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Tech & Wearables

6 of Our Favorite Running Watches

We tested the latest to take the guesswork out of which watch is right for you.

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Your GPS running watch does a lot for you, but you shouldn’t settle for one that only tracks your distance. After months of testing—looking at devices based on features, accuracy, battery life, connectivity, and what they’re like to use on our daily runs—we have rounded up the best running watches on the market.

Garmin Forerunner 245 | $350

Garmin Forerunner smartwatch

An update to a tried-and-true GPS watch, the 245 has enough new features to make you consider upgrading from the classic Garmin 235.

Advancements include performance monitoring and adaptive training plans, new safety features, and other upgraded health features—like menstrual cycle tracking and sleep monitoring.

If you’re a music or podcast lover, this updated model will be the watch for you. As long as you have Bluetooth headphones, the 245 let’s you leave one piece of technology at home when you run—your phone—and lets you sync your favorite music from services like Spotify as you run.

On the downside, the connected audio capabilities do drain the battery a little quicker when you’re using GPS along with music streaming (only 6 hours, according to Garmin).

Coros Pace 2 | $200

Coros Pace 2 smartwatch

Despite the small price tag, this watch is an absolute category killer with pretty much everything a runner needs to train and race. Honestly, it’s a watch with so many on-the-nose functions and features that it actually feels mispriced at only $200. While the original Pace was a good bare bones smartwatch with precisely the sport modes a runner would need, it felt like exactly the right watch at the exactly the right price. It looked a little plasticky, it had limited functions, and it didn’t really stand out. This version changes all that.

We’ve put some serious time and workouts into this watch, and we’ve looked high and low for features and functions that could be done better. While you can dig through the long laundry list of crazy performance testing/recovery/sport modes/workout suggestions/lifestyle features to find things that other $400+ watches have but the Pace 2 doesn’t, but we’ll tell you a secret: We never missed them while we were out training or analyzing our data post-workout.

Apple Watch 6 | $400

Series 6 Apple Watch smartwatch

A lifestyle watch with an impressive level of bells and whistles standard in the Apple suite. New ECG and heart-rate features, along with Apple Fitness+, make it appealing for general fitness.

On the plus side: the new ability to track ECG and heart-rate variability are nearly medical-grade and truly impressive. Introduced in the Series 5 (but made brighter in this iteration), runners in particular will like the always-on display, so you don’t have to exaggeratedly lift your arm to peek at your pace.

Being able to respond to texts, listen to onboard music, and way more is done better than pretty much every other lifestyle smartwatch out there. And, like Apple is known for, this watch is well-designed and as pretty as they come, with both 40mm and 44mm watch face size options and a variety of higher-end band options.

The downside? You obviously need an iPhone, so Android users can’t get in on this party. And the battery life is one of the worst we tested, so distance runners heading out for mega-long runs might not be able to make it through without losing power.

Suunto 7 | $399

Suunto 7 smartwatch

This watch has a blend of full lifestyle functionality and medium-level single-sport training capabilities on a beefy touchscreen smartwatch. In this model you’ll score a large, beautiful touchscreen with intuitive navigation, as well as fantastic GPS navigation display, offline maps, and popularity routing. (Making it a popular pick among road and trail runners.) You’ll also find good compatibility with Android via WearOS (works with Apple iOS as well), making it a solid pick over the Apple watch for non-iPhone users.

On the downside: While not the worst we tested, you’ll find the Suunto 7 to have a relatively low battery life for people who train long and often.

Polar Grit X | $430

Polar Grit X smartwatch

A touchscreen smartwatch with some excellent training and recovery functions like on-wrist running power, loads of sport profiles, and sleep tracking and analysis. As far as on-wrist heart-rate monitoring goes, this was one of the most accurate we tested.

It has a long-lasting battery, navigation capabilities, and advanced workout tracking features. But, on your wrist, the Grit X is smaller than many other rugged outdoor models.

The battery will last an impressive 40 hours in standard GPS mode, but you can boost that lifespan by reducing the frequency of its tracking—up to 100 hours if it pings your location every two minutes and all other sensors are disabled. Translation: For extreme ultras and multiday hikes, it’ll get you to the end without extra juice.

Another pretty sweet feature: the hill splitter. This feature automatically detects when you start climbing or descending, and will display how long you’ve been running the hill and how steep it is. If you’re doing a hill workout, it’ll also keep track of how many reps you’ve done.

Fitbit Sense | $300

Fitbit Sense smartwatch

The big selling point around Fitbit’s newest smartwatch is actually in its name: This watch has more sensors built in than almost any other lifestyle smartwatch on the market. The most notable being SpO2 (pulse oxygen), EDA scan, skin temperature, and ECG.

The Sense also has the same standard smartwatch “lifestyle” features that other models in the Fitbit lineup do pretty well: answering calls, checking notifications, music, and more. Along with a nice-looking touchscreen display and some very cool watchband options (design and style that’s on par with Apple). Oh, speaking of that other brand, the Sense’s battery life blows the doors off the Apple Watch. You’ll get five days of battery life (on a 12-minute charge!). Which makes it one of the most ideal watches for your tracking sleep, where you’ll get helpful stats and a nightly sleep score via the Fitbit app.

From a running perspective, the GPS felt at times unreliable when running in cities and there were discrepancies in pace and distance when running on a treadmill, but if you’re not tied to specifics and looking for a more overarching assessment of your daily movement, this is an attractive watch for those who want to stay connected and check on their biofeedback.

RELATED: Editors’ Choice: This is Our Favorite Running Gear of 2021