The best heart rate monitors will help you learn more about your fitness, train more efficiently and track your progress better than a smartwatch. If you’re looking to break your personal bests this year, you’ll need one, especially if you’re planning on monitoring your heart rate underwater, prefer exercises that require your wrist to move, or even exercise disciplines like boxing, which comes with equipment that involves your wrist, preventing you from wearing the watch.
All best fitness trackers and best running watches can record heart rates, but not all are as accurate as heart rate monitors. Results between wearables can vary greatly, and low-quality devices can report sudden spikes and dips when none were expected. False data can compromise your training, so adding a heart rate monitor to your training setup is essential for truly accurate results. Some watches require a heart rate monitor to triangulate your data to unlock certain features such as “running power” on the best Garmin watches.
There are two main types of heart rate monitors to consider. Chest strap monitors measure small electrical impulses generated by your heartbeat. They are more accurate than wrist devices as the signal is not affected by arm movement. They also respond to heart rate changes much more quickly, which is extremely useful for interval training. However, not everyone finds them comfortable – wearing a chest strap all day is less pleasant than wearing a watch.
The other way of measuring heart rate uses an optical sensor, which illuminates the skin and measures changes in the light reflected from the skin. This method is less accurate, but more convenient. It’s up to you to decide which one you prefer, and we’ve picked the best of both for you here.
These are the best heart rate monitors and the ones we recommend keeping an eye on during your workout. black friday deals period. There are always big discounts on the fitness kit, and you can look like some great HRM discounts from retailers like Wiggle, Amazon, and more.
The best heart rate monitors
Chest straps are the gold standard, and the Garmin HRM-Pro is our number one choice for the best heart rate monitor. Its reports are accurate and responsive, and in our tests we particularly appreciated its compatibility with a huge range of devices and apps.
This is a true multisport device suitable for land and water. While many modern sports watches can record your heart rate as you swim, their accuracy varies widely, and a chest strap is easily the most reliable option. Wireless signals transmit poorly in water, but the HRM-Pro can store up to 18 hours of data before syncing.
The HRM-Pro also provides running dynamics information, including details of vertical oscillation, stride length, and contact time, which are challenging or impossible to measure with a wrist-worn device.
It’s one of the more expensive monitors in this roundup, but not by much, and it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re serious about intensity training.
Read our full Garmin HRM-Pro review
Many of the best heart rate monitors have one big downside: the price. That’s where the Polar H9 comes in. This is a chest strap heart rate monitor from the biometrics experts at Polar that is surprisingly affordable, putting it within reach of runners and cyclists who want to get more serious about their training but can’t justify the price of a high-end monitor. gamma.
Polar launched the H9 in 2020 as a low-cost alternative to its high-end H10. As a chest strap monitor from a brand that specializes in biometrics, you can trust the accuracy and speed of your readings and it is compatible with a wide variety of third-party apps and devices.
What you don’t get is the ability to connect to multiple Bluetooth devices simultaneously, or the ability to store workout data to sync later (both offered by the more expensive H10). Ultimately it all comes down to priorities, but if money is limited, the Polar H9 is one of the best heart rate monitors you can buy.
In the same way that Garmin made its name in GPS technology, Polar has a long heritage in biometrics, and this really shines through in the accuracy of Polar Verity Sense data.
It can be worn on the arm or attached to swimming goggles, making it a good choice for those who don’t do well with a chest strap. It uses an optical sensor like those on a sports watch, but the positioning means there’s less motion artifacts like gripping.
Polar Verity Sense might be a little awkward to wear with long sleeves, but in our tests we were impressed with its ability to transfer data to multiple devices, 20-hour battery life
Read our full Polar Verity Sense review
The MyZone MZ-Switch offers the best of both worlds: an ECG sensor so it can be worn on the chest and an optical sensor so it can be worn on the wrist, arm or swimming goggles. It automatically detects where you’re wearing it, so there’s no need to worry about switching between modes, and while it’s nice to have a choice of different cuff sizes, it’s comfortable to wear for any type of workout.
This includes swimming; The MZ-Switch is water resistant to 10 meters and stores up to 36 hours of data, so like the Garmin HRM-Pro, there’s no need to worry about syncing when you’re in the pool.
When used in chest strap mode, its results compare well with the HRM-Pro, although technology limitations mean that optical sensor results have a wider margin of error. Our main criticism is that the MyZone companion app is too busy and complicated for our taste, but the device also matches compatible third-party apps, so that shouldn’t stop you.
Read our full MyZone MZ-Switch Review
Wahoo is one of the biggest names in cycling technology (particularly for their Kickr line of turbo trainers), so their chest strap heart rate monitor will be the natural best choice if your favorite workout involves two wheels.
Wahoo Tickr is compatible with all the most popular fitness apps, including Zwift, Peloton, Runkeeper and MapMyRun, as well as Apple Watch and Apple TV, making it a good choice on and off the bike. It can also generate workout files that sync to Strava, unlike most heart rate monitors.
If you have a little extra cash, the Wahoo Tickr-X adds running dynamics analysis, including cadence, vertical oscillation, and ground contact time (much like the Garmin HRM-Pro). Most of these are metrics that you would normally need a separate foot pod to measure, so they’re a welcome addition to minimizing the number of running devices you carry.
How we test the best heart rate monitors
Most of the heart rate monitors on this list are tested by expert reviewers who use these wearables for running, cycling and swimming to test all the features they have to offer. The accuracy of the heart rate tracking is checked against previous models, but also against other brands to determine which is more accurate.
Heart rate monitors generally have fewer built-in features than smartwatches (i.e. no display or smart features) so testers focus on the captured data as presented in the heart rate monitor companion apps. Another important aspect is the connectivity and how quickly the heart rate monitor connects to other wearables/exercise machines; this too is thoroughly tested. You can check out our How We Test page for more information.
How to choose the best heart rate monitor for you
When shopping for a heart rate monitor, there are a few things to consider, the most important being whether you need a chest strap or a cuff. The first group is better for accuracy, while the last one is considered more convenient to use. Battery life is also crucial; the replaceable battery in the chest straps usually lasts a year, while the armbands – which often have optical heart rate sensors – have a much shorter battery life (less than 24 hours).
You should also consider the brand of heart rate monitor, especially if you already have a smartwatch. Garmin chest straps pair well with Garmin watches, and the same goes for Polar/Wahoo wearables; so if you’re looking for excellent connectivity, make sure both wearables are from the same brand.
pro tip: If you want to use a heart rate monitor with a stationary bike/treadmill/turbo trainer, check the manufacturer’s website to see which brand and model they recommend.