The Best Pedometer and Fitness Tracker Review

Which pedometer is right for you? If you are looking to track, record, and motivate your daily physical activity, a pedometer or “activity monitor” is just the ticket. OutdoorGearLab once again leads the way in reviewing an exciting new category of gear. We scanned this burgeoning market and chose nine of the best options available. We tested under harsh outdoor conditions, as well as during more pedestrian day-to-day applications. We assessed each for usability, construction quality, accuracy, and have identified the important differences in sub-categories of these electronics. Read on to see which will best fit in your life. If you are looking to specifically track bicycle travel, consult our full bicycle computer review. If you are looking for an option for navigating in mountainous environments, check out our Altimeter Watch Review. Finally, if you are looking for more rigorous tracking of formalized fitness efforts, visit our (soon to be published) gps training watch review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Pedometers Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Fitbit Flex
Fitbit Flex
Read the Review
Video video review
Jawbone UP
Jawbone UP
Read the Review
Nike+ Stand Alone
Nike+ Stand Alone
Read the Review
Pacer
Pacer
Read the Review
Striiv Smart
Striiv Smart
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award      Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Street Price Varies $30 - $100
Compare at 2 sellers
$78
Compare at 1 sellers
$19
Compare at 1 sellers
$0$41
Compare at 1 sellers
Overall Score 
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Editors' Rating
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Variety of carry options. Wireless sync. Excellent interface and data collection.Long battery life. Excellent interface and data collection.accurate and compact. targeted at athletes.Inexpensive and easy to setupSelf contained, creative and inspiring exercise incentives.
Cons Shorter battery life. Lower accuracy.Wired syncing.requires Nike shoes or an aftermarket pouch. only tracks distance and does not count steps.less accurate. no distance measure. Requires carrying a smartphone everywhere.Requires frequent recharging.
Best Uses Tracking day-to-day activity.Day-to-day use for he or she looking to track, inspire, and motivate physical activity.Tracking casual to intermediate runners.An excellent way to try out step tracking.Tracking daily activity information for the casual fitness aficionado.
Date Reviewed Dec 23, 2013Dec 23, 2013Dec 23, 2013Dec 23, 2013Dec 23, 2013
Weighted Scores Fitbit Flex Jawbone UP Nike+ Stand Alone Pacer Striiv Smart
Interface - 30%
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9
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7
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8
Portability - 25%
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Durability - 20%
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Accuracy - 15%
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Ease Of Set Up - 10%
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Product Specs Fitbit Flex Jawbone UP Nike+ Stand Alone Pacer Striiv Smart
Dimensions 2 bands span 6.5 to 9 inches tested size medium fits 6-7 inch circumference 1.4 x .9 x .2 inches n/a 2.75 x 1.6 x .5 inches
Weight just the bit is 1/8 oz. With the band it is 1/2oz. 3/4oz 1/4oz n/a 1 3/8oz
Battery Life 4-5 days 9-11 days months same as your smartphone 3-4 days
Style (bracelet, clip, etc.) bracelet bracelet shoe pocket smartphone app clip
Tracks Steps taken? yes yes no yes yes
Tracks Distance? yes yes yes no yes
Tracks other stats? Sleep data Sleep data
Data management? proprietary app and online community proprietary app and online community proprietary app and online community proprietary app and online community on device, as well as proprietary online community.
Needs additional device? smartphone smartphone smartphone smartphone not necessary. But will sync with computer.
Social Aspect? yes yes yes yes yes
% inaccuracy 2.2% 0.8% 0% 5.5% 0.5%

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Fitbit Flex
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93
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Pacer
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Striiv Smart
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Jawbone UP
$130
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89
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Nike+ Fuel Band
$150
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Garmin Foot Pod
$70
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Omron Hj-112 Digital Pocket
$35
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Nike+ Stand Alone
$19
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Selecting the Right Product
Most people look to acquire a monitor for one of two primary reasons. Some will be simply looking to track their daily activity or exercise, while others are looking to motivate further daily motion. If you are physically active already, and interested in tracking that, your needs will be slightly different from he or she who is looking for something to inspire healthy habits. That being said, every product in our test will serve either of these types of user. Before elaborating on the differences in different products on the market, allow us to clarify some common construction attributes and limitations. Every model in this review uses a miniaturized electronic accelerometer. An accelerometer simply detects movement. Each product uses a slightly different combination of sensors and algorithms to translate the movement of the device into a human’s activity. All data displayed by or exported from the models we tested is an indirect translation of the movement of the device. The translation of that movement is a function of the design and programming as well as data entered by the user. In most cases, the user must enter his or her stride length, for instance. It senses the movement of a single step, and distance is derived by multiplying the step count by the user’s average stride length. Additionally, some of the tested pedometers come with accompanying smartphone and/or computer apps that can process and correlate user-entered data like subjective mood measure, food intake, body mass, etc.
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Lead test editor Jediah Porter unboxing the pedometer collection. Like most modern electronics, these pedometers all came with concise and easy instructions to get the user started.
Credit: Megan Seel

History of Activity Monitors
Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. A pedometer is a biofeedback device that tells a person how many steps they have taken or how far they have walked, usually within one day, with the intention of bringing more awareness to their level of activity. Pedometers differ from GPS-based motion tracking devices in that they are typically intended solely for walking.

A simple pedometer, or step-counter, uses a tiny spring-loaded pendulum to sense movement; it counts a step taken each time the pendulum swings. Sketches for a design were found among Leonardo da Vinci’s notes. He apparently intended it to track how far troops moved each day. Many sources credit Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, with inventing the pedometer in the 1780s, although there is conflicting evidence that perhaps he merely imported the technology from France. He never applied for patents on any of his inventions, so who should receive the precise credit remains unknown. It is known that in 1780 a French watchmaker named Abraham-Louis Perrelet invented a pedometer that relied on the same technological developments as the self-winding watch, which he and others developed in the 1770s.

Widespread use of pedometers for biofeedback began in the 1960s in Japan when Y. Hatano sold and marketed the Manpo-kei, meaning “10,000 steps meter.” Hatano provided research to prove his marketing claim that 10,000 daily steps was the perfect balance of activity for a healthy lifestyle. This round number, amounting to around five miles for the average person, persists to this day as the recommendation for “how much exercise is necessary to manage your weight,” by the U.S. Surgeon General.

The recent development of portable information devices has increased the accuracy and multi-functionality of pedometers. While the pendulum-based pedometers are still in widespread use and are cheap, they can be inaccurate. This is exacerbated when converting steps taken to distance traveled or calories burned. Accelerometers are electronic devices that can sense movement in up to three dimensions. Smartphones contain accelerometers to orient the device for viewing the screen, and applications have been recently developed to use them as pedometers. In some cases these can be run without using the central CPU of the device, and thus don’t drain the battery.

Functions
Data Collection
If you are looking to quantify your daily physical activity, virtually any pedometer will suffice. The most basic units count up the total number of steps taken in a day. All store that data for at least a few days. The simplest store days worth of data, disposing of older data as new is generated. If the user is to keep track of long term trends, the information must be manually transferred to a notebook of some sort. Other models interface with specialized smartphone or computer software that stores and organizes the information.

Activity Motivation
Pedometers are also used for physical fitness motivation. Almost every person will benefit from more physical activity. And almost everyone is strapped for time and motivation. Using a pedometer to track and inspire the movement that can be inherent in even the busiest schedule is an idea that’s time has come. Busy travelers, professionals, and desk-jockeys everywhere are making the most of their days by setting and reaching activity goals with electronic activity monitors. We walk a great deal in our daily lives. Tracking that with an unobtrusive and easy to use product gives a starting point for anyone looking to increase their energy output. Manufacturers are using social media, data correlation, and clever games to motivate and organize individuals and communities into exercising more.
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Our Top Pick Striiv Smart, plugged in and synced up with the user's account on the Striiv website.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Criteria for Evaluation

Interface and Data Management
All these productss collect reliable data. However, it is the way the information is viewed, saved, and shared that sets them apart from one another. On one end of the spectrum, the simplest and least expensive self-contained (as opposed to requiring a smartphone or computer) product in our test, the Omron Hj-112 Digital Pocket gathers accurate data, but stores only the most recent days’ information and can’t be backed up or transcribed except by hand. The instrumentation in the Omron isn’t much different than that held in the spendier wrist-mounted activity monitors. What is different is the interface and data collection. The more expensive and higher rated productss in our test come equipped with very well thought out interactive apps or on-device screens. For sustained use and efficient integration of a pedometer into one’s daily life, an interactive and effective interface is crucial. For what its worth, none of our testers maintained the organization and motivation to use a non-app-connected device for more than a week or so at a time. Both the Editors Choice winning Fitbit Flex and very close runner-up Jawbone Up have excellent accompanying apps. Bonus points go to both of these for the app’s ability to collect manually entered information about what the user has eaten. At a glance, then, the user can correlate what he or she ate and the calorie content therein with the amount of exercise executed. Those looking to lose (or gain) weight will appreciate this clear view of the intake to expenditure ratio. Also, both of these high scoring options, monitor sleep. Basically, each scores your sleep quality based on how much or little it moves on the sleepers wrist.
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Our testers valued the devices that came with intuitive and comprehensive smartphone apps. Shown here is the Jawbone UP version. But both Nike products, and the Fitbit Flex also utilize a smartphone interface.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Finally, we assessed each product for the way in which the information was transferred. The Pacer app inherently logs, displays, and stores information on the owner’s smartphone. The Fitbit, Nike+ Fuel Band, Nike+ Stand Alone, and Garmin Foot Pod all sync to their accompanying apps, devices, and/or online communities wirelessly. The Jawbone and Striiv Smart connect to a computer and/or phone via a cable, while the remaining devices store the data onboard only. From the list of devices that have no screen and rely on a computer, smartphone, or gps watch to display the full data, (Fitbit, Fuelband, Stand Alone, Garmin, Jawbone), the Fitbit, Fuelband, and Jawbone can directly communicate on the device, in a rudimentary fashion, the degree of progress toward the user’s daily step goal at the very least. These three also show battery level and some other data on the device itself.

Portability
The use of fitness equipment, especially activity monitors, requires absolute convenience and simplicity. It is of no use if the user doesn’t have it with them. These tested devices, intended to be carried every hour of every day, must transport inconspicuously and handily. Portability scores and performance includes both the convenience and aesthetics of carting these around. One will carry these not just during exercise, but to meetings and dinners and events. There are three different styles of step-counting electronics in our test: foot-mounted, belt-clipped, or wrist-strapped. All will work to some degree in the user’s pants pocket, but none work if not on the body. Each person will have different wardrobe and comfort requirements. Generally, the foot-mounted tools are best for during dedicated exercise. The waist-clipped designs work well for those with more strict dress-codes. Most workplace appropriate outfits can be configured to carry yet conceal a belt mounted model. The wrist mounted options are pretty unobtrusive as well. Our testers had alright luck simply carrying the Fitbit “bit” (which consists of two parts: a passive band and the electronic pod that does the measuring and communicating) in a pants pocket. A nice feature of the Nike+ Fuelband is that it will display time. It can therefore be worn in lieu of a wristwatch, limiting arm clutter. All the wrist mounted models come in a variety of colors and sizes. Special mention must be made of the Striiv Smart. The Smart can be configured in a few different carry modes. The simplest version comes with a belt clip and key chain. The same device can be purchased with these same two options, as well as an arm band, soft rubbery case, and carabiner style clip. Partially due to this flexibility and versatility, the Striiv Smart earned our Top Pick award.
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The collection of wrist-mounted devices in our test. From left to right: Jawbone UP, Fitbit Flex, Nike+ Fuel Band.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Durability and Construction Quality
These are all compact, relatively inexpensive electronics. As such, their function will vary and fail. None of our tested products completely failed, but the screens and buttons on the less expensive units were vulnerable to rough use. Buttons stuck and screens lost sections of liquid crystal. All of the more expensive devices functioned fine through the length of the test, but showed finicky performance in terms of syncing, charging, and the like.

Accuracy
The sensor portion of a monitor is relatively simple and reliable. In our testing however, accuracy varied between the devices fairly significantly. The least accurate device had a margin of error many times greater than the most accurate. In a remarkable performance, the Nike+ Stand Alone had perfect accuracy. This Nike product only measures distance (no step count) but it mapped the circumference of a standard track to the quarter mile, time after time. At the other end of the spectrum, and predictably so, the free Pacer smartphone app demonstrated up to 7% error, with an average deviation from the actual of 5.5%. Now, if and when the user’s goal is to track relative amounts of exercise and activity from day to day, the degree of error is hardly a factor. Provided the user uses the same device from one day to the next, the trends in his or her activity level will be clear. Therefore, degree of accuracy is not very important in overall consideration. Our scoring metric takes this into account. It is important to note the limitations of these various devices, but the actual accuracy is not as important. Among the dedicated devices intended for day to day use (therefore eliminating the Pacer app and the exercise-specific foot mounted devices) accuracy is somewhat consistent across the line-up. In this select list, the most accurate demonstrated a .5% inaccuracy while the least factual was only 3.3% off.
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The Nike+ Stand Alone and Garmin Foot Pod are marketed to dedicated runners and walkers.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Ease of Setup
You will most likely just do this once, but some of the devices are much easier to get using than others. Our Editors' Choice selection shined in this category. The Fitbit comes ready to rock and easily configures to the user and the user's smartphone. Like in virtually every category, the Jawbone Up wasn’t far behind. Notably, the Striiv took a very long time to sync with its downloadable PC interface. The non-connecting devices (Omron and Ozeri) had easy-to-read instruction manuals and quick set up procedures. However, both of these have flimsy buttons that get inadvertently pressed. More than once with each of these devices, the user information and associated data was accidentally and completely cleared. This required another round of setup procedure, not to mention the loss of data.

Editors' Choice Award: Fitbit Flex
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Editors Choice winning Fitbit Flex activity monitor, and associated accessories.
Credit: Jediah Porter
We gave our Editors' Choice award to the Fitbit Flex. In our extensive testing, the Fitbit only narrowly edged out the next-in-line, the Jawbone Up. Both the Jawbone and Fitbit are widely available, accurate enough, sync with handy apps and online communities, and live inconspicuously on the user’s wrist. They’re both easy to set up, can be worn in the shower, track sleep, and need to be plugged in periodically to charge. The Fitbit ultimately surpassed the Jawbone primarily because of its wireless syncing. The Jawbone requires plugging into a smartphone’s headphone jack while the Flex updates the smartphone app wirelessly. Additionally, the data-collecting electronic pod of the Fitbit can be removed from the wrist strap. This allows the user to change color and size of the wrist-mount. Many Fitbit users are simply carrying the “bit” in their pants pocket. We tested this way also, and found it to be very handy, but to give less reliable results. However, as noted above in the section detailing the accuracy requirements and standards of all these devices, absolute accuracy is not actually all that important. The standard usage of an activity monitor finds value in the comparison of one day to the next. If one carries his or her Fitbit in the same fashion each day, the data will be relevant in the big picture.

Top Pick Award: Striiv Smart
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Top Pick award winner Striiv Smart. Right on the device are games and milestones and inspirational messages.
Credit: Jediah Porter
The Top Pick award in OutdoorGearLab tests goes to a product that performs well in a specific and unique application. In this case, the Striiv Smart is by far the best motivator in our test. Built into the compact and rugged touchscreen device is a whole suite of games and milestones and inspiring messages. The Smart counts your steps accurately and translates that count to distance and a rough estimate of calories burned. Basically all of the productss we tested do this. The Smart goes above and beyond by correlating distance and stair climbing data to actual distances. It will count your action and update you as you’ve passed various milestones. It notes when you’ve walked the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, when you’ve walked the equivalent distance of a marathon, etc. The Smart also provides games, races, and a social experience. Striiv inc will donate to various charities, from which you can choose, as the user passes certain milestones. It claims to know the difference between stair climbing and horizontal walking. Our experience with this device, and others making the same claim, is that this distinction is difficult to make for any device. In summary, the Striiv Smart offers by far the most motivating interactive experience of all the devices we tested. If you are looking to start a basic fitness plan and appreciate external and community inspiration, the Smart is just the ticket for you.

Best Buy Award for Smartphone Users: Pacer Smartphone App
In a reflection of the variety of options available on the market, we have awarded two products our Best Buy Award. One is a dedicated device, while the other is an app for your smartphone. Different users will have different preferences. In short, if you're on a budget and looking for simple step-counting function, either of these will work. Choose the Pacer Smartphone App if you carry your phone everywhere you go. Choose the Ozeri if you occasionally leave your phone on your desk or kitchen counter while moving about. Obviously, if you don't have a smartphone, the Razor is an excellent choice.

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Screenshot from the Best Buy winning Pacer App.
Credit: Jediah Porter

At a rock-bottom free price, the Pacer smartphone app was an easy choice for one of our Best Buy awards. Many people, especially those looking for a pedometer, already have a smartphone. This app uses your Android or iOS phone’s built in accelerometer (the accelerometer is the part that “knows” which way the phone is oriented, so that the screen can be oriented accordingly. Not to mention the accelerometer’s application in shake-to-activate apps and “bump” style data transfer between phones) to detect steps. The app takes this data, plus your height and weight, to calculate how many calories you’ve burned. There are also optional paid upgrades. The user can spend $1.99 for instance, to incorporate workouts and activity performed without the phone on the users body. This points to a drawback of the Pacer app. You must have the phone on you for every step for the count to be accurate and useful. Most people’s routine means that the phone gets left on the desk or kitchen counter while strolling around. These steps won’t be counted. Same goes for more formalized exercise.

Best Buy Award for a Self-Contained Pedometer: Ozeri 4x3 Razor Digital Pocket 3D

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The Ozeri 4x3 Razor Digital Pocket 3D device and all of its parts. It comes with a spare battery, a leash, a screwdriver for replacing the battery, and a separate pocket clip.
Credit: Jediah Porter
The Ozeri 4x3 Razor Digital Pocket 3D works similarly to the Pacer App, counting daily steps and compiling that data. All this data saving is done in-device, and is held for the most recent seven days. The Ozeri is significantly more accurate than the Pacer, and does not require carrying or owning a smartphone. The price is right, and the durability is acceptable. Our testing team recommends this product for those motivated by their daily objectives and their own most recent performances. If you are looking for more of an interactive experience, you'll pay a premium for one of the social-networked options.

Jediah Porter
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