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The 5 Best Running Watches For Tracking Everything

Whether you‘re a casual jogger or a competitive marathon runner, a GPS running watch is an invaluable tool for tracking your performance, monitoring your health metrics, and helping you reach your fitness goals. The best running watches provide extremely accurate real-time data on your pace, distance, heart rate, and more. They can also provide insights to optimize your training, avoid injury, and enhance recovery.

But with so many options on the market at various price points, it can be overwhelming to figure out which running watch is the best fit for your needs. When evaluating running watches, these are the key features and capabilities to look for:

GPS and GLONASS accuracy: The watch should quickly acquire a strong satellite signal to precisely track your running routes without losing connection, even in challenging environments like cities or trails. More advanced watches support multiple global navigation satellite systems like GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS for the most reliable tracking.

Battery life: Frequent charging is a hassle, so opt for a watch that can last for at least a few runs on a single charge, if not multiple days. Some watches offer 20-30 hours of continuous GPS use while others stretch battery life to 50-100 hours or more in power saving modes. Solar charging is another beneficial feature on some newer models.

Heart rate monitoring: Unless you prefer a separate chest strap sensor, built-in optical heart rate tracking is very convenient. The best watches use the latest sensor technology and intelligent software to give you 24/7 heart rate data and metrics like training load, recovery time, sleep tracking, and more. However, wrist sensors are not quite as accurate as chest straps.

Multisport modes: If you also do other sports and want to track swimming, cycling, hiking, skiing, strength training, etc. then look for a watch with dedicated modes for your favorite activities. Triathlon-focused watches make it easy to switch between sports.

Smartwatch features: App support, mobile payments, music storage, safety/tracking features, and customizable watch faces are examples of smartwatch functions available on many running watches now. These are useful to some but unnecessary for others.

Comfort and durability: A running watch should be lightweight and comfortable on your wrist for extended periods. Look for high quality construction and materials like titanium, sapphire glass, and ceramic bezels. 5 ATM or higher water resistance is also ideal for swim tracking and all-weather durability.

After in-depth testing and research, these are my top picks for the best running watches you can buy:

  1. Garmin Forerunner 955 – Best Overall Running Watch
    As Garmin‘s latest premium running watch, the Forerunner 955 is the complete package. It has incredibly accurate multi-band GPS tracking, a long battery life up to 15 days (20 hours GPS), advanced training metrics driven by Garmin‘s Firstbeat analytics, plus extensive smartwatch features like offline music, contactless payments, and full-color maps.

The 955 introduces a touchscreen display for easier navigation in addition to Garmin‘s signature 5-button controls. A built-in LED flashlight is handy for night runs. You also get all of Garmin‘s health monitoring tools like body battery, stress tracking, and a pulse oximeter. If you want the best of the best and don‘t mind paying a premium, you can‘t go wrong with the Forerunner 955.

  1. Coros Pace 2 – Best Lightweight Running Watch
    Don‘t let the sleek and minimal design fool you – the Coros Pace 2 is a workhorse running watch packed with high-end features at an affordable price. Weighing only 29g with the nylon band, it‘s the lightest GPS watch on the market by far. But Coros didn‘t sacrifice battery life, which is an impressive 30 hours in full GPS mode (60 hours in UltraMax mode).

You get all the essentials like accurate GPS tracking, optical heart rate, barometric altimeter, and breadcrumb navigation. More advanced tools include running power metrics, training load, and AI-powered recovery and race time predictions. While it lacks some smartwatch features, the Pace 2‘s core competencies and value are hard to beat.

  1. Apple Watch Ultra – Best Smartwatch for Running
    If you want a fully-featured smartwatch that is also an extremely capable running companion, look no further than the Apple Watch Ultra. With a robust 49mm titanium case, new Action button, and up to 36 hours of battery life, the Ultra is ready for any endurance challenge you can throw at it.

Of course, you get the full suite of watchOS 9 smartwatch tools like Apple Pay, offline music/podcasts, third party app support, crash detection, and cellular connectivity. But the Ultra‘s new features like precise dual-band GPS, advanced running metrics, and triathlete support make it a worthy Garmin competitor. The main downside is you need an iPhone.

  1. Polar Vantage V2 – Best Multisport Watch
    A favorite among elite athletes, the Polar Vantage V2 offers some of the most comprehensive training and recovery tools in a sleek, durable design. In addition to top-notch GPS and heart rate accuracy, Polar‘s training load, leg recovery, and sleep tracking are based on years of scientific research to keep you performing at your best.

With 130+ sport profiles, the Vantage V2 is ready for any activity, especially swimming, cycling, and cross-training. Polar‘s companion app and web tools provide the data and guidance needed to precisely manage your workouts. While missing a few smartwatch functions, it‘s a powerful, stylish, and focused training tool.

  1. Suunto 9 Peak – Most Durable Running Watch
    Built for rugged adventures, the Suunto 9 Peak combines premium materials with long battery life in a relatively slim and attractive design. Sapphire glass, titanium, and 100m water resistance make it one of the toughest watches around while still being suitable for 24/7 wear.

You get Suunto‘s advanced multi-GNSS tracking with navigation features like real-time breadcrumb trails, POI navigation, and a barometric altimeter. 80+ sport modes and intelligent battery management (up to 170 hours) are perfect for ultrarunners. Unique Suunto features include heatmaps for popular routes and a weather dashboard.

Tips for Choosing the Best Running Watch
Consider your budget. Basic GPS watches start around $100 while advanced models with the latest sensors and metrics can cost well over $500. Decide which features you need and which you can skip to maximize value.

Choose the right size. Lighter, slimmer watches in the 40-42mm range are easier to wear 24/7 and for sleep tracking. Larger watches in the 45-51mm range have bigger batteries and more durable construction for long runs and ultras.

Confirm smartphone compatibility. Most watches work with both iPhone and Android but some advanced features may require a companion app. For example, Apple Watches only work with iPhones.

Compare battery life specs. If you mostly do short to medium length runs a few times per week, 6-15 hours GPS battery life is plenty. But if you regularly run for multiple hours or want to use the watch for long hikes, aim for 20+ hours.

Prioritize accurate sensors. GPS, heart rate, and barometric altimeters are the core sensors that affect the usefulness of your running metrics and analysis. Check trusted reviews to compare the accuracy of different brands and models.

Other Brands to Consider
While Garmin, Coros, Apple, Polar, and Suunto make many of the most popular running watches, there are other brands worth checking out depending on your needs and preferences:

Fitbit offers affordable, user-friendly watches like the Versa and Sense that work well for casual runners who want all-day health tracking.

Amazfit has budget-friendly options with huge battery life spans and open water swim tracking like the T-Rex and GTR series.

Wahoo, known for cycling computers, recently launched the Wahoo Rival, a multisport GPS watch with impressive battery life, dual-band GPS, and advanced running/cycling/triathlon metrics.

No matter your running goals or experience level, investing in a GPS running watch will help you train smarter, perform better, and make your miles more enjoyable. Take the time to research different features and read in-depth reviews from trusted sources before making a purchase. Then use the watch consistently to track your workouts, monitor your progress, and celebrate new milestones.

Whether you go with a Garmin, Coros, Apple, Polar, or Suunto, you‘ll gain valuable data and guidance to become a better runner. Use the watch‘s companion app to dig into your stats and share your adventures with friends. Over time, your running watch will become an indispensable part of your running routine and lifestyle.