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The Best Running Watches

Group looking at running watches
(Image credit: Getty Images / Leo Patrizi)

When it comes to improving your running, knowledge is power – and thanks to the tech that can be wrapped around the wrist of anyone with a bit of disposable income, amateur athletes now have more insight into their training than ever before. Whereas in the past even the elites had to get by with just a stopwatch and a reasonable idea of how far they were going, nowadays every runner can track their exact distance, pace, cadence, heart rate and much more.

A good running watch is far more than an everyday fitness tracker. To be worthy of the name a device should contain built-in GPS, enable you to analyse run-specific metrics and include or be able to assess training programmes.

This used to mean that even the cheapest options cost three figures, but as you’ll see below there are now a few GPS-ready options under that mark. However, you’ll probably still need to spend over a ton to get a decent set of features, and for fancier stuff like training and running form analysis you’ll be looking at $500/£400-plus.

The Best Running Watches

Garmin Forerunner 245 MusicEditor’s Choice 2019 Award Logo

In case you’re unsure if we test running watches thoroughly enough, that is a marathon senior writer Nick Harris-Fry logged on the Garmin Forerunner 245.  (Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Best-value running watch

Specifications

RRP: $349 / £299.99
Battery life: 7 days (smartwatch), 24 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sports tracking
+
Breadcrumb trail navigation
+
Music storage (245 Music only)
+
Significantly cheaper than Forerunner 255

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is good, but not great
-
No triathlon mode
-
Sleep tracking is inaccurate

Even though it’s been superseded by the Garmin Forerunner 255, we still rate the older Forerunner 245 as better value for runners. Not only does the 245 have a lower RRP than the 255, it’s also often found in sales for well under $250/£200.

The 255 adds a triathlon mode and some other improvements, including more accurate GPS tracking, but runners will still be more than satisfied by the 245 if they can get it for $150/£150 less than the new watch.

Music is one of the qualities that puts the Forerunner 245 in a league of its own, because it is the only serious sports watch at its price to offer music storage and the ability to sync with streaming services like Spotify. The run-tracking features on the 245 Music will satisfy all but the most tech-obsessed runners. It has accurate distance and heart rate tracking, you can load workouts and breadcrumb trails to follow on your wrist, and once you’ve finished running you get info on the training effect of your workout and a rating of whether your overall training load is effective or not.

Read more in our Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review


Coros Pace 2Editor’s Choice 2020 Award Logo

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Best entry-level running watch

Specifications

RRP: $199 / £179.99
Battery life: 20 days (smartwatch), 30 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Great battery life
+
Useful training analysis
+
Excellent value
+
Light and comfortable to wear 24/7

Reasons to avoid

-
No navigation features
-
No music storage

The Pace 2 offers terrific value to runners and triathletes alike, with accurate tracking, a wealth of stats, and excellent connectivity to external sensors via ANT+ and Bluetooth, as well as a monster battery life of 30 hours of GPS. It’ll even track running power from your wrist, a feature previously seen only on high-end watches.

It’s also a very light and comfortable watch to wear for long runs, and you can load structured workouts and training plans onto the Pace 2 to follow from your wrist. What it lacks is smart features, navigation, and the slicker software and training analysis you get with Garmin and Polar devices, which is more than forgivable considering the price.

Read more in our Coros Pace 2 review


Garmin Forerunner 55

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Best beginner running watch

Specifications

RRP: $199.99 / £179.99
Battery life: 14 days (smartwatch), 20 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable, light design
+
Suggested workouts
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No navigation features
-
Limited training analysis
-
No music storage

The Forerunner 55 is a serious rival to the Coros Pace 2 for the title of best entry-level watch, and it has some features that make it particularly well suited to new runners. These include guided training plans for 5K, 10K and half marathon races through Garmin Coach, advice on how long you should spend recovering after each run and, best of all if you’re not following a training plan, suggested workouts each day to help ensure your training is balanced between easy and hard running.

These features are on top of an excellent all-round running package that includes strong battery life (20 hours of GPS), customisable workouts, and accurate distance and heart rate tracking. The Forerunner 55 is also a better everyday activity and sleep tracker than its Coros rival, and its small size makes it very comfortable to wear 24/7.

Read more in our Garmin Forerunner 55 review


Amazfit GTS 2 Mini

(Image credit: Amazfit)

Amazfit GTS 2 Mini

Best running watch under $100 / £100

Specifications

RRP: $79.99 / £79
Battery life: 7 days (smartwatch)

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in GPS
+
AMOLED screen
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Short battery life

The Amazfit range is loaded with bargain smartwatches and the stand-out two-figure pick for runners is the GTS 2 Mini, which has built-in GPS plus an impressive AMOLED display to see all your stats on. The watch packs all the main features of the GTS 2 into a smaller frame: however, the display is less bright and detailed, and it is tempting to upgrade since the GTS 2 is often discounted since the GTS 3 has launched.

As you’d expect at this price, the run tracking experience is more basic, but the GTS 2 Mini covers all the key stats. Its smart features are also limited, lacking music storage and an app store, but you can control music playback on a connected smartphone and see notifications on the watch.


Garmin Forerunner 255Editor’s Choice 2022

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Garmin Forerunner 255 Music

Best mid-range multisport watch

Specifications

RRP: $399.99 / £349.99
Battery life: 14 days (smartwatch), 30 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Multisport mode
+
Multi-band GPS
+
Music storage (on 255 Music and 255S Music only)
+
Two sizes

Reasons to avoid

-
Price rise on previous version
-
Battery life not that impressive

Many runners don’t just run, and if you’re a triathlete (or are considering becoming one in the future) you’ll be delighted that Garmin has added a multisport mode to its popular mid-range 2X5 line. That’s not the only update on the previous generation either: multi-band GPS promises more accurate distance and pace tracking, while heart rate variability status updates help you decide how hard to train.

The Forerunner 235 and then the 245 have been our recommendations for the best-value running watches in recent years, offering more features than entry-level watches while being much cheaper than flagship devices like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Coros Vertix 2. The Forerunner 255 is still the best running watch in the middle of the market, but the price increase on the 245 means that if you don’t plan on taking up triathlons any time soon, you might be better served by the older watch.

It’s not just triathletes who will have rejoiced at the launch of the Forerunner 255, however. People with small wrists will be delighted by the new smaller sizes option – the Forerunner 255S and 255S Music offer all the same features (bar a shorter battery life) in a smaller case.

Read more in our Garmin Forerunner 255 review


Apple Watch Series 7Editor’s Choice 2021 Award Logo

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Apple Watch Series 7

Best smartwatch for running

Specifications

RRP: From $399 / £369
Battery life: 18 hours (smartwatch), 7 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Bigger screen than its predecessors
+
Impressive third-party running apps
+
Engaging activity tracking

Reasons to avoid

-
One-day battery life
-
Not a huge update on Series 6
-
Weak sleep tracking

Apple didn’t introduce a whole lot of new features with the Series 7 compared with the Series 6, but the new watch does have a larger display and more robust design, both of which are welcome upgrades for runners.

While the native sports tracking on the watch remains relatively basic, there are many impressive apps available for the Apple Watch that can easily match the features of most running watches. Apps such as WorkOutDoors and iSmoothRun provide all the stats a dedicated running watch does, and WorkOutDoors also has brilliant in-app maps and breadcrumb navigation. When you’re not running you also get the benefits of having a proper smartwatch on your wrist, although it does lack the battery life of most running devices.

The Apple Watch also impresses at both GPS and heart rate accuracy, often outperforming sports watches on these fronts in our testing. If you opt for the 4G version of the Apple Watch 7 you can also receive calls, send texts and emails, and stream music through the watch while you run without your phone. Even if you never intend on answering a call while knocking out 5K, the ability to stream the extensive catalogue of songs on Apple Music feels almost magical.

Read more in our Apple Watch Series 7 review


Garmin Epix 2Editor’s Choice 2022

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Best running watch if money is no object

Specifications

RRP: $899.99-$999.99 / £799.99-£999.99
Battery life: 16 days (smartwatch), 42 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Vibrant AMOLED touchscreen
+
Excellent sports tracking
+
Colour maps and navigation features
+
Music storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Less battery life than other top sports watches

The Forerunner 245 provides all the features most runners really need – but if you’re looking for the ultimate watch and have the cash to splash, splash it on the Garmin Epix 2. It has everything the incredible Garmin Fenix 7(below) has, but displays it on a bright AMOLED screen instead of a transflective display.

This means routes are markedly easier to follow while running, making the experience of using the Epix 2 considerably better. The Epix 2 also offers the best of Garmin’s sports features, including insightful training analysis and accurate GPS tracking via multi-GNSS and even a multi-band mode on the more expensive sapphire models. It also has music storage and can be linked to a Spotify Premium or Amazon Music account for offline playback.

You pay for the screen in more ways than one, however. The Epix 2 is $200/£200 dearer than the already pricy Fenix 7, and it also needs charging every five days or so (though you can extend this by turning off the always-on screen), compared with every few weeks for the Fenix 7.

Read more in our Garmin Epix 2 review


Garmin Forerunner 955 post-run screenEditor’s Choice 2022

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
All of Garmin’s best features in a lightweight watch

Specifications

RRP: $499.99 / £479.99
Battery life: 15 days (smartwatch), 42 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class sports tracking
+
Colour maps and navigation features
+
Music storage
+
Much cheaper than Fenix 7 and Epix 2

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life not that impressive

It’s simplistic to say that the Garmin Forerunner 955 is a Garmin Fenix 7 in a lighter plastic case, with a much lower price as a result, but that does hit the nail on the head and it’s not in any way a disparaging comment about the 955. In fact, this is one of the best-value running watches available despite costing $500/£480, offering a tremendous array of features for hundreds less than you pay for those features in the Fenix 7 and Epix 2.

The features include colour maps with useful navigation features and music storage, on top of the best sports tracking on any watch and accurate multi-band GPS. The insightful training analysis has a new stand-out feature, too: Garmin’s terrific training readiness feature, which tells you how ready you are to train based on factors such as sleep, training history and heart rate variability.

Spending more on a Fenix 7 or Epix 2 will net you all of the above in a better-looking watch that uses higher-quality materials, and the Epix 2 has an especially lovely AMOLED screen – but if you’re all about the features and not appearances, the Forerunner 955 is simply the best running watch to get.

Read more in our Garmin Forerunner 955


Polar Pace Pro running watch

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Polar running watch

Specifications

RRP: $299.95 / £259
Battery life: 7 days (smartwatch), 35 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Polar’s key features in a cheaper watch
+
Lightweight
+
Great training and sleep analysis
+
Breadcrumb navigation

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks dated
-
Short battery life

The Pacer Pro didn’t introduce any exciting new features, but instead made waves by bringing all the key features on Polar’s top-of-the-range Vantage V2 and Grit X Pro to a cheaper watch that’s also lighter. You’re getting a full multisport watch with extensive training analysis features for $300/£259 as a result, and it’s hard to justify spending the extra on the Vantage V2 or Grit X Pro unless you much prefer their design.

Along with the great sports tracking and training analysis, the Pacer Pro also offers breadcrumb navigation and some basic smart features like weather forecasts and music controls (but not storage). It’s a great alternative to the Garmin Forerunner 255 and Coros Pace 2 if you prefer Polar’s ecosystem.

Read more in our Polar Pacer Pro review


Coros Vertix 2

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Best for battery life

Specifications

RRP: $699.99 / £599.99
Battery life: 60 days (smartwatch), Up to 140 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Month-long battery life
+
Colour maps
+
Detailed training analysis
+
Rugged design

Reasons to avoid

-
Large and heavy
-
No turn-by-turn navigation
-
No streaming service partnerships for music
-
Screen is a little dull

Coros has always pushed the boundaries of expected battery life and the Vertix 2 lasts longer than any other GPS sports watch. It will last more than a month even with intensive use and offers all the features you’d expect at this price.

That includes GPS tracking using GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou satellite systems simultaneously, and you can also use multi-band tracking, though this brings the GPS battery life down from 90 hours to 50. There’s also a GPS-only mode that nets you a monster 140 hours of tracking.

The Vertix 2 is also one of the only sports watches outside Garmin’s range to offer colour maps, though there is no turn-by-turn navigation, and in general the mapping experience falls short of what you get on the Fenix range and Epix 2. The Vertix 2 does also offer music storage, though it can’t be linked to a streaming service yet.

Read more in our Coros Vertix 2 review


Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire elevation screenEditor’s Choice 2022

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Best for ultramarathon runners

Specifications

RRP: $699.99-$999.99 / £599.99-£1,049.99
Battery life: 18 days (smartwatch, without solar), 57 hours (GPS, without solar)

Reasons to buy

+
Top-notch sports tracking
+
Long battery life
+
Improved GPS accuracy
+
Touchscreen
+
Colour maps and clever navigation tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
The 7X in particular is a hefty watch

If you’re set on tackling long runs in the wilderness, then the Fenix 7 is the watch you want on your wrist. It boasts an impressive battery life, so you won’t run out of juice halfway through your ultramarathon, and has colour maps to keep you on track. The impressive ClimbPro tool analyses all the climbs and descents on your route so you can plan your effort accordingly on mountain runs.

You get more battery life from the larger Fenix 7X than the standard 7, and there are solar options in the range that can add charge to the battery using solar panels around the watch face. Whichever Fenix 7 you opt for, however, you’re getting a lot of battery: even the smallest Fenix 7S offers 37 hours of GPS-only tracking, rising to 122 hours on the Fenix 7X solar version when used in sunny conditions. The battery life will come down if using the more accurate GPS modes, which use multiple satellite systems at once, and there is multi-band mode on the sapphire models in the range too.

The Fenix 7 also has all the best sports tracking features Garmin offers, which is also to say the best sports tracking features any device offers. You get detailed training analysis that can help you judge how well you’re acclimatising to heat or altitude, as well as suggested workouts each day to help balance your training load between easy and hard runs. The watch also has space for music, and syncs wirelessly with a Spotify Premium or Amazon Music account.

Read more in our  Garmin Fenix 7 review


Huawei Watch GT Runner displaying three exercise options: outdoor run, indoor run and outdoor walk

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
An impressive running smartwatch with great training analysis

Specifications

RRP: £259.99 (UK only)
Battery life: Up to 14 days

Reasons to buy

+
Bright, large screen
+
Impressive training analysis
+
Training plans for running events

Reasons to avoid

-
GPS accuracy issues
-
Limited features for iPhone users
-
Few apps compared with App Store and Google Play

The GT Runner is one of the sportiest smartwatches we’ve tested, and it’s loaded with useful features for runners. These include extensive and useful training analysis, and the ability to create custom training plans for races, with the watch guiding you through each workout. The watch has multi-band GPS tracking, though we did find it wasn’t up to the standard set by other watches with this feature.

On the smarts side, Huawei and Android phone users will get the most from the GT Runner, which has music storage and a modest app store that does include the Petal Maps mapping app. It’s not as smart as an Apple Watch or a full Wear OS device, but it’s pretty smart, and the GT Runner also has a fantastic AMOLED screen that’s bright and easy to read in all conditions.

Read more in our Huawei Watch GT Runner review


Amazfit T-Rex 2

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Amazfit T-Rex 2

A great-value sports watch with an AMOLED screen

Specifications

RRP: $229.99 / £219
Battery life: 24 days (smartwatch), 50 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
AMOLED screen
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen can be hard to read in sunlight
-
Design won’t suit everyone
-
Can’t pair with external sensors

One of the most pleasant surprises of 2022, the Amazfit T-Rex 2 is an attractive option for runners seeking a genuinely useful sports watch with a smartwatch-style screen. It’s not perfect: one flaw is that in bright sunlight it’s not always easy to read your stats quickly during a run – but it’s not that hard either, and it’s a flaw we can forgive given the value you’re getting here.

The T-Rex 2 has proper customisable data screens for your runs, plus an intervals mode, and offers multi-band GPS tracking that we found was generally extremely accurate even in tricky GPS conditions. The heart rate monitor is also pretty good, though it’s a shame you can’t pair external straps to get the best results on this front.

It’s not a proper smartwatch, with no music support or app store to call on, but it has the screen of one paired with the sports-tracking smarts and rugged exterior of an adventure watch, all at a great price. 


Polar Vantage V2

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Best for running power

Specifications

RRP: $499.95 / £449.99
Battery life: 7 days (smartwatch), 40 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Light, comfortable design
+
Detailed training analysis
+
Running power measured from wrist

Reasons to avoid

-
No music storage or NFC payments
-
Poor battery life
-
No ANT support

Running power is a measurement that, like pace and heart rate, allows you to gauge your effort levels on a run. The advantage is it’s not affected by terrain or incline as the other two are. While a linked footpod is normally required to generate a power reading, Polar measures it using just the watch on the Vantage V2, Grit X and the Vantage V.

The Vantage V2 is Polar’s flagship and our recommendation, since it combines all the features you’ll find on the V and Grit X in a slimmer, lighter frame that’s more comfortable to wear.

Along with running power, the V2 offers running fitness tests so you can gauge your progress in training, along with impressive features to help track your recovery between workouts. This includes some of the best sleep tracking you’ll find on any running watch and a quick leg recovery jump test that assesses what shape your muscles are in. The V2 will even suggest workouts for you based on your overall readiness to perform on that day.

The V2 also offers breadcrumb navigation with turn-by-turn directions and Polar’s brilliant Fuelwise feature, which can help you plan your nutrition for long runs and then alert you during the run so you don’t miss a gel or drink

The V2 is one of the best running watches on the market, and having power measured natively on the wrist is a bonus that could persuade many runners to buy.

Read more in our Polar Vantage V2 review


Suunto 7 Smartwatch

(Image credit: Suunto)
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Best Android smartwatch for running

Specifications

RRP: $399 / £329
Battery life: 2 days (smartwatch), 12 hours (GPS)

Reasons to buy

+
Wear OS and Google Play support
+
Suunto sports app
+
Bright display

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor battery life
-
Worse tracking than sports watches
-
Expensive

Being frank, Android smartwatches do not impress when it comes to run tracking. Even the best options from top brands like Samsung (which runs its own watch software) and Huawei have underwhelming run tracking, so if you want top-notch sports tracking you’re usually better off with a semi-smartwatch like the Garmin Venu or Fitbit Versa 3, which don’t have well-stocked app stores.

However, the Suunto 7 comes the closest to offering a full Wear OS smartwatch experience plus good run tracking with the company’s own sports app loaded on the watch. It’s not a full Suunto sports watch experience – there are some basic omissions in the run tracking such as customisable workouts – but it is pretty solid. It’s also the best you’ll get on a smartwatch that runs Wear OS and thus has access to the Google Play app store and features like Google Pay.

The 7 also has one killer feature: heatmaps. You choose one of 15 sports – which includes both running and trail running – and a map is downloaded to the watch with the most popular running or trail running routes highlighted. It’s a nifty feature when travelling, but it can also reveal new routes where you live. You can set up your own routes to follow from your wrist with directions.

Read more in our Suunto 7 review

Running Watch Buying Advice

Running watches all serve the same core purpose, which is to track your pace and heart rate, and provide those stats live on your wrist. (If you’re unsure why you’d even want to know these things, here’s an explainer of how a running watch can improve your running.) All the watches above do this job well because they have built-in GPS and heart rate monitors. However, there are big differences in the design, battery life and other features, so the best place to start when picking a watch is to consider what features are essential for you.

Here are some of the key features, in brief.

  • Battery life: Running watches tend to have at least enough battery to allow you to track a full marathon with GPS, but you can pay more for a longer battery life. 
  • Music storage: Rather than carrying your phone with you, your music can be loaded on to the watch to stream to Bluetooth running headphones.
  • Smartwatch features: Beyond music, the most useful for runners is contactless payments, so you can buy a drink or get a bus home in a pinch.
  • Structured workouts: This feature allows you to specify the steps of a workout and then follow it on a watch. It’s especially useful for intervals as well as other types of run which require you to stay at a certain pace or heart rate zone.
  • Guided training plans: Here, the watch sets a schedule of structured workouts to prepare you to run a set distance – normally 5K, 10K, a half marathon or marathon. You then follow each workout on the watch.
  • Training analysis: This typically assesses how each run impacts your fitness and whether your training as a whole is being productive.
  • Maps and navigation: These turn your watch into a satnav, although the full-colour maps you may be used to are available on only a few devices.

Once you’ve worked out what’s essential for you, just find the cheapest watch that does those things. Easy, right?

The best entry-level running watches cost around £150 to £200, though there are cheaper options that will get the basic job done. Watches in this bracket will offer reliable tracking, structured workouts, solid battery life, and even some useful training analysis and advice.

Raise your budget to £300 and you’ll get longer battery life, devices with bigger and better-quality screens, more in-depth training analysis and breadcrumb navigation, which essentially is a line to follow on a plain background. You can also get music storage at this price. If you can stretch to £400 you’ll have your pick of the best true smartwatches for runners.

If you have more cash than that, and the inclination to spend it on a £400-plus running watch, there are some truly remarkable devices available in the high-end category. Here you’ll find features like full-colour maps (a real game-changer) and more-accurate GPS modes, plus batteries that last over a month.

Nick Harris-Fry
Nick Harris-Fry

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.