Keeping track of your heart rate is one of the most essential metrics when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle and improving your fitness training. Finding a good heart rate monitor is part of that. Thankfully tracking your heart rate is pretty easy, as most activity trackers and smartwatches on the market come with a built-in heart rate monitor. Of course, there are also dedicated chest straps for heart rate monitoring if you’re looking for something a little more accurate.
But with so many different heart rate sensors on the market, which one should you buy? We’re here to help! We’ve rounded up the best heart rate monitor chest straps, heart rate running watches, and heart rate fitness trackers on the market.
Best heart rate monitors and watches:
Updates September 1, 2019, 12:00 am
We removed the MYZONE MZ-3, as we no longer recommend it over any of the other choices on this list.
Best running watches with a heart rate monitor
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is our favorite GPS running watch right now, and it has a stellar heart rate sensor. It comes with the third-generation Garmin Elevate sensor, the same one found in the new Garmin Forerunner 945.
A great heart rate sensor isn’t the only thing this watch offers. The Forerunner 245 Music also offers accurate GPS and sleep tracking, a handful of advanced running features, onboard music storage, Garmin Coach training plans, and a battery that’ll last up to seven days.
If you’re looking for a GPS running watch that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is probably your best option.
The Polar M430 is a relatively cheap GPS running watch that doesn’t skimp on the features. Plus, it has one of the most accurate wrist-based heart rate monitors we’ve ever tested.
It has a built-in GPS, six-LED heart rate monitor, and a battery that will last up to 30 hours on a single charge. It’ll also display your smartphone notifications.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the watch is its compatibility with the Polar Running Program, which will help guide your daily training and help you achieve your performance goals. You can upload daily training programs to your M430, access strength and core training videos, and even monitor your running progress via the Running Index feature.
Garmin Forerunner 935
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is a great option for hardcore runners, swimmers, bikers, and triathletes. It provides advanced dynamics to help you improve your runs, such as contact time balance, stride length, and more.
It also comes with two-week battery life in smartwatch mode, up to a full day in GPS mode, and up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode. UltraTrac mode is a GPS setting that makes the watch track sensor data less frequently, allowing you to squeeze out some extra battery life if you don’t need all of your data recorded.
It’s a bit pricey, but we really think the high price tag is worth it.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
If you’re looking for the best GPS running watch on the market, the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is it. Although it has a clunky name, there’s nothing clunky about this watch — it’s packed with features, comfortable to wear, and is actually Garmin’s first wearable that supports onboard music storage.
The big news here is the ability to story music directly on the watch, which means you don’t need to take your phone with you on a run if you want to listen to music. Garmin says the watch can hold approximately 500 songs at one time, and you can also download offline playlists from select music services like iHeartRadio. Once your watch is loaded up with music, just pair it with some Bluetooth earbuds and you’ll be on your way.
This is also a great option if you need a training watch. The Forerunner 645 Music comes with training features powered by Firstbeat, which will help you better prepare for a race by letting you know if you’re training productively, peaking, or overreaching. Of course, let’s not forget about the heart rate sensor — the 645 Music has an optical heart rate sensor onboard that should do just fine at keeping up with increasing and decreasing heart rate during your workouts.
Best fitness trackers with a heart rate monitor
The best fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor is the Garmin Vivosport.
The Vivosport packs a GPS and a heart rate monitor, which is pretty incredible considering its slim and lightweight design. It’s also waterproof up to 50 meters, will last up to seven days on a single charge, and comes with a Chroma touchscreen display. The display is a little small for my liking, however.
The Garmin Elevate heart rate sensor on the Vivosport will track your resting and active heart rate throughout the day, and it does so pretty accurately. Resting heart rate is spot on, though, like pretty much all wrist-based sensors, active heart rate readings can be a little off. It’s still one of the best out there, though.
The Vivosport is available now for around $199.99, though the great thing about buying Garmin devices is that their prices fluctuate every couple of weeks. Keep an eye on that Amazon listing over the next couple weeks. You might get lucky.
Fitbit Charge 3
Fitbit’s Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker you can buy for under $150. Its classy, versatile design means it’ll look good in the office and at the gym. It’s also water resistant this time around, and has one of the more accurate wrist-based heart rate sensors we’ve tried on a wearable.
Elsewhere, the Fitbit Charge 3 offers a great software experience, plenty of smartwatch features, and a battery that can last almost a week on a single charge.
If you don’t need GPS, the Fitbit Charge 3 is a great option.
Best heart rate monitor chest straps
Coming in at just under $90, the best heart rate monitor chest strap you can buy right now is the Polar H10.
Polar has made a name for itself by producing high-quality, accurate heart rate sensors, so it should come as no surprise that the H10 is at the very top of our list. The H10 uses an entirely new algorithm from previous Polar monitors, and the included Polar Pro strap has been updated as well. It includes extra “interference-preventing electrodes” to help make sure heart rate data is accurately captured. It also sports a new buckle mechanism and silicon dots that will help keep it in place when you’re working out.
The H10 also offers quite a few new improvements over its predecessor, the H7. The H10 is now able to receive over-the-air software updates, features enough built-in memory for one training session, and up to 400 hours of battery life.
Wahoo TICKR X
I’ve been using the Wahoo TICKR X as my main heart rate sensor chest strap for well over a year now, and for good reason.
The TICKR X tracks your heart rate (duh), calories burned, reps, running analytics, and much more. It also has quite a bit more on-board storage capacity than the Polar H10. You’ll be able to store up to 16 hours of fitness data on this monitor and sync back up with your phone at a later time. The TICKR X can connect to most smartphones, GPS watches, and bike computers, as it also comes equipped with Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ dual-band technology.
It’s waterproof and sweatproof, though it’s worth noting it won’t track your heart rate while you’re in the water.
My one main complaint about the TICKR X isn’t actually with the device itself; rather, the applications it pairs with. The RunFit and Wahoo Fitness apps seem a little outdated and lacking in features at this point (no social features, for instance), though they do handle the basics pretty well. Now, the TICKR X is able to pair with other fitness apps, so this complaint really only applies if you’re using Wahoo’s own apps.
If you’re a triathlete, you should definitely consider the Garmin HRM-Tri.
This is Garmin’s smallest and lightest heart rate sensors to date, and it’s super comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. The HRM-Tri will store all your heart rate data when you’re underwater, then forward it to your wearable once you’re done swimming. And when you’re out for a run, the monitor will report six different running dynamics metrics, including cadence, stride length, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, vertical oscillation, and vertical ratio.
That was our list of the best heart rate monitors, heart rate watches, and heart rate fitness trackers. Did we miss anything? What do you think of our list? We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comment section below.