Looking for the best running watch? With so many options available, it can be tough to make the right choice. That's where we come in!
Running watches go beyond some of the best fitness trackers more often than not as they usually come with features tailored towards running specifically. Sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and built-in GPS systems alongside large displays are all usually included to help optimise your training and improve performance, with your key health metrics shown right in front of you to help keep track of progress.
Top brands like Garmin and Fitbit offer a range of devices with unique features, such as on-screen displays and tracking for different running surfaces. So, with an abundance of options out there, we've compiled a list of our top picks based on price, reviews, and standout features to help get you started.
From the popular Polar Vantage V2 to the advanced Garmin Forerunner 965, we've got you covered. Plus, we've answered frequently asked questions about running watches to help you make an informed decision. Ready to take your fitness to the next level? Check out our list of the best running watches available now...
Best running watch
1. Garmin Forerunner 965
Best running watch overall
Arguably one of the best watches under 1500, this Garmin Forerunner 965 is a serious bit of kit if you're into long-distance running, short sprints, and even triathlons.
It features a bright, touchscreen, AMOLED display where you can track your pace, heart rate, and even follow a fully-coloured map of your running route, which is great when you're trying to navigate a densely populated city.
Moreover, it comes with multiple sports profiles for tracking different activities, a race widget that can predict your finishing time according to your pace, plus it can suggest workouts to you based on your training readiness score.
And, if all that wasn't enough, it boasts an improved 23-day battery life (up to 31 hours in GPS-Only GNSS mode) and resistance to water up to 50m. Overall, the Forerunner 965 is an excellent choice for tracking your workouts.
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2. COROS Pace 2
Best budget running watch
COROS strives to help athletes achieve their best through products such as its Pace 2 smartwatch which we previously featured in our list of the best swimming watches on the market.
Firstly, Coros boasts this watch is one of the lightest fitness trackers on the market, weighing just 29g, which should help you forget the watch is even there when you're exercising. Moreover, it comes with a Track Mode that uses a proprietary algorithm to make sure your track runs and workouts are measured accurately if you're into athletics.
We also feel like the always-on backlit display can be useful when you want to check your stats quickly during your run, but it also comes with a Night Mode that dims the screen in the evening.
If you're not convinced just yet, then maybe the fact that this watch has been endorsed by Eliud Kipchoge, the sub-two-hour marathon runner, may be enough to change your mind. The only caveat here is the COROS Pace 3. It upgrades on the 2 in several areas but comes at a heftier price. If you've got cash to spare though, then we'd highly recommend checking it out.
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3. Polar Vantage V2
Best running watch for stats
The Polar Vantage V2 is engineered to keep you on top of your progress by allowing you to track and test your workouts accurately and effectively.
Firstly, its training load and recovery tracking tools are designed to help optimise your workout regime and should prevent you from overtraining and damaging your progress.
Furthermore, you can measure your heart rate, speed, and fitness zones with the built-in running and cycling performance tests to see how you're performing whilst working out.
Based on these features, we feel the Vantage V2 will likely be the ideal bit of kit for you if you're looking to take your athletic performance to the next level.
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4. Garmin Enduro 2
Best long-distance running watch
We're rounding things off with the Garmin Enduro 2, a remarkable smartwatch designed for long-distance running. Equipped with TopoActive maps, NextFork map guides, and SatIQ technology, the Enduro 2 ensures you have precise positional accuracy and detailed route information while you run.
But the standout feature of the Enduro 2 is its exceptional battery life, providing an impressive 46 days of usage in smartwatch mode thanks to its solar charging display. This feature eliminates the worry of running out of battery during longer sessions.
It's even water-resistant up to 100 meters, so can withstand various weather conditions, making it a reliable companion for outdoor exercise. What's more, it offers incident detection and reporting functionality. So, in the event of a fall or emergency, this watch ensures you're not alone and can quickly seek assistance.
Overall, the Garmin Enduro 2 is a top-tier smartwatch built for endurance and adventure. With its advanced features, extended battery life, and comprehensive safety measures, it is one of the best marathon watches on the market.
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5. Apple Watch Series 9
Best running watch for everyday wear
Apple's history in designing exceptional smartwatches means it's no surprise really that the brand makes one of the best for fitness as well as everyday wear in the Apple Watch Series 9. It stands as a true testament to what a fitness watch can achieve, especially now that it incorporates the even more powerful S9 SiP chip.
First and foremost, it's great to look at, which is always a bonus. But there's so much more to it than that. It offers a range of intuitive double-tap gestures now and is water-resistant up to 50m, ensuring its suitability for a wide range of workouts, including running where sweat can accumulate quickly.
It's great for monitoring overall fitness too. For example, it can assess your blood oxygen levels and take an electrocardiogram (ECG) reading at any time with the accompanying app. It essentially provides all the tools you need to gauge the progress of your fitness journey and plan more detailed goals for the future.
Of course, it can also track things like your pace, distance, heart rate, calories burned, and practically anything else you can think of when it comes to running stats. It's the ultimate package really, combining everyday functionality with impressive features for fitness.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
With so many different kinds of smartwatches available, you probably have a number of questions about them, but we're here to clear up some of the most common queries.
How much should you spend on a running watch?
The answer to this question will vary depending on your available budget and how seriously you take your exercise.
If you run regularly and want something to track multiple stats, then spending a bit extra on a running watch should give you access to a few more features like the Garmin Enduro's ClimbPro trail information.
However, if you're looking for a smartwatch primarily for everyday use and to occasionally exercise with, then you may not need to spend as much as you won't necessarily need the most advanced and technology-packed device.
What should you look for from a running watch?
The key features for running include a GPS tracker, heart rate monitor, and calories burned, however, some devices come with a few additional features which make them even more perfect for running.
These additional features may include but are not limited to a recovery time calculator, music storage, customisable workouts, and even online challenges so you can compete against your friends.
Does a running watch show your pace?
Most running watches will show you your current average pace whilst you exercise.
If they include a GPS, which the ones featured in our list all do, then they will most likely also provide more accurate feedback on your overall running pace, cadence, and elevation for you to analyse post-workout to optimise your training.
Can you use a running watch without a phone?
Typically, you don't need a phone or app nearby for a running watch to function. You can usually leave your parent device behind and just use your smartwatch to record data about your workouts, providing it has a built-in GPS.
A parent device like a phone tends to only be required to sync your data for a more in-depth look at your statistics.
Can you wear a running watch all time time?
A smartwatch or fitness tracker definitely doesn't need to only be worn whilst running or training. In fact, some of the best devices actually provide more accurate information and feedback whilst running if you wear them more regularly.
For example, some Fitbit trackers provide a Daily Readiness Score to inform whether you're ready for a challenging training session or you're in need of a rest day.
In order to calculate this score, the feature requires data on your recent activity, sleep, and heart rate variability levels against your personal baseline, all of which will be more accurate if you wear your watch every day.
Therefore, to take full advantage of all the advanced technology packed in a running watch, we'd recommend wearing your device for more than just training.
How long does a running watch last?
There's not one simple answer to this question as it will vary depending on the quality of the device, how often it's worn, and how well it is stored when not on your wrist.
The one key sign that you may need to replace your fitness tracker though is when its battery reaches the end of its life. For instance, if your device fails to turn on or it runs out of charge much quicker than before, then the battery is most likely about to die.
However, this could take years, so some casual users may not ever get to this point in their watch's lifecycle.
That said, we'd argue that you may need to replace your running watch if you begin to notice it not performing correctly. The choice is yours though, and you may even want to replace your watch before the end of its life to upgrade to the latest technology.
How long does a running watch take to charge?
This really depends on your specific running watch as the charging time will vary depending on the size of the battery and what you're using to charge it with.
Generally speaking though, a running watch might take anywhere between one to three hours to go from zero battery life to fully charged.
However, you may find some watches come with a fast charging feature that might be capable of charging your watch in just half an hour.
These time frames will vary though, so take them with a pinch of salt. If you want to find out more, you should be able to find out how long it takes to charge a specific device on the manufacturer's website.
Do running watches lose their accuracy?
No running watch is 100% accurate, whether that's in terms of its GPS tracking or ability to monitor health metrics; however, a running watch shouldn't become less accurate over time providing the technology remains fully functional.
For example, Garmin doesn't claim its watches are 100% accurate; however, the company does boast its devices are accurate to 3 meters 95% of the time.
To help ensure running watches remain accurate though, particularly when it comes to the GPS, most devices will regularly update to keep on top of changes in the landscape and provide the most up-to-date map data.