The most popular running watch in 2023 is this 8-year-old classic

A women stretching before a run.
(Image credit: Future)

Strava, one of the most widely-used fitness tracking apps with over 120 million global users, just released its annual fitness report for 2023. Gleaned from user data, it’s full of interesting tidbits and trends, including which activities were most uploaded (runs) and which gear users most preferred — from the most popular running sneakers to bicycles.  

The report also touched on which devices users most uploaded their runs and bike rides from. Regardless of what activity you’re looking to track, the best fitness trackers and the best running watches can help with motivation, goal-setting, rest and recovery. But which device was the most widely used by Strava users? Read on. 

Of the many noteworthy data points, this one, in particular, jumped out: The top running watch among Strava users in 2023 is the eight-year-old Garmin Forerunner 235

Once considered top of the pack, wearable technology has advanced quite since its 2015 debut. And while you can still purchase the 235 refurbished from Garmin, it’s no longer available new. 

So what do Forerunner 235 users gain with an upgrade? Quite a lot. Contemporary models from Garmin, Fitbit, Polar and Coros feature brighter screens, better battery life, more tracking capabilities, better third-party app integration, onboard music and more. So, yeah, just a few things. 

Is your Forerunner 235 suddenly feeling long in the tooth? Here are three current models to consider replacing it with. 

Best Garmin Forerunner 235 replacements for 2024

Garmin Forerunner 265

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A spiritual successor for the 235, upgrading to a Garmin Forerunner 265 should be a pain-free affair for folks used to the former. The best overall running watch of 2024, it boasts a lovely AMOLED touchscreen that’s easy to see in sunlight, onboard music storage and no shortage of training metrics. 

The 265 also has Garmin’s latest Elevate V4 sensor to keep tabs on blood oxygen levels, as well as breathing, heart rate variability, stress and sleep quality. And unlike the 235, this model comes in two sizes: one with a 1.3-inch display and the other with a 1.1-inch display. Though pricier than its distant relative, this is a great upgrade for those hoping to get another eight years or more of use out of their running watch. 

Read our Garmin Forerunner 265 review to learn more.

Fitbit Sense 2

Fitbit Sense 2

(Image credit: Future)

While jumping brands may be intimidating, folks looking for a modern running watch packed with both fitness features and smartwatch functions should check out the Fitbit Sense 2. In addition to workouts, it monitors stress levels, sleep and recovery. In terms of smarts, the Sense 2 supports useful apps like Google Maps, Google Wallet and Amazon Alexa. Plus, it's highly customizable, with plenty of interchangeable straps to choose from. Dress it up in leather or down in silicone.

Check out our Fitbit Sense 2 review for more.

Garmin Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55 review

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If you appreciate the simplicity of older tech and don’t want to break the bank, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is also a solid replacement for the aging 235. It doesn’t offer nearly as many features as the 265 or Sense 2 — like music storage or third-party app support — but it gets the basic workout tracking and health monitoring stuff right. The 1-inch display is a tad small but still bright enough for easy viewing in daylight. Battery life is also fantastic. 

Read our Garmin Forerunner 55 review for additional details.

Dan Bracaglia
Senior Writer, Fitness & Wearables

Dan Bracaglia covers fitness and consumer technology with an emphasis on wearables for Tom's Guide. Based in the US Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid outdoor adventurer who dabbles in everything from kayaking to snowboarding, but he most enjoys exploring the cities and mountains with his small pup, Belvedere. Dan is currently training to climb some of Washington State's tallest peaks. He's also a big photography nerd.