While fitness trackers are all the rage, an older gadget might be a better help if you’re looking to hit your fitness goals: a chest band heart rate tracker. They’re cheaper, more accurate, and rarely need a battery change.
These are more niche athlete gadgets and can’t easily be found on the shelves of Best Buy or Academy. But for those who want a simple and effective way to get super-accurate heart rate data, they can’t be beaten. We’ve selected the best on the market.
The Best Overall Chest HR Tracker: Wahoo TICKR
For anyone who wants to make the switch to a chest strap heart rate monitor without breaking the bank, the Wahoo TICKR is the best option. This super-simple tracker runs on a cheap watch battery for months (or even years), and connects to most exercise equipment via the ANT+ wireless standard, with Bluetooth available as a backup for most phone exercise apps. (Wahoo makes its own app, but the tracker works with almost any app that supports external hardware.)
Its simple hardware and snap-on, adjustable strap are just about foolproof. It helps that it’s tiny: The low-profile tracker can easily fit underneath even tight workout clothes. For an accurate upgrade without the frills, you can’t do any better.
The Most Accurate Chest HR Tracker: Polar H10
Runners and cyclists adore the Polar H10, thanks to measurement accuracy that consistently beats the competition. Its electrocardiogram sensor, waterproof design, and dual Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity (both at the same time, if you need it) means it can be used in almost any situation.
The user-replaceable battery is rated for 400 hours of active tracking, and it can save a workout session in local memory if you don’t have your phone or tracking gadget handy. It also works on the semi-proprietary 5 Khz “Gymlink” wireless standard. And yes, despite the Polar branding, the H10 is more than happy to work with third-party apps.
A Premium Alternative Chest HR Tracker: Garmin HRM series
Polar might be the go-to pick, but workout enthusiasts who are dedicated to a particular training style might want to check out Garmin’s flagship chest strap, too. The HRM comes in three premium variants: HRM-Run, HRM-Swim, and HRM-Tri, with design choices balanced for runners, swimmers, and triathlon athletes, respectively.
The HRM-Run, for example, uses motion detection to guess at your cadence and stride length, while the HRM-Swim has a slightly “sticky” strap that won’t slip down your torso after an hour in the pool, and its body resists chlorine corrosion from pool water. The HRM-Tri is smaller for fitting under a tri-suit and tracks both running and swimming data.
These variants are more expensive than the H10 and have a little more drift in their heart rate detection. They also lack Bluetooth wireless, so your phone needs to support ANT+ if you want to use it as a workout companion. But the extra data might be worth it if you’re looking to make improvements to those very specific metrics.