Heart rate monitors are helpful tools for athletes of all levels, but they are particularly valuable for beginners. If you’re just starting out, you can use a heart rate monitor to keep close tabs on your current fitness. It can also be valuable by providing feedback and keeping you motivated as you watch your fitness improve. At the same time, a heart rate monitor can prevent you from overdoing it by reminding you to stay within a safe zone as you exercise.
The first step when choosing the best heart rate monitor for you is to settle on a budget and type of monitor. You’ll find both wrist-based monitors and ones that are worn as a chest strap. While chest strap monitors tend to be more accurate, it’s hard not to consider the convenience of a wrist-based monitor.
If you’re just starting out, you can probably get by with a simpler, more budget-friendly monitor. However, if you’re serious about training or think that you’ll want more features later on, it makes sense to splurge on a more comprehensive monitor. Popular features include target heart rate zones and time spent in these zones, distance covered, calories burned and the ability to see split times. Some monitors can be connected with a smartphone or computer so that you can upload and track training data.
1. Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor
The Polar H10 is a chest-based monitor with a soft strap for your comfort. The electrodes are strategically placed to accurately gather data without getting in the way. Slipping isn’t an issue thanks to silicone dots. You can wear the monitor swimming, as it’s waterproof and will transmit data from the water. At the end of the workout, you can get your heart rate info and other data via the accompanying app. This Bluetooth-enabled monitor is compatible with the majority of gym equipment and Bluetooth devices.
Price: $72.00 – $176.95
- Bluetooth technology
- Soft chest strap
- Some find the strap too stiff
- Basic app
- A few mention connectivity issues
2. Jarv Bluetooth Wireless Heart Rate Monitor and Sensor
Lots of heart rate monitors feature Bluetooth technology. However, the Jarv is different as you don’t need a cumbersome Bluetooth dongle to connect to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Like most of its competitors, this product tracks heart rate along with distance and pace. It’s also an ideal choice for fitness buffs as it comes with more than 50 workout-related and wellness apps, including ones catered to running, cycling, and walking.
- Over 50 apps
- Tracks heart rate, distance, pace
- Compatible with most iPad, iPhone, and iPod devices
- Strap can come loose
- Occasionally loses heart rate
- Relatively long connection time
3. Garmin Forerunner 910XT GPS-Enabled Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor
This multi-sport GPS-enabled heart rate monitor watch is an ideal workout companion for swimming, running, and cycling. It has a battery life up to 20 hours and tracks everything from time and distance to pace, elevation, and heart rate. The Garmin Forerunner 910XT is water resistant up to 164 feet. Features include vibration alerts to keep you on track to reach your workout goals and the ability to upload your workout information to the Garmin Connect community.
- Multi-sport tracking
- Battery life up to 20 hours
- Water resistant
- Some owners note that the instant timer doesn’t seem accurate
- Calorie count seems inaccurate
- Prone to connectivity glitches
Find more Garmin Forerunner 910XT GPS-Enabled Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor information and reviews here.
4. Scosche Rhythm+ Heart Rate Monitor Armband
It’s hard to miss this Scosche heart rate monitor, which comes in a variety of fun colors such as pink, green, and blue. Not only does it look great, but this monitor also offers just about everything you need — and more. For example, the monitor sports a convenient workout tool that manages your heart rate along with calories burned, distance, and pace. As an added bonus, it also accurately tracks your intensity level. The included RHYTHM program works with the hottest fitness apps such as MapMyFitness and Strava.
- Available in several colors
- RHYTHM program compatible with popular fitness apps
- Accurately monitors heart rate, calories, distance, and pace
- Not compatible with older machines
- Strap adhesive loses stickiness
- Requires special charging unit
5. Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor for iPhone & Android
ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 technology enables the TICKR to connect with smartphones and tablets. The heart rate monitor is also compatible with certain GPS watches from manufacturers such as Garmin and Polar. Pair it with apps such as Wahoo Runfit or Wahoo 7 Minute Workout to enhance your workout. This heart rate monitor works with over 50 smartphone apps such as MapMyFitness, Strava, Apple Health, Nike+ Running, and more. The TICKR provides essentials such as real-time heart rate, calories burned, and training zones.
- Works with over 50 smartphone apps
- Tracks real-time heart rate, training zones, and calories burned
- Compatible with most iPod/iPad and Android devices
- A handful of complaints regarding inaccurate heart rate monitoring
- Chest strap is a bit small for larger users
- Some users note pairing/syncing headaches
6. Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch
Don’t let its slim size fool you, as this Fitbit fitness watch is designed to make your training better with features such as built-in GPS tracking and smart notifications. You can see your total distance covered and pace along with elevation climbed. The heart rate monitor watch also lets you review routes and split times. It also provides all-day heart rate monitoring without an uncomfortable and bulky chest strap. Other highlights include multi-sport functionality and automatic sleep monitoring. The watch is also available in small and extra-large.
Price: $199.00 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Built-in GPS tracking
- All-day heart rate monitoring
- Available in multiple sizes
- A bit bulky
- Some wish it offered more than just call and text notifications
- Band material may irritate sensitive skin
7. Garmin Fenix 3 HR
If your favorite outdoor activities regularly take you off the beaten path, consider the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. For starters, it offers wrist-based heart rate monitoring so that you don’t need to wear a cumbersome chest strap. You’ll also find fitness training features such as V02 max and a recovery adviser. An omni-directional antenna with GPS satellite reception gives you more coverage, even in tricky environments, than GPS alone. You can expect the battery to last up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 16 hours in GPS mode. This monitor is water rated up to 100 meters and is suitable for swimming.
- Omni-directional antenna with GPS satellite reception
- Can be used when swimming
- Ideal for serious outdoor enthusiasts
- Wrist-based monitoring doesn’t work when swimming
- Some wish the screen was brighter
8. Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor
This Polar heart rate monitor provides continuous and accurate heart rate monitoring with an included chest strap. It also uses a Smart Calorie feature along with your personal data to determine the total number of calories you’ve burned during a workout. The heart rate monitor is water resistant and comes with a user-replaceable battery for added convenience. GymLink technology lets you connect the watch with compatible gym equipment.
- Continuous heart rate monitoring
- Water resistant
- User-replaceable battery
- User manual doesn’t explain all the features
- Chest strap is a bit bulky
- Battery replacement can be tricky
9. Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch
This versatile smart heart rate monitor watch tracks everything from steps to distance covered, floors climbed, and calories burned. It even gives you a total number of active minutes throughout the day. The Fitbit watch provides wrist-based heart rate monitoring for your comfort and convenience. Other features include multi-sport tracking for biking, running, cardio, and more along with simplified heart rate zones.
Price: $199.95 (51 percent off MSRP)
- Multi-sport tracking
- Tracks heart rate, distance covered, active minutes, and more
- Wrist-based heart rate monitoring
- A bit large for smaller wrists
- Light vibration alerts
- Doesn’t have a built-in GPS
10. Garmin vivoactive HR GPS Smart Watch
Aside from 24/7 heart rate monitoring this Garmin watch also stands out for its long battery life — it can last up to eight days in watch/activity tracking mode — and smart notifications. Users can download free customized apps along with widgets and watch faces. The heart rate monitor keeps track of your progress and even compares your progress to goals recommended by organizations such as the American Heart Association.
Price: $199.99 (20 percent off MSRP)
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring
- Long battery life
- Provides smart notifications
- A bit bulky
- Screen can be hard to read in lower light settings