of the Garmin collection monitors. Having comfortable and easily adjustable straps makes this monitor highly likable. It has a nice memory storage enough to keep your info intact while in water and displays it once out. It supports the variability of the heart and gives the dynamics of the running session. It has a long battery life of up to 10 months when the training per day is approximately an hour. It also has the ability to connect to your wireless devices.
11. Moov HR
- 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
The Moov HR is a head band heart rate monitor that receives a lot of praise. While the band itself isn’t the most absorbent in terms of athletic wear, the rig as a whole is waterproof. The headband does wear comfortably and, most importantly, is extremely accurate. The Moov HR’s users also had a lot of positive feedback about the app that the headband is designed to work with, that its coach that speaks directly to you, providing you with helpful and motivational advice. If you are looking for a praiseworthy alternative to a chest or wrist band, then the Moov HR is an excellent choice.
12. Polar FT1
- Low price
- Easy to use
- Good for beginners
- Compatiable with a lot of equipment
- Chest strap comfortable and flexiable
- Issues with battery life/ replaceability
- One button system can be difficult to manage
- Limited memory
- Varied results with accuracy
The Polar FT1 heart rate monitor is made for the athlete who isn’t looking for anything too complicated, someone who appreciates more simplistic technology. Made with a 1 button system that, while some have a bit of difficultly getting the hang of it, most call it easy and intuitive. The FT1 is also compatible with a lot of exercise equipment, providing accurate readings from anything it syncs up with. The one major drawback from an otherwise durable and accessible HRM is the battery can only be replaced by company technicians. Other than that issue, the FT1 is a solid and reliable heart rate monitor.
13. Polar H10
- 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
The Polar H10 is the heart rate monitor for the runner looking for consistent performance. The H10 has multiple apps you can access to help track your heart rate with noteworthy accuracy, although one of them requires to pay to access all its features. The H10 may not have the best battery life, but it allows for easy access to it’s battery case so this is an easily corrected issue. This HRM wears comfortably and is designed not to slip, which is good for an active runner. The H10 has its flaws but overall it is a reliable heart rate monitor.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When trying to pin down ways to improve your workout through fitness tracking, accuracy is key.
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.
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.
Advanced features and options can really make or break the value of any heart rate monitor.
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).
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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