The best heart rate monitor for running 2017 is currently either the Polar V800, the Suunto Ambit3 Run or the Garmin 920XT. The Ambit 3 Run has better navigational functionality and the Polar V800 is beautifully put together piece of kit with the best training load feedback and over/under training status of them all. However if all you require is feedback and data on running pace, distance and time with auto laps, then the Forerunner 920XT is perfect.
Polar V800 GPS
This is Polar’s smartest and most advanced training computer ever. It is designed for the most demanding athletes and sports in the world and its design, integrated GPS and smart training features are top class, whether you’re running, swimming, cycling, skiing or even doing them all. The Polar V800 helps you know just when you need to recover from a tough session and when you are ready to get back out there.
Ironman World Champion, Frederik Van Lierde, said: “I train up to 35 hours a week and I need a smart training tool that gives me deep insight into my performance, whether I’m swimming, running or on a bike. The Polar V800 goes with me everywhere and because it also measures even my smallest activity, it helps me know how I’m benefiting from the rest I need to stay at the top of my game.”
An optional running stride sensor is available separately. Speed, cadence and power cycling pedals for cyclists will also be available separately. All accessories are Bluetooth Smart compatible, including Polar’s heart rate sensor. Access to Polar Flow is free.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Train for optimal running form with Garmin’s advanced running dynamics, featured on the Forerunner 920XT when used with the HRM-Run™ monitor. Reporting cadence (total steps per minute), vertical oscillation (amount of “bounce” in a runner’s step), and ground contact time (how much time a runner’s foot spends on the ground during each step), the Forerunner 920XT will even show a color gauge so users can see how their values compare to other runners in general. It also features a metronome with vibration and audible alerts to guide cadence training, a race predictor based on VO2 max for running, and a recovery advisor indicating how long a runner should rest before attempting another hard effort. For ultra-runners the Forerunner 920XT offers an UltraTrac mode, extending its up to 24 hours in GPS mode battery life for up to 40 hours.
Suunto Ambit 3
The previous Ambits were outdoor watches that could track running, but this is a more specialised tool – so what’s changed? Suunto has retained much of the watch UI from previous models, so the initial layout will be familiar to many. Tab into the activity menu – R/H ‘Start’ button – and you’re immediately into the Suunto deck of running options, which is fairly exhaustive: trail, track, indoor etc are all present and correct. If there’s something you’re missing then you can create it as a custom sport on the Suunto site, then sync it with your phone.
In keeping with Suunto’s heritage, the other two options – ‘run a POI’ and ‘run a route’ – take advantage of the Ambit’s GPS smarts, which enable you to create or download a running route or series of POIs from movescount.com. When you’re running a downloaded route the watch guides you on each step, issuing alerts if you’re off-route.
For town running this is slight overkill, although it’s handy for following green chain routes or similar, but in open country it’s very handy indeed. Sadly the Ambit 3 Run appears to have lost the ‘bailout’ feature of the full-fat Ambit range, although that’s always been of more use to mountaineers and others in difficult, complex terrain
Once you’ve picked your running choice you get two dismissible screens for HR belt pairing and GPS finding. The latter screen indicates how many satellites the watch has found, and in former models this often took a while to deliver. The Ambit 3 has cut this time to a reliable 30 seconds, which isn’t too long to be standing on the pavement, and it’s easily skipped if you’re freezing. Once in this mode, hit Start and you’re off.
The default display breaks down to distance at the top, split time in the middle and BPM/average distance time/cadence at the bottom of screen one, with another couple of screens displaying splits and a stopwatch a tab-right away. These can be customised to display whatever stats you like, up to seven screens’ worth.
One really nice feature we enjoyed is hidden in the activity tracker stats, a simple recovery timer. Like in a dive watch with its no-fly and surface timers, this plots your minimum recovery time, corrected against the severity of the workout. It’s a handy reminder in a busy week, as well as a preventative step against over-training.