GearApparel
Gear Guy
Q:

What’s the Best New Heart-Rate Monitor?

I'm starting to get more serious about my training. What heart-rate monitor should I buy?

(Photo: Courtesy of Bob Parks)
mio alpha heart monitor running heart rate monitor
A:

Wearing a heart-rate monitor helps you stick to your training plan during a workout without going too fast or slacking off. I'm currently prepping for the Boston Marathon, and I've found myself depending on monitors every time I hit the road.

Until recently, I had only used monitors that required me to wear a chest strap, a big, annoying black sensor that had to be constantly moistened in dry, cold weather or it would lose my heartbeat. When the Mio Alpha review unit arrived in the mail, I realized my running equipment had just changed radically.

The $199 Mio, which debuted in December, is a rechargeable watch that takes accurate, continuous heart-rate readings through one’s wrist. It uses an optical sensor that reads your pulse without any extra equipment. There have been other optical- and electrically-based watch sensors, but they were unreliable.

To test the Mio, I first took it on two easy runs. On these I usually use a monitor to keep the pace at 65 percent of my maximum heart rate, so I don't tire out too much and ruin the rest of my week. At first, the Mio’s readings were poor and all over the map, but after I double-checked the directions and inched the watch up toward my elbow, the Mio consistently produced accurate numbers.

On a harder workout, the Mio compared well with data from my trusty Polar, Garmin, and Suunto monitors. I noticed the device took longer than the Polar to adjust to abrupt changes in heart rate, but that didn't make a significant difference. Overall, not having to use a chest sensor was more than worth the minor hassles I had in adjusting to the Mio's design. Sayonara, strap.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Heart-Rate MonitorsDesign and Tech
Lead Photo: Courtesy of Bob Parks
More Gear