Since their inception, the best fitness trackers have come a long way from simply keeping tabs of how many steps you take. Now, they can measure your heart rate, and blood oxygen levels; you can take them swimming; see if you got a good night's sleep; pay for groceries; play music; and much more. Most fitness trackers are designed to be worn on your wrist, but even there you have options, depending on whether you want a large, watch-like device, or something more discreet.
With so many devices with so many capabilities, choosing the best fitness tracker for your needs can be tricky. We put dozens to the test, spending hours on the treadmill, running, biking, swimming — even sleeping — to see which excel, and which couldn't make it past the starting block. This list of the best fitness trackers contains the ones that made the cut, whether it was for features, price, or both. If you're on a tight budget, check out the best cheap fitness trackers.
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What are the best fitness trackers?
After testing all of the top models, we think the Fitbit Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker for most people. At around $149, it's not all that expensive, and it's swim-proof, and has a touchscreen display that responds instantly to swipes and taps. Fitbit plans to make the band's sleep-tracking capabilities even better with an SpO2 sensor that will be used to alert users if they experience breathing disturbances at night. The Charge 3 also includes the features we've come to expect from Fitbit, such as group competitions, detailed sleep analysis and a design that can be customized with easily interchangeable bands.
Fitbit is coming out with the Charge 3's replacement; the Fitbit Charge 4 will feature built-in GPS, better sleep tracking, a new fitness metric, and on-device Spotify controls. While the Charge 3's price has dropped down to $120 (and we expect it to fall further), those in the market for a new fitness tracker might want to wait for the Charge 4.
The best fitness tracker for those on a budget — or who simply want to dip their toes — should consider the Fitbit Inspire HR, a $100 band that monitors heart rate, tracks sleep and offers connected GPS when you work out with your smartphone. Fitbit also makes a cheaper version of the Inspire, but that $70 tracker lacks a heart rate sensor, which we think is an essential feature.
If you want a fitness tracker and smartwatch in one, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the best option. The Series 3 is a relatively affordable $199 (and usually on sale for less), but you get a waterproof device with full app store which includes a number of fitness-tracking apps, built-in GPS, and onboard music storage. The one caveat is that you have to also own an iPhone if you want to use the Apple Watch.
The best fitness trackers you can buy today
1. Fitbit Charge 3
The best fitness tracker overall
Sizes: One size, with S, M, L bands | Battery Life (Rated): 7 days | GPS: No | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
The Fitbit Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker for those looking for a general-purpose device. It has a fairly large (but monochrome) touchscreen display that's easy to navigate, and shows such things as your heart rate, distance traveled, and notifications from your smartphone, if connected. The Charge 3 is also swim-proof, and can track laps in the pool.
We also like that the Charge 3 comes in three sizes, which helps it better accommodate wrists of all sizes. Plus, there are numerous straps available, letting you personalize the device to your liking. The Fitbit Charge 3 also has an SpO2 sensor that will be used to diagnose breathing disturbances while sleeping and week-long battery life. It still requires a smartphone to connect to GPS, but overall it's the best fitness tracker for the money.
Read our full Fitbit Charge 3 review.
2. Fitbit Inspire HR
Best cheap fitness tracker
Sizes: One size, with S and L bands | Battery Life (Rated): 3 days | GPS: Connected to smartphone | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
If you're only just getting into exercise, you may not want to drop a ton of money on a fitness tracker. If that's the case, the Fitbit Inspire HR is the best fitness tracker for you. It costs less than $100, yet automatically tracks sleep and a handful of workouts, and offers deeper insights about sleep stages and cardio fitness, thanks to its heart rate sensor.
The Fitbit Inspire HR has a simple design, but its bands can be swapped out, and while its screen is small, it's easy to navigate. The Inspire HR is also swim-proof, so you can take it in the pool. When connected to a smartphone, the Inspire HR uses the phone's GPS signal to more accurately log outdoor workouts. The Fitbit app remains one of our favorite fitness dashboards, especially with the inclusion of female health-tracking.
Read our full Fitbit Inspire HR review.
3. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)
Best fitness-tracking smartwatch
Sizes: 38mm and 42mm with S and L bands | Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours | GPS: Yes | Sleep Tracking: No | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
The Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS isn't the newest Apple Watch, but it's the best fitness tracker for those who want a smartwatch. It's more affordable than the Series 4, and still has all the great fitness-tracking features baked into watchOS 5. You can track a variety of workouts, including open-water swims and laps in the pool, hiking, yoga and basics like running and cycling.
The Apple Watch Series 3 detects when you start a workout and gives you retroactive credit for the time you missed. If you want a fully featured smartwatch that lets you leave your phone at home while at the gym or out for a run, the Series 3 with GPS is the one to buy. The one caveat is that its battery life is just one day, and even less if you use GPS.
Read our full Apple Watch Series 3 review.
4. Garmin Forerunner 245
Best fitness tracker for runners
Sizes: One size, with adjustable strap | Battery Life (Rated): 11 hours(using GPS and heart rate) | GPS: Yes | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes (but no swim-tracking mode) | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Garmin makes the best GPS watches you can buy, and the Forerunner 245 is one of our favorites. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles, but this running watch is small and light with built-in GPS and a colorful screen that's easy to see in bright sunlight.
Even better is that the Forerunner 245 has onboard music storage, so you don't need to carry a smartphone with you if you want to listen to tunes while you run. The 245 also calculates your V02 max score and offers a recovery advisor to let you know how long to rest between runs. This watch also lasts for about a week of workouts on a charge, which isn't bad for such a fully-featured GPS watch. However, Garmin's menus, on both the watch and its app, can be a bit confusing.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 245 review.
5. Fitbit Versa 2
The best fitness tracker for sleep tracking
Sizes: One size | Battery Life (Rated): 4 days | GPS: No | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes (but no swim-tracking mode) | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
The Fitbit Versa 2 brings with it more advanced sleep-tracking features, as well as the ability to monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels. (That data's helpful for identifying conditions like sleep apnea.) For those times when you're not sleeping, it's also good at measuring your heart rate and steps, and even has NFC for mobile payments.
The Versa 2 works with both iOS and Android. While it's a little light on apps when compared to the Apple Watch, you can control Spotify playback from your wrist — too bad there's no way to download songs to the watch itself. The Versa 2 also lacks on-board GPS. But overall, it's a solid fitness tracker for those who don't want to spend more than $200.
Read our full Fitbit Versa 2 review.
6. Garmin Vivoactive 4
A stylish fitness tracker with smartwatch aspirations
Sizes: 40, 45 mm | Battery life: 7 days | GPS: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart rate monitor: Yes
While it's one of the most stylish fitness trackers there is, the Garmin Vivoactive 4's attributes are more than skin deep. That's because this device has excellent GPS, a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, and an NFC chip so you can use it for mobile payments.
We also liked that the Vivoactive 4 has on-screen animations for workouts including yoga, Pilates, cardio and strength-training exercises. It also has respiration tracking and a pulse oximeter for tracking blood oxygen saturation levels, as well as on-board music storage. Its estimated battery life of seven days is also pretty good, but that will decrease the more you use GPS.
Read our full Garmin Vivoactive 4 review.
7. Garmin Forerunner 25
Best budget fitness tracker for runners
Sizes: One size, with adjustable strap | Battery Life (Rated): 8-10 hours (using GPS and heart rate), 8-10 weeks in watch mode | GPS: Yes | Sleep Tracking: No | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: No
If you don't need extra bells and whistles, consider the Garmin Forerunner 25. The best fitness tracker for runners on a budget, it's an inexpensive, yet accurate, GPS watch that tracks distance, speed and pace, and it notifies you at every mile you run. One big caveat is that the Forerunner 25 lacks a heart rate monitor, which could be a deal-killer for many. It also lacks niceties such as a touchscreen and a color display,
With nearly 10 weeks of battery life in watch mode and up to 10 hours when using GPS, the Forerunner 25 can also be your everyday timepiece, and will still work when you need it for those impromptu jogs. And, it costs less than $100, which could be incentive enough for many.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 25 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 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.