Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the web’s best products. If you purchase through our links, we may receive a commission. Our editorial team is independent and only endorses products we believe in.
This summer, two of my friends were effusively talking about their new, “cutting-edge” fitness wearable. They were discussing their heart rates, workouts, and how they could chat with and comment on each other’s activity in an app. Their techy device sounded cool, but when I saw the wristband I was confused… Isn’t that just like a Fitbit? Doesn’t the Apple Watch replace that?
I’m a little overwhelmed by the number of different fitness trackers, running bands, smart watches, and James Bond-esque devices that are around these days. Fitbit was unique at the time of its conception because nothing like it had ever existed; in high school, I bought a Nike+ Sportwatch (which Nike has since replaced with a collaborative Apple Watch) to track the miles I ran; and now, everyone is wearing a mini smartphone on their wrist to go along with the smartphone in their pocket.
Personally, I’m trying to cut back on the little red bubbles and dings that I receive throughout the day. So, when I heard about Oura—a simple ring that tracks sleep, body temperature and fitness metrics—a few years ago after it received backing from names like Forerunner Ventures, Shaq, and Will Smith, I was intrigued. How could a ring that looks just like a wedding band pack so many cool features into such a small package?
We don't like
Measuring From The Fingers, Not Wrist
Most of the wearables currently available are designed like watches: they have a main hardware piece that’s worn on the outside of the wrist with a strap holding it in place. Honestly, it’s a bit shocking that they’re so bulky in 2022. Now, you have to choose a fitness tracker, a smartwatch, or a traditional timepiece as your wrist jewelry of choice.
Oura completely forgoes the wrist and functions as a ring. Besides the obvious form advantage, a device for a finger has strong functional plusses. In Oura’s words, when measuring heart rate, doctors “try to get as close to your arteries as possible to get the most accurate and unfiltered reading… Oura measures your signals from your fingers (right next to your arteries)...”
Finding the right Oura ring is effortless and exciting. The Oura Ring Generation 3 comes in four sleek colors: Silver, Black, Stealth, and Gold. (I chose Stealth.) The pricing structure for Oura is $299 upfront which includes a free six months of the Oura membership. After the free period, the membership is $5.99 per month.ﾠ
A popular competitor, the WHOOP band, will give you the device for free but charge a higher monthly subscription. In the long-term, Oura is less expensive. Gizmodo has a more comprehensive comparison of the two brands’ costs.
Once I received the free sizing kit, I submitted the size that fit my pointer finger and received my ring and charger shortly after.
I really appreciated the bare-bones packaging and simple setup (I don’t need any more fancy boxing!). Once your ring is charged, the Oura app walks you through an easy syncing process. At a full charge, the ring has a 4 to 7-day battery life. After everything is loaded, you’re ready to start measuring your health!
In addition to tracking your heart rate throughout the day (as well as the ability to get a real-time measurement at the tap of a button in the Oura app), Oura focuses on three main scores, measured 0 to 100, to help you understand your body on a daily basis:
Readiness combines variables like sleep, “Restorative Time,” and body signals to let you know how much your body can take on. Obviously, if you had a hyper-productive day yesterday and didn’t sleep much last night, your Readiness score will be low, and vice versa.
The Sleep score is interesting because it can tell what time you went to bed and got up, how much total time you slept, breaks in your sleep, and heart rate. It’s amazing that the ring can quantify your quality of sleep with real data, not just how much coffee you feel like you need the next day. A sample night of sleep tracking for me looked like 7 hours and 16 minutes of total sleep, with variability across sleep stages: 68% light sleep, 21% deep sleep, and 11% REM sleep. This night my sleep score was 73, which Oura counts as “good,” 85 or higher is optimal.
I found activity to be the most useful for a few different reasons. First of all, I don’t use a dedicated app or device to measure my exercise; I think it’s too complex and makes for another headache. When I went running with my ring on, it told me how many miles I ran—I didn’t have to press start or set a timer because Oura can automatically sense when you start moving, and then later you can assign a label to the activity you performed in the app. For example, on August 1st I ran for 22 minutes; I had an active calorie burn of 248 calories during that time and I can even see which parts of my run were more and less intense:
The Daily Grind
This smart ring has a lot of health tracking capabilities and is actively upgrading the software features to match the built-in hardware of the third generation ring. (Since I got mine, Oura has rolled out blood oxygen sensing.) I’ve mainly focused on sleep and heart rate as I wanted to understand how my day impacts my sleep and how well I handle different stressors throughout my day.
At the beginning of last month, my resting heart rate was in the 42-48 beats per minute (BPM) range. Never before has it been so easy to collect accurate data on aspects of our health.
My sleep was a little more inconsistent; although not where I’d like it to be, having a gauge on where it actually is helps me plan my days and bedtime more efficiently.
One of the best things about the Oura ring is its durability. I work in a restaurant, so I’m fairly liberal in my ring wearing. I definitely submerged my hands in dirty, chicken juice-filled dishes once or twice while wearing my ring and then thoroughly washed them under soap and water—Oura handled this with no hiccups in the in-app data reporting. I haven’t tried this yet, but it would certainly be interesting to collect the metrics while swimming. Thankfully, Oura is water-resistant up to 330 feet.
The biggest complaint I have is the awkwardness that the ring can cause in routine activities. Using your phone with the ring on can be a little weird at first. Since I wear Oura on my pointer finger, it can get in the way and make uncomfortable scratching when I’m typing. It’s also very difficult to lift weights, not because of my small muscles this time, but because the ring can make your grip uneven and force you to clench your hands around dumbbells. For weightlifting I just took it off.
Aside from the minor performance issues in certain circumstances (still much less than I’ve experienced with wrist wearables), the Oura ring blends pretty seamlessly into my routine. The device doesn’t interfere at all with running and other aerobic activities, doesn’t fall off when I’m asleep, and frankly I don’t notice it much throughout the day. Even as I am typing this I forgot I had it on.
The concise, easy-to-navigate app is a descriptive tool that helps me understand how my body is handling my life. And if I wanted a more prescriptive aid, I could turn on more notifications so that Oura could tell me if I’ve been inactive for too long or when it’s time to go to bed.
While Oura has plenty of different bells and whistles, it isn’t going to overwhelm you with Olympic trainer-level stats and figures, which is a good thing in my book. If you have an on-the-move lifestyle, but still want to prioritize your physical health, Oura may be the perfect option for you. Especially if you’re like me and want fewer distractions and more time to focus on getting your heart rate up and then moving on with your day.