What makes a running heart rate monitor a running heart rate monitor?
A good running heart rate monitor is one that helps you track and improve your running. As such it needs to match a particular set of criteria… It must give you these 3 (all equally important) benefits:
(1) Watch measures your running speed, pace and distance (whether it be via GPS or Foot Pod).
(2) Watch allows for you to upload your data so that you can log your running stats and heart rate data.
(3) Watch has interval timers for you to setup exercise and rest intervals (run 1 min, walk 2 min and repeat).
The running heart rate monitors below are organized into 2 categories: “foot pods” and “GPS” to make picking the one for you a cinch. The heart rate monitors with foot pods are more affordable than the GPS ones.
Foot Pod vs GPS for runners – What’s the difference?
So you’re not sure if you want to run with a foot pod or if you need GPS. Let me explain the advantages and disadvantages of each option:
Outdoor navigation and route tracking
GPS offers you outdoor navigation and your run route tracking via the Global Positioning System. If you run outdoors and maybe run off the beaten track then you will benefit from GPS. You won’t get lost and when you return home you can visually see a map of where you ran.
GPS enabled heart rate monitors are in constant communication with the Global Positioning System satellites and as such require lots of power (battery) to operate. GPS heart rate monitors are always equipped with rechargeable batteries to cope with this demand. But. Do you want to recharge your heart rate monitor after 10 – 20 hours of use? How often do you run?
Foot pods are small and operate with a small battery. Foot pods use an advanced accelerometer to constantly see your changes in movement (changes in acceleration of the foot pod affixed to your foot) and last 20 hours or more of continuous use before you need to replace the battery.
A GPS heart rate monitor can NOT tell you your speed and distance when you are running on a treadmill. The foot pod can. So do you run on a treadmill lots?
Will a running heart rate monitor improve your running race times?
Yes – It can and should. See what Runner’s World thinks.
Sleek and Affordable!
Coming in at number 1 on the list for the best foot pod running heart rate monitors is the Garmin FR60 bundled with the foot pod. The FR60 boasts ANT+ wireless technology which is how it connects up with the heart rate monitor chest strap, the foot pod and later (via the USB ANT+ stick) to your PC or Mac to upload your data…
…The FR60 is made for recreational runners but there is no reason it couldn’t work magic for intense or serious competitive runners! It is just so affordable! And it uses a foot pod! And so here you see it NUMBER 1 for recreational runners.
It is quite packed with specialty running benefits. For instance it has the ability to sense your speed and pause the timer if you stop – say at a traffic light while running. It has the ability to motivate you to run faster by giving you a digital racing partner. It has in-built pace alarms to keep you on your preset pace. It has interval timers for you to take advantage of this training technique. And, of course, it comes with a foot pod to accurately measure your speed and distance (pace).
Tried and Tested!
Coming in as the second best running heart rate monitor on the list is the Polar RS300X Run with foot pod. It will definitely improve your running and you will be impressed with Polar’s offerring of benefits on this watch…
…It has everything a recreational runner needs and more. Interval timers, check. Data upload, check. Your speed and distance (via the included Polar S1 foot pod), check. And I’m only getting started:
Polar has managed to pack into this watch the Polar Fitness Test and “sport zones.” The fitness test tells you your VO2 max. Why would you want to know your VO2 max? It is THE best measure of your physical fitness. As such, knowing your VO2 max is a good way of knowing if you are improving your fitness. Lance Armstrong’s VO2 max is 83 ml/kg/min (his body uses 83 millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of bodyweight per minute). But us humans would be more like 40 – 55.
With sport zones your can accurately train (in the correct heart rate zone) depending on what you want to do. So if you want to improve your VO2 max you can train in that zone… Or if you want to cardio improve or fat burn there are different zones for each. Go out of the zone and the watch beeps and flashes and yells at you to slow down or speed up (depending on your heart rate).
Coming in as the number 3 foot pod running heart rate monitor is the Garmin FR70. Why number 3?
Even though the FR70 is exactly the same watch as the FR60 (aside from how it looks) it is more expensive because it is newer. Given this price difference (~$60 once you add-on the Garmin foot pod) the FR70 dropped to number 3 best for recreational runners (we all love to save money right?)
It offers you exceptional value still and if you like the look of the FR70 over the FR60 and are willing to pay the extra money to get it… Then, go for it.
The number 1 GPS heart rate monitor for runners has to be the Garmin Forerunner 305. And at only about $150 it is highly affordable and offers extreme value for the price tag…
…There isn’t a heart rate monitor in the galaxy that offers as much ooomfff for as little ca$h. People who have bought the 305 (and this watch is the most reviewed heart rate monitor on Amazon.com) love it and love it and love it some more and rate it 4.5 / 5. I mean seriously these people love it:
“Has changed the way I run.” P. Lange (Connecticut)
“The Garmin 305 is an excellent tool – very recommended.” Steven Parlee
“Wow.” S. Robertson (Chigaco, IL US)
With this GPS watch you get 10 hours of continuous use before you need to recharge it. You get data upload so you can take advantage of Garmin Connect (online community to share your data and get pointers) and Garmin Training Center (software to log all your runs and heart rate data).
You get motivated to train hard with the Garmin “Virtual Partner” which is a digital person for you to compete with. You get interval timers so that you can interval train while running (setup the timers with alarms to do walk 1 min, run 1 min style of exercise) if you so please.
The Garmin 305 is also compatible with the Garmin Foot Pod if you want GPS and the foot pod (for treadmill running). You must take a look at everything else you get:
The big brother of the Garmin 305! So what are the main differences?
- More expensive (~$200 more than 305)
- More battery life (10 more hours)
- More water resistance (full extended immersion – although no heart rate data while swimming)
- Compatible with cycling power measurement devices
- A sleeker profile
- Vibration alert (watch vibrates or beeps to alert you)
- Heart rate based calorie counter.
The 310XT has everything the 305 has and the above more…
…So which is best for you?
If you swim, want a sleeker (slimmer) watch and or want the option to use cycling power meters, you’ll need to get the 310XT. It is one of the most complete and effective heart rate training tools on the market!
Coming in at number 3 on the list of best GPS running heart rate monitors is the brand spanking new Timex Run Trainer GPS. Timex Ironman watches are designed so well that it was hard putting this watch in the number 3 position. Just the above 2 are so damn good! The Run Trainer has everything you would expect a running heart rate monitor to have…
…It has GPS for running speed and distance and for mapping your runs, of course. It is also compatible with all ANT+ (like bluetooth) foot pods. So you can track your stride and speed and distance when doing indoor (treadmill) runs. It has 5 interval timers if you like to turn your runs (or sprints) into an interval train. Its rechargeable battery life is 8 hours to ensure even the most long distance runners are catered for.
You can upload your run and heart rate data to Training Peaks (online training and nutrition software) “to monitor, analyze and plan [your] fitness and nutrition for peak performance.”