The use of a heart rate monitor is among the best ways you can get more information when you exercise or train, and those insights remain useful whether you are a serious athlete or novice runner.
The advancements in modern technology have led to the introduction of heart rate monitors that are increasingly gaining popularity due to several reasons – with fitness goals being the most common. Since the world is in a digital era, it is even more important to commit to an active lifestyle; and heart rate monitoring plays a major role in ensuring you achieve your fitness goals.
Heart rate monitors make it easy for you to track your progress, and they include useful features that will enhance your workouts. We will review 7 of the best in this article, and also give you some useful pointers to look for when selecting one for yourself.
Advantages of using a heart rate monitor
Before getting into the best monitors in the market, it is a worthwhile time to ask why these machines are advantageous in the first place.
Also known as HRMs, they are training tools that measure your heart rates and relay the information on electronic devices. They are popular among athletes as they help to maintain specific exertion levels for maximum benefits in their training programs, since they are similar to pacers that tell you when to pick up your efforts or when to slow down.
The fitness targets you set for yourself will vary according to multiple factors, including age, training goals, and fitness level – so an athlete will often operate from tailored training plans that also involve monitoring of their heart rates when they workout.
These lead to the advantages you get when using these machines in your workouts. They include:
- HRMs being a fantastic tool that gives you quick evaluation and indication of your cardiovascular condition, which is good information to share with your doctor when you go for a physical examination.
- They provide you with concrete data on the efforts you need to exert when accomplishing tasks in different conditions, which include fatigue, weather, outdoor and indoor workouts, when you are taking medication, and so on.
- They are indicators of your heart’s ability to ‘recover’ after specific exercises or intervals between workouts, which is an indication of the state of your cardiovascular system. Increased capacity and health of your cardiovascular system always shows up in form of reduced recovery times.
- The machines can act as your persona coaches, as they inform you if you need to increase your intensity or reduce it. This will give you a better idea of the efforts you need to accomplish something, as long as it is suitable for your fitness plan.
Best heart rate monitorsComparison table
Best heart rate monitors comparison overview
It is already challenging enough to remain fit and work out, especially in the times we are living in. Therefore, brands are indeed taking advantage of this to offer comfort in their products, and that also goes for heart rate monitors such as the Wahoo TICKR FIT heart rate armband.
It makes good use of the optical heart rate technology, which will allow you to know both your calorie burning and heart rate information. What makes it even better is the accuracy of the data it shows, as well as its comfort levels that make it much better compared to chest straps. Its design requires you to wear it on your forearm, which is a much better placement than strapping it around your chest. It also has an adjustable band, which will work for you even in the most demanding routines and workout sessions though it is difficult to adjust at times.
Aside from these aspects, it includes both ANT+ and Bluetooth technology, which act as its main selling point. Due to their use, you can easily pair it with several fitness apps and devices. Its exterior is also water-resistant to add to its durability, while the rechargeable battery has a lifespan of 30 hours.
- Rechargeable battery
- Comfortable to wear
- Effortless setup
- Supports Bluetooth and ANT+ technology
- Easily connects to multiple devices
- Challenging to adjust when you wear it
- Personalized Heart Rate Training – workout efficiently – track and capture real-time heart rate, training zones and calories burned on your smartphone or tablet...
- Integrated with Bluetooth and ANT+, TICKR connects to smartphones, tablets, GPS watches and bike computers by Wahoo, Polar, Garmin, Apple and more.
- Works with 50+ Smartphone Apps including Wahoo Fitness, Zwift, Runtastic, Runkeeper, UA Record, Endomondo, Peloton, Map My Run, Komoot and Nike Run Club
- Record workout data with the Wahoo Fitness app and automatically upload data to your favorite training platform like Strava.
If you regularly engage in sports such as swimming and cycling, or happen to be an athlete, then this premium choice is a great option for you. It uses flexible and light materials to reduce its overall weight, while its sensor is inside the strap width, with the round and soft seam edges protect it from damage. Additionally, its unique point is the use of accelerometers that measure 6 running dynamics metrics – they are vertical oscillation, vertical ratio, ground contact time, and ground contact time balance, cadence, and stride length.
The flexibility in design is mainly due to its bi-fold adjustment, which in turn reduces its weight and allows you to wear it when doing intense activities like swimming, cycling, and running. Its power comes from its replaceable CR2032 battery that lasts up to 10 months of regular use, while the monitor itself can store up to 20 hours of data for future analysis and reviews.
The device will pair conveniently to other Garmin devices as well, and will communicate with them wirelessly through a 2.4GHz ANT wireless communication protocol. It will allow you to share workout sessions as well as viewing advanced heart rate features and variability.
- It has plenty of swimming metrics that are highly detailed
- Will not subject your skin to chaffing so is comfortable to wear
- Lacks protection against pool chemicals
- COMPACT AND COMFORTABLE - HRM-Tri is the smallest and lightest heart rate monitor from Garmin. Designed with rounded edges and no exposed seams, the strap remains...
- SWIM HEART RATE1 - Stores up to 20 hours of heart rate data during swims, then forwards it to a compatible device at the end of the session. It also sends real-time...
- RUNNING DYNAMICS2 - Provides feedback on running form by measuring cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time when paired with a compatible device
- BATTERY LIFE - Lasts for 10 months (assuming 1 hour/day use) with user-replaceable CR2032 battery.
Unlike most of the other choices on this list, the Garmin HRM-Dual comes in 2 parts: the sensor and the strap. The strap contains an in-built heart rate monitor that transmits this information to the sensor. The sensor hosts the battery that is secured by small screws. The only drawback is the battery being non-rechargeable, so you can only replace it once it runs out – though it has a long lifespan of 3 years.
It can connect to a variety of devices, which include bike computers, fitness trackers, and apps through 2.4 GHz ANT+ and Bluetooth 5.0. Additionally, it is easy to connect it to other Garmin devices.
The monitor has an IPX7 rating, which means it is water resistant and allows you to use it in multiple weather conditions while keeping track of your fitness. You can also wash the strap (both through machine washing and hand washing). Note though that increasing the monitor’s efficiency and accuracy will require you to maintain a maximum distance of 3 feet between the skin and the straps – any distance longer than that, and the device will have lower chances of accuracy.
- Stores data fro up to 20 hours
- Lightweight and small design
- Can track advanced metrics for running
- Tends to slide when ends to slide when you use it during swimming sessions
- Real-time transmission in water is lacking
- HRM dual features a soft strap that is comfortable and adjustable
- Simply remove the heart rate module, and it’s washable, too
- Don’t worry about running out of juice
- The battery lasts for up to 3.5 years
This heart monitor features optical sensor technology that helps in accurate measurement and monitoring of your heart rate, and acts as its main selling point. The result of using this is a more efficient method of monitoring your workout intensity and progress. It will also keep track of calories burned, distance, pacing, and much more.
Even when wearing the band for hours at a time, its breathable neoprene armband remains comfortable on your skin. The good news is that you can find it in various sizes as well as colors, and it works well with plenty of popular third-party fitness apps, and any ANT+ and Bluetooth devices.
- Good pricing
- You can use it without a chest strap
- Supports both Bluetooth and ANT+ devices
- Lacks real-time heart rate feedback
- Not Orange Theory Compatible - Heart Rate Monitor Armband Featuring a Large and Small Black Strap. Bonus Pack Includes One Additional Free Orange Armband
- RHYTHM+ works with most popular health and fitness apps, including: digifit, run keeper, mapmyfitness, Strava, and more. Not compatible with Orange Theory Fitness...
- Works with all Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ enabled devices and equipment: watches, fitness equipment, smartphones, and tablets Breathable lightweight Armband - no need...
- Ip67 waterproof construction can be submerged up to 1 meter
If you happen to be a data junkie and enjoy your workout sessions, this monitor is a great option for you thanks to its inbuilt accelerometer and fitness tracker that tracks 6 metrics for you. The key to maximizing its use is to own a Garmin device that is compatible with its use.
It has a very flexible and soft strap, similar to other high-quality straps. The inner strap lining has a thin, rubber-like plastic, while a stretchy nylon fabric covers the rest of the strap. Note that this material is not machine-washable, and the manufacturer recommends a quick wipe down alongside hand-washing using a mild detergent after every seven runs.
- Chest module is very lightweight
- Turns on and off automatically, depending on your activity level
- The soft padding on its pod is pleasant to touch
- Long battery life
- Availability in numerous colors
- Some users may find the strap shoddy in its quality
- Quite pricey
- Off button has an awkward placement
- HRM-Run provides 6 different rynning dynamics metrics: cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, stride length and vertical...
- The strap is comfortable and easily adjustable
- Real-time data can help athletes take their performance to the next level by showing them where they can improve their running form
- Model number: 010-10997-12
It is not surprising to find POLAR here on the list, as it is well-respected among fitness enthusiasts. This heart rate monitor does not disappoint either, as it features ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an update in the design that makes it stand out instantly.
The major plus to its design is the improvement in electrodes that result in more accurate heart rate data alongside a comfortable, soft material. The use of silicone keeps it in place while you wear it and prevents slippage. The other is its waterproof nature, permitting you to use it even underwater when you go for swimming sessions.
It is easy to use this monitor alongside other fitness apps, Bluetooth devices, and gym equipment. It has its compatibility with your favorite smart watches as well, including Garmin, Apple, Polar, and many more. The built-in memory allows for data storage, though we do not like the limitations it has – it only stores data from a single session.
- Its strap is very soft on the skin
- Compatible with most sports watches and smart watches
- Works well alongside most popular third-party apps
- Elimination of interference thanks to the use of premium electrodes
- The buckle and silicon dots ensure it remains in place at all times
- The companion app has a bloated user interface
- It only stores data from one exercise session
- BUILT-IN MEMORY: Heart rate monitor stores 1 heart rate training session. Perfect for sports and activities where a wrist unit would be difficult to use.
- GoPro COMPATIBLE: Pair your H10 Polar heart rate sensor directly to the GoPro Hero 5 compatibility camera and overlay your heart rate data onto the recorded video.
- UPDATEABLE FIRMWARE: Heart rate monitor contains firmware updates that enhance the functionality.
- ENHANCED BATTERY LIFE: 400 hours of operation time on a user replaceable battery. Operating temperature - 10 °C to +50 °C / 14 °F to 122 °F
If you require a functional heart rate monitor that comes at an affordable cost, this is probably the best option to choose – and it also currently stands among the best monitors in the market today.
It does not carry any major surprises with its functioning and looks, as it only comes with an adjustable chest strap and a small clip-on transmitter. As long as you secure it correctly below your chest muscles, it will remain comfortable and will not budge.
Just behind the transmitter, you will find the battery that has a lifespan of 1 month – on the condition that you disconnect it from the strap when you are not using the monitor. Its design is waterproof though you will need to wear it under a swimsuit to avoid slipping as much as possible. Its reliability in transmission of accurate data is due to its use of an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor instead of a light-based sensor you find in other monitors, so it will deliver continuous data streams.
- Comfortable and lightweight
- Very good companion app
- Accurate readings at all times
- Works well with third-party apps and smartphones
- Some issues with durability
- Does not use Bluetooth, only ANT+
- Not machine washable
- HEART RATE MONITOR: Provides live, accurate heart rate to compatible mobile training apps through Bluetooth Smart technology
- FITNESS TRACKER: Waterproof heart rate sensor, Compatible with iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (5th generation), iPad (3rd and 4th generation), iPad mini and iPod...
- STRONG BATTERY LIFE: For optimal battery life, detach transmitter from chest strap after every use
- ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: Gym Link connects Polar heart rate monitors and activity trackers with compatible gym equipment
Best tips to use when buying a heart rate monitor
Heart rate monitors can come in many types, as more devices acquire the capability of storing your information and are equipped with sensors to capture your workout information in real time. Therefore, this can make searching for one to be a challenging process, especially when you have little idea of what to search for.
Because these gadgets are meant to enhance your efforts at achieving a healthy lifestyle, they will use more technology and science in their basis of functionality – so you need to consider slightly different criteria from other fitness products. These features include:
Whether you want an optical or chest strap monitor
Heart rate monitors are of 2 main types – those that use optical technology, and the classic chest straps. Optical technology HRMs mostly come in the form of FitBit devices and most wrist-based trackers, while chest strap monitors read your heart rates through electrical pulses.
Your choice will depend on your preferences and the types of exercise you engage in frequently. In many cases, it is advisable to buy a chest strap unit, since their use of electrical pulses is a more reliable method than the optical unit.
How comfortable the strap is
Among the reasons why people may be put off by HRMs, especially the chest strap types, is that they are uncomfortable to wear when you are working out. If the strap is not made from high-quality material, it can easily chafe your skin, while those that are too loose will slide down while you work out and make you uncomfortable.
Additionally, a reason why they can be unpopular is because you cannot get visual feedback in real time from them like you would when using an optical HRM. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, so go for one that makes you comfortable.
If the tracker is compatible with Bluetooth or ANT+ technology
Many modern HRMs will use ANT+ technology, similar to many sporting equipment in use today. This system is more common compared to the Bluetooth system, though it is not common in smartphones and mobile devices.
As a general rule, HRMs that use Bluetooth are easier to connect to other devices and use, compared to those that use ANT+. If user friendliness is a priority for you, then consider getting a tracker that has a Bluetooth option.
With the knowledge of whether the unit uses Bluetooth, ANT+, or both, the connectivity comes up as a major consideration. You need to know whether the HRM allows for connectivity to different devices, whether it can recognize older devices, and how long it stores the data from your workouts.
The connection in versatility is important, since it will allow you to pair the machine with many devices like your smartphone, computer, laptop, or tablet. Depending on your use of the unit, take the time to study all the manufacturer information to make a decision you are comfortable with.
The precision levels that a HRM will give you are essential to its operation, and the main way to ascertain this is through checking several user reviews from different platforms. You can also do so by checking the manufacturer’s website under the specifications section.
Keep in mind that every HRM aims to function in the same way, but the only difference is that some manufacturers will add some versatility by including its measurement of a variety of metrics. These can include pacing, distance, calorie intake, and so on.
Choosing a good heart rate monitor depends on your own fitness goals and workout preferences, so not all trackers will fit that. It is important to take some time and figure out what to look for because of this, and the tips we have outlined should help you make a decision you will be happy with while improving your own fitness.
Last update on 2021-04-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API