A Heart Rate Monitor, or fitness tracker with heart rate sensors, has long ceased to be a tool reserved for professional athletes. The point is, its use has gained tremendous popularity in recent years due to the many benefits it offers beyond the obvious one, which is measuring your heart rate. But how can you find the best heart rate monitor to reach your fitness goal?
Currently, there are specific models designed to adapt to the needs of different athletes. Likewise, some offer professional benefits, and others cater to more amateur and everyday profiles. Thus, some models provide more or less precise readings and have more or less additional functions.
Any self-respecting athlete doesn’t just focus on the amount of exercise they get. Intensity is also a crucial factor, and the best way to calculate the intensity of your workouts is to use a heart monitor.
Brands usually build HRMs into smartwatches or activity trackers. So when you buy one, you benefit from many other features that the athlete in you needs.
I have put together the following guide to know which one to buy. First, we will go through my recommendations, then everything you need to know about heart rate monitoring straps and watches.
11 most accurate heart rate monitors
Garmin HRM-Tri (Best heart rate monitor for Swimmers)
Those who search the internet for reliable products are lucky enough to know that an intelligent bracelet like this, with a built-in HRM, is the cheapest but most reliable thing they can buy.
In other words, it’s cheap but ultimately delivers on its promises perfectly. It is also one of the best sellers on Amazon, with excellent reviews from its users.
While this looks like a department store cliché, it offers many valuable features, considering how affordable it is compared to devices. It’s even water-resistant, so you can swim with it.
- Comfortable, easily adjustable strap.
- The HRM-Tri stores heart rate data when underwater, then forwards it to the device.
- The accelerometer in the module measures torso movement to calculate Cadence and Vertical oscillation.
- Long battery life.
- The heart rate sensor doesn’t have Bluetooth, so it can’t be connected to your phone.
Garmin HRM-Tri can operate for 4-6 days when fully charged, so you can be sure you don’t run out of it during your workout.
The screen is not very large and displays the numbers and letters in a relatively small size. If your eyesight is poor, it won’t be easy to see the information at a glance. Also, it is a bit pixelated.
Garmin HRM dual (Best for basic, Reliable HRM)
This heart monitor offers an accurate reading and is good if your budget is not the highest.
The strap is closed by a strong metal hook. This closure is protected by a small piece of cloth so that it does not rub unpleasantly against the skin.
The electrodes are embedded in the belt, and the Pod is attached with a snap button.
This allows you to remove the Pod for washing after training.
- You can connect the HRM to your different devices via ANT+ at the same time.
- Exceptional battery life; lasts 3.5 years and is easy to replace afterwards.
- It can withstand rain and perspiration.
- Only splash proof, so you can’t swim with it.
Garmin HRM-Run (Best for runners)
It’s an excellent Garmin with features that every athlete wants / needs. Definitely the durable companion for every runner.
Garmin HRM-Run is an optical heart rate sensor worn on the wrist and on the arm (upper or lower); it even measures heart rate at the temple when attached to swimming goggles. Therefore, it is an alternative for all those who, for one reason or another, do not want to use a chest strap monitor but expect more precise results than with an optical measurement by Smartwatches on the wrist.
Smartwatches are subjected to strong centrifugal forces and strong vibrations when in operation, which can adversely affect measurement results. This phenomenon is less pronounced with Garmin HRM-Run, as the sensor is placed higher on the arm and rests much better on the skin. The measurement is also much more reliable than heart rate sensors on the wrist and reacts much faster to heart rate jumps.
- The built-in accelerometer allows you to get more insight into your training.
- Thanks to ANT+ connection, you can connect the sensor to multiple devices at once.
- An encoded heart rate sensor to prevent the HRM signal from interfering with the signals of your other devices.
- It doesn’t have Bluetooth.
- It is only splash proof, so you can’t wear it during a swim.
Those who want to train without a watch or smartphone can do so. The Garmin HRM-Run has a built-in memory to synchronize the training via Bluetooth or the USB adapter.
The Garmin HRM-Run tracks different metrics to help you become a better runner: cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, stride length, and vertical ratio.
Wahoo Tickr X (Most Comfortable chest strap for heart rate monitoring)
We couldn’t list the best heart monitors without including Wahoo Tickr X. I added the TICKR X because of its great value and because I think it deserves its place.
Every effort counts with the new Wahoo TICKR X. This Wearable Device is designed to help you get the most out of every workout. It measures heart rate, calorie expenditure, run analysis, and indoor cycling cadence.
Featuring Bluetooth technology, Tickr X easily pairs with your favorite training devices, GPS watches, and bike computers. The new integrated design makes Wahoo Tickr X one of the lightest and thinnest HRM on the market, and its connection and fit are secure too!
Wahoo Tickr X also has 50 hours of memory for heart rate and calorie data, so you can exercise without any other product.
- Accurate HR measurements.
- Indoor cycling cadence measurement.
- 12-month exceptional battery life.
- No In-app guidance.
- Android app could do better.
It won’t just be a small computer that keeps track of your heart rate all the time, like other stats throughout the day. Instead, Wahoo Tickr X will work as a sleep tracking device at night, a great bonus.
Wahoo Tickr Fit (Most comfortable)
Wear the TICKR FIT on your forearm for better precision. Adjust the included strap to suit your arm until it is comfortable but tight enough to stay in place during the exercise. The Wahoo TICKR FIT Optical Armband is a training accessory that provides precise optical heart rate tracking and calorie burn information.
In addition, the TICKR FIT Optical HRM is equipped with Bluetooth and ANT + technologies to seamlessly pair with fitness apps, smartphones, and GPS bike computers and watches. Thus, giving you accurate heart rate readings and calories burned data. The TICKR FIT is worn on the forearm and features an adjustable strap designed for your most intense workouts, with water-resistant technology and a rechargeable battery; it offers up to 30 hours of battery life. Waterproof, with a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 35 hours after charging.
- Accurate & convenient.
- Comfortable to wear.
- Easy pairing with ANT+ and Bluetooth.
- Accurate heart rate, sleep, and step monitoring.
- With Wahoo Fitness app, you can easily access your training data.
- Uneasy when worn under a long-sleeve jersey.
I’m sure you’re not surprised that TICKR FIT is among the top best heart rate monitor armbands. It is indeed a durable companion.Not everyone will wear it for more than an hour, but those who need to track their heart rate and other information for a more extended period can rest assured that this is one of the most comfortable heart rate monitor armbands and the lightest on the market. In addition, it has good battery autonomy.
ScoscheRhythm 24 (Best for biathlons and triathlons)
ScoscheRhythm 24 is a great HRM that works; it is very fluid, and although it has a lot of functions, it is effortless to use and simple to understand. I like it; if I had to buy another HRM, it would definitely be this one.While other HRMs record your heart rate and other data without knowing what sport or exercise you are doing, this model incorporates many activities. So even if you are going to be paddle surfing, you can choose this exercise from the many options available.
- Comes with IP67 sweatproof and waterproof construction.
- Optical sensor technology makes it an accurate heart rate monitor.
- Exceptional battery life + rechargeable.
- Less detailed instruction manual.
The Rhythm24 waterproof heart monitor optically measures blood flow and body movement to ensure accurate data. With dual-mode radio, you can simultaneously transmit your heart rate to multiple ANT + displays (Garmin watches, bike computers, fitness devices, and more) and your favorite Bluetooth Smartwatch or smartphone app.
Garmin HRM Pro (Best for triathlons)
Do you play a sport where it is not always convenient to wear a watch, or do you just want a more accurate alternative to measuring heart rate on the wrist? In that case, the Garmin HRM-PRO heart rate belt is definitely worth considering.
The Garmin HRM-PRO belt can be a durable companion for the most common sports, such as running, cycling, swimming, and other activities. Although the Garmin HRM-PRO can do the same things as the HRM-TRI belt, the heart rate belt can also be used for triathlons.
The great novelty of the Garmin HRM-PRO is that the belt has an offline memory that can store your daily activity (including heart rate data, steps, calories, and intense minutes).
So, you can put on the heart rate belt and exercise without wearing your watch. Previous HRM series heart rate belts required a constant connection to the paired device to send data to it (so it wouldn’t get lost). But the HRM-PRO records your activity data and then sends it to your watch.
- Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity.
- Inbuilt storage.
- Running metrics.
- Completely waterproof.
- Exceptional battery: Lasts up to 12 months when used everyday.
- No sleep tracking function.
- Replace the battery takes a bit of time.
- Some features limited to Garmin watch owners.
Considering all the essential athletic features this heart monitor has, ease of use, and measurement precision, I don’t find it strange that many athletes adore it.
This wristwatch can receive all important notifications, so you are always connected. Even if your phone is in good hands, your HRM-PRO shows you text messages, emails, calls, and even Whatsapp notifications.
If you want to buy the best heart rate monitor and don’t mind the price, this is the best option. Very complete, easy to use, and with more precise measurements than a Swiss watch.
The best part is that you can buy it on Amazon for less than on the official Garmin website.
ScoscheRhythm+ (Best for cyclists)
You’re dressed to be in shape in your well-laced sneakers, but how do you know if you’ll get the most out of your workout? Take your training to the next level with the RHYTHM + from Scosche. The new Scosche RHYTHM + attaches comfortably to your forearm to monitor blood pressure and offer more accurate heart rate data, calories burned, distance, pace, and more throughout your workouts. This fully wireless device has Bluetooth Smart ANT + capabilities, allowing it to connect to smartphones, sports watches, and exercise equipment; it is a durable companion. In addition, you can use your favorite fitness app to manage your workout settings and train harder and smarter.
- Comfortable and lightweight.
- Offers an extensive exceptional battery life.
- Color-coded Heart rate notifications.
- You can’t swim with it.
- no battery life indicator.
This bracelet uses an optical sensor to measure your pulse with the greatest possible precision. In addition, this sensor continuously measures your heart rate through your wrist. In particular, this saves you from wearing a strap attached to your chest, which is often very uncomfortable.
Polar H10 (Best for monitoring without phone)
Polar H10 has set the bar pretty high in the HRM business. It’s a refinement of the popular H7, which many consider a benchmark. However, the H10 maintains that precision while also improving extraordinary battery life and adding onboard memory, making it more convenient for athletes who hate training with their phones. However, it is not in a position to deserve our editorial pick, as the excellent Wahoo Fitness Tickr X offers more compatible devices and apps and physical feedback functions for less. Regardless, the H10 is a great choice that deserves to be at the top of your list.
The H10 looks like the Polar H7 from a design standpoint but with some key improvements. For example, the snap-on sensor is smaller and thinner. The bracelet has a new buckle that is easier to adjust and put on. The interior has electrodes and silicone dots to prevent slipping.
- Improved exceptional battery life.
- Built-in memory.
- More comfortable straps.
- An encoded heart rate sensor to prevent the HRM signal from interfering with the signals of your other devices.
- Battery will run out fast if the straps is not be disconnected.
Most of the other improvements are not visible. The H10 can receive software updates wirelessly, for example. Battery life is also doubled compared to the H7 at 400 hours, offering months of use. And since it uses a regular button cell battery, you never have to charge it. I have been exercising regularly with the H10 for about four months, and it still displays a full battery. Another bonus: the back of the sensor has a new design which makes it easier to replace the battery.
H10 is waterproof, thus suitable for swimming, and can track heart rate variability.
Polar H9 (Best for beginners)
The Polar H9 is a functional electronic accessory. This wearable device accurately measures your heart rate. The Polar H9 is compatible with all Polar HRMs that analyze and synchronize data via Bluetooth. The H9 can also be connected to the Polar Beat app on your smartphone to track your heart rate data. In addition, it comes with a Polar soft strap. This strap is made of fabric which makes it gentle on the skin and very comfortable to wear.
Polar H9 tracks your heart rate with the app or device of your choice, from the gym and indoor cycling to jogging and group exercise.
- High-quality heart rate monitoring.
- Accurate stats.
- Pair it with Polar Beat app to track your training and reach your fitness goals.
- Easy to use and care for.
- You have to wet the band around your chest before your workout to get it to work.
- Limited push notifications.
- Not waterproof.
Polar H9 comes with the Polar soft strap for classic and reliable heart rate measurement. In addition, the Polar H9 instantly reacts to what’s going on in your body and lets you burn calories with precision.
CooSpo H6 (Best Low Cost)
The H6 captures real-time heart rate data over Bluetooth and ANT +. It can be paired with your favorite workout apps, GPS watches, and bike computers.
This app-powered HRM uses a pulse rate app to manage your workout metrics. Use your favorite fitness app on your smartphone or tablet to monitor your heart rate, calories burned, distance, speed, pace, etc. CooSpo H6 optically measures blood flow and body movement to ensure accurate data.
- Compact & Lightweight.
- Soft fabric.
- Relatively durable companion.
- Includes fitness tracking.
- Decent battery life.
- Larger than some of the other options in this guide.
- Battery is non-rechargeable.
Thanks to its dual-mode processor, you can simultaneously transmit your heart rate to multiple ANT + screens and your favorite Bluetooth-enabled Smartwatch or smartphone app.
Electric vs. optical HRM
The battleground is between people who prefer an Electric HRM and those who prefer an Optical HRM.
The debate mainly revolves around the accuracy of each of them. So, I will try to give my opinion: the chest bands are more precise. However, optical sensors on the wrist are much more comfortable and practical. So, think about it, do you prefer to exercise with a chest strap or a wristwatch? Your answer should let you see your preference.
Accurate tracking of activities and fitness measurements
Wrist Optical Heart Rate Monitor is an essential tool that can accurately assess the user’s heart rate. The optical HRM is designed to attempt to measure a user’s heart rate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The frequency at which the heart rate is measured varies and depends on the user’s activity level.
When you start an activity with your Garmin optical HRM, it provides information more frequently because the optical sensor is always on and attempts to measure heart rate continuously during a given exercise. The goal is to provide the user with more frequent and accurate heart rate measurements during a given activity, regardless of their activity levels or fitness level.
And it should be noted that the heart rate zone is more important than the exact measurement of heart rate in general for athletes. However, the accuracy of the measure is crucial when you want to measure the recovery heart rate.
HRMs are not medical devices and are not intended for medical use or for diagnosing, treating, curing, or preventing any disease. Although it can detect atrial fibrillation, please talk to your medical professional if your device spots it. Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition and must not be taken lightly.
ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor vs. Bluetooth HRM
Know brands offer several transmission standards for pairing a heart rate monitor strap with a GPS watch. This point should not be overlooked, at the risk of buying a strap that will not work with your GPS watch.
There are 2 standards to know: ANT + and Bluetooth Smart. Take a look at which one is supported by your watch.
Overall, Garmin is the latest manufacturer to offer ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor. Of course, everyone else is now using Bluetooth. But Garmin watches released since 2017 (Fenix 5 / 5S / 5X, Forerunner 935/645/645 Music, and Vivoactive 3) support both protocols and are therefore ANT + and Bluetooth compatible.
As for smartphones, all of them support a Bluetooth connection.
As for heart rate straps, some only use Bluetooth, others only ANT +, and others (increasingly) are ANT + and Bluetooth compatible.
The question of the Bluetooth connection of a cardio strap is mainly to be taken into account for those who do virtual races on a connected home trainer (Zwift type) because it is via this connection that you can transmit your heart rate to the Zwift platform.
At the same time, there is also a 5kHz connection used for transmission in water (Bluetooth and ANT + do not go through water). This allowed the Polar V800 to receive data from the H10 belt while swimming and display it live on the screen. Now, it mainly allows you to connect to gym equipment.
How to choose a chest strap Heart Rate tracker?
Heart rate chest straps measure electrical signals in your body generated by the contraction of your heart when it heats.
We are talking about the pod itself (the small box attached to the strap). These devices are, of course, resistant to sweat and jogging in the rain.
Some have a reinforced seal that allows them to be used for swimming (in swimming pools and in open water).
One crucial element (which has made some shy away from optical sensors) is the strap itself. This is the element that makes it comfortable. The old heart rate chest straps, made of a more or less flexible plastic part, were unpleasant to wear. Prefer recent textile straps.
On their inner face (the one in contact with the skin), we find 2 or 4 electrodes.
Finally, some chest strap monitors still have silicone patches or nubs on the inside to improve their grip on the skin. This is especially useful in swimming to prevent the strap from slipping when pushing against the wall.
Since the transmission cannot be done in water using Bluetooth or ANT +, some manufacturers have found a solution by providing an internal memory that will record all the heart rate data during a swim session. Then, once you’re out of the water, this data is transmitted to the watch via Bluetooth or ANT +, synchronizing them with the other session data.
The internal memory can also allow another use case: recording the heart rate autonomously, without a watch or other device. This makes it possible to record the heart rate during a session and directly transfer this data to a web platform via a smartphone at the end of the session.
Double-Duty heart rate monitor: in-ear optical HRMs
The double-duty HRMs are earbuds used to listen to music or training instruction and measure and monitor the heart rate during physical activity. With such a wearable device, like any other HRM, you get valuable data to decide if your efforts are beyond what they should be or if you should push training sessions harder, with the bonus of being able to listen to your favorite tracks.
Some in-ear optical HRMs also show the number of calories expended during exercise, oxygen consumption, and how long the athlete has remained in the same physical condition. It can be found in sporting goods stores or homes that sell medical equipment. Jabra Elite Sport HRM earbuds are my choice and the choice of many happy users.
Jabra Elite Sport HRM earbuds
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just want to improve your fitness, you can train smarter, not harder, with Jabra Elite Sport. The precision in-ear heart rate monitor works with the app to track and analyze your fitness and provide personalized, real-time audio coaching during your workout.
Read also: 11 Best Peloton Heart Rate Monitors