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Apple Watch Sport Bands Review and third-party alternatives

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The Apple Watch is an excellent fitness tracker and workout companion, and for this article, I have reviewed some of the best Apple Watch Sport bands for working out, including my favorite watch bands from Apple, Meridio, Monowear, Nomad, and Twelve South.

Featured Apple Watch Sport Bands

Product
Apple Sports Band

$49.00

Apple Sport Loop

$49.00

Meridio Caoutchouc Collection

$59.00

Monowear Nylon Active Band

$32.00

Nike Volt Sport Band

$49.00

NOMAD Sport Strap

$39.95

Sunkong Apple Watch Band

$23.99

Twelve South ActionSleeve

$29.99

Indicates the Editor’s Choice!

I have been a satisfied Apple Watch owner since I bought one in 2015 when Apple first started selling it. Since then, I have worn the watch every day to track my activity, burned calories and steps taken. Somehow, there is a certain satisfaction in closing all three activity rings every day, and I feel bummed on days where I don’t.

Apple Watch activity rings

Before the Apple Watch, I didn’t wear watches because I felt restricted and uncomfortable. The Apple Watch Sport was the first watch that I didn’t mind wearing all day – thanks to the incredibly comfortable fluoroelastomer Sports Band the watch came with. Until this day, the original sports band is one of my favorite straps I own.

With the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple introduced a new band – the Sport Loop which is even more comfortable and adjustable. Additionally, third-party accessory makers, such as Monowear have launched fitness bands that are more affordable than Apple’s straps. So after almost three years of using the Apple Watch as my primary fitness tracker with different watch bands, I thought it would be time to share my experience.

Top fitness watch bands for Apple Watch

For a sports band to earn a spot in my top drawer, it has to meet the following requirements:

  • Comfortable to wear all day
  • Easy to take on and off
  • Dries quickly, even if completely submerged in water
  • Adjustable to make sure the heart rate sensor maintains close contact with the skin

So let’s see how well the bands from Apple and Monowear live up to those requirements.

Apple Sports Band

Apple Watch Sport Bands Review and third-party alternatives

Apple Sports Band

 Highlights
  • Comfortable to wear all day
  • Dries quickly
  • Available in various colors

$49.00 on Amazon

When you buy a new Apple Watch, the Sports Band is one of the two strap options you can choose from – unless you buy the Nike or Hermès edition. Apple’s classic strap is a solid watch band that I have enjoyed wearing for years.

What I like most about the Sports Band is its comfort and the water repellent properties of the fluoroelastomer (rubber). After taking a shower or washing my hands, I could dry my hands with a towel, and it would be enough to dry the watch band too.

Taking the Apple Watch on and off is easy, once you have figured out how to do it with one hand by holding down one side of the band with your thumb and using your index finger to move the hole over the pin to push it down.

The downside of the original Sports Band is the pin-and-tuck closure. While I didn’t have any issues tightening up the watch band for regular use, I always felt that it could be just a tad tighter for working out.

What makes the Apple Watch more accurate than many other fitness trackers, is its reliable heart rate monitor. But it is only reliable if it has good contact with the skin. During a workout, especially with exercises that involve a lot of wrist movement (lifting weights, or CrossFit), the watch can lose contact with the skin if the strap isn’t tight enough.

With the pin-and-tuck closure, I always felt like the watch was either a tiny bit too loose or too tight, and I would have needed an extra hole in the strap. What about the Nike band you may wonder? Well, I never owned a Nike sports bands, but considering that it also uses a pin-and-tuck closure, I assume it has the same “problem.”

Apple Sport Loop

Apple Watch Sport Bands Review and third-party alternatives

Apple Watch Sport Loop

 Highlights
  • Comfortable micro loop padding
  • Dries quickly
  • Allows for precise adjustment
  • Easy to take on and off

$49.00 on Amazon

When I got the Apple Watch Series 3, I could choose between the Sports Band and the new Sport Loop. I chose the latter because I figured the hook-and-loop fastener would make it easier to adjust for a perfect fit during a workout.

The only concern I had was the material that Apple chose for the strap. I was worried that the nylon would take longer to dry if the band got wet.

After a few months of testing the new watch band, I can confirm that the watchband dries incredibly quickly, thanks to the moisture-wicking properties of the nylon weave. Additionally, the strap is incredibly comfortable to wear because it stretches a bit but not enough to prevent close contact with the skin during intense workouts. I have also noticed that the extra layer of dense loops, on top of the nylon band make it less likely for the edges of the watchband to “cut” into your skin when you tighten up the strap.

The best Apple Watch bands for working out

The Sport Loop band prevents the watch from having full contact with the charging disk of my TimePorter case. But it charges!

The only minor disadvantage of the Sport Loop is that you cannot put the watch flat on a charging disc without “turning” the strap inside out or disconnecting the strap from one side of the watch. I noticed the problem first while traveling and using my Twelve South TimePorter to charge the watch overnight. It still recharges in nightstand mode, but it doesn’t sit as tight on the charger as it would with a regular watch band.

Meridio Caoutchouc Collection

Meridio Electric Blue Apple Watch Band

Meridio Electric Blue Apple Watch Band

 Highlights
  • Premium look and feel
  • Sporty and elegant at the same time
  • Water-proof and dries quickly
  • Hand-made in Italy

$59.00 on Meridioband.com

Make sure to use discount code kummer_10 to get 10% off the retail price!

Meridio is an Italian company that makes premium Apple Watch bands. I had reviewed some of their excellent leather straps in the past, and for the Apple Watch Series 4, the company released a brand-new fitness collection.

What I like most about Meridio’s sports bands is their design. They don’t look like the average fitness band, thanks to the thin layer of cotton on top of the strap and the matching stitching. The bands are also relatively thick, adding to their premium look and feel.

caoutchouc (kou`cho͝ok) is a natural rubber obtained as a latex from various tropical plants, e.g., the Pará rubber tree.

The only negative thing I could say about Meridio’s Caoutchouc collection is that the bands are relatively stiff. That’s not an issue for most activities, but if you wear gloves or other protective hand gear during exercise, such as CrossFit, adjusting the position of the Apple Watch is more involved than with Apple’s Sport Loop.

Based on my experience with Meridio’s fitness bands, I’d recommend them to anyone who is looking for an Apple Watch band they can wear every day, without having to go back and forth between a fitness and regular band. The Electric Blue and Summer Cloud rubber bands Meridio sent me look great with any outfit, and I don’t have to worry about taking them off during workouts or when taking a shower.

Monowear Nylon Active Band

Monowear Nylon Active Band

Monowear Nylon Active Band

 Highlights
  • Less expensive than comparable bands from Apple
  • Dries quickly
  • Allows for precise adjustment
  • Easy to take on and off

$32.00 from Monowear

Make sure to use discount code MK15 to get 15% off the retail price!

Monowear Nylon Active Bands are made from lightweight nylon with a genuine leather patch. The adaptors are made from stainless steel and color matched to most Apple Watch finishes.

Monowear makes third-party Apple Watch bands and other premium accessories at attractive prices, compared to what Apple charges. I have been using watch bands from Monowear since I discovered their excellent leather bands in 2017.

Besides the price, what I like most about the Nylon Active Band is that it’s precisely adjustable for just the right fit during workouts. Monowear also uses nylon as its primary material, which means the band dries quickly when it gets in contact with water.

In comparison to Apple’s Sport Loop, the Nylon Active band doesn’t stretch, and it doesn’t have the dense loops that add extra padding and make Apple’s band slightly more comfortable to wear. On the other hand, the lack of stretch gives you more control over just how tight you would like the band to be.

I haven’t done any exact measurements, but I could imagine that the Active Nylon Band might have a slight edge regarding the accuracy of the heart rate monitor over Apple’s Sport Loop.

Nike Volt Sport Band

Nike Volt Sport Band

Nike Volt Sport Band

 Highlights
  • Perforations improve breathability
  • Comfortable and soft
  • Shares many characteristics with its cousin, the Apple Sports Band

$49.00 from Apple

The Nike Sport Band is the best looking watchband I have seen so far. I fell in love with the perforated design when Apple announced it during a keynote presentation a few years ago.

Other than that, the Nike Sport Band shares many of the characteristics with the original Apple Sports Band. That means, Apple and Nike use a Fluoroelastomer as the primary material and a pin-and-tuck closure for a secure fit. You can purchase the Nike band for $49 in all Apple retail stores. Unfortunately, Amazon only sells cheap knockoffs of this band, so beware.

Nomad Sport Strap

Nomad Sport Strap

Nomad Sport Strap

 Highlights
  • Made from Vulcanized LSR silicone
  • Antimicrobial and hypoallergenic
  • Comfortable to wear and waterproof

$39.95 from Nomad

The Nomad Sport Strap is the latest sports band in my collection, and I have grown rather fond of it. The vulcanized silicone Nomad uses, is incredibly comfortable because it stretches. As a result, you can wear the watch relatively tight without feeling uncomfortable.

Additionally, the silicone of the strap has antimicrobial properties, which reduces the chance of bacterial growth from your sweat and dead skin cells. I have also found the watchband to be easy to adjust, but it takes some getting used to close the loop with one hand.

Sunkong Apple Watch Band

Sunkong Apple Watch Band

Sunkong Apple Watch Band

 Highlights
  • Hybrid design using silicone and leather
  • Flexible and comfortable to wear
  • Practical and elegant

$23.95 on Amazon

The hybrid Sunkong Apple Watch band has a water-resistant and sweat-proof silicone lining, but the top material is leather. That unique combination makes the band incredibly comfortable to wear, yet elegant enough for everyday wear. I have been wearing this strap for the past week and like how it feels on my skin. I have worn it during a couple of CrossFit workouts and sweated all over it.

The grooves on the inside collected some dirt, but I just rinsed the band off under warm water and wiped it dry with a cloth. Even though the top leather is nothing fancy, I wouldn’t take the band into the shower with me.

If you don’t like to wear a traditional workout (rubber) strap all day or you are sick of swapping bands back and forth, the Sunkong could be the idea watchband for you.

Twelve South ActionSleeve

Twelve South ActionSleeve

Twelve South ActionSleeve

 Highlights
  • Ideal for certain types of workout
  • Comfortable and easily adjustable
  • Improves reliability of heart rate sensor

$29.99 on Amazon

Long before Twelve South had released ActionSleeve, I noticed an issue with wearing the Apple Watch for particular types of exercises. Specifically, during Crossfit-inspired exercises, such as weightlifting, push-ups, etc. It happened on more than one occasion that I accidentally pushed the digital crown of my Apple Watch while bending my wrist. In other instances, I banged a kettlebell against my Apple Watch. More importantly, every time I bent my wrist, the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor would lose contact with my skin, resulting in an unreliable reading.

Heart rate monitor: Wrist vs. Biceps

ActionSleeve - An innovative Apple Watch workout armband

ActionSleeve – An innovative Apple Watch workout armband

The Apple Watch monitors my heart rate to count the calories I burn during an exercise. Generally speaking, the higher my heart rate, the more calories I burn. The problem with weight exercises is that my heart rate goes down relatively quickly once I complete the set. So if the Apple Watch doesn’t get a good reading during the exercise, it may not catch my increased heart rate. As a result, my calorie count is way off.

The only way to solve the problems I have mentioned above is to move the Apple Watch away from the wrist. That’s precisely what the ActionSleeve does by allowing you to strap the Apple Watch to your biceps or upper arm.

Best workouts for ActionSleeve

I haven’t used the ActionSleeve for running or jogging. For me, it’s more comfortable while running to glance at the screen of my Apple Watch on my wrist than on my biceps. Instead, the ActionSleeve is best suited for workouts that involve bending my wrists, wearing gloves, or using weights, such as kettlebells. That’s where ActionSleeve shines by protecting the Apple Watch against nicks and scratches and ensuring a reliable heart rate reading.

Also, right after Apple had released the Apple Watch, reports transpired of unreliable heart rate readings in combination with tattoos. I don’t have a tattoo, but if your wrists are inked, but you have an empty patch of skin on your biceps, the ActionSleeve may be for you.

Apple Watch Sport Bands Review

My wife has been happily using the original Apple Sports Band for CrossFit since she got her Apple Watch and never complained about the watch being too loose. The fit depends a little bit on the thickness of your wrists and how that matches up with the pinholes on the strap. I have been happy with both the Apple Sport Loop and the Nomad Sport Strap for most exercises, but I rely on my Meridio bands for a more fashionable look. Occasionally, I use the Twelve South ActionSleeve when I know I’ll be bending my wrists or using kettlebells. In conclusion, all the Apple Watch sports bands in this review are comfortable and do an excellent job of keeping the Apple Watch and its heart rate sensor in close contact with your skin.

If you are in the market for a new fitness watch band, or if you are just looking for different Apple Watch Sport band colors, I hope you found this review useful. If you know of another Apple Watch sports band that I should include in this review, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

About the Author Michael Kummer

I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in Alpharetta, GA. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow the Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else.

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