Top Specialized Sports Wearables for Swimming

Track your water workouts with these gadgets

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Most of us think of smartwatches and Fitbit devices when we think of wearables, but there are plenty of high-end gadgets made specifically for athletes as well – from clip-on tech to wrist-band-style trackers. These differ from your typical activity tracker by offering data for a specific sport, or by offering much more in-depth analysis of your activity than the average consumer-focused device. I previously covered some such products for golfers, and now – just in time for the spring and summer sports seasons – I'll dive in (no pun intended) to the world of specialized swimming gadgets.

Before taking a look at some of the available swimming-focused wearables, it's worth noting the different between water-resistant and water-proof. Several smartwatches are built to be water-resistant, which means they can withstand accidental splashes and the like. They aren't meant to be taken underwater, so don't expect to wear a smartwatch marketed as "water-resistant" on your next trip to the gym pool. On the other hand, water-proof wearables can survive a plunge in the water, and most of the following products all fall under this category. I do also list a few water-resistant choices, though it's important to note that you should refer to the user manual before trying to access all device functionality underwater.

The Top Swim-Tracking Features

Let's also take a minute to run through the top features a good swim-tracking device will offer. The basics include distance covered and calories burned – if you're just interested in logging all of your workout information and want an activity tracker that works both on land and in the pool, this might be perfectly satisfactory to you.

More specialized fitness trackers offer additional features and tracking, including stroke count, stroke rate and automatic stroke detection. If you swim competitively or are serious about improving your technique, having access to this kind of data could definitely come in handy. Other nice-to-have functionality includes a stopwatch and coaching/feedback that utilizes the activity tracking data to help you improve during future workouts.

While most of the products mentioned in this post are made specifically for swimming, you'll also find a few wearables that track swimming in addition to other types of activity. These tend to be the cheapest options, since you're getting fewer stats, but if you're a new swimmer or you don't need to know all the granular details of your stroke efficiency and individual lap speeds, these might be a good place to start. 

XMetrics Fit and Pro 

These devices first debuted via an Indiegogo campaign a few years ago, and the project received enough funding to make the concept a reality – and the result is two rather unique wearables. Both versions of the XMetrics tracker clip onto a pair of swimming goggles (so they sit on the back of your head) and work with included water-proof headphones to deliver real-time audio feedback on stats like time, pace, lap count and calories burned.

The difference between the XMetrics Fit and Pro is that the former is for more casual swimmers, while the latter is for competitive athletes. Accordingly, the more expensive XMetrics Pro offers more granular tracking and lets you keep track of your break time and view split times. After your swim, you can also explore data on your swimming efficiency and other metrics.


Garmin Swim  

Garmin is known for offering a variety of specialized wearables for sports including biking, hiking, golfing and swimming. Its Swim watch is a relatively affordable way to track distance, pace and stroke count – and the gadget can automatically detect your stroke type. To get started, just input the size of the pool you'll be working out in and you're ready to go.

The sporty Garmin Swim isn't designed to compete with more land-appropriate watches when it comes to looks, but it does have a rather sleek profile that won't slow you down in the water. This watch has a replaceable battery that's rated for about one year of use, and it includes six physical buttons that correspond to each of the functions the device tracks.

Plus, data from the watch syncs with Garmin Connect so you can view all your activity online.

Swimovate PoolMate 2  

Specialized activity tracker the Swimovate PoolMate 2 is a solid option. It's designed to track swimming both in the pool and in open water, with differentiating stat gathering depending on your environment. In open water, you simply need to complete a "calibration lap" of a specified distance to give the watch enough information to track additional activity. 

It tracks your strokes count, distance, speed, efficiency, duration, sets, time and calories burned, and the watch has enough memory to store info on 50 swim sessions. The PoolMate 2 is available in black, blue, gray and purple. Note that this device isn't water-proof in the sense that all functions work underwater; for example, the user shouldn't push buttons underwater. However, the watch is water-resistant for up to 50 meters.

Misfit Shine and Misfit Speedo Shine  

The Misfit Shine is another option that's not technically water-proof, but it can function fine underwater at up to 50 meters, so it's perfectly safe to take in the pool for your next workout. It may not technically be a specialized sports tracker, since it tracks a variety of activities rather than offering comprehensive data for just one, but it earns a place on this list due to its versatility and affordable price.

As the oldest device from Misfit – which is being acquired by fellow wearable maker Fossil – the original Misfit Shine is also the cheapest, currently going for about $50 on Amazon.

For your money, you get a well-made activity-tracking sensor that can be worn on a clothes clip or a wrist band. Unlike other, more sophisticated devices on this list, the Misfit Shine only offers more basic stats like distance traveled and calories burned, though if you're simply looking for an activity tracker that can accompany you on your wet workouts, this may be all you need.

If you do want more stats, the Misfit Speedo Shine is a better option that's still relatively affordable. At about $80, this tracker offers data on your lap count across all stroke types, in addition to all the features you get with the original Misfit Shine. The battery for both devices is rated for up to 6 months.

Suunto Ambit3  

This GPS-equipped product is technically a multi-sports watch, but it offers enough swim-specific tracking that it earns a place among the other options on this list. Pro swimmers will especially appreciate that this device can track heart rate during workouts underwater, though this does require you own the Suunto Smart Sensor heart-rate belt ($85) as well.

As for why you'd want to shell out more than $500 on this product? It does offer an impressive array of features for tracking a variety of different workouts, from following the altitude profile of a hike to measuring the power of your stride when you're running. It also offers notifications for incoming calls and messages from your phone. This won't be the right choice for more casual athletes, but if you're a serious hobbyist who can leverage most of the advanced features, the Ambit3 could be up your alley.

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