The best running watches help you keep track of your routes, your running times, plus heart rate and calories burned. During our 20+ hours of testing we evaluated features like GPS functionality, heart rate monitors and display quality, along with overall durability, comfort, and battery life. We also considered additional features like safety notifications and activity trackers, as well as considering the best running watch with that ability to play music.
Our top pick, the Forerunner 35, is a Garmin running watch that has GPS functionality, constant heart rate monitoring, an easy to use interface and that lets you connect to a free online fitness community making it the obvious top pick for the Best Running Watches in 2020. Read on for more of the best running watches.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This Garmin Forerunner 35 running watch has a built in accelerometer as well as GPS, so you can monitor your runs indoors or out. It’s also smartphone compatible and features a nifty run/ walk mode great for interval workouts.
This relatively inexpensive Garmin running watch uses full time GPS and a built-in accelerometer, as well as the ability to pair with external sensors, to deliver useful pacing and distance information and complement your workout. It also has physical buttons and a simple, easy-to-read at a glance display, making it one of the top contenders for best GPS watch for hiking.
It also does heart rate tracking and can estimate calories burned. It can push notifications when paired with an iOS or Android mobile device over Bluetooth. It also lets you share and connect with the free online Garmin connect ecosystem. Plus, it’s waterproof to 50m and has a battery life of up to 9 days on standby and 13 hours when in training mode. If you’ve got money to spare and no budget to worry about, check out Garmin Forerunner 945. The Forerunner 945 has far more features including Garmin Connect, damage-resistant glass, a compass, can monitor blood oxygenation levels, 36 hours in GPS mode, and more. The best body fat monitor is another great tool for your health.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This Timex Ironman watch has five buttons for instant access to lap timer and interval functions, with a 100 lap memory and customizable alarms. Plus it’s water resistant to 330ft and has an indigo backlight.
With its classic, no frills digital display and easy-to-access physical stopwatch buttons, this running watch is great for high intensity interval training, triathlon training and sprinters. It’s also water resistant down to 100 meters, making possibly the best multisport watch in its class if durability is a priority.
The Ironman Classic is somewhat “old school,” as the name implies, and in place of app connectivity or fitness monitor features, it has reliable, easy to use and accurate timing, with the ability to save up to 100 laps. Plus it has a battery that lasts up to ten years. That said, and for clarity, there is no GPS functionality. But the trade off is the stellar battery life that will probably outrun your ability to jog. Another great workout aid is the best door anchor.
Award: Best on a Budget
WHY WE LIKE IT: This multifunctional and sleek fitness tracker pairs with smartphones to upload fitness info and push through notifications like call and message alert, and even has a remote camera feature. It also IP67 waterproof, does step counter and calorie counter functions as well as lets you set workout time reminders.
If budget is a priority and you’re looking to get features like those of a Fitbit or other fitness tracker, this may be the best multisport watch on our list. It pairs with smartphones to offer app functionality and push notifications, while a built-in sensor tracks steps, heart rate and can estimate running pace and calories burned.
It also has IP67 dust and water resistance, so you don’t have to worry about this running watch calling it quits the first time you break a sweat or get caught in the rain It features a sleep monitor and workout reminder timers, plus 14 different sport modes. Battery life is said to be up to 7 days standby on a single charge. To charge this fitness tracker you unclip the band to reveal an USB plug, a nifty solution and more convenient than using a USB cord. You may also want to use the best medicine ball for a great workout.
Award: Best Trail
WHY WE LIKE IT: A built-in altimeter, barometer and compass as well as integral GPS make this the best trail running watch for ultra runners and serious hikers. It’s also waterproof to 100m and boasts an impressive 200-hour battery life.
This high tech running watch not only has integrated GPS– meaning it doesn’t rely on your cell signal to fix your position–but also a built in barometer, altimeter and compass, making it the best Suunto watch for running, the top performing GPS watch for hiking and the best trail running watch for cross country runners, ultra marathoners, cross country skiers and mountaineers.
It’s waterproof to 100m, making it also the best swimming watch on our list. It keeps track of heart rate, even while swimming, and offers a connected option, too, where using Sunnto’s app you can share routes and progress, as well as photos of your adventure. Battery life is class competitive with up to 200 hours while GPS is active. It does have less features than the Suunto 9, but that is reflected in the cost. You can also use the best smartwatch.
Award: Best Smart Watch
WHY WE LIKE IT: This fitness tracker offers a color touch screen, phone pairing ability and exceptionally long battery life of up to 45 days, making it a solid choice for the best GPS running watch with music on our list.
This fitness tracker and GPS running watch comes with a handsome and easy to see color touch screen, plus a good set of features much like those found on far more expensive sports watches, like sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring with a built-in sensor, and smart phone connectivity so you can share and upload fitness goals, receive notifications and even locate your phone.
While it lacks the built-in GPS that comes on the Garmin running watch (our top pick) it does track distance and pace for runners using a smartphone as its GPS signal. The only major limitation here is that it may not remain functional if you go out of cell service, meaning those mainly seeking the best trail running watch should probably look elsewhere. But otherwise, this is an easy top pick among cheap running watches and even the best smart watches. The ladies will want to have a look at the best smartwatch for women.
Award: Best for Trail
WHY WE LIKE IT: Built in GPS tracking along with waterproof durability and advanced workout/ recovery tracking features make this the best trail running watch and fitness tracker we’ve tested.
Among the top performing fitness devices, and the best multisport watch with integrated GPS that we’ve tried, this Polar running and swimming watch is waterproof and offers 24/7 fitness monitoring that tracks rest and recovery as well as peak performance. It pairs with smartphones and lets you connect with the Polar Flow app and web service to share your gains and get fitness Inso. If you love to workout, pick up the best fitness tracker too.
Unlike many fitness trackers and even the best cheap running watches, this watch has built-in GPS that doesn’t rely on pairing with your phone’s signal. It can continue tracking your speed, distance and route if your phone dies or goes out of service. Battery life ranges from 5 days while using continuous heart rate tracking to 17 hours while GPS and pairing are in use.
In order to narrow down the choices when it comes to the best running watch, we looked for products with good quality, ease of use and durability.
We only considered running watches with at least an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance. Built-in GPS was not strictly a requirement, but for our picks for the best GPS watches, we only considered those with at least 1 minute accuracy and at least 10 hours of GPS tracking on a charge.
We also only considered those models that promised battery life of at least five days of stand by time and at least 10 hours of continuous use.
A year or more of warranty coverage was a plus, with extra credit given for lifetime guarantees. Along with fitness tracker smart watches and a few contenders for the best multisport watch, we looked for GPS-enabled running watches to find the best trail running watch and the best GPS watch for hiking.
For traditional running watches like the Timex (our #2 pick) we required single-button stop watch functionality, a memory function, and well-proven durability.
For GPS watches we looked for accurate, integrated GPS signal such as the promised 5-second accuracy of the Suunto Ambit3. We also looked forthe ability to pair with a smartphone and at least an option of tracking fitness metrics like heart rate and calories.
For fitness trackers, accurate heart rate tracking via a built-in sensor was a must, as was an easy to use screen and the ability to push notifications, set alarms and track running pace and distance.