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The Best Heart Rate Monitors for 2021

Generally, most heart rate monitor/fitness trackers cost between $60-$275. If you pay less than $60 you will find mediocre accuracy which defeats the purpose of tracking. More expensive options with a GPS feature are tailored toward athletes and exercise enthusiasts and may not be necessary.


What sport do you participate in? Swimmers will want a waterproof tracker, but keep in mind that not all water-safe trackers actually track swimming. Runners will probably want a watch that shows time, distance, pace, and lap time, at the very least. Cyclists have even more considerations. There's a difference between tracking how many miles you pedal and calories you burn versus monitoring your power and cadence.

After extensive research we have compiled a list of chest straps and optical sensor options (armbands and smartwatches) for different sports in multiple price ranges. Use the Table of Contents to review our research and see what option might be right for you!

Chest Strap Monitor Comparisons

Chest strap heart rate monitors measure electrical signals generated by your heart when it contracts. The chest strap tends to be more accurate because of this feature, but can be uncomfortable.

Best for Entry-

Level Users

heart rate monitor

$59.95

This is the best entry- level monitor for anyone with basic needs, including a wide range of compatibility and an excellent companion app.

Best Model

Overall

heart rate monitor

$89.95

This is the best monitor overall. It has added onboard memory making it more convenient for athletes who hate working out with their phone in tow.

Best Basic

Model

heart rate monitor

$69.99

This is a basic monitor that can connect to almost any device or app except the Garmin Connect app. It's reliable, accurate and comfortable. 

Best for

Runners

heart rate monitor

$99.99

This monitor is the best to buy if you own a Garmin fitness tracker that works with it. It provides advanced stats, such as oscillation and ground contact time.

Armband & Smartwatch Monitor Comparisons

Optical wrist/arm sensor monitors measure heart rate data using photoplethysmography - small LED lights that refract off of blood flow to determine pulse readings. The optical sensor options are more comfortable, but can have connectivity issues.

Armband Comparisons

Best for

Armband Fans

heart rate monitor

$84.95

This optical heart rate sensor offers an easy-to-use alternative to heart rate chest straps. Polar leads the industry in heart rate monitor technology.

Best for

Triathletes

heart rate monitor

$99.99

This is a good alternative to a chest strap with a biathlete and triathlete mode. It connects with nearly any other fitness device on the market.

Best for

Comfort

heart rate monitor

$79.99

This is one of the easiest monitors to set up and get started. It has a button to quickly switch on/off and uses indicator lights for status feedback.

Best for

Bicyclists

heart rate monitors

$79.95

This is not the most innovative device, but it's a reliable and reasonably priced option. This is a good upgrade to its predecessor.

Smartwatch Comparisons

Best Overall

Watch

$199.95

This smartwatch is a great upgrade to its predecessor. It has a larger screen, inte- grated GPS for pace/ distance tracking, a blood oxygen sensor and fast charging.

Best for

Runners

fitness tracker

$159.99

This smartwatch is also an upgrade. It has a new look and color display, but maintains quality functionality as a fitness tracker for runners and those tracking workouts.

Best for

Swimmers

$149.95

This smartwatch is considered one of the best everyday fitness trackers you can buy. It's upgrade has a sharper screen, longer battery life, a swim-safe build.

Best for

Overall Training

fitness tracker

$265.99

This smartwatch is the most compre- hensive. It has a multi-sport GPS with updated technology to monitor heart rate and training load for a complete picture.

Heart Rate Monitor Reviews

GOLD STANDARD IN HEART RATE MONITORING: Polar has been a leader in the HR tracking market for decades backed by years of scientific research and development. 

  • Strap: Polar Soft Strap is comfortable and washable
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 30M
  • Battery life: 400 hours not rechargeable
  • Compatibility with 30+ 3rd Party Apps using ANT+ or Bluetooth at 5kHz transmission. Can only link to one bluetooth connection and monitor HRV.
  • No built-in memory

GOLD STANDARD IN HEART RATE MONITORING: Polar has been a leader in the HR tracking market for decades backed by years of scientific research and development. 

  • Strap: Polar Pro Strap has additional electrodes and silicone friction dots increasing accuracy.
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 30M
  • Battery life: 400 hours not rechargeable
  • Compatibility with 30+ 3rd Party Apps using ANT+ or Bluetooth at 5kHz transmission. Can link to two bluetooth connections and monitor HRV.
  • Built-in memory for one training session

The Garmin HRM-Dual is about as simple as it gets. It has good accuracy, but not much additional functionality unless paired with a Garmin watch.

  • Strap: Bulkier than Garmin HRM-Run with adjustability from 63.5 to 132 cm. Not suitable for swimming pool, but is washable.
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 10M
  • Battery life: 42 months not rechargeable
  • Compatibility with many 3rd Party Apps using ANT+ or Bluetooth
  • No built-in memory

The Garmin HRM-Run has tailored features for improving step frequency, step length, vertical movement and balance of the ground contact time. It has good accuracy, but not much additional functionality unless paired with a Garmin watch.

  • Strap: Adjustability 60 to 142 cm. Not suitable for swimming pool and not washable. Only Garmin HRM-Tri can be used in the pool.
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 50M
  • Battery life: 12 months not rechargeable
  • Only uses ANT+ and has to be linked with a Garmin smartwatch to take advantage of its data collection.
  • No built-in memory

GOLD STANDARD IN HEART RATE MONITORING: Polar has been a leader in the HR tracking market for decades backed by years of scientific research and development. 

  • Armband: Band is comfortable and washable. Not suitable for the swimming pool.
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 30M
  • Battery life: 12 hours and rechargeable
  • Compatibility with 30+ 3rd Party Apps using ANT+ or Bluetooth at 5kHz transmission. Can only link to one bluetooth connection.
  • Built-in memory for up to 200 hours of training.

Scosche Rhythm24

Armband

heart rate monitor

$99.99

Scosche was the first to create a highly accurate optical sensor armband heart rate monitor rivaling the accuracy of a chest strap.

  • Armband: Band is comfortable, sweatproof and interchangeable. It can be used in the swimming pool and is waterproof up to 10 feet.
  • Sensor: PerformTek sensor employs green and yellow optical sensors to ramp up accuracy on all skin tones with 5 heart rate zone indications.
  • Battery life: 24 hours and rechargeable
  • Compatibility with 200+ 3rd Party Apps using ANT+ or Bluetooth. Wirelessly train up to 100ft from mobile device or exercise equipment.
  • Built-in memory for up to 13 hours of training.

Wahoo TickrFit

Armband

heart rate monitor

$79.99

Wahoo TickrFit armband is a product evolution of the successful Wahoo Tickr chest strap. It is easy to set up and sync.

  • Armband: Band is comfortable, sweatproof and hand washable. Not suitable for the swimming pool.
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 5 feet
  • Battery life: 30 hours and rechargeable
  • Compatibility with 50+ 3rd Party Apps using ANT+ or Bluetooth.
  • No built-in memory.

Scosche Rhythm+

Armband

heart rate monitors

$79.95

Scosche was the first to create a highly accurate optical sensor armband heart rate monitor rivaling the accuracy of a chest strap.

  • Armband: Band is comfortable, sweatproof and washable. It can be used in the swimming pool and is waterproof up to 1M.
  • Sensor: PerformTek sensor employs green and yellow optical sensors to ramp up accuracy on all skin tones.
  • Battery life: 8 hours and rechargeable
  • Compatibility with 3rd Party Apps using ANT+ or Bluetooth. Wirelessly train up to 100ft from mobile device or exercise equipment.
  • No built-in memory.

Fitbit Versa 3

Smartwatch

$199.95

Fitbit has been the leader in the smartwatch market since 2007. This smartwatch has a larger screen than its predecessor, 24/7 heart rate tracking, integrated GPS for pace/distance tracking, a blood oxygen sensor and fast charging.

  • Watchband: The band is comfortable with an unusual wrapping clasp for better fit. It is replaceable with different colors.
  • Sensor: Accelerometer, altimeter, SpO2, vibration motor, ambient light sensor and temperature sensors. Waterproof up to 50M
  • Battery life: 6+ days and rechargeable
  • Fitbit app is only compatible with Apple iOS 12.2 or higher or Android OS 7.0 or higher.
  • Additional features: control spotify app, download the Pandora stations app, track sleep, stay connected on-the-go.

Garmin Forerunner45S

Smartwatch

fitness tracker

$159.99

The Garmin Forerunner 45S is an upgrade to the 35S and is considered its entry-level running watch. This watch includes an integrated GPS to take advantage of new running metrics. It has new health and wellness features, 24/7 heart rate monitoring and a stylish circular design.

  • Watchband: The band is comfortable and easily modified.
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 50M
  • Battery life: 7 days and rechargeable
  • Garmin app is only compatible with Apple iOS 12.2 or higher or Android OS 7.0 or higher.
  • Additional features: sync activities from other Garmin devices, track sleep, stay connected on-the-go.

Fitbit Charge 4

Smartwatch

$149.95

Fitbit has been the leader in the smartwatch market since 2007. This smartwatch has 24/7 heart rate tracking, integrated GPS for pace/distance tracking, and a blood oxygen sensor.

  • Watchband: The band is comfortable with a traditional clasp still providing good connection. It is replaceable with different colors.
  • Sensor: Accelerometer, altimeter, SpO2, vibration motor. Waterproof up to 50M
  • Battery life: 7 days (5 hours if GPS activated) and rechargeable
  • Fitbit app is only compatible with Apple iOS 12.2 or higher or Android OS 7.0 or higher.

Polar Vantage M

Smartwatch

fitness tracker

$265.99

GOLD STANDARD IN HEART RATE MONITORING: Polar has been a leader in the HR tracking market for decades and brings that technology to the Polar Vantage M smartwatch. It has 24/7 heart rate tracking, training load monitoring, long battery life, integrated GPS and even a running power feature. This brings solid training data to the everyday sports enthusiast.

  • Watchband: The band is comfortable and replaceable with different colors.
  • Sensor: Waterproof up to 50M
  • Battery life: 5 days (30 hours if GPS activated) and rechargeable
  • Compatibility with other devices such as external heart rate monitors, stride sensors and cycling sensors. You can pair additional devices right from the watch.
  • Additional features: Polar Training Load Pro mode, multiple running programs and track sleep.

We hope you found this post helpful and informative. In our journey of health we are continually experimenting and stretching our athleticism and longevity. One of the key tools that we have used for years is a heart rate monitor. Here is a post on some beginner tips for using a heart rate monitor - 3 Reasons Why the Use of a Heart Rate Monitor Is Important. Marty really likes the Polar H10 chest strap and I prefer the Fitbit Versa 3 smartwatch.


What brand/style do you like best for your health and fitness goals? Let us know if we should include other options. Leave us a comment below.

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