Running is one of the most addictive sports in the world so you’re going to want to know what the best running watches are. Once you’ve run your first mile, you soon find yourself signed up to a 10km race. Then it’s the half marathon. And if you survive that, it’s onto the full 26.2 miles. For the truly addicted, the ultramarathon follows!
It’s great that running is so addictive, but this can cause problems. Some beginners do too much too soon and end up with an injury. Others become demoralised with their seemingly slow progress and hang up the towel in frustration.
With a running watch, you can design a manageable training plan and stick to it. Also, you can also learn how much recovery time your body needs. In fact, running watches can add a lot of value to your training programme…
What are the benefits of running watches?
How do running watches help you become a better runner? Well, most watches have the following features:
- Distance tracking – great for tracking your runs and motivating you to run further.
- Elevation tracking – great for trail and fell runners.
- Pace – As well as monitoring your overall pace and going for a PB (personal best), you can see which mile you ran the fastest. This information can be used to set meaningful training goals.
- Heart rate – great for monitoring fitness, tracking progress and estimating Vo2 capacity.
- Cadence (strides per minute) – this information is useful for improving speed.
- Recovery guidance – great for preventing injuries.
- Pre-programmed workouts/ Pre-set your own workouts – helps you improve your running.
- Music/podcast storage – to motivate you on longer runs!
When buying a running watch, you should look for these features. To get you started, here are 5 fantastic running watches that offer all the above.
1. Fitbit Charge 5
The Charge 5 carries on the Charge series’ legacy as a workout-friendly watch with a plethora of new capabilities and some old favourites, such as integrated GPS.
It’s made of stainless steel and sports a silicone Infinity Band with a gentle loop and tang rather than a hard plastic or metal clasp. Because of the miniaturisation of its components, it’s also 10% thinner than its predecessor. Though it has a better AMOLED display.
The Fitbit Charge 5 has a number of fitness tracking modes as well as built-in GPS, so you can monitor your runs, bike rides, and walks without having to carry your phone.
The Fitbit Charge 5 features an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, similar to the Fitbit Sense, that can monitor for indications and symptoms of atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm). This might be an early sign of heart disease, which is dubbed the “silent killer” since it presents with few symptoms at first.
Another feature stolen from the Fitbit Sense is an EDA sensor, which detects changes in your skin’s conductivity in response to stress.
The Daily Readiness score is new to the Fitbit Charge 5, and it will be visible on the Dashboard on all Fitbit devices.
The Daily Readiness score is based on three criteria, similar to the Stress Management and Sleep scores: activity/exercise, sleep length and quality, and heart rate variability (HRV), which is assessed during deep sleep. You build a personal baseline when you increase your fitness.
Based on this score, the Charge 5 will suggest a training time and intensity.
All in all, this is a superb evolution in the Charge range.
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|Fitbit Charge 5||Amazon||View Offer|
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|Fitbit Charge 4||eBay||View Offer|
|Fitbit Charge 5||Fitbit||View Offer|
2. Garmin Forerunner 745
The Forerunner 745 is the watch for triathletes You can swim, bike and run with this watch. Plus, it uses multiple satellite systems to measure your workouts with accuracy.
It holds pre-loaded activities for running, cycling, swimming, triathlons and multisport. If you need support, it’ll offer you daily workout suggestions tailored to your training load and VO2 max. If not, it’ll sync with beloved apps such as TrainerRoad and TrainingPeaks.
What’s more, it’ll stream music from popular services like Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music. Or, use your 500 song capacity to play music from your device. Which is no issues for the 1 week battery life (or 6 hours in GPS mode).
Finally, it has Garmin Pay for contactless payments on the go, if you need to stop for a light snack.
3. Garmin 55
If you’re just getting into running or want to upgrade from a basic fitness monitor, Forerunner 55 is a wise choice. It looks quite similar to its predecessor, the Forerunner 45, and while we would have loved a larger screen, it’s a design that works well in general and is especially suited to novice users. The additional programme recommendations, as well as the recommended rest intervals at the end of a workout, are excellent additions for novices. Though it has some drawbacks (mainly a lack of screen real estate for displaying comprehensive statistics) and the improvements aren’t significant enough to warrant upgrading from the Forerunner 45, it’s a fantastic way to get started with the amazing world of running watches.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 might be the watch for you if you’re becoming serious about working out or want to upgrade from a simple fitness tracker. Beginners can use this app to predict their race times, get training recommendations when they don’t follow a specific plan, and find out how much rest they should get after each workout.
Fitbits can’t compete with specialist running watches in terms of functionality, but for those switching to Forerunner 55, the touchscreen’s absence may be a challenge at first. Meanwhile, the five physical buttons are easy to use whether you are on the move, wearing gloves, or sweating. They are also clearly labeled so as to avoid confusion.
This isn’t a perfect Garmin watch (the screen hasn’t been updated since the Forerunner 45), but it is one of the company’s most accurate GPS watches, and a terrific entry point to the world of sports wearables.
4. Garmin 955
To date, this is best Forerunner. I can’t say enough good things about it. It precisely measures your parameters and presents them in a way that can help you improve your training and health and fitness.
In especially for runners and cyclists, its GPS functions are fantastic, alerting them to steep ascents and guiding them through otherwise unfamiliar terrain. In addition, the Forerunner has access to Garmin’s multi-band GPS capabilities, allowing for pinpoint accuracy.
New features like Training Readiness and Body Battery enable and promote recuperation effectively, which is crucial for everyone from casual park-runners to high-performance triathletes and ultra-runners.. A long-lasting battery, solar-powered Power Glass, and enough of storage capacity for all of your favourite music and routes underpin this entire setup.
5. Garmin 255
The Forerunner 255 has been repurposed into a triathlon watch that can handle many sports. This is a running watch, but it can now now be used for swimming, biking, and running, thanks in part to the inclusion of Garmin’s high-end dual frequency and multiband GPS chipset. In addition to being the cheapest multisport watch on the market, it’s also Garmin’s cheapest comprehensive multisport watch.
However, it would be erroneous to think that Garmin merely incorporated a few more sport profiles. Even more advanced training load and recovery capabilities, like HRV status, have been added to the Forerunner 945’s predecessor, the Forerunner 935, as well as a completely reworked daily suggested workouts function that can now lay out a full season of exercises building up to an upcoming event (or series of races). And speaking of power, it’s suddenly got some of its own. Unless, of course, you have a sensor that is suitable.
It’s like the Forerunner 745, but with much of the newness of the Forerunner 955 in the 255 series. To put it another way, there’s a tonne of fresh content here. Forerunner 955 series has a lot of the same features as the Forerunner 945 LTE, which was released last summer, as well as a few new ones that were unveiled at the same time.
6. Garmin Fenix 7
The Garmin Fenix 7 is a powerhouse. It is particularly good for fell runners because it tracks elevation very accurately. It also has a great battery life, so you can take it on long runs and hikes. It’s one of our top picks for a luxury watch for men.
This Garmin Fenix 7 watch is quite bulky and heavy due to the amount of hardware it contains. However, this does mean it can give you great insights into your running. Also, the sturdy design makes it durable in all weathers.
In addition to the basic features, it offers:
- Advanced running dynamics – it offers an incredibly detailed amount of information.
- Full-colour onboard maps, points of interest and storm alerts.
- Inbuilt GPS that lasts for 60 hours and tracks elevation with precision. If GPS is switched off, this watch has a 37-day battery life.
- Multi-sport functions – this is the best thing about the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro. It works seamlessly for many different sports so it’s great for people with lots of hobbies. If you get this watch, you might just be tempted to sign up to a triathlon!
The Garmin Fenix 7 is built to satisfy the outdoor runner, so if you tend to stick to treadmills or inner-city roads, you might be wasting your money.
Due to its rugged design, it is one of the most popular smartwatches for men.
Take a look at our favorite merchants currently selling the Garmin Fenix 7
|Garmin Fenix 7X Solar||Amazon||View Offer|
|Garmin Fenix 7 Silver||eBay||View Offer|
|Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire||Best Buy||View Offer|
|Garmin Epix Gen 2||Amazon||View Offer|
7. Coros Apex
The best thing about this running watch is its battery life. It can last up to 40 hours in GPS mode and up to 30 days in regular mode. This beats the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus!
It is a serious competitor to any Garmin offering. Heart Rate Monitor, round the clock blood oxygen monitoring, barometer, sapphire glass and compatibility with Strava and Training Peaks.
Also, some people say that the output data is easier to understand on the Coros Apex Pro compared to Garmin. So, if you are new to fitness tracking, this could be the ideal choice for you.
To learn more about this watch, check out our review, here.
8. Polar Vantage V2
Polar watches are particularly good at measuring heart rate. Heart rate data is useful for runners because it allows you to design personalized training programs. It also tells you how much recovery time you need.
You should choose this watch if you want accurate heart rate monitoring, but you don’t want to wear a chest strap.
This is also a multisport watch so you can use it for triathlons and everyday fitness tracking. The battery life is just as good as some other watches; 7 days in watch mode and 40 in training mode. Even better, you can get 100 hours in power-saving mode.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you could opt for the Polar Vantage V Titan; this has a longer battery life and is a bit lighter than the original Vantage V2.
9. Suunto 9 Peak Pro
There is no doubt that Suunto 9 Peak’s array of superb mapping and navigation functions makes it an attractive running watch. It’s a great timepiece for discovering new trails and varying up your workouts.
In testing, the Suunto 9 Peak lasted only a week between charges when used moderately, which is far less than anticipate from a GPS watch in this price range without a brilliant AMOLED display draining its juice. Still, it’s a lightweight and good-looking running watch.
10. Suunto Ambit 3 Peak GPS
Suunto offers many great running watches, ranging from $150 to $700+. Their technology is extremely reliable.
The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak GPS should be worn with a chest strap for accurate HR readings. That might sound a bit basic, but a chest strap is still the most effective way to measure HR (no matter what some watch companies tell you). Suunto products are popular with athletes because they offer true precision. They do not pretend to offer things they cannot deliver.
Suunto watches offer excellent battery life. You can also charge them using a smartphone power cable.
The output data is very impressive and is geared towards serious athletes.
So, if you want to take your running-game from mediocre to competitive, the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak will help you achieve this!
To help you decide between Suunto and Garmin, check out our review, here.
11. Garmin Forerunner 945
The Garmin Forerunner 945 has everything a runner could want and more. It has precise location tracking and biometric data, plus a handful of genuinely useful fitness apps to optimize your runs. For pro runners, we also suggest looking at the 945 LTE model for the added connectivity while running.
The Training Load Indicator monitors your training over the preceding seven days and informs you if you should ease up to prevent overtraining or push harder to improve. This, combined with the Body Battery function, determines how well recovered you are from the previous day’s exertions, allows you to significantly increase the effectiveness of a run.
The full-color on-screen maps make navigation is easy on the large display. And the vast level of customization available is impressive. It is extremely simple to create your own interval sessions based on time or distance, for example.
The Garmin Fenix 7 has a sleeker design, but the Forerunner 945 compensates with a much lower price and is an excellent fitness tool for serious athletes.
12. Fitbit Sense
While some Fitbit fans are anticipating the launch of the Fitbit 2 at some point in 2022, the original Fitbit Sense is still a good option if you want a watch for running. Some of the main components of the Fitbit Sense include stress management, heart rate sensors, and general sports modes too.
If you are running to get fit, the Sense is also a great companion. With an EDA scanner, an EKG monitor, and various heart health metrics the Fitbit Sense can help you reach your personal best in no time. When you purchase a Sense you also get access to six free months of Fitbit premium. This app helps users access fitness games, sessions, log their sleep quality, and meditation tools too.
This watch is also comfortable to wear whilst out and about, so there’s no need to worry about it weighing you down while you’re on the go. Unlike other Fitbit models, this watch features a square screen design for a clearer display and a modern look too.
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|Fitbit Sense||Target||View offer|
13. Fitbit Charge 4
The Fitbit Charge 4 is a great option for someone who wants to start running as part of a healthier lifestyle but doesn’t require the advanced tracking metrics of a multi-sports watch.
The major difference between the Charge 4 and its predecessor is onboard GPS, which allows you to track your runs without needing to bring your phone. It isn’t as precise as a Garmin but it will suffice for novice runners.. You can see all of your fitness results clearly on the Fitbit app, and you’ll get a weekly roundup to keep you motivated.
If you have a Fitbit Premium account, you can also access a variety of at-home strength and stamina workouts to supplement your running training (an optional but valuable extra). The device itself has all the necessary features, making it an excellent running watch for those on a tight budget.
The Fitbit Charge 4’s only shortcoming is that it’s primarily controlled by tapping and swiping on its small display. It’s great for everyday use, but when you’re racing, a physical button is easier to press.
14. Apple Watch 6
While the Apple Watch 6 won’t offer as much training data as the dedicated running watches on this lineup, its sports tracking features will satisfy if you’d like to exercise run for fun rather than competition.
Athletes will be interested in the new SpO2 tracking feature because it provides guidance on potential breathing issues overnight and metric for analyzing overall cardiovascular health. Even if it isn’t as precise as VO2 max, it’s still useful.
We like the always-on view because it lets you see your workout stats while running without needing to tinker with the touchscreen or Digital Crown.
The Apple Watch 6 is the best running watch if you need a smartwatch for everyday use. It won’t replace a dedicated sports watch for intensive exercise, but its good heart rate monitoring and support for third-party running apps (such as Strava, Endomondo, and Nike+ Run Club) make it incredibly versatile.
15. Apple Watch 7
Similar to the Apple Watch 6, the Apple Watch 7 isn’t specialized for running, but it does offer some all-around impressive fitness features. With sports mods, trackers, and more, it’s a great companion for any avid runners. The Apple Watch 7 comes with a new full QWERTY keyboard too.
The main differences between the Apple Watch 6 and 7 are:
- New and faster charging times
- Different color options
- A larger display size
- The design is more durable
These leave the Apple Watch 7 more as a better option for running than the Series 6, especially as you can read the display easier whilst on a run. However, the Apple Watch Series 6 is now cheaper, so if you want a budget-friendly Apple Watch for running this may be a good option.
The Apple Watch 7 still comes with accurate GPS, SpO2 monitors, an ECG monitor, and all of the well-loved fitness trackers. It also includes the popular fitness rings which help you stay active every day.
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|Apple Watch 8||Amazon||Check Price|
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|Apple Watch SE 2||Amazon||View offer|
16. Garmin Vivoactive 4
Is it a sexy smartwatch or a GPS running watch? It’s a hybrid! Garmin’s first device to compete with Apple Watch and Android Wear watches is aimed squarely at the design-conscious athlete.
It has all of the Garmin brainpower, including absolute GPS and heart rate tracking, multi-sport support, and music streaming for Deezer and Spotify, as do all of the best running watches.
All of this, plus a battery life of around five days (18 hours of GPS training and only 6 if you’re still listening to music, though). This running watch has a stainless steel bezel and an accommodating rubber band that can be changed if needed or wanted.
17. Polar Grit X
The Polar Grit X is intended for extreme athletes who like to venture off the beaten path. If you want a less expensive version of the Garmin Fenix 7, this could be the perfect running watch for you.
Polar is best known for its heart-rate monitoring technology, which the Grit X includes. The knowledge is put to good use, with advanced fueling tips to keep you hydrated and avoid dehydration and overtraining on long runs, as well as recovery insights to help you determine how long to rest and when to return to the race.
For training sessions, intervals, clocks, and race pace options are available, as well as Strava Live section assistance if you’re feeling particularly optimistic.
Both of these features are shared by the Polar Vantage V2, which also has some more advanced training equipment, but if those aren’t important to you and you prefer a more rugged look, the Polar Grit X is a good choice.
Do Running Watches Offer Incident Detection?
When it comes to high-quality health and fitness features, most running watches are ahead of the curve. But, where do the best running watches stand when it comes to incident detection?
What Is Incident Detection?
Before we examine which watches use fall detection software, we’ll quickly explain what it is and how it works. Incident (or fall) detection is software built into your smartwatch that can work out if you’ve fallen, and it can then call the authorities or emergency contacts to make sure you get some assistance.
Want to explore this feature more? Find out about fall detection here.
Which Brands Use Incident Detection?
Incident detection software has been around for a few years now, but not all brands have adopted this feature yet. Apple has been using this software since the release of their Series 4 model and it’s been on every watch since (including the SE model). Explore how Apple’s incident detection works in-depth here.
You can also find incident detection on a range of Garmin smartwatches too. Garmin always strives to implement the best fitness technology, so it’s no surprise that they’re at the forefront of incident detection. The Garmin watches that offer this feature include the Fenix 7 Series, Forerunner 55, 45, 245, 745, 945, and the Vivoactive 3 Music. Want to know more about the Gamin incident detection? Read our review of the feature here.
Surprisingly, Fitbit doesn’t yet offer this safety feature on any device. Fans of the brand hope to see this on the new releases in 2022, but there haven’t been any confirmations yet. Some third-party apps provide fall detection for the first generation Fitbit Ionic and Versa, but other models have no way of using this software. Read more about Fitbit incident detection here.
Which is the best of the best running watches?
Running is a popular sport so there’s no shortage of running watches out there. This means you need to be very selective.
If you want a watch that can accurately measure heart rate, choose the Polar Vantage V2 or Suunto Ambit 3 Peak (with chest strap). Remember, accurate heart rate data can help you plan effective workouts and tell you how long to recover for.
Finding a running watch that’s lightweight and feminine (but still offers plenty of hardware) can be a challenge. However, the Garmin Forerunner Music 245 fits this brief nicely.
If you are a running geek with an analytical brain, then choose a Garmin device. The data insights provided by the Garmin App are unrivaled.
Finally, if you want a watch that can track running and other activities, opt for a multisport fitness tracker such as the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus or Coros Apex.
Last Updated on December 12, 2022
Emma brings over a decade of freelance copy and content writing experience and is our Editor, Social Media Manager, and regular contributor. Specializing in long-form content such as blogs, articles, lead magnets, and white papers, Emma also provides businesses with email marketing, website copy, and landing pages.