Whether you're looking to get in shape for the new year or you just want to upgrade, the best running watches on the market will look and feel great on your wrist, while providing accurate tracking of how far you've gone and how fast you're going. They'll be easy to read at a glance on the go and navigate around when you're moving.
These days, GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring are standard on nearly all running watches. Most of the best running watches also support other sports, such as cycling and hiking, and most are also water-resistant so they survive a rainstorm, or swim workout. Premium features are available for a price, whether it’s customized workouts based on personalized training data, music storage, more advanced smartphone capabilities, or a battery that will last for weeks instead of days.
Sizes vary, too, with some watches better suited for smaller wrists or everyday use. We've selected the top devices in various categories, judging them based on ease of use, design, battery life, and availability of extra features.
Note: All watches on this list come with GPS, heart rate monitoring, and Bluetooth connectivity.
What are the best running watches?
The best all-around running watch right now is the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. As one of the best Garmin watches, it has pretty much everything you could want in a running watch: It’s lightweight, it has a good battery, it stores up to 500 songs, and it has all the activity-tracking sensors and features that you’d expect from a Garmin. It’s admittedly missing some smartwatch features - but so are most of the watches on this list, which prioritize fitness over making phone calls.
If you’re on a budget, the Amazfit T-Rex doesn't have the sleek design of most watches on the market today, but as one of the best cheap smartwatches, it packs a lot of features — including a compass, altimeter, and AMOLED display— into a $140 package.
If you're willing to pay a hefty premium, the Garmin Fenix 7 will give you weeks of battery life and (perhaps) more tracking capabilities that you know what to do with. This is the best running watch for runners who spend a lot of time outdoors.
The best running watches you can buy today
Our pick for the best sports watch is also our top running watch: The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. This lightweight device gives you everything you’d want in a running watch, from accurate tracking to music controls to the ability to create custom workouts, for the price of an Apple Watch. The device also offers access to Garmin’s wide range of training metrics, which help you not only plan workouts but also recovery time.
During testing, we found the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music’s transflective display to be easy to read, even in direct sunlight. Plus, you can pause and resume a run with the push of a button, which lets you keep an eye on the road or trail instead of looking down at your watch. The battery is long enough to last through a few workouts, even with music playing.
If there’s a downside to the device, it’s the lack of a robust third-party app ecosystem, though this is not uncommon for Garmin devices as well as most running watches.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review.
If you’re starting to get into running, chances are you want a device that’s a step up from a basic fitness tracker but also won’t overwhelm you with too many features. Among Garmin watches, the Forerunner 55 is a clear choice.
At its core, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is an entry-level fitness watch, replacing the popular Forerunner 45 earlier this year. While it looks very similar to its predecessor, Garmin made some important changes, adding some of the more advanced training tools usually reserved for their more expensive watches. The Forerunner 55 has Garmin's new PacePro technology, which gives you gentle speed and cadence alerts on the run. There are also suggested recovery times and workouts, based on your training history, fitness levels, and recovery. This is a differentiator from similarly priced watches such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active or the Fitbit Charge 5 which track workouts but don’t offer custom coaching plans.
It’s worth noting that the Garmin Forerunner 55 doesn’t support music storage, mobile payments, or third-party apps. It also has a relatively small display, at just over 1 inch. If these are must-have features for your Garmin watch, you may want to consider a higher-end device. If you are looking for a cheaper watch, the Forerunner 45 is often in the sale right now, following the release of the Forerunner 55, so it's a good time to buy.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review.
If you’re looking for the best running watch for advanced athletes, the Garmin Forerunner 945 should be on your short list. It's designed for triathletes, trail runners, and other endurance sport fanatics. The Forerunner 945 offers the same training and recovery metrics as the Forerunner 245 and 745 while adding metrics for tracking heat and altitude, which are important for determining the difficulty of a key workout. It also boasts a battery that should be long enough to support ultra marathon runners on race day.
More importantly, with Garmin's LTE service, the Forerunner 945 is the ultimate personal safety device. Even when your phone is nowhere to be found, this smartwatch can send your location to your designated contacts and let them know when there's an emergency. If you're someone who ventures out alone, the 945 can give you (and the people who care about you) some peace of mind.
Read the full Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE review.
Weighing between 29g and 36 g (depending on the choice of silicone or nylon band), the Coros Pace 2 is one of the lightest running watches on the market. The watch still has plenty to offer, with a long-lasting battery, a custom “night mode” that makes it easier to see the display during workouts after sunset, and a dedicated Track Run mode designed to eliminate GPS idiosyncrasies from track workouts.
Beyond running, the Coros Pace 2 also offers a strength training program with more than 200 upper body, lower body, and core exercises; there’s also a “muscle heatmap” to show where you did the most and least work.
At its core, this is a watch for runners. The Coros Pace 2 will show smartphone notifications, but it’s missing mobile payments, music storage, and the ability to add third-party apps, all of which are available on higher-end devices.
Not all smartwatches make for good running watches. Touchscreens can be tough to use with sweaty fingers or gloved hands. Batteries typically don’t last for more than a couple days, either. Without an always-on display, you have to shake your wrist or press a button just to glance at the screen.
The best smartwatch for runners is the Fitbit Sense. While it won’t allow you to make untethered phone calls like the Apple Watch Series 7 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, the Fitbit Sense offers better health and fitness features.
The Fitbit Sense offers EDA and skin temperature readings, which aren’t available on other smartwatches, and the device also comes with an FDA-approved ECG sensor. You can also watch cross-training workout videos that are exclusive to Fitbit users. The battery life also beats the latest Apple and Samsung watches, which most users need to charge every day.
Read our full Fitbit Sense review.
Overtraining is a common cause of running injuries. Through a number of unique features, the Polar Vantage V2 is designed to help serious runners recover. This makes up for some of its limited smartwatch functionality and otherwise standard activity tracking features.
After a run, you can use the Polar Vantage V2 to conduct a Leg Recovery test, which helps you determine how long to wait before your next hard run. Other watches provide recovery recommendations, but metrics specific to legs are unique to the Polar Vantage V2. In addition, the Nightly Recharge feature puts sleep quality in the context of workout recovery.
During testing, one feature we found impressive was the training plans. Plugging workout data into Polar Flow lets you create training plans and share them with personal trainers or coaches, which is another way to help prevent injuries.
Read our full Polar Vantage V2 review.
While the Apple Watch Series 7 isn't specifically designed to be a running watch, the running features have improved in recent years to make it a pretty decent gadget to have on your wrist on easy days. The rolling mile feature, which tells you the pace of the mile directly behind you, is great and you can set pace alerts for the watch to remind you if you're pushing too hard or running too slow. We also found the auto-pause on the run works well and we also found the GPS to be pretty accurate.
The downside with the Apple watch from a running perspective is the battery life - it's only 18 hours long, which is a fraction of what most of the other watches on this list will last. You also can't upload technical running sessions onto the watch without using third-party apps, but if you only want to set pace or distance goals, this shouldn't bother you too much.
If you're after the latest Apple Watch, the Apple Watch 7 was released earlier this year. It has a brighter, larger, always-on display, and a QWERTY keyboard, but no extra health features. If you want to save money, you'll probably be able to grab the Apple Watch 6 on a discount right now. Can't decide? Read our Apple Watch 7 vs Apple Watch 6 face-off here.
Read our full Apple Watch 7 review
The Garmin Fenix 7 is a rugged watch for outdoor adventurers. The device supports everyday fitness activities such as running and swimming, and it comes with Garmin’s typical health-tracking features, but it’s really designed for anyone who gets an adrenaline rush from scuba diving, backcountry skiing, or a multi-day hike deep in the wilderness.
Make no mistake: With a weight that starts at 2 ounces for the standard Fenix 7S, and tops out at 3.1 ounces for the 51mm Fenix 7X Saphire Solar addition, this watch is a beast. But the trade-off is storage, battery life, and water resistance up to 100 meters (330 feet). It’s also easy to swap out bands — no small thing if you’ve just spent days in the woods without a shower.
The Fenix 7 has one major improvement on the Fenix 6 — a touch screen. The screen is super responsive, even when being used in the rain, and makes moving around and customizing the watch a lot easier. There's also a new Stamina metric, and the watches come loaded with more maps, and sports tracking modes than ever before. It's a brilliant watch, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a fitness tracker with a better battery life.
Read our full Garmin Fenix 7 review here.
For some runners, changes to form can lead to faster times and reduce the likelihood of injury. Runners interested in measuring and improving their form should look no further than the Coros Apex.
When paired with the Coros Performance Optimization Device ($69), which clips to the back of your shorts or pants, the Coros Apex will collect several metrics related to running form, including stride length and height, cadence, and stride angle. This data helps you identify how to make your running form more efficient. It’s one of the best running watches because it also uses activity data to provide training plan recovery recommendations.
In addition, the Coros Apex comes with tracking and navigation features that let you upload maps onto a grid with compass settings. This is handy if you plan to venture onto a running route for the first time or plan to take the watch into the backcountry for trail runs or hikes.
The slightly larger Coros Apex Pro ($499) has a touchscreen, a battery that lasts 40 hours in GPS mode, and blood oxygen and pulse oximeter sensors.
Garmin watches aren’t just for serious athletes. The Venu 2 Plus is a stylish smartwatch on a par with the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa 3 — and it’s rugged enough for bike rides, strength workouts, and playtime with the kids. It’s also a step up from the Garmin vivoactive 4 with an AMOLED display and a stainless steel bezel.
For runners, it has everything you'd expect from a Garmin watch — the ability to track all of your runs and workouts, as well as receive live feedback on the move. The big difference here is that thanks to tools like voice and call assistant, you can ask Siri to add eggs to your shopping list mid-run, or finally call your mum, should you wish.
Like some of the other smarter running watches on this list, the Venu 2 Plus also has mobile payments, notifications, a touchscreen, and storage for up to 650 songs on board. The watch also boasts a much better battery life than most smartwatches, even with its AMOLED display.
Read our full Garmin Venu 2 Plus review here.
How to choose the best running watch for you
When buying a running watch, here's a few things to consider:
Appearance: If you want a running watch that can also be an everyday watch, overall design and appearance are key considerations. Will it clash with a dress or blazer, or will it get caught on the sleeve of a sweater or shirt?
Phone notifications: Do you want to be able to receive WhatsApp messages and emails mid-run, or is this your worst nightmare? Plenty of modern watches have smartwatch features, but if you're not bothered about them, you can save money.
Battery life: If you're planning on running a marathon, or heading out on an all-day adventure, you'll want a watch that can keep up with you in GPS mode. This shouldn't be a problem with most Garmin running watches, but is something to consider with a Fitbit or Apple watch.
Fit: If you're a particularly petite runner, you'll want a watch that fits neatly around your wrist, or a watch that has different size straps for a good fit.
How we choose the best running watches
Even today’s low-end running watches typically come with GPS sensors, heart rate monitors, and step counters. In addition to evaluating watches on these features, we look at more advanced functionality such as VO2 Max data, sleep tracking, music storage, and the presentation of training data such as recovery time and recommended workouts.
Our reviewers are experienced runners who test devices on several runs in open spaces, around tall buildings, and in the woods. We pay attention to accuracy, ease of use, and comfort during our runs, and we evaluate each watch and its companion app together after our runs. We wear watches for several days to compare battery performance to manufacturers’ claims.
If a running watch also has smartwatch capabilities, we look at the software, application ecosystem, and use of special features such as mobile payments or notification responses.