The best heart rate monitor will really elevate our workouts, not only by quantifying our hard work but allowing us to track each step of progress towards our ultimate fitness goals. There are those who feel these aren’t too necessary — getting their exercise in and moving on is fine. However, there are many of us who also enjoy being able to see our hard work in numbers to keep that motivation up each and every day. Since technology continues to evolve, there have been many advancements in the heart rate monitor category since they first started to gain popularity. That’s why we wanted to find the top 10 best models for you to check out and help find the perfect solution for your individual needs.
Picking the best heart rate monitor
- Price-point – There’s definitely a bit of a range when it comes to the best heart rate monitors. We’ve seen some solid solutions priced at under $100, while those above will give you not only some more accuracy (for heart rate as well as calories and GPS) but additional bells and whistles as well.
- Type of monitor – There are 3 types of heart rate monitors we’ve seen dominate the category. The most popular solution as of now would have to be a heart rate watch — these give us not only accurate heart rate tracking (since it’s by your pulse on your wrist), but convenient access to features, a non-intrusiveness fit for exercising and more. The other types include a wrist-strap that aren’t accessible from the unit itself but rather sync with an app which you can control from there (some also store data within the unit and you’ll be able to access it later on your computer or phone), as well as a chest-strap that are a bit old-school but still a decent choice for those in need of a hidden monitor or you aren’t feeling the watch-like feel of the others. We included all types in here to give you options.
- Intended use – To our avail, many of the best heart rate monitors are versatile in terms of what type of exercise or activity you plan on tracking. The only reason we stick this in here towards the end of our checklist is because those who swim will want to grab a waterproof model, cyclists a solution with GPS (unless you don’t care for that), runners needing some distance tracking and so on.
- Extra features – As stated previously, the top-notch models are going to bring us some bells and whistles. Which additional features you’ll feel are worth the money will really depend on your needs. Some highlights of these include waterproof protection, calorie counting, included smart device app, phone syncing to text\answer calls, longer battery life, GPS, sleep monitoring, oxygen volume, music control and more. Which stand out to you?
The top 10 best heart rate monitors
Mio Alpha 2
We start with arguably one of the best heart rate monitors in the market today that will definitely cover the basics with no chest strap required. This device will track your steps, count your calories and calculate your distance with some great accuracy. After you connect the watch to your smart phone and download the app, their program called the ‘Personal Activity Intelligence‘ will formulate a personalized plan to maximize a health routine based on your individual info and needs. You won’t need your phone however to get your heart rate reading as it will tell you right on the watch. This is one of the best heart rate monitors in the market if you also love to swim because this device can resist 30 feet of water. In addition to being waterproof, the Alpha 2 has a pretty great battery life, lasting between 20-24 hours. This monitor is worn on your lower forearm and while its design may be less sleek than others, its adjustable ban will ensure a great fit and an accurate result for hardcore athletes who want to wear it all day. Check out the Mio Alpha 2 if you wanted a solid heart rate monitor watch that won’t weigh too heavy on the wallet.
Fitbit Charge 2
This is one of the best heart rate monitors in the world for the smart-device enthusiast. The Fit Bit Charge 2 is on point in keeping up with our rapidly changing technological world. Available in a variety of colors with interchangeable bands, this device has a sleek design with a modern looking, large display. It looks pretty elegant when worn (for a heart rate monitor at least) and the reasonably mid-priced tag adds on to the numerous capabilities it brings us. It firstly syncs through Bluetooth on your smart phone and records your activities through an app associated with the device. The app will track your activity including steps, movement, calories, sleep patterns and even has a built-in GPS for you to map your workouts. It gives you a personalized fitness plan and tips for improvement, designating your ‘Cardio Fitness Score‘ based on a number of health factors. Okay, so how smart is it? The Charge 2 can pick up on what exercise you’re doing without you programming it in (sometimes) and will motivate you to move when you haven’t in awhile. Also, when you’re at rest, the Fitbit Charge 2 is considerate enough to go into relax mode and help you with guided breathing. All this and it lets you know if you have a call, text or are late for a meeting — not too bad if you wanted these extra features and have a few more bucks saved up as opposed to our previous pick. The Verge’s Charge 2 review rated it pretty high.
Garmin Forerunner 235
Next we have another intelligent heart rate monitor watch. This is going to be one of the best heart rate monitors for the professional multi-tasker interested in a high-end solution. It is lightweight and its design is similar to a sports watch so you can easily get away with wearing it in a business meeting. Once you connect the app, you can interchange the screen displays and the large face makes it super easy to read. Priced on the higher side for heart rate monitors, this device will also alert you of emails, texts, phone calls, social media notifications and even tell you the weather outside. On top of that all, it is also equipped with GPS capability to accurately track your exercises and location. All of this, and of course, it does a great job doing what it is meant to do – track your activity and heart rate. It provides continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring (why not?), activity tracking and even gives estimates of the maximum volume of oxygen that you should be using. Like other devices, you can get a ‘Personalized Health Plan’ by connecting the device to your app. While you can’t swim with it, you’re okay to shower with the Garmin Forerunner 235 (although you should probably just take it off to be safe, but you can at least know you’re OK with splashes here and there outside or sweat) which makes it ones of the most versatile heart rate monitor watches out there.
Wahoo Tickr X
This is the best heart rate monitor for the money for those who may not want to work out with their phone, a watch or wear something on their wrist. The Tickr X straps comfortably around your chest and records your workout data with or without your phone. You can later sync it to your app to maximize the full potential of this device. It will give you about 16 hours of workout battery, easily one of the longest on the market. This monitor will record your distance; track your pace and heart rate, as well as your ground contact. It also has a double tap feature in which you can control your workout music and create laps if you are running. It will sync to its personal Wahoo app but also other workout apps as well. The mid-priced Wahoo Tickr X heart rate monitor strap has great utility mixed with a few special features making it a really competitive device for working out. This type of monitor isn’t as popular as watches or wrist-wearing solutions, but may be what you’re looking for if you didn’t want bells and whistles as well as a non-intrusive way of keeping your workout analyses on point.
This is one of the best-priced and budget-friendly heart monitors in the market today and the thousands of user reviews will help us back up the claim. If you’re looking for a no frills, basic heart monitor then this is the device for you. Polar is quite popular and has been since these devices came into popularity some-odd years ago. Like others, the FT1 design is similar to a sports watch and is not distractedly large or chunky. The screen display is also pretty big, making it easy to read your heart rate mid workout. It comes with a chest strap that will ensure that the device is picking up your heart rate and not those working out around you. The FT1 encourages you to pick up the pace by alerting you of when you are getting out of your target heart rate and its safe to use in the water as well. If you are looking to monitor your heart rate for health benefits and to maximize your workout, the Polar FT1 will certainly get the job done without breaking the bank and give you the essentials.
Fitbit Flex 2
Another one from the Fitbit family and recently announced, only this one is waterproof! This is one of the best heart rate monitors for swimmers who want to track distance and calories burned through the infamous Fitbit app. The app is pretty simple to use with a built-in community – some of your friends, like many of mine, may be using this too. Unlike other monitors, the Fitbit Flex 2 does not have a screen display, instead using lights and vibration technology to let you alert you when you are close to reaching your target goal or when you have to pick it up a little bit. One of the really cool things about this one is that you can interchange the bands and even connect the bands into bracelets and necklaces, making it a stylish option. The battery life is decent and this particular device will measure your steps, distance, calories and monitor your sleep. The Fitbit Flex 2 is a great monitor for swimmers and those looking for something a little more versatile in design. Tech Radar’s Flex 2 review has some more info on it.
Scosche Rhythm +
Next, we have the Scosche Rhythm +, which is one of the best heart rate monitors recommended for weight lifters as it’s an optical heartband monitor. Gone are the days of wearing your monitor around your chest for an accurate reading (especially lifting, since it isn’t as safe there). With this device, it fits snug around your upper arm, with a band that is both durable and comfortable at the same time. It’s compatible with most fitness apps and it does not come equipped with a screen display, rather collecting data and displaying it on your app, but the accuracy is on point especially for a lower-priced heart rate monitor. Like other monitors, it will measure your calories burned, monitor your pace and calculate your distance without much more pizzazz. The Scosche Rhythm+ offers 5-8 hours of battery life and while the design may not be that sleek or pretty per se, it’s a quality heart rate monitor for the serious exerciser who doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on their activity tracker.
Up next we have another one of the most popular Polar products in the market today. Here is another one that will strap onto your chest and link to your smart phone through Bluetooth. This low-priced device will definitely get the job done if you weren’t interested in a watch or wrist-wearing solution, with an app that is pretty self-explanatory and offers a program called Smart Coaching with an additional fee (provides some activity guidance, training programs, heart rate guidance and more). Once synced with the app, a user will be able to measure distance, calories (LiveStrong analyzed the accuracy of polar monitors), and heart rate with pretty solid accuracy. As you can see, it has a basic design that is black and has no display screen. The Polar H7 is comfortable and lightweight enough to not interfere with your work out and affordable to boot. It’s definitely going to be one of the best heart rate monitors for the money if it fits your needs.
The TomTom Spark is one of the best heart rate monitors out there if you’re looking for a reasonably priced device with some bells and whistles included. It’s definitely packed with some capability for the price to justify where it sits — highlights include 24/7 activity tracking, GPS, goal setting applications, sleep tracking, calories burned and a multi-sport mode. It also has a really sleek and sporty design that is fashionable enough to wear outside of working out. The screen display is modern and the font is large enough to see accurately. Again, like the standard nowadays, it syncs to an app that will allow you to monitor your activities long-term and set new goals for yourself. You can also sync this with other fitness apps. It comes with an interchangeable and adjustable strap making it a snug fit for a more accurate reading. The TomTom Spark boasts an activity tracking battery life of three weeks so get to steppin’!
Jabra Sports Pulse
So, here we have a truly unique ‘heart rate monitor’ (if you even want to call it that) – a combined pair of earbud headphones and heart rate tracker. We felt we’d include this last in case you made it this far without having a pick in mind or still being on the fence between a few. This is one of the best dual functioning heart rate monitors especially if you don’t want to wear extra equipment while working out. The earbuds will fit like a glove as they come with interchangeable earpieces that customize to fit your ear. It syncs to your cell or smart device so you can make phone calls and hook it up to the Jabra app. The Jabra app will give you basic information like heart rate (and avg. heart rate), distance, and pace. You can also use different apps with it and it boasts a 4.5-hour battery life. Since it’s relying on your ears for your heart rate, we wouldn’t expect 100% accuracy like those on your wrist or chest (near a pulse or literally your heart — although this is called the Pulse for a reason), but it can get the job done. The Jabra Sports Pulse is priced on the higher-end but don’t forget you’re getting dual functionality with this one, especially if you were looking for some headphones at the same time.