Best Heart Rate Monitors Reviewed For Wellness Tracking Capabilities
In a fitness market saturated with toys touted as fitness tools, products like heart rate monitors truly stand out. These tools most often come in one of two forms, either a wrist wearable or a chest strap that can be worn over a shirt or directly against the skin. Each version has its benefits and its drawbacks but the information they provide is invaluable for anyone seeking to improve their fitness, manage a medical condition, or get to know the natural rhythms of their body. Monitors have largely been popularized as tools from the realm of the ultra-dedicated, but just about anyone can benefit from their use and the better the monitor is, the easier it is to use.
- Fitbit Charge 2
- Provides Guided Exercise
- Highly Versatile
- Polar FT7
- Chest Band Included
- Offers Calorie Tracking
- Zacurate 500BL
- Medical Grade
- Suitable for Athletes
It is hard to say which heart rate monitor is the best overall, though this list certainly tries. Accuracy and durability were the two most important factors taken into account in the creation of this list. Versatility and portability were close behind, and a product’s appearance was considered last. Many of these products are daily wearables and, for that reason, need to have a certain aesthetic so that they will not be too obvious when worn from day to day. Without accuracy and durability, however, the products would be useless. Every product on this list met or exceeded the expectation of quality on every one of these criteria so that consumers can find the best heart rate monitor to fit their needs.
10 Best Heart Rate Monitors
1. Fitbit Charge 2
These products are ideal for those that are serious about fitness or are managing heart-related conditions. Both of these demographics are also the type of people to need fairly frequent exercise. This is usually where people hit roadblocks, unfortunately. It can be hard to come up with an exercise routine that feels useful and can fit into a busy schedule. Fitbit takes a lot of the stress out of the task by preprogramming the Charge 2 with several workouts as well as the ability to guide wearers through the routines.
The Charge 2 is more than just a heart rate monitor. It provides real-time tracking for things like activity levels. It also displays notifications from a connected smartphone which lets the user stay connected even when they are at the gym or on a run. This versatility packs extra value into the product's cost and gives the buyer a lot more usability for their investment.
Cost and Value
This is one of the most expensive product on this list but, given Fitbit's reputation, the price is actually fairly reasonable. Some of the prices can be attributed to Fitbit's brand name, but it can also be explained by the device's usability and versatility as well as the unit's sleek and discreet design. Some users have reported that the device will shift during rapid movements and intense fitness routines which may throw off the heart rate readings, but this issue may not impact users who are partaking in more static or less intense fitness styles.
Provides Guided Exercise
2. Polar FT7
Counting calories is often on the most tedious parts about losing weight. It takes more time than most people have to track exactly how much they eat of each thing and then calculate the calories for the portion they ate. That number then must be compared to the number of calories burned in a day and most people don't even know where to begin with that. Products like the FT7, however, simplify the process by taking on about half the work. This wearable not only tracks heart rates but also tracks the number of calories burned throughout a day. Users can then use the number to make sure that they are eating enough to ensure proper bodily functions.
Chest Band Included
The company is quick to point out that the device reads heart rates best when strapped to a user's chest. They include a chest strap for just this purpose, as well as instructions on how to convert a wrist-wearable into a chest-mounted tracker. Few products on this list, or on the market in general, are quite this versatile in terms of how they track their information.
Cost and Value
Polar's products aren't cheap, but they don't skimp on the quality or usability. The worst thing that most people could find to say about it is that the batteries drain fast. On the flip side of that, they are rechargeable and the device comes with a charging cable so that users can keep their device running smoothly. The true value of this product lies in its unique versatility as well as its ability to tell a user what intensity level their workouts are really getting to so that the user can make any adjustments necessary to get the most from their workouts.
Offers Calorie Tracking
Chest Band Included
Tracks if Workouts are Fat Burning or Fitness Focused
Drains Batteries Fast
3. Zacurate 500BL
While all of the products on this list can be used to manage medical conditions, Zacurate is the specifically-noted medical-grade device. This is the term used by Zacurate themselves to describe their product and is apparently reflected in the monitor's quality and longevity. It is also allegedly reflected in the accuracy of the readings which is the true mark of quality among these devices.
Suitable for Athletes
This product might be medical-grade but it is also suitable for athletes. It cannot provide constant real-time updates on an athlete's heart rate but it can give them a reading right before and right after a workout so that users can determine how effective their workout has been.
Cost and Value
This is the most affordable product on this list. It is wildly less expensive than wearable trackers likely due to the intermittent nature of the information it can give. There is still a large amount of value in this product, however. There are a lot of consumers who do not want constant monitoring and, with this device, they can take their vitals when and where they want to without always being recorded.
Suitable for Athletes
Accomodates a Wide Range of Ages
4. Garmin Standard
This feature might not seem all that impressive in today's world of Bluetooth-enabled products for nearly any use. Traditionally, however, chest monitors were not wireless. They had to be plugged in at certain points which would then, in turn, limit the wearer's range of motion. It's still not advisable to take this product swimming, but nearly any other type of exercise can be performed by someone wearing ad Garmin wireless monitor.
Two Band Styles
Chest monitors typically come with either a very soft band that can wrap around the wearer or they come with a very hard band. Garmin seems to understand that each band has its use and, as such, including both with the purchase of this monitor. Users can choose whichever band best fits their needs or switch them out when one needs to be cleaned.
Cost and Value
This is certainly one of the more affordable products on this list. It doesn't have any usability beyond monitoring the user's heart rate and recording it, and the batteries can be a little bit spotty. But the accuracy of the information more than makes up for these two shortcomings. It also helps that this chest monitor can be worn almost anywhere and through almost any type of exercise without slipping and ruining the information it is supposed to be tracking.
Two Band Types Available
Tracks and Records Heart Rate During Exercise
Batteries are Spotty
5. Innovo Deluxe Fingertip Unit
Although most people will be looking at this device because of its accuracy when measuring a person's heart rate, some people will find its blood oxygen level data even more interesting. Blood oxygen level doesn't sound all that important on its surface but this balance affects a person's ability to breathe as well as the health of cells and organs throughout the body.
Ensures Readings Are Accurate
Accuracy is of the utmost importance when tracking a person's heart rate, especially if it is being monitored for medical reasons. All of the products on this list promise accuracy but Innovo's model is the only product on this list that has a built-in quality control system. This system ensures that the results are accurate before delivering them to the user so that there are less stress and guesswork for those who may already be under stress.
Cost and Value
This device is almost double the price of the Zacurate model, but it also has a built-in quality control system that will more than justify the cost to some users. The ability to track blood oxygen level is another feature that will draw in key buyers, giving the Innovo deluxe model a leg up on their competitors and a fair amount of value on the dollar.
Checks to Assure Readings are Taken Properly
Checks Blood Oxygen Too
Small Finger Slot
6. Polar H10
Few fitness trackers can stand a dip in the pool and even fewer heart rate monitors are built to go for a swim. The H10 is unique in that it is rated for water workouts. And although it does best with a wetsuit worn over the top to keep it tight against the wearer's skin, the point remains that swimming with it is possible and that in and of itself is a hard trait to find.
Polar tends to make their monitors discreet but the H10 is low-profile even by their standards. This allows it to rest comfortably beneath a wearer's bathing suit without impeding their range of motion. This, in turn, leads to a more accurate reading because the wearer does not have to slow down or alter their routine to accommodate the monitor the way they would if it were bulkier.
Cost and Value
This monitor is offered at several prices, the lowest of which is on-point with the previous offering from Polar. The higher prices are more than double the cost of the FT7 but it is important to remember that this device can be taken into the pool while most other monitors and trackers cannot. Users must also use a specific app to view and process the data collected by the monitor which might be a deal breaker for some users. Overall it is a great option for swimmers or people who participate in triathlons in which they must swim, but it may be overpriced for anyone who strictly stays on dry land.
Suitable for swimming
400 Hour Battery Life
Requires Secondary Device
7. Letsfit Fitness Tracker
A GPS connection might seem a little silly to some people but for other people, like runners, it is incredibly helpful. It is also ideal for anyone who travels on foot for any length of time as it will track where you have gone and let you see how long each segment of a journey took you. This information can then be applied to travel expenses or to a person's activity total for a given day.
Tracks Sleep Quality Data
People who track their heart rate are likely to need other vitals tracked, regardless of their reason for tracking their heart rate. This device also tracks a person's sleep quality which is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Letsfit's tracker can pinpoint nights when a person sleeps well and nights where they don't so that the user can see what sort of behaviors lead to better sleep and what sort of behaviors will leave them awake all night long.
Cost and Value
Letsfit is not a company that has built themselves on milking their customers. Their trackers might require a specific app where the user can see the information their device has been collecting, but that is the worst that can be said about them. And given that they are one of the most affordable pieces of equipment on this list, that is impressive! Its price tag could probably fit most budgets which makes it ideal for families or for people just starting out in the world of tracking their vital signs.
Multiple Sports Modes
Sleep Quality Data Available
Requires a Specific App
8. Willful Fitness Tracker
Most wearables, whether on this list or not, are so sensitive to water that they cannot be caught under a running faucet without risking permanent ruin. Willful's tracker can't be taken into the pool for a swim but it can easily withstand the water that hits it when the user washes their hands or gets caught in heavy rain. This is more than most of their competitors can say and it really gives the device an added boost of value to an already low price.
When Willful says that their device is USB-charged, they don't mean that a USB connection cable will be needed for the device to take a chare. They mean that that device can be plugged directly unto a USB port and be charged that way instead. It reduces the number of cables a person might have laying around and allows people on busy schedules to go about their day with the confidence that their tracker isn't down for the count just because they forgot its charger at home.
Cost and Value
It's hard to overstate the value of this wearable. It can withstand the water involved in washing a person's hands, it can be charged in any USB port without a cord, and it is one of the most affordable products on this list. It has a discreet profile and sleek design as well as a range of colored cases to choose from. It cannot be taken swimming and only tracks sleep during certain hours overnight which will be a problem for those who work at night. But for the day-working dry-land fitness fan, this is an excellent and affordable product.
Waterproof for Hand Washing
USB Charged, No Cable Needed
Not Rated for Swimming
Only Tracks Sleep During Certain Hours
9. Garmin HRM-Tri
People who are dedicated enough to invest in a chest-mounted heart rate monitor are not likely to care if it makes their shirt lay funny or something like that. They will, however, care very much if a device impedes their range of motion or ability to move as fast and as aggressively as they please. Low-profile trackers like this one are more likely to stay in place while also staying out of the way so that the user can exercise exactly how they would without a monitor on and still get accurate readings at the end of their workout.
Rate for Swimming
There's no real need to explain why electronic devices so rarely go into the water. It is difficult to make a case that still allows users to access the internal components of their device should something break without leaving some gap for water to get in. Cases that strike this balance often cost a fair amount but Garmin seems to have found the sweet spot between waterproofing their devices and offering them at relatively competitive prices.
Cost and Value
Chest-mounted monitors do not come cheap and Garmin's falls right in the middle of this style's price range. That being said, the cost is more than justified, particularly if the buyer is a swimmer. They might have to wear a wetsuit, but it is hard to find a wearable that can go into the water and help them keep their workouts on track, so the investment is definitely worth it.
Rated for Swimming
10-Month Battery Life at 1 Hour Per Day
Water Workouts Should Use Wetsuits
10. Scosche RHYTHM+
Most devices produced today come equipped with Bluetooth. It is the main way that products seek to keep people connected without holding them back with cables and cords that can get tangled or lost. Scosche's armband is one such Bluetooth device and, as long as the product's app is up and running on the user's phone, they will receive all the information they need on the device they choose to connect to this armband.
Waterproof Up to 1 Meter
This device is waterproof up to 1 meter which means that users can keep the band on when sweating or wash their hands as well as when they splash themselves to stay cool. It should not be worn in the pool or shower, however. While that may be a deal breaker for some, others will find its heightened ability to withstand water a bonus when the device needs to be hand-washed.
Cost and Value
Scosche's product falls at the same price point as most of the chest-mounted monitors on this list. It seems to do the same quality of work with a smaller and more discreet amount of space. The app it uses must absolutely be up and running while it is in use or it won't transmit the data properly, but that is the only real drawback that users seem to find with this product.
Compatible with ANT+ Watches
Compatible with Smart Bluetooth Devices
Waterproof Up to 1 Meter
Connected App Must Stay Running While Band is In Use
A person’s heart rate is often promoted as one of the best ways to determine if a fitness routine is effective. This is due to the way a person’s body will adapt to the work it’s put through and the heart will strengthen accordingly which leads the body to require less energy – which in this case means “fat burning potential” – to complete the activity it’s being put through. Most people looking at monitors will find this information invaluable but the specific benefits to these products extend further than most realize. An increased heart rate can indicate a chronic health issue or a developing seasonal illness. Most monitors allow the wearer to get a baseline heart rate first thing in the morning so that they can pinpoint stressors throughout the day that they might not otherwise notice. A whole new world of health management and self-care opens up to those who remain aware of their own heart rate.
Criteria For Evaluating The Best Heart Rate Monitors
When a product cannot fulfill its basic function, there is little reason to buy it. This is especially true for fitness aides and products that are intended to help people monitor their own health. Faulty monitors could lead to bad results, faulty workouts and, more dangerously, incorrect medical treatment. These products were rated according to accuracy and all of them outstripped unlisted competitors in the same comparison. Despite this, it is important to note that a healthcare professional should always be consulted when using a device like this as they are the only ones qualified to inform or affect fitness and treatment.
Wearables see a lot of wear and tear over the course of their lifetime. Some wearables, such as chest band monitors, see that wear in small doses. Others, like wrist-based wearables, see a lot more of it and they see it more frequently. It can lead to a product’s lifespan being shorter than intended but that does not mean that the lifespan should be short. This is the exact reason that durability was the second criteria on which these products were rated. Whether the exact durability consideration applied to the strength of a chest band or the likelihood that a wristwatch’s band would snap, these products are meant to last under the strain of fitness-related use.
Although these products are intended to primarily monitor the user’s heart, many of them are designed to offer other services. Multi-functional devices were given more consideration than single-use devices for the simple reason that they offer more for the consumer’s money. They also give the user a wider window into the effects of fitness and health changes which allows them to make more informed decisions when planning further changes.
Shape and Profile
Whether they are intended for short-term use or long-term wear, every product on this list was evaluated based on its basic shape and the thickness of the casing that holds the actual monitor. The shape of a device is more important for daily wearables because odd shapes will draw attention to the device and most users don’t want to be too obvious about the fact that they’re tracking health factors like heart rate and activity level. The thickness of the casing is relevant regardless of the monitor types. Thicker cases have a higher likelihood of being knocked out of place which will interrupt the measurements and potentially render them useless. Slimmer devices were favored over bulkier ones to give users more range of motion and less risk of false readings.
Color and Style
These two criteria points were given the least weight but they were still taken into consideration for those wearables that would be seeing daily use. Limited colors and odd styles are likely to clash with most wardrobes and make the device unusable for wearers who must have their device in a professional setting or who do not want people to know how closely they are monitoring their vitals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I wear these monitors while swimming?
A: Some of them, yes. Most of them are not rated for use in water, however. Products rated for swimming are marked as such in the “Pros” column.
Q: Do these monitors touch the skin or cause allergic contact reactions?
A: Some do but most do not cause allergic reactions, even for people who may be sensitive to nickel. It is best to directly contact a company to ask rather than take it on faith, however, especially if the allergy is severe.
Q: Can I return any of these products if they don’t work?
A: Most of the companies have their own return policies and certain aggregate-seller websites offer buyer protection.
Q: What do I do if my heart rate doesn’t go up during a workout anymore?
A: Most trainers agree that the best option in these situations is to try a new kind of exercise or to increase the intensity of the current exercise style.
Q: How do I clean a non-waterproof monitor?
A: These products can be spot-cleaned with a lightly dampened washcloth or towel. They should not be submerged or soaked, however.
Q: Can I change the bands or straps on these monitors?
A: For the most part, yes. Some of the products even come with a second band or wrist strap so that the user can choose which they prefer. A few have “static bands” however an cannot be changed.
Q: Do these products run on batteries or are they rechargeable?
A: It varies from product to product. Those that can recharge often have a USB adaptor to make it easy while other products have long-lasting batteries.