I never thought I'd be the type to buy multiple bands for my Apple Watch - seems like a crazy indulgence, but here I am looking down at my collection of bands and wondering where they all come from and why I pick one over the other when out training.
Of course, if anyone asks I simply bought all these in the interests of research and to enrich the quality of this blog - please pass that on.
Why does it matter?
I have a few criteria for a good band for exercise:
- It needs to be comfortable - absolutely no chafing allowed.
- It needs to deal with sweat well (I make a lot of it)
- It needs to work well in the pool and the lake and ideally dry quickly
- It needs to provide a close enough fit to ensure the heart rate monitor works well
In addition, I am keen that the band doesn't catch while I take my wetsuit off in T1 -no sharp edges.
Talking of wetsuits, I wear my watch against my skin rather than over the wetsuit sleeve - mainly so I can record heart rate, and I push the sleeve back a bit so I can see the watch in the lake if need be.
As a bonus, it would be cool if the strap makes it easy to wrap securely around a charger on the go for very long events (such as the full IronMan I'm doing in Wales in Sept when I will charge the watch on the bike).
The Leather Bands
Leather with stainless steel
I have two of these - a cheap one from Amazon (the brown one), and a Product Red one from Apple. The Apple one is clearly much higher quality and I like to wear it out, but not so much during exercise just because it doesn't deal with sweat and water as well as others.
And I've been thinking recently why Apple still persist with leather as a luxury material. I'm plant based in my diet and have been for almost two years - I did that for health reasons, it's easier for me to eat a more nutritious diet that way, and I have certainly seen positive results in recovery after exercise. Not eating animal products makes you start to think about why we wear them too. Don't get me wrong I still have leather shoes, jackets, watch bands, and probably many other products I can't recall right now, but this seems like a perfect domain for Apple to lead the way - create a non-animal based material that is similar to but surpasses leather - sort of like what Tesla is already doing with their "vegan" seats. Apple seems strangely behind the times in this regard...
The Sports Bands
Fluoroelastomer with stainless steel
I have three Sports bands. A Product Red one, and Nike one and a plain grey one.
These are currently my favourite for exercise.
I love the (PRODUCT)RED one because it matches my gloves on my bike and the red spot of the digital crown on the watch :). The Nike one has all those holes which in theory should help with ventilation, but in practise on long rides I have not noticed any difference so the choice there is purely cosmetic.
The Sports Bands meet the criteria for comfort, dealing with sweat and water, and for me fits well enough for good heart rate monitoring. But this may not be perfect for everyone in which case the infintely adjustable Sports Loop may be a better choice.
They are also nice and smooth, even the metal knob is rounded and smooth so no issue with pulling the wetsuit over it.
The only negative is that for attaching to a charger (such as this one) it doesn't really work in a secure or easy enough fashion to do on the bike if that is something you think you'll need to do.
The Sports Loops
The Sports loop used to be my band of choice for exercising, but after extensive testing I think the Sport band is more comfortable. It's probably because I tend to pull the loop too tight.
Either way though it's a fine band and works well in water drying pretty quickly, has no rough edges and has the added advantage that I can stretch it over a charger (such as this one) quickly and easily.
The Kardia Band
This is a little diffenent and not a band I would wear during exercise. However it has the incredible ability to take a medical grade ECG. I wrote extensively about this here.
Since that review I have had my own set of hospital heart tests because of a possible hereditary condition which included ECG's, Echo-Cardiogram, Exercise Tolerance Test and more ECG's. I'm delighted to say it all came out perfectly fine, but I still find some comfort in having this band to take an ECG as needed.
The Arm Band
This one I have found useful in the gym when using kettle bells in particular because it avoids smashing your Apple Watch with the weight! I wrote about it here
Ensuring you get the best Heart Rate recording
Something I have had a few questions about is if the tightness of a band can affect the quality of the heart rate recording.
The short answer to this is that yes a good fit is important, however that doesn't mean strap it on so tight you restrict your blood flow. Apple state that you need it not too tight and not too loose (i.e. if it doesn't stay in place) - in other words snug but comfortable, with room for your skin to breathe.
In addition it's worth taking a look at the article here: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204522 for details on how to keep your Apple Watch and Bands nice and clean which is a bt more important after hard exercise and intense sweating.
If you still get problem with heart rate readings (this isn't something I've had much issue with, and generally I am delighted with the accuracy) then check out this page on Apple Support: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT207941#heartrate
There are plenty more bands out there you can buy and try (including Apple's Woven Nylon and Stainless Steel bands that I don't have - the Woven Nylon doesn't seem to offer anything over the Sport Loop for exercise, and the stainless steel ones seem to be a bad idea altogether because of the extra bulk and edges) but these are the ones I have.
If you want my daily preference it's going to be the (PRODUCT)RED Sport Band which is the one I wear most now - it's a great combo of practicality, a bit flash (and matches the red digital crown on the watch) and even supports the (PRODUCT)RED charity which is nice.