What are the Most Accurate Pedometers

Research compares pedometers for accuracy

Pedometer on Waistband
Pedometer on Waistband. Ruth Jenkinson/Dorling Kindersley/Getty

How accurate is your pedometer? Are you really walking 10,000 steps per day? Pedometers have been from the older designs with spring-lever and pendulum mechanisms to those that use a piezo-electric mechanism, and to accelerometers built into mobile devices.

Two studies found that piezo-electric mechanisms were more accurate for counting steps in both children and overweight adults. The old-style spring mechanisms are affected by tilt, while newer designs of dual-axis and tri-axis accelerometers are not affected by tilt and can be worn in a wider variety of positions.

A study of the tri-axial piezo-electric pedometers found they are less accurate when carried in a pocket and when walking at very slow speed or very high speeds. They were generally accurate within 5%, which is 500 steps in 10,000 steps, when worn on the waist, lanyard or armband while walking at a moderate pace.

A study of the calories-burned accuracy of activity monitors including fitness bands found that the best of them were accurate to 9% and one performed poorly with an accuracy variation of over 23%. The study compared the BodyMedia FIT, Fitbit Zip, Fitbit One, Nike FuelBand, Jawbone UP, Basis B1 Band and others.

A study that pitted smartphone pedometer apps against fitness bands and hip-worn pedometers found that the apps and hip-worn pedometers were quite accurate for counting steps on a treadmill, while the fitness bands had the most variation.

Accuracy Study of 13 Hip-Worn Pedometers

Researchers at the University of Tennessee put thirteen pedometers to the test to see which were the most accurate for counting steps when worn all day. The study was published in 2004.

Previous research had shown the Yamax 200 to be the most accurate in lab conditions for counting steps and estimating distance.

The test subjects wore the Yamax 200 on one hip and the test pedometers on the other hip to compare step totals. The test subjects logged an average of 9244 steps a day, nearly the goal of 10,000 steps promoted by several pedometer walking programs.

Most Accurate Pedometers For Daily Step Counting

These models matched the standard pedometer

  • New-Lifestyles NL-2000
  • Yamax Digi-Walker SW-701
  • Yamax Digi-Walker SW-200 - Review
  • Sportline 330
  • Kenz Lifecorder

Underestimated Steps

If you use one of these pedometers, you may be walking more steps than it counts.

  • Accusplit Alliance 1510
  • Freestyle Pacer Pro (discontinued 2010)
  • Colorado on the Move
  • Yamax Skeletone EM-180
  • Sportline 345 - Review

Overestimated Steps

If you use one of these pedometers, you may not be walking as many steps as it records.

  • Walk4Life LS 2525 - Review
  • Omron HJ-105
  • Oregon Scientific PE316CA

Most Accurate Pedometers for Distance and Calories

Which pedometers are the most accurate for step counting, distance estimating, and calorie expenditure estimating? A University of Tennessee research group compared 10 pedometers.

The study found that all of the pedometers recorded too many steps at slower speeds, but improved when walking at faster speeds.

The researchers used a treadmill and visually counted steps to compare what was recorded by the pedometers. They also placed pedometers on each hip and compared the totals between them to see how reliable they were in tracking the same motion by the same person.

Most Accurate Pedometers

These pedometers recorded steps with 99% accuracy:

  • Yamax Digi-Walker SW-200 - Review
  • New Lifestyles 2000
  • Walk4Life LS 2525 Review
  • Omron
  • Kenz Lifecorder
  • Yamasa Skeletone

Less Accurate

  • Sportline 330 (SL330) - Review
  • Sportline 345 (SL345)
  • Oregon Scientific
  • Freestyle Pacer Pro

Accuracy for Distance

Six of the pedometers calculated distance, which most of them did with 90% accuracy at a moderate walking pace, but were less reliable with a slow walking pace of 2 miles per hour.

Distance accuracy depends on taking the same step length each time, as well as being able to accurately measure that step length and input it into the pedometer. These variables make pedometers less reliable at estimating distance vs. counting steps.

Accuracy for Calories

Pedometers use the walker's weight and the steps and distance to estimate calories burned. The researchers noted that it was unclear whether the pedometers were displaying net calories (the additional calories you burn by walking vs. what you would have burned sitting on the couch) or if they are displaying gross calories (not deducting the calories you would have burned just sitting around). If they display net calories, they are overestimating the amount significantly. If they are displaying gross calories they are still only accurate to 70% Think twice before deciding to treat yourself based on the numbers displayed.

Top Picks for Pedometers


Crouter SE, Schneider PL, Bassett DR Jr. "Spring-levered versus piezo-electric pedometer accuracy in overweight and obese adults." Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Oct;37(10):1673-9.

Nakae S, Oshima Y, Ishii K. "Accuracy of spring-levered and piezo-electric pedometers in primary school Japanese children". J Physiol Anthropol. 2008 Sep;27(5):233-9.

Crouter, Schneider, Karabulut and Bassett, "Validity of 10 Electronic Pedometers for Measuring Steps, Distance, and Energy Cost." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35 (10), 1779–1784. August, 2003.

Crouter, Schneider, Karabulut and Bassett, "Pedometer Measures of Free-Living Physical Activity: Comparison of 13 Models." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 36(2):331-335, February 2004.

Wonil Park, Victor J. Lee, Byungmo Ku, and Hirofumi Tanaka. "Walking Speed and Placement Position Interactions in the Accuracy of Various Newer Pedometers." Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness, online April 3, 2014

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