Fitness trackers are pretty spot-on and convenient when you’re running or working out at the gym. You put the device around your wrist, sync it to your phone, and before you know it, you already have access to metrics on heart rate, distance, calories, and other exercise stats. However, playing sports is entirely a different story. Each sort of activity highlights its own unique set of motions and metrics to track, so a single device won’t be totally comprehensive.
For instance, if you’re playing soccer, you may want to monitor your position in the field, whereas if you’re swimming, you may want to track how many laps you’ve logged. And of course other sports like basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, and boxing each require a completely different kind of tracking. We took a look at the latest smart technology available for various sports to determine which are the best sport trackers for each activity.
The Best for Soccer: PlayerTek
With its high-tech GPS heat mapping, PlayerTek’s innovative tracker monitors movement on the pitch to allow wearers to see exactly how they moved during a game. This lets them analyze how plays were executed, chalk up how much time was spent in various positions, and compare actual performance to the intended game plan.
The device showcases a built-in accelerometer that shows how fast players run and what their average pace was. It also allows users to create soccer-specific workout programs, track overall fitness, and compete with their friends. PlayerTek offers teams the ability to purchase packages of devices that integrate with one another to chart and document everyone’s performance statistics.
The Best for Swimming: Fitbit Ionic
From swimming laps at a pool to tackling open water outdoors, Fitbit’s Ionic is up to the task. Water-resistant up to 50 meters, this smartwatch features a specialized Swim Exercise mode which records laps in real time as wearers move through the water. It also recognizes the different types of strokes used, the distance covered, and the number of calories burned.
Although water prevents the device from tracking heart rate while submerged in manual mode, it does feature automatic swim detection which does log HR. With an extra bright display, users can easily see the device underwater — Fitbit even designed it to work in saltwater. In addition to its water-friendly features, the Ionic tracks sleep patterns, offers workout coaching, and sends smartphone alerts and notifications.
The Best for Golf: Garmin Approach S60
Garmin’s Approach S60 accurately pinpoints location on the links via built-in GPS and creates full-color course maps with real-time alerts and statistics including yardages to greens, as well as hazards and doglegs. Its AutoShot game tracking technology features a bundle of hyper-accurate sensors that record distances for post-game analysis. Plus, it offers access to more than 41,000 preloaded courses across the globe.
The easy-read color touchscreen display is user-friendly and users won’t have to worry about it losing juice midway through a game — the device lasts ten straight hours in golf mode or ten full days in normal watch mode. Like other Garmin devices, the Approach has a QuickFit band making it easy to swap out for different styles and colors.
The Best for Kayaking: Polar M600
This fully waterproof smartwatch is perfect for kayaking, standup paddleboarding, or any other watersport that involves splashing around in rivers or lakes. With optical sensors that monitor the blood pumping through a wearer’s veins, it estimates heart rate so you can track how hard you work with each stroke. It features integrated GPS functionality so users won’t feel lost even after wandering up a canal or meandering into hidden channels — it lets them see exactly where they went and tracks the distance and pace logged.
Outfitted with a handy voice control function, the M600 lets users keep the paddle in their hands at all times and even works well during the event of a tumble in the water. Thankfully, it’s also fully submersible up to 50 meters. When not on the water, this device is an excellent tool for running as it comes complete with structured programs and motivational feedback.
The Best for Baseball: Blast Motion Baseball
With a high-end motion capture sensor, this device attaches to the end of a baseball bat, recording swing and ball flight metrics for every ball hit. The technology utilizes Smart Video Capture to record and auto-edit videos, offering tips, analysis, and insights. It also features a 3D Swing Tracer that allows users to see swing stats in real time — or you can save it to watch later with a coach. Over time, it identifies trends and better understands the areas where a hitter could use improvement.
The Best for Hiking: Suunto Spartan HR Baro
Suunto’s Spartan HR Baro features 80 different sports modes, making it a superb tracker for a variety of activities. However, its barometric altimeter makes it an exceptionally awesome choice for hikers. Whether it’s for trekking through lowland wilderness or for mountaineering alpine vistas, Suunto’s FusedAlti technology captures barometric pressure measurements, eclipsing any elevation data capabilities that barometer-less devices provide.
It’s water-resistant (aka rain safe) and syncs with its companion heatmaps to scout well-known trails and access live navigation while on-the-go. Suunto also equipped the Sparton HR Baro with up-to-date sunrise and sunset times, along with inclement weather alerts, allowing wearers to avoid getting stuck in a storm or staying out after dark. For serious hikers, its Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is a vital statistic to keep tabs on and the device’s 20 hours of battery life (40 hours with its power-save feature) makes it a viable option for multi-day trips, too.
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