Best Heart Rate Monitor Wristbands and Chest Straps Reviewed
The heart is a tricky thing- and we aren’t talking about love. If you run or workout because you want to improve your cardiovascular health, knowing how your heart is doing is half the battle. Don’t think of it as how many times that it beats, but consider it a speedometer for how fast is it pumping blood through your body.
Using the best heart rate monitor you can find will give you an indication of how you are doing outside of the gym, but it is also going to tell you your numbers while you are running, as well as how fast it recovers once you head for the showers. In this guide, you will find some of our favorite picks for heart rate monitors so that you can keep track of one of the most important muscles in your body.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 5 hrs of research
Easy USB charge
Record keeping app
10 Top Rated Heart Rate Monitors
Easy USB charge
Record keeping app
This design from Lintelek the best heart rate monitor for us because it provides users with a simple and slim design that isn’t going to get in the way of your training, and it has an easy to read interface that isn’t muddled with unnecessary information so that you can quickly check your progress just as easily on mile 15 as you did mile 1.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this heart rate monitor is it’s long and sleek face. User will simply need to attach this device to their wrist like a traditional watchband, and leave it there. You can even wear it while you sleep, and it will keep tabs on your sleep quality as well, and has a vibrating alarm so you can get up for those 4 AM runs without waking your partner.
Another thing that we really liked is that there is also an app that will keep all of your information- your pulse, steps, alarm settings, and sleep patterns organized for easy access in a well-designed interface.
For those that are looking for something that is going to be easy to use, and records (and stores) all of your internal activity morning, noon, and night, this design from Lintelek is going to be one of your best options in our opinion.
2. Polar H10
400 hour battery
No user interface
Clunky app design
Some users simply prefer chest strap options, because they feel that it gets a more accurate reading because it is closer to the source. This heart rate monitor from Polar straps right onto your upper chest so that you can wear it under your shirt, and it connects to the app to provide you live readings right on your phone.Read more
This heart rate monitor uses a comfortable canvas strap that is going to stay securely in place, no matter how sweaty your workout makes you. It will be able to easily pair to most smartphones, so that you can keep it open and get a live and accurate reading of your pulse.
Due to the fact that this design doesn’t have a screen or any other additional features that could drain the battery, you are going to be able to use this multiple times before you are going to have to give it a charge. In fact, it can be used for an impressive 400 hours before it needs a charge.
If you are looking for something that is a little more discreet that you can store in your gym bag without the need to constantly charge it, this unit from Polar is going to be an excellent choice for your training.
Easy to clean
Long connection time
CooSpo offers another chest strap design that is going to give you incredibly accurate readings, while being slim, comfortable, and discreet. Users really like the app that is included, and pairing it with your phone is as easy as syncing any Bluetooth enabled device.Read more
The thick canvas strap is considered to be very comfortable, and it won’t slip around in the middle of an intense plyometric training session or running on the treadmill. One of the best parts about this design is that the plastic tracker is able to be removed so that you can toss the strap into the washing machine for a quick cleaning.
While it does come with an easy to read app to provide you with live readings, CooSpo suggests to get the most out of their heart rate monitor that you sync it with the preinstalled heart rate monitor apps on your phone to easily track and compare your various numbers.
For those that want accurate readings straight from the source, this design from CooSpo is a great choice. It is comfortable, easy to use (and clean), and users report that the readings are spot on.
4. Scosche Rhythm+
Many color choices
Limited battery life
What we liked most about this armband fitness heart rate monitor from Scosche is that it has a very basic arm design that is able to track quite a few helpful numbers. Plus, because it doesn’t have a screen on the device itself means that the battery is going to be able to run for quite some time before needing to be charged.Read more
This little arm band is going to be able to not only to give you a spot on reading of your pulse, but it can also track distance traveled, calories burned, as well as your pace. While you will have the option of keeping track on their designed app, you can also use some of your favorite apps such as DigFit or MapMyFitness to keep all of your information in one place.
The battery life is just a little more limited that what one would expect with a screenless design, and offers users about 8 hours of continued use. This means that after you pack it up and head home for the day, you may need to pop this unit on the charger before you head out the next day.
What we found about this heart rate monitor from Scosche is that it provides users with very accurate readings as well as it’s consistency even with extended use. The band is comfortable and most users even forget that it is there. One of the few downsides is that the battery life is just a little more limited than some of the other options.
Limited battery life
Garmin is a trusted brand that really needs no introduction. They are one of the leading companies in the realm of wearable tech, and this design is the perfect marriage of both comfort and reliability. This option is worn across your chest to provide incredibly accurate readings through the duration of your workout.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this option is that it is incredibly thin and lightweight. It weighs in at just .35 pounds, and it has a much thinner strap than some of the other chest designs that we have seen, which means you may not even notice that it is there after a while.
Users will need to sync this device with the Garmin Fit app that they can download onto their phone. While we did find that it is also compatible with other health apps such as Wahoo, we found that users had the most luck by sticking with the Garmin branded apps.
If you are looking for something that is small and comfortable that comes from one of the most trusted brands in the world of wearable tech, this option from Garmin is going to be one of your better choices.
6. Willful Fitness
Long battery life
If you are looking for something that is a little bit more fun and stylish than some of the other wrist designs that we have seen, this option from Willful Fitness is going to be a great choice. Not only does it come in a lot of fun colors, but it has an easy to read interface, and can track a lot more than many of the standard options.Read more
Users can select from a lot of fun colors that include neon green, gray, and red, Each design has a band that has a black top and a pop of color on the underside. The screen is very slim and can provide you live readings of your pulse, as well as the time, date, and step counter.
One great thing that we noticed about this design was that it has an incredibly powerful battery. With one charge, it will be able to provide users with about 7 days of continued use, and when it comes time to give it a charge, you can simply plug it into any USB compatible outlet.
Users really like this design because it is able to store all of their important fitness information in their favorite running app, or your can download their design called VeryFitPro from the Apple Store or Google Play.
7. Wahoo TICKR FIT
Excellent battery life
Easy to use
No colors offered
Not water resistant
The Wahoo TICKR FIT is a great option if you want something that is going to be simple and easy to use, and won’t get in the way of your most intense workouts. It fits on your upper arm so that it is going to be out of the way, and will send living readings straight to your preferred fitness app on your phone.Read more
The materials used for this heart rate monitor is made from a lightweight and breathable canvas that has a series of holes in it that is going to keep it light and comfortable, as well as being incredibly breathable so that you won’t even notice that it is there. The downside to this model is that it is only offered in black with no other color options available.
There is a blue light along the side that will indicate if it is property connected to your smartphone, so you won’t have to worry about missed recorded workouts because the bluetooth dropped without you knowing it. One charge is going to be able to last an impressive 30 hours of continued use, and to charge it back up you will simple need to plug it into a USB outlet.
With the help of your favorite health app (or the TICKR app offered in most app stores) you will have the power to monitor your pulse, and it will also be able to track how many calories that you burned throughout the day.
8. STAGES CYCLING
900 hour battery
Easy to clean
This heart rate monitor chest strap from STAGES CYCLING is going to give you incredibly accurate readings that pairs to your phone via bluetooth, and users can track their progress using one of their favorite health apps such as MapMyFitness.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this heart rate monitor chest strap is that it can run for an insane 900 hours on battery. The downside to this model, however, is that it does not use rechargeable batteries. Once the cr2 batteries die, they are going to need to be replaced. However, a little research shows that cr2 batteries are common and inexpensive, and they are something that you can pick up at your local drugstore.
Cleaning this device is also incredibly easy. Due to the fact that the band is made from canvas, it can get pretty ripe, even after one workout session. To get it ready for your next cycling session, simply remove the battery-powered pod and toss the strap into the washing machine, and then let it air dry (to prevent warping or shrinking).
We liked this heart rate monitor chest strap because it provides users with very accurate readings, and it is comfortable and discreet enough to wear under your workout clothes. Plus, one pack of batteries will last you up to 900 hours! That means you can wear is continuously for just over 37 days before you need to buy new batteries!
9. Polar FT7
Easy to use
Long battery life
Non rechargeable batteries
In the world of pulse tracking - this heart rate monitor wristband is the Cadillac of all designs. It comes in a lot of interesting designs that stands out from the rest, and while it has a wrist strap, it also utilizes a chest strap so you get the accuracy of a chest model with all of the convenience of a wristband.Read more
To use this heart rate monitor chest strap, simply strap the chest strap across your chest, and you will be able to get live and incredibly accurate feedback on your wrist while you are working out. This also offers users an indicator of where their pulse should be, and offers warnings if their numbers are getting a little too high (which will then allow you to lower your intensity a bit to accomodate the needs of your body).
One of the downsides to this model is that it runs off of lithium batteries that do not appear to be included with purchase. While there is no indication on the brand description just how long these batteries are going to last you, the word from previous users is that they will last you quite a long time before they need to be replaced.
We selected this design because it marries two preferred features that you often don’t find in one device- a chest strap for accurate readings, and a stylish wristband to have quick access to your progress without fumbling with your phone.
Easy to pair
Large watch face
Non rechargeable batteries
Doesn’t link to phone
The EZON option is another design that marries accuracy with function. This heart rate monitor chest strap comes with a slim chest strap for spot on readings, and the paired wrist band makes it easy to keep tabs on your progress at a glance. It may not have the design features as some of the other designs, but it really shines when it comes to how it is going to improve your workouts.Read more
The way this heart rate monitor works is that users will have to strap on the chest band to their chest, and the wristband to their arm and sync them together. The chest band will send information to your watch- such as your pulse rate and calories burned during your workout.
One thing that we noticed about this design is that instead of being water resistant- it’s waterproof. That means that you can wear this device to track your pulse when you are engaged in some soggy conditions, and you can even wear it in the shower. The only place that you cannot wear this device is while diving.
We liked this option because it provides users with an incredibly accurate reading that they will be able to gauge using a wrist watch with a large face and easy to read numbers. The only downside to this design is that doesn’t use rechargeable batteries (but claims that one set of batteries will last users about a year).
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Not only is this going to be something that you wear while working out, it is probably going to be something that you will wear all day.
That’s why we wanted to make sure that we select heart rate monitors that offered users a wide range of styles and colors that they could select from. We noticed that designs that offered a more functional approach and that did not offer many additional features or an LCD screen only came in a basic black design. When it comes to chest strap options, color isn’t really something that is going to matter because it is worn under your t-shirt.
For basic discreet designs, black is actually a better choice because it is less likely to show dirt and stains. As far as wrist designs were concerned, we wanted to select options that offered fun colors or interesting faces that were made to look like a real heart rate monitor watch. Plus, bigger faces mean that you are going to have an easier time reading the numbers on the face, even when you are at the end of a particularly long set or trail run.
The size of the face is also something that we took into consideration. Some of the more advanced options that offer things like alarms and sleep monitors are going to need to display a lot of information on the face, but you don’t want to be sleeping in something that is big and bulky. That’s why we tried to stick to very slim and lightweight designs for the brands that offered features that would encourage the user to wear it all day and all night.
How well it is able to dictate how quickly (or slowly) your blood is pumping through your body is one of the most important things that we looked at.
During our research, we discovered that there are generally two different designs out there on the market that serve the same function, but have very distinct advantages and disadvantages. Before you make your final selection, you are going to need to determine which style is going to be better for your needs.
Chest mounted design: This design has a sensor that is going to be placed directly at the epicenter to give you incredibly accurate readings. Due to the fact that it is placed so closely to the source, it means that the readings are going to be far more accurate than those placed on the arm or wrist. Plus, the readings are not going to change even in cold weather. Often, devices that become cold tend to slow down a bit, and this slow down is the result of unreliable readings. Chest mounted devices, on the other hand, are placed under your clothing and on your torso (which doesn’t lose as much heat as your limbs) which means it is going to work just as well running down the sidewalk in 10 degree weather as it would at the gym in July. It may get an A+ as far as accuracy is concerned, but it does come up a little shy in the comfort and accessibility department, which we will discuss just a little later.
Arm/Wrist mounted design: These options are going to have sensors that are placed near big veins in your body, and they will detect when blood passes through. This method is going to be just a little less accurate because it is not measuring the exactly moment that the muscle contracts, but it is measuring the moment that blood pulses through that particular place in your body. This doesn’t mean that measurement is going to be wildly off, because the rhythm and speed for which it travels is going to be about the same, but you may notice some inconsistencies from time to time. Another downside to this design is that if you are running in colder climates, these inconsistencies are going to become a bit more pronounced. Keep in mind that these devices function off of a battery, and when batteries get cold, they tend to slow down a bit (we can relate to that!). Due to the fact that these units are worn on your arm that is not as protected from heat loss as your torso, you may experience quite a few problems in colder climates.
We know that your intense workouts can be grueling, and the last thing we want is for you to be slowed down by uncomfortable gear.
The materials that are used to make these heart rate monitors make up part of the equation for a comfortable fit, but the overall design and placement of the product is going to make up the second part. Materials such as canvas are going to be one of your best options, because it is going to feel comfortable against the skin as it is also going to be easy to care for. You will see canvas a lot in the chest mounted options. For wristbands, you will be able to get away with using canvas, rubber, and even some softer plastic materials without sacrificing comfort. We have broken down the potential comfort levels and pitfalls in some of the more popular styles.
Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap: The chest mounted option is exactly as it sounds. It has a belt that is typically made from a lightweight and easy material such as canvas that will feel great against your skin and generally won’t slip around- even when things get sweaty. Plus, most designs have a pod that unclips so that you can toss your funky sweaty strap into the washing machine before you head back to the gym. Just be sure that you skip the dryer and let it air dry so that it doesn’t shrink or become warped. Users typically find these to be very comfortable, and because they fit up under your shirt, you may even forget that it is there. The only downside to these options is that they are going to be a little bit more difficult to gain access to if they happen slip around or shift from their designated position. Plus, they won’t have the interactive face that will allow you to check your numbers easily- you typically have to access an app on your phone if you are interested in a live readout.
Heart Rate Monitor Wristbands and Armbands: As we mentioned earlier, you can get away with a material that isn’t as comfortable when you are wearing it on your wrist. These styles are typically made from materials that include canvas, plastic, and sometimes even rubber. The plastic and rubber options aren’t going to be are breathable, but because they have such a narrow design on a smaller part of your body, it doesn’t seem to bother most users. As we discussed earlier, these options aren’t going to be as accurate as chest mounted options, but they are going to be far more comfortable, as well as convenient. Most styles have a face on them that will allow users to track their live numbers by simply looking down at their wrist or arm.
Sure, keeping an eye on your pulse is important, but who doesn’t like a gadget that will keep track of other important information as well?
We were drawn to heart rate monitors that had a few more functions to make your life just a little bit easier. Here is a list of some of our favorite advanced features that make some designs really stand out from the rest of the pack:
Calorie counter: No, this isn’t going to be able to count how many calories that you eat throughout the day (but we are anxiously awaiting for that product to be invented!). Calorie counters are able to give you a ballpark idea of just how many calories that you burned during your workout, and some even include the basic steps that you too throughout the day. This means that if you blacked out and ate three donuts in the breakroom, you will have a tool on hand to tell you how close you are to burning off those magnificat jelly donuts.
Alarm: There is nothing better than setting an alarm hours before the world wakes up to get in a great morning run to set the tone for your day. While it may be great for you, the members of your household that were woken up at 4 in the morning to your alarm may beg to differ. We discovered that some of these designs that affix to your wrist have a gentle buzzing alarm that will wake you up without alerting the entire neighborhood.
Sleep tracker: If you are looking to improve your running times or how much you can lift- a lot depends upon two things: diet and sleep. If you noticed that your numbers are starting to slip, but you diet is spot on, you might not be getting the restful night sleep that you think that you are. The sleep tracker option in many of the wrist options will be able to provide you with a detailed sleep chart of how many times you tossed and turned throughout the night so that you can work on fixing the problems that are keeping you up at night.
Pedometer: Another great tool that will ensure that you are getting around and moving as much as you can is a good pedometer. We found that most wrist options come with a standard pedometer that uses motion control so that you will also be able to track just how much you walked throughout the day.
Some of us just aren’t a disciplined to make sure that we charge all of our gadgets at the end of the day (because keeping active can be exhausting!) so we wanted to ensure that we selected designs that were going to offer a pretty long battery life.
From our research, there were two categories that these devices fell into: rechargable, and those that required new batteries. While you may instinctively be inclined to flock to rechargeable units, you may be surprised at the benefits of those that need replaceable batteries. We have compiled a list of some of the downsides and benefits of both options.
Rechargable: Of course, this is going to be the easiest option because it means you are never going to have to make the trek to the drug store to hunt down a very specific type of battery. However, from what we have found from these options, the battery life is not as long as you would hope. Now, there are some impressive models out there that are able to hold a continuous charge for up to 7 days before you need to hunt down a USB charger, but they are the norm. Most of the standard options out there will only hold a charge for up to 8 hours before you need to pop them on the charger.
Non-rechargeable: Now, hear us out. It may seem like the last thing you want to do is volunteer for a life where you have to keep a drawer full of backup batteries for your devices, but the benefits of these designs may make you change your mind. Many of these options have a battery life that can last up to a year, and chest mounted options can offer users up to 900 hours of use before you will need to even think about changing the batteries! Plus, from what we found through our research, most of the batteries aren’t going to be all that difficult to track down, and will more than likely be available at your local drug store.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Coming up short here and there isn't going to be a matter of life and death, but if you are a stickler for the details, some designs are more accurate than others. If you want a design that is close to clinical as possible, you are going to want to select a chest mounted design. This option is right at the epicenter of where the action is, and because it is mounted on your torso, it means that is won't suffer when exposed to cold temperatures.
To keep this gear from suffering the fate of being cast into the gear graveyard at the bottom of your gym bag, comfort is going to be an important thing to consider. For wrist designs, the materials used isn't going to be that much of an issue because it will occupy such a small space on your body. For chest mounted options, canvas is the way to go. This material is going to be light and comfortable against your skin, and because it is slightly breathable, it means it won't shift around as much.
If you are looking for something to wear all day long, opting for a design that has more than one feature will help you keep better tabs on your health. Selecting a design that also serves as a pedometer as well as a sleep tracker is going to be a great tool for helping you identify possible issues with your BPM.
Other Factors to Consider
Before you take the plunge, be sure to take into consideration what you are looking for. Some heart rate monitors are made to be worn only when you work out, so that you can gauge how hard you work and if you need to push yourself more (or less). These designs aren't going to work as well if you are looking for an overall picture for cardiovascular health, because they aren't really designed to be worn when you are resting.
If you want something that is going to give you an overall picture, you will need to select a design that is meant to be worn all day long. Wrist options are going to be your best bet in this instance, because it takes snapshots of your resting BPM as well as your active BPM so that you will be able to make adjustments as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why do I need to wear a heart rate monitor?
Diagnostics systems in the human body is a little bit primitive. The only tool that we have built int to our body to detect when something is amiss is sense of feeling unwell. Not feeling well can have a myriad of reasons- it could be from overtraining, it could be from leading a sedentary lifestyle, or it could be from the 4 margaritas that you had with dinner the night before. Most athletes that are training to improve their performance by strengthening their muscles often overlook the singular muscle that is responsible for pumping blood to all of their other muscles. Using one of these devices will be able to tell you when it is pumping blood just a little too fast (and force you to loosen the reigns a bit). Plus, it can help you to play a more active role in reaching that ideal pulse of less than 60 BPM.
q: What kind of readings should I be looking for?
When you aren’t engaged in a physical activity, the consensus seems to be that 60 BPM is the ultimate vision of good health. Of course, anything below 60 is going to be even better, because it means that you body will not need to work as hard to deliver blood to your muscles when you are resting. When you are working out- either at the gym or out on the trails, it’s good that your pulse increases, but make sure that it isn’t by too much. There are a few charts that you can reference online that will tell you what the ideal BPM will be for your age. When you are working out, you are going to have to perform a little bit of math to find your max BPM. Basically, you would need to subtract your age from 220. So, if you are 35 years old, your max BPM is going to clock in around 185. When you are working out and feel that your pulse is pounding, be sure to check in to ensure that it isn’t going over your designated limit. If you notice that you have eclipsed your max- it is an easy fix! Simply slow down a bit to get back into your safe range. The beauty of these devices is that you have the information that you need to ensure that your workouts are always going to be safe.
q: Which heart rate monitor is better- chest or arm mounted?
The answer to this question is a little bit tricky, and can boil down to a matter of personal preference. If you place your fingers on your wrist, that pounding you feel is the sound of of blood as it pumps though a larger vein. If you then place your hand on your chest, you are feeling the reflex of the actual muscle. The pulse on your wrist and neck is somewhat of an echo of what is coming from the home muscle. This means that readings that come from your chest are going to be slightly more accurate than those that come from your wrist. However, when you are out there on the trails a reading that is just slightly off is not going to be a matter of life and death. Some users prefer to wear designs on their wrist or arms because they find that they are far more comfortable than the chest designs. Hardcore athletes tend to gravitate to the chest mounted designs.
q: What are some benefits to wearing a chest mounted option?
They may seem uncomfortable and awkward compared to simple wristbands, but they are incredibly more useful and accurate than many of the other designs. One of the big reasons that users may flock to these design is they they are going to work better in cold climates. If you are going for a jog in the middle of winter, the surface of your skin is going to be incredibly cold, and this could affect your reading a great deal. When a device is mounted on your chest and under your clothes, it isn’t going to get as cold as one that is on your arm, and therefore you are going to get a reliable reading. Another reason chest options are preferred is they they are generally discreet. You can wear them under your clothing and completely forget that you are even wearing it after a while.
q: How does a heart rate monitor work?
If you glance at the underside of these devices, there is typically a lightsource that comes from the part against your skin. Electrical signals are transmitted with every beat inside of your body, and these devices are designed to detect each electrical signal. Once that signal is detected, it sends that information to a transmitter (your wristband) or directly to your phone where it then compiles the information so that you can gain a clear picture of your health.