We've trained with the best sports watches for tracking your outdoor workouts

The best sports watches are a great way to keep track of your progress, whether you're training at home, the gym or in the great outdoors. They come with built-in GPS  and altimeters for route tracking, plenty of fitness sensors and durable designs. 

They're the ideal blend of fitness tracker and smartwatch, giving you better battery life than a standard smartwatch, but with all the fitness tracking essentials you'd usually find on a dedicated wrist-worn tracker. 

It's also important to find a sports watch that's comfortable for long periods, gathers reliable data and lasts long enough to see you through. That's why we've put the best sports watches to the test, including popular options from Garmin, Apple, Fitbit and more, so that you can choose one that'll suit your training.  

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.

The quick list

The best sports watches available right now

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Best sports watch overall

Garmin Forerunner 265 on a person's wrist

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

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.1-inch (265S), 1.3-inches (265) AMOLED
On-board music: Yes
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery Life in GPS Mode: 24 hours (265S), 20 hours (265)

Reasons to buy

+
Two sizes available
+
Bright, beautiful AMOLED screen
+
Accurate GPS
+
Advanced training metrics
+
Touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

-
A limited number of smart features

Garmin hit a home run with the Forerunner 265 — the successor to the popular Garmin Forerunner 255 — with its bright, beautiful AMOLED display and touchscreen, that makes it easy to navigate around the watch when you're not running.

During testing, we loved the fact that the Forerunner 265 now gives you the option to purchase two different sizes — 42mm or 46mm. Both have an AMOLED display  —the resolution of the Forerunner 265 is 416 x 416 pixels, and 360 x 360 on the 265S.

We found it easy to view the screen in all lights, making it a perfect outdoor running companion. While the Forerunner 265 costs as much as a new Apple Watch, its in-depth tracking features and better battery life — up to 24 hours when using GPS — make it the choice outdoor exercise. 

Best value sports watch

Amazfit TRex 2 on a person's wristbest value

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)
Best value sports watch

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.3-inch AMOLED
On-board music: No
Mobile payments: No
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life GPS mode: 50 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable for a GPS watch
+
Rugged design
+
Impressive battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't store music offline
-
Bad haptics

With a large display, on-board GPS, compass and durable design, the Amazfit T-Rex 2 is one of the best sports watches you can get without breaking the bank, costing around a third less than the popular Garmin Fenix 7. 

The T-Rex 2 offers impressive battery life, a variety of sports modes, and sleep tracking — all wrapped in its impenetrable shell. With all the sensors you could want, the T-Rex 2 is a beast to be reckoned with, plus who doesn't love a device named after a dinosaur?

Compared to the original T-Rex, the second iteration of the Amazfit watch comes with a slightly larger screen, a longer battery life and dual-band five satellite positioning, making it the better choice if you're heading out on an adventure. 

Best budget sports watch

Garmin Forerunner 55 on a person's wrist

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Best budget sports watch

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.08-inch MIP
On-board music: No
Mobile payments: No
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life GPS mode: 20 hours

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't store music offline
-
Somewhat low-res display

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the best sports watch for those on a budget. It's an affordable, accurate, GPS watch that tracks distance, speed and pace, and it has some of the more technical features of Garmin's more premium watches. 

According to Garmin, a fully charged Forerunner 55 can last up to two weeks in Smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode, which is a significant increase from its predecessor’s battery life expectations.

We felt that the Forerunner 55 looks cool enough to be used as your everyday timepiece and it'll also give you sleep-tracking data if you wear the watch at night, so you can keep an eye on how well you're recovering.  

However, if you're after detailed performance stats, and pin-point GPS precision, then you may need to spend a bit more. But for most people, this will be the best sports watch that won't break the bank. 

Best Fitbit sports watch

Fitbit Sense 2

(Image credit: Future)
Best Fitbit sports watch

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.58-inch AMOLED
 On-board music: No
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery Life in GPS Mode: 12 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Large, bright display
+
Comfortable design
+
Robust fitness and health tracking 
+
Google apps, including Maps and Pay

Reasons to avoid

-
A limited number of third-party apps
-
No onboard music storage

The Fitbit Sense 2 is the brand's premium health and fitness tracking sports watch, packed with stress monitoring tools, heart health tracking ECG and blood oxygen sensors that'll give a more holistic view of your daily activities. 

The stress-detecting EDA sensor can continually look out for small increases in sweat and combine that with other data to let you know when you need to take a few moments to relax with some deep breaths. 

It has a built-in GPS, so it's the perfect option if you want to keep a general eye on your fitness and track your running routes without your phone. Your data syncs to the Fitbit app for easy access and integrates with Fitbit Premium for virtual workouts. 

If you're looking for more advanced tracking, then the Garmin Venu 2 Plus is going to be a better option. However, if you like keeping tabs on your steps, sleep and everyday training, the Fitbit Sense 2 is ideal.

Best Garmin sports watch

Garmin Venu 2 Plus on a person's wrist

(Image credit: Future)
Best Garmin sports watch

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Display: 1.3-inch AMOLED
On-board music: Yes
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life: 24 hours with GPS

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive and easy-to-read display
+
Reliable fitness tracking stats
+
Access to Garmin Coach

Reasons to avoid

-
Recovery advice a bit vague
-
Not many third-party apps

Garmin watches aren’t just for serious athletes. The Venu 2 Plus is a stylish smartwatch on 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 fitness tracker, with an AMOLED display and a stainless steel bezel. It's got all you'd expect from Garmin when it comes to tracking your workouts, as well as smartwatch features such as mobile payments, notifications, a touchscreen and storage for up to 650 songs.

This Garmin is also great for anyone who likes to leave their phone in their pocket when out on an adventure thanks to the on-wrist calls and voice assistants. While it maintains Garmin’s reputation for thorough fitness tracking and accurate GPS, the Venu 2 Plus is now a stronger sell for those who want their smartwatch to act as an extension of their smartphone.

Best sports watch for golfers

Garmin Approach S62 on a person's wrist

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Best sports watch for golfers

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.3-inch MIP
On-board music: No
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery Life in GPS Mode: 20 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Virtual Caddie feature for coaching
+
Up to 14-day battery life
+
Accurate GPS tracking

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Lacks extensive sports features

The Garmin Approach S62 offers a sharper appearance, larger screen and lengthier battery life than its Garmin Approach S60 predecessor. It also comes with a Virtual Caddie feature, which can recommend clubs and tips based on past performance. 

Though it’s not guaranteed to improve your golf game, the insight provided by Virtual Caddie doesn’t feel gimmicky and might benefit you if you tend to experiment with your club choices. 

It lasts about 14 days without a charge, although you’ll get just 20 hours in continuous GPS mode. We made it through week with 3 rounds before needing to recharge the S62, so it’s safe to say you can leave Garmin’s proprietary charger at home for a weekend golf trip.

Best sports watch for hiking

Garmin Fenix 7 watch on a table

(Image credit: Future)
Best sports watch for hiking

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS : Yes
Water resistance: 100 meters
Display: 1.2-inch MIP
On-board music: Yes
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life: 72 hours with GPS

Reasons to buy

+
Can last up to 2 weeks between charges
+
On-board music storage
+
Water-resistant up to 100 meters

Reasons to avoid

-
Large design

The ultimate outdoor sports watch, the Garmin Fenix 7 is designed to track you anywhere you go and survive everything you do. The device supports everyday fitness activities such as running and swimming. And it comes with Garmin’s typical health-tracking features. But really, it's designed for anyone who gets an adrenaline rush from scuba diving, backcountry skiing or multi-day hikes 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.

During testing, we found the Fenix 7 has one major improvement on the Fenix 6 — a touchscreen. The screen is super responsive, even when used in the rain. This makes navigating and customizing the watch a lot easier.

There's also a new Stamina metric, and the latest Fenix comes loaded with more maps and tracks more activities than ever before. It's a brilliant watch, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a fitness tracker with a better battery. 

In June 2023, Garmin released the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro — an updated version of the Fenix 7, with a new heart rate sensor and built-in flashlight. Read our Fenix 7 Pro review here, as well as our Garmin Fenix 7 vs Garmin Fenix 7 Pro face-off. 

Best sports watch for triathletes

Home screen on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)
Best sports watch for triathletes

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS : Yes
Water resistance: 50 meters
Display: 1.4-inch AMOLED display
On-board music: Yes
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life GPS mode: 31 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Bright display easy to read outdoors
+
Accurate GPS tracking
+
Support for Garmin Connect app

Reasons to avoid

-
No ECG for heart health tracking
-
Lacks wireless charging

The Garmin Forerunner 965 is the upgraded version of the Forerunner 955. It's a top-tier running watch, designed for runners who want all of the most advanced training tools on their wrists.

The newer watch has a bright 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. That's not a bad thing, but it's probably not worth upgrading from the 955 or Fenix 7. 

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. On the run, the watch was easy to read and navigate around. Off the run, the bright AMOLED touchscreen made the watch feel more like a smartwatch. 

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. 

Best sports watch for iPhone

Apple Watch Ultra 2 on a person's wrist

(Image credit: Future)
Best sports watch for iPhone

Specifications

Heart rate monitor: Yes
GPS : Yes
Water resistance : 100 meters
Display: 1.92-inch LTPO OLED
On-board music: Yes
Mobile payments: Yes
Sleep tracking: Yes
Battery life in GPS mode: 36 hours normal use, 70 hours low-power mode

Reasons to buy

+
Large, gorgeous touchscreen
+
Tons of third-party apps
+
Decent training recommendations
+
Durable design 

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is still on the low side for sports watches
-
Limited workout recovery tools
-
Pricey

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a step up from the first-generation model. It comes with a new Action Button for starting, stopping or pausing your workout. And the large design means it's easy to use even if you have sweaty fingers or are wearing gloves. 

The 49mm display is easy to read outdoors too, even in sunlight. Although, when it's particularly bright it can still be a bit tricky. However, the most significant upgrade in the Ultra Watch 2 is the new S9 processor. 

This is more efficient, so you get some battery life improvements, and it helps make the watch's tracking more accurate, especially if you're trying to locate your misplaced iPhone. 

It also has the longest battery life of any Apple Watch, lasting up to 36 hours with regular use. If you're away from power for a while, you can place it in low-power mode to extend this to around 70 hours, but some features won't work as well. 

The large display also means you can view more workout metrics at once (seven, up from six). However, if you're after more technical stats or recovery advice, you'll want to opt for a Garmin sports watch instead.

How to choose the best GPS watch for you

There's a fine line between smartwatches and the best sports watches, as many smartwatches come with fitness tracking features built-in. So, how do you decide on the best sports watch for your training? 

Firstly, it's important to consider the features you need. If you're a runner, a lightweight sports watch means less distraction while your arms move back and forth. And long-distance runners will need a longer battery life too. 

Plus, if endurance training is your bag, then you'll need a watch that's durable enough to survive the conditions. So, it'll need to be fully waterproof (not just sweat or water-resistant) and with a durable design in case it gets knocked. 

Although all of the best sports watches come with GPS, some are able to more accurately track your location. So, if a precise recording is important to you, then a sports watch from Garmin's Fenix series might be ideal, as you can adjust the GPS ping frequency. 

How we test the best GPS watches

The best sports watches need to be durable, come with all the fitness tracking features you need and have a long-lasting battery. So, we put each device to the test to make sure it ticks every box. 

The first area we look at is design and comfort. We check if the watch is comfortable to wear for extended periods, if it chafes when you're sweaty and how easy it is to keep looking its best. 

We also test the watch for tracking accuracy, especially the GPS, so we wear the sports watch while out in different environments, including urban and rural settings — areas where there are a lot of buildings, trees, and other obstructions. 

This makes it easy to see whether the watch lives up to the manufacturer's battery life claims. Using all the watch features uses a lot of power, so we get a good idea of how the sports watch fares in real-world settings. 

Of course, tracking your workouts is one thing, but you need to analyze the data to get the most from your training, so we assess the watch's companion smartphone app and how straightforward it is to access and view your health and fitness data. 

Features compared

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Best sports watches - comparison table
Row 0 - Cell 0 Garmin Forerunner 265Amazfit T-Rex 2Garmin Forerunner 55Fitbit Sense 2Garmin Venu 2 PlusGarmin Approach S62Garmin Fenix 7Garmin Forerunner 965Apple Watch Ultra 2
Screen size and type1.3-inch AMOLED1.3-inch AMOLED1.08-inch MIP1.58-inch AMOLED1.3-inch AMOLED1.3-inch MIP1.3-inch Mip1.4-inch AMOLED1.92-inch LTPO OLED
Weight1.7 ounces2.3 ounces1.3 ounces1.7 ounces1.8 ounces2.2 ounces2 ounces 1.9 ounces2.2 ounces
GPS battery life20 hours50 hours20 hours12 hours24 hours20 hours72 hours31 hours 36 hours (70 with low power mode)
Water resistance50 meters50 meters50 meters50 meters50 meters50 meters100 meters50 meters100 meters
Music storageYesNoNoNoYesNoYesYesYes
Mobile payment YesNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYes
Workout recommendations YesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy. 

With contributions from