As the world discovers the benefits of smartwatches, it is a home for runners.
Well-known names remain: Garmin and Polar offer some of the best sports watches that expand connectivity to give you more of your smartphone, more analysis of your data and better portrayal.
There are choices that need to be made – do you want the accuracy of a heart rate chest strap or the convenience of a wrist-based HR? Do you have a preference for the platform with which the data is synchronized? Are you interested in a wider ecosystem?
Buying a running watch is a very personal thing, so here is a summary of the best watches on the market, starting with our top running watch.
Our recommendation… the best running watch
Here’s our recommendation for the best all round sports watch on the market.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is a wonderful running watch. It does not provide all the metrics you get with the Forerunner 935 – a little further down the list – but it does support Garmin Pay and offline music, including Spotify, and also offers smartphone notifications and customizations.
This sports watch has a nice, compact design that is comfortable to wear, excellent sports and activity tracking. She sits on a platform that not only records this activity, but also provides your statistics.
Garmin Pay is not much supported yet and the battery life of the Forerunner 645 Music could be better, but overall this is a fantastic running device.
Top running watches: The best of the rest
However, Garmin Forerunner 645 music is not for everyone, and many top sports watches will be considered. Here are some things you should consider:
Garmin Forerunner 935
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is the top watch by Garmin for runners and triathletes that updates the aging 925XT and gives things a fresh new look. This has all the capabilities of the Fenix 5, but in a package that is cheaper, which is a win in our books.
The data that the Forerunner 935 collects is comprehensive and not only captures the basic running metrics such as heart rate and GPS location. Both are fantastic accurate, but also altitude data, training status, stress and assessments for things like VO2 Max and your power weight ratio. The pair is connected to the latest Garmin heart rate belts, and you get even more data to optimize your running style.
It is also fully compatible with a variety of Garmin accessories. It works with old and new sensors. Whether you’re looking for cadence data from your bike or statistics from your golf swing, you’re fully covered. In addition, it is a nice watch that you can wear. It offers a battery that will allow you to easily spend an entire week, and you can keep up with events over 24 hours and support a wide range of sports and activities.
As a clock, it can be customized, feeds notifications from your smartphone and controls your music. The only drawback – apart from the premium price – is the lack of on-board storage for music in motion.
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT is a fully functional multi-sport watch that offers almost the same functional set as the 935. However, there are some important things missing. The design and look are not as demanding and the display is not as sharp or saturated as the 935, but the performance in terms of GPS and heart rate is just as good.
This makes it an impressive option as it also supports a range of sports and accessories. In addition, you can use a heart rate belt if you prefer or keep to the option on the wrist. It also offers a number of customizations and smartphone notifications, but the menu system is not as logical as the newer 935.
However, these are almost acceptable compromises for the lower price. Do not make mistakes, this is a savvy sports watch.
Polar is traditionally a brand that focuses on the heart rate. With the V800, the company integrated GPS and kept the heart rate monitor connected to the chest strap. Although the V800 has been on the market for a few years now, it is still Polar’s flagship and a great achievement.
This model looks better than any other Polar device with metal surface and buttons and a super comfortable strap. It features GPS, a chest strap, a barometer, motion sensors and is compatible with Polar’s other sensors to capture additional measurement data.
The V800 also added smart notifications and activity tracking. The metallic finish looks like everyday life, and battery life is adequate with 13 hours of exercise time and one month in activity tracking mode. This also tracks sleep and provides inactivity alerts.
The Polar Flow app collects all the data in a large community in which you can be competitive.
Garmin Vivoactive 3
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 offers excellent multi-sport tracking at a reasonable price. It’s a versatile, smart fitness watch that offers a long battery life and light weight, recording multiple activities, not just running. So it’s a great option if you want to mix it up again and again.
The screen is not as impressive as Apple Watch or Fitbit Ionic, but the Garmin Vivoactive 3 still offers excellent GPS and heart rate tracking and provides many details with the Garmin Connect app.
Compared to some of the other features available on this list, including Garmin Pay and the ability to reply to messages if you’re an Android user, you’ll get some extra features on this device. Not all banks are supported by Garmin Pay. However, make sure that this is one of the main reasons why you choose this device.
TomTom Spark 3 / Runner 3
The TomTom Spark 3, or Runner 3 (two names, one watch) is focused on fitness. There’s no altimeter like Tom Tom’s adventurer, but if you’re a runner, that’s fine.
The Spark 3 continues to deliver outstanding wrist-based HR tracking and GPS performance. New to this model over older Spark models is the inclusion of route tracking, so you can find your way back to where you came from.
There are no smartphone notifications, but you can do full-day activity tracking while syncing all your data with TomTom Sports. It’s a bit more basic than some of the features you get from Polar or Garmin, but if you buy the right model, you can at least connect your Bluetooth headphones and listen to your music without having to use your phone. These other models offer not all.
The Fitbit Ionic is an attempt by the fitness brand to create a smartwatch that’s as much about fitness as its connectivity. It’s a breeze for anyone looking for a more advanced device that’s already in the Fitbit ecosystem, a great upgrade for someone who finds that an older device does not provide them with enough information.
It is important that the Ionic covers the most important sports – running, cycling, swimming – rather well, with integrated GPS and pulse measurement. All in a lightweight and compact design that is less bulky than most watches on this list. From a runner’s perspective, the presentation of the information is not as customizable as Garmin’s. The Fitbit app is more geared towards lifestyle tracking than mileage.
Attempting to be a smartwatch brings some other benefits, such as Fitbit Pay on the go and smartphone alerts. The display is also beautiful, lively and anything but boring, but it only costs four days of battery life.
Garmin Forerunner 35
If you are looking for a Garmin but are looking for something more basic, the Forerunner 35 is a good starting point. It cuts off many of the extra features of watches that are higher in the family and focuses on the information you need.
You get wrist-based heart rate monitoring and GPS and the accelerometer to keep track of your daily steps. You get all your information with a passion for the beginner. However, it is important that this is a slim and compact device that does not burden you like other models.
You also get lots of information, syncing with Garmin Connect, and the option for smartphone notifications on your wrist.
And if you are looking for a smartwatch …
If the temptation of a smartwatch spoils your judgment and you really want a wearable that does everything but still provides a sensible sports experience, then there are several options. In general, the aforementioned timers offer the advantage of better battery life, but the following devices offer you many more features outside the sport.
Apple Watch Nike+
If you’re an Apple iPhone user, the Apple Watch offers a first-class smartwatch experience. The Nika + version of the watch was designed for runners. The only truly unique options are the strap and dials of the Nike Running App. Otherwise, the Apple Watch will provide you with heart rate tracking and GPS on the wrist for accurate results.
The running metrics are not as full as the other devices on this list, especially the price is expensive, which is the real downside. However, if you just want to keep track of basic tracking, the Apple Watch does it for you while giving you the benefit of a comprehensive smartwatch experience.
The latest Nike + Apple Watch is the Series 4, so the screen is larger than its predecessors and an additional electric heart rate sensor on the crown. There’s also the option of a wireless connection, so you can stay connected without your phone when you’re away from home. This means that you can stream music without a phone or send messages so people will not be worried if you’re on an epic long-term view.
The Apple Watch only works with the iPhone, but is not compatible with Android devices.
The Polar M600 is a Wear OS smartwatch designed for runners across the Android level. As such, it offers a better experience for runners than the Apple Watch Nike + Edition, as it gives much more information and presents it much better than Apple’s device.
With integrated heart rate and GPS, the Polar M600 provides an excellent record of your activities. It syncs all your data with Polar Flow, a great diagnostic app that provides a lot of feedback on the effectiveness of your exercise.
The downside of a normal watch is the battery life. If you get one week from running watches on this list, it will be difficult for smartwatches to survive two days. However, it gives you a fully connected Android experience, making this device a great companion for an Android smartphone user. This also works with the iPhone, although Android users get the better experience.