Which running watch is best?

If you love to run or are training for an event, you can take your preparation to the next level with a running watch. A quality running watch does much more than keep time and count your steps. It uses the latest technology to accurately track your health and progress. Many have smart capabilities, so you can also access your smartphone alerts and music for added motivation.

Running watches vary significantly in cost and complexity. Finding the right one depends on your fitness level, health goals and budget. The best is Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch.

What to know before you buy a running watch

GPS

GPS takes the smartwatch to a whole new level. Running watches with GPS help runners more accurately track their distance, pace and speed instead of getting an estimate as you would with an app or step counter. GPS helps plan your workouts because you have access to more data and can lead to more improvement over time.

Some of the high-end running watches rely on GPS and are also compatible with the Russian-run system GLONASS, the EU-run system Galileo, China’s BDS and Japan’s QZSS. It’s not essential to have a watch with more than one satellite system, but it leads to more accurate data.

Battery life

GPS and satellite navigation are a big advantage, but it also depletes the battery. Many of these watches can last multiple days on a single charge, but when in GPS mode, the battery might only last 5-12 hours. A low battery can also affect certain features, such as the display screen’s brightness.

Versatility

A quality running watch has so many valuable features that it becomes the watch that many people rely on for everyday use. Consider factors such as size, comfort, style and weight before purchasing so you find a watch that looks and feels good when you aren’t working out.

What to look for in a quality running watch

Waterproof

Whether you plan to run in the rain or want a watch you can wear when swimming, look for a waterproof running watch that is water-resistant up to at least 100 meters.

Touchscreen

Touchscreen watches are becoming more popular and have a sleek, streamlined look, but they can be challenging to operate when running. It comes down to preference, but some runners prefer watches with physical buttons, especially when training in the cold weather or when wearing gloves.

Special features

In addition to getting notifications from your smartphone, many running watches can work with your wireless or running headphones. Many can also link up with Spotify, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Some brands, such as Garmin, have their own contactless payment programs linked to their running watches.

How much you can expect to spend on a running watch

The cost of a running watch depends on the brand, features and technology, but they start as low as $15 and go up to $500. The most high-tech running watches can cost $1,000 or more, but you can find quality running watches for $100-$200 that are good for beginner and intermediate athletes.

Running watch FAQ

Can my running watch track my sleep?

A. Yes! Some watches have features that help you track your daily strain, recovery, sleep cycles and circadian rhythm. They monitor your cardiovascular output and daily stressors, so you can better plan your recovery and adapt your training accordingly.

What’s the life span of a running watch? 

A. It depends on the brand and model of the watch, how often it’s used, and how well you take care of it, but some high-quality watches can last three to five years.

What’s the best running watch to buy?

Top running watch

Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smart Watch

Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smart Watch

What you need to know: You can track your workouts in real-time with this running watch that is waterproof and has built-in GPS.

What you’ll love: The multiday battery can last up to six days with regular use and up to 12 continuous hours when using GPS. You can set goals, track your exercise output, monitor your heart rate, analyze sleep, and access Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It does require a Fitbit Premium Membership to access all content features, but new members get a six-month free trial.

What you should consider: Some customers felt overwhelmed by all of the extra features.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top running watch for the money

Casio Women’s Runner Series

Casio Women’s Runner Series

What you need to know: This simple but practical and stylish running watch is waterproof and comes with a 200-lap memory.

What you’ll love: The features on this watch are easy to navigate, and the data clearly visible on the display screen. You can set up to five daily alarms, track your sleep and count your steps. It’s lightweight and the battery lasts long, so with average use, you don’t have to charge it every day.

What you should consider: This watch doesn’t have some of the advanced features standard on other running watches.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch

Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch

What you need to know: This durable watch was built to withstand the elements and meets military standards for being thermal-, shock- and water-resistant.

What you’ll love: With three global navigation systems, you never have to worry about getting lost or finding your way back to where you started. The smart notifications let you always stay connected. You can track your heart rate, activity and stress levels. The battery lasts for up to 14 days in smart mode and 16 hours in GPS mode. You can use the Garmin app to track your fitness and plan your training. 

What you should consider: This is one of the more expensive watches and comes with technology and features not essential for beginners.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Ryan Dempsey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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