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Best Running Watches Reviewed
Don’t assume that the only reason that you’d need one of the best running watches is if you are a runner or a fitness enthusiast.
Yes, that is what they are made for, but they offer up so much more than the bog standard conventional wristwatch.
When you are on the look out for a watch with more tech and wizardry to aid your fitness regime or your marathon training, you might think you need to prepare yourself to pay the big bucks, especially if you want the latest bit of kit. But that’s not always the case.
Running watches don’t just measure the distance that you have traveled. They offer up so much more. This new generation of fitness watches aren’t just glorified pedometers – they utilize sensors to measure your heart rate, they have an in-built barometer, and they can work out the exact amount of calories that you need to burn based on your cardiovascular exertion. Pretty neat, huh?
Many of the most expensive GPS running watches can calculate VO2 maximum levels, meaning that it can act as your running coach, giving you advice on how to run faster or more efficiently.
A running watch can be used as part of any sort of exercise routine from swimming to cycling and from Zumba to speed walking. The focus of a running watch is very much on fitness, but with GPS coming as standard, this is a great bit of kit if you want to stay connected all throughout the day.
Check Out Our Favorite Running Watch
If you on the lookout for a new running watch or you want to upgrade your fitness tracking watch, take a look at this incredible gadgetry to whet your appetite.
Top Running Watches Comparison Chart
Best Running Watches
For a top quality GPS running watch with an incredible list of features, you can spend under $300 on a Garmin.
This stalwart of the GPS scene has been the go-to brand for satnavs and all sorts of GPS devices. Garmin is a brand that many runners and fitness enthusiasts trust.
The Garmin watch for running boasts a range of features that will keep you motivated on your run. With music streaming available, you can play your latest Spotify playlists through your watch.
With an inbuilt Garmin coach, you can enjoy bespoke training plans depending on your fitness goals. Do you want to shift belly fat? Garmin will have a plan on how to do this. Do you want to increase your endurance or improve your uphill speed? Garmin will have an idea of how to empower you to achieve your fitness goals.
While many running watches concentrate on the basics, Garmin goes one step further and looks at your stride pattern, your vertical ratio, and your contact time balance.
These advanced features that you didn’t even know that you needed can improve your running no end. Who’d have thought that a wristwatch for running could be so powerful and facilitate improved speed, running efficiency, and overall fitness?
This is a running watch that even looks out for you and has your best interests at heart. With its analytical tools, it can inform you if you are training too hard or underperforming.
The coach role that it can take empowers you to be the best runner you can be. If you only head out for a jog once in a while, this might not be the watch for you. However, if you are training for a marathon, you compete at a high level, or you really want to become athlete-esque with your running, The Garmin Forerunner 245 is really hard to beat.
This is a fantastic running watch that enables you to track your fitness goals, your runs, your routes, and your more advanced running stats. If you are a tech wizard and the thought of detailed analysis rocks your running boat, then this is the GPS running watch for you.
- GPS running smartwatch with music advanced training features
- Sync with music streaming services, such as Spotify, to easily store and play your favorite songs right from your watch
- Evaluates your current training status to indicate if you’re undertraining or overdoing it; Offers additional performance monitoring features
- Get free adaptive training plans from Garmin coach, or create your own custom workouts on our Garmin connect online fitness community
- Provides advanced running dynamics, including ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more (When used with Running Dynamics Pod or HRM Run or HRM Tri monitors (sold separately))
For just $180, you could pick up a running watch that might not quite have the feature repertoire of the Garmin, but does pack a punch when it comes to GPS, enhancing your running experience, and being a bit of kit that can keep you connected.
This Fitbit goes beyond the traditional running watch and looks into other aspects of your life to improve your overall well being.
A nifty little piece of tech, this watch will analyze your sleep patterns based on the time you spend in REM, light, and deep sleep. It will give you hints and tips on how to improve your sleep quality resulting in a more positive sense of well being. Better sleep leads to more alertness, which can lead to greater fitness and enhanced running stats.
This running watch will sync effectively to your phone meaning that you can get message, Whatsapp, and email notifications through your watch while you are pounding the treadmill or doing some strength training.
Alongside the usual calorie monitoring, heart rate measuring, and distance tracking features, the Fitbit can sync to Spotify and will allow you to download Pandora and Deezer playlists.
You can tap into Alexa and subscribe to Fitbit Premium, which gives you access to thousands of workout programs to suit your fitness goals. The personalization features of the Fitbit are great value for money considering you aren’t paying the Earth for this running watch.
- Use amazon Alexa built in to get quick news and information, check the weather, set timers and alarms, control your smart home devices and more all through the sound of your voice (third party app may be required; amazon Alexa not available in all countries)
- Based on your heart rate, time asleep and restlessness, sleep score helps you better understand your sleep quality each night; also track your time in light, deep and REM sleep stages and get personal insights
- Control your Spotify app, download Pandora stations and add Deezer playlists, plus store and play 300+ songs on your wrist (subscription required; Pandora is us only)
- With a larger display and an always on option, your information’s always a quick glance away (always on display requires more frequent charging)
- Track heart rate 24/ 7, steps, distance, calories burned, hourly activity, active minutes and floors climbed. Syncing range - up to 6.1 meters
Having been launched way back in 2017, the Apple Series 3 was seen as a revolutionary bit of kit.
While its rivals may now have surpassed it in terms of features and power, this GPS running watch is still worth considering if you want a reliable gadget for a fraction of the price of the newer models.
All Apple Series 3 watches come with inbuilt GPS as standard. This means you can rely on your watch to tell you where you are and how far you have traveled, especially when running long distances or training for a marathon or event.
It is when you have an iPhone that this watch really comes into its own. Being made by Apple, this watch wasn’t made specifically for the fitness enthusiast market – this is a technological advance that made taking calls via your watch a possibility.
The features for fitness are merely bonuses. However, if you are an iPhone user, you can sync your watch with your Sim and make calls, send messages, and listen to your favorite running tracks when heading out for a jog.
The heart rate sensor on the rear of the watch will take your pulse throughout the day and you can monitor your stats via the Apple Health App. While it won’t analyze your stride length, it will give you the basics and much more.
- Retina display
- Optical heart sensor
- Stores music, podcasts, and audiobooks
The Polar GPS running watch has a unique look when compared to its rivals. The rugged casing and interface gives it a tough mudder and extreme fitness feel. The tech is obviously marketed towards those individuals who get pumped by seeing a hefty bit of tech on their wrist.
This fitness tracking watch will monitor your activity twenty four hours a day. Which means that its unique sleep analysis tool may be the missing ingredient to helping you hone a solid sleeping schedule. Better quality of sleep means that you will be more energized and better equip to handle anything that is through at during your day.
The advanced running watch will also provide you with key metrics to empower your running. It will show you when you get tired, when you hit a slump, and the sorts of strategies you can implement to improve your running.
You can even test your fitness levels with a Polar watch through their five minute analysis of your aerobic fitness levels. With a highly bespoke running interface, the Polar is great value for money.
- Optical heart rate monitor - continuous, accurate heart rate without a chest strap via a 6 LED optical sensor
- Integrated GPS - running watch tracks speed, distance, pace and routes. Display resolution: 128 x 128
- 24/7 activity tracking - Track your daily activity, including steps, calories and sleep with the guidance to help you reach your activity goal
- Vibration alerts - be alerted with vibrating notifications of incoming calls, messages or during training and periods of inactivity
- Rechargeable Battery - three different GPS watch recording options to choose from allow for 8 hours to nearly 30 hours of training time. Rechargeable 240 mAh lithium polymer battery
If you want a Garmin, but don’t have the cash to splash on the most advanced running watches available, then the Garmin Forerunner 35 could be the perfect solution.
Think about how you can have a Garmin on your wrist analyzing your runs, measuring your heart rate, and tracking your fitness goals for under $100.
The simple GPS running watch will work out how far you have run and how fast your travel. It won’t be all-singing and all-dancing like its more expensive counterpart, but if you aren’t too fussed about detailed analytics and you are a fairweather runner, this could be the ideal bit of kit.
You still get the online Garmin community features as your data is sent there automatically after jogs and runs. It’ll measure the calories that you burn and give you the basic insight into your training successes.
While you might not be super connected to online streaming services, you can empower your running with a simple yet economical running watch.
- Easy-to use GPS running watch tracks how far, how fast and where you run
- Estimates heart rate at the wrist, all day and night, using Garmin elevate wrist heart rate technology
- Connected features: Smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, live tracking and music controls (when paired with a compatible smartphone)
- All-day activity tracking estimates steps, calories and intensity minutes and reminds you when to move
- Automatically uploads your data to Garmin Connect, our free online fitness community where you can join challenges, receive insights and share your progress as you meet your goals
Top Running Watches Features To Consider
When choosing a running watch, you need to consider the features that you will utilize. There’s very little point spending hundreds of dollars on a top of the range GPS running watch if you only ever look at how many calories you have burned and you track the distance you have run. These watches require you to analyze your running more in-depth to really hone in on the weaknesses of your running. When you have a feature list, check out the reviews of those watches that can provide you with what you need.
If you want a personalized workout, you need a GPS running watch with analytical tools. These tend to be more costly, but the information that you have on your wrist in regards to your stride pattern, stride length, aerobic exertion, and calories burned can really help you to make your running more efficient. If you are a serious runner and you want to improve your 10k personal best, the metrics are what you need.
Many people crave a watch that doesn’t look like a monolith on their hand meaning that they can only wear it when training. Many fitness enthusiasts want their running watch to double up as their everyday watch. If this is what you want, go for a watch for running that isn’t big, bulky, or too rugged looking.
Many lifestyle features can include access to smartphone apps. If you usually whip out your smartphone when you want to pay for your coffee in Starbucks, you could use your running watch instead. You could even make calls, listen to music, and write emails through the bit of tech on your wrist.
Heart Rate Monitoring
The most powerful tool a running watch has is the ability to measure your heart rate. These sensors are usually in the rear of the watch and can work well. The more expensive the watch, the more accurate this will be, but it will give you some insight into your cardiovascular fitness levels and whether you are burning as much fat as you would like.
Depending on your style of running, you may seek out barometer or gyroscope features in your running watch. When running at altitude, mountain running, or fell sprinting, these features really come into their own. They can help you detect weather changes, which could be crucial at dangerous heights. Or they could help you recognize a sudden drop in air pressure which will affect how efficiently you can run.
Fitness running watches have come on leaps and bounds in the past few years because they have morphed with the general consumer thirst for tech. Apple tapped into this with its watch that enabled syncing with the iPhone.
Everyone wants to have a gadget on their wrist that provides them with data, information, and metrics. If you are eager to jump on the running watch bandwagon, following our guide should provide you with a big head-start and further empower your running watch choice.