Which Pedometer Design Is Best?


Which Pedometer Design Is Best for Me?

Pedometer Varieties
Pedometer Varieties. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

Pedometers come in a variety of designs. Which pedometer design you prefer depends on how you are most comfortable in wearing it and how often you will check the step count.

Your pedometer design choice depends on whether you want to count total daily steps or you want to track only your walking workouts. If you want to upload and track your workouts on your computer or online, you will need a computer-linked pedometer.


Flip-Case Pedometer Designs

Yamax Digiwalker CW-701 Pedometer
Yamax Digiwalker CW-701 Pedometer. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

A flip-case pedometer has a flip-open cover to protect the face of the pedometer and to keep you from accidentally bumping the buttons and changing the readings, especially to prevent resetting the step count accidentally. While some designs have a window to allow you to see the readings without opening the case, most of these pedometers require you to open the case to see your readings.

Flip-case pedometers usually have a clip on the back of the pedometer to attach to your waistband. The pedometer opens from the top, flipping down, so you can see the readings without removing the pedometer from your waistband.

While you have the inconvenience of having to open up the case to see the readings, it is an easy procedure unless you have a sticky case. I have attempted to review pedometer samples where I couldn't easily get the case open. This was usually a problem with an individual pedometer rather than the design. If you can't open your flip-case pedometer easily, return it for a trade-in.

Favorite Flip-Case Pedometer: Yamax Digiwalker CW-701


Open-Face Pedometers

Omron HJ-321 Pedometer 1800
Omron HJ-321 Pedometer. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Open-face pedometers have their read-outs on the front of the pedometer and don't have a protective cover or flip case. Many inexpensive pedometers are front-read pedometers. A common problem of open-face pedometers is that you may bump them and accidentally reset the step count or change the reading to an alternate view. In order to avoid this problem, some designs have recessed buttons or have a delay on the reset button so you must press it for several seconds before it performs the reset.

Open-face pedometers may have a waistband clip or they may be designed to be carried in your pocket. It can be inconvenient to view a waistband open-face pedometer as you have to rotate it up to view and it is likely to come off your waistband. While doing this you may accidentally hit the reset button. Only consider well-engineered designs that prevent this sort of accident.

Avoid the cheap or freebie open-face pedometers as they are the most prone to accidental reset.

Favorite Open-Face Pedometer: Omron HJ-321


Pocket Pedometers

Yamax PW-611 Pocket Walker Pedometer
Yamax PW-611 Pocket Walker Pedometer. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

Pocket pedometers are designed to be carried in your pocket and don't have to be clipped to your waistband. They can still give accurate step readings when tilted to one side, although they won't give accurate readings if tilted forward or backward.

Pocket pedometers usually are open-face pedometers, but engineered with recessed buttons and button-press delays so they won't be accidentally pressed by contact with your clothing or other items in your pocket.

The advantage of a pocket pedometer is that they can be carried in your pocket rather than requiring a waistband to clip them to, solving that problem for those who wear dresses. Some people can't get an accurate reading if they wear a waistband pedometer because it ends up tilting inward or outward due to their body shape. For these people, a pocket pedometer may give a more accurate reading.

Favorite Pocket Pedometer: Yamax PW-611 Pocket Walker


Top-Read Pedometers

Sportbrain iStep
Sportbrain iStep. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

For easy viewing, some pedometers have the read-outs on the top of the pedometer. You can just glance at the pedometer clipped on your waistband to see the reading, rather than opening the case or rotating the pedometer and risk popping it off your waistband.

Top-read pedometers don't have a protective case, so they must be engineered to prevent pressing the buttons accidentally and resetting the readings. They may also be wider at the top than other designs, which might be less comfortable to wear.


Computer and App-Linked Pedometers

Fitbit Zip - One- Flex - Charge - Aria - Charge HR - Surge
Fitbit Zip - One- Flex - Charge - Aria - Charge HR - Surge. Fitbit

View your pedometer activity on your computer on online by using a computer-linked pedometer. These come in many different designs and you will see a large variation in the type of data you can view.

No Displays: Some models have no display on the pedometer itself, you can only view your data on a computer or phone app. This is a disadvantage if you want to check your step count when you are away from the computer or phone app.

Wired vs. Wireless: The pedometer may need to be plugged into the computer via a USB connection, or it may transmit to the computer or app wirelessly with Bluetooth.

GPS and Cell Phone Applications: For GPS-capable cell phones, programs are available which track speed and distance. These may not give a step count.


Pedometer Watches

Apple Watch - Activity App
Apple Watch - Activity App. Apple Watch - Activity App

Pedometer watches come in three different varieties.

Motion Sensor Chip in the Watch: Pedometer watches with a motion sensor chip translate arm movement and acceleration into steps and distance. The algorithms and chips have been improving, but you can still have strange variations if you don't use arm motion while walking. The Apple Watch and the Fitbit Charge are examples.

GPS: Models which use GPS are measuring the distance and speed you are traveling as detected by GPS satellites. These models may have a separate sensor or use the sensor in your cell phone. They may not give step counts. They may not work indoors and won't give you any distance credit for walking on a treadmill.

Separate Sensor: One type of pedometer watch uses a separate sensor you wear on your waistband or shoe to detect your steps. It transmits this data to the watch to view on the watch. The Nike+ Sportband uses a shoe sensor to send data to a watch or iPod. The Timex Fitness Tracker uses a waistband pedometer to transmit data to the watch.

Some pedometer watches are designed to be used to track walking and running workouts rather than total daily steps. They tend to eat up battery life or need frequent recharging. While some designs are acceptable to wear as your daily-use watch, most designs are large and clunky and can't substitute for a wristwatch.


Pedometer Mechanisms

Pedometers are not all alike inside the case. The kind of mechanism used will affect accuracy, longevity, and the kind of data the pedometer produces.

Spring-Levered Pedometers: The most common type of less-expensive pedometers are spring-levered pedometers. A lever arm swings downward to close a contact to count a step. Then the spring returns it to its original position. You hear a click with each step, which can be annoying. A coiled spring retains its accuracy longer than a hairspring, and they are more expensive. If you are paying more than $15 for a pedometer, do the research to find out whether it is a coiled-spring pedometer so you are getting value for your money.
Favorite Coiled-Spring Pedometer: Yamax Digiwalker CW-701 

Accelerometers - Piezo-electric Pedometers: These pedometers are more accurate than the spring-levered pedometers. They have no moving parts, so there is no clicking. An accelerometer uses a strain gauge, which measures how fast you are moving. This uses more battery power. So users need to replace the batteries more often -- every 6 months or so. These pedometers also tolerate being tilted to one side, giving more accurate readings for a wider array of body shapes. They can also be carried in a pocket. They will usually cost over $25.

GPS Pedometers: GPS uses satellites to measure distance and speed. These do not give you a step count but give very accurate speed and distance measurements outdoors. They work poorly indoors and won't work for treadmill walking or walking in place. You can download an application to use the GPS built into your cell phone as a GPS pedometer, or buy a stand-alone GPS pedometer.

Accelerometer Chip Pedometers: The motion-sensing chips are everywhere, from your cell phone to modern wrist fitness trackers. They sense movement no matter how they are oriented. They give data to pedometer apps and power many fitness bands.

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