Fitness trackers have come a long way since simple pedometers helped you get your 10,000 steps per day. Now, your fitness tracker is just as likely to be wired for texting as it is to help you log your workouts, hit PRs, and track your healthy habits.
“A fitness tracker can help you start or maintain healthy habits by giving you goals to shoot for and reminding you when you’ve been idle too long,” explains Noelle McKenzie, fitness coach, ACE-certified personal trainer, and co-founder of Leading Edge Personal Trainers. “A fitness tracker keeps you accountable by reminding you of things [such as] how many steps you have left to hit your goal for the day and allows you to celebrate your small wins every day to keep you feeling encouraged.”
Plus, she adds, it’s important to find a fitness tracker that integrates with your daily life. Features such as voice recognition, texting capabilities, and calendar reminders can all make your fitness tracker a streamlined part of your everyday routine.
But with all these new, high-tech fitness trackers available, you might experience a little bit of analysis paralysis. Do you need a GPS-enabled watch? What’s the right amount of money to spend? Will the data actually help you, and will you even like how the fitness tracker looks on your wrist?
To help you determine the best fitness tracker for your lifestyle, Shape tested 14 popular trackers from name brands such as Fitbit, Apple, Garmin, and Polar. We used these fitness trackers for one month, tracking workouts at least four times a week, to get the full picture of how each feature integrated with our daily lives (and which weren’t as useful as promised). Finally, we consulted with McKenzie to better understand how a fitness tracker can enhance your workout and help you get closer to your health goals. After our extensive testing, here’s what we found to be the best fitness trackers on the market.
Best Overall: Garmin vivomove Sport
Why We Like It: It’s a stylish, easy-to-use fitness watch that tracks essential health metrics and has a long battery life.
It’s Worth Noting: There’s no built-in GPS tracking or music storage, so you can’t totally ditch your phone.
Earning the title of Best Overall Fitness Tracker is the Garmin vivomove Sport, a hybrid smartwatch that combines the look of a premium analog watch with the tech specs of a fitness tracker. This fitness tracker scored high in every category, winning particularly high marks for ease of use and the number of metrics tracked, making it the clear choice for Best Overall. The lightweight, silicone sport band was comfortable to wear yet looked fashionable enough for the office or evenings out. We also appreciated the extra-long battery life (up to five days!) and quick charging, which made this device easy to integrate into our lives.
The Garmin vivomove Sport tracks heart rate, calories, steps, and blood oxygen levels, and it also has the ability to track menstrual cycles, hydration intake, and stress based on your own inputs. The fitness tracker really shines with its detailed sleep tracking, showcasing our sleep report for the week and how much time we spent in different sleep phases. We gushed over the ease of the touchscreen for navigating different screens and starting and ending workouts, and the Garmin Connect app was a helpful addition that offered more insight without overwhelming us.
While we’re confident the Garmin vivomove Sport will meet most people’s needs for a fitness tracker, it’s not designed for those who want to ditch the phone completely. You’ll need to connect to your phone’s GPS if you want to track outdoor walks, rides, and runs, and the smartwatch doesn’t have the capacity to store music or podcasts. And heads up: You can only respond to a text from your vivomove Sport if you use an Android smartphone.
Price at time of publish: $180
Colors: 4 | Fits wrists 125-190 mm | Strap material: Silicone | Battery life: Up to 5 days | Waterproof: Yes
Best Budget: Amazfit Band 7
Why We Like It: The simple, buttonless interface makes metrics easy to view and understand.
It’s Worth Noting: There’s no new user walkthrough, so those new to fitness trackers may struggle to start using the device.
For the best budget fitness tracker, we were impressed by the Amazfit Band 7, a slim, buttonless wrist tracker that boasts an 18-day battery life with typical usage (plus, the device charges at the speed of light; we noticed it go from 10 percent battery to 100 percent within an hour of charging). With only 120 sports modes available, we found it easy to track every unique type of workout we took on during testing. In addition to workouts, the Amazfit Band 7 can track heart rate, blood-oxygen saturation, and stress level, and it also offers sleep insights (although we noticed there was no “sleep mode” on the band, meaning we had to manually lower the brightness every night). We particularly appreciated that that tracker automatically logged our sleep cycles and woke us up at the best time within each cycle, so we awoke feeling refreshed and energized.
While we think this no-frills fitness tracker would be appropriate for beginners, we were a little frustrated by the lack of onboarding during set-up. We would have gotten even more benefits from a walk-through or new user setup when we first powered up the gadget, and at the end of our testing month, we were just scratching the surface of everything this tracker could do.
Price at time of publish: $50
Colors: 3 (Strap comes separately in 4 colors) | Fits wrists 166- 233 mm | Strap material: Thermoplastic polyurethane | Battery life: Up to 18 days | Waterproof: Yes
Best Under $100: Fitbit Inspire 3 Fitness Tracker
Why We Like It: The Inspire 3 tracks tons of data points and presents you with personalized recommendations — like having a personal trainer.
It’s Worth Noting: To unlock the full suite of functionality and data tracking, you’ll have to pay for Fitbit Premium after the free trial expires.
If your fitness tracker budget extends up to $100, the Fitbit Inspire 3 offers an impressive array of metrics that helped us make measurable changes to our health and wellness routines. From sleep tracking to move reminders, the Inspire 3 shared helpful insights into several different areas of health, all beautifully displayed in the Fitbit app. We were wowed by the tracker’s accuracy; it correctly noted when we fell asleep and woke up, when we started and finished workouts, and when we walked during commutes. The band was incredibly lightweight and comfortable, and we didn’t experience any skin irritation during our month-long test.
The wow-worthy number of wellness metrics tracks ended up being a double-edged sword in our testing. On one hand, we appreciated seeing all of our stats laid out clearly and how the Fitbit then made smart recommendations to better meet our health goals. But as a slight downside, these features were all courtesy of Fitbit Premium, which we received as a six-month free trial when purchasing the device. While we feel the full subscription is worth it for many people who want a smart, personalized fitness tracker, adding on Fitbit Premium (currently $10 per month or $80 a year) makes this fitness tracker slightly less affordable, especially compared to our other budget-friendly option, the Amazfit Band 7.
Price at time of publish: $100
Colors: 3 (4 additional bands available) | Fits wrists 5.5” – 8.7” | Strap material: Silicone | Battery life: Up to 10 days | Waterproof: Yes
Best Splurge: Apple Watch Ultra
Why We Like It: The new “Action” button can be custom programmed to do a number of tasks.
It’s Worth Noting: The watch feels incredibly heavy and cumbersome.
For a fitness tracker with all the bells and whistles, the Apple Watch Ultra is designed for endurance athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and tech geeks, making it a splurge-y purchase. If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, setup is a breeze (although you may need to download the latest updates to install the software). Compared to other Apple Watches, the Ultra is much more rugged and resistant to damage in the outdoor elements, even including advanced health sensors that detect falls or crashes and contact emergency services.
We were especially impressed by the new Action button, which you can program to do custom actions at the press of a (you guessed it) button, saving you time and effort scrolling through various menus. We also found the screen’s resolution and clarity to be easy to navigate compared to the other fitness trackers we tried, especially on the larger display — no more squinting to read a text or fumbling for your glasses.
That said, this is a lot of watch for a casual fitness user, and we found the product way too heavy to wear consistently. In fact, we wouldn’t recommend wearing this if sleep tracking is one of your main reasons for buying a fitness tracker — the watch was that clunky on our female testers.
Price at time of publish: $800
Colors: 1 (9 additional bands available) | Fits wrists 130mm – 220mm | Strap material: Varies | Battery life: Up to 36 hours | Waterproof: Yes
Most Attractive: Garmin Lily
Why We Like It: The thin strap and analog face give a luxe look to the tracker.
It’s Worth Noting: The small screen may be difficult for some to read.
If you’re a style-conscious shopper, you may have put off buying a fitness tracker since so many of the options available (such as the Apple Watch Ultra) are clearly meant for sports or look too casual for everyday wear. That’s why we chose to highlight the Garmin Lily as the most attractive fitness tracker on the market, thanks to its slim band, patterned lens, and design-forward features. The smartwatch has many of the same features as our choice for best overall fitness tracker, the Garmin vivomove sport, but packaged into a smaller watch case (34mm compared to the vivomove’s 40mm). You also have the choice to stick with a sporty silicone band or upgrade to an Italian leather band, which set this tracker apart for us.
Similar to the vivomove Sport, we were disappointed that iPhone users couldn’t respond to texts on the watch. And while the smaller screen size didn’t make it significantly harder for us to read the display, others might find themselves squinting.
Price at time of publish: $200
Colors: 6 (plus additional straps available) | Fits wrists 110mm – 175mm | Strap material: Varies | Battery life: Up to 5 days | Waterproof: Yes
Best GPS Tracking: Polar Vantage V2 Smartwatch
Why We Like It: The built-in GPS function is just as helpful for driving as it is for running.
It’s Worth Noting: The Polar Flow app doesn’t integrate with many standard health-tracking apps.
Walkers, runners, cyclists, and hikers often need a fitness tracker with GPS to stay on track during their fitness adventures, and we found the Polar Vantage V2 to be the best fitness tracker with GPS tracking. It uses global navigation satellite systems for accurate, up-to-the-minute maps, giving you exact insight into your training. We also noted that the built-in GPS was surprisingly helpful for driving, since the watch buzzed as we approached upcoming turns. The TrackBack feature (which guides you back to your starting point) was especially handy, and we loved seeing our route and elevation profiles visualized on the display.
On the downside, we found that using the Polar Vantage V2 in GPS mode drained its battery quickly, so be aware of battery life if you’re planning to use this watch for longer workouts (also, the Vantage V2 doesn’t store music, so you’ll need another device to play your tunes). And at such a high price point, the low battery life feels even more disappointing.
Price at time of publish: $500
Colors: 2 (plus additional straps available) | Fits wrists 120mm – 215mm | Strap material: Silicone | Battery life: Up to 40 hours in training mode | Waterproof: Yes
Best Cross-Training Feature: Fitbit Charge 5
Why We Like It: The fitness tracker is tough and low-profile enough to seamlessly work with cross-training workouts.
It’s Worth Noting: The device froze on us a few times, which we attributed to insufficient battery power.
Many typical fitness smartwatches (such as the Apple Watch or Garmins) are a little too bulky or sensitive to use for high-octane cross-training workouts. For example, you might feel nervous about doing a kettlebell snatch in case the weight knocks into your wrist tracker, or your Apple Watch might incorrectly detect a “crash” during a set of burpees. That’s why we recommend the Fitbit Charge 5 for cross-training workouts. The wrist tracker features a slim band and touchscreen display that’s unobtrusive enough for all kinds of high-intensity workouts. We also noticed the Charge 5 quickly detected when we started workouts on our own (that is, without manually starting a workout on the tracker), and it was able to accurately determine how long we did each workout for.
Unfortunately, we did experience some bugs and frozen screens, which seemed to stem from letting the battery die. Most of the time, pushing an update helped restart the tracker, but it was frustrating. Compared to our pick for best fitness tracker under $100, the Fitbit Inspire 3, the Charge 5 has a larger screen, built-in GPS capabilities, an ECG app for heart rhythm assessment, and an EDA scan app for stress management, which we felt warranted the slight price increase.
Price at time of publish: $150
Key specs: Colors: 3 (plus additional straps available) | Fits wrists 5.5” – 8.7” | Strap material: Silicone | Battery life: Up to 7 days | Waterproof: Yes
Best Lightweight: Coros Pace 2
Why We Like It: The barely-there feel makes this a fitness tracker you’ll actually wear.
It’s Worth Noting: The screen automatically locks, which can drag down the process of tracking workouts.
As the lightest GPS watch on the market at time of launch, it’s no wonder we loved the Coros Pace 2 for a minimalist-feeling fitness tracker. The band never irritated us throughout our month-long test, and the included strap had plenty of holes to get the perfect not-too-tight, not-too-loose fit. Despite being a lightweight fitness tracker, the Coros Pace 2 has all the fitness-related features you’d want in a premium fitness watch. It has dozens of options for tracking your workouts, and it allows you to put in even more details (such as reps or sets) to further log your progress. We were continuously surprised by all the off-the-beaten-track data included: barometric pressure, time spent in recovery, running performance, elevation gain, and muscle heatmap, just to name a few.
There was only one design flaw we found during our testing: We had to unlock the screen every time we wanted to change anything or stop/start a workout. For example, in order to stop a run, we had to unlock the screen, then push and hold a button for 3 seconds, which made the run distance and time tracked less accurate.
Price at time of publish: $199
Colors: 3 (plus additional straps available) | Strap material: Silicone or Nylon | Battery life: Up to 20 days (daily use) | Waterproof: Yes
Our Testing Process
After consulting with McKenzie, our team identified the most important features when shopping for the best fitness trackers: price, comfort, ease of use and setup, tracking accuracy, and overall health data. From there, we conducted in-depth market research to choose the most popular and best-selling fitness trackers for us to test. We tested these trackers in the real world, using them for one month to track at least four workouts per week. We made sure to try a variety of workouts, from walking and running to CrossFit and cycling. Throughout the testing timeline, we took detailed notes on the key features of each tracker and how the trackers stacked up, considering price and overall value as well. At the end of the testing period, we felt strongly that the Garmin vivomove Sport was the best fitness tracker overall.
What to Know About Fitness Trackers
When shopping for a fitness tracker, you’ll want to pay attention to its ability to track workouts, whether it has GPS, health-tracking features, and overall design.
It seems obvious that a fitness tracker will need to track workouts, but the best fitness tracker for you will be able to log the workouts you do most frequently. “Running, walking, cycling and any other cardio activity are great workouts for tracking with a fitness tracker because you can figure out how close you are to your target heart rate to see if you are pushing yourself hard enough,” says McKenzie. “Weight lifting is another great workout to use your fitness tracker for because it can track how many reps you’ve done and how many calories you’ve burned.“
Some trackers have dozens of activities to choose from (everything from pickleball to Tai Chi), while others may have only basic forms of exercise available as options. Some trackers can automatically detect when you begin and end a workout, while others require you to manually press a button to “start” a workout. Finally, you’ll want to know how accurate the fitness trackers are. Some trackers may calculate metrics (such as calories burned) based on averages, while others may take your height and weight into consideration.
For runners, walkers, hikers, and cyclists, understanding your mileage and your normal routes is an important part of your movement routine. Many fitness trackers can connect to your phone’s GPS via Bluetooth to accurately log your miles. Other fitness trackers have built-in GPS, meaning you can leave the phone at home (or save battery life) and still be able to track your distances by relying on your fitness tracker to do the work.
Fitness trackers do way more than simply log your workouts. Many of the best fitness trackers on the market also track sleep, hydration, stress levels, menstrual cycles, and other biometric data. These extra features can help you get a holistic picture of your health, all from one tracker and app.
“The workout tracking features that are most important will depend on your goals and where you are on your fitness journey,” says McKenzie. “If your goal is simply to move more, then tracking your steps will be most helpful. If your goal is to increase your calorie expenditure to help manage your weight then calories burned will be most helpful. If you’re trying to improve your stamina or work on your cardio conditioning then tracking your heart rate will be most helpful.“
Of course, the best fitness tracker for you is one that you’ll actually wear consistently — and to that end, design matters. “The most important design features for a fitness tracker are that it’s user-friendly, water-resistant for when you sweat, and it’s helpful if it syncs with your devices or other fitness apps [such as] MyFitnessPal,” says McKenzie. “Battery life is also equally important because you want to be able to wear it all day long without needing to recharge it.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Are fitness trackers accurate?
A fitness tracker’s accuracy will depend on where the tracker is worn and what information is used to calculate metrics. In general, calculations of calories burned tend to be most difficult for fitness trackers to determine correctly. However, other metrics (such as heart rate, miles run, and steps walked) can generally be relied on.
Are fitness trackers safe to wear?
Yes, fitness trackers are safe to wear. However, if you experience any skin irritation or rashes where you wear your tracker, take it off immediately and clean the area with soap and warm water.
Are fitness trackers waterproof?
Most fitness trackers are waterproof and can be worn swimming, in the shower, washing hands, and in rainy or snowy weather. Open-water swimmers and divers may need a more advanced fitness tracker to withstand higher pressure.
Added to the bottom of the roundup to answer the most common questions people have when researching products in the product category we’re covering. These should be answered in complete sentences with expert quotes when available. At least one paragraph for each question.
Why Trust Shape
As a fitness editor who remembers the first Fitbit, Kristen Geil has over 10 years of experience testing and covering the latest fitness trackers. She’s used her fitness trackers for everything from running to boxing, and she recently led Shape’s first-ever Best in Fitness Awards, with a whole category dedicated to wearable tech and trackers. Kristen is also a NASM-certified personal trainer with experience teaching group fitness. For this piece, Kristen worked closely with the testing team to gain insights from our real-world test and determine our winners for best fitness trackers across various categories.