10 Best Heart Rate Monitors for Running & Cycling

Join us as we look at the best heart rate monitors for running and cycling
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Regular cardio is an excellent way to improve stamina, endurance and overall physical and mental health. With running and cycling in particular, a great way to improve performance is to track your heart rate. Whether you’re looking to burn fat, maintain intensity levels while exercising, or simply get feedback on your performance, a heart rate monitor designed specifically for running or cycling will help you achieve your goal.

Typically coming in the form of a chest strap or an arm band, they are perfect for keeping tabs on your physical fitness. But, every monitor is different; with their own features and capabilities. We’ve researched extensively to provide at least one solid option for you, no matter what your fitness goals and budget may be.

Best Heart Rate Monitor At a Glance

Best Heart Rate Monitor for Running Overall

Garmin HRM-Run

Regularly touted as one of the best heart rate monitors for running, the Garmin HRM-Run offers an impressive amount of data. It tracks cadence, oscillation, ground contact time and more. The soft and flexible chest strap is comfortable, so it won’t distract you while running or cycling.

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Best Heart Rate Monitor Watch for Running

Polar M430 GPS Running Watch

If you want a bigger watch than most brands offer, then chances are you’ll love the Polar M430 GPS Running Watch. As one of the most durable models, you can count on it looking brand new even after years of use. Measuring VO2 max and offering an array of features, it’s one of the most efficient and user-friendly monitors.

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Best Heart Rate Monitor for Running Overall

Garmin HRM-Run

Regularly touted as one of the best heart rate monitors for running, the Garmin HRM-Run offers an impressive amount of data. It tracks cadence, oscillation, ground contact time and more. The soft and flexible chest strap is comfortable, so it won’t distract you while running or cycling.

Read the review

Check the current price

Best Heart Rate Monitor Watch for Running

Polar M430 GPS Running Watch

If you want a bigger watch than most brands offer, then chances are you’ll love the Polar M430 GPS Running Watch. As one of the most durable models, you can count on it looking brand new even after years of use. Measuring VO2 max and offering an array of features, it’s one of the most efficient and user-friendly monitors.

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Best Heart Rate Monitor for Cycling At a Glance

Best Heart Rate Monitor for Cycling Overall

Garmin HRM-Dual

If you’re on a budget, the Garmin HRM-Dual is an excellent choice. The strap is comfortable and easy to adjust. The device features a long-lasting battery that will hold up for years. Plus, the ANT+ and Bluetooth technology give you a wide array of options for training indoors, outdoors and with friends online.

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Next Best HR Monitor for Cycling

Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor

Another excellent value option, the Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor is easy to use and perfect if you’re not looking for something complicated. Simplicity, accuracy and connectivity combine to create a wonderful choice for those on a tighter budget.

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Best Heart Rate Monitor for Cycling Overall

Garmin HRM-Dual

If you’re on a budget, the Garmin HRM-Dual is an excellent choice. The strap is comfortable and easy to adjust. The device features a long-lasting battery that will hold up for years. Plus, the ANT+ and Bluetooth technology give you a wide array of options for training indoors, outdoors and with friends online.

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Next Best HR Monitor for Cycling

Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor

Another excellent value option, the Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor is easy to use and perfect if you’re not looking for something complicated. Simplicity, accuracy and connectivity combine to create a wonderful choice for those on a tighter budget.

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The Best Heart Rate Monitors for Running

Garmin HRM-Run
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $

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Polar M430 GPS Running Watch
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $$$

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Wahoo TICKR FIT Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $

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Garmin Forerunner 35
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $$

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Scosche Rhythm+ Heart Rate Monitor Armband
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $

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Garmin HRM-Run
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $

Check current price

Polar M430 GPS Running Watch
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $$$

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Wahoo TICKR FIT Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $

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Garmin Forerunner 35
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $$

Check current price

Scosche Rhythm+ Heart Rate Monitor Armband
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $

Check current price

1. Garmin HRM-Run

There isn’t much point in purchasing a heart rate monitor for running if it’s not going to give you accurate feedback. With the Garmin HRM-Run, you can rest assured that you will get reliable data.

The general design of the HRM-Run is relatively simple. Measuring 2 feet in length, the module is made of a flexible piece of plastic while the strap is made of smooth, lightweight fabric. Thanks to this basic yet effective design, it’s comfortable to wear, even for over an hour of rigorous running. As it is placed on your chest, it accurately measures heart rate, no matter what you’re doing.

Where this monitor really shines is its 6 different running dynamics: cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, stride length and vertical ratio. These will advise you of where to improve and take your performance to the next level.

The Good

  • Sleek, simple design
  • Extremely accurate
  • Connects with Garmin’s free online community
  • Comfortable and reliable
  • Offers running form/dynamics feedback

The Not So Good

  • Contact can be a bit spotty in drier seasons

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2. Polar M430 GPS Running Watch

Polar has been creating the best quality heart rate monitors for years, and their Polar M430 GPS Running Watch is no exception.

Choose between different colors like Black, Green, Grey, Orange and White. The waterproof, durable watch can be paired with a chest strap for nearly 100% accuracy. However, where this model really shines is with the built-in GPS, allowing you to essentially relive your training session with the Polar app and website. This also means you don’t have to worry about taking your phone with you.

With features like the Polar Fitness Test, Running Index, Training Load and Recovery Status, you’ll always be aware of how you’re performing.

The Good

  • Attractive design
  • Durable construction
  • Included GPS capabilities
  • Comfortable and reliable
  • Includes fitness tests, training load, etc.

The Not So Good

  • Should be used with chest strap for the greatest accuracy

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3. Wahoo TICKR FIT Heart Rate Monitor

When it comes to anything you’re wearing while running, comfort is vital. Earning the title as one of “Amazon’s Choice” products and worn by an array of pro athletes around the world, you can feel confident with the Wahoo TICKR FIT Heart Rate Monitor Armband.

Perfectly balancing durability with softness, the band is just stretchy enough to move with your body while preventing you from over-tightening it. There’s no need to stop your run to have to adjust it, and you can choose to wear it on your forearm or upper arm – whichever you prefer.

Coming with personalized heart rate training, it tracks real-time heart rate, training zones and calories burned. You can view this info at any time from your smartphone or tablet, thanks to Bluetooth and ANT+ technology. Moreover, this allows you to connect to GPS watches as well as the majority of bike computers. On top of all that, it’s very affordable!

The Good

  • Easy to use
  • Connects with many smart devices/apps
  • Very accurate reporting
  • Durable

The Not So Good

  • Lags a bit in response to changes in HR

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4. Garmin Forerunner 35

Much like the Polar M430 model, the Garmin Forerunner 35 comes with a built-in GPS. While it doesn’t come packed full of features, it is easy to use, accurate and has a relatively long battery life.

This straightforward watch is comfortable to wear and looks simple. It comes with GPS satellite support, an optical heart rate monitor and an accelerometer. You can sync it with a chest strap monitor or use it with a foot pod and take advantage of the cadence sensor. You’ll be fully aware of your running dynamics and can use them to improve your execution indoors or outdoors.

For a solid price and simplicity, the Forerunner 35 is one of your best bets!

The Good

  • Works with chest strap, foot pod, cadence sensor
  • Comfortable, even during long runs
  • Great price
  • Durable

The Not So Good

  • Doesn’t have a ton of features

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5. Scosche Rhythm+ Heart Rate Monitor Armband

If you’re not a big fan of chest strap monitors, give a good look at the Scosche Rhythm+ Heart Rate Monitor Armband. Aside from its unique looks, it also provides reliable data and comfort. This model is great if you live in wetter environments, as it’s not just sweat-proof but waterproof up to 1 meter!

Right off the bat, you’ll notice this device looks different than the alternatives. Each one includes 2 different armbands, with colors varying from Green, Blue, Gray, Pink and more. Each neoprene band is nice and breathable. It also offers accuracy rarely found in armband models.

Working with most popular health apps in addition to all Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ enabled devices/equipment you can use it in endless combinations. Lastly, the battery life is around 8 hours of runtime, which most will find more than sufficient.

The Good

  • Easy to use and set up
  • Connects with wide array of devices/apps
  • Comfortable band
  • Accurate for an armband HR monitor
  • Stylish look

The Not So Good

  • Doesn’t store data (though connected apps could)

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The Best Heart Rate Monitors for Cycling

Garmin HRM-Dual
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $$

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Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $$$

Check current price

CooSpo Optical Armband Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $$

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CooSpo Fitness Tracker ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $

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Dash Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $

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Garmin HRM-Dual
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $$

Check current price

Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $$$

Check current price

CooSpo Optical Armband Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $$

Check current price

CooSpo Fitness Tracker ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Cost: $

Check current price

Dash Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap
  • Easily Replaceable Battery: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Cost: $

Check current price

1. Garmin HRM-Dual

While it doesn’t measure running dynamics, the Garmin HRM-Dual is perfect for cycling. With the inclusion of Bluetooth and ANT+ technology, you can connect to your choice of smart devices and/or cycling computers.

As one of the lightest monitors available, it stays on securely while staying comfortable and flexible. The strap is very soft and pliable. It is sweatproof and can be washed regularly just by removing the HR module. Regarding appearance: it’s basic and simple, with an all-black design.

With high accuracy and the ability for you to conveniently track your efforts and progress, you’ll find it easier than ever to achieve your goals and boost motivation.

The Good

  • Sweatproof/easy to wash
  • Connects with various smart devices/apps
  • Accurate tracking
  • Very budget-friendly

The Not So Good

  • Not as visually appealing as others

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2. Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor

Be careful not to confuse this model with the previously covered Wahoo TICKR FIT, which is an armband model. The TICKR Heart Rate Monitoir instead comes in the form of a chest strap, which is incredibly precise and perfect for cycling. The TICKR Heart Rate Monitor doesn’t come with a rechargeable battery, but it lasts up to 12 months. If you want a product from one of the top HRM brands out there on a budget price, then this is it.

As one of the most user-friendly devices, it comes with a lightweight sensor that quickly snaps on and off. When you’re ready to clean your band, you can do so without any hassle. As it’s sweatproof and waterproof up to 5 feet, using it in just about any weather conditions is no problem.

With ANT+ and Bluetooth technology built-in, you can connect to your smartphone and GPS devices. The inclusion of two LED lights really make it easier to tell if it’s connected, and if it’s detecting your heart rate so you never miss a second of data tracking.

The Good

  • Sweatproof/easy to wash
  • Connects with various smart devices/apps
  • Accurate tracking
  • Very budget-friendly

The Not So Good

  • Quite simple technology

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3. CooSpo Optical Armband Heart Rate Monitor

If you are partial to armbands, the CooSpo Optical Armband Heart Rate Monitor is quite possibly the best available today. It’s just about as accurate as a chest strap model. Not only that, but it’s very comfortable and soft – making it perfect for longer cycling sessions.

Moisture is no problem, since it is waterproof (IP67-rated) and sweat-proof. Cycling in the rain or through puddles won’t risk damaging the device. The only slight downside is that a few consumers reported it loosening up when wet. However, keeping it near the elbow has proven to remedy this issue.

ANT+ and Bluetooth technology allow you to pair the HRM with various smartphones, tablets, apps, bike computers and more. You can stream your workout stats in real-time or track them after you’re done cycling. Coming with a USB cord, recharging is easy. One full charge provides up to 20 continuous hours of operation with LED lights letting you know its status.

The Good

  • Soft and comfortable
  • Connects with wide array of devices/apps
  • Easy to put on/take off
  • Rechargeable up to 20 hours
  • Very accurate readings

The Not So Good

  • Strap sometimes comes loose when wet

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4. CooSpo Fitness Tracker ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor

CooSpo is one of the most highly rated heart rate monitor brands out there, so it’s unsurprising their Fitness Tracker ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor is so popular. This gadget is perfect if you’re on a tight budget and/or if you prefer chest straps. Offering supreme quality, this model provides precise tracking so you can more effectively reach your goals.

While we feature many affordable options, the Fitness Tracker ANT+ has zero competition when it comes to matching performance with affordability.

The smooth strap and white pod are sleek and simple, making it easy to wear under clothing. As the name suggests, it comes with ANT+ connectivity. This allows you to pair to your smart device, cycling computer, various apps, laptop and more!

To put your mind at ease, the CooSpo HRM even comes with a 2-year hassle-free warranty to ensure that you get a refund or replacement if you’re not 100% satisfied.

The Good

  • Sleek, simple design
  • Connects with wide variety of devices/apps
  • Very comfortable and easy to wear
  • Budget-friendly

The Not So Good

  • Technology is relatively basic

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5. Dash Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap

Speaking of low-cost options, our last model is the Dash Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap. It’s just a few dollars more than the last model, making it another highly affordable option. It also comes with everything you need to effectively track your heart rate and improve your performance.

Compatible with both Apple and Android, you can choose your favorite app to track your cycling. Wahoo Runfit, Polar Beat, MapMyRide and more are all available for you to use!

With a clip-on design, this model is quick to connect, lightweight and comfortable. Lastly, you’ll receive a 100% money back guarantee so if you’re for any reason unsatisfied, you’ll be taken care of.

The Good

  • Very affordable
  • Connects with wide variety of devices/apps
  • Comfortable and easy to wear
  • 100% Money back guarantee

The Not So Good

  • Technology is relatively basic
  • Simple in appearance

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Should You Get a Heart Rate Monitor?

Firstly, it’s worth noting the fact that a heart rate monitor isn’t strictly necessary for either activity; especially if you’re an amateur runner or cyclist. Tracking heart rate is typically used to gauge training intensity, which then helps athletes and coaches adhere to and modify training plans. If you just like going out for a run or cycle, and have no interest in making this competitive, then you can easily gauge your exercise intensity just by feel (i.e., do you feel like you’re working as hard as you want to be or not?). That said, even non-competitive athletes can benefit from the data-driven approach to training that an HR monitor supports.

Measuring your heart rate accurately allows you to modify your exercise intensity up or down and remain in the heart rate zone that will help you continue to make progress.

For best results in this regard, you’ll need to know your maximum heart rate (or HR max) and the 5 different heart rate zones (outlined below and taken from this article from Polar). FYI: You HR max is the highest number of beats per minute your heart can pump under the most stress possible. There are different ways to calculate it, though a common rule of thumb is that ist is the number 220 minus your age. So, if you’re 35, your HR max will be 220 – 35, which is 185 beats / minute.

Zone 1 (50-60% of HRMAX): This is going to be very low impact, though training at this level will increase your recovery and prepare you for training in higher numbered zones. Walking and slow pedal cycling are perfect.

Zone 2 (60-70% or HRMAX): This should still be relatively easy, and you should feel like you can run or cycle for a long time at this rate.

Zone 3 (70-80% of HRMAX): This zone is perfect for improving your blood flow efficiency in the heart and skeletal muscles. At this point, lactic acid also begins to build up. Training in this zone can be characterized as “moderate” effort.

Zone 4 (80-90% of HRMAX): This level is where things really start getting challenging, your breathing starts speeding up, and you’ll be running or cycling aerobically. Training regularly at this intensity will improve your speed rapidly and your body will become more efficient at utilizing carbs for energy.

Zone 5 (90-100% HRMAX): This is your all-out effort. Your heart and lungs will be working their absolute hardest and lactic acid will rapidly build up.

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Choosing the Right Running / Cycling Heart Rate Monitor

Running and cycling are two very different exercises, each with different requirements when it comes to heart rate monitors.

Running is comparatively simpler, as you can pretty much choose whichever one is most comfortable and provides the greatest amount of accuracy for you. Watches, armbands and chest straps are all viable and which is best for you will come down to your personal preferences and level of comfort.

Cycling, on the other hand, necessitates either a chest strap or armband monitor. Watches aren’t recommended, as you have to look at them to see how you’re doing and this can be dangerous while cycling. Instead, get a chest strap or armband monitor that pairs effectively with a good cycling computer that attaches to your handlebars (and is thus safer to look at while cycling). You’ll still want to opt for the HR monitor that works best for your individual needs. Make sure it’s compatible with your devices/apps, is comfortable, and tracks relevant stats accurately.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Heart Rate Monitors for Running & Cycling

Check out our responses below to a few of the most commonly asked questions about heart rate monitors.

Are heart rate monitors with chest straps more accurate?

Generally speaking, yes they are. Chest straps are placed right over the heart and record heart rate data from the EKG. On average, they offer an impressive 99.6% accuracy. Watches often have the lowest accuracy while armbands vary in this regard, so it’s important to choose a top model.

Is a heart rate monitor worth it for running and cycling

As we mentioned above, an HR monitor isn’t actually necessary – for any type of exercise / sport. That said, they can be a useful tool to help you understand the true intensity at which you’re exercising. This then allows you to make precise adjustments to ensure you’re either pushing yourself appropriately or avoiding over-exerting yourself. For example, if weight loss is your goal, then you want to be pushing yourself and working at a high intensity as this is what will burn the most energy (the so called “fat burning zone” is rubbish).

Conversely, if recovery or warm down from a hard training session is your aim, then you want to ensure your heart rate remains fairly low.

HR montiors can also be helpful in providing objective evidence that you are making progress in terms of fitness or performance. For example, if you’re running or cycling faster from one week to the next while your average HR is remins fairly constant, then you’re getting fitter. Keep doing what you’re doing. Conversely, if you’re unable to consistently improve your speed in either sport without pushing your HR up, then this indicates that you’re not getting fitter and you may need to modify your training approach.

How do you train your heart rate for running and cycling?

Runner’s wrorld provides some great resources for beginners on how to effectively use an HR monitor to train your runs. See here and here.

Tjhe below video from GCN also provides some great info on training to heart rate when cycling.

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Well, there you have it: The best heart rate monitors for running and cycling.

We want to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want and deserve, which is why we spent so much time reading consumer reviews and getting to know the devices inside and out. Regardless of your budget, we have at least a couple perfect options for you.

You can feel confident knowing your new heart rate monitor will effectively and comfortably measure your heart rate so you can achieve all of your fitness/athletic goals this year.

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