Want to know how many steps you take in a day? We researched hundreds of pedometers and put the top nine through their paces to help you find your fit. With each passing year, these devices overlap more and more with fitness trackers, making this category ever-more confusing to the uninitiated. That's where our review team comes to the rescue — we have selected the top devices in terms of value, simplicity, and robustness of data. To determine the best, we reviewed both standalone devices that display their own data and those requiring smartphones or computers. In our review, we look at how much and how useful the data is, how easy it is to access and manage that data, and how accurate each device is. If you'd like to see a few pedometers compared toe-to-toe with techier fitness tracker options, head over to our sister site, TechGearLab.
The Best Pedometers of 2018
Like most tech gear, pedometers are constantly evolving. Blink, and you might miss the hot new device. They can be either simple step counters or comprehensive health/activity monitors that offer all the features of a fitness tracker. To help you decide which device is best for your needs, we have selected two new award winners. We dubbed the Fitbit Flex 2 the Editors' Choice. It's an attractive device that pairs with an app for an affordable price. Then, the Best Buy award has been passed on to the 3D TriSport. We still love the stylish look of the Bellabeat Leaf for female-specific health and fitness tracking and the simplicity of the Fitbit Zip. Read on to find how each of the devices measured up.
Fitbit Flex 2
The Fitbit Flex 2 is an elegant, easy-to-wear device that manages and collects an extensive array of activity, fitness, and health-related data. In addition to counting steps and tracking mileage throughout the day, the Flex 2 can be used to record swimming and cycling distance, duration of exercise, food and water intake, sleep, and even menstruation and female fertility monitoring. The Flex 2 manages data in an easy to use smartphone app, and provides an even more robust depiction of data on the Gitbit.com dashboard. From the website, users can look at weekly, monthly, and even annual data trends. Additionally, the Flex 2 can be personalized with a number of bracelets, pendants, and bands - to meet the style requirements of practically any user.
The main downsides of the device are that the Flex 2 doesn't have a display screen, and if the band is worn too tightly around the wrist, it can get sticky with sweat. If using a smartphone is already a part of your daily life, and you want a device that can also track fitness and health for the long-haul — then this is the product for you!
Read review: Fitbit Flex 2
Best for Women
The Bellabeat LEAF is both the most specialized product in our test and one of the most feature-laden. As a product both branded to women and a product whose defining characteristic is menstruation tracking, it is as gender-specific as a pedometer can be. The Bellabeat LEAF brings more data depth than any other product in our review. In addition to tracking step count and distance, which are relatively standard, the LEAF monitors sleep, breathing, and works as a period-tracker, all while promoting meditative practice. Additionally, many women will appreciate the stylish nature of this pedometer — choosing to proudly rock the attractive LEAF.
In our testing, the LEAF proved less durable than some of the other products tested. Additionally, this device lacks a screen — requiring users to rely on their smartphones to monitor data. Women who have no problem tracking data with a stylish app-enabled device will love the LEAF for tracking activity, diet, sleep, breathing, and menstruation.
Read review: Bellabeat LEAF
Best Buy for a Self-Contained Unit
Realalt 3D TriSport
To meet the needs of all pedometer users, we awarded two Best Buy awards — one for a device with an app and another for a self-contained model. If you are looking for a budget-oriented device that only monitors steps, distance, and calories burned — but avoids the hassle of smartphone pairing — then the 3D TriSport is the product for you. It provides simple functionality at a bargain price.
The 3D TriSport doesn't capture long-term data so for the person wanting to track daily or weekly progress. You'll have to transcribe data on a computer or in a notebook manually. Further, data is reset after one week and the daily step count is gone after 48 hours. However, if you want to avoid breaking the bank and using a smartphone to track your steps/activity then the 3D TriSport will meet your needs.
Read review: 3D TriSport
Best With a Digital Display
Fitbit Zip Wireless
For those wanting a budget-minded device on a budget — the Fitbit Zip is the best of both worlds. This rad device allows you to monitor activity on an integrated screen, while also linking to an app for more in-depth data monitoring. The device is fairly small and gives you simple data instantly. For more in-depth reporting on your activities, just log in to their app. It's accurate and easy to use.
The main drawback is that you will need to periodically replace the battery as it wears out after only four to six months. Additionally, the Zip Wireless alone doesn't track sleep or stairs. These activities are only trackable with the help of the app. Those wanting a device that is affordable and super easy for tracking data on and off screen will love the Zip Wireless.
Read review: Fitbit Zip Wireless
Top Pick for Mindfulness Practice
Spire Mindfulness & Activity Tracker
The Spire is a unique device. In addition to tracking activity and steps, this pedometer monitors breath and mindfulness to an extent that is unparalleled in the field. The Spire tracks breathing and activity to help the user better manage stress and decrease anxiety throughout the day. Additionally, the supplemental app includes mindfulness exercises and guided meditations to increase overall wellness.
The execution is a little rough, but the intention and overall function are entirely adequate. Downsides to the Spire included a somewhat insecure clip, lack of display screen for monitoring activity, and it was among the most expensive devices in our testing repertoire. People looking for an attractive device to monitor trends in activity, breath, and stress levels will be undeterred by the high price and will dig the mindfulness-encouraging Spire.
Read review: Spire Mindfulness & Activity Tracker
Analysis and Test Results
What's a little motivation worth? If they help get us out the door and maintaining healthy lifestyles, these devices may well be pulling their weight. Most options here land in the $20-$60 dollar range, with a couple coming in significantly higher. You'll want to decide what's most important in your case - if you're into in-depth menstruation tracking or developing a meditation practice, the Bellabeat Leaf or Spire Mindfulness & Activity Tracker may be worth the $120+ retail price. If you're looking for a sleek, multi-functional, and more exercise oriented pedometer, the Fitbit Flex 2 was our favorite at about half the price of these more expensive options.
The chart below can be used as a general guide to compare the options based on their overall scores and retail prices. How far up the Y (price) axis you go depends on your budget. Once determined, look for options with the features you're looking for at or below this price point that are rightmost on the X (performance) axis.
To help you decide on the appropriate device, we have limited our review to products that count steps or distance, and either clip to a pocket/shoe or are portable on one's wrist. Pedometers are a hot commodity for those looking to track their daily activity and exercise, and those who crave additional exercise motivation. Some devices are geared toward those trying to develop healthy habits and lose weight, while some devices are more appropriate for people wanting to monitor their already active lifestyles. We watch this rapidly evolving category closely — looking for new trends and unique approaches to the technology. Whether you're new to exercise tracking or you're an endurance athlete trying to track training consistency — our reviews will steer you toward the device that is right for you.
We purchased each of the products and used them as they are intended, with a thorough and hard-core approach to testing. We test each function with an eye toward what could be improved and what is potentially missing. Our testers evaluated the devices side-by-side in harsh conditions on trails and in cities throughout the U.S. They were tested in the mountains, the desert, and urban areas. This equates to long runs, hikes, and active hours.
We expect these devices to accurately depict fitness and activity levels for you, so we put them to the test by wearing them in all environments with little regard for babying the devices. To make certain that each device reviewed is worth your money, we analyze the accuracy of each device down to the step. To help you decide which product is right for you, we have reviewed each device according to the following metrics: Depth of Data, Data Management, Accuracy, Ease of Use and Portability. Scroll down to see how each device ranked in terms of these metrics.
Depth of Data
All of the devices reviewed count steps, and one of the most basic models counts nothing more than steps. That's the 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter. The other devices track data beyond simple step counting, by relying on an electronic accelerometer that detects and records movement. The accelerometer can also record and interpret additional data, including distance traveled, speed, or duration of activity. Beyond the aforementioned simple step counters and the Top Pick Spire, all of the devices reviewed estimate travel distance.
The Omron Alvita and Fitbit Zip Wireless count steps and estimate distance traveled. The Best Buy 3D TriSport and the Omron Alvita Optimized offers both of these functions and tracks the duration of an activity. The Ozo Fitness SC2 provides all of these services and employs the accelerometer to calculate speed. Neither the TriSport, the Alvita Optimized nor the SC2 record information beyond the basic movement and activity data mentioned above.
In addition to calculating steps and distance, an accelerometer can be used to roughly gauge the quality of your sleep. Of the devices reviewed, the Editor's Choice Fitbit Flex 2, the Bellabeat LEAF, and the Spire monitor sleep time and quality. The Flex 2 stands alone for using the accelerometer to track swimming and cycling distances. (You have to wear it on your ankle while in the saddle.)
The LEAF and Spire take this a step further by using the accelerometer to track breathing. The apps associated with both the Spire and the LEAF provide users with guided meditations while the user wears the device on their chest to monitor breathing.
Beyond the data captured by the accelerometer, many of the pedometers include apps that ask for user-entered data. These apps can monitor food and water intake so users can see how their calorie intake compares with calories burned. This feature can help users develop a plan for weight loss or control, as well as better overall fitness goal tracking. The apps for both the Flex 2 and the LEAF can track menstruation and fertility for women. With regard to user-entered data, the LEAF, the Spire, and the Flex 2 were the clear winners. Each of these devices allows users to provide a depth of fitness and health-centered data to track activity, wellness, weight, diet, meditation, etc.
The Flex 2 earned our 2018 Editor's Choice award for the depth of data tracked by the accelerometer in addition to the user-supplied data capabilities, all for a reasonable price. Our reviewers granted the LEAF a Top Pick Award for scope and breadth of data collected, and support offered, including breathing drills, guided meditation, and menstruation tracking.
Each of the devices reviewed gather data in a dependable fashion. One distinction between the different devices is in how the data is displayed, saved, and shared. The simplest and least expensive are stand-alone devices that track nothing more than steps and provide a step count on their screen. For instance, the 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter keeps a running total of steps until reset by the user.
In addition to counting steps, the Best Buy TriSport counts steps for the past 30 days, while the Fitness SC2 counts steps for the previous seven days. The Alvita Optimized functions similarly to the TriSport and the SC2 but with a less durable package. To track specific data for longer than a day or generalized data longer than a week or month, users may want to keep an activity journal so they can monitor their progress toward fitness goals. If you want to avoid syncing your device with a smartphone or computer, then one of the aforementioned stand-alone activity trackers would be ideal for you.
Of the products reviewed, the most costly and highest-rated products all come with a smartphone app for syncing data and for providing additional fitness/wellness tracking and motivation. The power of a pedometer or a fitness tracker lies in the motivation that a user has to interact with the device. The devices that included an interactive app with user-added data are easy to use, integrate into daily life, and provide more helpful information.
Over the years of testing, none of our reviewers have been inspired to use non-app supported devices longer than a week at a time. For extensive data management and motivational features, the Editor's Choice Fitbit Flex 2 is the highest rated of the products reviewed. The Flex 2 features excellent data management on your smartphone and a more robust, long-term data analysis on the fitbit.com Dashboard. Additionally, the Top Pick LEAF provides an in-depth app-enabled data management platform.
While accelerometers are fairly simple electronic tracking devices, in our review, we found that accuracy varied noticeably between devices. There was an enormous gap between the least and most accurate devices. The most inaccurate device had a much larger margin of error than the most accurate. Quite impressively, the most simple device proved to be the most accurate in our testing. The Simple Walking 3D does nothing more than count steps, and did so almost perfectly in multiple quarter-mile tests.
The device that proved least accurate was the OZO Fitness SC2. Surprisingly, the Fitbit Flex 2 also proved inaccurate, averaging 15% inaccuracy in a series of tests. Alternatively, the Best Buy winner, the 3D TriSport proved exceptionally accurate, comparable in accuracy to the previous Best Buy winner, the Omron Alvita. The remaining devices fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the high performing Alvita and Simple Walking 3D and the imprecise Fitness SC2. The Leaf and the Spire had approximately 5% inaccuracy rating in terms of either steps counted or distance tracked.
While our reviewers go to great lengths to test the accuracy of the devices reviewed, each of the products proved consistent in the inaccuracy of data tracking. What does this mean for you? Maybe nothing. If your end goal is to use a pedometer to monitor activity, or to motivate you to reach fitness goals, and your device consistently produces mildly inaccurate results — it may not matter. What matters is that the data -is consistent. In this manner, trends in activity levels will be evident regardless of minor errors. As long as you are consistent in using your device on the daily, then your device will provide you with a comparable measure of activity and fitness trends.
While accuracy may matter to determine the length of a hike or an approach to an obscure area in the back-country — nominal levels of inaccuracy may be irrelevant concerning steps tracked, or distance walked throughout the day.
Ease of Use
To evaluate the ease of use, we first look at the setup process and then the overall intuitiveness of each device. You may only need to setup your device one time, but the easier this process, the more likely you are to enjoy your pedometer out of the box. Each of the stand-alone devices (the TriSport, Simple Walking 3d, Alvita Optimized, Fitness SC2, and Simple Step) came with easy to follow instruction manuals and fairly quick set-up processes.
Ease of use ratings for each of the products tested includes the ease of setup and overall user-friendliness of the devices. Set-up for the app-supported devices often included easy-to-follow directions. However, the Flex 2, LEAF and Spire required additional user-input above and beyond what the standalone devices required. As such, these app-enabled devices needed more setup-time than the stand-alone devices.
For our reviewers, the portability and convenience of these products proved crucial for their consistent use. If the device proves too cumbersome or annoying, it won't be used. Thus, it won't be of any use in tracking activity and meeting fitness goals. In this metric, we assess both the convenience of carrying and the aesthetics of each device. Ideally, a fitness tracker will be appealing enough to wear during more than just exercise, including at work, on dates, and to meetings and events. While our reviewers may have very different style requirements, no one benefits from a pedometer left at home for being too inconvenient or aesthetically unappealing.
Of the Devices reviewed, the LEAF and the Flex 2 deserve honorable mentions. The tiny and lightweight Flex 2 can be accessorized with many different bracelets, pendants, or bangles as desired. One reviewer noticed that it was easy to forget you were wearing the Flex 2 making it very portable. The feminine LEAF is both lightweight and aesthetically appealing as a necklace or in a user's pocket. Both devices proved quite versatile and portable.
While the Alvita Optimized, and the TriSport featured clip mounts that proved effective for clipping securely to one's belt, shoes, or pants. The Fitness SC2 and the Simple Step Counter were designed for in pocket carry. These options may prove too bulky for some users, depending on the size of one's pocket. All of our reviewers preferred devices which offered multiple methods for carrying, making the Fitness SC2 and the Simple Step Counter slightly less portable for some users.
The Top Pick Spire was the only device that experienced a portability fail. During routine use, while our lead editor was reviewing the Spire, the device became unclipped and was forever lost. This is a serious issue, especially for a device that fetches such a high price. We had to buy another Spire to continue the review. The Spire is only calibrated to track breathing while clipped to either a bra or a belt. The device will track steps and distance while in a pocket — which is more secure — but the breath tracking was significantly weaker.
Our reviewers at OutdoorGearLab have logged long hours putting these gadgets to the test. We have found several devices that excel across a wide range of demands and others that meet various unique needs. The 2018 Editor's Choice Fitbit Flex 2 proved exceptional in nearly every class, while the 2018 Best Buy 3D TriSport gets the job done at an affordable price. The Top Choice for Women, the Bellabeat LEAF manages an exhaustive variety of data, while the Spire takes the award for Top Mindfulness and Activity Tracker.
— Mary Witlacil
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.