There are lots of different wearables for all types of users. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe a cheap fitness tracker 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 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 best running watches
- The Garmin Forerunner 745 is the best running watch you can buy. It strikes the perfect balance between training smarts and smartwatch features.
- The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the best cheap running watch. If you’re on a tight budget, this is the watch to go for.
- The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch for running. Ultimately, it’s the best smartwatch you can buy, too, if you own an iPhone.
- The Polar Vantage V2 is the best running watch for triathletes. It packs excellent training coverage for swimmers, cyclists, and runners.
- The Coros Pace 2 is the best running watch for training. It packs a host of metrics tuned for runners looking to improve and lengthy battery life to boot.
- The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker for runners. It’s perfect for those who want a slim running partner that also packs Fitbit’s other health tracking smarts.
Garmin Forerunner 745: The best running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is our pick for the best running watch you can buy. Its combination of training and smartwatch features makes the 745 stand out as the “goldilocks” running watch. 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 55: The best cheap running watch
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the best midrange running watch you can buy. It follows Garmin’s typical update strategy — the Forerunner 55 is essentially a cheaper Forerunner 245 with hardware similar to the Forerunner 45 line.
The 55 looks much more like Garmin’s other Forerunner devices; you no longer need a screwdriver to remove the straps. Battery life has been improved from the 45 series from seven days to two full weeks. Garmin brought many of its existing training features to the Forerunner 55, including PacePro, Race Predictor, Recovery Advisor, cadence alerts, daily suggested workouts, and new sport profiles.
- Improved design with easily removable straps
- Fantastic 2-week battery life
- Race Predictor and cadence alerts are helpful additions for runners
- Great value
- Excellent heart rate and GPS performance
- Sleep tracking accuracy is questionable
- Display could be improved
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 55.
Apple Watch Series 6: The best smartwatch for running
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. 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.
- Premium design and accessories
- Big, bright screen with always-on display
- Stellar heart rate monitoring
- Accurate, reliable GPS
- Unmatched app support
- Sleep tracking is too basic
- Battery life could be better
- No third-party watch faces
Check out our full review to learn more about the Apple Watch Series 6.
Polar Vantage V2: The best running watch for triathletes
The Polar Vantage V2 is the company’s flagship running watch, and it’s aimed squarely at triathletes. It matches the new Polar Grit X in features and 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 running watch for training
The Coros Pace 2 is our pick for the best running watch for training. The Pace 2 goes head to head with Garmin’s Forerunner 55, but we think the Coros watch edges it out just slightly in training features.
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
The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker you can buy. 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 could 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. Although, keep an eye out for the launch of the Fitbit Charge 5, coming this September.
- Sleek, customizable design
- Good battery life
- Fitbit Pay standard on all models
- Sleep tracking is fantastic
- (Mostly) accurate GPS and heart rate sensors
- Finicky inductive button
- GPS can take its time to lock-on
- The heart rate sensor can be laggy
Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Charge 4.
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 2: The Garmin Venu 2 is a fantastic mid-range multisport watch. It’s pricey but definitely worth the cost for those who do a variety of sports.
- 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.
- Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: Many of the Forerunner 245 Music’s features have made their way to the Forerunner 55. But if you want onboard music storage on a midrange running watch, the 245 Music is still your go-to.
- Garmin Forerunner 45: Buying last-gen tech is a good way to save some money. The Forerunner 45 is still a solid running watch, now available for around $150.
- 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.