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.
- 1 Best overall: Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
- 2 Best for iPhone users: Apple Watch Nike+
- 3 A smartwatch not to be missed: Suunto 9
- 4 Best for battery: Amazfit Bip
- 5 Best budget watch for running: Amazfit Pace
- 6 Best running watch for women: Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen
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?
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 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.
- Not only into running? Check out the best smartwatches for fitness and sports.
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.
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.Buy from Amazon
Best for iPhone users: Apple Watch Nike+
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.Buy from Amazon
A smartwatch not to be missed: Suunto 9
There are numerous good smartwatches runners can choose to pick from, but great smartwatches are very few. The Suunto 9 watch is one of those very few great 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.
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.Buy from Amazon
Best for battery: Amazfit Bip
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.Buy from Amazon
Best budget watch for running: Amazfit Pace
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.Buy from Amazon
Best running watch for women: Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen
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 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.Buy from Amazon