Running is one of the most addictive sports in the world. 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.
This is where running watches come in…
With a running watch, you can design a manageable training plan AND stick to it. 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?
Running watches are “the thing” to have, but how do they 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. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
This watch has “runner” in its name, so it must be a winner, right? Well, on balance, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is one of the best value watches for runners.
There are 6 “Forerunner” watches in the series, ranging from beginners to advanced. The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music sits in the middle of this range. It is ideal for keen runners who want to improve their speed, time and distance.
This watch offers all the basics (pace, distance, heart rate) and allows you to store up to 500 songs. It also has some great extras, including:
- Pace alerts
- Advanced training programmes – to improve performance
- Measures your running dynamics -this is like the gait analysis offered by some running shops. You need to purchase one of Garmin’s running accessories to measure running dynamics (a chest strap and/or waist clip).
- Measures anaerobic and aerobic training
- Gives a recovery time estimation – helpful for preventing injuries
This watch is geared towards improving your running performance. It cannot provide very advanced data (such as lactate threshold) but it offers plenty of insights for the keen runner. It is also lightweight and stylish, making it a suitable smartwatch for women.
One of the downsides is that it’s not great for measuring swims and cycles. If you are looking for a triathlon watch then consider the Garmin Forerunner 945 (or one of the devices below).
2. Garmin Fenix 5
The Fenix 5 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.
The Garmin Fenix 5 is quite bulky and heavy due to the amount of hardware it contains. On the plus side, this does mean it can give you great insights into your running. Also, the sturdy design makes it durable in all weathers.
It is one of the priciest running watches out there, but you can see why. In addition to all 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 24 hours and tracks elevation with precision. If GPS is switched off, this watch has a 12-day battery life.
- Multi-sport functions – this is the best thing about the Garmin Fenix 5. 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 Fenix 5 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.
3. Coros Apex
If you are on a tight budget, you might want to consider the Coros Apex. This watch has only been around for a couple of years, but it has quickly made a name for itself.
The best thing about this running watch is its battery life. It can last up to 35 hours in GPS mode and up to 30 days in regular mode. This beats the Garmin Fenix 5!
Although this watch does not provide as many data insights as the Garmin series, it does provide a lactate threshold measure. This is something only the more expensive Garmin devices offer.
Also, some people say that the output data is easier to understand on the Coros Apex compared to Garmin. So, if you are new to fitness tracking, this could be the ideal choice for you.
4. Polar Vantage V
Polar watches are particularly good at measuring heart rate. Heart rate data is useful for runners because it allows you to design personalised training programmes. 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. Having said that, the battery life is not as good as some other watches so you might end up losing someone of your health data.
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 V.
5. Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Suunto offers many great running watches, ranging from £150 to £700+. Their technology is extremely reliable.
The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak 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!
Which running watch should I choose?
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 V 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 unrivalled.
Finally, if you want a watch that can track running and other activities, opt for a multisport fitness tracker such as the Garmin Fenix 5 or Coros Apex.