Of all the running watches we examined, the Garmin Forerunner 245 was our Best Overall running watch. It has exceptional technological capabilities and monitors advanced running dynamics.
Let’s get started with our best running watches guide.
Best Overall Running Watch
Garmin Forerunner 245
A high-functioning Garmin at an accessible price? You’ve got it with the Garmin Forerunner 245. It provides users with detailed fitness tracking and long and short-term training analyses.
The Forerunner 245 comes in two different versions, one with music storage of up to 500 songs. Both the Forerunner 245 Music and the Forerunner 245 have one or two-hour-long GPS tracked activities per day. The battery life lasts an impressive seven days for the smartwatch version and 24 hours for the GPS mode.
For a slightly higher price tag, the Garmin Forerunner 645 comes with extra sensors and unique features like the barometric altimeter, great for tracking elevation. The gyroscope and thermometer make it ideal for sports like skiing, hiking, and golfing.
- Evaluates advanced running dynamics
- 7-day battery life
- Precise GPS
- A learning curve on the watch’s feature
Runner Up for Best Running Watch
If you’re looking for an impressive three-in-one watch, fitness tracker, and smartwatch, the Polar M600 Sport Smartwatch is an excellent choice. Equipped with an optical heart rate monitor, it tracks your daily activities against your set fitness goals. It’s also fully waterproof and works with IOS and Android watches.
Polar made the M600 with quality in mind, sporting a Gorilla glass watch face and a soft silicone band. Overall this watch is attractive, practical, and enhanced by the sharp colour touchscreen.
- Built with high-quality materials
- Built-in heart rate monitor
- A bit bulky
Best of the Best Running Watch
With Garmin smartwatches, the price translates to advanced features, and this one is no exception. The Garmin Forerunner 945 is a top-of-the-line, triathlon-focused smartwatch. The software installed on the watch is simply incredible. A barometric altimeter tracks elevation changes and a pulse oximeter aids in acclimatization.
It’s equipped for a wide range of sports, having topographical maps, and is compatible with Garmin’s trip-planning software. This state-of-the-art smartwatch has an impressive 2-week battery life. It can be connected with Bluetooth headphones to play songs, too.
- A multitude of features in a compact watch
- Onboard maps
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring
- Straps hard to remove
Best Touch Screen Running Watch
If you’re seeking a watch that balances form and function, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 should be on your radar. It gives accurate insights about breathing, sleep, stress, and heart rate. More than that, though, it comes with motivating training plans and on-screen workout animations.
Go beyond fitness tracking with contactless payments and onboard music storage. Enjoy this stylish and attractive watch that will take your workouts to the next level.
- Underwater optical heart rate monitor
- Tracks respiration
- Preloaded with over 20 sports apps
- Uses many smartphone apps
Best Features under $300 Running Watch
Whether you’re an advanced or beginner runner, the Polar M400 GPS watch is chock-full of practical features. The smartwatch tracks your heart rate, sleep, and steps, which encourages you to stay active. For an extra reminder, the watch has inactivity alerts and records activity and calories in a table.
Our customers loved the M400 for its accurate GPS maps, affordable price, and quick and easy configuration. Overall, it’s an excellent tool for all health enthusiasts.
- Syncs wirelessly to your phone
- Always-on display
- Alerts you for inactivity like a personal trainer
- Not able to silence alerts or put on vibrate
Best Watch for Trail Running
The Garmin Instinct is comparable to the Fenix line but without the high price tag. Its rugged outdoor look reminds me of Casio’s line of outdoor watches, minus the bulkiness.
Like all Garmin products, the durability is unbeatable. Aside from tracking heart rate and distance covered, it also records ascent and vertical speed. You can scroll through the data screens on the trail or road, making this watch highly versatile.
- Rugged look
- Scratch-resistant screen
- Low-resolution display screen
Best Running Watch for Multisport Athletes
The Cadillac of running watches has to be the Garmin Fenix 6 Sport Watch. It takes everything from the Forerunner range and transmutes it into a more durable and robust design. Definitely more prominent than the Forerunner 945, it’s more compact than the Fenix line’s previous iterations.
The screen is the ideal size and resolution to see the plethora of run data in real-time. You have no shortage of power modes and training sessions to customize your workout. The data fields and metrics will provide more insight than ever to your workouts and adventures.
- Speedy GPS signal
- Sleek, robust design
- Highly advanced and diverse activity metrics
- Looks bigger than the Forerunner line
Best Running Watch for Adventure Sports
At the top of the Suunto line is their Suunto 9 Baro Multisport. One of the updated features from the Suunto Spartan is the optical heart rate sensor. Additionally, the band strap is universal, meaning you can remove and replace it with any watch band you like.
There is a longer battery life of 50 to 120 hours, depending on the specific setting. Our customers raved about the new GPS tracking modes and the GPS chipset provider. Overall, this stylish and technologically-advanced watch will not disappoint.
- Amazing battery life
- Optical HR sensor
- Awesome training features
- A bit expensive
Best Running Watch with Heart Rate Belt
Sturdiness and durability make the Suunto 9 GPS Watch with Heart Rate Belt a winning choice. It has all of the Suunto 9 Baro Multisport features, but instead of a wrist HR monitor it measures your ticker from the HR belt.
This option makes the Suunto 9 more affordable while still getting fantastic results. This hardcore watch is made for arduous training and extreme adventures.
- A barometer for altitude information
- Build quality is excellent
- Accurate HR belt
- A bit bulky
What to Look for in a Running Watch
Before buying a running watch, there are basic features you probably need. These include—but might not be limited to—running data such as step count, calories, and distance travelled. There are more advanced watches that also monitor your sleep, breathing, heart rate, and more.
If you’re an entry-level runner, a more basic and affordable watch can be a great introduction to running watches. However, if you’re more of an avid runner or extreme adventurer, watches with features like GPS and mapping are probably more fitting.
Heart Rate Monitor
Whether it’s built-in or through a belt, recording your heart rate in real-time is a sought after feature on running watches. When you can track your pulse and beats per minute, you can tailor your training plan effectively. You can also use heart rate zones to accelerate fat burn, speed, and endurance.
Global Position Technology, or GPS, lets you accurately record your running route. Later, you can examine your pace and elevation to improve your training. If you’re running on trails, hilly terrain, or otherwise experiencing elevation changes, GPS capability is great for recording vertical gain.
All smartwatch features are designed to optimize your racing and training experience. Some other bonus features include:
- Onboard music with Bluetooth compatibility
- Online interactiveness with apps
- Customizable workouts and training sequences
While some running watches are water-resistant, a vast majority of products on the market are fully waterproof. This may be an important feature for you if you enjoy triathlons or swimming. If you frequently run in rainy or damp weather and want extra reassurance, waterproofing is ideal.
The great part about multi-sport watches is that they can record metrics specific to the sport you’re doing. Whether you’re running, swimming, cycling, or even snowboarding or skiing, more advanced watches are available to track them.
Entry Level vs Advanced Athletes
A simple version of a smartwatch should suffice for entry-level runners. Some watches by FitBit are great for beginners. Higher-level athletes will want more layers to their workout and will thrive with watches by Garmin or Suunto.
FAQS FOR RUNNING WATCHES
Should I buy a running watch?
Running watches are a worthwhile investment for runners who are serious about improving their athletic performance. With a watch, you can accurately track your progress, optimize your training, and go off the grid.
Are running watches worth it?
Although there is admittedly an initial investment for running watches, it’s worth it in the end. They’re incredibly durable, lasting hundreds if not thousands of miles. If you like data, tracking your growth as a runner, and sharing runs with friends—a running watch is a great value product.
What is the difference between a Running Watch and a Fitness Tracker?
A running smartwatch is like an extension of your smartphone, whereas a fitness tracker is an independent device. An activity tracker has an operating system that feeds your exercise data into an app.
As you can see from this guide, smartwatches are an innovative way to elevate your runs and workouts. While the features range from basic to technologically advanced, we trust you can find one to best suit your athletic pursuits. Our top choice for a running watch is the Garmin Forerunner 245.
Explore Altitude Sports’ extensive range of running watches and change the game on your next run!