How to Set Your Pedometer or Fitness Band for Better Accuracy

How to Measure Your Stride - Step Length

Taking a Walking Stride
Taking a Walking Stride. Ruslan Dashinsky/E+/Getty Images

For a pedometer to measure distance, you must measure your average step length or average stride length. First, read the instructions on your pedometer carefully. Most ask for the step length (although they may call it the stride length).

Average Step Length

The distance from the heel print of one foot to the heel print of the other foot. This is the distance traveled forward by a single leg. An average that you will see listed in many places is 2.2 feet (0.67 meters) for women and 2.5 feet (0.762 meters) for men, but it depends very much on height.

Fitbit allows you to change the step length (which they call stride length) via the Edit Profile function in the online Dashboard. You can't change it with the app.

Average  Stride Length

This can mean the same thing as step length, or it can mean the distance traveled by the heel of one foot to the next time that same foot strikes down - in other words, two steps, since in that time the other foot has also touched down once. If you set your pedometer for your step length and discover it seems to be halving your distance, read the instructions again - it may want the stride length, which is two steps. Also, the reverse - if you at first thought the pedometer needed the stride length but you seem to be getting double the distance, read again as they may have really wanted the step length.

The Wet Foot Walk

Rob Sweetgall of Creative Walking, Inc. touts this method of measuring step length to set your pedometer.

Create a puddle of water on a stretch of sidewalk or street where you can be walking your natural speed before and after you reach it. Start walking at your natural pace and walk through the water. Keep walking naturally for about 10 more steps.

Now measure the distance from the heel of your left footprint to the heel of your right footprint on several of the wet footprints and average them.

If your pedometer is set in feet, divide the inches by 12 to get feet. Step length in inches/12 inches = Step length in feet.

Measured Distance Short Walk

Measure off a known distance - 20 feet or 50 feet. Then get up to speed in your natural walk and count the number of steps it takes to cover that distance. Divide the number of feet by the number of steps. Feet/steps = Step length in feet.

Measured Distance Long Walk

Use a football field, which is 300 feet from goal line to goal line. Count your steps. Divide 300 by the number of steps.

Use a regulation track at the local high school. This is tricky because some are 1/4 mile = 440 yards = 1,320 feet while others are 400 meters = 1,308 feet, so you may have to ask the coach. Walk in the inside lane only. Count your steps. Divide either 1,320 or 1,308 by the number of steps.

This should be more accurate than the short walk because your stride will vary over the distance.

Check Your Distance With Online Mapping Apps

Use an online mapping app to draw your and measure your walking route.

Then check this against your pedometer reading.

Ten Step Measure

Make a mark at the heel of your right foot and then walk 10 steps, marking where the heel sets down on your tenth step. Measure the distance. Divide that distance by 10.

This method can be inaccurate because you start and end at a dead halt, which is not your normal stride.

Estimate by Height

These are rough estimates, but useful to check your results by the other methods. It is the method used in the automatic settings of many pedometers and activity trackers:
Females: Your height x .413 equals your stride length
Males: Your height x .415 equals your stride length

Step Count Accuracy for Fitbit Fitness Bands

If your Fitbit fitness band seems to be counting too many steps, use the app or Dashboard to switch the setting to "Dominant Hand." That will decrease the motion sensitivity for arm motions. If it seems to count too few, change the setting to "Non-Dominant Hand."

Distance Accuracy for Fitbits

You can adjust your stride length (which is actually your step length) via the Edit Profile function on the online Dashboard (but not the mobile app). You can set it for both walking and running. If the distance estimate seems inaccurate, use this function to set it for better accuracy.

Pedometer Instruction Manuals

Fitbit: Help and manuals for the Fitbit Flex, Charge, Charge HR, Zip, One, Surge, Ultra, and Aria Scale.

Sportline: Click on the "Learn More" link for your model and there is a link to download the manual. Older models are grouped as "Legacy Products."

Yamax Digiwalker: Models SW-201, SW-651, and SW-701

Omron: Omron Pedometer manuals

Continue on to > Before You Buy a Pedometer

Source:

Hatano, Y. "Use of the pedometer for promoting daily walking exercise." Int. Council Health Phys. Educ. Recreat. 29:4 – 8, 1993.

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