There are lots of different wearables for all types of users. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 will suit your needs. But if you’re an athlete that would like something more powerful — something that can track your long runs and not skimp on the handy watch features — what are your options? Today, we’ll walk you through our list of the best running watches.

Buying the right running watch for your needs

If you’re a runner and need something that will accurately track your routes, has an easy-to-read screen, a built-in heart rate monitor, and GPS, this list is for you. Some of the options on here are pricey, but that’s par for the course in this segment of wearables.

Everybody needs something different out of their GPS running watches, so we’ve listed each model in a different category to help you choose the right device for your needs.

  • The Garmin Forerunner 745 is the best running watch you can buy. A close second is Garmin’s pricier running watch, the Forerunner 945.
  • The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is the best mid-range GPS running watch thanks to its onboard music storage, accurate fitness tracking, and slim design.
  • The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch for running you can buy. It has a fantastic display, support for lots of third-party apps, and tight integration with Apple’s ecosystem.
  • The Polar Vantage V2 is the best running watch for triathletes, thanks to its useful recovery features and long battery life.
  • The Coros Pace 2 is the best cheap GPS running watch, coming in at around $200. It has long battery life and support for running power metrics.
  • The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker for running. It’s accurate, slim, and customizable.

Garmin Forerunner 745: The best running watch

garmin forerunner 745 fitness watch

The Garmin Forerunner 745 is our pick for the best running watch you can buy. Its combination of training and smartwatch features make the 745 stand out as the “goldilocks” running watch from the company. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s $100 cheaper than the Forerunner 945, which some people might find the benefits of which aren’t worth the $100 premium. The 745 is nearly the same as the 945, only without offline maps, less onboard storage, and shorter battery life.

The Forerunner 745 features Garmin’s PacePro and ClimbPro modes, training load focus stats, heat and altitude acclimation, and of course now-staple features in Garmin devices like Body Battery, all-day stress tracking, a pulse oximeter, Garmin Pay, music storage, and more.

Read more about the Forerunner 745 in our list of the best Garmin watches you can buy.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: The best mid-range GPS running watch

garmin forerunner 245 music running watch running screen gps

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is the best running watch in the mid-range price segment. The Forerunner 245 Music comes with an accurate heart rate sensor and GPS tracking, as well as fantastic sleep insights, music storage, Garmin Coach training plans, a pulse oximeter, and week-long battery life.

If you’re looking for a GPS running watch that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is probably your best option.

Any downsides? A few. It doesn’t have Garmin Pay, and there’s no barometric altimeter on board.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music.

Apple Watch Series 6: The best smartwatch for running

apple watch series 6 review on wrist watch face display

The Apple Watch Series 6 is one of our favorite GPS running watches, and overall it’s one heck of a fitness tracker. Heart rate monitoring is unmatched compared to other wrist-based heart rate sensors, and GPS performance is solid too. We do think Apple’s new sleep tracking metrics are too basic, but you can always download a third-party sleep tracking app if you need.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Apple Watch Series 6.

Polar Vantage V2: The best running watch for triathletes

polar vantage v2 best polar running watches

The Polar Vantage V2 is the company’s new flagship running watch, and it’s aimed squarely at triathletes. It matches the new Polar Grit X in features, but also offers Recovery Pro; running, cycling, and leg performance tests; and onboard music controls (though no music storage). It’s also quite light on the wrist.

If you want everything Polar has to offer in one sleek, lightweight running watch, the Polar Vantage V2 is the watch for you.

Read more about the Polar Vantage V2 in our list of the best Polar watches.

Coros Pace 2: The best cheap running watch

coros pace 2 gps multisport watch

The Coros Pace 2 is our pick for the best cheap running watch. The Pace 2 goes head to head with Garmin’s Forerunner 45, but we think the Coros watch edges it out just slightly.

The standout feature is its long battery life: 20 days with regular use or 30 hours in GPS mode. It also offers running power metrics and support for Stryd power meters — a feature that’s not often found at this price point.

Speaking of price, it’s just $200. Sure, there are hardly any smartwatch features, but the Coros Pace 2 has got it where it counts.

Learn more about the Coros Pace 2 in our list of the best Fitbit alternatives.

Fitbit Charge 4: The best fitness tracker for running

fitbit charge 4 review watch face on wrist 2

The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker you can buy, period. Fitbit didn’t need to do much to achieve this title again, but it managed to fix all our gripes with the Charge 3 and keep it at the same price point. The built-in GPS is a welcome addition, as is Fitbit Pay being standard across all models.

It’s impressive how many sensors Fitbit was able to cram into the Charge 4, considering its small size. If you want a GPS-enabled fitness tracker, the only device you should consider is the Fitbit Charge 4.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Charge 4.

Honorable mentions

There are hundreds of GPS running watches available today. The ones on this list are our favorites, but we’ll also list a handful of options down below to help you find what you’re looking for.

  • Garmin Venu and Garmin Vivoactive 4: The Garmin Venu and Vivoactive 4 are fantastic mid-range multisport watches. They’re pricey, but definitely worth the cost for those who do a variety of sports.
  • Garmin Forerunner 45: At under $200, the Forerunner 45 just nearly made our list. This watch is a basic, cheap running watch for beginners.
  • Polar Ignite: The Polar Ignite is essentially the baseline Polar watch. It’s not the most advanced running watch, but it does have built-in GPS, Polar’s FitSpark training suite, and VO2 max estimates. 
  • Suunto 7: It may be overpriced for a GPS running watch, but the Suunto 7 is the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy for fitness tracking.

Why you should trust the editor

Not only does Jimmy Westenberg love wearables, he loves helping people find the right devices to suit their needs. He’s been our resident fitness reviewer at Android Authority since 2016, and in that time has reviewed dozens of fitness products and other wearables.

Through his rigorous testing of fitness products and deep knowledge of health devices and services, you can rest assured knowing Jimmy will give you honest recommendations.

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