While spring-loaded pedometers win expert praise for their simplicity and accuracy, the pedometer market has made a decided shift toward accelerometers with more features. These gadgets not only monitor your steps and the distance you walk from day to day but also count calories, tell time and measure other personal health information.
By far the most popular and trusted brand is Omron, which is known for its budget-friendly, no-frills accelerometer pedometers. In particular, our Best Reviewed GoSmart Pocket Pedometer HJ-112 (Est. $30) is well liked by both experts and consumers. It measures steps, time and distance, and calculates calories expended. Scott Crouter, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise and health sciences at the University of Massachusetts, recommends the HJ-112 for its accuracy regardless of position. It has dual-accelerometer sensors and doesn't need to be clipped at the waist to function properly except when jogging. One study tests the Omron's accuracy on nearly 100 walkers of different body sizes, and it proves to be highly accurate even at slow walking speeds.
The Omron GoSmart also gets stellar reviews from editors at About.com, ConsumerReports.org and NEA Today. At Amazon.com, about 4,700 users give it an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5, and it's named a top pick by customers at Walmart.com and Drugstore.com. Primary complaints include its bulky size and clip that doesn't fasten securely enough. There's also no protective cover, and a few owners say the reset button can be activated accidentally.
For a device that straddles the line between pedometer and activity tracker, the Fitbit One (Est. $100) is substantially more expensive but receives excellent feedback from editors at Shape and Whole Living magazines, PCMag.com and About.com. It's more complex than the Omron HJ-112, tracking steps, distance and calories burned. The Fitbit also measures sleep and can sync automatically with your computer when within 20 feet once the wireless dongle has been installed. Most pedometers store only up to a week's worth of information, but uploading allows for long-term activity tracking. Plus, the Fitbit One will sync via Bluetooth to most smartphones, so users can easily check real-time statistics.
Editors at Whole Living praise the Fitbit for its sleek design, accurate tracking and ease of use. It also gets a strong rating from more than 3,325 Amazon.com users, most of whom are extremely satisfied. However, some owners question the accuracy of the Fitbit's stair tracking.
Both the Omron HJ-112 and the Fitbit are pocket pedometers that have multiple built-in sensors so they can be used in a pocket or thrown in a bag. In contrast, single-sensor or spring-lever pedometers -- sometimes called hip pedometers -- must be clipped in the vertical position at the hip or waist to track activity accurately. Some medical studies suggest that the accuracy of single-sensor pedometers decreases drastically if clothing or body shape like a protruding belly causes the pedometer to tilt forward.
Accelerometer-powered pedometers are by far the most popular and common type of pedometer available today. However, more basic models with spring-lever counters are still favored by many consumers and experts for their accuracy and ease of use. These traditional units rely on a pronounced up-and-down motion to register a step, and they must be clipped at the waist and positioned vertically for the most accurate step detection.
If you want the most basic pedometer that only counts steps, reviewers suggest our Best Reviewed Accusplit Eagle AE120XL (Est. $20) . It doesn't get much simpler than this: There's just one button that resets the step count. It measures 2 inches long by 1.5 inches wide and weighs less than an ounce. Its estimated three-year battery life is considerably longer than top-rated accelerometer pedometers and it boasts a five-year warranty.
The nearly identical Yamax Digi-Walker SW-200 (Est. $20) is often called the gold standard of pedometers. Expert testers and university researchers hold it in high regard for its "excellent reliability and accuracy," and it's often used as the control unit in comparison testing. The Yamax brand isn't widely available but is marketed by other private-label brands, one of which is Accusplit. Its Eagle AE120XL is essentially the same device as the Digi-Walker SW-200, which has just a one-year warranty.
One common complaint about traditional pedometers is that they're hard to monitor. Unless the pedometer has a reverse display or flips open, users must remove it from their waists to check the step count. However, several models come with wristwatch monitors that allow users to easily keep track of their step total, along with other data such as mileage and heart rate. These pedometers are more expensive, but serious walkers and frequent exercisers may appreciate the convenience and additional functionality. See our report on sports watches for more information.