How to Choose the Best Pedometer

Woman checking a pedometer on her wrist
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Wearing a pedometer or fitness tracker to record your daily steps is a great motivating tool. You can wear it all day and record total steps or just when doing a walking workout. Here's how to find the best pedometer for you.

Types of Pedometers

There are several types of pedometers, but each one typically falls into one of seven categories:

  • Waist pedometer, spring-levered. This pedometer is worn on the waistband or belt. The body's movement causes the spring-suspended lever arm to go up and down, with each up and down repetition counting as a step. Inaccurate step counts can occur if you walk slowly (under 3 mph) or are obese.
  • Waist pedometer, accelerometer. This pedometer is also worn on the waist but measures steps via an accelerometer, a device that measures vertical acceleration and time to determine steps. These devices are considered more accurate than spring-levered pedometers. Waist pedometers are more accurate than wrist pedometers when walking on a treadmill.
  • Pocket pedometer, accelerometer. Instead of wearing a pedometer on your waist, you wear it on your pants pocket. Walking slowly or being obese can reduce the accuracy of pocket pedometers.
  • Thigh pedometer, accelerometer. Some pedometers are designed to be worn on the thigh, using different acceleration measures to determine steps taken. Thigh pedometers are considered accurate down to speeds as slow as 1.5 mph.
  • Ankle pedometer, accelerometer. Ankle pedometers count steps by detecting different movement patterns. These pedometers don't typically have issues related to speed or weight. Although, they may miscount steps during some activities, such as running or cycling.
  • Foot pedometer. Pedometers designed to be worn on the foot count steps with each heel strike. Some foot pedometers are worn on the shoe itself, others on the shoelace or in the shoe's heel. Foot pedometers are considered more accurate than pedometers worn on the body.
  • Wrist pedometer. Many of these pedometers have a high accuracy rate, though some record steps during other activities when the wrist is moving and you're not taking steps, such as when folding laundry or if you move your hands while talking.

Walking Speedometers or Odometers

Walking speedometers and speed-measuring apps use GPS sensors to track your speed and distance continuously. But they only work outdoors and need a strong-enough satellite signal to track you accurately.

Foot pedometers that use an accelerometer sensor may measure this data and must be calibrated for the best accuracy. The benefit of shoe sensor models is that they work indoors as well as outdoors and can be used on a treadmill.

Pedometers That Upload Data

For data junkies, what could be better than a pedometer that uploads your walking data to a computer program or cell phone app and shows you graphs and charts of your activity? Several brands offer this ability, allowing you to see your progress more easily.

Pedometer Apps

If you don't want to purchase a pedometer, there are a variety of pedometer apps that use a cellphone's built-in accelerometer to count steps or utilize the phone's GPS. They vary as to whether you can use them to track total daily steps or only during dedicated workouts.

Workout-tracking walking apps use your phone's GPS and show your speed and distance continuously, tracking your path on a map. Some apps let you share your achievements with friends via social media or email. Using the GPS function does drain the battery faster and won't work for treadmill walking.

How to Find the Best Pedometer

Recording your steps and/or distance can keep your walking plan on track. You can record your daily totals in any log or through one of the pedometer walking programs offered. To get the best pedometer for you, ask yourself a few questions.

How Will You Wear Your Pedometer?

As previously mentioned, there are several different places you can wear your pedometer. They include your waist, wrist, thigh, pocket, ankle, and foot. Consider which of these options will work best for you.

Smartwatches such as the Apple Watch are another option as they track your daily steps and workouts in addition to performing many other functions. You also won't need additional devices or to carry your phone with you constantly to use the step counting feature.

If you wear your pedometer to count total daily steps, choose one that is small enough and comfortable enough for all-day wear. Add a pedometer safety leash or wristband security belt for good measure so they don't fall off and get lost.

If you choose a pedometer that is worn on the waist, the display should be easy to read without removing it from your waistband. If the pedometer has a reset button, it should be configured so you can't accidentally reset it.

Do You Even Want to Wear a Pedometer?

Your cell phone is likely already counting your steps and you can check its data with a variety of built-in health functions or apps. Of course, it only counts steps if you are carrying it with you. But this is an option if you take your phone wherever you go.

What Do You Want Your Pedometer to Do?

Some pedometers can do more than just count your steps. Consider these possible functions.

Count Total Daily Steps

The simplest pedometers only count your steps and/or distance. This may be all you need to keep yourself motivated toward a goal of 6,000 steps per day for health, for instance, or 10,000 steps per day for weight loss.

However, some pedometers (or pedometer functions of other devices) are built for use only during workouts rather than all day. Looking for the feature you want enables you to purchase a pedometer you'll likely be happier with it in the long run.

Workout Tracking

Some pedometers reset themselves at midnight and you can't use them only for specific workouts. If you want to use your pedometer primarily to track dedicated walking workouts, you want one with a workout feature or the ability to reset it.

Many advanced models are able to both count total daily steps and track specific workouts.

Other Features

Some pedometer models have even more features. Note which ones are most important to you when comparing models, such as:

Pedometer Accuracy

Accuracy starts with the mechanism. Accelerometers and accelerometer chips are more accurate than spring models. To check the accuracy of your pedometer, take 100 steps and see what the count shows.

If it is off by more than a few steps, adjust where you are wearing it. Sometimes moving the pedometer just an inch or two makes a big difference. For fitness bands, it makes a difference if you wear it on your dominant wrist, and often you can set that in the app.

The accuracy of the distance depends on measuring and setting your stride length correctly. Some models just ask for your height and use a standard formula. If this isn't accurate for you, you may have to set it with a different height to get more accurate readings.

You can also check the accuracy of a pedometer's distance measurement using a known distance, or by using a mapping app to draw and measure a walking route and check it against your pedometer's reading.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.