Updated August 2017
As this field of products and product development rolls on, our review becomes more and more diverse and likely more important to you. For this latest iteration, we added a new all-around, classic style Best Buy winner. The Ozo Fitness SC2 is what you picture when you think of a pedometer, with nothing more. The other new award winner, the Spire, earns a Top Pick honor for the way it tracks natural step and sleep activity in conjunction with breath monitoring that is fed to a guided meditation aspect of the associated app. For your mindfulness training and practice, the Spire is a great addition.
Digital screen on device
Tracks sleep patterns
The Editors' Choice winner needs to be comprehensive, representative, and well-made. It needs to do all one would expect of the category, and then some. It needs to do so elegantly and cleanly. By these criteria, the Fitbit One
was an easy choice for our highest honor in this particular category. It is the only product in the review that tracks steps, distance, and sleep while showing that information on both a smartphone app and on the device itself. Its accuracy is satisfactory, and the ease of use is well refined. The main drawback we found, as compared to the other products we assessed, is the need to recharge the battery periodically; the Fitbit One requires recharging about once a week. number the battery concern, which is admittedly minor, the Fitbit One validates our overall scoring matrix by topping the charts. At first glance, we liked it the most, and our scoring rubric brought it out on top. That is the way it should be.
Read full review: Fitbit One
Best Buy Award for Smartphone Users
Jawbone Up Move
Easy to use and portable
The Jawbone UP Move
is a pedometer in the relative definition of the term. It counts steps and distance, monitors sleep, and syncs that information with a smartphone app for organization and monitoring. It does all this at less than half the price of our Editors' Choice product, with arguably a better battery situation. The main drawback of the UP Move is that it does not allow the user to view data on the device itself. The only way to see your actual step count or distance is to sync to your phone, open the app, and look at your screen. In a world increasingly reliant on frequent and lengthy screen time, it is nice when one has the option not to consult your phone at every moment. Our highest scoring product has fairly comprehensive data viewable on the device itself, while the Jawbone cuts this out to hit a lower price point. If phone reliance is okay with you, the Jawbone Up Move is a good way to save some bucks.
Read full review: Jawbone UP Move
Best Buy Award for a Self-Contained Unit
OZO Fitness SC2 Digital
Stores data on device
Collects wide range of movement data
No app or cloud connection
We granted two Best Buy winners. In the market for a budget device, there are two distinct camps. There are those that will want absolute simplicity, and there are those that will want comprehensive function and data management. For the former, there is the Ozo. The Ozo Fitness SC2
is an entirely self-contained contender that tracks steps, distance, calories consumed, and a couple of other categories. It stores this data for the most recent seven days. For many many users, this is all that is required and all that is desired. For the budget-conscious user looking for a large data collector that doesn't need a smartphone, we recommend the Ozo.
Read full review: Ozo Fitness SC2
Top Pick Award for Simplicity
CSX Simple Walking 3D
Accurate and easy to use
Easy to read display
Does not store data
Does not measure distance
The market for pedometers is a broad one. Technophiles are living "the quantified life" that enjoy the process and technology of monitoring their activity as much as they like the health benefits of increasing that activity. On the other end are Luddites that only want to know how much activity they have partaken in and how much more they should do. Those in this latter category will love the CSX product. The CSX Simple Walking 3D
the simplest model we have ever tested. It counts steps, displays that number in large print, and does nothing else. The count accumulates until you want to reset it. That is all. Setup is super easy, the device is the most accurate in our test, and, while we didn't test it long enough to verify this, the LCD (liquid crystal display) and watch battery will work together to provide months of service between battery replacement intervals.
Read full review: CSX Simple Walking 3D
Top Pick Award for Women
Comprehensive data collection
Less durable than others
Lacks a data display screen
The Bellabeat LEAF
is both the most specialized product in our test and 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. This specificity eliminates half the population. In this category, however, the LEAF brings the greatest breadth of data. In addition to tracking step count and distance, which are relatively standard types, the LEAF and associated app monitor sleep, breathing, and menstruation while promoting the practice of meditation.
Read full review: Bellabeat LEAF
Top Pick for Mindfulness Practice
Spire Mindfulness & Activity Tracker
Good battery life
No data visible on device
The Spire is a unique device. And we grant the Top Pick honor to particular devices for sub niches of the given category. In the pedometer group, everything has to count steps. The Top Pick award winners earn that mark by incorporating either additional features or by really really streamlining the step number. The Spire adds breath and mindfulness monitoring that is unmatched in the field. Execution is a little rough, but the intention and overall function are entirely suitable.
Read full review: Spire Mindfulness & Activity Tracker
Analysis and Test Results
In this review, we limited our selection to devices that count steps and distance and clip to one's shoe or pocket, but many different electronic devices monitor range and activity. Most people look to acquire this gadget for one of two primary reasons: some look to track their daily activity or exercise while others want to motivate regular motion. If you are physically active already, and interested in using a device to track that, your needs will be different from someone who is looking to use a tool to inspire healthy habits. Either way, every device in our test servers either of these types of user.
The entire selection of 2016 tested Pedometers. From left to right: FitBit One, LEAF, Jawbone, CSX, 3DFitBud, Fitbit Zip, Misfit, Omron
Our rigorous OutdoorGearLab testing regimen, as applied to Pedometers, should highlight for you just how to calibrate our results. Our experts tested under harsh outdoor conditions, but mainly in urban, pedestrian day-to-day applications. First, we examine the entire field in an ongoing fashion. We're watching for trends, stand-out products and technology, and the discontinuation of certain products. Each time we re do the review we select new products to compare to the existing tested equipment. What is left in our test roster is only the best of the best.
We purchase this sub-list of the market and use them as they are intended, with a rigorous, hard-core approach. We test every function, and then some. With pedometers, this means long days on the go, miles, and miles of jostling. It means that we scrutinize the accuracy to the nearest meter and single step. In doing this with the current round of devices and examining the collected data in the context of our extensive knowledge of the market and consumer patterns, we can sort out the variables as well as the user's various applications. We divide our observations into the following scoring metrics.
The sleep tracking screen of the Jawbone UP. The fact that it tracks sleep sets it apart from close competitor FitBit Zip Wireless.
Depth of Data
All the devices we tested count steps. It is in the title of the category; pedometer translates to "step counter." Our Top Pick CSX Simple Walking 3D
and the 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter
do exactly that, and nothing more. Additionally, most of the products collect other sorts of information as well. Steps are counted with an electronic "accelerometer" that simply senses movement. It is algorithmic digital processing that deduces steps from this movement. The device can further interpret that step information to deduce distance traveled. The rest of the products, excluding also the Top Pick Spire
, in our test estimate distance traveled.
The Omron Alvita
, Fitbit Zip Wireless
, and Striiv Smart
all track steps and distance traveled, but use the accelerometer for nothing else. The Best Buy Ozo Fitness SC2
does all this, plus speed. The Ozo does not collect any other information besides this activity and movement data.
Beyond steps and distance, the accelerometer can be used to quantify (roughly) the quality of one's sleep. In our test, the Leaf, the Editors' Choice Fitbit One
, the Jawbone UP
, and the Misfit Flash
all measure sleep quality. The most obscure use of the device's accelerometer is in the Bellabeat Leaf's breathing attributes and the Spire's
breathing and mindfulness tracking plus its integration of guided meditations with the accelerometer data. The associated apps of these latter two Top Picks direct different meditation drills, and the devices themselves, placed on the chest, monitor and record the movement associated with breathing.
A walk in the woods should be simple. Tracking your steps can be simple too. The CSX is a super simple tool for quantifying the number of steps taken. Period.
In addition to the data derived from the accelerometer, some included device apps record various types of user-entered information. This attribute can be used, for instance, to collect information about your food consumption to log alongside your activity information for calorie balance information and weight control. Concerning user-entered information, the LEAF and Spire are the big winners. We granted the Bellabeat product a Top Pick Award for the depth of data collected. In addition to the information derived from the accelerometer, the leaf directs meditation, breathing drills, and monitors a woman's menstrual cycles. Other products in our test, notably the Fitbit devices and the Jawbone UP Move, collect diet and mood information in their apps.
All these devices 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) device in our test, the CSX Simple Walking 3D
gathers accurate data, but stores only a running tally of steps, until the user resets the count. Next up, one of our Best Buy Award winners, the Ozo Fitness SC2
, stores the most recent seven days' information and can't be backed up or transcribed except by hand. The Omron Alvita
has functions similar to the Ozo, in a less robust package. Many will like this simple interface. For the Luddites out there, syncing their device to a smartphone is a step they don't need to take.
Others that have this simple on-device management in our review are the 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter
with a special mention of the Striiv Smart
. The Striiv can be used entirely on its own, with basically all the quantitative and motivational attributes available even without another device. One can also store the data and activate other features with the attendant computer application. The instrumentation in these simpler tools like the Omron or CSX isn't much different than that held in the spendier options; what is different is the interface and data collection.
The more expensive and higher-rated models in our test come equipped with very well thought out interactive apps or on-device screens. For sustained use and efficient integration of one into your daily life, an interactive and useful interface is crucial. For what it's 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 One
and Best Buy Jawbone UP Move
have excellent accompanying interfaces. The Bellabeat LEAF, also a Top Pick Award winner, has a very robust app data management system as well.
The main "home" screen of the excellent and streamlined FitBit App.
The sensor portion of a pedometer 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 Top Pick CSX Simple Walking 3D
had nearly perfect accuracy. This CSX product only counts steps (no distance measurement), but it logged close to perfect step counts in multiple quarter mile trials.
At the other end of the spectrum, Misfit Flash Link
, Ozo Fitness SC2
and the Striiv Smart
demonstrated up to 20 percent error, with an average deviation from the actual of about 10 percent each. Former Best Buy Omron Alvita logged high accuracy scores in both step count and distance, while the remainder of the pack fell between these apparent outliers. The Editors' Choice Fitbit One
deviated from the actual by an average of 4.3 percent, whereas the Best Buy Jawbone Up Move
scored 2.3 percent in the same tests. The Top Pick winning Bellabeat LEAF
both missed about 5 and a half percent of steps and/or distance.
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 apparent. Therefore, the degree of accuracy is not very important in overall consideration. It is important to note the limitations of these various devices, but the actual accuracy is not as important.
Testing distance and step count on a foggy New York trail run.
Ease of Use
We evaluated each product's ease of use regarding the setup process, and then ongoing user-friendliness. You will most likely set up your pedometer just once, but some of the devices are much easier to get going than others. Notably, the Striiv took a long time to sync with its downloadable PC interface. The non-connecting devices (Omron, Ozo, CSX, 3DFitBud) had easy-to-read instruction manuals and quick setup procedures.
The app-enabled products come with streamlined and efficient setup procedures. Nonetheless, there are inherently more steps with these commodities. Jawbone, Bellabeat, Misfit, and Fitbit are ever refining their setups, but one will always have to deal with apps and batteries, etc. The CSX is the absolute simplest contender we have ever used. We granted it our Top Pick Award for exactly this reason. Activate the battery, and start walking. Reset the count whenever you want.
Every device in this review uses a miniaturized electronic accelerometer. An accelerometer simply detects movement. Each device uses a slightly different combination of sensors and algorithms to translate the flow of the device into a human's activity. All data displayed by or exported from the devices we tested is an indirect translation of the movement of the apparatus. The translation of that movement is a function of the design and programming of the instrument as well as data entered by the user. In some cases, for instance, the user must enter his or her stride length. The device senses the movement of a single step, and distance is derived by multiplying the step count by the user's (or population's) average stride length. Additionally, some of the tested models 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.
The use of fitness equipment, especially pedometers, requires absolute convenience and simplicity. The product is of no use if the user doesn't have it on 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. 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 and most workplace appropriate outfits can be configured to carry yet conceal a belt-mounted design.
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. The Bellabeat LEAF
earns its portability scores also with versatility. It comes equipped to be clipped, worn as a necklace, and worn on the wrist. It must be noted that in every configuration, our test team found the LEAF to be visually pleasing. The clipped styles of the Jawbone, Misfit, Omron, and both Fitbits are utilitarian and compact. The ultra simple CSX and 3DFitBud tools are set up to be carried only in one's pocket. This simplicity of moving is not the liability you might expect. Testers across the board liked their smooth profiles and reasonable size.
The only extreme portability fail in our test was with the Top Pick Spire
. One routine day, while wearing the Spire in the recommended belt clip orientation, our lead test editor lost the Spire. It must have just come unclipped; this is not a minor issue. However, we purchased another and continued testing. At OutdoorGearLab, we are committed to following through with a test. The Spire's
breath tracking is calibrated to carry only clipped to a waist belt or a brassiere. Carrying it in one's pocket, which we also tested, seems to deliver a usable step count, but the breath tracking was noticeably compromised.
In clipped orientation, only the metal leaf design shows. We did have a little trouble with the integrity of the spring loading of the leaf clip. We were able to bend it back using included tools.
We have put many hours into testing pedometers. We believe in their function for you. We stand by our test results and our professional conclusions. In our test roster, there is certainly a product that is well suited to your needs. From budget, super simple offerings, to state of the art multi-modal wonder-tools, and everything in between, we have sorted the market to set you up for shopping success.