The best fitness trackers have gone beyond cheap, plasticky step trackers. New activity bands from the likes of Fitbit, Garmin and Withings pack serious style, 24/7 heart rate monitoring and incredible insights into your health.
The right fitness tracker for you will be based on your individual needs and how active your lifestyle is. Some will just look for step counting and reliable sleep tracking, others want GPS for running, advanced resting heart rate and VO2 max data. The good news is that there's something out there for everyone.
Essential reading: Best smartwatches money can buy
We've completely reworked our round up of the best fitness trackers and added a new at-a-glance feature list to try and make it easier to spot the right band for you.
Got any questions about fitness trackers? Let us know in the comments section below and we'll see if we can lend a helping hand.
Best fitness tracker
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Our Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review broke the record for an all-time high score for fitness trackers and for good reason: it's all singing, all dancing and packed with tech, although that still might not make it the perfect choice for everyone.
Its top mix of features and performance also made it a worthy Fitness Tracker of the Year at the Wareable Tech Awards 2016.
The Vivosmart HR+ offers a great mix of activity, heart rate and GPS tracking, which makes it a no-brainer for those thinking about a Fitbit, but nonplussed by the idea of taking a phone along for a run.
While the band is still a little chunky for some, and the screen is nowhere near as attractive as the Blaze, it offers up around a week of battery life, is devilishly good when it comes to notifications and it's water resistant to about 50m – although the lack of a swimming mode is a disappointment.
Run stats are a little light – if you want more than pace, distance or basic HR data then you'll need to head into proper GPS running watch territory.
Feature check: Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, GPS.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review
Best general fitness tracker
Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit raised the bar with the Charge 2, but in spite of the device falling slightly short of its own expectations, it still got a deserved commendation at the Wareable Tech Awards.
As well the usual steps and sleep tracking – all logged within Fitbit's superb app – the Charge 2 tracks heart rate continuously, monitors resting heart rate and now rates VO2 Max, a scientific gauge of fitness. New breathing training to combat stress adds to a stellar line-up of wellness features – so why isn't it topping the table?
Teething issues with screen responsiveness, a fiddly interface and flaky heart rate tracking during very intense workouts make for an experience that falls short for the more active user. It will accurately track runs, but you need to take your phone out with you.
However, if general wellbeing is more important to you than getting sweaty at the gym, the Charge 2 is one of the strongest devices on the market.
Feature check: Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, breathing training, VO2 Max.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Charge 2 review
Best for simplicity
Stylish and sleek, Misfit broke from the traditional design of its circular Shine tracker to offer something a little more discreet. The Misfit Ray offers steps and sleep tracking, all within Misfit's sleek and clean app. It will also alert users to messages and calls from a paired smartphone. There are now decent strap options from Misfit, and it can be worn as a pendent. Decent customisation mixed with strong (if no frills) fitness tracking and a good price mean you can't go wrong with the Ray.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, buzzes for smartphone notifications.
Wareable verdict: Misfit Ray review
Best for style
The Fitbit Alta is the company's best-looking device to date, and it's a real head turner. While we've often said that devices with screens can't be alluring, the Alta with its big range of coloured straps does a fine job. On the tech side, it records steps, sleep and elevation and delivers basic notifications to the wrist, although support for third-party apps is patchy.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, customisable bands and notifications.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Alta review
Best for stroller-pushing parents (clip-on)
Misfit Shine 2
When the Misfit launched the Shine back in 2012, it proved that you can count your steps from a fitness tracker that didn't look like an ugly piece of plastic around your wrist.
The Shine 2 remains faithful to its original features and now adds a redesigned action clip, smartphone notifications and vibration alerts. Also, the battery life pretty much kicks the ass of any of the trackers on this page.
Where it really impresses though is data accuracy. When we put the Shine 2 up against a GPS running watch recently, there was 0.1km difference in the readings. If reliable data is your priority, then this is the one to go for.
However, for us it stands out because of its versatility. It ships with a clip, and has modes for attaching to shirts, waistbands, shoes and pockets, meaning buggy-pushing parents can get credit for their days – a common request on Wareable's comments and forums.
Feature check: Step tracking, sleep monitoring, smartphone notifications, waterproof for swim tracking.
Wareable verdict: Misfit Shine 2 review
Best for sleep tracking
We talked and Jawbone listened. After receiving mediocre reviews for the Jawbone UP3, the San Francisco company went live with new firmware addressing a number of the key concerns – and automatic sleep tracking is now on offer. That's great news because the UP3 is incredibly in-depth when it comes to tracking your zzzz's. By monitoring a user's bpm, respiration rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response, it can give you your REM, light and deep sleep stats.
Feature check: Heart rate (resting and passive), steps, sleep.
Wareable verdict: Jawbone UP3 review
Best for getting in shape
Moov Now is a small, round element that you clip into a strap to wear around your leg and pair with a smartphone. The aim of the game is advanced sports training plans, at which it excels, with actionable running, swimming and cycling data aimed at making you better at the sports you love.
The band boasts ever-increasing levels of difficulty which offer a gradual but tangible improvement curve, and with both running and seven-minute workout included, it has all bases covered.
Even better news is that Moov Now – the second generation product – also works as a daily step and sleep tracker, making it a decent activity band when you're not busting out interval times.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, advanced sports coaching, run/bike tracking.
Wareable verdict: Moov Now review
Best for a tight budget
Xiaomi Mi Band Pulse
Now available outside China, the Mi Band Pulse is cheap and cheerful, yet somehow manages to pack heart rate monitoring onto the wrist for an astonishing price. Xiaomi has shifted more than a million of its bands in China alone, making this possibly the ultimate fitness tracker.
Feature check: HR tracking, steps, sleep, smart alarms, incoming call alerts.
Wareable verdict: Xiaomi Mi Band Pulse review
Best for losing weight
While it's far from the perfect fitness tracker – read our review to find out why – the TomTom Touch is uniquely placed to help users track weight, thanks to its build-in body composition sensors. Place your finger on the sensor and you'll get a (pretty) accurate analysis of your body fat and muscle percentages. There's a few percentage points difference between scales, but it's a great way of tracking the benefits of your new exercise regime.
Feature check: Sleep, steps, 24/7 heart rate, body composition.
Wareable verdict: TomTom Touch review
Best for multisports
Garmin Vivoactive HR
This everyday sports wearable blends fitness and sports features with reliable notifications in a reasonably priced package. It's not exactly a looker, but don't let that put you off – the Vivoactive HR uses GPS to accurately track running, cycling and swimming with live pace and distances. It's not perfect – the screen is dull and the heart rate tracking can't beat a chest strap – but as an easy to live with sports companion with access to Garmin Connect, this is a brilliant buy.
Feature check: Daily steps, 24/7 heart rate, GPS run/bike/golf tracking, notifications.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivoactive HR review
- Best waterproof fitness trackerFancy hitting the water rather than the roads? Check out these top waterproof bands
- How to buy a fitness trackerFitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, Misfit and more - here's what to look for in a lifestyle tracker
- Heart rate is now the biggy for trackersMoves from headline feature to bog standard
Best for screen quality
Samsung Gear Fit2
When it comes to that AMOLED panel on the front of your fitness tracker, the new Samsung Gear Fit2 rules the roost. With so many fitness trackers trading quality colour displays in favour of longer battery life, they can make for a rather dull-looking crowd. The Gear Fit2 bucks that trend with a sumptuous 1.5-inch screen with an eye-popping 432 x 216, 322 pixels per inch screen.
On the fitness side there's GPS built in for run tracking and an optical heart rate monitor – all for a very competitive price tag.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, GPS and optical heart rate.
Wareable verdict: Samsung Gear Fit2 review
Best for style
When it comes to fitness tracking style, few are getting it as right as Fossil. Its line-up is so numerous it's impossible to outline here, and it's smartening up its vast dumb watch collection one by one. But it's the Skagen Hagen Connected (Fossil's sub-brand) that we're plumping for here. The watches themselves are thin, sleek and come in four styles – tracking steps, sleep and buzzing for notifications.
Feature check: Steps, sleep monitoring, discreet notifications.
Mondaine Helvetica Smart
Mondaine watches are gorgeous and the MotionX tech packed inside the company's first connected timepiece hasn't altered that fact. It's simply stunning, easily the best-looking piece of wrist-based wearable tech that we've come across.
Essential reading: The best smart analogue watches
It could have fallen flat on its face if the fitness tracking aspects weren't up to scratch, but Mondaine avoided that embarrassment by enlisting the Silicon Valley experts and, while it's expensive, you're paying for solid Swiss-made quality.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, long battery life.
Wareable verdict: Mondaine smartwatch review
Withings Steel HR
Landing later this year is the Withings Steel HR and we have to say we're rather excited. Smart analogue devices have a tendency to be a little light on hardcore fitness features, but not the new Withings. A heart rate monitor in the back keeps tabs on your ticker 24/7 and chucks in into the award winning Withings Health Mate app. What's more, it boasts a 25 day battery life and recharges via a magnetic cable.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, 24/7 heart rate, 25 day battery.
Wareable first look:Withings Steel HR review