Running

The Best Smart Watches for Running, Whether You’re an Experienced Runner or Just Getting Started

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
With the Well+Good SHOP, our editors put their years of know-how to work in order to pick products (from skin care to self care and beyond) they’re betting you’ll love. While our editors independently select these products, making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission. Happy shopping! Explore the SHOP

If you're looking for ways to become a better runner, you may have tried form tweaks to improve your speed—which is where smart watches for runners come in. If you haven't hopped on the smart watch bandwagon yet, it might be time to try one. Or maybe you already have one, but are in the market for an upgrade. Once you learn how to use them, they can offer data and insights that can help you become a better runner, track your running route, and even remind you when it's time to refuel.

Whether you're just getting started and are looking for something user-friendly, or are more advanced and want to take your training to the next level, there's a smart watch to help you meet your goals. So lace up your sneakers and get ready to hit the pavement armed with one of these smart watches for running.

Shop the best smart watches for running

Apple Watch Series 7 — $399.00

“As a loyal Nike Run Club user, I love the Apple Watch for its seamless integration with the guided running app. I can keep an eye on my pace, intervals, and mileage without the extra bells and whistles that sometimes just feel like distractions on the road,” says W+G contributor Kells McPhillips. The Apple Watch is also recommended by Nike Trainer Traci Copeland because it’s “user-friendly for every type of runner.” However, she does note that the GPS isn’t as accurate as some other smart watches on the market.

If you’re already the owner of an Apple Watch (or just have Apple products in general) and are wondering if you should get this new one, Well+Good deputy editor of brand initiatives Ali Finney breaks down why it’s worth it to upgrade to the Series 7.

Pros

  • Integrates with other health/running apps
  • Touch-screen display
  • Can sync with your phone for music, podcasts, and other features
  • Water-resistant up to 50m

Cons

  • GPS isn’t as accurate as other watches
  • Expensive
  • Have to charge daily (18 hours of battery life)
Garmin Forerunner 245 — $300.00

This watch is also recommended by Copeland, who calls it the “most accurate watch on the market.” She says it tracks pace, and the GPS is spot on, making it great for advanced runners. It also tracks your running dynamics to help you improve your form. The battery lasts for seven days—another major plus (so you don’t have to constantly be recharging).

Pros

  • GPS is very accurate
  • Tracks running dynamics including ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio, and more
  • Can sync music from streaming apps
  • Adaptive training plans or create your own custom workouts
  • Long battery life (up to seven days)

Cons

  • Not as user-friendly of an interface
  • Screen is dark
Garmin Forerunner 945 — $560.00

Another Copeland pick is the Garmin Forerunner 945. Like the 245, it’s “not as pretty as Apple but all the technology is there,” she says. This model has a few extra bells and whistles, like tracking your performance condition and Garmin Pay to make contactless payments. It also boasts 10 hours of battery while using both GPS and music.

Pros

  • Uses multiple global navigation systems
  • Tracks running dynamics, VO2 max, performance condition, training status, training effect, recovery time, and more
  • Can sync music from streaming apps
  • Sleep monitoring and women’s health tracking
  • Contactless payment built in

Cons

  • Buttons may not be very responsive
  • Expensive
  • Shorter battery life (up to 10 hours)
Polar Grit X — $430.00

If you’re looking for a hardcore smart watch, please direct your attention to this one. It has GPS, a compass, and military-level durability against extreme temperatures and humidity. Two of the coolest features: FuelWise, which reminds you when it’s time to eat to keep your energy going for your entire journey (and helps you figure out how many carbs to bring along), and Hill Splitter, which can tell if you’re going uphill or downhill and gives you stats on your performance during each. It’s available in black and green.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Durable, tested for extreme weather, humidity, and drop
  • Up to 40 hours of battery life (and up to 100 hours with power save)
  • Adaptive workouts and automatic recovery measurement
  • Real-time navigation and uphill/downhill stats
  • Water-resistant up to 100m

Cons

  • Display is dark and hard to read
  • Expensive
  • Touchscreen is unnecessary because buttons work well
Polar Ignite — $230.00

This slim, lightweight tracker has over 2k five-star reviews on Amazon. Reviewers appreciate how comfortable this watch is, saying that you can barely feel it even while you’re sleeping. They also like that it only has one button, and the screen is intuitive. It tracks your heart rate and has GPS (which isn’t quite at the Garmin-level but works well nonetheless). It also tracks your sleep quality and quantity, and measures how well your body recovers from the day.

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Tracks sleep stages and measures recovery
  • Integrated GPS
  • Up to 17 hours of battery life in training mode, up to five days in watch mode
  • One button interface
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Display is dark and hard to read
  • Backlight comes on with movement—not ideal to wear while sleeping
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 — $210.00

This watch offers performance-enhancing features, like VO2 max readings to track your heart and lung endurance. The lowest-priced option, $250, includes bluetooth, but LTE is available for an additional $50. With LTE, you can call, text, and stream without your phone.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Automatic workout tracking
  • Tracks sleep, SPO2, heart rate, VO2 max, and more
  • Syncs with phone (Android), LTE connectivity
  • Water-resistant up to 50m

Cons

  • Have to download Samsung Health app
  • Selection of other compatible apps is limited
  • Battery drains quickly
Garmin Venu — $230.00

This watch has the stellar GPS capabilities Garmin is known for, just in a prettier package than the Frontrunner styles. It’s available on a tan strap with a rose gold watch, on a granite blue strap with a silver watch, or on a black strap with either a black or gold watch. While it doesn’t have all of the same bells and whistles as the Frontrunner, it does monitor your energy to help you figure out the best times of day to be active. It also tracks your hydration, how well your body absorbs oxygen, and your heart rate.

Pros

  • Bright display
  • Can sync with streaming music apps
  • All-day health monitoring
  • 20 pre-loaded GPS and indoor sports apps
  • Contactless payment built in

Cons

  • Can view but not respond to notifications
  • Limited battery (up to six hours on GPS mode, but up to five days on watch mode)
  • Menus and Garmin app aren’t user-friendly
fitbit charge 5
Fitbit Charge 5 — $130.00

The Fitbit Charge 5 fitness tracker stands out in that it offers a Daily Readiness Score (which comes with the Fitbit Premium membership), which gives you stats that show how intense of a workout your body is ready for (or if you should take a recovery day). The Health Metrics dashboard tracks your SpO2, heart rate, skin temp, and more. And in terms of monitoring your running, the Fitbit gives you real-time pace and distance, and has a built-in GPS system. The cons that come with the Fitbit is that it’s not automatically connected with your phone.

Pros

  • Touchscreen
  • Built-in GPS
  • Tracks daily readiness, activity, SpO2, heart rate variability, skin temperature variation, and more
  • Up to seven-day battery life
  • Water-resistant up to 50m

Cons

  • Requires premium Fitbit membership for advanced data and personalized insights
  • Can’t turn down the brightness of the screen
  • No altimeter like in previous versions of the Fitbit
  • No home button

Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cutting-edge wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...