Your heart rate is an essential metric when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle and improving your fitness training. Thankfully, tracking your heart rate is pretty easy, as most activity trackers and smartwatches come with a built-in heart rate monitor. This offers a very convenient way to measure your heart rate quickly, though no wrist-worn tracker will ever be perfectly accurate (read this post to find out why). Fortunately, there are also dedicated chest straps for heart rate monitoring if you’re looking for something a little more accurate.
But with so many different heart rate sensors on the market, which one should you buy? We’re here to help! We’ve rounded up the best heart rate monitors in products like chest straps, running watches, and fitness trackers.
Best heart rate monitors and watches (in no particular order):
Editor’s note: We will add to this list as newer heart rate monitors become available.
Best running watches with a heart rate monitor
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a great GPS running watch, and it has a stellar heart rate sensor. It comes with the third-generation Garmin Elevate sensor, the same one found in the new Garmin Forerunner 945, but with a much lower price tag.
A great heart rate sensor isn’t the only thing this watch offers. The Forerunner 245 Music also offers accurate GPS and sleep tracking, a handful of advanced running features, onboard music storage, Garmin Coach training plans, and a battery that’ll last up to seven days.
If you’re looking for an excellent mid-range GPS running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is probably your best option.
Garmin Forerunner 945
The Garmin Forerunner 945 is an expensive piece of kit for those serious about running. It offers all the metrics you could be looking for in a running watch, from VO2 max, to altitude, to recovery time, and more. You’ll be able to set adjustments based on environmental heat, and you’ll feel safer thanks to incident detection that can call for help if you should fall. With up to two weeks of battery and a plethora of smartwatch features, this device has it all. And of course it also happens to be an extremely accurate heart rate monitor that can also be worn with a separate chest strap.
In his review, Jimmy called the Garmin Venu one of the best multisport watches available to buy right now. That’s down to the accurate and comprehensive tracking, combined some cool new features like the “breathwork” mode that can help you to relax and focus. It can track respiration rate, estimate sweat loss, account for elevation and temperature and more. None of that would mean anything if the heart rate monitor wasn’t spot on. Thankfully, it’s great!
This all comes in an attractive package that actually looks like a watch, with a nice big AMOLED display.
The Fitbit Ionic has been around for a while now, but it’s still a great option if you’re looking for a heart rate monitor watch with a good selection of metrics for runners. This device nicely balances the smartwatch and fitness tracker capabilities, while also bringing a powerful heart rate monitor to the party.
If you like Fitbit and you want a smartwatch with a heart rate monitor, this is a decent package overall.
Polar Vantage V and M
The Polar Vantage V and M are excellent multisport watches that pack in a lot of Polar’s best features, such as “Training Load Pro” which estimates the strain your training is placing on your body, and over 130 sports profiles. The V is the fully featured version, whereas the M is a little more affordable and requires an external sensor for some of its fanciest tricks. For example, only the V will offer the “Running Power” metric directly from the wrist.
Best fitness trackers with a heart rate monitor
Garmin Vivosmart 4
If you’re looking for a fitness tracker that is primarily a fitness tracker, the Vivosmart 4 is a strong contender indeed. It may lack GPS (though it does have connected GPS), and the looks aren’t much to write home about, but everything else is present and correct. That includes the always impressive Elevate heart rate sensor found in Garmin devices, along with a pulse ox sensor, and 5ATM water resistance. Data from these sensors is collated in useful ways too, providing advanced sleep metrics, a VO2 max estimate, and a helpful Body Battery score.
Fitbit Charge 3
Fitbit’s Charge 3 is one of the best fitness trackers you can buy for under $150. Its classy, versatile design means it’ll look good in the office and at the gym. It’s also water resistant, and has one of the more accurate wrist-based heart rate sensors we’ve tried on a wearable.
Elsewhere, the Fitbit Charge 3 offers a great software experience, plenty of smartwatch features, and a battery that can last almost a week on a single charge.
If you don’t need GPS, the Fitbit Charge 3 is a great option.
Best heart rate monitor chest straps
Coming in at just under $90, the best heart rate monitor chest strap you can buy right now is the Polar H10.
Polar has made a name for itself by producing high-quality, accurate heart rate sensors, so it should come as no surprise that the H10 is at the very top of our list. The H10 uses an entirely new algorithm from previous Polar monitors, and the included Polar Pro strap has been updated as well. It includes extra “interference-preventing electrodes” to help make sure heart rate data is accurately captured. It also sports a new buckle mechanism and silicon dots that will help keep it in place when you’re working out.
The H10 also offers quite a few new improvements over its predecessor, the H7. The H10 is now able to receive over-the-air software updates, features enough built-in memory for one training session, and up to 400 hours of battery life.
Wahoo Tickr X
The Wahoo Tickr X tracks your heart rate (duh), calories burned, reps, running analytics, and much more. It also has quite a bit more on-board storage capacity than the Polar H10. You’ll be able to store up to 16 hours of fitness data on this monitor and sync back up with your phone at a later time. The Tickr X can connect to most smartphones, GPS watches, and bike computers, as it also comes equipped with Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ dual-band technology.
It’s waterproof and sweatproof, though it’s worth noting it won’t track your heart rate while you’re in the water.
My one main complaint about the Tickr X isn’t actually with the device itself; rather, the applications it pairs with. The RunFit and Wahoo Fitness apps seem a little outdated and lacking in features at this point (no social features, for instance), though they do handle the basics pretty well. Now, the Tickr X is able to pair with other fitness apps, so this complaint really only applies if you’re using Wahoo’s own apps.
If you’re a triathlete, you should definitely consider the Garmin HRM-Tri.
This is Garmin’s smallest and lightest heart rate sensors to date, and it’s super comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. The HRM-Tri will store all your heart rate data when you’re underwater, then forward it to your wearable once you’re done swimming. And when you’re out for a run, the monitor will report six different running dynamics metrics, including cadence, stride length, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, vertical oscillation, and vertical ratio.
That was our list of the best heart rate monitors, heart rate watches, and heart rate fitness trackers. Did we miss anything? What do you think of our list? We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comment section below.
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