The Top 5 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 235.
Best Overall Running Watch
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% 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
- Battery Life 11 Hours Training, 9 Days Watch, Activity Tracking, Notifications + Heart Rate. Refer user manual below
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.
- Lug Width: 14 millimeters
- Sports Stopwatch with 30 Lap Memory
- Countdown Timer & Alarm
- Durable Resin Strap with Buckle Closure
- Indiglo Light-Up Watch Dial
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
- 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; use preloaded workouts, or create and download custom ones.
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.
- Built-in GPS - built-in to acquire satellites quickly to track how far, how fast and where you run, even under tree cover. No phone required!;Water rating : 5 ATM
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring - warm gives you heart rate all day and night -no additional Strap required. sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
- Vibration alerts - helpful vibration alerts notify you of running prompts, activity tracking milestones, smart notifications and virtual pacing progress
- Updated display-new high resolution display that is perfect for indoor/outdoor viewing. Smartphone compatibility-iPhone, Android. Compatible with Garmin Connect Mobile. Display size-0.93 x 0.93 inches
- Smart connectivity - auto uploads, smart notifications, live track, music controls and automatic sw updates
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 - Auto uploads to Strava, 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.
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
- The dust plug accessories compatible with Garmin Fenix 5S, Fenix 5, Fenix 5X,Fenix 5S Plus, Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 5X Plus, Garmin Instinct, Impact
- The dust plug accessories compatible with Garmin Vivoactive 3, Vivoactive 3 Music, Vivosport, Forerunner 935
- The dust plug accessories compatible with Garmin 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
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 235, here is a helpful video showing how to get started with it: