The Top 10 Running Watches Reviewed
Wearing a running watch is like having a personal trainer on your wrist. While it might not push you as much as a trainer would, it does do a lot of the tasks that they might do. It will keep track of your performance, help you keep time and give you the stats that you need to motivate yourself. Running watches can have a range of functions, from GPS tracking to calorie counting, and you can use them with your favorite apps to monitor and improve your performance.
Running watches come at different price points with a wide range of options for features. Choosing a good one that’s right for you can make all the difference for your workouts. You can browse some of the big brands like Garmin or take a look at some of the outliers and newcomers that have something to offer too. Most people want their running watch to be easy to use but still offer plenty of functionality. You don’t want to have to stop your run to do something with it, so usability is key. No matter what your budget is, there’s a running watch out there for you.
Let’s take a look at some of the top options so you can find the best running watch for your needs.
For those of you in a hurry, our choice for the Best Running Watch is the Garmin Forerunner 935.
Best Running Watches
“Best Overall Running Watch”
There is only one place to begin, and this is with the Garmin Forerunner 935. There is no denying that this is one of the best sports trackers available on the market today. It boasts a lightweight and comfortable design, as well as exceptional battery life. It’s a great choice for anyone seeking sophisticated sports tracking.
Released in 2017, the Garmin Forerunner 935 has made quite the impression. It provides a huge amount of data on all of the activities you are carrying out. If you are a triathlete or a committed runner and you need the perfect training partner, you have definitely found it. This watch is the most advanced of the Forerunner range. There are cheaper models available, of course, so why spend more money on this watch? Well, what makes it different for starters is that it has been designed with both runners and triathletes in mind. You can track cycling, swimming, and running, as well as a number of other sports. And, when we say tracking, you can expect in-depth data, which is truly beneficial.
In regards to the features that are available with this running watch, you can expect a thermometer, altimeter, Garmin Elevate optical heart-rate sensor, GLONASS, and GPS. There is also support for Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ sensors, for example, cycling power meters, foot pads, and heart-rate chest straps. However, as touched upon, what truly makes this watch special is the sheer wealth of data you are going to be able to benefit from. You will be able to get sophisticated insights into your training status, enabling you to make the best decisions on whether now is the right time to train or not. Moreover, when utilised alongside a running dynamics pod that is compatible with the device, you can also expect advanced metrics to be delivered, including vertical ratio, stride length, and balance, as well as ground contact time.
- Premium GPS running/triathlon watch with wrist based heart rate;Strap material : silicone ; Smartphone compatibility : iPhone, Android, Windows; designed for sale and support in North America only
- Offers advanced running and multisport Features in a comfortable watch you can wear all day, and it only weighs 49 grams
- Provides elevation changes with a built in barometer; altimeter and electronic compass help you keep your bearings
- Evaluates your training status to indicate if you’re undertraining or overdoing it and offers additional performance monitoring Features
- Provides advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming, including ground contact time balance, stride length and more. Bezel Material Fiber reinforced polymer
“Best Running Watch For Women”
Not everyone is looking for smart technology and connectivity in a running watch. For some, the features in a smartwatch or fitness tracker can just prove to be distracting. If you prefer not to be connected to your phone while on your runs, this Timex Ironman Classic watch is a good choice for you. As a digital watch, it has useful sports features, and it’s excellent value compared to something more high-tech. This watch is a good choice if you’re looking for something that gets the job done without too many complicated bells and whistles.
This is a classic stopwatch, with the features that you would expect from one, such as split time and a 30 lap memory, a countdown timer, and an alarm. It’s water resistant up to 100m so suitable for swimming and showering and has a durable resin strap. Unlike a more high-tech watch, you won’t have to bother with charging it all of the time. In fact, it has a battery life of up to ten years. It can display two time zones and can give reminders for up to 15 occasions, plus has three customizable alarms. The backlight makes it possible to use at night or when the light makes it tough to see the display.
If you’re looking for a smaller watch as a woman or just because you have slim wrists, this Timex option is a good choice. It comes in a range of colors so both women and men looking for a watch with a smaller band can choose a style that they like.
- Adjustable gray 14mm resin strap fits up to 7.5-inch wrist circumference
- 100-hour chronograph with 30-lap memory; 24-hour countdown timer
- 3 daily, weekday or weekend alarms; 24-hour military time mode; 2 time zones; day, date & month calendar
- Silver-tone & pink 34mm resin case with acrylic lens; black digital display; Indiglo light-up watch dial
- Water resistant to 100m (330ft): in general, suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not diving
“Best Running Watch With Music”
For those who like to take music with them on their runs, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is a good option. It features music storage so that you can keep up to 500 songs on the watch and connect to Bluetooth running headphones for wireless listening. Music streaming apps are available to download too, giving you even more music to listen to. So if you want to have your music with you on your run but prefer to leave your phone behind, this watch is a smart solution.
It’s not all about the music, though. There are also other apps available to download from the Connect IQ store, and the watch comes preloaded with a variety of apps for running, as well as yoga, swimming, strength training and more. You can download and create workouts for running, cycling, strength training, and cardio. Garmin Pay gives you a contactless payment solution, so you can leave your cash and cards at home and still stop for a refreshing drink or energizing snack, or just to pick up some groceries. If you do want to take your phone with you, you can connect it to your watch so you can see text messages (and respond to them with Android phones) and social media notifications.
Waterproofed for swimming and showering, this tough watch has a Garmin Chroma Display that you can see in all lights and is protected by durable glass. It features Garmin’s Elevate heart rate monitor, and you can estimate your VO2 max and fitness age.
- GPS smartwatch with music storage and playback. Fits wrists with a circumference of 5 to 8 inches
- Easily download up to 500 songs on your watch, and connect with headphones enabled with Bluetooth technology (sold separately) for phone free listening
- Garmin Pay contactless payment solution (available for supported cards from participating banks) lets you make convenient payments with your watch, so you can leave your cash and cards at home
- Customize with thousands of free watch faces, apps and more from our connect IQ store
- More than 15 preloaded sports apps, including yoga, running, swimming, strength training and many more; The nexgadget replacement for Garmin charger is perfect compatible with our Vivoactive 3, we highly recommend it
“Best Garmin Running Watch”
Another Garmin option in the same range as the Forerunner 235, the Forerunner 35 offers a slightly more basic option that still has lots of functionality and is stylish too. This watch has connectivity with notifications, automatic data upload to Garmin Connect, live tracking, and music controls. It’s missing some of the features of some of the other watches in the same range, such as a color display, Connect IQ and advanced running dynamics. However, it still has some key features for anyone looking for more of a starter running watch who doesn’t need all of the more high-tech add-ons.
The Forerunner 35 is the only one of the more basic Forerunner watches that features wrist-based heart rate monitoring. It also has auto pause and auto lap features, as well as a step counter. It also features GPS so you can track how far and fast you’re going with ease. Thanks to the 5 ATM waterproofing, it’s great in any weather too. The Forerunner 35 is a good choice if you’re looking for a watch with a certain amount of functionality, but you’re not necessarily a serious runner who is training for a marathon or other events. It doesn’t have the advanced running dynamics or the ability to show a Strava Suffer Score, which might be essential for some people.
The watch is comfortable and offers plenty of functionality for a middle-range running watch. It’s easy to use and has everything that you need to stay motivated.
- Easy-to use GPS running watch tracks how far, how fast and where you run
- Estimates heart rate at the wrist, all day and night, using Garmin elevate wrist heart rate technology
- Connected features: Smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, live tracking and music controls (when paired with a compatible smartphone)
- All-day activity tracking estimates steps, calories and intensity minutes and reminds you when to move
- Automatically uploads your data to Garmin Connect, our free online fitness community where you can join challenges, receive insights and share your progress as you meet your goals
“Best GPS Running Watch”
This GPS watch with a 24/7 heart rate monitor gives you an “ECG” on your wrist, using the heart rhythm map. Just connect the watch up to the app and download the latest firmware to get the ECG function. Heart rate warnings let you know if your heart rate reaches dangerous or unsafe levels. Another handy function that this watch features is the fatigue function, which lets you know how tired you’re getting and when it might be time to stop. Wearers can synchronize their data to Strava.
Runners benefit from seven different running modes in this watch, as well as 17 sports modes. There’s also a sleep monitor, pedometer, stopwatch and reminder to move function. When you connect the watch to your phone, you benefit from remote camera operation, incoming calls, and message notification. You can use the app and watch to help set and track goals of various kinds, from activity to calories burned.
This is a great running watch to start with if you’re looking for plenty of features and good value. It will help to keep you motivated, with notifications of encouragement when you reach your goals so you’ll keep striving. You get a watch that doesn’t have too many complicated features but also isn’t the most basic option available.
- Built-in GPS - This GPS watch can quickly acquire satellite signals to track running distance and pace. High-end MTK2523G chip supports GPS and GLONESS satellite positioning. Variety of algorithm optimization that minimize GPS positioning distance trajectory error and actual distance error to within 8%.
- 24/7 Heart Rate Monitor - Dynamic Heart Rate Monitoring improves accuracy of real-time heart rate monitoring. 5 heart rate zones show different heart rate status and send warning reminders (zones include warm-up, fat-burning, aerobic, anaerobic and extreme).
- Smart Running Watch - 7 running modes for this fitness tracker. Free running, 12-minute cooper test/vo2max, endurance, target calories, target time and target distance. Also supports colorful night run. GPS can be used continuously for up to 8 hours while running.
- Smart Track Running & 17 Sports Modes - Smart track running & ball sports; automatically switches to the corresponding interface. Multiple sports modes: running, cycling, basketball, mountain, swimming, etc. HRV tests level of fatigue.
- Full Touch Color Screen and Smart Functions -ECG, Automatic sleep monitor, vibration alarm reminder. Auto uploads to Strava, ECG function, message and call notifications, call rejection, events, stopwatch, timer, power-saving mode, flashlight, do-not-disturb mode, alarm clock, 9 dials inside, target setting, etc. Note：Items are available, can be sold normally.
This GPS running watch comes from one of the best-known brands for sports watches and other GPS and fitness gadgets. In addition to GPS, the watch also features smart technology and Elevate wrist heart rate technology to help you keep track of your vitals. Combine the watch’s activity tracking with automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, the app and online fitness community from Garmin. Live tracking, audio prompts, and smart notifications keep you motivated during your workouts, and you can even share updates to social media. The smart notifications also make sure that you’re still connected to other important things, allowing you to connect to your phone for call and message alerts.
The Forerunner 235 is one of the more advanced options from Garmin. While other Garmin Forerunner watches only have a select few features, the 235 has almost everything and is similar to the 630. One difference to note is that the Forerunner 235 has wrist-based heart rate tracking, while the Forerunner 630 does not, and instead has a virtual pacer. The watch is waterproof to 5 ATM, making it possible to wear in a variety of environments and weather conditions. You can track your sleep, as well as your activity during waking hours, and a silent alarm gives you a comfortable way to wake up.
You get a lot of data from the Garmin Forerunner 235, and it’s easy to view and share. It’s great for wearing while running, but it might be a good idea to remember that it’s not designed to be an all-around smartwatch.
- GPS running watch with wrist based heart rate and display type is sunlight visible, transflective memory in pixel (MIP)
- Customize your watch and your training, larger screen a 44 percentage larger screen than the 225 but the same physical size
- Audio Prompts: Receive Audio Prompts from Your Connected Smartphone That Include Laps and Lap Times. Smartwatch Mode: Up to 9 days. GPS mode: Up to 11 hours
- Smart notifications: See incoming email, text messages, call alerts, calendar reminders and more from your compatible smartphone. Display size: 1.23 inch diameter
- Battery life 11 hours training, 9 days watch, activity tracking, notifications + heart rate. Refer user manual below
Next, we are going to take a look at another watch that has been designed and developed by Garmin. This is part of a different range of watches. With the Garmin Instinct, you can expect an outdoors watch with a rugged feel and build, providing all of the capabilities of fitness and sports watches.
As it has been built with the outdoors in mind, you can expect a watch that is very durable and should last for many years to come. The case and the bezel are made from fibre-reinforced polymer. Chemically strengthened glass has been used to construct the lens. In fact, it has been built to a military standard of 810G in the U.S. for water resistance up to 100 metres, as well as shock and thermal resistance. There are also silicone straps, as opposed to straps that are made from the traditional rubber. This is beneficial because it provides you with greater breathability and stretchability, ensuring a more comfortable clasp around the wrist. You may be expecting this to weight a lot. However, it is only 52 grams. A lot of people are shocked at how Garmin has been available to develop such a durable and impressive watch in terms of performance yet a watch that is also very comfortable and easy to wear.
The watch is also very easy to use. You are only going to have to master five buttons in order to leverage everything that this running watch has to offer. There are two buttons on the right and three buttons on the left. Each button has two functions, which are activated via a long press or a quick press. There are also a number of features that are incorporated into this watch, which may surprise you when you consider the minimalistic design. However, you have Galileo satellite, GLONASS and GPS network capability, as well as monitoring stress, activity, and heart rate. There are also a number of pre-set activities with this watch as well. You will be surprised by how much this watch can help you to achieve!
- Rugged GPS watch built to withstand the toughest environments
- Constructed to U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 meters)
- Built in 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter, plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Glonass and Galileo) support helps track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
- Monitor your estimated heart rate, activity and stress; Train with preloaded activity profiles. Strap material: Silicone
- Stay connected with smart notifications (with a compatible smartphone) and automatic data uploads to the Garmin connect online fitness community
8. Coros Pace
Next, we have Coros Pace, which is another type of watch that is ideal for triathletes, rather than just being suitable for runners. There are many great qualities that are associated with this running watch. This includes the affordable price, the lightweight quality of the watch, and the exceptional battery life too.
Despite not being made by Garmin, a lot of people have likened the design to one of Garmin’s products, and it is hard to disagree with that. It does have many similarities to the Forerunner range. However, it also has a lot of different qualities that make it unique too. The sporty appearance of the watch is something that very much appeals to a lot of people. Plus, the screen is big enough so that you can easily have a quick look at those all-important metrics while you are working out.
As touched upon, this is another watch that has been designed with triathlon training in mind, rather than only being suitable for runners. There are three different sports profiles to choose from – biking, swimming, and running. It is worth noting that both indoors and outdoors exercise are covered in each profile. While this watch does not cover each and every sporting activity under the sun, it does shine very brightly with regards to the three main activities that it does cover.
- Features a wrist based heart rate monitor and performance metrics for running, swimming and cycling activities
- Engineered with a power efficient central core, allowing for battery life up to 30 days in standard mode and up to 25 hours in GPS mode
- Built-in Barometric Altimeter for more accurate elevation readings. Compatible with STRAVA.
- GPS, GLONASS and BDS work together to precisely locate your position, even through interference outdoors
- Receive and control notifications from your phone, including call, text, email and other social media applications
9. Polar M430
If you are looking for a watch that is smart, simple, and very effective, you won’t be disappointed with the Polar M430. This is a tool that is very much suitable for goal-driven runners. It has all of the features you would want, and more. The company’s best-selling M400 range has simply been improved on with this version. All of the best features of the prior model still stand. However, you can also expect smartphone notifications, sleep tracking, a better GPS, and a solid wrist-based heart rate tracking feature.
This is a very capable piece of kit. You are going to get all of the basic metrics that you would expect from a standard running watch, for example, cadence, speed, distance, and pace. However, there are other unique pieces of data and advice that can enhance your workout experience. This includes recovery time advice, fitness tests, advanced sleep tracking, full daily activity tracking, and much more.
In terms of the design, it is very uncomplicated and easy to use while you are on the move. It has a no-frills, retro feel. It is also very comfortable. The light and compact design make it easy to wear while you are out and about. There are definitely snazzier options on the market but if you are looking for a classic sports feel, this is a choice you will be happy with.
- Optical heart rate monitor - continuous, accurate heart rate without a chest strap via a 6 LED optical sensor
- Integrated GPS - running watch tracks speed, distance, pace and routes. Display resolution: 128 x 128
- 24/7 activity tracking - Track your daily activity, including steps, calories and sleep with the guidance to help you reach your activity goal
- Vibration alerts - be alerted with vibrating notifications of incoming calls, messages or during training and periods of inactivity
- Rechargeable Battery - three different GPS watch recording options to choose from allow for 8 hours to nearly 30 hours of training time. Rechargeable 240 mAh lithium polymer battery
10. TomTom Runner
Last but not least, we have the TomTom Runner, and there are certainly a lot of reasons why this has become the preferred choice for a lot of athletes and runners looking to track their efforts. Not only does it feature a light and comfortable design but it comes with a motivational graphical virtual trainer and impressive QuickGPSFix technology.
If you have ever seen the SportWatch that has been designed by Nike, then the TomTom Runner does share a lot of similarities in terms of design characteristics. The display is big and visible, with a menu system that is very easy to use. You can choose from grey and pink, and it is made up of two parts. The first is the LCD display, which is scratch-resistant, and the second part is a one-touch control, which is around the GPS receiver.
Finally, there are a number of different features that come with this running watch. This includes sensors and an accelerometer, which are built-in and designed to work on the treadmill and outdoors too. You get all of the data that you would expect from a watch like this, including lap times, calories you have burned, stride length, average pace, pace and distance. You can also sync this device with a number of other devices thanks to the Bluetooth Smart support. You are also going to benefit from a new graphical training partner. This is a great feature that is all about giving you motivation and pushing you to work harder and achieve your goals. There is also regular watch features too, for example, you can set your morning alarm on here!
- GPS Running Watch: Measures time, distance, pace, calories burned, and live stats on the go; QuickGPSFix finds your location quickly so you can get going faster
- Designed for runners: ultra slim, lightweight, and waterproof watch designed for runners. An extra-large display and one button control make it the perfect runner’s watch
- Heart rate monitor pairing: pair the watch with an external heart rate monitor strap to track fitness and monitor your workout intensity
- Training programs: set your own interval training program to improve fitness and speed
- Race your past performances: compete against yourself and try to run a previous work out faster
You can choose from a range of awesome running watches if you want something to help you with your workouts. Whether you want a classic sports watch or a smartwatch, there’s something for every runner.
Recommended Running Watch Accessories
Running Watch Screen Protector
- Designed for Garmin Forerunner 235 225 620 220. Precise laser cut designed specifically to offer max body coverage.
- Greatest protection: Extremely high hardness,resists scratches up to 9H Tempered Glass with long lasting protection.
- 99.99% HD Clarity and Touchscreen Accuracy: High-response, high-transparency.
- Super easily installation: Allows adjustments during installation.Significantly reduces dust, oil and fingerprint smudges.
- 1 Retail package includes: 4pcs tempered glass screen protector for Garmin Forerunner 235 225 620 220, 4 wet and dry Screen Cleaning Paper,4 Sticker.
Running Watch Charger Port Protector
- Compatible with Garmin Fenix 5S, Fenix 5, Fenix 5X,Fenix 5S Plus, Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 5X Plus, Garmin Instinct, Impact, Fenix 6S/ 6/ 6X, Fenix 6S/ 6/ 6X Pro and Sapphire Editions
- The dust plug accessories compatible with Garmin Vivoactive 3, Vivoactive 3 Music, Vivosport, Forerunner 935
- Compatible with Garmin Swim 2, Approach S60, Approach S10, Approach X10
- The dust plug accessories compatible with Garmin D2 Charlie, D2 Delta S, D2 Delta, D2 Delta PX, Quatix 5, Quatix 5 Sapphire, Tactix Charlie, Tactix Delta
- Compatible with Garmin Forerunner 45/ 45S, Forerunner 245/ 245 Music, Forerunner 945, Garmin Venu, vivomove 3S/Luxe/Style/3, vivoactive 4S/4
Other Running Gear
While running watches are extremely useful, they can’t do everything. You will still want a good running headlight for early morning and late night running. Your eyes should be protected whenever you are in the sun by polarized running sunglasses. Parents that like to run with their child will need a running stroller to make that happen.
Getting Started With Your Running Watch
In case you decide to take our advice and get the Garmin 935, here is a helpful video showing how to get started with it: