Best Running Watches

Best Running Watches for 2022

We’ve put the latest running watches through their paces so you can pick the perfect GPS running buddy. Each of GPS watches will provide you with a wealth of information both during your run and afterwards, helping you track your progress and plan your training, and we’ve tested and ranked them to help you pick the right one for you.

Accurate GPS is a must, as are excellent biometrics (including heart rate and blood oxygen saturation), plus training tools to help you get the most from your sessions. We test each watch on a pre-measured course, and compare their heart rate data with figures from a chest-strap heart rate monitor to see how they measure up. We’ve also put their various training tools to the test, making sure they’re genuinely useful and not just fancy add-ons. 

We’ve picked the very best watches for runners of every level, from beginners to ultra-runners, and each one listed here is the very best in its class.

What is GPS in a running watch?

GPS stands for global positioning system. A GPS chip in the wearable monitors signals from multiple satellites in Earth’s orbit to triangulate your position. 

Everyone refers to this feature as “GPS”, but that name originally referred to the US’s government’s satellite array. Most good GPS wearables can access the signals of multiple satellite arrays. Russia’s GLONASS is the most common secondary array, while some also support the EU’s Galileo system and China’s Beidou.

However, the number of satellites a watch can use is only one factor here. Watches with differing GPS chipsets and software vary in how long they take to lock onto a GPS signal, how often they log a GPS data point (usually up to once a second) and in the approach taken to map a route between these logged nodes. Our advice? Don’t worry about it too much. All our recommended GPS watches track location accurately enough for your workout routine.  

What should I look for in a running watch?

The core jobs of a running watch are to map your sessions using GPS, monitor your heart rate throughout and give you “split times”. This is where you’ll see an update on your performance when you hit each milestone, usually the time taken to run the last kilometre.

All but the most basic running watches provide all of this, which has made manufacturers branch out to compete. Even VO2 Max estimates, used to judge your fitness over time, are available in cheaper bands like the Huawei Watch GT 2 and Xiaomi Mi Watch

The Apple Watch is the leader for third-party apps, providing more ways to train. Garmin is the best choice for connecting accessories. Higher-end models can hook up to a wide array of ANT+ sensors, from heart rate chest straps to bike turbo trainers and foot pods. 

Is a running watch better than an Apple Watch?

A recent-generation Apple Watch actually makes a great runner’s watch. It has good GPS, excellent water resistance, one of the best wrist-worn heart sensors around and a very bright screen. 

Battery life is the most obvious Apple Watch issue for runners. While the Watch has enough juice for a marathon, or two if you’re quick, if you use it for longer runs you will find that GPS tracking eats into the battery and makes this smartwatch’s already limited stamina even shorter. Some running watches can last a couple of weeks, rather than the day or so you get from an Apple Watch. 

Garmin watches in particular offer some specific benefits here. Its specialist runner’s watches have screens that thrive off ambient light, rather than competing with it like a smartwatch, so long stretches outdoors don’t make the display drain more power. 

Are running watches accurate?

A good running watch provides a decent illusion of accuracy. These watches use a series of algorithms to patch-up error-strewn readings from a series of sensors on your wrist. We ask a lot of these watches, given they only really interface with a few square inches of skin on one part of the body. 

GPS location data is probably the most reliable stat of a watch, because it is not significantly affected by the motion of running. Heart rate reliability varies wildly between models, and Apple’s Watch Series 6 heart rate sensor is one of the best around. 

Step counting remains something of a mess, because there are choices to make about which movements that look (to a motion sensor) like steps to discard. And what might be more accurate approach for one person in situation A may lead to less accurate results for a serial gesticulator in situation B. In other words, don’t claim your step count is more accurate than your similarly tall friend’s just because your watch cost more.

In summary, GPS is almost universally useful and heart rate accuracy is a key area in which spending more often provides better results. And as features like stress tracking and VO2 Max rely on heart rate readings, that is particularly important. 

Which running watches connect to Strava?

Watch manufacturers that let you transfer your data to Strava easily include Apple, Garmin, Polar Fitbit and Suunto

Huawei, Realme and Xiaomi do not let you link directly to Strava, but there are workarounds. Third-party apps like Health Sync can bounce data between platforms, so this need not be a reason to discount a manufacturer entirely. 

Can you use a running watch for swimming?

5ATM water resistance is the spec to look for in a watch suitable for swimming. Most fitness trackers from big brands now offer this, even the cheap ones. 

IP68 wearables are not recommended for use in the pool. While they may have been tested for submersion at a swim-ready depth, swimming involves greater water pressure because you will be moving. 

How good a watch is for swim tracking varies by model. Some will have an outdoors mode using GPS, and an indoor one that uses motion sensors to count laps. Non-touchscreen watches will work best for swim-tracking, as capacitive touchscreens don’t work underwater.  

TOP 10 LIST OF CHEST LIGHTS IN THE UK (FEBRUARY 2022)

…are you ready for the best picks of 2022?

1. Best running watch overall

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, GPS Running Smartwatch with Music and Advanced Dynamics, Black
SPECIFICATIONS
Battery Life in GPS mode: 6 hours (with music), 24 hours (without music)
Size: 42mm case, 38.5g
Water Resistance: 165 Feet
Music Storage: Up to 500 songs
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: No

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.

 

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music’s transflective display is 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. 

REASONS TO BUY
+Lightweight
+Easy to read and use during runs
+Robust training metrics
REASONS TO AVOID
-Can be hard to navigate

2. Best running watch for long (and safe) workouts

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE

Garmin Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music, Black
SPECIFICATIONS
Battery Life in GPS mode: 10 hours (with music), 36 hours (without music)
Size: 47mm case, 50g
Water Resistance: 165 feet
Music Storage: Up to 1,000 songs
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: Yes

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.

REASONS TO BUY
+Safety features with LTE
+Good Battery life
+Heat and altitude tracking
+Native support for music

REASONS TO AVOID
-Expensive

3. Best lightweight running watch

Coros Pace 2

COROS PACE 2 Premium GPS Sport Watch with Nylon or Silicone Band, Heart Rate Monitor, 30h Full GPS Battery, Barometer, ANT+ & BLE Connections, Strava, Stryd & Training Peaks (Eliud Kipchoge Edition)
SPECIFICATIONS
Battery Life in GPS mode: 30 hours
Size: 42mm, 36g
Water Resistance: 165 feet
Music Storage: No
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: No

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. 

REASONS TO BUY
+
Lightweight and comfortable
+
Battery life
+
Nighttime display for workouts after dark
REASONS TO AVOID
Limited non-running functionality

4. Best running smartwatch

Fitbit Sense

Fitbit Sense Advanced Smartwatch with Tools for Heart Health, Stress Management & Skin Temperature Trends, Sage Grey / Silver
SPECIFICATIONS
Battery Life in GPS mode: 12 hours
Size: 40mm case, 46 grams
Water Resistance: 165 feet
Music Storage: No
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: Yes

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 6 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.

REASONS TO BUY
+Battery life
+Range of wellness features
+All-day design
REASONS TO AVOID
-Limited as a smartwatch

5. Best running watch for monitoring recovery

Polar Vantage V2

Polar Vantage V2 - Premium Multisport Smartwatch with GPS, Wrist-Based Heart Rate Measurement for Running, Swimming, Cycling, Strength Training - Music Controls, Weather, Phone Notifications
SPECIFICATIONS
Battery Life in GPS mode: 40 hours
Size: 46mm, 51g
Water Resistance: 330 feet
Music Storage: No
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: No

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. 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.

REASONS TO BUY
+Unique recovery metrics
+Battery life
+Create training plans through Polar Flow
REASONS TO AVOID
– Limited smartwatch features

6. Best casual running watch

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS, 45mm) - (PRODUCT)RED Aluminium Case with (PRODUCT)RED Sport Band - Regular
SPECIFICATIONS
Sizes: 41mm, 45mm
Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours
GPS: Yes
Swim-Proof: Yes
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
LTE: Optional
Mobile Payments: Apple Pay
Compatibility: iOS

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.

REASONS TO BUY
+Larger display
+Brighter always-on mode
+QWERTY keyboard
+Comes with USB-C magnetic charger
REASONS TO AVOID
-Still just 18-hour battery life

forerunner 45

7,. Best running watch for the great outdoors

Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar

Garmin fenix 6X Pro , Premium Multisport GPS Watch, Features Mapping, Music, Grade-Adjusted Pace Monitoring and Pulse Ox Sensors, Black with Black Band
SPECIFICATIONS
Battery Life in GPS mode: 15 hours (with music), 60 hours (without music), 148 hours (Max Battery GPS mode)
Size: 51mm case, 93g (Steel) or 82g (Titanium)
Water Resistance: 330 feet
Music Storage: Up to 2,000 songs
Workout Recommendations: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Smartphone Notifications: Yes
Mobile Payments: Yes

The Garmin fenix 6X Pro comes with the same features of high-end Garmin watches such as the Forerunner 945, including mobile payments and native music storage, but with a rugged design suitable for the most remote of backcountry adventures. 

 

Along with health and fitness monitoring and the usual types of workouts, you can also track your golf games and ski runs with the Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar. You also get an altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. Sunlight will charge the watch, adding up to 28 hours to the 120 hours you get by using the watch in Max Battery mode. Put the watch in Battery Saver mode and get enough sunlight for solar charging and the battery will last as many as 120 days.

 

Make no mistake, though: The Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar is huge. The case alone— 54g for the Titanium model and 66g for the Steel model —weighs more than most watches, plus there’s another 30 or so grams for the band. At 51mm, too, the watch will take up a sizable portion of your wrist. Fortunately, you can swap out metal bands for silicone if the device is weighing you down.

REASONS TO BUY
+Solar charging offers battery life for weeks
+Track many activities besides running
+Sensors for weather and altitude
REASONS TO AVOID
-Bulky

8. Best running watch for form

Coros Apex

COROS APEX Premium Multisport GPS Watch 42mm with Heart Rate Monitor, 25h Full GPS Battery, Sapphire Glass, Barometer, ANT+ & BLE Connections, Strava & TrainingPeaks (Black/Grey)
SPECIFICATIONS
  • Battery Life in GPS mode: 35 hours
  • Size: 46mm, 55g
  • Water Resistance: 330 feet
  • Music Storage: No
  • Workout Recommendations: Yes
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Smartphone Notifications: Yes
  • Mobile Payments: No

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.

REASONS TO BUY
+Able to measure running form
+Navigation features
+Training and recovery recommendations
REASONS TO AVOID
-Pulse ox and blood oxygen sensors not standard

9. Garmin’s best entry-level running watch

Garmin Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS Running Smartwatch, Whitestone
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: 14 days/20 hours with GPS

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.

REASONS TO BUY
+PacePro suggested workouts
+Bright screen
+Easy to read stats
+Battery life
REASONS TO AVOID
-No onboard music storage
-No interchangeable bands
-Only available in one case size

Preview Product Rating Price
Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS Running Smartwatch, Whitestone Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS Running Smartwatch, Whitestone 1,347 Customer Reviews £134.90

10. Best running watch for Wear OS

 Suunto 7

Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS Running Smartwatch, Whitestone
SPECIFICATIONS
  • Battery Life in GPS mode: 12 hours
  • Size: 50mm, 70g
  • Water Resistance: 165 feet
  • Music Storage: No
  • Workout Recommendations: No
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Smartphone Notifications: Yes
  • Mobile Payments: Yes

Google’s Wear OS watch operating system has been hit or miss, as devices have suffered from complex setup and use as well as limited battery life. When it comes to running watches, the Suunto 7 is the best of the bunch. 

 

Like most Suunto devices, the Suunto 7 is a rugged watch that can handle plenty of outdoor activities. B – but as a Wear OS watch, it also has a touchscreen suitable for everyday use. Along with supporting offline maps, the watch offers access to heatmaps for popular spots for running and other activities in cities around the world, given you ideas for where to work out (or where to avoid) the next time you travel.

 

While the Suunto does have better battery life than the typical Wear OS watch (- 12 hours in GPS mode and close to 48 hours in everyday mode) – it’s less than most other running watches in its price range. Turning on low-power mode or locking the screen will extend the battery life during exercise, but this limits the ability to see key data such as distance and pace. In addition, the Suunto 7 provides a training log and recovery recommendations, but it doesn’t offer recommended workouts.

REASONS TO BUY
+Wear OS integration
+Customizable watch faces and straps
+Offline maps
REASONS TO AVOID
-Can be difficult to use
-Short battery life

Preview Product Rating Price
Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS Running Smartwatch, Whitestone Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS Running Smartwatch, Whitestone 1,347 Customer Reviews £134.90

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