Ultimate Fitness Trackers

Getting into shape, losing weight, and moving more each day are all really tough to do. An activity tracker can help, though. Seeing how much exercise you get (or don’t get), day-by-day and week-by-week, can motivate you to start taking the stairs more or walking the dog an extra lap around the block. At the very least, it will make you more mindful of your present activity level, which is a huge first step to getting fit.

The best fitness trackers on the market today are highly evolved cousins of pedometers from yesteryear. They’re smarter, more accurate, and do a whole lot more than measure how much you walk. Paired with a companion Web account, mobile app, and maybe a few auxiliary devices, they give you better insight into the habits that make up your lifestyle, including sleep, calorie consumption, heart rate, blood pressure, and more. And many fitness tracker are waterproof for swimming.

New devices turn up on online shopping sites every month. But not all of them track everything you’d expect, and not all are worth your money. If you’re shopping for your first activity tracker, I encourage you to find one that will be best for you and your needs. Take a look at my advice for how to choose a fitness tracker for more help on that front.

If you’ve owned an activity tracker before, you might have a better idea of what you want in a new one, but if you need to shake up your routine, I’d recommend getting a tracker with a heart rate monitor. Two that I love are the Basis Peak andMio Fuse, and both are Editors’ Choice products. The Basis is great for everyday activities, including bicycling, and it has sleep-tracking, too. The Mio Fuse is more for athletic types because its heart rate monitor has unique features that make it excellent for heart rate training. Fuse also tracks pace when you run and has a stopwatch feature (the Basis Peak does not), although Fuse lacks sleep-monitoring functionality.

If you’re only dipping your toe into the fitness tracking movement for the first time, don’t feel bad about starting with a simpler device, like the Misfit Flash or Jawbone UP Move. These low-cost options will let you get a taste for the basics of activity tracking without spending a fortune.

Whether your health goals are modest or you’re hoping for a full fitness transformation, using a personal fitness tracking device can go a long way toward helping you understand if the exercise and health habits you keep are contributing to the new you.

Hearing Things

1. Monster iSport Victory

$169.95, johnlewis.com

The only thing that stopped these from being a perfect pair of running headphones was the slightly iffy quality of some of the materials used. It’s not a major problem, but you’d expect better for the hefty price. The three-button control pad feels a bit plasticky and you wouldn’t want to risk throwing these in your gym bag without first placing them carefully in their case. However, they were a joy to use. You can choose from five different sizes of earbud, to help you get your perfect fit, and once they’re in they’re a rock-solid fit that’s extremely comfy, no matter how much you sweat or jump around. The sound quality is superb, with a great balance of bass, mid, and treble. Noise isolation is excellent, so bear this in mind when you’re running outside.

Comfort and fit: 9.5

Sound quality: 9.5

Durability: 7.0

Sweat-proofing: 9.0

Overall: 9.5

2. IT7 Bluetooth Stereo Sports Earphones

$123.99, amazon.com

These look heavy, owing to the cumbersome- looking neckband, but they’re surprisingly light. You can take calls on the run, thanks to a built-in microphone, and the battery power is good, with eight hours of listening time between charges. Bluetooth does away with wires, but it sometimes cuts out for a second when the MP3 is moved. They sit nicely on the ear, but much of the sound gets lost in the air between earbud and ear.

Comfort and fit: 5.0

Sound quality: 5.0

Durability: 8.0

Sweat-proofing: 8.0

Overall: 6.5

3. ME Electronics M6 in-ear sports headphones

$29.99, amazon.com

A brilliant low-budget choice—what these lack in style they make up for in comfort and sound quality. The lack of ear hooks is not a problem since these feature ‘memory wire’—once you loop them around your ears they stay in place. Aside from the limited bass the sound quality is good: rich and clear. On the negative side, the earbuds feel delicate.

Comfort and fit: 7.0

Sound quality: 7.5

Durability: 6.0

Sweat-proofing: 6.0

Overall: 6.5

4. Jaybird Bluebuds X

$169.99, dadaudio.com

Water-resistant and wireless, these are perfect for outdoor runs. The excellent performance is only slightly compromised by the irritation of a slack neckband that can rub against your skin if you start looking around. Other than that, and an occasionally patchy Bluetooth reception, there aren’t many downsides. They’re robust and, accompanied by a hard, pocket-sized case, very easy to maintain.

Comfort and fit: 7.5

Sound quality: 8.5

Durability: 9.o

Sweat-proofing: 9.5

Overall: 8.5

5. Denon Exercise Freak AH-W150

$149.99, amazon.com

These durable wireless headphones don’t disappoint. Given the rather clunky earpieces, it’s amazing how non-intrusive they feel. Bluetooth 3.0 technology means there’s no time lag between speaking and being heard if you take calls, and the sound is superb. Other nice touches are a seven- hour battery life, a reflective neckband and the ability to pair up with the Denon Sport mobile app with GPS tracking.

Comfort and fit: 6.5

Sound quality: 8.0

Durability: 8.5

Sweat-proofing: 9.5

Overall: 8

6.  Powerbeats by Dr Dre

$149.95, beatsbydre.com

These are almost brilliant. Designed to provide quality and style, they do deliver—just not as much as they should for the price. The sound quality is variable—the bass is awesome but mid-frequency sounds can be a little muffled. The over-the-ear hooks system offers a very good earbud fit, although those with smaller ear canals should try before buying. The headphones prevent almost all sound leakage, but still allow in ambient noise.

Comfort and fit: 9.0

Sound quality: 8.5

Durability: 7.5

Sweat-proofing: 8.0

Overall: 8

7. Yurbuds Focus Pro

$59.99, yurbuds.com

These wired headphones look flimsy but they are surprisingly hard- wearing. We flung them around, but they coped admirably, thanks to the rubber on the ear loops, the reinforced, y-shaped control pad and the thick rubber cord. They sit lightly around the ears but after 90 minutes the buds began to make our ears a little sore, so firmly were they held in place. The sound quality is above average, and they’re sweat-proof and waterproof.

Comfort and fit: 8.5

Sound quality: 9.0

Durability: 9.0

Sweat-proofing: 9.0

Overall: 9

Watch and Learn

SUUNTO AMBIT2 R

$299 ($249 without HRM), suunto.com

What’s different?

This is identical to the Ambit2 in shell construction and contains most of the same features. Suunto has removed the triathlon and multisport functions, and some of the more complicated navigation tools. Everything else remains the same.

Standard Features

Set-up

It’s small, light and simple to set up. Creating an account on the supporting website, movescount. com, and syncing the watch to it took only a few minutes.

GPS lock

Astoundingly good; it locked on in less than 10 seconds each time.

Functionality

Press three buttons and your GPS is locked on. It’s easy to use on the run and there are 25 data- field options, which you can configure to your liking.

Battery life

It’s 50 hours as an everyday watch, with three options for battery life in GPS mode:

8 hours updates every second

12 hours updates every five seconds

25 hours updates every 60 seconds

Supporting software

Navigating the movescount website is easy. It downloads satellite positions for the following week to your watch, for quicker lock-on. It also stores training data and has a raft of clever analytics tools.

SNAZZY FEATURES

FuseSpeed

This deals with any temporary loss of GPS signal. The watch learns your pace by fusing your cadence with your speed. So when GPS cuts out in a tunnel, the watch uses your cadence to estimate your speed until you re-emerge.

Navigation

No other watch offers this function at this price. You can navigate to a set point of interest—your home address, for example—or you can download and follow a training route.

Apps

The movescount website has a huge number of apps. Options include predicting marathon time based on current speed and racing a virtual competitor. You can also design your own app—there is now one on the site that tells you how many beers you have ‘earned’ by training.

Recovery time

A clever estimate of how long your body needs to recuperate. It’s based on the duration and intensity of your session.

The Verdict

Two small irritations aside—the somewhat iffy calorie counter and the fact that the device does not support Bluetooth—this is a first-class watch. It has brilliant technology for the price and Suunto has stripped out anything that isn’t inherently useful to runners. Build quality is excellent and it’s reliable, durable and easy to use. A firm thumbs up.

The Best Running Shoes of 2015

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 2

Trail

With its medium-thick, firm, and responsive midsole and sparsely lugged outsole, the Kiger 2 ($125) felt confident on dry, nontechnical turf. But the wrap tongue, socklike fit, and flexy heel cup make the upper feel like a minimalist runner. 
7.1 oz; 4 mm drop.

Inov8 Race Ultra 290

Trail

“A Cadillac for ultrarunners.” That tester comment sums up the Race Ultra($130). Wide and roomy for foot-swelling epics, this is a true ultra freak. It has the kind of meaty midsole and sidewall protection needed for runs over 50K, and a thickly padded tongue boosts comfort. Best paired with wider feet (or thick socks) and a support crew. 10 oz; 8 mm drop.

Merrell Bare Access Trail

Trail

The Bare Access ($100) is a flexy, zero-drop trail slipper for midfoot runners, but it’s one with adequate cushioning to roll comfortably over rocky trails and flat-topped, deeply cut lugs for loose or hard-packed turf. A snug fit made it agile on twisty trails, despite the roomy toe box. Ideal for wider feet and distances under 50K. 7.2 oz; zero drop.

Mizuno Hitogami

Road

Thin, smooth, and light as a race flat, the Hitomagi ($100) excelled as a tempo-day trainer, offering, in the words of one tester, “the perfect, speedy balance between minimalism and comfort.” We loved it for race days and shorter-distance training runs, too. 
Our only quibble was the round laces, which don’t stay tied. 6.5 oz; 9 mm drop.

Brooks Ghost 7

Road

This is a traditional cushioning shoe that goes heavy on the foam and thick on the tongue for maximum plushness. Despite all that, the Ghost ($120) still feels impressively stable. Since the deep-dish cushioning takes a good bit of spring out of each step, we found it best for long, slow cruising—and ideal for heel strikers. 8.6 oz; 12 mm drop.

Newton Distance III

Road

The updated Distance ($155) features five of Newton’s prominent, energy-boosting lugs in the forefoot, giving the shoe a broader, more stable platform up front. Other than that, this is the same quick-striding, lively shoe that die-hard Newton fans have come to love, with enough foam to accommodate light heel strikers. 7.8 oz; 2 mm drop.