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- Best overall: Garmin Forerunner 235
- Best for versatility: Fitbit Charge 4
- Best for trail running: Polar Grit X
- Best value: Garmin Forerunner 35
- Best analog: Timex Ironman Classic 30
- Best for music: Garmin 245 Music
- Best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 6
- Best budget option: Letsfit Smart Watch
- Best for long distance runners: Garmin Forerunner 945
- Best battery life: Polar Vantage M
- Best lightweight option: Coros Pace 2
- Best for outdoors: Garmin Instinct Solar
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.
- $ = under $150
- $$ = $150–$300
- $$$ = over $300
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.
Best for versatility
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.
Best for trail running
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.
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.
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.
Best for music
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.
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.
Best budget option
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.
Best for long distance runners
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.
Best battery life
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.
Best lightweight option
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.
Best for outdoors
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.
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.