10 Most Common Pedometer Problems

Did you walk for 30 minutes, and your pedometer reads only 100 steps? Pedometers and fitness monitors can overcount or undercount steps for several reasons. The pedometer may be bad, or it may be something you can correct with a fresh battery or better wearing position.


Pedometer Is Tilted

Pedometer on a waistband

Ruth Jenkinson / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Old-school inexpensive pedometers use a pendulum mechanism and must be worn in a specific position to count steps accurately. If it is tilted forward or backward or side to side, it won't count every step.

Try repositioning it on the waistband or clipping it to a pocket. If you can't get an accurate reading, switching to a pocket pedometer or fitness tracker that uses an accelerometer mechanism or an accelerometer chip is best. The 2-axis models tolerate some tilt, but the 3-axis models and those with an accelerometer chip (as found in fitness monitors) aren't affected by tilt.


You Have Your Device in the Wrong Position

Clip-on pedometers are meant to be worn on the waistband, while fitness monitors are meant to be worn on the wrist. The instructions will usually show one position, but it may not be right for an individual's body shape and stride.

Experiment to find the best position for pedometers worn on the waist, which will be somewhere between the hip and the navel in a position where the pedometer won't be tilted forward, backward, or sideways.

Attempting to wear a pedometer in novel ways such as clipped to a pocket, a sock, or a bra may give inaccurate results. If you try to hack your pedometer or fitness monitor by wearing on your shoe as you pedal a cycle, you may get only a few steps, or rack up a bunch.

Pedometers designated as pocket pedometers are tolerant of more positions, but they also have their limits for accuracy.

Fitness monitors such as Fitbit devices ask you to designate whether you are wearing your tracker on your dominant or non-dominant wrist. It then adjusts its sensitivity accordingly. 


You Accidentally Hit the Reset Button

Simple pedometers may have a reset button, and it can be easy to hit it accidentally. The cure for this is to get a pedometer that has a cover over the reset button or has recessed buttons that are difficult to press accidentally.

Some pedometers keep a daily count going, and pressing reset only clears the current session, not the total. Luckily, most activity trackers don't have a reset button—they keep counting steps as long as they have battery life.


You Didn't Turn It On

Some pedometers have on/off switches. Locate the instructions to see how to turn your device on. New pedometers may have a tab over the battery that needs to be removed before it will work.

If your pedometer needs to be turned on, always check it after a minute of walking to see if it is counting steps or needs to be turned on or repositioned.


It Hit the Floor

Pedometers are known to fly off of your waist or wrist (especially in restrooms). If your pedometer just took a tumble and now it's not working, it probably is broken permanently. You can try removing the battery and replacing it in hopes this will revive it.

The best prevention for this common accident is to use a pedometer safety leash. You can buy one or make your own out of some string and a safety pin.

If your fitness tracker doesn't stay closed on your wrist, you can add an o-ring from the hardware store as a "keeper." Or, you can buy a Bitbelt, which is a wider silicone loop that comes in colors to mix or match with your fitness tracker's strap.


The Battery Is Dead

A pedometer battery lasts six months to a year with common use. Fitness trackers may need to be recharged daily or every few days. As the battery runs down, you may see flaky readings—counting too few or too many steps.

If you have been using the pedometer for a few months without a problem, this may cause newly inaccurate readings. If it is a new pedometer, try changing the battery to see if that corrects the problem. It may have been sold with the battery already running.

If your Fitbit or other rechargeable fitness tracker is having to be recharged more frequently than usual, do a hard reset. Check the website for instructions.


It Got Wet

Few pedometers are waterproof. If you made a mistake and submerged your pedometer, you can try to rescue it by taking out the battery (if possible) and letting the device thoroughly dry for a day or two in a warm, dry place before putting the battery back in.

You may want to use a hairdryer to gently blow it dry (on low or no heat). If it still shows a blank display or a strange bunch of numbers, it is probably beyond rescue.


You Are Looking at the Wrong Mode

Many pedometers have different screen modes showing distance, calories burned, exercise time, speed, stopwatch, and other data besides a step count. Check to make sure you are looking at the right screen mode. If the distance seems strange, check to see whether it is showing kilometers or miles.

If you are checking an app, make sure you have synced the data, and you are looking at the correct day. It may take a while for the numbers to refresh after syncing.


The Mechanism Is Getting Old

Cheaper pedometers use a spring mechanism that loses its tension as it ages. Over time, with use, they tend to lose accuracy. The cheapest hairspring models age the fastest, but coiled springs also age. This leads to inaccurate step counts.

Look for a pedometer with a piezo-electric accelerometer mechanism or a fitness tracker that uses an electronic chip. They may cost more, but they are silent and maintain their accuracy for longer.


You Need to Set Stride Length and Weight

A pedometer's step count shouldn't be affected by an incorrect stride length or weight, but you need to set these accurately to get a good estimate of distance and calories burned.

Don't underestimate your weight—you burn more calories per mile the more you weigh.

Check your pedometer instructions and take the time to get a good estimate of stride length. If you walk a measured mile and it doesn't match the pedometer, increase or decrease your stride length setting.

If the pedometer underestimates the distance (saying you went 0.75 miles instead of the 1 mile of the course), increase the setting. Decrease your stride length if it is overestimating (saying you went 1.25 miles on a 1-mile course.)

2 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.
  1. Bassett DR Jr, Toth LP, LaMunion SR, Crouter SE. Step counting: A review of measurement considerations and health-related applicationsSports Med. 2017;47(7):1303–1315. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0663-1

  2. Husted HM, Llewellyn TL. The accuracy of pedometers in measuring walking steps on a treadmill in college studentsInt J Exerc Sci. 2017;10(1):146–153.

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.