Best Smartwatches & Foot Pods For Running On a Treadmill

In case you are looking for a smartwatch, fitness tracker or a foot pod to track your treadmill running or to use it with Zwift, this article will help you with it.

best fitness trackers for running on treadmill

7 Best Fitness Trackers and Smartwatches for Running on a Treadmill in 2021

1. Fitbit Sense

Fitbit Sense is one of the most popular smartwatches in the world, and it’s known for its accurate tracking. The watch comes with the built-in GPS and other sensors, which allow it to accurately track outdoor activities. It also comes with the dedicated Treadmill mode, where the watch uses its sensors to track your Treadmill running Session, but it’s not as accurate as Foot Pods.

However, there are some tips which you can follow to improve its accuracy. As Fitbit Sense uses its 3-Axis Accelerometer to track your Treadmill sessions, you can adjust your stride length in the settings to give it an accurate sample set which will result in accurate tracking. Here’s how you can calibrate your Fitbit Sense.

  • Open Fitbit App on your smartphone and go to Today Tab
  • Now tap your profile image
  • You will land in account settings, scroll down to advanced settings and tap it.
  • In Advanced Settings, go to Stride Length and enter your stride length.
  • That’s it.

Entering your correct stride length will improve the overall accuracy of treadmill running sessions. You can use the measuring tape to draw the distance and then use it to determine your stride length. I would recommend you to take multiple readings and then input the average of it in the Stride Length Settings.

Overall, Fitbit Sense is a great smartwatch, and it comes with many promising features such as SPo2 Sensor, ECG, Heart-rate Monitoring, Skin Temperature Monitoring, and more which make it a great option for overall fitness. However, it struggles when it comes to tracking treadmill tracking.

2. Suunto 9

Suunto is a well-known name in the smartwatch industry, and the company offers a variety of high-end smartwatches which can help you track your workouts.

Suunto 9 is a very popular high-end smartwatch by the company that comes with a premium design and tons of promising features. It’s also very accurate when it comes to tracking workouts. The watch uses a combination of GPS and Motion sensors to track outdoor activities.

However, it relies on Motion sensors to track the Treadmill sessions. The watch is capable of tracking most of the Session accurately, but still, it won’t be accurate as Foot Pod, and you can expect some error margin.

Suunto 9 also doesn’t come with an option to broadcast the data to the Treadmill, so you will have to use your watch’s screen to check stats. Overall, Suunto 9 is a capable fitness tracker with decent treadmill tracking, but it has a long way to go. However, the watch is really good when it comes to outdoor tracking, and it’s arguably one of the best smartwatches for tracking Outdoor Activities.

3. Polar Vantage V2

Polar Vantage V2 is a premium Smartwatch that comes with advanced features to ensure that you get accurate tracking. This smartwatch is designed for highly-active people, and it comes with bleeding-edge tech to ensure that it accurately tracks all of your activities.

The watch comes in a lightweight aluminum shell which makes it easier to wear for extended periods. It’s also water-resistant, and it can resist water to 100m which means that you can easily use it in the rain and for swimming.

Vantage V2 also comes with built-in GPS, which allows you to easily and accurately track your Outdoor workouts. However, the watch struggles when it comes to tracking indoor workouts, especially Treadmill runs. The error margin won’t be very high, but still, you can expect some error in the data.

If you are looking for a premium smartwatch with good overall tracking, Polar Vantage V2 is surely a great option for you. However, if you want an accurate tracking device just for tracking treadmill sessions, I would recommend considering a capable Foot Pod.

4. Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Series 6 is arguably one of the best smartwatches out there, and it keeps getting better every year. The watch comes with an excellent combination of premium hardware and software, which make it an ideal smartwatch.

Apple Watch Series 6 is the latest and greatest Apple Watch, and it comes with tons of sensors that make it easier to track your workouts. The best thing about Apple Watch Series 6 is that it regularly learns from you and uses that data to make the workouts more accurate for you.

The watch is very accurate when it comes to tracking outdoor workouts such as hiking, running, cycling, etc. It also does a decent job in tracking Treadmill sessions, but still, you can expect some errors in the data. However, Apple Allows you to calibrate your Apple Watch, which will result in more accurate tracking. Here’s how you can calibrate your Apple Watch Series 6.

  • The first step is to make sure that your Apple Watch’s Location and Motion Settings are enabled. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services and Enable Motion Calibration & Distance Settings.
  • Now the next step is to train your Apple Watch.
  • Go to Open Area and start Outdoor Run or Walk Session.
  • Now keep doing the activity for at least 20 minutes at your normal pace.
  • That’s it.

Apple Watch will use the collected data to learn your stride length, which will help the watch to record the Treadmill sessions with minimum errors. Overall, if you have to pick one smartwatch to track your Treadmill sessions with minimum error, then Apple Watch Series 6 is the one which you should pick.

5. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Samsung Galaxy Watch Lineup features some of the most popular smartwatches, and they are considered the best for Android Users. Galaxy Watch 3 is the finest of the bunch and comes with many promising features such as SPo2 Sensor, ECG, Heart-rate monitoring, and Advanced Sleep tracking making it an ideal option for Fitness Enthusiasts.

Another reason why many people prefer Galaxy Watches is the official store which features thousands of free and premium watch faces along with tons of fitness apps that you can use to accurately track your activities.

Samsung Galaxy Watch uses the combination of an Accelerometer and Built-in GPS to track workouts. It also comes with dedicated workout profiles for many activities such as walking, running, and more.

The watch also features a dedicated profile for Treadmill, where the watch uses the Accelerometer to track your workout. I have used the Galaxy Watch 3 for tracking my Treadmill session, and I found that the average of 100 meters was missing for each Kilometer tracked by Galaxy Watch 3.

So, if you want to use Galaxy Watch 3 for tracking your Treadmill Sessions, you will get inaccurate readings which is a common issue with most smartwatches as the watches uses Accelerometer for tracking, which is not as accurate as GPS. Overall, if you want an advanced smartwatch with promising features and willing to compromise on tracking Treadmill sessions, Galaxy Watch 3 is a great option for you.

6. Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbit Charge 4 is another very capable Fitness Tracker which can help you track your Running Session on a Treadmill. The best thing about this Fitness Tracker is that it is much better than other Fitness Trackers in this price range, and it offers features such as Built-in GPS, Advanced Sleep Tracking, and a Bigger Display which you won’t find on many Fitness trackers out there.

Fitbit Charge 4 is also really good for tracking outdoor activities, thanks to built-in GPS. However, it struggles when it comes to tracking running on Treadmill. I ran 5 kilometers on Treadmill with Charge 4, and when the Session ended, the Charge 4 was 500 meters short, which clearly shows the Fitbit Charge 4 is not very accurate with tracking Treadmill running sessions.

7. Garmin Forerunner 245

Garmin is a very popular name in the smartwatch industry, and the company offers a number of high-end and budget devices which you can use for tracking your workouts. Garmin Forerunner 245 is an upgrade to Garmin 235 Model, which has been the top choice for many runners worldwide.

The watch comes with a very lightweight and durable design, which means you can use it anywhere you want. On top of that, it’s equipped with many useful features such as Built-in GPS, Pulse OX Sensor, Hear-rate tracker, and Accelerometer.

Garmin Forerunner 245 also features several workout profiles customized to track various workouts, including track running, pool swimming, cycling, stair-stepper, and Treadmill.  Like most smartwatches, Garmin Forerunner 245 is really good for tracking outdoor activities. However, it’s not very good for tracking running on Treadmill. So, I would recommend using the Garmin Foot Pod in combination with Garmin Forerunner 245 to track your Treadmill running sessions. Overall, if you are looking for an accurate smartwatch to match your active lifestyle, Garmin Forerunner 245 is a great option for you.

FAQ

Do Fitness Trackers work on Treadmills?

Fitness Trackers mainly rely on GPS to accurately track your activities. However, when you are using a Treadmill, you will not be physically moving, and GPS Won’t work in this case. So, Fitness Tracker will have to rely on the Accelerometer to track your workout, and Accelerometer isn’t very accurate. You will still be able to track your Treadmill session, but it won’t be accurate.

Can Apple Watch Track Run on Treadmill?

Yes, Apple Watch comes with the dedicated workout profile for Treadmill, which allows it to track Running on Treadmill. However, the tracking won’t be accurate. So, if you want accurate tracking, make sure that you use the Foot Pod.

How Accurate is Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 on Treadmill?

Like most Smartwatches, Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 also relies on GPS and Accelerometer to track overall activities. However, when you are using Treadmill, GPS won’t work, and the watch will have to rely on the data collected by Accelerometer, which won’t be very accurate. So, it’s safe to say that Galaxy Watch 3 is not very accurate on Treadmill, and you should use Foot Pod to track your Running Session on Treadmill.

What features should you seek in a fitness tracker for a treadmill?

It is true that tracking a treadmill run is less accurate than an outdoor run with a GPS since you are not really moving any distance on the treadmill.

However, most of the fitness trackers are able to track your treadmill’s runs. By using the motion and accelerometers sensors, they are able to track your hand’s movement and by using an algorithm they are able to track your run stats on a treadmill.

Some will do it better than the others and some will require manual updating and others will do it automatically.

As for HR measurement – all of the fitness trackers that track heart rate from the wrist will not provide a very accurate HR tracking while doing intervals or when the pace is very high, however, they are able to be quite accurate when the pace is constant and not too high.

So, in case you are running in intervals or in a high pace, you will have to add a chest strap – you can check out my article on the best fitness trackers with chest strap and why you need them.

Required features:

  1. An accurate cadence and speed tracker using an accelerometer
  2. An accurate heart rate measurement(for a more accurate measurement you should use a chest strap)
  3. A good dedicated app where you can store all your stats
  4. If you love running with music than a device that is capable of playing music or enables you to control the music on your phone from it.

Most of Fitbit devices and lots of Garmin’s uses a built-in accelerometer.
An accelerometer is basically a sensor that can track cadence, speed, and distance without the need for a GPS.

In order for the accelerometer and motion sensors in your fitness tracker to work properly on the treadmill you have to do the followings:

  • First, you have to calibrate it, usually, the best way to calibrate your fitness tracker is by running a few runs with the GPS(if your fitness tracker has one) will help to calibrate it, you check out with the manufacturer whether calibration is needed and how to do it.
  • Secondly, since the accelerometer and motion sensors are measuring by using your hand’s movement, try not to walk or run with your hands on the grip bar of the treadmill.
    Some people are using it on their ankle(if it fits there) and reporting an accurate tracking this way, though, it isn’t the official use for these trackers (I have written a related article on the best fitness tracker for the ankle that you can view here on my website).
  • According to Garmin’s suggestion, The treadmill should be at a 1% incline for best measurements.

If you have a Garmin device that doesn’t have a built-in accelerometer than you should check out Garmin’s Foot Pod which is a sensor that you put in your shoe and can sync with many Garmin devices(Check out its compatible Garmin devices on Garmin’s website) and according to Garmin it can achieve 98 percent accuracy for speed and distance.

You can check out the Garmin Foot Pod here on Amazon.

I will elaborate more on foot pods and their pros later in the article.

*A small tip – I recommend to manually change your stride lengths in order for it to track your run on the treadmill correctly – you can do so in your App’s settings.

A GPS is not required while running indoor, however, if you, like me, like to run both indoor and outdoor than a good fitness tracker with a built-in GPS might be a great idea(you can leave it turned off while on a treadmill)

How accurate is the treadmill’s distance HR, and speed tracking?

The built-in speed and distance tracker in the treadmill is very accurate when it comes to distance and speed.
The treadmill tracker reads the number of rounds that the belt is making. Since the belt comes with a certain length it is very easy for the treadmill’s tracker to track the distance accurately.

As for the HR tracking on the treadmills – it differs between one brand to another, most of the fitness trackers will do a better job with that.

Best Solution For Running On A Treadmill In 2020 – The Zwift Platform

So we already understand that Fitness trackers are not so accurate on a treadmill on top of that many of us find running on a Treadmill very boring.

What’s the solution? Meet “Zwift”.

What is Zwift?

Zwift was invented by a guy who was bored to ride alone in 2014. It’s a social platform that acts like a computer game where every rider connects from his trainer at home, gets an avatar and simulates riding in tracks, teams, and competitions.

Currently, there are more than 350,000 subscribers, the subscription cost is $ 15 a month and just recently it has raised the second raise of $ 120 million, a third of which for producing esports competitions.

The record of users at the same time was 13,000 riders, says Alex Wolfson, who founded the Smart Trainers group on Facebook (at the event of the Tacx importer).

About a year ago, Zwift decided to enter the world of running and needed a solution to transfer the runner’s movement on the track and speed to his virtual figure in Zwift’s world.

So they acquired Milestone – an Israeli startup founded by Zach Goren and Meir Mechlin.

Milestone has developed a pod for running shoes that measure distance and parameters related to running style – The Zwift Run Pod

Basically, you will have to attach the Zwift run pod to your shoe, once you attached it you then have to calibrate it to your Zwift account and that’s it.

Here is a video demonstration of how to calibrate your run pod to Zwift:

My recommendation For The Best Fitness Trackers For Runners On Treadmill

Since there are many variables(mentioned above) that you have to pay attention to when running with a fitness tracker on your wrist, I cannot recommend one fitness tracker that will do a perfect job for everyone on a treadmill.

In fact, most of the fitness trackers, even the fanciest ones with a built-in accelerometer will not give you accurate data on a treadmill and any changes in hand movement will increase the accuracy dramatically.

A wrist-based accelerometer is not the most accurate for measuring pace since it tracks by using your hand’s gestures.

For these reasons, my best recommendation for a fitness tracker for a treadmill is to use a Foot Pod with your devices.

Best Foot Pod for Zwift and treadmill running

Benefits of Using Foot Pod

Foot Pod is a device that you can attach to your shoes and it offers much better accuracy than the smartwatch especially if you are running on the treadmill. The following are some of the benefits of using foot pod.

  • The biggest advantage of using the foot pod is that you will get the accurate data. Especially when you run on the treadmill, your smartwatch can’t use the GPS and it will be using the accelerometer for measuring pace which can be compromised in many cases. For example, if you are just walking on the treadmill but if you are moving your arms fast then your smartwatch will consider the speed of your arm as actual speed because its reference point is your arm, not your body. Instead, if you use the foot pod, it will be attached to your foot and you will get a much more accurate rate.
  • Foot pods are also very small in size and they are easily portable. You can simply carry them in your pocket to the gym for treadmill running.
  • Some Foot Pods also come with many advanced sensors that offer deep insight on running metrics such as ground time, cadence, pace, distance, form power, and many more.
  • Some Garmin watches also come with the Virtual Run feature which comes very handy for treadmill running. However, Garmin watches still not very accurate and you will need to use the Garmin Foot Pod to get the accurate data on running metrics.

These are some of the benefits of using Foot Pod. Zwift only supports the Bluetooth connection so if you pick a foot pod which only supports the ANT+ connection then you use your smartwatch as a bridge between Zwift and the foot pod.

Best Foot Pods for Treadmill

Foot pods are considered the ideal choice for treadmill runners because they offer very precise data without any compromise. When you use the foot pod, it will record the data accurately and then transfer it to the fitness tracker app.

There are different types of foot pods available that work well for the various devices. So, if you want to pick the best food pod for you then you will have to consider the smartwatch you use and the features you want to get.

Best Foot Pod for Apple Watch – STRYD

STRYD is the premium foot pod which comes with the top of the line features and build quality. STRYD is also very accurate and it uses the advanced sensors to ensure that you get accurate data.

It also provide information on other metrics such as Power, Form Power, leg spring stiffness, ground time, vertical oscillation, cadence, pace and distance which can be very helpful. STRYD also has seamless integration with Apple watch which makes an ideal Foot Pod for Apple Watch.

Pros

  • Seamless Integration with Apple Watch
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate
  • Tons of great features
  • Splash Proof

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t work well with Garmin Watches

Best Foot Pod for Garmin Watch

Garmin is a popular fitness brand and the company offers its own versions of the Pods: Garmin Foot Pod and Garmin Running Dynamics Pod.

Garmin Foot Pod is a simple foot pod that can help you calculate the running cadence and pace when it is connected to your smartwatch. It uses the MEMS Inertial-sensor Technology which helps you measure speed and distance with 98% accuracy.

On the other hand, Garmin Running Dynamic Pod is an advanced pod that can help you calculate 6 running metrics such as Cadence, Ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical oscillation, vertical ratio, and ground contact time.

Best Budget Foot Pod – Zwift RunPod

If you are on a budget and looking for an affordable foot pod then you can’t go wrong with Zwift RunPod. It is a basic Foot Pod but it works really well. It can help you measure the speed, cadence, and distance.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Great Value for Money
  • Can measure speed, cadence, and distance

Cons

  • No Advanced running metrics
  • Some users complained about compatibility issues with Apple Devices

The Best Foot Pods for Zwift

Not every foot pod works well with the Zwift and that’s why I will share the Best Foot Pods which are compatible with the Zwift.

Zwift RunPod

Zwift RunPod is one of the best Foot Pods for Zwift. It is designed by the Zwift so you will get much better integration with the Zwift. It is not an advanced foot pod but it can measure some basic running metrics such as speed, cadence, and distance very accurately. If you are looking for the best foot pod for Zwift in the budget section then Zwift RunPod is an ideal option for you.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Great Value for Money
  • Can measure speed, cadence, and distance
  • Bluetooth Connectivity

Cons

  • No Advanced running metrics
  • Some users complained about compatibility issues with Apple Devices

STRYD Footpod

STRYD FootPod is an advanced foot pod that is designed for the runners. It can accurately provide data on many running metrics such as Power, Form Power, leg spring stiffness, ground time, vertical oscillation, cadence, pace, and distance. It is also splash-proof and you can use it for Zwift as well as for outdoor running.

Pros

  • Seamless Integration with Apple Watch, Polar, Sunnto, Android and IOS
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate running metrics
  • Splash Proof
  • STRYD Insights

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Integration issues with Garmin Watches

STRYD Live Footpod

STRYD Live Footpod is the tone down version of the regular STRYD Footpod. It is specifically designed for the Zwift users and it comes with limited features. SYRYD Live can accurately measure the running metrics such as Pace, Distance, Cadence, Vertical oscillation, and ground time. It also doesn’t come with STRYD Insights which you get in the STRYD Footpod.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Good Build Quality
  • Designed for Zwift users

Cons

  • No Advanced features
  • No STRYD Insights

Polar Stride Sensor

Polar Stride Sensor is another foot pod which is compatible with the Zwift. It can accurately measure the running metrics such as speed, distance, cadence, and stride length. The overall build quality of the Polar Stride Sensor is also good but the problem with it is that it has a large size which can be a deal-breaker for some people.

Pros

  • Accurate
  • Good Build Quality
  • Easy to use
  • Bluetooth Connectivity

Cons

  • Large size
  • Expensive

Garmin Foot Pod

Garmin Foot Pod is a very capable foot pod that works really well with the Zwift. It is not as advanced as the other food pods but it can accurately measure the running metrics such as speed, distance, and cadence. The problem with Garmin Food Pod is that it only supports the ANT+ so if you want to use it with Zwift then you will be using your Garmin Watch as the bridge between the Zwift and Foot Pod.

Also, Zwift is compatible with a few Garmin watches and can sync directly with them using the “virtual Run” option, however as I mentioned the wrist-based accelerometer is not accurate and I don’t recommend doing it.

Here is a video explanation

Pros

  • Great Build Quality
  • Measure Speed, Distance, and Cadence
  • Accurate

Cons

  • ANT+ Only
  • Relatively Expensive

Conclusion

A final word from me as a personal trainer – the most important thing is that you will pay attention to how you feel while doing sports activities, yes, gadgets can help but don’t count on them! you first have to exercise by feeling!

I hope that I helped you with finding the best fitness tracker and foot pods for running on a treadmill in 2021.

I will be very happy to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments section below!