Runners are always challenging themselves, whether it’s beating a past best time or reaching the next frontier of distance. Consider a running watch when looking for tools to help you meet your goals. Running watches are specially designed to track how far you’ve run and at what pace you’re running, moment by moment.
Modern watches include features like measuring your VO2 max and perceived exertion and will allow you to buy a beverage to rehydrate at the end of your run. Find the best running watch for your specific style from this list.
Quicklook: Best Running Watches
- Best for Beginner to Intermediate Runners: Coros Pace 2
- Best for Affordable, Yet Feature-Rich Watch: Garmin Forerunner 255
- Best for Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 955
- Best for Athletes Looking to Track Various Activities: Garmin Fenix 7
- Best Smartwatch: Apple Watch
- Best Fitbit for Run Tracking: Fitbit Sense 2
- Best for Training Analysis: Polar Vantage V2
- Best for Stylish Running Watch: Garmin Venu 2 Plus
- Best Running Watch with Intuitive Navigation: SUUNTO 7 GPS Sports Smart Watch
9 Best Watches For Runners
When you start shopping for the best running watches, you’ll find an overwhelming number of options, which can lead to analysis paralysis. Create a short list of features important to you. Whether you’re training to qualify for the Boston Marathon or just looking to participate in one of the best half marathons around America’s natural wonders, you’ll find a watch that matches your running skill and fitness level.
Best for Beginner to Intermediate Runners: Coros Pace 2
The Coros Pace 2 is a popular watch among elite marathon and half marathon runners like Eliud Kipchoge and Molly Seidel. The watch includes a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter and built-in compass. It is extremely lightweight at just 29 grams. The Coros Pace 2 can upload workouts, help guide internal training and is stylish enough to function as your daily timepiece. One drawback is that the display is challenging to read in bright sunlight without turning on the backlight or shading the screen.
Coros has excellent satellite positioning, which means you won’t be standing around waiting for the GPS to load before you start your run. Plus, the watch tracks cadence and stride information during your run.
- Best Overall GPS Running watch by New York Times
- Best Feature-Packed Mid-Range Running Watch by Tech Radar
- Best GPS Running Watch by Active
- Best Bang for Your Buck by Greatist
Best For Affordable, Yet Feature-Rich Watch: Garmin Forerunner 255
There’s a reason the Garmin Forerunner 255 makes so many top lists for running watches. It’s affordable, simple to navigate and provides outstanding features for the price. The watch comes with Garmin Pay, which allows you to upload your credit card to the watch for transactions before, during or after your run.
You can choose from two sizes and styles, and the watch has an optional add-on music integration if you prefer to run without a phone. It includes a barometric altimeter and gyroscope.
The watch has a 14-day battery life but will last between 26 and 30 hours while using the GPS, depending on which size you get.
If you tend to be tough on your tech, you’ll be glad to know this watch comes with a 1.1- or 1.3-inch (depending on the size you choose) Gorilla Glass 3 display, which is hard to crack, scratch or break. Given the affordability of this watch and its strong features, it makes a great gift for a runner.
- Best Running Watch Overall by Tom’s World
- Best Value Running Watch by Runner’s World
- Best GPS Running Watch by The New York Times
- Best Overall Running Watch by Active
Best for Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 955
The Garmin Forerunner 955 makes the list as the best watch for triathletes as it offers best-in-class multisport modes and water resistance up to 50 meters. It comes with a touchscreen so you can operate the watch the same way you would a phone or tablet. You can buy a solar-powered model of the watch that will give you up to 49 hours of battery life in GPS mode, compared to 42 hours for the standard model.
If you’ve used the Forerunner 945, the 955 is the newer, updated model. The watch face is easy to read when you’re outside and simple to navigate using the same five buttons users of other Garmin models will be familiar with.
Garmin now offers a Training Readiness metric, which will show you how ready you are to take on a challenging workout based on your sleep, previous workouts, heart rate variability (HRV) status and stress.
- Best Running Watch for Triathletes by Tom’s Guide
- Best All-Around Running Watch by Runner’s World
Best for Athletes Looking to Track Various Activities: Garmin Fenix 7
The Garmin Fenix 7 brings powerful training tools and a touchscreen upgrade from past models. The technical additions naturally bring with them a higher price tag.
The watch has a real-time stamina meter that helps measure how energy levels change throughout a run. The energy measurement tool also generates predictions for finish times, which can give you a helpful measure of your fitness and training required to hit your running goals.
If you’ve used a Garmin before, you’ll still find the same five buttons as on other watches, but now you can also navigate using the touchscreen. The touchscreen ends up being most valuable with the maps feature, allowing you to search with greater ease. You can also download the Garmin MapManager, which allows you to upload, store and update map packs.
Athletes who like to engage in a variety of outdoor pursuits find this watch outstanding because of its versatility of training tools ranging from cycling and t hiking to climbing and skiing. One drawback is that the new touchscreen can make it more challenging to read in bright light.
- Best Premium Running Watch with a Touchscreen by Tech Radar
Best Running Smartwatch: Apple Watch
If you’re an Apple user, the interface of the Apple Watch will feel familiar and will pair natively with your other devices. Runners looking to live a comprehensive healthy lifestyle will find that wearing an Apple daily will help with motivation.
In addition to the activity tracking features, the Apple Watch has access to the Apple App Store, which allows you to download other apps such as step counters and daily meditation apps. The Apple Watch is the running watch with the best connection to an iPhone, allowing you to place calls, send text messages and listen to music.
Enjoy the ease of the voice assistant, check your blood oxygen levels in the app, and it can even double as a remote control for your Apple TV.
When wearing your watch, all you have to do is tap to pay at retailers that accept Apple Pay.
- Best Smart Running Watch by Active
- Best Running Watch for All-Around Fitness by Insider
- Best Running Watch for Apple Users by Greatist
Best Fitbit for Run Tracking: Fitbit Sense 2
The Fitbit Sense 2 offers outstanding features for runners. It’s water resistant up to 165 feet, can track your sleep performance, facilitates mobile payments, and offers Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved blood oxygen readings and electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors to track your overall well-being.
The watch is one of the most comfortable activity trackers on the market, and although it’s considered a smartwatch, it doesn’t have access to third-party apps like an Apple or Samsung watch.
- Best Running Fitbit by Tom’s Guide
Best for Training Analysis: Polar Vantage V2
The Polar Vantage V2 offers outstanding tools for analyzing and understanding how various factors impact your training. For example, the watch will recommend how much recovery and sleep is required to fully restore your body from the previous day’s training. It’s like having a personal trainer on your wrist.
Polar also provides highly accurate GPS. If you’re a data-focused runner, this watch is for you. You’ll see daily, weekly and monthly information on miles run, calories burned and the average time you spend running in aerobic and anaerobic power zones. The watch has a built-in leg recovery test to tell you whether today is a good day for rigorous exercise.
- Best Running Watch for Training Feedback by Insider
- Best Running Watch for Training by Greatist
Best for Stylish Running Watch: Garmin Venu 2 Plus
The Garmin Venu 2 has all the features you’ve come to love from the running watch manufacturer, but it offers a sleek new design that looks a bit more stylish.
Athletes love the Garmin Venu 2’s rapid charging, health tracking metrics, waterproof design and comfortable band that users describe as “buttery soft” yet elegant in a way many smartwatches or activity trackers are not.
Like other watches on the market, the Venu offers the Body Battery feature, which will tell you whether today should be a rest day or if you can push your body a little harder during a challenging workout.
- Editor’s Pick for Best Running Watch by Greatist
Best Running Watch with Intuitive Navigation: SUUNTO 7 GPS Sports Smart Watch
The SUUNTO 7 GPS sports smartwatch offers powerful activity-tracking features for more than 70 different exercises. With so many tools and features, it’s no surprise that this watch is one of the more expensive options on the list.
This is the first smartwatch from SUUNTO, which also makes dive watches and compasses, but it has taken the running community by storm since its release. It runs on Google’s Wear OS operating system, so you’ll need to have both the SUUNTO and Wear OS apps on your phone for the best results.
As a GPS running watch, the device is outstanding. The watch gently vibrates each mile so you don’t have to keep checking your watch as you log your miles.
- Best Overall Running Watch by Insider
How to Choose a Watch For Running
With ample options for high-quality running watches, you’ll want to review features and decide what is best for you based on your interests, activities and requirements.
If you’re in the market for a watch to track your running progress, you’re also going to find other features that could benefit your life and fitness. Some popular watch features include:
- Built-in maps
- Running metrics
- Recovery metrics
- Personalized workouts
- Various sport modes to track activities
- GPS tracking
- Calls and text
- Smartphone apps
- Music storage and streaming
- Wi-Fi compatibility
- Weather reports
- Solar charging to extend battery life
Depending on where you are in your run training, you might not need the best of the best. Some seasoned runners prefer the sounds of nature and security of carrying a credit card compared to built-in music storage and digital payments.
Weigh the pros and cons of added features against how much you’re willing to pay for a watch. If you don’t think you’ll use the more advanced features, there is no reason to get the newest, flashiest model.
Choosing a watch that is a step down or one model older than what was just released can be a smart way of saving some money.
Design and Wearability
Many athletes wear their running watches all the time. Pick a design you find attractive and easy to wear. For example, people with a smaller wrist might appreciate a watch with a smaller face, while those who plan to use a smartwatch for texting and calling might like a larger face
Track Your Mileage and Tons More
Good running watches are for far more than tracking run mileage, though they do an excellent job of helping you keep track of your running activity and motivating you to accomplish more tomorrow. As you shop, consider helpful features and how the watch could do more than just motivate your runs.
Runners like Garmin because of its GPS accuracy and speed of connecting with satellites. These watches also tend to have long battery life even while in GPS tracking mode.
Runners use watches to learn stats about a run, such as elapsed time, distance and calories burned. Seeing a live pace can help runners check their consistency during tempo runs or track HIIT or interval-style workouts with ease.
Most runners find it comfortable and natural to wear their watch facing the outside of their wrist. However, wearing the watch on the inside of your wrist could help protect the face from impact or collision with objects around you as you go about your daily life.