Best Running Watches – Top Rated 13 (2020)

A running watch can easily help your runs become more fun and effective. It’s like having your own personal coach and trainer on your wrist. But there are tons of different options all with a variety of features designed for different types of runners. How can you know which to choose? We’ve done the work for you by reading page after page of spec sheets, product information and reviews from other runners like you. 

Hands down our top pick for the best running watch is the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition. Its wide-range of advanced tracking features, long battery life, accurate GPS and storage for up to 1,000 songs make this an easy choice.

Check out our 12 other great picks for running watches. You’ll definitely be surprised at our budget options. It’s surprising how many nice features you can get for such a cheap price!

Top Picks & Favorites Comparsion Table
IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition
  • Features: Store 1,000+ songs, up to 15hr battery with GPS and music, solar power option
  • Benefits: Phone-free music and advanced GPS tracking features, no matter how long your run is
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Garmin Forerunner 35
  • Features: GPS tracking, up to 13hr battery life with GPS, simple interface
  • Benefits: Easy to use, long battery life, gets smartphone notifications
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Garmin Forerunner 945
  • Features: Up to 10 hrs GPS and music playback, advanced tracking across a variety of sports and activities
  • Benefits: Track advanced fitness metrics regardless of the combination of sports your doing
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Fitbit Versa 2
  • Features: Store up to 300 songs, 6-day battery life, track your heart rate and distance
  • Benefits: Great features for the price, like phone-free music and long battery life
CHECK LATEST PRICE

Best Overall Running Watch

1. Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition

If the price isn’t an option and you’re looking for the ultimate in running watches, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition is for you. This running watch is truly incredible. It’s kind of like having a running partner, coach, personal trainer and secretary all in one. It will truly help you be the best runner you can be. You don’t deserve any less.

Whether you’re running in the mountains of Peru or the streets of LA, the Fenix 6X Pro will be keeping track of advanced performance metrics like your VO2 max, running dynamics, and even your heart rate variability. Never set the wrong pace thanks to its PacePro technology. It gives you pace guidance and even accurate race time predictions.

The GPS and onboard map functions are a perfect combination, especially if you’re running in a new area or want to explore new routes. Don’t worry about getting lost. Take your maps with you, no phone required! If you’re an avid trail runner, Garmin’s Trendline Popularity Routing helps you find the best trail routes and discover new ones without getting lost.

How many running playlists do you have? Fenix 6X Pro can hold them all! It comes with storage for over 1,000 songs. You can even download and play songs from music services like Spotify without needing your phone.

One of the top features of the Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition is its battery life. Use the GPS and play music to your Bluetooth headphones for up to 15 hours! You can even get an extra boost thanks to its solar power capabilities. Even if you’re going on a multi-day trail run, don’t worry about losing your maps with the 60-hour battery life while using GPS. 

Features: Tons of map features, solar-charging boost, 1,000+ song storage and advanced training features

Pros

  • Tracks a variety of advanced running metrics
  • Good battery life
  • Good onboard map options so you won’t get lost

Cons

  • More expensive than other options

Best Budget GPS Watch

2. Garmin Forerunner 35

Do you want a simple, no-frills running watch that won’t break the bank? You’ll love the Garmin Forerunner 35.  It’s a no-frills GPS watch designed specifically for the runner on a budget.  

Don’t be fooled by its low price point and less than flashy looks. This running watch has Garmin’s Elevate wrist heart rate technology so you get accurate HR measurements without worrying about any extra accessories. The Forerunner 35’s onboard GPS tracks your runs then uploads them to Garmin Connect so you can see how you performed. 

You can even get your notifications right on your wrist when you pair it with a compatible smartphone, so you never miss a message.

Features: Wrist heart rate technology, onboard GPS, uploads your runs to Garmin Connect

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use
  • GPS tracking automatically uploaded to Garmin Connect
  • Up to 13hrs battery life even in GPS mode
  • Receives smartphone notifications

Cons

  • Only basic run-tracking features

Best For Multisport Athletes (Most Versatile)

3. Garmin Forerunner 945

The Forerunner 945 is engineered specifically for triathletes. It has everything you need when training for or competing in your next Ironman. You really don’t want to get caught without it. What really sets it apart are its multi-sport functions. Basically, they allow you to track your runs, bike rides and swims all in one workout.

Just like it’s hefty cousin, the Fenix 6X Pro, it can store and play 1,000 songs from your favorite playlists. When using the GPS tracking combined with music playback the battery will last a long 10 hours. It’s got a rugged Gorilla Glass screen that is large and bright enough to be easily read in bright sunlight.

For ease of use during your workouts, it has several physical buttons on the outer rim that way you can easily check your metrics when sprinting from the water to your bike.  

Track more training metrics than ever! You can track things like Training Status, Training Effect and Training Load to fully evaluate your workout performance. You can even see if you’ve been overtraining, how your workouts have affected your aerobic and anaerobic systems and how best to optimize your training load for your specific goals.

Features: Onboard music and services like Spotify, performance training metrics for combined running, biking and swimming workouts.

Pros

  • Advanced triathlon tracking 
  • Good battery life
  • Large, easy to read screen and physical buttons
  • Onboard music with 1,000+ song storage

Cons

  • More expensive than other options

Best Non-GPS Watch Find

4. Fitbit Versa 2

If you’re not concerned about GPS tracking features and just want some simple tracking and phone-free music capabilities, the FitBit Versa 2 is a good option for you. You can easily track things like the number of steps and distance traveled. Because the Versa 2 uses other sensors, they may not be as accurate as GPS tracking, but they can still give you a good idea of how far and fast you ran.

The Versa 2 has enough storage for 300 songs. It’s not as much as some of the other options, but all but the most serious runners will need several runs to make it through all 300. These features along with the competitive price make the Fitbit Versa 2 our best non-GPS watch find.

Features: Heart rate tracking, steps and distance tracking, 6-day battery life, 300 song capacity

Pros

  • Phone free music and a 300 song capacity 
  • Track your heart rate, steps and distance
  • Play music without your phone
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Serious athletes might want more advanced tracking features

Best Budget Non-GPS Watch

5. Garmin Vívosmart 4

A great option if you just want some simple fitness tracking features in a sleek design is the Garmin Vivosmart 4. It’s a fashionable fitness tracker that will track things like heart rate, stress VO2 max and even your sleep. You may also like our guide on specific fitness watches for women and the best fitness trackers for kids, which you can read them here.

It’s actually hard to believe Garmin packed so many tracking features in such a small package and at such a low price point. Although it doesn’t have its own GPS, you can easily pair it with a smartphone to more accurately track your runs. Then you can upload that info to the Garmin Connect app to keep track of your workouts.

Features: Long battery life, Garmin Connect compatible, stylish design, fitness tracking

Pros

  • Nice range of fitness tracking features
  • Vibration alerts
  • 7-day battery life

Cons

  • Lacks advanced run tracking features

Best Basic Gps Watch With Wrist Heart Rate 

6. Garmin Vivosport

If you liked the form-factor of the Vivosmart, but definitely want something with GPS tracking, the Garmin Vivosport is the one to choose. It’s a basic GPS watch with wrist heart rate monitoring and a range of other run-specific features.

It has built-in GPS that will track your runs, then automatically upload them to Garmin Connect to easily see the results of your run. Wear it all day to measure your heart rate, estimate your VO2 max and even track your HRV (heart rate variability) so you can accurately measure your activity and stress levels.

Features: Built-in GPS, automatically uploads runs to Garmin Connect, all-day heart rate and stress tracking

Pros

  • GPS tracking shared with Garmin Connect
  • Up to 8 hrs battery life in GPS mode
  • 24/7 HR and stress tracking

Cons

  • No advanced running features

Best Basic GPS Watch with Wrist Heart Rate

7. Garmin Forerunner 45

If you’re looking for a few more run-specific features but without the big price tag, you’ll love the Garmin Forerunner 45. Garmin designed this watch specifically for runners since. It’s not filled with multi-sport tracking features you’ll never really use.

It has a sleek design, that’s not big on bulk while still packing a GPS sensor so you can get accurate run tracking and feedback. The wrist heart rate sensor lets you keep a constant watch on your HR and even alerts you if it stays elevated for too long.

There are cheaper budget GPS watches with wrist heart rate monitors, but we chose the Forerunner 45 because, despite its price tag, you still get Garmin’s stress tracking, Body Battery energy monitoring and the Garmin Coach.

Features: Wrist heart rate sensor, GPS, waterproof, great price

Pros

  • Large screen
  • Wrist heart rate sensor
  • 13 hr battery life with GPS
  • Great features for a low price

Cons

  • Limited multi-sport features, but it has plenty for running!

Best Multi-Activity GPS Watch

8. Apple Watch Series 5

The Apple Watch Series 5 isn’t designed primarily as a running watch, but it is getting more features that are beneficial for runners. And of course, it works really well if you’re already using other Apple products. It’s our top pick for a multi-activity watch since it works so well whether you are running, shopping, messaging friends or working out. 

The Apple Watch has a good selection of apps for tracking different aspects of your running and other fitness activities. One such app tracks your running pace and then gives you a slight vibration if your speed is off. It also works well for running without your phone thanks to its phone-free music features and built-in GPS tracking.

Features: Water-resistant to 50 meters, GPS, phone-free music playback

Pros

  • Built-in GPS
  • Make calls and take messages without your phone
  • Stream music from your watch
  • Plenty of fitness and running apps

Cons

  • Battery life could be better (4 hours with GPS+4G but up to 18 hours with varied usage)

Best Gps Watch With Music

9. Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

We love the Vivoactive 3’s combination of phone-free music streaming, onboard GPS, running features and competitive price. The Vivoactive 3 Music even has 4G LTE connectivity on the Verizon network. 

You truly can forget your phone and not worry about it. Didn’t get a chance to download your Amazon Music playlist? Just stream it. Got an important message you need to respond to? Phone-free messaging makes it easy.

Accurately track your runs and monitor your fitness levels with the integrated GPS and Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate monitor. It might not have some of the more advanced features of the expensive models, the basic GPS tracking features and the ability to stream your music without a phone make this our choice for the best GPS watch with music. You can check out the rest of our recommendations on GPS watch with music reviews.

Features: GPS, 4G LTE connectivity with Verizon, stream music phone free

Pros

  • Phone-free music and messaging
  • Storage for up to 500 songs
  • 4G LTE Connectivity

Cons

  • Battery life is not good when using GPS and streaming music over 4G (longer if you simply play downloaded music)

Best Value GPS Watch With Music

10. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

We chose the Forerunner 245 for our best value GPS watch with music because of its phone-free music playback, sleek design and an impressive amount of features for the serious runner. The Forerunner 245 weighs only 38.5g (compared that to the Forerunner 945 which weighs 50g). 

It’s got the features runners will love like the GPS tracking, Garmin Coach and the Body Battery energy monitor. These, along with the optical HR monitor which tracks your VO2 max, help you plan your training when you know you’re fully recovered.

Despite the powerful features and lightweight design, the battery life is quite good at up to 24hrs even with GPS usage and 7 days without GPS usage. If you add phone-free music playback in addition to GPS, you still get up to 6 hours, which is plenty for your race and the after-party!

Features: GPS, lightweight design, phone-free music, competitive price

Pros

  • Sleek and lightweight 
  • Offline playback with services like Spotify and Amazon Music
  • Competitive price for so many features

Cons

  • No multi-sport tracking for triathletes (not a problem if you’re just a runner)

Best Discontinued GPS Watches

11. Garmin Fenix 3 – Best Discontinued GPS Watches 

Don’t let its age fool you. Although the Fenix 3 is a discontinued model, you still get some impressive features and now for a competitive price. Its durable construction, 100-meter deep water-resistance and a battery life of up to 40 hours mean you can go anywhere with this.

It doesn’t just have features to track your runs, but also your swims, rows and even your golf games, all while tracking your heart rate, VO2 max, stress score and performance condition.

Features: Elevate wrist heart rate technology, advanced run tracking, sunlight-readable display

Pros

  • Durable and rugged design
  • Accurate GPS tracking
  • Multi-sport tracking

Cons

  • It’s a little heavy (86g)

12. Garmin Forerunner 25 – Best Discontinued GPS Watches 

Get classic looks and solid run tracking with the Forerunner 25. It’s simple and easy to use. Go for a run, its sensors and GPS track your distance, pace, heart rate and calories, then it instantly shares them with the Garmin Connect app via your phone. It can’t get much simpler than that.

You May Also Like: Best Garmin Running Watches

The battery life is pretty amazing as well. The large version will last up to 10 hours with GPS or 10 weeks in activity tracking mode!

Features: Simple, durable design, good battery life, connects with Garmin Connect

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Up to 10-week battery life
  • Automatically shares your runs with Garmin Connect

Cons

  • Lacks more advanced run-tracking features

13. Garmin Forerunner 30- Best Discontinued GPS Watches 

If you like the idea of something simple and easy to use, but want a few more features than the Forerunner 25, have a look at its big brother, the Forerunner 30.

You get similar tracking features that automatically upload to Garmin Connect as well as basic smart notifications so you know when you get important calls and texts while running.

Features: Compatible with Garmin Connect, slim and lightweight design, smart notifications

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Smart notifications for calls and texts
  • Accurate fitness tracking for things like heart rate and VO2 max

Cons

  • Lacks some advanced running features

How to Choose the Best Running Watch – Buyer’s Guide

Running watches pack some impressive features nowadays, but depending on what your running goals are you may not need all of them. How can you make the right choice? Check out these seven things you should consider when choosing.

  • GPS vs. Chronograph
  • Weight & Display
  • Battery
  • Syncing
  • Features & Benefits
  • Ease of Use & User Experience
  • GPS Accuracy

GPS vs. Chronograph

Which is best for you, a GPS watch or a chronograph watch? A chronograph watch is the simpler and cheaper of the two options. It’s essentially a stopwatch, but sometimes has extra lap features for running. If all you want to do is to time your runs, then the chronograph may be a good option for you.

Several years ago, the price difference between chronograph watches and GPS watches was much larger. Nowadays, you can get some quality, budget GPS running watches for almost the same price as a chronograph watch. It almost doesn’t make sense to buy a chronograph watch when you can get GPS tracking and other run tracking features for the same price.

Weight & Display

Gone are the days of huge, clunky GPS watches. Now it’s easy to find options that pack plenty of features but are still light and sleek. Some of our more advanced options are on the larger side of things. Some people might prefer to wear them only when running and not simply when they’re out and about. 

A larger display will definitely make controlling the watch easier, as well as being easier to read while on the move, but it will add some bulk to your watch as well as cut down on the battery life. If you want basic features, long battery life and aren’t worried too much about a flashy screen, then go for the monochromatic screens. They’re easier to read outside in bright sunlight and won’t drain the battery as quickly. You may also like our recommendations on the best running shoe guide.

Battery

If you only plan on using your watch on short runs, then battery life isn’t as important. However, if you plan to take on marathons, triathlons or just want to wear it on a daily basis when running errands, battery life becomes a lot more important.

When you’re using the GPS or music playback capabilities, battery life is shortened dramatically. When selecting your watch, if you plan to use the GPS and play music through it, be sure to look at how long the battery will last while using these. You don’t want your watch to cut out on you in the middle of a run.

Syncing

Although all of our options come from quality brands that have a good track record of syncing with a variety of devices, it’s still a good idea to get something that will integrate the best into your current device ecosystem. 

Have you used Fitbit products before and already have a lot of data tracked on their app? The Fitbit option on our list may be a good choice for you. Do you have to have all things Apple? Then you know which is probably your best option. Most on our list are Garmin watches and they should sync well, whether you have an Apple or Android phone.

Features & Benefits

The features and their benefits are some of the most important things to consider when choosing your watch. Really, first you have to think about yourself and your needs. 

Do you want something simple, just to track your time, distance and heart rate? Do you need the help of GPS directions because you tend to get lost easily? Are you a music lover while running? Do you want to run phone-free?

Determining first exactly what features you want will quickly narrow down your possible options.

Ease of Use & User Experience

The last thing you want during your run is the frustration of having to stop just to be able to change something on your watch. Many smartwatches are designed to be controlled while standing still. It might be impossible to do the same things while on the run when your sweaty arm is bouncing all around.

Many running watches, in addition to having touchscreens, also have several physical buttons on the watch that allow you to easily interact with its interface while on the move.

GPS Accuracy

To accurately track your speed, distance and location you need accurate GPS. A GPS that’s throwing your location all over the place may not accurately reflect your running metrics. There are a lot of cheap GPS watches out there that will do you more harm than good. You may also be interested in our recent post about GPS wallet trackers here.

No worries about the options on our list, they’re from quality brands that have good reputations for accurate GPS tracking.


Which is the Best Running Watch? – Final Thoughts

When choosing one of these great options, don’t forget to consider things like its weight, display type, GPS accuracy and battery life.

So which will be your new running watch? We know you’ll love the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition. You can’t beat its advanced features, incredible battery life, and music playback capabilities. It’s the perfect companion for every runner on any kind of run.

What are you waiting for? Get your new running watch today and get ready to run harder, faster and longer!

IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Edition
  • Features: Store 1,000+ songs, up to 15hr battery with GPS and music, solar power option
  • Benefits: Phone-free music and advanced GPS tracking features, no matter how long your run is
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Garmin Forerunner 35
  • Features: GPS tracking, up to 13hr battery life with GPS, simple interface
  • Benefits: Easy to use, long battery life, gets smartphone notifications
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Garmin Forerunner 945
  • Features: Up to 10 hrs GPS and music playback, advanced tracking across a variety of sports and activities
  • Benefits: Track advanced fitness metrics regardless of the combination of sports your doing
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Fitbit Versa 2
  • Features: Store up to 300 songs, 6-day battery life, track your heart rate and distance
  • Benefits: Great features for the price, like phone-free music and long battery life
CHECK LATEST PRICE
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Austin Mills

Austin Mills in an outdoor enthusiast. He's been featured on some of the top outdoor & fitness blogs sharing his expertise in order to help others. In his free time, he likes spending time with his dogs enjoying the outdoors.

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