Best smartwatch for running with GPS tracking, heart-rate monitoring and music playback

Running is one of the simplest ways to exercise and add some physical activity to your days. Running also helps decrease symptoms of depression and stress, helps you sleep better, boosts self-esteem, increases creativity and is one of the simplest and yet effective ways to lose weight. To run you don’t need expensive gear or regular visits to the local gym, all you need is to tie your sneakers and start running.

A running watch uses sensors such as GPS to pinpoint your location at a real-time and provide detailed reports about distance and speed of your every stride, monitor your heart rate and estimate calorie burn amongst other things. The embedded workout app coming with each watch can as well guide you by displaying courses suitable for every runner. Each of the watches listed below is suitable for beginners and as well as professionals that undertake long marathons.

Besides being no-compromise trackers, watches for running can make sprinting more enjoyable by streaming music wirelessly to your earbuds. In case you don’t like being heavy-loaded with gadgets when going out for a run, picking a standalone smartwatch with 4G network support will grant you the same tracking experience and as well as maintaining contacts with the world.

What to look for in a running watch?

A must-have running watch has to meet some technical requirements. It must necessarily have a built-in GPS sensor, a heart rate monitor, and as running will more often take place outdoors than indoors, it should also be capable of determining altitude, thus must have an altimeter, barometer, and compass for accurate tracking.

Screen clearance should also be a thing of your concern when looking to buy a running smartwatch. Displays on watches are quite small and as running more often takes place outdoors than indoors, you should be able to read activity stats easily even when the watch is exposed to sunlight. Top-end smartwatches often have the best screens amongst other things.

Whilst running might not be an extreme sport, a good GPS smartwatch for running should have some sort of waterproofing to withstand sweat and dust. Waterproof GPS smartwatches often make excellent trackers for running.

To enjoy running with each stride your wearable should provide some entertainment, a decent amount of onboard storage and offline music streaming will certainly please you.

A crucial task your smartwatch must perform is compatibility with your smartphone. Albeit the vast majority of watches support data syncing with iPhone, Android, and Windows phone, sometimes these relationships between the wearable and the phone are quite basic, limited to Bluetooth connectivity. An Apple Watch will not even sync to your Android at all. You should always make sure to check whether your phone is compatible with a smartwatch you might be considering to purchase or not, to avoid disappointment and worthless investments.

How much will a running smartwatch cost you?

But, what is the best run tracker? Picking the top smartwatch for becoming your running partner will rely primarily on your expectations and how much are you willing to invest in it. If you’re looking for a smartwatch with a built-in GPS sensor to accurately track speed, length, and route of your runs then you’ll be finding what you want for a price of around $100. The cheaper and basic watches that receive GPS data from your smartphone will cost around $50.

The most advanced watches with extreme durability, accurate measurement of your routes, suitable for every terrain and temperature and longer battery life can cost up to $600. And like always, there are quite a lot of middle options to choose from. It will mainly depend on what running means to you rather than budget, if you’re an athlete you’ll be needing a watch that makes an excellent activity tracker, if you’re just getting started, any mid-range smartwatch will do the job well.

Best overall: Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus smartwatch for running and sports

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is not just another activity tracking wearable by Garmin, it is the best watch for running the global market currently has in offer. The watch is equipped with features and supports to turn beginners into athletes via accurate fitness tracking and expert guidance.

This beast of a smartwatch has everything you need for running packed beneath its 1.2-inch circular display. It has the altimeter, barometer, and compass for map-based outdoor navigation which includes topographic mapping and tracks your location, speed, distance, and routes by connecting to GPS, Glonass, and Galileo satellite networks. The watch perfectly monitors ascent and descent of your sprints through different terrains for accurate measurement of your activity while always maintaining a record of your heart rate.

Fenix 5 Plus along with its top-notch feature supports is also a durable and waterproof watch. With its 10ATM water-resistance, it will not mind getting wet by the sweat or rain that catches you in the open.

Besides being featured with the best hardware possible to implement on a timepiece, the Fenix 5 Plus smartwatch comes pre-loaded with the latest tech for monitoring physical form and performance. This watch gets the VO2 Max score to help you understand and manage personal fitness capacity. The higher the score the more physically capable you are. The pre-loaded professional training guidance coming with the watch will help you improve yourself.

For your entertainment, the watch packs 16GB of built-in storage for you to list every music you like and wirelessly stream it to your headphones while running.

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Best for iPhone: Apple Watch Nike+ (Series 4)

Apple Watch Series 4 Nike+ hands on review

The top iOS smartwatch, Apple Watch 4, a wearable device way ahead of its time. Due to its advanced implemented technologies that now include two heart rate sensors that are made to alarm you in case you suffer from heart conditions that you aren’t even aware of by keeping an eye at the rhythm at which your heart beats.

The Apple Watch 4 Nike+ Edition doesn’t differ from the other models of the Apple Watch 4 at a hardware level. It has the two heart rate sensors, double the internal storage, and twice louder speakers when compared to the Apple Watch 3. There also are GPS and GPS plus Cellular models of the Nike+ version of the Apple Watch Series 4.

What makes the Nike edition a better running watch than the other opting models are the pre-loaded Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club applications. The former provides audio guided runs, gives custom distance challenges for a day, week, or month, coaches on how to reach your running distance goals, and allows your friends to encourage you to go farther. The latter app exhibits a database of around two-hundred all-new workouts that are not limited only to running and allows you to view instructional video clips featuring popular athletes and Nike trainers to help you master the techniques.

The only downside of this device is that it is a smartwatch for iPhone only. If an iPhone is not your top mobile pickup, consider having a look at the watches listed below that will work with any mobile device.

Apple Watch Nike+ (Series 3)

Apple Watch Nike+ Cellular smartwatch

Apple has developed a special edition of its Series 3 smartwatch in cooperation with Nike specifically to become an irreplaceable accessory for runners. The watch is marketed as Apple Watch Nike+ and it is the ultimate accessory for runners with an iPhone. Furthermore, there’s even an LTE version of this Apple Watch, you can keep a record of your activity, listen to your favorite music offline and online, answer and make phone calls, text your friends and all this with only the Apple Watch Nike while your iPhone is charging at home.

Apple Watch Nike+ comes pre-loaded with one of the best apps for running, the Nike+ Run Club. The watch will automatically track your sprints on a map via GPS and altimeter, monitor your heart rate at all times and also provide you with expert guidance and motivation. With this special version of Apple Watch 3 for running, you can be trained with in-ear coaching, listen to your favorite songs, and get into the phone craze even when your iPhone is not with you.

You can use this special edition of Apple Watch to track any sport you want, it is waterproof and you can take it to the pool with you. It also connects to gym equipment and can become an irreplaceable workout accessory.

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Best for Android: Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy Watch hands on review

The Samsung-developed leading smartwatch for Android makes for an excelling choice of a running watch with GPS and heart rate monitor for everybody that is not fond of using an iPhone. The Galaxy Watch, a connected wristwatch that excels in fashion with its round design and the functional rotating bezel is built to maintain records of any kind of popular sport or physical activity. Running makes no exception.

After all, maintaining running records is one of the most trouble-free features to implement on an activity tracker. A pedometer to count steps and a GPS receiver to measure the distance are the two basic must-haves to built something that can track your steps. However, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch is no affordable smart watch with basic functionalities and it goes way further than being just another step counter that can be fooled by simply waving your hand.

The Samsung watch treats running similarly to the way it handles any other sport. You are shown fitness reports on the watch and in your mobile phone via the Samsung Health app where you can view a counting of the steps, the distance you walked, ran or hiked, an estimate on calorie burn, and reports about the rhythm of your heartrate throughout your active or resting states.

A significant upgrade that the Galaxy Watch enjoys over its Gear-branded predecessors and that runners might be particularly interested at is the water resistance. The new watch by Samsung is entirely sealed from the water and you shouldn’t worry if the sweat makes contact to it or rain starts as you are running in the outdoors.

A smartwatch not to be missed: Suunto 9

Suunto 9 smartwatch

There are numerous good smartwatches runners can choose to pick from, but great smartwatches are very few. Although it appears as a highly-fashionable hybrid smartwatch, Suunto 9 is one of those very few highly-equipped watches for running and activity tracking in general. This wristwatch is built to last, has an exceptional battery performance that allows it to maintain recording via GPS for up to 25 hours and is completely waterproof and dustproof.

This timepiece is one of the very limited options that can be the answer to the question of what is the best smartwatch for running. It is completely waterproof for you to wear it in all-weather and take it to the pool, you can also dive as much as you want because this watch can withstand water pressure up to 100 meters of water, making it a top choice smartwatch for diving.

Suunto 9 packs everything runners need to have on their wrist. It packs GPS and motion sensors to monitor location and motion for accurate geo-location tracking, offers in-map navigation in satellite, terrain, and topography modes, features altimeter to measure ascent and descent while on motion, records every route you take and can create routes for you, and helps you stay safe by signaling weather alerts and remaining sunlight for outdoor activities. A rugged watch that you should not fear taking into rugged terrain is what the Suunto has built.

Specifically for running, Suunto 9 can tell your athletic efficiency by using the estimation of your VO2 Max score, helps you understand your running efficiency via the running power feature, stores every lap you finish and lets you compare them and share it with your friends. The watch always takes into account your heart rate as it tracks it all along and is compatible for data syncing with Android and iOS phones.

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Best for battery: Amazfit Bip

Amazfit Bip smartwatch with longest battery life

Is no secret that smartwatches lack durability when it comes to battery life. Even the best of them for power efficiency will last an entire day at their best with every sensor activated. Until now, the only choice for smartwatches with motion tracking features that you can forget about recharging were the lines of hybrid smartwatches. Now, things are changing and the revolutionary device comes from the leader in developing and manufacturing activity trackers, Amazfit.

Amazfit has successfully created a smartwatch that has an integrated GPS sensor, heart rate monitor, compass, and barometer, weighs only 31 grams and can function for over an entire month with one single charge. The Amazfit Big is a very efficient GPS watch and despite its low price (of just $99) it is quite a decent watch for sports tracking.

The watch tracks routes and motion, offers on-map navigation, has an always-on display that remains bright and easy-to-read when exposed to direct sunlight, has an IP-68 certification that makes it compatible for water sports, and weighs so little on your wrist that you can wear it while sleeping. There are weather alerts coming with this cheap watch as well.

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Best budget watch for running: Amazfit Pace


Amazfit Pace smartwatch

This listing was the toughest to pick. More often than rarely, you receive what you pay for, and when you want to invest a basic price for a running watch, you’ll be served a watch with basic functionalities.  However, none wants to invest in something that can be rendered useless, an ideal smartwatch that comes for a budget should have some supports that go way beyond Bluetooth-connectivity. The Amazfit Pace is the perfect smartwatch for a low price. It has GPS, can measure heart rate, monitors activity, and also adds some joy to your activities by supporting onboard music storage and streaming. All those for under $130, isn’t it perfect?

Amazfit Pace can do most of what is provided by top-end smartwatches (not everything though) for a budget. It can be worn when running at all weather and terrain as it is water and dust resistant, provides GPS tracking with on-map navigation, measures heart rate, and comes with various training plans just for runners that start with a beginner level of 5 miles and continues farther to the marathon intervals.

This second Amazfit smartwatch that makes its way to this listing is compatible to Android and iOS phones, has four gigs of storage for you to add your songs and wirelessly play them on your headphones, and has an extended battery life that spans up to an entire week in regular use.

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Best running watch for women: Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen

Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen smartwatch for women

Unfortunately, there are just a few smartwatches that are specifically manufactured for women. Most of the wearable tech manufacturers are satisfied with a pink color of their flagship timepieces for the feminine edition. That certainly is not enough. The fashion design house Kate Spade has the smartwatch for the ladies that is rich in features and sports the fashion and style to be worn at any occasion by women.

The chic-looking Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen runs Android Wear and has its full potentials unlocked only when connected to an Android phone. It still connects quite smoothly to iPhone though. The watch lacks a GPS and a heart rate sensor and mainly uses Google Fit for activity tracking.

However, the watch supports wireless charging and wireless music streaming. It has a variety of different watch faces that display notifications in style.

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