Best Heart Rate Monitor 2017: Chest straps, headphones and HRM watches

If you want to keep a better eye on your overall fitness, a heart rate monitor (or HRM) should be a serious consideration. We’ve recommended the absolute best heart rate monitors, from chest straps to wrist wearables and more.

When it comes to your cardiovascular system, not surprisingly, your heart plays an integral role. Responsible for getting oxygenated blood to where it’s needed, and deoxygenated blood back to your lungs, your heart becomes more efficient the fitter you get. As such it’s at the, ahem, heart of a healthy circulatory system.

Keeping tabs on your heart’s performance during a workout, by working in specific heart rate zones, enables you to exercise more effectively towards your goals. A heart rate monitor can make you aware of your resting heart rate, which will provide an overview of your health as well. As you become fitter, you’ll find that your resting heart rate decreases.

A chest-based HRM continues to provide the most consistent and accurate reading, thanks to higher sampling rates and less fluctuation in its positioning on your body. However, it isn’t exactly the most convenient nor the most comfortable.

Nowadays, many fitness trackers and smartwatches include an optical HRM. These use light to read your heart rate through your wrist. While they’re undoubtedly more convenient, optical HRMs aren’t always the best for people who partake in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and other workouts that produce rapid deviations in heart rate.

If you find the idea of strapping on a chest monitor too tedious and wrist-worn trackers too unreliable, there are HRMs you can wear in your ears too. These are integrated into headphones, which means one less device to have to put on if you’re a fan of working out or running to music.

Related: Best Running Headphones

In addition, HRMs for the ears tend to move around a lot less, and as such are usually more consistent than a tracker on your wrist. The thinner skin in your ears also means that they better lend themselves to heart rate readings. The Moov HR is another innovative option, sitting around your head and taking a reading from your temples.

A good heart rate monitor will integrate with other apps through Bluetooth or ANT %2B, letting you share your heart rate data regardless of your app of choice. An app such as Strava will work with a wide range of heart rate monitors, for example.

We’ve listed some of the best HRMs we’ve tested, giving you plenty of options depending on your preferred wearing style and training methodology. Be sure to read the full reviews for the complete lowdown, too.

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Key features:

  • Includes an accelerometer
  • Running and cycling cadence analysis
  • Running smoothness measurement
  • iOS and Android app
  • Bluetooth and ANT+

Best heart rate monitor for runners

The chest-worn Wahoo Fitness Tickr X isn’t only super-accurate, but it’s also augmented with some useful extra features thanks to an integrated accelerometer. The measurements can then be applied to running, cycling and general fitness training, making the Tickr X a very versatile device indeed.

Thanks to Bluetooth LE and ANT+ support, the Tickr X works with Wahoo Fitness’ own app for providing extra insight into your running, such as your cadence and running smoothness, helping you to run more efficiently. The heart rate readings will also play nice with apps such as Strava, if you prefer. Then there’s also the 7-Minute Workout app for bodyweight circuit-training, which uses the Tickr X for rep counting.

Related: Best Running Watches

Simply put, the Wahoo Fitness Tickr X is one of the most feature-packed HRMs out there – and our absolute favourite.

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At the time of review, the Wahoo Fitness Tickr X was available for £79.99.

Read the full Wahoo Fitness Tickr X review

MyZone MZ-3

2 of 6

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Key features:

  • Calorie burn
  • Real-time feedback
  • Gamified approach with personalised effort levels
  • Bluetooth and ANT+
  • Android and iOS app

A gamified approach to heart rate monitoring

Another chest-worn fitness tracker that delivers accurate results, the MyZone MZ-3 takes a unique approach to using your heart rate data. It uses your heart rate to reward you based on your personalised effort levels. Essentially, you’re awarded points based on hitting different heart rate zones, with the number rising for added intensity.

By using your own heart rate data and zones, it means you’ll be proportionally rewarded for putting the effort in compared to someone who is much fitter than you. There’s a social, competitive element to the app where you can compare your points accrued against your friends.

As a heart rate monitor, this gamified approach can be applied to any exercise, too. So whether you’re a rower, runner or cyclist, you’re rewarded for putting effort into your exercise.

The MZ-3 pairs with your phone through Bluetooth, but ANT+ is available too for use with third-party apps.

Related: Workout logs are the key to getting fitter – here’s why

At the time of review, the MyZone MZ-3 was available for £130.

Read the full MyZone MZ-3 review

Moov HR

3 of 6

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Key features:

  • Headband HRM
  • Real-time coaching from app
  • HIIT workouts
  • Bluetooth and ANT+
  • Android and iOS app

For accuracy, but not at the expense of convenience

We loved the Moov Now and consider it one of the best fitness trackers available. The Moov HR can work alongside it but just as well without it. Moov HR delivers just as decent accuracy as a chest-based HRM in the form of a far more convenient headband (Moov HR Sweat) – and can even keep up with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

In fact, that’s one of the major selling points. The Moov HR works with its companion Android and iOS Moov app, which delivers a range of HIIT circuits for you to follow. All the while, the Moov HR keeps tabs on your heart rate to ensure you’re working in the correct intensity zones.

The companion app is well designed and the HIIT circuits certainly do get you working up a veritable sweat. Thankfully, we found the Moov HR kept up with even the most intense workouts. It works with other apps through ANT+ as well, so is perfect for going out on a run with Runkeeper or Strava.

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At the time of review, the Moov HR was available for £79.99.

Read the full Moov HR review

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Key features:

  • PurePulse optical HRM
  • Activity and sleep tracking
  • Cardio Fitness score
  • Android and iOS app

Great for general heart health monitoring

It was a toss-up between the Fitbit Charge 2 or the Fitbit Alta HR here, but in the end we opted for the Charge 2 because it offers more on the fitness-tracking front.

Now, while we might not recommend the Charge 2’s heart rate monitor for tracking-intense workouts, we found it fine for steady-state cardio, such as running; it struggles with any quick deviations in heart rate. If you simply want an overview of your heart health and general well-being, the resting heart rate monitoring is excellent. It’s an easy way to see if you’re getting fitter from exercise or a better diet.

Then there’s the Cardio Fitness score, which uses your heart rate while out on a run to estimate your VO2 Max. The heart rate monitor is also used for Fitbit’s new Sleep Stages, to offer insight into the quality of your sleep – so it’s become an integral part of Fitbit’s health monitoring.

Related: Best Fitbit

If you want a device to keep tabs on your ticker and that you can wear every day, the Charge 2 is a great choice.

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At the time of review, the Fitbit Charge 2 was available for £129.99.

Read the full Fitbit Charge 2 review

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Key features:

  • Truly wireless earbuds
  • Bluetooth
  • VO2 Max calculation
  • Android and iOS app with in-ear audio coaching

Versatile running headphones with built-in HRM

Building on Jabra’s fantastic work with the Jabra Sport Pulse, the Elite Sport takes the same fantastic in-ear heart rate monitor and applies it to a truly wireless earbud form factor. This means there isn’t even a cable connecting the two ear buds together, offering a far more liberating exercise experience.

Jabra’s Sport Life app is a fully featured running and exercise app, allowing you to track your runs using your phone’s GPS, augmented with the heart rate monitor data. Then there are useful extra features such as VO2 Max calculations, race time estimations and recovery timing, which makes the Jabra Elite Sport a fantastic companion for runners. There are bodyweight circuits you can follow, too.

Related: What is VO2 Max?

If you usually listen to music while exercising, these all-in-one headphones are a fantastic alternative to a chest strap. However, if you don’t need a truly wireless design, or extra advanced features, the Jabra Sport Pulse can be had for considerably less money.

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At the time of review, the Jabra Elite Sport was available for £229.99.

Read the full Jabra Elite Sport review

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Key features:

  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Third-party app support
  • 5-hour battery

Budget-friendly HRM headphones

The Bose SoundSport Pulse lack a companion app unlike Jabra’s offering, but instead are designed to work with a raft of other apps that can use heart rate data, such as Strava or Runkeeper. The convenient headphone form factor will be a plus for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with wearing a chest monitor during a workout, and you get the usual great Bose sound quality to boot.

The fit is super-secure, so you don’t need to worry about them coming loose, and handy remote control functions are included for adjusting your chosen workout playlist.

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At the time of review, the Bose SoundSport Pulse was available for £169.95.

Read the full Bose SoundSport Pulse review

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