For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
For athletes, recovery is a critical key of the training puzzle. Everything from the previous night’s sleep to time spent sitting at the office can make or break a workout. But tracking those non-training hours can prove tricky. Though some wearable tech pieces collect metrics of recovery, such as sleep quality, body temperature, and heart rate, the accuracy of such products can be hit-and-miss. But a newer, tinier trinket aims to change that – the Oura Ring, a finger-worn monitor that serves as both a recorder and coach of your recovery hours.
Unlike chest-strap heart rate monitors and wrist-worn activity trackers, which focus more on the duration and intensity of your workout, the Oura Ring is exclusively for evaluating the things you can do to balance your training load.
Marketing itself as “the world’s most advanced wearable,” the Oura Ring packs a lot of tech into a tiny ring. On the inside of the band are infrared LED lights to measure pulse, while a small sensor takes the wearer’s body temperature every minute. The ring also contains a gyroscope to track movement (or lack thereof). All of these data points come together in the Oura smartphone app, which syncs to the ring via Bluetooth connection. Within the app are a variety of “coaching” tips based on a person’s activity and sleep quality.
Data geeks using the ring will appreciate the ability to see detailed breakdowns of sleep quality, including time spent in deep, REM, and light sleep. With consistent tracking, the ring can help point out patterns in sleep and recovery that may help (or hinder) athletic performance. The app also takes a “big picture” approach to recovery by compiling sleep, activity levels, body temperature, and resting heart rate to assign a daily “readiness score,” a simple way to know the state your body is in.
Pros of the Oura Ring
- The Oura Ring app is intuitive, and therefore easy to use. There are clear explanations for every metric, along with customized recommendations for things like a bedtime that suits your daily rhythms and sleep needs.
- The body-temperature metric is a fascinating addition, allowing users to track early signs of overtraining or impending sickness.
- Female users will appreciate the use of temperature to track stages of the menstrual cycle and account for hormone fluctuations in athletic performance.
- The ring keeps an eye on your time spent sitting, and sends a prompt to get up and stretch when you haven’t moved for a while – perfect for desk jockeys.
- Though the ring pairs with a smartphone using Bluetooth connection, it doesn’t require a 24/7 connection. The ring stores data on its own for up to six weeks, then automatically downloads to the app whenever the phone is in range again.
Cons of the Oura Ring
- Though the ring is indeed small compared to its wrist-worn wearable tech counterparts, it’s still bulky on the finger. It’s not so noticeable during sleep hours, but during the day, it can be uncomfortable.
- On users with darker skin tone, the ring’s consistency and accuracy in tracking may diminish; this is a common issue within wearable technology utilizing LED lights.
- Though most recommendations made by the app are sound, they’re also sometimes unrealistic – a 7 p.m. bedtime just isn’t feasible for the majority of adults.
- Starting at $299 for a “silver” ring, which is only silver in color, the price is pretty steep. The advanced technology could warrant a high price tag, but the ring itself looks and wears like a plastic fashion ring.
So is the Oura Ring worth the $299+ price tag? That’s a difficult question to answer. Though there’s certainly value in prioritizing sleep and recovery, most people already know the advice Oura gives – go to bed earlier, take steps to ensure better sleep quality, and keep tabs on your heart rate to predict overtraining. But for those who want detailed data and personalized feedback, the ring provides a fascinating look into how the body is responding to training.