The 13 Best Heart Rate Monitors of 2021, According to a Running Coach

Track your heart rate for better performance with our expert picks

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Our Top Picks
"With built-in memory, precise readings, and Bluetooth compatibility, it has everything that a fitness enthusiast would need."
"An affordable pick that doesn't skimp on features, it can be used to track steps, distance, calories burned, and active minutes."
"Wearable on both the forearm or upper arm, the armband heart monitor works with more than 50 smartphone fitness apps."
"Monitor your heart rate all from your wrist with this watch, which also syncs with your phone so you can still get notifications."
"These multi-tasking wireless earbuds monitor your heart rate via your inner ear and offer passive noise cancellation."
"Ideal for runners of all levels, it allows you to regularly monitor your heart rate while the built-in GPS tracks your distance."
"Suunto's unique algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve accuracy, while also extending battery life."
"It works effortlessly with all devices that support heart rate data, and its lightweight design is ideal for Peloton workouts."
"Designed for triathletes, it can be used to track your heart rate and other metrics when running, cycling, or swimming."
"With dual-band Bluetooth, it allows you to accurately track your heart rate on your home fitness equipment and workout apps. "

From improving your fitness and performance to managing your heart health and stress levels, there are plenty of beneficial reasons to use a heart rate monitor.

When selecting a heart rate monitor, it’s important to consider how and why you’ll be using it. Some devices are chest straps that provide precise readings, while others are smartwatches that measure other fitness metrics in addition to tracking your ticker.

Here, we’ve collected the best heart rate monitors for all types of workouts and fitness goals.

Best Overall: Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor

Pros
  • Very accurate

  • Versatile and comfortable

  • Good value

Cons
  • No screen to view stats

Versatile, comfortable, and extremely accurate, the high-quality Polar H10 heart monitor is one of the best heart rate monitors money can buy. With built-in memory, precise readings, extra-long battery life of 400 hours, and Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility with apps, watches, and cardio machines, it has everything you need. It's perfect for runners, cyclists, swimmers, and other fitness enthusiasts.

The strap is made of a soft, comfortable fabric and is machine-washable. Although some chest strap monitors tend to slip, the H10 has silicone friction dots along the strap to minimize shifting, as well as a buckle that easily adjusts for a good fit.

Type: Chest strap | Battery Life: 400 hours | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 30 meters | Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+

Best Budget: Willful IP68 Waterproof Smartwatch

Pros
  • Inexpensive

  • Good battery life

  • Comfortable and stylish

Cons
  • Sleep tracker not always accurate

If you’d like to try using a heart rate monitor but don’t want to make a huge investment, this smartwatch is an affordable pick with lots of the features of more expensive devices. In addition to heart rate monitoring, you can use it to track activities such as steps, distance, pace, calories burned, workout routes, and active minutes.

You can also use it to get calendar reminders, text alerts, and phone notifications on the go. Useful tools such as sleep tracking, deep breathing guide, and movement reminders can all help you lead a healthier lifestyle.

Type: Wristband | Battery Life:  7 days (rechargeable) | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best Armband: Wahoo Fitness Tickr Fit Heart Rate Monitor Armband

Pros
  • Lightweight and comfortable

  • Sweatproof and waterproof

  • Can simultaneously connect to multiple devices

Cons
  • Not as accurate as a chest strap

For simplicity and comfort, the Wahoo Tickr Fit heart monitor is a great choice for athletes to use with fitness apps, GPS watches, or machines such as your Peloton.

With a streamlined design and secure, fully-adjustable fit, the armband heart monitor works with more than 50 smartphone fitness apps and tracks your heart rate as well as calories burned and training zones. It can be worn on both the forearm or upper arm, has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 35 hours, and is waterproof up to 5 feet.

Type: Armband | Battery Life: 35 hours (rechargeable)  | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 5 feet  | Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+

Best Watch: Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch with Heart Rate

Pros
  • Stylish and versatile

  • Comfortable and convenient

  • Good battery life

Cons
  • Need a connected phone for GPS

If you like the simplicity and comfortable feel of a watch, the Fitbit Versa 2 is a great choice for continuous heart rate monitoring right on your wrist. Additionally, you can track your steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, sleep metrics, and more.

You can also use it with the Fitbit app to view your fitness and heart rate trends over time. The Versa 2 also uses music apps such as Spotify and syncs with your phone when it’s nearby so you can get call, text, and calendar notifications.

Type: Wristband | Battery Life: Up to 6 days (rechargeable) | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 50 meters | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best Earbuds: Jabra Elite Sport Wireless Earbuds with Heart Rate and Activity Tracker

Pros
  • Versatile

  • Comfortable, snug fit

  • 3-year warranty

Cons
  • Short battery life

If you love listening to music or podcasts while you’re working out, you’ll appreciate these versatile, multi-tasking wireless earbuds that can monitor your heart rate via your inner ear. With passive noise cancellation and clear sound quality, they’re ideal for listening to tunes or taking a call on the go.

The earbuds come with three sizes of EarGels and foam tips for a secure, custom fit that enhances the overall comfort and accuracy of the heart rate sensor. Versatile and durable, they feature a waterproof, sweatproof design, so they can hold up during your toughest, most sweat-inducing workouts.

Type: Earbuds | Battery Life: 4.5 hours of playtime (13.5 hours using portable charging case) | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 1 meter for 30 minutes | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best for Runners: Garmin Forerunner 45S Running Watch

Pros
  • Easy to use

  • Lightweight and comfortable

  • Accurate tracking

Cons
  • Connecting to GPS is sometimes slow

  • No touch screen

While many heart rate monitors are suitable for runners, the Garmin Forerunner 45S stands out for its performance, versatility, and ease-of-use. Ideal for runners of all levels, it allows you to continuously monitor your heart rate at your wrist, while the built-in GPS tracks your distance, pace, and intervals.

Additionally, the Forerunner 45S measures activity, such as steps and calories, and offers coaching plans that provide expert, personalized training right at your fingertips. It also connects to your phone to receive smart notifications for texts and calls and to control your music player. And when you need to get in some cross-training, the Forerunner 45S can record your efforts during yoga, cycling, cardio, and more.

Type: Wristband | Battery Life: Up to 7 days in smartwatch mode and 14 hours in GPS mode (rechargeable)  | Satellite System: GPS | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 50 meters  | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best for Cycling: Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch

Pros
  • Lightweight yet durable

  • Built-in GPS

  • Long battery life

Cons
  • Limited options for display

While heart rate monitoring can be useful to cyclists, they also need a device that can provide other metrics as well as navigation. The durable Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch is a versatile training watch that accurately tracks your heart rate and also features robust GPS capabilities. Suunto's unique algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve accuracy, while also extending battery life.

The watch features more than 80 different sport modes, so you can also use it for hiking, running, indoor cycling, and more. In addition, the watch has a barometer to track weather trends and features storm alerts to help keep you safe while riding. You can also connect it to your phone so you can quickly view incoming messages and calls, notifications, and more.

Type: Wristband | Battery Life: 120 hours of continuous exercise tracking (rechargeable) | Satellite system: GPS, Fusedtrack | Water resistance: Water-resistant up to 100 meters  | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best for Peloton: Scosche Rhythm24 Waterproof Armband Heart Rate Monitor

Pros
  • Accurate tracking

  • Versatile—works with more than 200 fitness apps

  • Lightweight design

  • Pairs with most devices

Cons
  • Mobile app is lacking

To monitor your heart rate while on your Peloton, you’ll need a device that’s compatible with Bluetooth or ANT+ to ensure that it can connect to your bike. The Scosche Rhythm24 heart rate monitor works effortlessly with all devices and equipment that support Bluetooth Smart or ANT+ heart rate data and its lightweight and comfortable design is ideal for Peloton workouts.

It uses optical sensor technology for highly accurate monitoring and can also measure cadence, distance, calories burned, and more. With just a quick glance at the band, you can easily view the indicator LED lights to see which heart rate zone you’re in. In addition to using it with your Peloton, the Scosche Rhythm24 works with more than 200 of the most popular fitness apps.

Type: Armband | Battery Life: 24 hours (rechargeable) | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 10 feet | Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+

Best for Triathlon: Garmin HRM-Tri Heart Rate Monitor

Pros
  • Lightweight and comfortable

  • Accurate tracking

  • Good choice for racing

Cons
  • Battery not rechargeable

  • Can’t be used for pool swimming

Specifically designed for triathletes, this lightweight chest strap heart monitor from Garmin can be used to track your heart rate and other metrics when running, cycling, and open water swimming. Designed with soft, rounded edges and no exposed seams, the strap is extremely comfortable both in and out of the water. Triathletes can pair it with their Garmin wearable to track their data from start to finish.

The HRM-Tri stores heart rate data when you’re swimming and forwards it to your wearable when you’re done. When running, you can use it to get form and dynamic feedback including cadence, stride length, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, and more.

Type: Chest strap | Battery Life: 10 months, assuming 1 hour of use per day | Water-resistance: Waterproof up to 50 meters | Connectivity: ANT+

Best Bluetooth Compatible: POWR LABS Pulsr+ Heart Rate Monitor

POWR LABS Heart Rate Monitor
Pros
  • Works with multiple apps

  • Wide, adjustable strap

  • One-year battery replacement

  • Water- and sweat-proof

Cons
  • Can't wear while swimming

  • Possible pairing issues

If you rely on your smartphone to get you through your workouts, a heart rate monitor with Bluetooth compatibility is a must. The POWR LABS Pulsr+ allows for easy connectivity with your favorite fitness apps including Strava, Garmin, Wahoo, Peloton, and more. Dual-band Bluetooth 4.0 also means that you can accurately track your heart rate while working out on your home fitness equipment or spin bike.

Designed with an adjustable chest strap, the Pulsr+ can fit comfortably on a variety of body types, and the low-profile design allows for discrete wearability under clothing. While the battery should last six months, the brand offers free battery replacement in addition to a forgiving one-year warranty.

Type: Chest strap | Battery Life: 6 months (free replacements)  | Water-resistance: Waterproof and sweatproof. Can't be worn when swimming | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best Chest Strap: Garmin HRM Dual Heart Rate Monitor

Pros
  • Very accurate

  • Easy to use

  • Long battery life

Cons
  •  Battery difficult to change

This versatile and comfortable chest strap is compatible with both Bluetooth and ANT+, making it a good choice for runners, cyclists, and other fitness enthusiasts who want to connect to their smartwatch or cardio machines such as a Peloton. You can even use it to connect to two different devices at the same time. However, even if you aren't wearing your watch, the monitor will still capture heart rate data and feed it into the Garmin Connect app continuously. The strap is soft, adjustable, and machine-washable, once you remove the heart rate module.

Type: Chest Strap | Battery Life: Lasts up to 3.5 years  | Water-resistance: Water resistant to 10 meters | Connectivity: Bluetooth and ANT+

Best for Seniors: Fitbit Inspire HR Heart Rate and Fitness Tracker

Pros
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring

  • Long battery life

Cons
  • Sleep tracking not always reliable

For seniors who want a device with 24/7 heart rate monitoring that’s simple and user-friendly, the Fitbit Inspire HR is an excellent pick. In addition to tracking real-time heart rate zones, you can use it to measure your calories burned, steps, active minutes, and distance, both on the device or in the Fitbit app.

The Fitbit Inspire HR also helps you stay motivated with regular reminders to move and milestone celebrations, keeping you on track with your fitness goals. This durable, versatile device is a great fitness companion for all your activities, including walking, running, swimming, cycling, and more.

Type:  Wristband | Battery Life: Up to 5 days (rechargeable) | Water-resistance: Water resistant up to 50 meters | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best for Those with Heart Problems: Garmin Vivosmart 4 Fitness Tracker

garmin vivosmart 4
Pros
  • Measures oxygen saturation and stress levels

  • Sleek and stylish

  • Long battery life

Cons
  • Small screen

Not only does the Garmin Vivosmart 4 monitor your heart rate, but it also measures oxygen saturation levels, or how much oxygen is getting to your tissues. For those with heart or lung ailments, they can use their oxygen saturation levels as a warning to take steps to remedy it, determine if a treatment is working, or seek medical attention if necessary.

Plus, you can use the Vivosmart 4 to track activity and calories burned, monitor your sleep, and get notifications for calls, texts, and more. Additionally, it has a stress monitor and features guided breathing exercises for relaxation.

Type: Wristband | Battery Life: 7 days (rechargeable)  | Water-resistance: Can be worn for swimming and showering | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Final Verdict

For accuracy, comfort, and performance, it’s tough to beat the high-quality Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor. The extra-long battery life, secure fit, reliable results, and Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility make it a solid choice for runners, indoor and outdoor cyclists, and other fitness enthusiasts.

If you prefer a wristband monitor for the convenience of viewing your heart rate and other fitness stats at a glance, the Fitbit Versa 2 Smartwatch is another reliable, versatile pick. It’s easy to operate, comfortable, and can be used to track a wide variety of activities and health metrics.

What to Look for in a Heart Rate Monitor

Accuracy

If you’re monitoring your heart rate to make sure you’re training in a specific range, then you’ll want a device that’s reliable and precise. Generally, chest straps that use electrocardiography are known to be the most accurate. With this method, the chest strap’s electrode pad picks up electrical signals given off with each heartbeat, which allows for continuous heart-rate readings.

Optical heart rate monitors, which include wristband and armband devices, use small LED lights to track your pulse. Although that method can also produce reliable readings, the accuracy depends on a secure, tight fit.

Comfort

Even the most comfortable chest straps can start to feel constricting and may lead to chafing issues during seriously long rides or runs. Armbands and wristbands are usually a better fit for long training sessions, especially in the warm weather.

Connectivity

Analyzing the data collected from your heart rate monitor can help you monitor your progress, fine-tune your workouts, and provide useful information to a coach or healthcare professional. If you want to view your stats over time, look for a model that can be synced to an app or have its data downloaded to a computer.  

Some heart rate monitors use ANT+ technology, a wireless system that’s used with exercise machines such as Peloton. Others offer Bluetooth technology, which is easier to use and can connect the device directly to your phone.

Ease of use and compatibility

If a device is too difficult to use, then you won’t be able to take advantage of all its benefits and features. “Make sure the device meets your needs and is compatible with the exercise equipment you’re using and technology used at certain exercise facilities,” says Chris Gagliardi​, a certified personal trainer and Scientific Education Content Manager for the American Council on Exercise.

FAQs

How do heart rate monitors work?

Chest strap monitors typically use electrocardiography to measure the electrical activity of the heart, while armband and watch-style monitors use small LED lights to measure blood flow through the skin in a process called photoplethysmography. With both types of monitoring, the collected data is then transferred to a receiver, such as a watch or app, so you can view your heart rate in real-time.

How to read heart rate monitor results

Many people use a heart rate monitor when exercising to hit their target heart rate zone and get the most out of their workouts. Some basic monitors just relay your heart rate, so it’s up to you to know your target zone based on your age and fitness level and to determine whether you’re exerting the right amount of effort. Some more high-tech devices send notifications when you reach your target zone and if you drop below or go above it. 

What's the most accurate type of heart rate monitor?

Chest strap monitors detect electrical signals emitted from each heartbeat, so they usually produce the most accurate results. They still need to maintain secure, wet contact with your skin for good reading and will be less effective if they’re slipping and sliding. Optical heart rate sensors, which are usually worn on your wrist or arm, can be reliable but their accuracy may be reduced if the fit is not tight and light leaks in from the sides.

What are the different styles of heart rate monitors?

The most common styles of heart rate monitors are chest straps, armbands, and wristbands. While chest straps are typically more accurate, armbands and wristbands are usually more comfortable and convenient. Newer products, such as earbud monitors or fitness rings, are less cumbersome but tend to be pricier and less reliable than other styles.

Why Trust Verywell Fit? 

An avid runner, marathon running coach, and fitness writer, Christine Luff loves researching and testing the latest and greatest fitness gear and gadgets. Her decades of running experience have helped her understand the value of using the best gear to improve comfort and performance.  

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  1. Pasadyn SR, Soudan M, Gillinov M, et al. Accuracy of commercially available heart rate monitors in athletes: a prospective studyCardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2019;9(4):379-385. doi:10.21037/cdt.2019.06.05