A running watch is an incredibly important training tool for an athlete. Not only does it track your steps (did you get 10,000 today?), but it helps athletes maintain pace and help track routes, heart rate and calories. What’s more, it provides you with information on how to properly recover. The best running watches even allow you to stream music from your watch to a set of wireless earbuds.
The most serious runners and athletes are concerned about the data, which is why a feature-filled watch is a must-have item. They provide a way to see if you are working hard enough, or working too hard during your workout by measuring heart rate. They can also help you discover the running pace that’s perfect for your training and when you need to ramp up your workouts. In a data-driven world, running watches are a great barometer for an athlete’s physical training.
To be honest, though, you don’t have to be a top-tier athlete to wear a running watch. Why? Because the best running watches today are stylish and wear like great timepieces. Most of them are able to connect to your phone via Bluetooth, so you can receive texts, and notifications from your phone without having to dig in your pocket for it. Running watches are a great mix of hardcore utility and elegant style.
Here are some of our picks for best running watches.
1. Fenix 6 Series
It would be much easier to describe what this running watch can’t do, because it is packed with so many features. Runners can leave their phones at home thanks to onboard music storage. And don’t worry about this watching running out of battery mid-run. With a battery boost from sunlight (solar power), it can go over 14 days without an actual charge. And let’s not forget about PacePro to keep your pace steady as well as advanced mapping technology. Told you it would’ve been easier to talk about what this watch can’t do.
2. Apple Watch Series 6
The Series 6 watch is the most impressive and stylish Apple Watch to date. With advanced sensors that measure your blood oxygen levels, you can track your overall wellness even when you aren’t pushing your physical limits. Of course, when it comes to runs, it accurately tracks that data as well. You can listen to music right on your watch and use GPS to track your distance. And with the Always-On Retina display, you will be able to see your progress no matter how bright the sun is. We see you Apple, and you look damn good.
3. Fitbit Versa 3
Beyond running, this watch is great for general wellness. It has onboard music storage and GPS to help you run and log your miles, but there is so much more to the Versa 3. Sleep tracking provides insight on your sleeping patterns and helps you recover after long runs. While you’re running or working out, Active Zone Minutes will alert you when you are in your target heart rate zones. You’ll know when to push it, and when to dial it back. When you’re not training, it’s simply a good looking smartwatch with capabilities like contactless payments and phone calls, texting and voice assistance.
4. Forerunner 245 Music
AFFORDABLE RUNNER + MUSIC
You don’t have to fork out the money for a Fenix if all you really want is a running watch that stores music. The Forerunner 245 not only plays tunes so you can leave your phone at home when you run, but it also has GPS tracking to map out your routes and distance. The “Garmin Coach” helps you plan out a training regimen to get the most from your runs. While Running Dynamics measures statistics like cadence, stride length and balance which can help you unlock your best running performance. Not bad for an affordable running watch. Not bad at all.
5. Polar Vantage V
GREAT BATTERY LIFE
Overtraining can put athletes on the pine. The Polar Vantage V reduces the risk by measuring cardio load and muscle load to push you when you still have gas left in the tank, and to inform you when it’s time to back off and take it easy. This, combined with accurate heart rate monitoring technology, can help any athlete training smartly. And on the days of your long run, you’ll appreciate the lengthy 40 hours of battery life with GPS active. The only downside is it doesn’t play music. Beyond that, it’s one of the most accurate and beneficial running watches available.
6. Forerunner 45S
AFFORDABLE RUNNING WATCH
Some running purists think it’s a sin to listen to music while running. While we don’t know about all that, the Forerunner 45S is a reliable and accurate running watch with plenty of GPS and other running measurement data sans music. The seven-day battery life is plenty for even the most serious distance runners and the “Garmin Coach” can help you plan out a training calendar to maximize your workouts. All this training goodness will only run you about $200.
7. Fitbit Sense
Much like the Apple Watch Series 6, this takes your overall health to a whole new level. Of course, you can track your runs and miles with GPS tracking. But temperature sensors and ECG sensors monitor your body’s reactions to stress, and the way your heart is functioning. And it has similar oxygen saturation measurements as the Apple Watch. Health is wealth, and the Fitbit Sense helps you stay on top of yours.
8. Suunto 7
GREAT FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Suunto is not your average running watch brand. Don’t get us wrong — the 7 is a fantastic running watch thanks to free offline map downloads of bike and running trails, as well as a dirt-proof, shock-proof and waterproof design. And the built-in GPS is among the most reliable around. But when you decide to switch it up to go for a monster hike in the mountains, or a long swim in the ocean, it can handle and track all of those activities too. We’ve had our eye on the Suunto 7 for over a year now, and a year later, this watch is still as badass as they come.
9. Garmin Forerunner 945
For the most serious athletes, this is the watch you want around your wrist. Despite how big the watch is, it’s lightweight, so you won’t feel it clunking around on your arm as you workout. The Garmin Forerunner 945 can tell you the weather right as you get out of bed, track the first step you take, to the last, and track where you go on the road with GPS. The real game-changer, though, is the ability to download playlists from your premium Spotify account and listen to music — without your phone. Another great thing about owning a Garmin watch is its ability to connect with a ton of third-party applications. You can choose just about any app of your liking to download your workouts and see the information in greater detail. You can expect about 26-hours of battery life when the GPS is on, which is longer when compared to most smartwatches. On top of all that, it looks fantastic, so you can still look stylish even when you aren’t training.
10. Garmin Forerunner 35
The Garmin Forerunner 35 has a squarish face similar to the Apple Watch Series 4, but it is a much more basic GPS running watch. The Forerunner 35 has simple pedometer and heart rate features, although they are both accurate. You can also track your sleep if you choose to wear it at night. The contents of the screen only display in black and white, which makes the display feel boring compared to the Apple Watch. Even though it has a simple feature set, it can still sync to your phone, so you can receive and read notifications on your watch face. Once synced to your phone, you can use it as a basic controller for music while you work out. The built-in GPS helps track how far you run and where you go, although it does take almost a full minute for the GPS to find you, which is slow compared to other watches. Finally, the battery will last nearly a full day with the GPS toggled on. While it’s not the flashiest, or most stylish watch, athletes on a budget still get a durable, and reliable running watch for a fraction of the cost of other Garmin watches.
11. Garmin Forerunner 645
There are two versions of this watch: the 645 and the 645 Music. The latter is able to download roughly 500 songs to the watch for listening without having your phone on you. The Music version costs about $50 dollars extra but is definitely worth not having to carry your phone during a run. The silver ring around the face of the watch just adds that little extra bit of flair to make the watch look so much more stylish than your standard running watch. The 645 is super accurate in terms of tracking your steps and your heart rate. So much so, that it’s a great option for athletes that prefer workout regimens based on heart rate. Almost every aspect of the Garmin Forerunner 645 is customizable, too. You can change the way the watch face looks all the way down to the way your running stats appear on the screen. It’s a great watch for most athletes and about half the cost of the Forerunner 945.
12. Samsung Galaxy Active
This watch rivals the Apple Watch Series 4 in terms of looks. It has a truly beautiful and vibrant display. Its round face is smooth and looks more like a stylish timepiece rather than a rugged activity-driven watch. Like all the watches on our list, it tracks your steps, heart rate and other workout activities. And much like the Garmin 645, it’s totally customizable. There are two major standout features: the first being you can download playlists from your Spotify premium account, and save them to the watch, so you won’t need LTE to listen to music. The other is that if you forget to hit start on your phone when you want to begin tracking a workout, it will still track it. This is a common mistake made by athletes, but the Samsung watch leaves no miles left untracked. But if you’re wearing this running watch while not working out, you are going to look great. It’s one of the most stylish active watches you can strap on your wrist.
13. Suunto Baro 9
For those who like watches with a giant face, the Suunto Baro 9 has you covered. It also sports an impressive battery life: 120 hours. If you are a runner — of the ultra marathon variety — this watch will stick with you from start to finish, which is something no other GPS running watch can say. It has over 80 sport modes (activities you can track) and is water-resistant up to 100 meters. So, if you feel like changing up your running regimen with an impact-free swim, you can do so, and track the activity.
The built-in GPS and altimeter (used to track altitude) are highly accurate. So, if trail-running or hiking is your jam, this is a great choice, as well. After your workout is complete, the Suunto Baro 9 produces in-depth post-workout data to help plan for your next workout and to help you recover properly. Unfortunately, the Suunto Baro 9 doesn’t have any music-playing capabilities. Runners who can’t go without music will need to bring along their phones. But as far as activity tracking is concerned, this running watch is stacked with features.