The best fitness trackers are good tools for getting healthier, getting more active, and even getting more sleep. They can help motivate you to be more active, track your progress and offer guidance on how hard you should be pushing yourself.
As exercise-oriented wearables, fitness trackers can measure your heart rate, read your blood oxygen levels, accompany you swimming, tell you if you're well-rested. When you're not working out, some can be used to pay for groceries, play music and much more.
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With so many devices, choosing the best fitness tracker or fitness watch 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.
See all of the best fitness trackers and fitness watches below.
What are the best fitness trackers?
We think the best fitness tracker for most people is the Fitbit Charge 4. For $149, it's not all that expensive, and features a built-in GPS and extensive health tracking. The Fitbit Charge 4 also sports improved sleep tracking, wireless payment support and on-device Spotify controls. Plus it's swim-proof, and has a bright touchscreen display that responds instantly to swipes and taps.
Looking for something less expensive? The Fitbit Charge 3 is still available and still one of the best fitness trackers you can buy for under $100. It offers group competitions, detailed sleep analysis and a design that can be customized with easily interchangeable bands. Looking for something even less expensive? Check out the best cheap fitness trackers.
The best fitness trackers you can buy today
The Fitbit Charge 4 is our top pick among the best fitness trackers and fitness watches because it introduces the key feature we missed on the Charge 4: GPS. The Charge 4 sync with a smartphone to show you a map of your runs, hikes and other outdoor activities. You'll also see data for pace, elevation, heart rate zones, and calories burned. Even better, the app overlays this information along your route, so you can see what parts of your venture made you huff and puff.
The Charge 4 uses an SpO2 pulse oximeter sensor to better help you understand sleeping patterns, too. Plus the Charge 4 is the first of Fitbit’s fitness trackers to have contactless Fitbit Pay capabilities. If you're looking for a well-rounded wearable with a broad collection of features, this is the one to get. Our Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4 and Fitbit Versa 2 vs. Fitbit Charge 4 face-offs also details the benefits you'll get with a traditional fitness tracker over a smartwatch.
Read our full Fitbit Charge 4 review.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker for those on a budget and 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.
Garmin makes the best sports 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.
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.
Garmin has discontinued the Forerunner 25; the Forerunner 45 ($145) has a color display, a heart rate monitor, and will last up to 13 hours in GPS mode. Stay tuned for our full review.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 25 review.
The Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS isn't the newest Apple Watch, but it's the best fitness tracker and best fitness watch for iPhone users. It's more affordable than the Series 5 (our top pick among the best smartwatches) and still has all the great fitness-tracking features baked into watchOS 6. 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.
The Fitbit Inspire HR is the best Fitbit for those on a budget, as well as one of the best fitness trackers overall. In essence it’s a slimmed-down, slightly stripped-down version of the Charge 3, which makes this ideal for those who are interested in tracking their steps and sleep.
Similar to the Charge 3 and Charge 4, the Inspire HR has an OLED touchscreen display (though a bit smaller here), a heart rate monitor, smartphone notifications, swim tracking, and sleep-tracking too. One shortcoming of the Inspire HR is that it doesn't have GPS built in, but you’re able to link it to your smartphone and use its GPS to accurately track your outdoor activities, if you so wish.
The Fitbit Inspire 2 is coming in September to replace the Inspire HR. It will get Active Zone Minutes, touch panels instead of buttons and a 10-day battery life. Plus new Fitbit Premium users will get their first year of the service free.
Read our full Fitbit Inspire HR review.
For those craving a bold, colorful display on their wrist, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 is among the best fitness trackers for the job. You can customize the watch face with a variety of cute, inspiring designs using the companion Mi Fit app, as well as assign personalized alerts. You can also use it to control music playing from your smartphone, so you pause or play your tunes quickly from your wrist mid-workout.
In our testing, the fitness and sleep tracking on the Mi Band 4 were good, not great, but respectable for the low cost while still offering more than other trackers of its price. Better yet, the Mi Band 4's 20-day battery life meant we only had to worry about recharging it once a month.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review.
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.
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.
If you are willing to spend a little more though, ($30 more, to be exact) the Fitbit Versa 3 is coming in September with on-board GPS, Google Assistant support, Active Zone Minutes monitoring and more.
Read our full Fitbit Versa 2 review.
Like the Apple Watch Series 3, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a few years old but still worthwhile when you can get it at a discount. You can usually find it for under $100. It’s more style-conscious than some of Garmin’s top fitness trackers, and still packs advanced sensors for extrapolating more health metrics.
Though it’s not the most accurate for running data, it’s excellent for low impact activity and its metallic details make it look better than your average step counter. The small display is subtle enough to see the time and your heart rate at a glance without demanding much navigation. We also the Vivosmart it’s a good choice if you’re looking to start sleep tracking — the built-in pulse oximeter could be helpful for those at risk for sleep apnea or other breathing-related disorders.
Read our full Garmin Vivosmart 4 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.