These days, it seems like everyone is swapping a standard watch for a fancy fitness tracker. Whether it’s to count steps (à la the OG Fitbit), track the pace and calorie burn of a run, or anything in-between, fitness trackers are the ideal accessory for fit fiends and everyday exercisers alike. But with so many to choose from, the endless options and features can feel overwhelming. To cut through the clutter, we tested a bunch of the latest and greatest trackers on the market to help you determine which is perfect for your workout personality.
Best for: The Well-Rounded Health Buff
The Fitbit Alta HR is the perfect pick for the workout enthusiast who’s eager to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It actually auto-detects all different types of workouts, from running and elliptical to tennis and swimming, and helps you keep tabs on all of the most important stats—daily steps, heart rate, calories burned, workouts, sleep stages, and calls and texts—right on your wrist.
Most notable, its newest “sleep stages” feature measures both the quantity and quality of your sleep—so you’re not just keeping track of how active you are, but also how well you’re recharging and recovering. The design of the Alta HR is so sleek and subtle (it's one of the slimmest options out there), it won't feel annoying to wear all day.
Best for: The Always-Connected Exerciser
The Apple Watch was originally introduced back in 2015, but the Series 2 (the second iteration) made a splash when it was released late last year thanks to key updates like water resistance and a brighter display, two features that helped promote the original to a true fitness watch.
If you're the type of person who likes to be connected (and you have an iPhone), this one's for you, as you'll have access to all of your favorite fitness, health, and food-tracking apps. Answer calls, respond to texts, and use it as a remote control trigger for your phone camera too. If you're thinking this sounds a little too connected, it's actually the opposite. We found we were less glued to our phones. Get a text in the middle of a meeting, dinner date, or bike ride? It's way easier, more discreet, and less rude to just glance at your wrist than to whip out your phone.
Best for: The Does-It-All Fitness Junkie
Like the Fitbit Alta HR and Apple Watch, the Microsoft Band 2 tracks your heart rate, activity, and steps. Plus it makes checking texts, emails, social media notifications, and even ordering a Starbucks, all possible via your wrist. But really, this fitness band is ideal for someone dedicated to creating their own unique workout regime.
For starters, it has a setting to track more specific workouts, including hiking, golf, and even weight lifting, with just a swipe of your finger. You can also sync workouts to the band, either from an app or a workout you create yourself, and it will guide you through each step. If you hate fussing with or pulling out your phone during a workout, you'll be a fan of these features and how easy they are to use.
Best for: The Unmotivated-by-Numbers User
If you're the type of person who wants to throw in the towel when you look down at the treadmill and see only two minutes have passed (how?!), then Moov Now is for you. It isn’t exactly what you picture when you think of a modern tracker: There’s no visual display or notifications flashing stats in your face. It's just a simple silicone strap that contains a small sensor pod, which can attach to your wrist or ankle, depending on preference. The sensor then syncs to your phone to track workouts, including running, cycling, swimming, boxing, and bodyweight workouts, with an app. (If you like, you can opt in to the app's audio coaching feature to guide your workout.)
To us, the no-fuss design is a major plus, especially since it comes with a much lower price tag than most other fitness trackers on the market. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to track their workouts, but doesn’t need all the bells or whistles of flashy wrist-candy.
Best For: The Nonstop Runner
The name sort of says it all: The Garmin ForeRunner is a great choice for anyone who loves to pound the pavement. The 35 model is somewhat of an entry-level tracker compared to Garmin’s more feature-heavy models, but the modest price tag is a major plus if you’re not quite ready to invest in one of the more advanced options.
That said, the 35 certainly isn’t lacking in features. The built-in GPS will accurately track the distance and pace of your run, along with your heart rate throughout. And although it may seem simple, one of our favorite features is that it automatically pauses when you stop running, which is weirdly satisfying for those routes that include multiple stoplights or days when you decide to take a ton of photos because #fromwhereirun. Plus it’s lightweight enough to wear all day, which is great since it also gives you access to texts, social media, and daily step alerts.
Best for: The Casual Mover or Fashionably Fit
If the understated FitBit Alta is still too “look-I'm-wearing-a-fitness-tracker!” for your taste, but you want to keep an eye on your daily activity, we recommend trying the Misfit Ray. It’s one of the most subtle options out there and looks more like a funky, industrial bracelet than a fitness tracker. We were drawn to the cool design and pleasantly surprised by how well it tracked steps, calories, and sleep. Plus it doesn’t require any charging (like a real watch, replaceable batteries last up to 6 months).
Speaking of, if you're truly dedicated to a classic watch, Misfit also offers the chic Misfit Phase smartwatch, which has the style of a sophisticated time-teller, but boasts all the features of a typical fitness tracker.
($99.99, amazon.com for Ray, and $149.99, amazon.com for Phase)