The World Cup 2018 has got everyone talking about football. Here at TechRadar we decided it’d be the perfect opportunity to take a look at the wearable tech created to make the beautiful game even better.
Technology and football may not seem like a match made in heaven. But thanks to more advanced smarts, the game is improving. For example, luxury brand Hublot made a smartwatch specially for referees during the World Cup called the Big Bang Referee.
According to Hublot, the smartwatches “will be connected to goal-line technology, an electronic video assistance system for refereeing which follows all the trajectories of the ball and determines for certain if the ball did or did not entirely cross the goal line.”
But what we’re interested in is the fitness tech that has the player in mind and really delivers to improve your game on the pitch - for pros to amateurs to those who love a good weekend kickabout.
Whether that’s trackers created specially for football, which rate your game and keep up with your keepie-uppies, heart rate monitors to help with your HIIT and improve your overall fitness, through to our favourite all-rounder for tracking how well you’re performing both on and off the pitch.
Browse through our premiere league table of fitness wearables and find the one that’s best for you.
Zepp Play Soccer
Best for tracking the best bits of your game
One of the first football wearables on the scene, simply put the little Zepp Soccer device into a sleeve that you wear on your calf and away you go. It can track all of the most important bits of your football play, including sprints, goal conversion rate, total kicks, distance covered, max speed and lot more. The device is Bluetooth-enabled, so you can then view all of these stats from the app, which is a really simple and intuitive design. Perfect for catching up on the important stuff when you’re feeling tired and sweaty after a game.
Best for perfecting your ball skills
Oh come on, there’s a smart everything else. Did you really think there wasn’t a smart football out there somewhere? The DribbleUp allows you to practice your control, juggling and shooting skills. But technically it’s not smart. There are no sensors stuffed inside. Instead, the surface of the ball is covered in optical markers, which means you can use the app on your phone to track it as you train. It’ll then analyse your performance and provide guidance about how you can improve your skills.
Best for tracking your game (and your team’s game)
The PlayerTek system is designed for both individual players and whole teams. The Pod, the bit that does the tracking, has a built-in accelerometer to keep tabs on how you’re moving, which is then used to create really detailed visualisations and pitch heat maps that show you how you’ve been performing on the pitch and the style of your game. If your whole team wants to use the system, you can get access to an entire squad analysis dashboard, which is great for coaches who are serious about upping the performance of their team.
Best for coaching and motivation
Staying fit off the pitch is really important to players looking to work up the ranks. One of our favourite fitness trackers, the Moov Now, can monitor all kinds of activity, from swimming to boxing. But it really excels because it keeps you motivated with personalised training. Based on your movement and heart rate data, the audio guidance will do all the thinking for you, allowing you to focus on sweating it out.
Jabra Sport Coach
Best for wristband haters
When you’re chasing the ball on the pitch, working out at the gym or running outside having a tracker strapped to your wrist, or your chest, can be really annoying. We feel your pain. That’s why the Jabra Sport Coach is a great option. It’s a pair of headphones designed for working out with best-in-class noise cancellation and enhanced bass. But it’s a fitness tracker too, it can count your reps, track your every move keeping tabs on distance, pace, steps, cadence and calories burned. But the ‘Coach’ part is the really cool bit, because it can guide you through pre-prepared circuits and tell you how to improve your performance in real-time. Granted it’s not for football, but it’s ideal for football players when they’re working on their fitness off the pitch.
Wahoo Tickr X
Best for HIIT
HIIT (that’s High Intensity Interval Training) is a kind of workout where you move between different heart rate zones. A lot of HIIT classes tend to guess as you enter each, mixing up the intensity and timing. But if you’re serious about training, it’s worth investing in a tracker that alerts you when you’re in these specific zones, so your workouts are more tailored to you. There are plenty of great wrist-based devices on the market, but the Wahoo Tickr straps to your chest, which many believe is a much accurate way to measure your heart rate. It syncs up to the Wahoo app and can track heart rate, calorie burn, reps and much more.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
Best for running
There are plenty of brilliant devices on the market built for runners. What you’re looking for in a running wearable is mostly heart rate tracking, so you know you’re working out in your optimal zone, and GPS, so you can keep track of where you venture to. Most of Garmin’s higher-end watches do both of those things extremely well, but the Forerunner 645 Music is a current favourite because it packs 500 tracks worth of music into its small form factor, which is ideal if you want to leave your phone at home when you hit the road.
Strenx by GymWatch
Best for strength training
When you’re looking to up your game, strength training is just as important as cardio. So although hitting the weights section at the gym can feel tedious for those who prefer running around a pitch, it’s all part of the process. Luckily tracking your weight training has got a whole lot easier with the Strenx. This wearable keeps tabs on the weights you lift and the bodyweight exercises you complete while it’s strapped to your upper arm, from push-ups to barbell lifts to pull-ups, you can create a custom programme to keep you focused on your goals.
Get the Strenx by GymWatch here
Best all-round fitness tracker
The Fitbit Ionic is one of our favourite all-rounders for tracking your fitness, your steps and keeping an eye on your general well-being. It has GPS smarts, so it’s ideal for runners and has a bunch of pre-prepared workouts for a quick blast of HIIT or circuit training at the gym or in the park. Fitbit has also been working hard on its sleep tracking, using heart rate data to better inform its algorithm to work out what stage of sleep you’re in, how long for and the quality of your rest once you’re there. We all know sleep is a huge part of overall performance, so it’s worth tracking and improving your rest if you want better results on the pitch.
TechRadar's World Cup coverage is brought to you in association with Honor.
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Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.