The 5 Best Fitness Trackers to Buy in 2018

Getting in shape and keeping track of your activity is easier than ever

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If your plans include working out in any way, shape or form, it could be worth investing in a fitness tracker. Not only will it give you a better idea of how much activity you're really completing in a day or in a given workout, but one of these devices can also help you make progress toward goals such as weight loss, faster running times and more.

Just as I pointed out in my list of the top smartwatches to consider, it's important to note here that there are several different types of fitness trackers, and some may be better suited to you than others. Before perusing the options below, think about how much you're willing to spend — and know that there are plenty of good choices at the sub-$100 price point and even at the sub-$50 level, though these will definitely include fewer features and less bells and whistles. Also consider the form factor; most activity trackers have a wristband design, but you will find some products that clip on to your clothing. Additionally, keep in mind that some fitness trackers are equipped to recognize more types of activity than others, so if you're a serious swimmer, for example, you'll want a device that can detect your strokes (and that can withstand a workout in the pool, of course!).

Finally, note that this list only takes into account the currently available fitness trackers; there are several months left in the year, so there's no telling what new wearable could come out and best an option listed below. With all that out of the way, let's jump into the list of the best fitness trackers to buy today.

Our Top Picks

Fitbit Alta

Fitbit Alta
Fitbit Alta. Fitbit, Inc.

You may be wondering why this particular Fitbit device earns a top spot on this list over more advanced products like the Fitbit Surge and the Fitbit Charge HR, both of which have heart-rate monitors. Well, the Fitbit Alta gets the edge because it's significantly cheaper and because most fitness tracker users don't necessarily need to splash out for more advanced stats. (If you do want GPS and a heart rate monitor, see some of the picks below, as they'll have you covered.)

The Alta is available at a reasonable price just north of $100, and it's Fitbit's most fashion-conscious product to date. That doesn't necessarily mean it's fancy or feminine; rather, it means you can choose from a variety of band styles, with designer accessories in the works, but also more classic options available already. It's an improvement over previous models that offered fewer customization options, but it's still completely appropriate regardless of your gender. 

When it comes to functionality, Fitbit fans will find a familiar set of basic to advanced features, including auto exercise recognition, auto sleep tracking, and all-day activity tracking for steps, calories, active minutes and more. The Alta also includes smartphone notifications (when your phone is nearby). Thanks to the same well-designed app that pairs with all other Fitbit devices, this option clinches the number-one spot.

Fitbit Surge

Fitbit Surge. Image courtesy of Amazon

Fitbit dominates the activity tracker (and even the larger wearable) space, so it's no huge shock that another product from the company appears on the list. While the Fitbit Alta discussed above may have broader appeal to more casual users, the Fitbit Surge is a great choice. I reviewed it late last year and enjoyed testing out its more advanced functionality, including a heart-rate monitor that takes automatic measurements and GPS tracking. The black-and-white touchscreen is also quite handy, as it allows you to swipe through your up-to-date stats throughout the day and even mid-workout.

This is definitely a more expensive option, but if you want to collect data on your heart rate and you can take advantage of the GPS tracking to map your runs and bike rides, it could definitely be worth the difference in cash. As an added bonus, you'll get extra-long battery life — the black-and-white display is low-energy, so you should be able to go a week between charges.

Garmin Vivoactive HR

Garmin Vivoactive HR. Courtesy of Amazon.

Most consumer wearables at this point fall into one of these two categories: fitness trackers or smartwatches. Since both product types are usually worn on the wrist, it's no surprise that we're starting to see some hybrid devices. The Garmin Vivoactive HR is one such product, combining advanced activity-tracking features with smartwatch functionality that includes notifications from your phone.

On the activity-tracking side, this watch includes a heart-rate monitor (as the name implies) and it counts steps, calories, floors climbed and other stats and displays them on its color touchscreen. There's also a Move IQ feature, which automatically detects activity including running, walking, biking, elliptical training and swimming, and you can few how many active minutes you've logged compared to the standards suggested by national health organizations. There's also built-in GPS, so you can map your activity.

As far as smartwatch functionality goes, basically any notification you get on your phone can be displayed on the Vivoactive HR. Another advantage is battery life, which is rated to last several days. Overall, this option gets a slight edge over the similar Fitbit Blaze due to more features, including weather information and a variety of apps tailored to different activities. It won't be the right pick for everyone, but it's definitely an overachiever that could make sense for those who can maximize all its features.

Misfit Ray

Misfit Ray. Courtesy of Amazon

Wearables company Misfit is being acquired by Fossil, which is already making strides with its own wearables lineup. Still, Misfit found time to release a new activity tracker and sleep monitor earlier this year, and it's definitely an option to consider.

Standout features and benefits include a button cell battery that lasts for up to six months, vibration-style alerts for calls and texts and, of course, tracking for steps, calories, distance and more, plus info on sleep duration.

This product also stands out for its unique modular design; the "brains" of the Misfit Ray are in the tube-shaped sensor, and you can swap out the band for straps with different finishes, or you can even buy a third-party necklace and wear it around your neck.

Withings Activite Pop

Withings Activite Pop. Courtesy of Amazon

The four previous devices have the "sporty-looking activity tracker" game pretty well covered, so the final item on this list takes a slightly different approach. It's still a fitness-tracking device, but it ditches the typical chunky design for a more classic look. 

The Withings Activite Pop comes in black, blue, white or pink, and it looks like a pared-down wristwatch. Underneath the hood, though, it packs all the stat-counting power you'd expect from an activity tracker. Via the compatible Health Mate app, you can view calories burned, distance traveled, steps taken and more. Plus, the watch face has a smaller hand devoted to displaying what percentage of your activity goals you've completed — a nifty at-a-glance feature.

If you don't like having to charge your activity tracker on a regular basis, you'll also appreciate that the Activite Pop has a button cell battery rated for up to eight months of use.