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Running watches are an excellent way to track and optimize your running routine.

Though fitness trackers have risen in popularity in recent years, a running watch has long been a useful way to stay on top of your health, especially when it comes to exercising.

Running watches are designed to be worn while running, whether indoors or outdoors, so they can track important metrics such as time, mileage, and heart rate. This data can be used to improve your runs, monitor your health, or meet your fitness goals.

Many running watches are equipped with a built-in GPS, which provides additional support whether you’re hitting the trails or running laps.

There are also several running watches on the market that come with additional tracking features such as sleep tracking or calorie counting. What’s more, many running watches are compatible with smartphones, which allows you to receive calls and texts or stream music during your run.

The best running watch for your needs depends on your running style and fitness goals.

Whether you’re an avid distance runner or a casual runner, there are many running watches on the market with features suitable for all running styles and levels.

However, with so many options, narrowing it down to the best one for your needs can be a challenge.

The running watches included in this article were chosen based on the following criteria:

  • Features. The best running watches include features like heart rate monitoring, GPS, music compatibility, and smartphone integration.
  • Customer reviews. We chose running watches with positive online reviews.
  • Price. Running watches on this list offer the best value for the price.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $150
  • $$ = $150–$300
  • $$$ = over $300

Best overall

Garmin Forerunner 235

Price: $$

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is at the top of the list due to its convenient design and training functionalities, which include swim and cycling modes.

Part of the Garmin Forerunner series, the Garmin Forerunner 235 tracks distance, pace, time, and heart rate on a big, easy-to-read display that is even visible under sunlight. This running watch has a battery life of up to 11 hours when in GPS mode, and up to 9 days when being used as a watch and fitness tracker.


  • highly accurate GPS tracking, according to customers
  • customizable home screen
  • free access to the Garmin Connect app, which saves all of your running and health data so you can track progress


  • sensitive buttons, according to some customers
  • issues syncing the app mentioned by some customers
  • may be too bulky to wear while sleeping

Best for versatility

Fitbit Charge 4

Price: $

Designed for a variety of exercises, the Fitbit Charge 4 is one of the most versatile running watches. It can be used for a number of activities, including swimming, cycling, and hiking.

Plus, with over 20 goal-based exercise modes, the Fitbit Charge 4 helps keep you on track no matter what type of workout you’re into. The watch keeps track of exercise data including pace, distance, and heart rate, and also includes an intensity map that shows changes in heart rate throughout your workout.


  • slim design
  • water resistant
  • comprehensive fitness tracking


  • only 5 hours of battery life when GPS is in use
  • paid subscription required to access Fitbit Premium after the 90-day free trial
  • small screen

Best for trail running

Polar Grit X

Price: $$$

The Polar Grit X running watch is designed specifically for outdoor use, which makes it ideal for hitting the trails.

Designed with military-level functionality, this watch can withstand extreme weather conditions and is extremely durable. It also comes equipped with a built-in GPS with turn-by-turn route guidance to keep you safe on your next adventure, whether you’re exploring new trails or making your way across rugged terrain.


  • durable, even in extreme outdoor conditions
  • equipped with military-level compass and altimeter
  • navigation features to keep you safe on the trails


  • limited sizing
  • dim backlight, according to some customers
  • display screen may be too large for some

Best value

Garmin Forerunner 35

Price: $$

Tried and true, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is one of the highest-rated running watches — and for good reason. The high-quality running watch is designed specifically for runners and offers straightforward capabilities at a lower cost than some smartwatches.

The watch has a built-in GPS that can track the distance, speed, and direction of your runs. It also monitors your heart rate and continues to track your activity throughout the day, including calories, steps taken, and movement.


  • built-in GPS for accurate distance tracking
  • minimal, easy-to-use interface
  • long battery life


  • no touchscreen
  • text notification alerts, but no text or call back features
  • chest heart monitor not included (sold separately)

Best analog

Timex Ironman Classic 30

Price: $

If you’re not looking for all the bells and whistles that come with a smartwatch, you can’t go wrong with a classic analog running watch. Tried and true, the Timex Ironman Classic 30 is a reliable and durable running watch that prioritizes functionality. It can be used to time your trail runs or when you’re running laps. This watch is available in a variety of colors and styles.


  • long lasting
  • water resistant
  • impressive battery life


  • no GPS
  • not smartphone compatible
  • requires wristband replacement after a few years, according to some customers

Best for music

Garmin 245 Music

Price: $$$

The Garmin 245 Music version is designed for runners who don’t want to lug around their phones while running. The running watch is easily compatible with music streaming services like Spotify Premium, and can also store up to 500 songs. Customers say the music controls are easy to use while running. The Garmin 245 Music is available in five colors.


  • lightweight
  • can sync music with Spotify or store up to 500 songs
  • can create customer workout plans or receive training plans from Garmin


  • short battery life
  • no touchscreen
  • additional heart monitor needed for some features

Best smartwatch

Apple Watch Series 6

Price: $$$

Sleek and modern, the Apple Watch Series 6 is packed with features that make it a top contender for a customer-favorite running watch.

Available in a variety of colors, the Apple Watch is minimal in design but features high-tech functionalities that can be beneficial while running, including a sensor to measure blood oxygen levels and an ECG app to monitor heart rhythm. It also tracks daily activity and connects with your phone, so you can text, call, and stream music.


  • smartphone compatibility
  • easy-to-use interface
  • comfortable


  • higher price than similar watches
  • limited running-specific features
  • shorter battery life compared with other options

Best budget option

Letsfit Smart Watch

Price: $

The Letsfit Smart Watch is highly rated. With a price point under $100, the watch is packed with plenty of features that make it easy to track your running progress and data including steps, mileage, calories burned, and heart rate. It also comes with nine sports modes, including running, so you can tailor your workout. It’s compatible with most smartphones and comes in several colors.


  • long battery life
  • low price compared with other smartwatches
  • easy-to-use


  • limited sizing options
  • unreliable text and call notifications, according to some customers
  • not waterproof

Best for long distance runners

Garmin Forerunner 945

Price: $$$

The Garmin Forerunner 945 price point is higher than other watches on this list, but its features may be worth the investment if you’re a long distance runner.

Designed for distance running and triathlons, this premium smartwatch monitors metrics such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation, vertical ratio, and VO2 max in order to track and optimize running performance. The watch is also equipped with GPS, music, and emergency locating functions, which are all important for long runs.


  • full-color maps
  • can sync music or store up to 1,000 songs
  • contactless payment capability


  • higher price than similar watches
  • provides an overwhelming amount of data
  • additional heart monitor needed for some features

Best battery life

Polar Vantage M

Price: $$–$$$

Designed with ultralong battery life, the Polar Vantage M is a reliable option for long distance runners. The battery can last up to 30 hours, even while the GPS is active. It can even calculate your running index score and develop a personalized running plan. This multisport watch is also designed to monitor data for over 130 sports, making it extremely versatile.


  • longer battery life than similar watches
  • large display
  • personalized running program


  • no touchscreen
  • low brightness level on the display, according to some customers
  • battery slow to charge, according to some customers

Best lightweight option

Coros Pace 2

Price: $$

Thanks to its breathable nylon band, the Coros Pace 2 is one of the lightest running watches on the market. Designed with pre-programmed running metrics and training modes, this watch allows you to track your progress and optimize your workout more efficiently. What’s more, the battery lasts up to 30 hours in GPS mode or up to 20 days with regular use.


  • lightweight and breathable
  • long battery life
  • includes weather alerts and reminders for when it’s time to refuel or hydrate during a long run


  • hard to replace charging cord, since it’s unique to Coros
  • instructions hard to access, according to some customers
  • limited sizing

Best for outdoors

Garmin Instinct Solar

Price: $$$

If you’re an outdoor runner, then this solar-powered running watch from Garmin should come in handy. Because it’s solar-powered, the battery life is extremely long. Plus, it’s designed for rugged conditions and can hold up to a lot of wear. Functional and durable, this watch comes in a number of colors.


  • long battery life
  • durable
  • surprisingly lightweight despite its larger size, according to some customers


  • bulky design
  • no smartwatch functions
  • screen is small, according to some customers

There are a few things to consider when looking for a running watch that best matches your needs.

First, determine what kind of features you want. If you’re simply looking for a running watch that can track data like time and distance, you can opt for a basic, or even analog, running watch. If you prefer additional fitness tracking features such as heart rate monitoring or sleep tracking, or you want to be able to connect to your smartphone, then you are probably in the market for a smartwatch.

It’s also important to take into account the battery life of a running watch. Depending on your running needs, you may be wearing your watch for long periods of time. Keep an eye out for running watches that use GPS as this feature can use a lot of battery.

Once you’ve made those decisions, you can determine a budget that covers all of the functionality you’re looking for.

There is a wide variety of running watches on the market suitable for every type of runner.

Whether you’re looking for a smartwatch with all the bells and whistles, or something more straightforward to track your running time and mileage, there are several highly rated running watches to choose from.

The best running watch is the one that can accurately track the metrics you need to help you reach your fitness goals.

Sam Lauron is a freelance lifestyle writer based in Austin, TX. When she’s not writing about wellness, creativity, or personal development, she spends her time reading, listening to true crime podcasts, and soaking up the sunny Austin weather with her partner and their dog. Connect with her on Instagram or Twitter, or by visiting her website.