Can You Wear a Fitness Tracker on Your Ankle?

Whilst out for a walk the other day I got in a conversation with a few friends about fitness trackers. It turned out they were quite keen on getting one but due to work reasons were not able to wear one on their wrist. So naturally, we moved on to trying to find alternative solutions. The first thing that came to mind was can you wear a fitness tracker on your ankle?

I didn’t know the answer at the time but I decided to look into it and write up my findings.

Most fitness trackers are designed to be used on your wrist. Software and algorithms that calculate metrics are all based on the tracker being worn on the wrist. If you wear the tracker on your ankle you run the risk that metrics may not be as accurate. 

Many people are happy to live with the issues and wear the tracker on their ankle to get a feel of how many steps they have done. If not, there are alternatives available which will still allow you to use and benefit from a fitness tracker but not wear it on your wrist.

Wearing a fitness tracker on your ankle

There is no reason you cannot wear a fitness tracker on your ankle. However, fitness trackers generally work by interpreting the data from 3-axis accelerometers and matching the data from a known set of patterns to calculate steps. For most fitness tracker manufacturers including Fitbit the known set of patterns are derived from when the tracker is worn on the wrist. If you wear it on your ankle they might not be able to identify the activity as easily and accurately.

That being said there are certain circumstances where your arm doesn’t move that much and you might not get the credit you deserve for steps. An example of this is when you’re pushing a shopping trolley or pram. The pram scenario is quite command and people often move their tracker to their ankle The theory is that your legs are still moving the accelerometer will detect and the steps will be recorded.

It seems that this is broadly true and that a tracker worn on the ankle will give you a reasonably accurate representation of how many steps you have done. The downsides are as follows:-

  • generally not recommended by the manufacturers
  • you will lose out on some of the other metrics such as heart rate and calories burned.
  • sleep tracking will not work as well because we move our legs a lot at night
  • if the device has a screen you will not be able to see any of the data

If you do want to start wearing a tracker on your ankle I would only advise it if you are only interested in your daily step count. Even then there is still a strong possibility that the readings will only be reasonably accurate.

I would suggest if you are going to move to your ankle you need to make sure that you are happy with the step count accuracy of your device. One quick way you could do this is by placing your tracker around your ankle and doing a walk where you count the number of steps. Once compete have a look at the data from your tracker and compare it to your count. If you’re happy you’re good to go.

How to wear a fitness tracker around your ankle

If you are lucky you may be able to strap your tracker directly around your ankle with the same strap as your wrist. It’s more likely that it won’t fit and you’ll need some method to keep it secure and make sure you don’t lose it. The answer is what is known as a band extender or ankle band, a number of which are available on both Etsy(click here to view) and Amazon(click here to view).

Alternatives to wrist worn trackers

As we have already seen the majority of fitness trackers have been designed to go around your wrist, however not all. Both Fitbit and a company called Moov make trackers which can be worn in alternative places which is ideal for people who don’t like wearing things on their wrist or can’t for work reasons.

Moov Now

The Moov Now is more of a personal trainer than a tracker so it has a concept of active minutes rather than steps. It comes with 2 straps. One for round your wrist and another longer one which is designed to go around your ankle. The main purpose of the ankle strap is to track indoor cycling, running and walking. It will also continue to track your daily activity. When running there is some pretty neat functionality that will coach you around improving your running style all bought about due to them fact that the tracker is attached to your ankle.

Non wrist worn Fitbits

Not willing to miss out Fitbit also have a tracker that does not need to be worn on the wrist in the shape of the Fitbit Inspire 2. Unfortunately, they don’t quite meet the requirement of being worn around the ankle but will suit anybody who is unable to wear a wrist based tracker. Now that the Fitbit app allows you associate more than one device to an account you may even decide to wear one of these during the day and a wrist based tracker when you go home.

If you are interested in these types of tracker we have written a bit more about the activity tracker clips.