The 10 Best Heart Rate Monitors

Updated September 30, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Heart Rate Monitors
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. With the technology available today, athletes can get into their target heart rate zones and stay there, maximizing the effectiveness of their workout without putting undue stress on their bodies and their cardiovascular systems. That results in shorter recovery times and, as a result, more efficient training. Grab one of the heart rate monitors on our list and get yourself into the zone. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best heart rate monitor on Amazon.

10. Mio Alpha 2

The Mio Alpha 2 is great for performance sports, and is built to be accurate at speeds of up to 12 MPH. It also has a large display screen, so you can easily read your stats when you're in motion. But its discreet side buttons, though slimming, make adjustments difficult.
  • works as a day-to-day watch
  • fits most wrist sizes
  • interface feels behind the times
Brand Mio
Model 58P-BLK-Parent
Weight 8.5 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. Garmin Vívofit 3

The Garmin Vívofit 3 is designed to keep you active, with a movement bar that sounds an alarm after an hour of inactivity, and segments that light up after 15 minutes of no movement. It also monitors your sleep duration and quality.
  • 1-year battery life
  • proposes daily goals
  • outdated screen graphics
Brand Garmin
Model 010-01608-00
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

8. Polar A360

The Polar A360 can optically track your heart rate on its own, or it can sync with the company's H7 chest strap transmitter for an even more accurate reading. Both the body and the wristband of this unit are waterproof, so you can sweat and swim to your heart's content.
  • alarm sounds above a set bpm
  • calorie counter included
  • band breaks in poorly
Brand Polar
Model Polar
Weight 5.1 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Polar H7

The Polar H7 boasts a slim, lightweight design that makes it great for diverse workouts, including push-ups and aerobics, during which bulkier units would get in the way. It also syncs to your phone in seconds, and counts calories burned in real time.
  • user-replaceable battery
  • works well with the nike app
  • wrist accessory sold separately
Brand Polar
Model 92044305-P
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Wahoo TICKR X

The Wahoo TICKR X offers a simple, guided fitness test so you can personalize your workout zones, and it works with ANT+, so it can communicate with other monitoring devices. Integrated LED lights indicate its connection to your phone.
  • works with apple health
  • great for spinning and zumba
  • data isn't in-depth enough
Brand Wahoo Fitness
Weight 5 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Fitbit Charge 2 HR

The Fitbit Charge 2 HR syncs with over 120 leading smartphones, displaying call, text, and calendar notifications on the screen, even mid-workout. It also counts floors climbed and connects to your computer so you can document your stats.
  • optical capillary measure
  • automatic sleep mode
  • sizes run a little small
Brand Fitbit
Model FB407SBKL
Weight 10.6 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Garmin Forerunner 735XT

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT has a high-resolution color display and built-in GPS, so you'll never get lost on long runs. It also has an advanced accelerometer so you can track nuanced aspects of your workout, like ground contact time, stride length, and more.
  • allows social media sharing
  • predicts race times
  • display is a little dim
Brand Garmin
Model 010-01614-01
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Scosche Rhythm

The Scosche Rhythm is an optical device worn just above the wrist, though it doesn't have a display of its own. It comes in six energizing colors, syncs with any Bluetooth-enabled device, and works with most fitness apps, like MapMyFitness and DigiFit.
  • measures blood flow accurately
  • battery lasts for eight hours
  • 100-foot wireless range
Brand Scosche
Model RTHM1.9
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. Polar FT7

The Polar FT7 will identify activities that either target overall fitness or that place an emphasis on fat burning to help you reach your specific goals. It also carefully tracks your calorie intake and will hook up to compatible gym equipment.
  • includes a comfortable chest strap
  • waterproof for swim training
  • keeps track of up to 99 workouts
Brand Polar
Model 90051043
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Garmin 920XT

The Garmin 920XT is intended for the most serious of athletes. It not only measures heart rate, but gives running form feedback by measuring cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact, and recovery time to keep you from overextending yourself.
  • records ascents and descents
  • email and calendar notifications
  • lets you broadcast your results
Brand Garmin
Model 010-01174-20
Weight 8.5 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Hit The Target

There's a specific point of exertion at which you maximize your body's potential to lose weight, tone muscle, improve cardiovascular health, and feel pretty amazing. I'm talking about your target heart rate. When you exercise, this is the number of heartbeats per minute for which you should aim.

To put this in perspective, let's hit the ice. When I was 26, I strapped a heart rate monitor to my chest to find out what my average rate was over the course of an ice hockey game, as well as where the rate peaked, how many calories I burned, etc. Most heart rate monitors will give you this level of feedback once you've input things like your age, weight, resting heart rate, etc. They do the math for you.

To calculate your own target heart rate, you first have to find your maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus your age. Why 220? The doctor says, that's why. So, when I was 26, my maximum heart rate was 194 (220-26=194). Then, you multiply this number by 70 to 85 percent, which will give you a target heart rate zone. Ice hockey's a pretty rigorous sport, so let's err on the side of intensity at 85 percent. That's a target heart rate of 164.9 beats per minute (194x.85=164.9).

After approximately 30 minutes of ice time (which is half the game on the ice, half the game catching my breath on the bench), I'd burned over 1200 calories, averaging 167.8 beats per minute, higher than my target heart rate zone. My heart rate peaked at 205 beats per minute, higher than my maximum heart rate. Since the average was only a few ticks higher than the target zone, I wasn't in too much danger, but that includes an entire half of the game spent sitting on the bench, which means a lot of time on the ice was spent at, around, and above my maximum hear rate. But, hey, I was 26!

Keeping an eye on stats like these is vital, especially as we get older. Daily exercise is one of the most important contributors to a long and healthy life, but we have to make sure to exercise in ways that aren't doing more harm than good, and the constant, pinpoint feedback provided by a heart rate monitor can do that.

The Chest Or The Wrist

You may have noticed that a small, colored light glows from the underside of a lot of these wrist strap health monitors. I first noticed this on my friend's Apple watch, as a strange, tiny green light emitted from the underside of the watch and onto his skin.

It turns out, this is one of the two ways that heart rate monitors measure your beats. The LED method, as described above, is called optical heart rate monitoring, and choosing between this method and the more traditional chest strap heart rate monitor is your first step in narrowing down our list to find your prefect workout pal.

An optical heart rate monitor uses a focused LED to illuminate your capillaries, measuring their expansion and contraction as beats over the course of time, giving you a (theoretically) accurate reading. The big problem with optical heart rate monitors at this point in their development is that they often require stillness to garner a reading, as movement, sweat, muscle tension, etc. will interrupt the accuracy of the light feedback.

That means that you can't get a consistent or accurate readout over the course of a long workout, giving you less data to mine after the fact, which makes it harder to adjust your routine to its ideal zones. The advantage of this type of monitor, of course, is its convenience. If you merely want to check in with your heart rate should you feel a workout getting too intense, and also utilize all the other features included in an optical monitor (pedometer, oscillator, etc.), these should serve you just fine.

If, however, you're trying to get the most accurate and consistent readout of a workout from start to finish, with all the attendant data and timing, you'll want to strap a heart rate monitor around your chest. These work more like traditional ECG machines, in that they measure the electrical impulses that cause your heart to beat, rather than the beats themselves. They're a little clunkier, and they're significantly less comfortable, but the results are head and shoulders above those you'll find in an optical device.

Starting At The Finnish

While the first ECG as such appeared in St. Bartholomew's Hospital in the 1870s, it would be over 100 years before the technology became wireless. Some athletic programs used portable ECG machines that still required the use of wired electrodes on through the 1970s, but the Finnish National Cross Country Ski team got their hands on an early wireless prototype in 1977.

By the 1980s, an explosion in the popularity of intensity training spurned on the development of wireless heart rate monitors for the everyday consumer. Since then, the impossible heights of the Western beauty standard have only become more impossible to reach on any end of the gender spectrum.

As a result, the health and fitness industry sees its profit margins growing every year, and devices like FitBit, simply by presenting themselves as a status symbol for the health-conscious, continue to push the technology forward.

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Last updated on September 30, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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