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 the 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, especially if you are training for a half-marathon or a Spartan race. 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. 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 it’s 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 with greater detail. You can expect about 26-hours of battery life when the GPS is on, which is lengthy when compared to most smart watches. On top of all that, it looks fantastic, so you can still look stylish even when you aren’t training.
2. Apple Watch Series 4
BEST LUXURY OPTION
The Apple Watch Series 4 is much more than a GPS running watch. It’s basically a smartphone on your wrist. Or at least, your iPhone’s mini partner in crime. You can get all of your text messages and notifications on your watch, make phone calls, and stream music without the use of your phone (if you pay for LTE). As far as fitness goes, it features an accurate pedometer and heart rate monitor. The built-in health app tracks your fitness via small circles on the screen that motivate you to exercise. Every bit of exercise works towards closing the circle. When you close the circle, you’ve completed your daily amount of recommended exercise. But for more in-depth workout and running statistics, we recommend downloading an app like Strava to track your workout data. You can rock your Apple Watch for about a day and a half before you need to charge it. The large, square face resonates style and luxury.
3. Garmin Forerunner 35
The Garmin Forerunner 35 has a squarish shaped 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 a 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 workout. 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.
4. 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.
5. Samsung Galaxy Active
This watch rivals the Apple Watch Series 4 in terms of look. 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.
6. Suunto Baro 9
For those who like watches with a giant face, the Suunto Baro 9 has you covered. It also spots 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 it’s 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. Runner’s who can’t go without music, will need to bring along their phones. But as far as activity tracking is concerened, this running watch is stacked with features.