Best running watches of 2024

With a quick online search for the best running watch it's very easy to become overwhelmed with the various different models and brands that exist out there and not to mention the hefty price tag that often comes with them. With this in mind, our experienced runners have spent time testing as many running watches as we can get our hands on.

Wearing these watches 24/7 and testing them across different running conditions has allowed us to identify the models that offer the most accurate tracking, best value for money (across various budgets), reliable battery life, and useful additional smartwatch features.

Topping our list is the Garmin Forerunner 265. We highly rate its lightweight design and extensive feature set, which rivals Garmin's higher-end models. For those committed to the Apple ecosystem, we recommend the Apple Watch Ultra 2. It boasts a large display, the longest battery life among Apple watches, and seamless integration with numerous third-party apps to enhance your training.

Whether you're a novice runner or a seasoned marathoner, our guide will help you find the perfect running watch to meet your needs.

Recent updates

The mid-range Garmin Forerunner 165 watch was announced on February 20, 2024. We're in the process of reviewing it — read our Forerunner 165 initial impressions — and plan to roll out our final verdict soon, at which point, you may see it added to this guide. For now, initial impressions are positive.

Written by
Buying guide writer Jessica at the Manchester Marathon 2024
Written by
Jessica Downey

Jessica Downey is one of Tom's Guide fitness writers who has a particular passion for all things running. While training for races she loves to test out the latest tech and knows a thing or two about what makes a great running watch. She crossed the finish line of her most recent race, the Manchester Marathon wearing the Garmin Fenix 7S Solar.

The quick list

Best running watch overall

a photo of the Garmin Forerunner 265

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)
Best running watch overall

Specifications

GPS Battery Life: 24 hours (265S) and 20 hours (265)
Screen: 1.1 inches (265S), 1.3 inches (265) AMOLED
Weight: 1.4 ounces (265S), 1.7 ounces (265)
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Music Storage: Yes
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Bright, beautiful AMOLED screen
+
Accurate GPS
+
Advanced training metrics
+
Available in two sizes 

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited number of smartwatch features

Our pick for the best sports watch and one of the best Garmin watches is also our top running watch: The Garmin Forerunner 265. 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 265's beautiful AMOLED display to be bright and easy to read, even in direct sunlight. It also has a touchscreen, which makes it easy to navigate around the watch. The battery is long enough to last through a few workouts, even with music playing. 

The Forerunner 265 has inherited some of the more advanced health features usually reserved for Garmin’s more expensive running watches. The watch has Garmin’s latest Elevate V4 sensor — the green light records heart rate, the red light records blood oxygen levels (referred to as Pulse Ox on the watch). This sensor is used to calculate breathing rate, HRV, and stress. It also now has the ability to track multisport training sessions in the triathlon mode, and Garmin's Training Readiness Score.

It's a fantastic improvement on an already fantastic watch and a great buy for all levels of runner. 

Read our Garmin Forerunner 265 review

Best running watch for beginners

Garmin Forerunner 55 reviewbest value

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Garmin’s best entry-level running watch

Specifications

GPS battery life: 20 hours
Screen: 1.08-inch MIP
Weight: 1.3 ounces
Water resistance: 50 meters
Music Storage: No
Workout recommendation: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Smartphone notifications: Yes
Mobile payment : No

Reasons to buy

+
Workout recommendations 
+
Accurate GPS
+
Easy-to-read stats 
+
Solid battery life 

Reasons to avoid

-
No onboard music storage 
-
Somewhat low-res display

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. 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 discounted following the release of the Forerunner 55, so it's a good time to buy. 

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review.

Best running watch for triathletes

home screen on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)
Best running watch for triathletes

Specifications

GPS battery life: 31 hours
Screen: 1.4-inch AMOLED
Weight: 1.9 ounces
Water resistance: 50 meters
Music storage: Yes
Workout recommendations : Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Smartphone notifications : Yes
Mobile payments: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Bright, beautiful AMOLED display
+
Accurate GPS
+
Great battery life
+
Advanced training metrics

Reasons to avoid

-
A tad heavy
-
Pricey

The Garmin Forerunner 965 replaced the Forerunner 955 in March 2023 as Garmin's top-tier running watch. The newer watch has a bright, beautiful 1.4-inch AMOLED  touchscreen, and a new titanium bezel to give it a premium feel both on and off the run. 

Underneath, however, the Forerunner 965 is pretty much the same as the Forerunner 955. This isn't a bad thing - the 955 is a fantastic watch, but if you already own a Forerunner 955, or a Fenix 7, it's probably not worth upgrading just yet. The watch has all of Garmin's advanced training metrics, including the Training Readiness Score, Morning Report, and Garmin's new Chronic Training Load feature, which focuses on a 28-day sum of your training. 

Compared to other watches on this list, despite the brighter screen, the Forerunner 965 still has the same impressive battery life we've come to expect from Garmin. The watch lasts 23 days in smartwatch mode, 31 hours in GPS mode without music, and 8.5 hours in GPS mode with music. There are a few caveats, however, one being the option for the always-on display on the Forerunner 965. When this is turned on, Garmin reckons the battery life in smartwatch mode drops from 23 days to 7 days. 

During testing, we were impressed by the amazing screen on this watch, but didn't find it all that different from the Forerunner 955, which was only released nine months ago. Read our Forerunner 955 vs Forerunner 965 face-off here to find out more. 

Read our full Forerunner 965 review.

Best Coros running watch

a photo of the Coros Vertix 2

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)
Best Coros running watch

Specifications

Battery Life in GPS mode: 140 hours
Screen: 1.4-inch LCD
Weight: 3.1 ounces
Water Resistance: 328 feet
Music Storage: Yes
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: No

Reasons to buy

+
Rugged design
+
Accurate GPS
+
Solid battery life
+
Compatible with Strava (and other 3rd party apps

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky, clunky on the wrist
-
Can be uncomfortable over long periods
-
Pricey

This is a monster running watch made by Coros, designed to rival the likes of the Garmin Fenix 7.  Whereas the Fenix 7 comes in three different diameter options (42mm, 47mm, and 51mm) and multiple “editions” to suit different budgets, fitness needs, and wrist sizes, there’s only one model of the Vertix 2, which has a case diameter of 50.3mm — up from 47mm with the original Vertix. There are no solar editions of the Coros Vertix 2.

The high-spec watch does everything you'd want it to do and more, plus, it's designed for multi-day adventures. During testing, we appreciated the huge battery life of this running watch, which has the capacity to last 240 hours in UltraMax GPS mode. It's also super durable, with a reinforced bezel and screen to protect the watch from any knocks or scrapes along the trail. 

While you could buy this for a heavy marathon training plan (we tested this watch in the run-up to a trail marathon), if you're not someone who is planning on skiing, swimming, and going off-road, there are cheaper watches on the market for you. 

Read our full Coros Vertix 2 review

Best Fitbit running watch

Fitbit Sense 2

(Image credit: Future)
Best running Fitbit

Specifications

Battery Life in GPS mode: 12 hours
Size: 1.58-inch AMOLED
Weight: 1.7 ounces
Water Resistance: 165 feet
Music Storage: No
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Large, bright touchscreen
+
Comfortable design
+
Robust fitness and health tracking 
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited third-party apps
-
No music storage 

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 2. While it won’t allow you to make untethered phone calls like the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, the Fitbit Sense offers better health and fitness features. 

The Fitbit Sense 2 is the company's premium smartwatch that comes with more advanced health and wellness features that the Versa line. Not only does it have an FDA-approved ECG sensor and blood oxygen reading, but the Sense has the ability to measure electrodermal activity and skin temperature, too. Compared to the original Fitbit Sense, the Sense 2 features an upgraded design, interface and EDA sensor, making for Fitbit's most holistic smartwatch yet.

Read our full Fitbit Sense 2 review.

Best Polar running watch

Polar Vantage V3.

(Image credit: Future)
Best Polar running watch

Specifications

Battery Life in GPS mode: 61 hours
Size: 1.39-inch
Weight: 1.37 ounces
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Music Storage: No
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: No

Reasons to buy

+
Accurate dual-band GPS
+
Helpful sleep and recovery metrics
+
Great battery life
+
Bright touchscreen 
+
Offline maps

Reasons to avoid

-
 Limited smartwatch features
-
47mm case size may be too large for some users
-
Pricey

The Polar Vantage V3 is designed to help serious runners and multisport athletes train, rest and recover. Bursting at the seams with fitness and wellness tracking tech, the V3 also boasts a bright, beautiful touchscreen and fantastic battery life, not to mention, an accurate dual-band GPS. 

Training metrics are easy to digest and plentiful, and recovery insights are in abundance: After a run, you can use the Polar Vantage V3 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 V3. 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.

If you're after a bargain, the Polar Vantage V2 is also a competent running watch and is likely to be on sale right now.

Read our full Polar Vantage V3 review.

Best Apple running watch

Apple Watch Ultra 2

(Image credit: Future)
Best Apple running watch

Specifications

GPS battery life: 36 hours (70 with low power mode)
Screen: 1.92-inch LTPO OLED
Weight: 2.2 ounces
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Music Storage: Yes
Workout recommendations : Yes
Sleep tracking : Yes
Smartphone notifications : Yes
Mobile payment : Yes

Reasons to buy

+
One of the best smartwatches available
+
Large, gorgeous touchscreen
+
Tons of third-party apps
+
Decent training recommendations 

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited workout recovery tools
-
Battery life could be better
-
Pricey

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the best Apple Watch to buy if you're doing any serious running training. Like the original Ultra, the second version also has a third button — the Action Button, which makes pausing the watch, or lapping the watch on the move, that little bit easier with sweaty fingers, or when wearing gloves. 

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Apple has added features that have been available on most of the best running watches for years, but the Ultra 2 does feel like an upgrade from the Apple Watch Series 9 from a running perspective. Its 49mm screen is huge, but it's built for adventure — plus, the screen is brighter than before, up to 3,000 nits from 2,000 nits. In direct sunlight the improvement is subtle, but during testing, we could see it more clearly than the Apple Watch Series 9.

While there's not a lot of physical difference between the Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Ultra 2, under the screen, there's a big one. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 packs the S9 processor, which promises the first true power upgrade since the Apple Watch Series 6. Apple claims it's 25% more efficient, built on 5.6 billion transistors with 30% faster GPU animations and 4-core neural engines that enable machine learning twice as fast. 

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has the best battery life of any Apple Watch. Even with a brighter display, the watch gets 36 hours of battery life with normal use. With low power mode, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 gets up to 72 hours of battery, increased from 60 hours offered through the original. 

In workout modes, the bigger screen allows for seven data fields, rather than six. That said, if you're looking for longer battery life, recovery metrics, or the ability to upload maps onto the watch, you're better off shopping for one of the Garmins on this list. 

Read our full Apple Watch Ultra 2 review

Best running watch for adventurers

a photo of the Garmin Fenix 7

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)
The best Garmin watch for the outdoors

Specifications

GPS battery life: 72 hours
Screen: 1.3-inch Mip
Weight: 2 ounces
Water resistance: 100 meters
Music Sotrage: Yes
Workout recommendations : Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Smartphone notifications: Yes
Mobile payment : Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive training tools
+
Accurate GPS
+
Excellent battery life
+
Rugged design

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen is a tad low-contrast
-
Hefty
-
Pricey

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. 

Can't decide between the Garmin Fenix 6 vs the Garmin Fenix 7, the Garmin Fenix 7 vs the Garmin Epix 2, the Garmin Fenix 7 vs Apple Watch Ultra, or the Garmin Fenix 7 vs Garmin Forerunner 955? Check out our round-ups. 

Best Garmin smartwatch

Garmin Venu 2 Plus

(Image credit: Future)
The best Garmin smartwatch

Specifications

GPS battery life: 24 hours
Screen: 1.3-inch AMOLED
Weight: 1.8 ounces
Water resistance: 50 meters
Music storage: Yes
Workout recommendations : Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Smartphone notifications: Yes
Mobile payments: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning AMOLED display
+
Reliable fitness tracking and Garmin Coach
+
Call quality is better than expected
+
Fantastic battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Recovery advice could be better
-
Not enough third-party apps

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. 

Best premium running watch

a photo of the Garmin Epix Pro on the wrist

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)
The best adventure watch with a beautiful screen

Specifications

GPS battery life: 42 hours
Screen: 1.2-inch AMOLED
Weight: 1.7 ounces
Water resistance: 100 meters
Music storage: Yes
Workout recommendations : Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Smartphone notifications : Yes
Mobile payments: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Comes in three different sizes
+
Accurate GPS
+
Outstanding battery life
+
Built-in flashlight
+
Bright AMOLED screen

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Chunky

Garmin's Epix adventure watch has been around for a while, but in June 2023, Garmin released a and improved version with the Epix Pro series: available in three different sizes, to suit every wrist size. Unlike the Garmin Epix Gen 2, the Epix Pro is available in three different sizes — 42mm/1.6 inches, 47mm/1.8 inches, and 51mm/2 inches. The Epix 2 only came in one, 47mm size. So there is now a smaller option, for adventurers with petite wrists, and a larger option for those who prefer a chunkier watch. 

During testing, we were blown away by the stunning AMOLED screen and the decent battery life. Yet this watch is more impressive than just a nice watch face, it has Garmin's newest heart rate monitor, which is said to be more accurate when tracking activity profiles that aren't running-based. 

All of the watches in the Epix Pro range also have a built-in flashlight, a feature we saw with the launch of the Garmin Fenix 7X last January. The flashlight can be used in situations where you might use your phone’s flashlight, but can also be used in certain sports modes, as the flashlight can blink or pulse on a bike ride. There is also a running-specific cadence visibility flashlight, where the watch will flash white as your wrist goes forward, and red as your arm moves back, in order to help keep you safe and seen.

Overall, this is an impressive watch, and if you can afford it, you'll get just about all the running features you could ever need. 

Read our Garmin Epix Pro review

How to choose the best running watch for you

a photo of four fitness trackers

(Image credit: Future)

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. 

Price vs. Features: Weigh up whether the features offered justify the price. Sometimes, a mid-range model may provide everything you need without the cost of high-end versions.

How we test the best running watches

period tracking on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

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. 

Features compared

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Best running watch - comparison table
Row 0 - Cell 0 Garmin Forerunner 265Garmin Forerunner 55Garmin Forerunner 965Coros Vertix 2Fitbit Sense 2Polar Vantage V3Apple Watch Ultra 2Garmin Fenix 7Garmin Venu 2 PlusGarmin Epix Pro
Screen size and type1.3-inch AMOLED1.08-inch MIP1.4-inch AMOLED1.4-inch LCD1.58-inch AMOLED1.39-inch AMOLED1.92-inch LTPO OLED1.3-inch Mip1.3-inch AMOLED1.2-inch AMOLED
Weight1.7 ounces1.3 ounces1.9 ounces3.1 ounces1.7 ounces1.37 ounces 2.2 ounces2 ounces 1.8 ounces1.7 ounces
GPS battery life20 hours20 hours31 hours140 hours12 hours61 hours 36 hours (70 with low power mode)72 hours24 hours42 hours
Water resistance50 meters50 meters50 meters50 meters50 meters50 meters100 meters100 meters50 meters100 meters
Music storageYesNoYesYesNoNoYesYesYesYes
Mobile payment YesNoYesNoYes NoYesYesYesYes
Workout recommendations YesYesYesYesYes YesYesYesYesYes
Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.

With contributions from