Ready to take your swim workout to the next level? Here’s your guide to the best waterproof fitness trackers for swimming.
Athletes, and swimmers are no exception, understand the value in monitoring and tracking their performance in the water.
There are a ton of benefits, after all, of knowing what you are doing in the pool:
- It gives you goals to work with. Whether it’s an interval, time for a long, unbroken set of straight swimming, or hitting a number of reps swimming a particular time, tracking our swimming gives us measurables to track and compare.
- Gives you motivation in the water. This is the biggie, particularly for swimmers who train on their own (present company included). Having results of your swim workout right in front of you pushes you to train a little harder, while also giving you the satisfaction of knowing that accomplished something measurable in the water that day.
- Helps plot your training. If you are straight up swimming for leisure than you don’t a fitness tracker for swimming. If, however, you have things you want to accomplish, it’s helpful to know where you are at so that you can better plan future training sessions.
- Keeps you accountable. I swam with countless swimmers who would leave early on the pace clock, just so that they could lie to themselves about how fast they were going. Using a swimming fitness tracker will remove the guessing game that comes with eye-balling those old school pace clocks, and give you accurate results that will keep you honest.
As wearables continue to become more and more popular, this trend has extended itself to the water, with several of the large wearable manufacturers, including Garmin and Apple, launching their own versions of the swim watch.
While there is no shortage of these kinds of fitness trackers for swimming out there, they are not all built the same. I get emails frequently from swim companies launching swim wearables, and some are downright hokey. And some are not completely honest about how accurate they are.
Below is a breakdown of the waterproof fitness trackers that I have tried, which are best for serious competitive swimmers, and which are best for the more recreational swimmer.
Last update: This guide was last updated in September 2020 to reflect changes and updates to the latest fitness trackers we’ve had a chance to check-out.
1. FORM Swim Goggles
Waterproof trackers for swimmers took a big leap forward in 2019, and the one leading the pack was undoubtedly the FORM Swim Goggles. In terms of wow factor, functionality, and accuracy, you can’t beat the FORM goggles with their heads-up display.
Yup, your splits, overall time, pace, stroke rate, heart rate, whatever metrics you choose, unspool right in front of your eyes as you swim. Gotta love science!
The FORM Swim Goggles are compatible with the Polar OH1 and OH+1 heart rate monitors (my top pic for heart rate monitors for swimmers, by the way), which makes this combo every swimmer’s dream data collection tool.
Is it distracting, swimming with the data right there? Yes. It can be. You do get used to it though. Took me a handful of sessions to habituate to the rolling data in front of my eye. The first lap I swam with them I nearly rolled into the wall because I was mesmerized by the display.
Some other key things to know about the FORM Swim Goggles:
Works well in low-light and outdoor pools. Sunshine doesn’t white-out the display. The goggles are very comfortable. The fit reminds me a lot of Speedo Vanquishers, which consistently ranks as one of my favorite goggles for swimmers.
Batteries last for around 16 hours, the straps are made of durable silicone (they last waay longer than latex goggle straps), and yes, the anti-fog will eventually wear off. You can mitigate this by using an anti-fog spray regularly and keeping your fingers out of the inside of the lenses.
2. The Garmin Swim 2.
It is odd to rank a non-swim company’s swim watch as one of the top picks, but there it is. The reviews for it have been consistently great, and I have found that with use (at decent speeds) that it is very accurate.
Now, unlike Garmin’s other multisport or triathlon watches, the Garmin Swim 2 is only useful for swimming. If you are a triathlete and need the GPS that comes with tracking your runs and bike sessions, this watch won’t really work for you (unless you use it purely for swimming).
Update: The newest edition of the Garmin Swim 2 does have multi-sport functionality.
Some cool features of this watch:
- Punch in the pool length and go. There isn’t a lot of configuring that needs to be done, which I appreciated.
- It counts distance, how many strokes you are taking per lap, average pace. All the essentials.
- Change-yourself battery. Specialized watches bring with it a host of problems, including having to send the whole unit in to have the battery changed. Not the case with the Garmin Swim. You will need to change the battery once every year, roughly.
- This bad boy is resistant to 50m. Booyeah.
- It’s a good-looking watch. Totally wearable outside of the pool. Just not any good for measuring anything else.
- You can upload workouts wirelessly once in range of your computer (the software is compatible with both MAC and Windows).
- Auto-detects all four strokes. There is also a drill-logging feature so that you can input various drills and other forms of swimming (kick, for example).
- While there is no heart rate monitoring, Garmin also does produce a chest-strap heart rate monitor specifically for swimming.
3. Misfit Shine 2
The Misfit Shine 2: Swimmer’s Edition is a swim watch that was designed in collaboration between Misfit and Speedo, arguably the world’s leading swimwear manufacturer.
Development of this product was done partly at Aqualab, Speedo’s high performance research facility (where they also tested and developed their industry-leading tech suits, the LZR Racer X kneeskin and the LZR Racer X jammer).
The first thing you will notice about this waterproof fitness tracker is that it is super slim. Which is handy when you are trying to cross the pool with the least amount of drag and resistance as possible.
Other key features:
- Can also be used as a sleep tracker. This was a big “W” for me. As someone who preaches relentlessly on the importance of sleep for swimmers, having this feature was highly appreciated.
- Designed to work with the Speedo Fit app, which gives you a detailed overview of your workouts with all the dirty little details.
- The battery lasts less than the Garmin Swim at around 6 months and is replaceable.
- It’s the lightest of the swim watches I tested out, weighing in at a feather-like 0.16 ounces. You literally forget that it’s on your wrist.
- Although the sales page for the product says it measures 25m and 50m laps, this watch does also work in yard pools.
- The 2016 edition of the Misfit Shine 2 has an upgraded band; the original Misfit had issues with the face of the watch popping out while swimming. This looks to have been fixed with the 2.
4. FINIS Swim Sense Waterproof Fitness Tracker
I’m typically a large fan of FINIS gear. I find them to a be innovative when it comes to creating products for competitive swimmers, from their Tempo Trainer Pro, their Agility Paddles, to their excellent underwater music player, the FINIS Duo.
I was largely underwhelmed by their waterproof fitness tracker. Where most of their line up of products is sleek and simple, this is clunky and the largest of the watches reviewed here.
The watch itself is quite accurate, and measures all of the things most swimmers would expect from a swim watch, including total laps (always helpful for those of us who lose track), average pace, calories, and distance per stroke.
Despite the boxy look of the watch, it does do some things other watches don’t (or don’t do as well):
- Measures the other strokes. Unless you are swimming solely freestyle, at some point your swim watch will wonder what you are up to when you start doing backstroke or butterfly. The FINIS Swim Sense has “proprietary algorithms” that are able to identify what stroke you are doing so that you don’t have to stop and re-program the watch every time you change strokes.
- It’s rechargeable. Unlike other watches on this list, you can plug in your watch after your workouts to a USB port and top up the battery, which has a life of 6-7 hours.
- You can read the digital read-out quite well. As someone who trains with dark swim goggles, and who wears them past the point of the anti-fog failing, this is particularly handy. The display is a high contrast OLED, helping you see how your workout is going through the fog (and tears) in your goggles.
5. Apple Watch Series 5
With the Apple Watch Series 5 we veer off into the smartwatch category of swim trackers (the Apple Watch Series 5 ranks as our favorite overall swim watch). Although the first Apple Watch released back in 2015 was not waterproof, since then the Apple Watch has been consistently the best swim watch for lap swimming.
As you would expect, it can do all the basics that we require when we hop into the water with the workout app that comes with the watch. Counting strokes, elapsed time, total volume of your swim workout, and more. The stroke detection isn’t perfect, but it’s more than capable for most swimmers.
There are a few other things the Apple Watch does for swimmers:
- GPS tracking. This is a cool feature for you open water swimmers: the ability to chart your swimming and see how straight (or not) you are going in the water. While the GPS function doesn’t work through the water each time your arm surfaces during the arm recovery it pings the GPS satellite and pinpoints your position (so don’t be surprised if you aren’t getting tracked while swimming breaststroke outdoors, for instance).
- Heart rate measurement. Although the heart rate function isn’t perfectly accurate (the most accurate way to measure heart rate while swimming is still a chest strap), with each iteration the sensors are getting better and better, and the Apple Watch Series 5 can give you a broad idea of what your heart rate is like while you are swimming. Just make sure that the watch is snug onto your wrist.
- Always-on display. For the swimmer who needs the constant feedback of times/stroke rates/intervals during their workout, the Apple Watch Series 5 is always on, that high-definition display easy to see and tell you where you are at in your workout.
- Water Lock. An Apple app that you can download called “Water Lock” has a couple of very key features for maximizing your workout and protecting your phone. Water Lock locks the screen to prevent accidental touches, and when your workout is done, you can repel the water from the watch’s speakers using the app. Very cool.
- Third-party apps! This is a biggie—there are a ton of apps for Apple Watches, and naturally, there are some swim-centric apps that not only track and log your workouts for you, but also allow you to upload your own workouts to your watch, access their library of workouts, and more. Two of our favorites are Swim.com and MySwimPro.
And of course, the Apple Watch—being a smartwatch and all—has a metric butt-ton of features that you can use on dry land as well.
6. Fitbit Flex 2
Fitbit, one of the big names in the wearables business finally has produced a series of waterproof Fitbit watches we can take with us into the water.
The first in our little list of best watches for swimming is the FitBit Flex 2.
And the first thing you will notice about this bad boy is its diminutive size. About as small as a waterproof fitness tracker can get I would imagine.
There are some obvious limitations that come with its itty-bitty frame: with no watch face you can’t stop to see how you are doing during your workout. You will have to wait until your session in the water is over to upload the practice data to your phone or computer.
If you are looking for a cheap waterproof fitness tracker that tracks the absolute basics and won’t take up a lot of room on your wrist, the Fitbit Flex 2 is a solid go-to.
It’s priced in the $60-80 range, putting it at the lower end of the pricing spectrum.
7. Fitbit Ionic
Remember how I was talking about the Apple Watch being a smartwatch? Well, the Fitbit Ionic is a rival.
This Fitbit watch gives you a gorgeous watch-face to see how your workout is going. Whether it’s counting strokes, how many reps you’ve completed, or simply how much time has elapsed since you slid into the water, the Ionic gives you a beautiful display to check in with.
Here are the details on this watch as it pertains to swimmers:
- Yup, it’s super waterproof. It’s rated to work as deep as 50m, which is far and away more than 99.9999% of us will ever need.
- The heart rate monitor doesn’t work in the water. Like the Garmin watches (but unlike the Apple Watch) the Ionic’s heart rate monitoring feature doesn’t work while in the water.
- GPS your butt from space. Like the Apple Watch you can get some nice data on your open water swims (or just see how much of a circle you are actually swimming around that black line at the local pool) with the GPS functionality.
The Ionic, with its “smartwatch” status is also on the higher end when it comes to cost. While it’s “only” half the price of a Garmin Fenix 5 ($600+!!), the Ionic checks out at around $250-300.
See More Stuff Like This:
The Best Waterproof Fitbits for Swimmers. Fitbit—one of the most popular wearables on the planet—have two waterproof fitness trackers for swimmers. Here are reviews of both of Fitbits waterproof trackers for swimming.
The Best Swim Lap Counters for Tracking Laps and Splits. Ready to go low-tech with your lap counting? These simple devices will make sure you don’t lose track of where you are at again.
Best Watches for Triathletes. Simple in function and powerful in use, these watches for triathletes and multi-sport athletes will take your training and competition to the next level.