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When you’re shopping for the best smartwatches for running, you need to consider whether a smartwatch can support your running style. This refers to whether you can specify whether you’re running indoors or outdoors and if you’re running on a track versus a treadmill, or a rough trail. Also, think about the fitness metrics being collected along with health data. And for people running outdoors, robust GPS support ensures not only that you have access to navigation, but that key metrics such as pace and distance are being accurately tracked. Consider the smart features that are most important to you, and also think about the battery life and whether it supports multiple modes to help conserve battery life.
After researching countless customer reviews, we nominated the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro as our Top Pick for the best smartwatch for running. Keep reading to learn more about our picks and how they stack up against the best smartwatch around.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: A rugged multi-sport smartwatch that’s perfect for long runs on the trails with enhanced data tracking for running, a 100-meter water resistance rating, and an impressive 48-day battery life in Battery Saver Watch Mode.
Hands down, Garmin smartwatches are some of the top options for fitness buffs who want to rely on wearable tech. The Fenix 6 Pro from Garmin is one of the most popular models because it offers a wide array of features that provide enhanced metrics while also providing a happy medium between fitness tracking and smart functionality. All Garmin watches are OS-agnostic, meaning that they can be paired with Android and Apple devices. This is a full-color display watch that comes with on-screen GPS mapping that also incorporates GLONASS and Galileo for more accurate tracking, along with an altimeter barometer compass (ABC) sensor. This 100-meter water-resistant watch passes military testing standards that include thermal and shock resistance.
Runners in particular will appreciate the five running modes for indoor, outdoor, and stationary running profiles. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro also tracks vertical oscillation and ration, ground contact time and balance, stride length, cadence, performance condition, and lactate threshold. You’ll also get access to run workouts, race predictors, and pacing strategies. Garmin smartwatches are known for their battery life. And with this pick, you can choose from six battery modes that range from 10 hours in GPS + music mode to an impressive 48 days for the Battery Saver Watch Mode. Safety features include live track, incident detection, group live track, live event sharing, and assistance. And there are also limited smart features for notifications and some app support, but only Android users have access to text response or phone call rejection. Apple users might also be interested in our best smartwatches for iPhones buying guide.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: The best running watch with music storage for up to 500 songs, a wide array of indoor and outdoor sport and exercise profiles, and seven-day battery life to keep up with more active users.
The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music smartwatch is a great pick for someone who doesn’t want to struggle with streaming apps. It’s one of the best running watches with music storage that can hold an impressive 500 songs. Garmin running watches are known for their enhanced sport and activity profiles, which is why we’ve included this one. You’ll get four running profiles for indoor and outdoor use that include running, treadmill running, indoor track, and trail running. And as with other Garmin watches, the data tracked includes running dynamics, vertical oscillation, and ration, ground contact time and balance, stride length, cadence, and performance condition. You’ll also get access to GPS support with integrated GLONASS, Galileo, and an ABC sensor.
The battery life is shorter than other Garmin watches at just seven days for the maximum output and just five hours in GPS mode with music. This watch pairs using Bluetooth and can connect with your headphones or be synced to streaming apps. While there is some smart support for notifications and select apps, only Android users can access the text response and phone call rejection features. The Forerunner 645 has limited safety features which include incident detection and live track. Additionally, you’ll only get a 50-meter water resistance rating although this still supports swimming. But you still get common fitness and health metrics such as steps, calories burned, heart rate, sleep, and women’s health. And for fitness tracking, you also have access to GPS support for steps, heart rate, and various motion modes with the best fitness smartwatch.
Award: BEST QUALITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: The best smartwatch for running for Android users thanks to an intuitive heart rate tracking feature, wireless charging, and an auto-detect fitness function for seamless data collection.
When you’re shopping for a smartwatch for running or other physical activities, you need to decide which is most important — smart features or fitness tracking. For people who like the idea of tracking their fitness metrics, but also want seamless smart integration that mimics their smartphones, a smartwatch made by a phone manufacturer is always the best choice. We included the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 because we believe that it’s the best smartwatch for running for Android users. While it lacks truly robust running profiles, it’s ideal for someone who doesn’t want to take their phone with them while they run.
The Active2 is meant to be a hands-free alternative to an Android smartphone since you can send and receive calls and texts plus manage emails, calendar updates, and even access contactless payments through Samsung Pay. For people that rely on voice assistants, you’ll get Bixby, the Samsung voice assistant. As we mentioned, fitness tracking isn’t as enhanced as true fitness brands like Garmin. So, while you can’t select specific running modes, you do get basic fitness tracking such as monitoring steps, floors climbed, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, calories burned, and select insights into your running style. And although Samsung doesn’t specify the full battery range, they do promise a multi-day battery and wireless Qi charging. You’ll also get access to a stress tracker and breathing support through the Calm app as well as thousands of watch faces. And if you’re a cyclist, have a look at the best smartwatch for cycling that offers you enhanced safety features with a live track, group live track, live event sharing, incident detection, and assistance.
Award: BEST FOR IPHONE USERS
WHY WE LIKE IT: The best smartwatch for iPhone users who want a seamless hands-free experience and to leave their phones with an always-on retina display screen that updates metrics in real-time.
A common theme with smartwatches is that functionality is limited for iPhone users. Specifically, this applies to smart features such as sending and receiving calls, or even limited functions like call rejection, and quick reply texts for “OS-agnostic” watches from brands like Garmin and Fitbit. So, we included the Series 5 Apple Watch for running aficionados who own iPhones because it’s the only way you can truly have a hands-free experience. The Series 5 watch relies on GPS and supports making and receiving calls and texts. However common complaints with the Series 5 watch is that the heart rate monitor tends to be inconsistent if the watch isn’t perfectly close to your wrist.
Likewise, metrics such as stride and cadence tend to be inconsistent for treadmill runs as opposed to running on a track or outdoors. But you’ll still get access to standard health metrics such as step tracking, sleep, heart rate, and ECG monitoring. You’ll also have safety support with fall detection and Emergency SOS call access. The Series 5 supports Handoff for app mirroring between your iPhone and the Apple Watch. The one main drawback of the Series 5 Apple Watch is that it has poorer battery life when compared with pretty much any other smartwatch. While the brand claims you can get 18 hours from a single charge, this figure is greatly reduced if you rely on GPS, play music, or heavily use other smart features. You may also want to consider purchasing the best smartwatch for seniors for the elderly friend or family member in your life.
Award: BEST ON A BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: An affordable smartwatch designed to automatically detect indoor versus outdoor running, with GPS support, 24/7 activity tracking, and robust data metrics to improve performance.
Series fitness buffs know that not only do they need to track their activities while they’re exercising but that they need the ability to review fitness metrics to improve performance. For this type of smartwatch user, the Polar series watches are great options. These watches are OS-agnostic but also rely on the proprietary Polar Flow app which is compatible with smartphones and tablets to access important information that goes beyond basic metrics and includes recovery data.
The Polar M430 is a GPS based watch that supports continuous heart rate monitoring and has a running program to help you train for four key targets — a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and a marathon. You’ll most like the training load function which helps you pinpoint how much recovery time you need before you continue to train or workout. The M430 also tracks health metrics including calories burned, sleep, steps, and floors climbed. The only negative we found, which might not be a deal-breaker for many people, is that this watch lacks a full-color display. Professionals will love our best smartwatch for business buying guide.
Award: BEST FOR TRAINING
WHY WE LIKE IT: Serious runners who want to perfect their form and improve their time will appreciate functions such as Garmin Coach, while a lightweight design keeps your mind on your workout rather than the distraction of a heavy item on your arm.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 is perfect for people who want to train as well as improve their time and performance. As with other Garmin watches, the Forerunner 245 supports multiple running profiles. Specifically, you’ll get five profiles which include running, treadmill running, indoor and outdoor track running, trail running, and virtual running. And because it’s a Garmin, you’ll get enhanced running metrics for GPS based distance, time and pace, running dynamics, vertical oscillation and ratio, ground contact time and balance, stride length, cadence, and performance condition. Post-run support includes PacePro pacing strategies, race predictor, and run workouts.
The Garmin Forerunner 245 also supports limited smart features such as notifications and app support. But Android users have access to Garmin Pay as well as quick text response and call rejection. Health metrics include continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep, pulse oximeter, steps, distance traveled, and intensity minutes. And you’ll also get access to a wide array of fitness profiles for indoor and outdoor activities and a 50-meter water resistance rating which is safe for swimming. For parents, consider purchasing the best smartwatch for kids that features a dial pad that can be disabled through the parental controls app on your cell phone.
Award: BEST DURABILITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: A full-color display that’s designed to withstand the toughest conditions, with a long GPS battery life, and over 130 sport profiles to help you reach peak performance without slowing you down.
Polar watches are ideal for people serious about improving their running performance. The Polar Vantage V is a great option for the active set thanks to more than 130 sports profiles that are preloaded onto the watch. As is standard with Polar watches, this OS-agnostic pick relies on the proprietary Polar Flow app to store activity data and health metrics in a central location. But this pick is ideal for those who like to run in rugged conditions since the Vantage V was tested against military standards known as MIL-STD-810G. Plus, this pick has one of the longest GPS mode battery ranges we’ve seen at 40 hours. It’s also water-resistant to 50 meters.
You’ll appreciate that the GPS also integrates GLONASS, QZSS, and Galileo and also comes with an ABC sensor. You’ll get access to Training Load Pro, a program that outlines how much strain your training sessions are placing on different parts of your body. And you’ll also get Recovery Pro, and Running Index to help quantify your running sessions and determine your blood oxygen levels while you’re running. Standard fitness metrics include sleep, continuous heart rate monitoring, steps, and calories burned. You’ll also have access to Serene, a breathing app to help you unwind. There are some limited smart features which include notifications for calls, messages, emails, and calendar events. A better option may be one of the best hybrid smartwatch.
Award: BEST NAVIGATION
WHY WE LIKE IT: The perfect smartwatch for people who like to run off the beaten path thanks to enhanced GPS support with four additional satellite systems, over 80 tracking modes, a full-color screen, and a 100-meter water resistance rating.
If you’re the type who wants to test your endurance by hitting more rugged trails, then the Suunto 9 Baro smartwatch is a solid choice. It features one of the most robust navigation systems we found in our research. The GPS also incorporates four other satellite systems — GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou — and includes an ABC sensor. Like some of the training watches we’ve featured, the 9 Baro is another option that includes stress and recovery metrics so you can optimize your running routine. And heatmap functionality gives you the freedom to run new trails while syncing with the watch for a hands-free experience.
The Suunto 9 Baro is a 100-meter water-resistant watch and offers more than 80 sport tracking modes. Runners will like that this watch tracks pace, running power, foot pod calibration, lap comparisons, interval guidance with running pace, heart rate, and distance, and includes average, max, and lap space in real-time. The battery life for the Suunto 9 Bara is in the average range with 25 hours in the GPS training mode and 14 days in time mode. However, this watch doesn’t natively track heart rate and requires a separate chest strap purchase. You may want to consider the best smartwatch for nurses that features enhanced health metrics such as continuous heart monitoring thanks to optical heart sensors.
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Award: BEST BUILT-IN COACHING
WHY WE LIKE IT: A sleek smartwatch with a built-in dynamic personal coach, with GPS support to track fitness, a 50-meter water resistance rating, and limited smart support makes this a great choice.
Fitbit is another leader when it comes to fitness trackers with more enhanced sport modes and intuitive metric support. The Ionic is a great smartwatch from the brand that combines streamlined smart features with enhanced fitness support. In particular, we like that this watch comes with a dynamic personal coach function that provides on-screen guidance that’s adaptive based on your feedback. However, unlike other watches in our guide, the Ionic doesn’t support multiple running modes.
Still, we like that the Ionic offers enhanced data for heart rate, steps, sleep, calories burned, floors climbed, and activity. You can pair this pick with both Apple and Android devices. The GPS can track your route and provide elevation details if you like to run outdoors. We also like that the battery can go four days before needing to be recharged depending on your usage behavior. And for people who like to travel light, they’ll appreciate that the Ionic can support up to 300 songs being directly downloaded onto the device. There are also limited smart features that include text, call, and calendar notifications. But Android users can also access media streaming apps and Fitbit Pay for contactless payments. For additional options with high durability, consider the best rugged smartwatch.
Award: BEST FOR INDOOR FITNESS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A streamlined fitness watch with multiple indoor running modes, more than 20 built-in fitness profiles, an eight-day battery life, and streaming music support make this a smart choice for the treadmill and indoor track runners.
Garmin running smartwatches are always top picks when it comes to finding a watch with robust metrics, sports profiles, and intuitive features. We’re including the vivoactive 4 because we think it’s ideal for people who like to run indoors. While it doesn’t have quite as many running profiles as other Garmin watches, you’ll get three that cover running, indoor track running, and treadmill running. And it also has a commendable battery range with as little as 6 hours for GPS mode with music to eight days on smartwatch mode. The vivoactive 4 can pair with Apple and Android devices and comes in both a 40- and 45-millimeter case. Unlike the other Garmin watches, the vivoactive 4 has more limited running metrics that include GPS-based distance, time, and pace along with cadence. But you’ll have access to run workouts and it’s compatible with foot pods.
Still, you get over 20 built-in fitness apps and supporting apps that include cardio, pilates, strength, and yoga. But best of all these come with on-screen animations to demonstrate proper form. Fitness tracking includes steps, calories burned, floors, distance traveled, blood oxygen, intensity minutes, heart rate, hydration, respiration, women’s health, and sleep plus several other features. Incident detection and safety assistance help ensure you’re safe while exercising. Smart features are limited to text, calendar, and phone notifications, along with weather and smartphone music controls. But you can store up to 500 songs on this watch and Android users can use Garmin Paty, text response, and reject phone calls. Consider comparing this model to the best smartwatch with a camera with WiFi and Bluetooth.
Smartwatches for running should be designed to help improve your time and form, while also tracking your route and important performance metrics. To create our guide for the best smartwatch for running, we focused on the following features — fitness metrics, GPS, functionality, and battery life.
While all of our picks included running profiles, we found that watches made by phone manufacturers tended to rely on auto detect to determine whether a person was running indoors or outdoors. In contrast, watches from fitness brands offered multiple running modes that give you enhanced precision when not only tracking routes via GPS but metrics like pace, stride length, and more.
GPS is going to be an important function since most smartwatches rely on GPS to not only track route, but pace and distance. Likewise, for people who want to run in rugged terrain or more remote locales, they should look for watches that not only have GPS but incorporate additional satellite support such as GLOSSAN or Galileo. And a common theme we found was that most watches that offered more enhanced GPS support also included an ABC sensor.
Functionality tended to center on two features — enhanced sports or fitness metrics, and smart features. Except for Apple Watches and Samsung Galaxy Watches, all of our picks offered more robust fitness metrics that usually included options such as tracking your body’s recovery after a run. But in reverse, the Apple and Samsung smartwatches offered more robust smart support that outpaced the more traditional fitness smartwatches. This included sending and receiving texts and calls, support for native apps and voice assistants, and generally serving as a true hands-free smartphone replacement. In contrast, most fitness smartwatches from third-party manufacturers only supported notifications, select app support, and limited text and call management for Android users.
And finally, battery life was another metric we considered. Again, fitness brands offered higher battery ranges and multiple modes to help conserve battery life depending on usage. In contrast, both Apple and Samsung had the poorest metrics for battery life with Apple not even lasting a day.