Best Heart Rate Monitors

Updated August 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

111 Models Considered
41 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
152 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best heart rate monitors

Last Updated August 2019

The more data you have, the better you can discern which is the most effective approach to a task. When exercising, you monitor your heart rate because, among other information, it reveals whether you are burning fat or just calories. If you are serious about getting the most out of your workouts, you need a heart rate monitor.

The best heart rate monitor has a chest strap to more accurately track your heart rate and a wrist strap so you can see the data in real time. It also connects to an app so you can save and later evaluate the fitness data collected during your workouts. Because of its ease of use, however, many people are satisfied with having just a wrist monitor and an app.

We've listed several exceptional heart rate monitors. If you're ready to buy, consider one of our options. If you would like more information on how a heart rate monitor can make you a healthier individual, keep reading.

Some monitors include an alarm to indicate you’ve exceeded your target heart rate and should slow down.

Basic heart rate monitor function

A heart rate monitor tracks your heart rate and other information related to how hard your body works during exercise.

Such data enables you to determine whether you’re working out in an heart rate zone safe for your body, while also reaching an effort level that boosts your fitness.

When exercising, your heart rate determines whether you’ve reached the optimal effort level.

As the HR monitor provides feedback regarding your heart rate, you understand whether you’re working too fast, too slow, or just right.

Features

Customers report that the Fitbit Blaze 2 feels so natural to wear, they often forget they have it on their wrist. It offers multiple wrist band options and bevels, allowing them to find the right mix between style and functionality. A strong battery life of 3-5 days makes the Blaze 2 easy to use. You don’t have to worry about charging this wrist HR monitor every day. The large display screen gives it a chunky feel. However, the screen shows a lot of information during your workouts, allowing you to track your performance carefully. The Blaze 2 also offers a variety of alerts for things like text messages, clock alarms, and phone calls, when connected with your smartphone. However, you also have the option of turning off these alerts.

Basic heart rate monitor design

Two primary types of heart rate monitor designs exist: chest straps and wrist units. Some models use only one device, while others require pairing of the two designs.

Wrist unit alone

Nearly all modern HR monitors use a wrist unit that fits like a wristwatch. With some designs, this wrist unit measures pulse, steps, and other fitness data.

Most people prefer a wrist unit alone because of its simple design. You just put on the wristwatch-like device and begin exercising. However, some people find inaccurate readings with wrist units alone.

Most newer wrist units include a display screen to provide constant and immediate feedback. Some older models have no screen, however.

EXPERT TIP

If your heart rate monitor’s wrist sensor or chest sensor don’t measure your pulse properly, dampen the skin slightly before applying the sensor.


Staff  | BestReviews

Chest strap alone

Some HR monitors use a simple chest strap with sensors that connect wirelessly to a smartphone app or a computer. Chest strap HR monitors have existed for several years.

However, you won’t have immediate feedback while working out with a chest strap alone, as the unit has no display screen.

Additionally, some people dislike the chest strap because it’s uncomfortable to wear.

Ease of Wearing

When seeking a heart rate monitor you can wear all of the time, the Timex Personal Trainer provides all the style you need. It definitely provides the high level of product quality expected from a well known brand such as Timex. The HR monitor includes a very clear screen and easy-to-use buttons. Additionally, the Timex is comfortable ⸺ it weighs less than most wrist monitors. To ensure the Timex Personal Trainer heart rate monitor works properly, you have to wear a chest strap. The strap is a simple, elasticated band, with no clip nor fastening latch. You slip the band over your head or step into it. Some users dislike wearing the chest strap, mentioning that it simply isn’t comfortable.

Chest strap with wrist unit

Some heart rate monitor designs use a combination of two sensors that communicate with each other.

The wrist unit makes a wireless connection with the chest strap. The chest strap’s sensors fit just over the person’s heart, allowing for an accurate heart rate measurement.

DID YOU KNOW?

If the wrist sensor and chest sensor sit more than 24-30 inches apart, the wireless signal may weaken.

Paired with smartphone apps or software

Most HR monitors send the data they collect to a smartphone app.

Inside the app, you’ll find the stored information helps you keep track of your fitness levels. Studying the app’s data keeps you moving toward your fitness goals over time.

Other heart rate monitors make a wired connection to a computer or tablet to share the data.

Characteristics

The Garmin Vivofit also comes with a chest strap, but it’s optional. You can use the Vivofit without the heart rate monitor function by not wearing the chest strap. In this mode, the Vivofit becomes a fitness monitor that works independently of the strap. For those seeking water resistance in a heart rate monitor, the Garmin Vivofit fits the bill. Feel free to wear this monitor while swimming or while in the shower. The chest strap is flexible plastic in front and adjustable fabric in the back; some customers have reported problems with chafing of the skin. The Vivofit’s wrist unit is slender, attractive, and available in six color options. The wrist unit snaps closed. However, some owners dislike the snapping function, reporting difficulty in attaching it quickly.

Heart rate monitor data tracking

When shopping for heart rate monitors, think about the type of exercise you want to track. Different HR monitors offer strengths in different areas. Some of the types of fitness data the HR monitors measure include the following. (Most of these features only appear with wrist units.)

Calorie burning

The HR monitor may estimate how many calories you’ve burned during exercise. It uses data such as your current weight, the length of your workout, and the intensity of your workout to calculate this number.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

If you have health concerns, check with a doctor to determine the best way to use the heart rate monitor.

Recovery time

Some HR monitors will measure the amount of time your heart needs to go from the target rate to a resting rate after exercising. This measurement indicates your fitness level.

Lap or split times

Wrist HR monitors provide the ability to measure your split times, helpful for maintaining a steady pace during aerobic workouts. Additionally, some HR monitors provide audible lap counting to aid your workout.

Appearance

The Mio Alpha Sports Watch provides heart rate measurement with the watch alone. This unit requires no chest strap to achieve a heart rate measurement. Because the Mio sports watch contains no chest strap, you need to find a model that fits your wrist tightly enough for accurate measurements. It includes an extremely large digital display, which gives this HR monitor a chunky look. You choose from two wrist band sizes with the Mio Alpha sports watch. Three different color options appear in this model through accents for the bezel. Customers report the soft silicone in the Mio Alpha sports watch that contacts the skin provides a comfortable feel. However, some of the watch’s buttons may be tough to operate.

Distance measurement

Some heart rate monitors measure distance based on the number of steps you take. Others include a GPS unit that precisely measures distance traveled in a workout. For swimmers, look for an HR monitor that specifically provides distance measurements in the water.

Speed monitor

Although most heart rate monitors measure the strength of your workout based on your heart rate, others measure your actual speed. Such monitors work best for runners or cyclists.

EXPERT TIP

Make sure the wristband sits tightly over your lower wrist to guarantee the most accurate heart rate readings.


Staff  | BestReviews

Stopwatch

Like a digital watch, an HR monitor often includes a stopwatch. This allows you to measure your aerobic exercise time.

Target heart rate

You may set the monitor to sound alarms when you exceed or fall below your target heart rate. Some HR monitors only store one target heart rate at a time; others may store several. This allows you to select the target to match your current workout.

Usage

The Polar FT7 requires users to wear a chest strap for monitoring the heart rate. Most customers report liking the feel of the chest strap that ships with this device. Because the chest strap offers a soft, flexible material, it yields a comfortable fit in all types of exercise. Should the FT7’s chest strap become soiled from sweat, you can wash it. The display screen on the FT7 provides plenty of information. Some users report that the display’s information actually confuses them, as too much appears on the screen at one time. It provides plenty of data,  making numerous calculations about your fitness level based on your age. Such data helps you maximize the efficiency of your workouts.

Tips

  • Most heart rate monitors use rechargeable batteries. However, some use watch size batteries that need replacement occasionally.

  • Most HR monitors aren’t waterproof. If you want to swim with a heart rate monitor, select one rated to work in water.

  • To clean a heart rate monitor’s screen and sensors, gently wipe them with a soft cloth. For stubborn stains, slightly dampen the cloth first.

  • To clean the wrist strap or chest band of an HR monitor, use warm, soapy water. Air dry the straps away from sunlight.

Those who are already fit and healthy should use a maximum target heart rate higher than those just starting an exercise program.

FAQ

Q. How do I know when I’m in my target heart rate zone?

A. As a general rule, the target heart rate works as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. When just starting an exercise program, try to stay at about 70% of your maximum heart rate. With a standard aerobic workout, look to work at about 80% of the maximum heart rate. For specific speed and power workouts, aim for about 90% of maximum heart rate. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns over your health or fitness level, and it’s always good to consult a personal trainer when designing your exercise regimen and goals.

Q. Do heart rate monitors work better for a particular type of exercise?

A. Some models of HR monitors offer data tracking aimed at certain types of exercise. For example, you need a water resistant or waterproof monitor for use during swimming. Some HR monitors work better for cycling than running. Other HR monitors offer a full range of measurements, allowing them to have success in multiple exercise arenas.

The team that worked on this review
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Vukan
    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey