Whatever your goals are, the best fitness trackers are good tools for getting more active, getting more sleep, and getting more insight into your overall health. They can help you track your progress and offer guidance on how hard you should be pushing yourself, too.
As exercise-oriented wearables, fitness trackers can measure your heart rate, read your blood oxygen levels, accompany you swimming and tell you if you’re well-rested. When you’re not working out, some fitness trackers can be used to pay for groceries, play music, answer texts, and much more.
With so many devices, choosing one of the best fitness trackers or fitness watches for your needs can be tricky. We put dozens to the test, spending hours on running, biking, swimming — even sleeping — to see which excel, and which couldn’t make it past the starting block.
The best fitness trackers you can buy today
The Fitbit Charge 5 is Fitbit’s latest tracker and it has a number of exciting features usually reserved for more expensive devices, such as an ECG heart rate monitor. During testing, we found that the bright, always-on color touch screen is a massive improvement to that of the Fitbit Charge 4 — it is easy to read in bright sunlight and is great to use during a HIIT workout or on a hike, although we found the lack of physical buttons made it a little fiddly to navigate around when running.
The Fitbit Charge 5 also has Fitbit’s ‘Daily Readiness Score’ feature, which gives you an idea of how ready you are for a big workout, based on three different metrics — fitness fatigue (activity), heart rate variability (HRV), and recent sleep.
If you’re looking for a tracker that looks beautiful against your wrist, is easy to read in the bright sunlight and has some impressive features for the price tag, this is a good buy. Also, if you’re using a Fitbit Charge 3 or older, the upgrade is worth it for the color screen alone. If you want to save money, the Fitbit Charge 4 was the best fitness tracker before the Charge 5 was released, and is likely to be on sale.
The Fitbit Charge 5 also won the title of the best fitness tracker in our Tom’s Guide Fitness awards, as it looks cool enough on the wrist that you don’t mind wearing it all day long, and has a bunch of brilliant tracking capabilities.
Read our full Fitbit Charge 5 review and you can read our interview with Fitbit co-founder Eric Friedman here.
The Fitbit Inspire 3 is the best cheap fitness tracker because it nails the basics: heart rate-monitoring, accurate workout-tracking and logging sleep stages. The fact that it doesn’t have built-in GPS is slightly disappointing — you can connect it to your phone’s GPS — but the Inspire 3 makes up for it with other features, such as Fitbit’s inspiring (get it?) community of people trying to get and stay in shape. You can participate in challenges to out-pace friends, colleagues or even strangers.
For $100, you’ll get Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes metric, 10 days of battery life, touch controls, and, in the biggest update from the Fitbit Inspire 2, a bright, beautiful AMOLED screen. The Fitbit unit itself is only available in black, but is sold with three different band colors — black, lilac, and morning glow. The wristband comes in two sizes: small, and large.
During testing, we loved how lightweight and comfortable this little tracker was to wear for 24/7 health tracking. We also appreciated how much more premium the tracker felt with a color screen. It won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking for an affordable fitness tracker, you can’t go wrong with the Inspire 3.
Read our full Fitbit Inspire 3 review here.
The Amazfit Band 5 is a $50 fitness tracker that promises many of the marquee features found in this year’s premium smartwatches, but at a fraction of the price. It has blood oxygen (SpO2) reading, stress monitoring, high heart rate alerts, Amazon Alexa built-in, sleep tracking and several other tools found in high-end offerings.
In our testing, the fitness and sleep tracking on the Amazfit Band 5 were good, not great, but respectable for the low cost while still offering more than other trackers of its price. Better yet, the 15-day battery life meant we didn’t need to worry about charging it all the time.
Read our full Amazfit Band 5 review.
The Fitbit Sense 2 is the company’s top-shelf smartwatch that comes with more advanced health and wellness features that the Versa line. During our testing, we found that the Fitbit Sense 2 helped us gain a better overall view of our overall health.
Compared to the original Fitbit Sense, the Sense 2 features an upgraded design, interface and EDA sensor, making for Fitbit’s most holistic smartwatch yet. An update to the stress-detecting EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor plays a large role in the device’s success: now called cEDA (‘c’ for continuous,) the sensor monitors stress levels or heightened responses throughout the day, prompting the user to take action on mood monitoring with Body Response notifications.
As one of the best fitness trackers, the Sense 2 works with both iOS and Android, and comes with on-board GPS, a native app store, Alexa and more. No longer is Fitbit just a brand with products for tracking our steps: Fitbit devices like the Fitbit Sense 2 make for excellent smartwatches, too.
Read our full Fitbit Sense 2 review.
Garmin makes the best sports watches you can buy, and the Forerunner 255 is one of our favorites. The newly launched mid-range Garmin running watch has onboard music storage (if you choose the music version), allowing you to leave your smartphone at home when you head out on a run. It also calculates your V02 max score and offers a recovery advisor to let you know how long to rest between runs.
During testing, we were impressed with the lightness of this watch and how easy it was to use on the run. We appreciated that the Forerunner 255 has the addition of triathlon and multisport modes, allowing you to track all of your training in one session. The 255 also comes in two different sizes — 42mm and 46mm, we tested the smaller watch and found it extremely neat and lightweight on the wrist. Like a lot of the other best Garmins, you can also download Garmin’s training plans onto the watch, helping you run and race smarter.
The Forerunner 255 saw Garmin add some of it’s more premium features to the mid-range watch, but if you’re on a budget, now is a good time to invest in the Garmin Forerunner 245, which is likely to be heavily discounted following the launch of the Forerunner 255. If you’re looking for a bargain, this is a fantastic watch to shop.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 255 review.
Can’t decide between the two watches, here’s the Garmin Forerunner 245 vs Garmin Forerunner 255
The Garmin Venu 2 was already a stellar fitness-tracking smartwatch, but it got a massive improvement this year with the Garmin Venu 2 Plus. With the latest version of the Venu line, Garmin added voice assistants and on-voice calls to keep up with some of it’s biggest competitors. The result? The smartwatch just got even smarter.
While still having 25 different workout modes and all of the run-tracking features you’ve come to expect from Garmin, during testing, we found the Venu 2 Plus also gives you the ability to store up to 650 songs on the watch, make and answer calls from your wrist, and summon Siri or Google Assistant.
At $449, this isn’t the cheapest smartwatch on the market, but if you want a connected watch that still has all the workout tracking power of a Garmin, you can’t go wrong.
Read our full Garmin Venu 2 Plus review.
Whether you’ve got a Samsung phone or not, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is an impressive piece of kit for anyone looking to keep track of their health from their wrist. There’s a 3-in-1 health sensor for measuring heart rate, taking ECGs and reading body composition – in fact, it’s the first major smartwatch to offer bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), to help you manage your health goals.
Even if you’re not interested in your body composition, the watch has all you need to track your daily activities, as well as automatic workout-tracking for when you forget to press start. During testing, we found the downside with this watch is the battery life, which we found didn’t last the full 40 hours Samsung suggests with GPS and activity tracking on, but unless you’re heading out for an ultramarathon, you shouldn’t let this put you off.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review.
This one is a little different — the Whoop 4.0 isn’t a fitness tracker you can go out and buy, it’s one you subscribe to. There’s no screen, or in-built GPS, instead, the Whoop band focuses on recovery and heart rate, to help you get a better overall picture on how hard you’ve been training.
The Whoop 4.0 is undoubtedly a brilliant health tracker for anyone looking for enhanced health insights. There’s a clear reason why a lot of the worlds’ top athletes have been spotted with one on their wrist or around their bicep — for a coach, this data would be invaluable. I haven’t even touched on insights such as skin temperature, which can be used as a metric to see when your core body temperature is rising — this could be a sign you’re getting ill, as well as giving more detailed sleep data. This tracker is industry-leading in the tracking and data it provides.
That said, if you’re looking for a fitness tracker you can wear in the gym or on your run to get live feedback, this one isn’t for you. It definitely takes a bit of getting used to, but the Whoop 4.0 definitely has it’s own unique place in the market.
Read our full Whoop 4.0 review.
While the Apple Watch 8 looks very similar to the Apple Watch 7, it has the addition of a skin temperature sensor, which allows users to get more accurate sleep data and menstrual cycle tracking. It might not be as high-tech as the Apple Watch Ultra, but it’s still a great pick for most people looking to invest in a fitness tracker.
The watch has 14 different quick-start workout modes, which include running, cycling, walking, and strength training, plus you have the option to add new workouts in the Workout app. It added Tai Chi and automatic outdoor cycling tracking this year, meaning it can detect when you’ve hopped on your bike and enable a workout. The cycling algorithm has also been adjusted to accommodate metrics for the best electric bikes, which are less strenuous to ride than regular bikes.
That said, if you’ve already got an Apple Watch Series 7, the skin temperature sensor probably isn’t worth the upgrade just yet. If you’re still using an Apple Watch Series 4 or Series 5, however, it’s definitely worth it for the full-featured Apple Watch experience.
Read our Apple Watch Series 8 review here.
The best fitness tracker for sleep tracking is the Fitbit Versa 3, the next-generation of the Fitbit Versa 2. The Versa 3’s standout upgrade is on-board GPS. Now, even when you leave your phone at home, the Versa can (finally) track your location during outdoor exercise. A curvier, larger display is welcome, too.
Plus the Versa 3 has gained a great motivational workout feature, Active Zone Minutes. Introduced with the Charge 4, Active Zone Minutes monitors the time you spend in the fat burn, cardio or peak heart-rate zones while exercising. Your goal is to earn the AHA’s and WHO’s recommended 150 Active Zone Minutes each week.
If you’re thinking of investing in the Fitbit Versa 3, it might be worth waiting a few weeks as Fitbit has announced the launch of the Fitbit Versa 4, which will be on sale this fall. That said, if you are looking for an even cheaper fitness tracker, the Fitbit Versa 3 is likely to be on sale right now.
Read our full Fitbit Versa 3 review.
How to choose the best fitness tracker for you
When buying a fitness tracker, you should first evaluate your needs. What do you want to track? If you’re only using it at the gym to count your steps and your heart rate, a simpler, less expensive fitness tracker will suit you fine.
If, however, you plan to do more outdoor activities, such as running or biking, you may want a fitness tracker with built-in GPS, so you can more accurately see where you’re going, and where you went. Dedicated runners and athletes will want to check out our best GPS watches page, too.
If you plan to use the fitness tracker for swimming, you’ll want to make sure it’s not only waterproof, but that it can also track your laps in the pool.
Many of the best smartwatches have fitness-tracking capabilities, too, and have additional features such as responding to text messages and paying for purchases. But there are trade-offs. However, smartwatches as a whole tend to be more expensive and have shorter battery life than dedicated fitness trackers.
How we test the best fitness trackers
For each new fitness tracker, we evaluate its hardware design and comfort; you need to be able to wear the device all day, and we’ve found that some larger trackers don’t fit well on smaller wrists. If the device has a touchscreen, we look to see how readable it is, especially in bright sunlight. We also examine how easy it is to navigate the fitness trackers’ menus; you don’t want to have to dig through multiple screens to change your music if you’re out running.
We also evaluate features such as step counting and sleep monitoring, distance calculations and when applicable, GPS and heart rate accuracy. And, we see how well a manufacturer’s battery life claims hold up in real-world testing.
Finally, we test how well a device pairs with its companion app, and evaluate the experience of using the two together. We also look to see what features the device’s app supports, such as coaching and diet tracking, and if it can sync data with third-party apps, such as MyFitnessPal.
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