The Best 7 Fitness Trackers for Running – Smart GPS Watches to Track Your Runs!

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We gave this article a good refresh to ensure all the information was up-to-date as we headed into 2020. This included revising the information in our guide and FAQ section, as well as making a few new additions to the top seven list.

These included the new premium Garmin Forerunner 945, as well as the high-end Apple Watch Series 5. We also included an upgraded budget option, the Polar M430.

The winner after the latest chart update:
Garmin-Forerunner-945-1
  • Battery life: Up to 2 weeks
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
  • GPS: Yes
  • Features: Two color choices, multinetwork satellite reception, Pulse Ox sensor, workout and training plans, smartphone notifications, music storage, safety tracking features, NFC payments (Garmin Pay)

Some people run to lose weight, others to win events, and others just run to enjoy the sense of freedom that running can bring.

For many, the data from their run can be as important as the run itself – how far you went, your pace, your cadence and how it all compares to your previous run. This could all start to get pretty confusing, unless you have a good fitness tracker watching your back!

Here at Fitness Verve, we understand the importance of a good fitness tracker for running because we are runners ourselves. We also know how frustrating shopping for one can be, with so many price variations, designs and features to assess.

Enter, our complete guide to fitness trackers for runners! This in-depth article first highlights seven of the best devices for taking with you on a run, as well as a breakdown of features to look out for and a handy FAQ section.

Enough chat – let’s get straight into the chart!

Top 7 Best Fitness Trackers for Running:

Pros

  • Built like a tank with a 5ATM water-resistance rating
  • Offers an unrivalled amount of run-tracking features
  • Includes full-color onboard run mapping
  • Excellent music storage and syncing capabilities

Cons

  • Price will be too high for the general user
  • Some features are likely to be overkill for casual runners

Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Two color choices, multinetwork satellite reception, Pulse Ox sensor, workout and training plans, smartphone notifications, music storage, safety tracking features, NFC payments (Garmin Pay)

At the time of writing, there were six models in the current Forerunner collection, with the new 945 sitting at the top of the list as the premium choice.

It boasts everything a good GPS running watch should offer, as well as a few essential smartwatch features – including music storage and contactless payments. However, the true wealth of this device is in its running features. You’ll find extensive run tracking, coaching and analysis, as well as onboard mapping and continuous heart rate monitoring. But this just scrapes the surface.

The heavy-duty build, waterproofing and good battery life are the icing on the cake. It’s certainly not the cheapest device on this list, but the features on offer will be hard to pass up for serious runners and triathletes.

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Pros

  • Beautiful design and quality build
  • Always-On display is vibrant and clear
  • Excellent run tracking abilities
  • Abundance of secondary features that make life easier

Cons

  • Only compatible with iPhones
  • At under a day, the battery life is poor

Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Sleep Tracking: No
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Multiple color choices, Ion-X strengthened glass, aluminum body, OLED Always-On Retina display, built-in compass, multinetwork satellite reception, barometric altimeter, smartphone notifications, music storage, female health tracking, NFC payments (Apple Pay)

If you are looking for something a little less extensive (and slightly cheaper) than the Forerunner 945, the Apple Watch Series 5 is an excellent choice with a premium build and features.

This includes the distinctive Apple Watch design, which is beautiful and robust in equal measure. With multinetwork satellite reception, barometric altimeter and multiple heart rate sensors, this smartwatch can do an abundance of run tracking and health monitoring, while new features like Pace Alert and Rolling Mile Pace show how much thought has been put into this watch.

Besides solid health and fitness tracking, let’s not forget that it’s an Apple Watch. This means it can do pretty much everything from making calls, music streaming and contactless payments, to… well, anything you can find on the vast app store!

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Pros

  • Exceptional run tracking with multinetwork satellite reception
  • Classic design and robust waterproof build
  • Includes built-in music storage
  • Boasts a plethora of workout and fitness tracking features

Cons

  • Lacks the ability to make contactless payments
  • Price feels a tad expensive

Battery Life: Up to 7 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Fiber-reinforced polymer bezel, Corning Gorilla glass, multinetwork satellite reception, workout and training plans, Pulse Ox sensor, smartphone notifications, music storage, safety tracking features, female health tracking

Get used to seeing the name Garmin on this list! The American brand is king when it comes to GPS smartwatches for running. The Forerunner 245 Music is around two hundred bucks cheaper than the 945, yet the tracking and features on offer are still more than most runner would ever use.

This includes advanced running analysis and performance monitoring features, and adaptive training plans to help you crush your running goals. Being a Garmin device, the run tracking is naturally superior, with multinetwork satellite reception keeping an eye on your exact locations.

As for lifestyle features, this midrange watch lacks the NFC payment capabilities of the 945, yet still boasts smartphone notifications, plus music storage and playback – go enjoy your run with your motivational tunes, completely phone-free!

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Pros

  • Very sleek and lightweight design
  • Superior battery life for an affordable GPS smartwatch
  • Outstanding accuracy with multiple sensors and satellite connectivity
  • 5ATM water resistance rating makes it perfect for swimming too

Cons

  • Fewer lifestyle features than its competitors
  • Usage instructions are lacking

Battery Life: Up to 30 days
Sleep Tracking: No
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Multiple color choices, aluminosilicate glass, multinetwork satellite reception, barometric altimeter, smartphone notifications, UltraSync technology

The Pace GPS from Coros is a highly-rated multi-sport smartwatch with an affordable midrange price tag. While it adeptly tracks activities such as swimming and cycling, it excels when it comes to running.

This watch is stylish, lightweight and available in three colors, with a well-designed silicone strap that enhances the accuracy of the optical heart rate sensor. As for location data, the Pace GPS works with three satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, and BDS) to deliver excellent precision, which translates to powerful run tracking.

In addition, features such as UltraSync technology makes syncing data to your smartphone after the run a breeze. There are less lifestyle features on this one compared to others, although it still delivers smartphone notifications. One of the best affordable devices for triathlons!

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Pros

  • Great run tracking with multiple activities on offer
  • Good battery life for the price
  • Robust build and 5ATM water resistance
  • Includes smartphone notifications and music control

Cons

  • Less impressive in the features department than its Forerunner siblings
  • No support for third-party apps

Battery Life: Up to 7 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Multiple color choices, chemically-strengthened glass, multinetwork satellite reception, multiple activity tracking, adaptive training plans, smartphone notifications, music control, safety tracking features

Yet another Garmin to make an appearance, the Forerunner 45 is one of the more affordable running watches on this list. Yet it remains an incredibly capable device that offers the majority of runners everything they need in a good fitness tracker.

This includes a sleek waterproof build (5ATM) with built-in GPS to track your run. There’s a robust 7-day battery life (or 13 hours in GPS mode), so it can easily cope with marathons. Other fitness features include solid daily activity tracking, adaptive training plans and stress tracking.

Lifestyle features are lacking in comparison to the higher-end devices, yet the 45 still includes music controls for your phone and smartphone notifications. Meanwhile, it’s easy to customize your device, with plenty of watch faces available in the Connect IQ store.

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Pros

  • Lighter and more comfortable than the original M400
  • Great price for a very capable running watch
  • Solid GPS tracking with short signal acquisition times
  • Plenty of features to make the most of your running and recovery

Cons

  • Water-resistance rating not as strong as others on this list
  • Lacks the same lifestyle features as higher-end devices

Battery Life: Up to 14 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (WR30)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Multiple color choices, SiRFInstantFix technology, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, Sleep Plus, smart coaching features, smartphone notifications

As we move into the more wallet-friendly range, the M430 from Polar really stands out for runners on a budget, although with very little compromise on features.

The M430 is an upgrade of the popular M400, with a newer design, built-in sleep tracking and 24/7 heart rate monitoring. Importantly for runners, the M430 features a strong GPS function with SiRFInstantFix technology, which reduces the time it takes for the receiver to acquire a fix.

It’s also packed with coaching features such as automatic and manual laps, interval timers, training targets, recovery status and a solid sleep tracker to help you get the most from your workout and recovery. While there’s no NFC payments or music storage, you can receive smartphone notifications to make life a little easier.

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Pros

  • Amazing price for a smartwatch with built-in GPS
  • Multinetwork satellite reception gives reliable location feedback
  • Features decent secondary features including music control
  • Includes 24/7 heart rate monitoring

Cons

  • Still feels like a cheaper watch in general
  • Water resistance rating is not suitable for swimming

Battery Life: Unspecified
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (IP67)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Removable straps, 1.3” touchscreen, Corning Gorilla Glass, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, multinetwork satellite reception, smartphone notifications, music control, breathing training

A capable GPS running watch at under $100? That’s right! This smartwatch from Anmino may miss the high-end sheen that some running watches offer, but it’s surprisingly functional for what it costs – perfect for runners on a tight budget.

Commendable for this price range, this device features built-in GPS with multinetwork satellite reception, offering reliable location data. So, while it may not have the advanced coaching features of others, this alone makes it a solid choice for runners.

It’s pretty well-built with a clear 1.3” touchscreen protected by a robust Gorilla Glass. The IP67 water resistance rating may not allow for swimming, yet it makes things easier when running in the rain! Finally, features like smartphone notifications, music control, sleep tracking and breathing training help make day-to-day life easier.

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Shopping for a Fitness Tracker for Running

While many people can go out and buy any old smartwatch to keep an eye on their daily activity, runners tend to require more focused features. In this case, ‘any old smartwatch’ will not do.

Battery life and GPS come to the forefront, while things like water resistance and secondary features take more of a backseat (although still require some thought!).

So, what exactly should you look out for while shopping for a good fitness tracker to accompany you on your run? In the following sections we guide you through everything you need to know, giving you the power to make an informed decision!

Design

These days, fitness trackers come in all kinds of design. You’ll find unashamedly sporty watches with robust frames and neon colors, as well as more elegant designs that go as well with a suit as they do a pair of gym shorts. You will find this variation of style in all price ranges, although there is certainly more choice in the midrange fitness tracker market and above.

The big question is do runners actually care about the design of their watch? As you cruise along the sidewalk, track and trail, does it matter what color your strap or whether the frame is a bit bulky?

Yes and no. It depends on whether you are planning to use the device solely for running (in which case, who cares what it looks like) or for day-to-day use as well. In this case, it’s nicer to have a more subtle and stylish design to match your everyday attire as well as your gym kit.

There is usually less choice in the budget fitness tracker market, but higher-end watches like Apple Watches and Garmin’s Forerunner collection all look pretty sleek and fit the bar scene as much as they do the gym.

Most of these watches will also allow you to change the strap too – from a sporty silicone to a sophisticated leather or metal, for example. This is good for a style change, but also allows you to keep one strap for sweating on, and the other for less moist scenarios!

Aesthetics aside, the watch should also be well-built – capable of taking a few bangs, should your arm hit a tree, you fall, or accidentally drop the watch. The screen is usually the most fragile part of the watch, so keep an eye out for screens that are reinforced, as this will help you avoid unsightly scratches as well as outright breaks.

It’s also worth having a screen that is big enough and vibrant enough to view while you are in motion. You don’t want to be stopping every few minutes to see whether that number is an ‘8’ or a ‘3’! Aim for a bright OLED or AMOLED screen with a size of at least 1” or bigger, and you should be fine.

Battery

Regardless of whether you are buying a smartwatch for running or a fitness tracker for swimming having a good battery life on your device is very important.

This is particularly true for running, as not every run is over within a few hours. For example, marathons, triathlons and ultramarathons can all take multiple hours to complete. If you want your watch tracking your pace and distance throughout the event, you’ll need to ensure it doesn’t die halfway through.

The battery life of the trackers we have highlighted differ greatly. Some last up to a month, while others last just a day or so.

However, it’s worth noting that when a device is marketed as having a battery life of ‘up to a week’, this doesn’t tell the full story.

Look closely at the marketing information for each specific device and you will notice both the battery life in standard smartwatch mode, and the battery life in GPS mode are listed. For example, the Coros Pace GPS watch has one of the best battery lives around, at up to 30 days in standard mode. With the GPS on, this reduces to just 25 hours of juice.

Other watches may list up to seven days of battery in standard smartwatch mode, but just 14 hours in GPS mode.

Ultimately, 14 hours of GPS tracking is still pretty adequate and more than most runners will need for training and even marathons. However, if you are traveling or performing multiple runs on multiple days, you may need to reconsider how much battery life you actually need.

This is certainly the case for ultramarathons, which can take more than 20 hours to complete, depending on the distance. It’s probably not a big deal to 99% of runners out there, although it’s worth being mindful of how much battery life each watch actually offers when GPS is active.

GPS Tracking

Of all the features in this guide, a good GPS function has to be one of the most important. While GPS may not matter so much for a fitness tracker worn for CrossFit [INSERT LINK to https://www.fitnessverve.com], or even running on a treadmill, if you are running outside, GPS is an essential feature.

Having GPS gives you metrics from your run, such as your distance, pace, cadence and elevation, allowing you to analyze your session in surprising depth. It will also give you great insight into your route, allowing you to see where exactly you ran, comparing it to your previous session, future sessions, and the runs of your friends.

While standard GPS will offer great accuracy, many devices go a step further and offer multiple satellite reception, connecting to GLONASS (Russian) and BDS (Chinese) satellites for enhanced precision, wherever you are in the world.

The good news is that both cheap and expensive watches offer built-in GPS. Being ‘built-in’ there is no need for you to carry another device on your run. You can leave your smartphone at home with just the watch doing all the work, enjoy the freedom, then sync back to your phone when you are finished.

On that note, be aware that some fitness trackers offer the alternative ‘connected GPS’. This means that, while GPS data will be displayed on the screen of the watch, the GPS receiver is in your phone – not your fitness tracker. This means that you must carry your phone with you to receive a GPS signal.

While having to take your phone with you is a bit of a disadvantage, connected GPS is better than nothing. It also means that you don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket/bag while running, while it also helps you save the battery on your watch.

Activity Tracking

Many of the watches we have featured on this page will track multiple activities, including walking, swimming, cycling, HIIT and even yoga. Of course, the most important activity a fitness tracker for running should track is… well, running!

Some of the devices we highlight – as well as countless others – offer incredibly detailed tracking of your running sessions. As we have established, having a good GPS receiver lets the watch track all kinds of data including your distance, route and pace.

A good running watch will also offer insight into your cadence. This is the number of steps per minute you take as you run, allowing you to assess your running form and how efficient it is. On the topic of efficiency, many devices will also track your vertical oscillation – how much your upper body sways as you run (because too much movement can waste vital energy).

Other training and analysis features appropriate for runners will include things like intervals, laps and training plans.

These devices will also track your health during the run, such as your heart rate (see below) and possibly your VO2 max, to give you an insight into how you are performing on the run.

As well as structured runs, with a clear start and end, most devices will also track your day-to-day activity – at home, at work and during leisure time. This usually means things like your step count throughout the day, floors climbed, total active time (i.e. when you aren’t sitting around), and an estimate of your calories burned.

Water Resistance

For runners, water resistance is a slightly less vital feature than a good battery life and strong GPS function – after all, running takes place on dry land.

However, it’s not that simple because, unless you are solely running on a treadmill indoors and keep your watch in an airtight case post-workout, you will need some sort of protection against water!

This is because it’s a wet world. At some point, your device is going to be exposed to moisture – whether you jump in the shower, run in the rain or even wash your hands. In addition, many runners are swimmers too, both as a leisure activity and as part of triathlons.

It’s therefore worth paying attention to the water resistance rating of the device you are considering.

The good news is that the majority of running watches – especially those costing over $100 – will have a rating of 5ATM. This means that the watch can cope with being submerged in water up to depths of 50 meters.

You will also find other ratings such as IP67 and IP68, which both suggest the watch will be water resistant. IP67 means that the watch should survive submersion in water up to 1 meter (3.3ft) deep for up to 30 minutes. IP68 is a little better, protecting the device from immersion in water with a depth of more than 1 meter (times vary).

In a nutshell, both 5ATM and IP68 ratings are seen as suitable for swimming, while IP67 is usually more appropriate for splashes, running in the rain and so on.

Regardless of what the rating states, be sure to double check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Each manufacturer will usually have different translations of these ratings. For example, they may be confident in the ability of their device to withstand swimming in a pool, although they may not suggest swimming in saltwater, or warm water, or humid environments (including saunas and steam rooms).

Always check with the manufacturer before buying, to avoid being stuck with a watch that doesn’t fit your needs.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Another important feature for any runner is a heart rate monitor. While different devices make use of different systems, most will include an optical sensor on the rear of the watch frame.

Sitting against the wrist, this sensor uses PPG (photoplethysmography) to detect changes in blood flow, which is translated into a heart rate reading on the screen of your device.

This can be an important feature for runners wanting to keep track of their performance, whether you are running to prepare for an event, to increase endurance or burn fat. By knowing your real-time heart rate, you can tailor your intensity to target specific heart rate zones. You can also look back on the heart rate data after your run and analyze the session.

This may be a low-intensity zone (50% to 60% of your max heart rate) to warm up or aid recovery; a moderate-intensity zone (around 70% to 80%) to improve your aerobic fitness; or a high-intensity zone (80% to 90%) to increase your performance capacity. If you are aiming for fat burning, the 60% to 70% zone is your target.

The accuracy of these wrist-based heart rate monitors is surprisingly good, although for pinpoint precision, a chest strap monitor is always recommended.

A heart rate monitor built into your running smartwatch can also offer other benefits, such as stress tracking and irregular heartbeat detection. However, while useful, these should always be viewed as guides as opposed to medical devices.

Sleep Tracking

How well we sleep translates to how we perform the following day – in both personal and professional life. This is particularly true when it comes to running. After all, who really fancies a long run the morning after a terrible night’s sleep?

This is the reason why a sleep tracker is a useful feature on a running watch. While not an essential function, a sleep tracker uses the three-axis accelerometer to monitor subtle movements as you sleep. In turn, this offers you an understanding of your activity during the night. Did you sleep deeply for eight hours, or was there more tossing and turning than you imagined?

Having this data will allow you to analyze your sleep hygiene. On nights that you have a bad sleep, do you do anything different from those night’s you sleep soundly? Perhaps you are drinking alcohol, using your phone in bed, or doing other things that can affect your sleep quality.

Regardless of the price range, most fitness trackers now offer a sleep tracking function. However, you may be surprised to hear that high-end devices – such as the Apple Watch – don’t.

The simple reason is that some premium watches aren’t able to survive the night without being charged after a day’s use, so there is no need for the manufacturer to include this feature. It can be disappointing, but it’s a tradeoff for the otherwise high-performance of this watch.

Lifestyle Features

Finally, we come onto the features that add a little comfort and fun to your device. Ultimately, we aren’t running all day, but chances are you will still be wearing the watch – so why not make things a bit more convenient.

One thing that many running watches now offer is smartphone notifications. These are handy as they allow you to see who’s calling or messaging, without having to pull your phone out of your pocket. Many of the devices in the more expensive end of the spectrum also allow you to interact with these notifications – answer calls and reply to your messages.

Another important feature to runners is music. Who doesn’t enjoy a motivational tune as you hit the sidewalk for your early morning jog or as you climb that final hill of the session?

Music function varies greatly on fitness trackers. The best watches will allow you to store hundreds of your own tracks on the device for playback via Bluetooth headphones while running – all without the need of a smartphone nearby. The same goes for downloading Spotify and Deezer playlists, without having to use any data when out running.

If you aren’t willing to pay for a watch that has this feature, some will at least offer music controls. With this, you can play, pause and skip songs from your wrist, although the actual music will be stored on your smartphone and is therefore needed with you on your run.

Still, it’s a convenient feature when you want to quickly skip songs to something more motivational during a run (anything from the Rocky soundtrack usually hits the spot!).

You will also find Near Field Communication (NFC) payments are becoming more common, particularly on smartwatches over $100. This simply means that you can make contactless payments directly from your running watch – again, all while leaving your phone at home.

The NFC payment feature will be tied to a system such as Apple Pay, Garmin Pay, Samsung Pay, and so on. This means you must have an active account with the relevant payment system for it to work. However, this minor hassle is worth it when you pay for a bottle of Gatorade with your watch while on your way back from a particularly sweaty session!

Other lifestyle features will depend on the watch and the price range in which you are shopping. For example, you may see a ‘remote camera’, where you use your watch as the shutter button, which is ideal for taking big group photos or self-portraits. Or a ‘find my phone’ feature, allowing you to quickly locate a misplaced smartphone.

But this just scrapes the surface, especially when you add app stores into the equation.

For example, you could enjoy ordering takeout food, booking an Uber, checking the weather, playing games or countless other activities, providing your watch connects to a watch-specific app store. For the record, devices from Apple, Samsung and Garmin all usually have this ability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Twenty years ago, people went for a run without much on their wrist apart from a standard digital watch… and maybe a sweat band. Today, almost every runner is tracking their session via a GPS running watch.

But are they necessary?

Certainly not as necessary as a good pair of running shoes, but they do have their uses. Ultimately, the answer lies in what exactly you are running for.

For example, if you are solely running just to blow away the cobwebs or to enjoy the fun of running outdoors then no – a GPS running watch probably isn’t worth buying.

The same goes for if you only run on a treadmill at the gym or at home. If you are running in one position, GPS becomes kind of pointless! Besides, any good treadmill will give you the other stats you need, such as time, distance, speed and heart rate, so a wrist-based monitor is not essential.

However, for all other kinds of runner, investing in a GPS watch can be a smart move.

In particular, if you are training for an event or to improve your pace. By using a GPS running watch, you can instantly see how far you have run, how long you have run for, and what pace you are running at.

This real-time feedback allows you to see if you are hitting your targets. Are you at the same time as when you hit 6km last session, or do you need to pick up the pace? Or are you running too fast and heading towards the dreaded ‘bonk’.

While instant feedback is great, it’s the post-run analysis that really makes GPS worthwhile. You can delve deeper into your data, viewing your exact route, cadence and vertical oscillation among many other things.

This kind of information can be priceless as you prepare for a race, being able to accurately predict how fast you will be able to run on race day.

There are health benefits to a GPS watch too. If you are running to lose weight, for example. With a built-in heart rate monitor, you can determine whether you are in the correct fat-burning heart rate zone for you. These devices can also give a general indication of calories burned, which takes some of the guesswork out of the day-to-day tracking of your weight loss.

If you are planning on buying a GPS watch, it’s highly likely that you have a smartphone as well – whether an Android device or an Apple iPhone. Both styles of phone will have a GPS receiver, which is what allows you to use live maps, traffic navigation, and – yes – run mappers, such as MapMyRun, Strava and Runkeeper.

This begs the question – do you need to actually have a GPS running watch when your phone will do the same thing? We say yes.

To justify our answer, it’s worth knowing that smartphones take their GPS readings from cell phone towers or WIFI hotspots. This means that there is a slight delay in the phone receiving the GPS signal. They therefore use average signals over time to create a map of your run, which can lead to over- or underestimated distances.

In contrast, a GPS watch is in direct communication with the GPS satellite. This means real-time tracking is always more accurate on a watch than it is on a phone.

There are also other benefits of using a GPS watch, as we have discussed throughout this article. For example, by using a tracker with built-in GPS, you don’t need to carry your phone on your run – which is often an annoyance for many people.

By having a tracker around your wrist, you can also take advantage of capturing data that would be tricky to do on a phone while running – taking a constant heart rate reading for example. However, this is a moot point if you use a chest strap monitor instead.

The only time we would suggest using a phone instead of a GPS watch is if you aren’t too focused on the exact data and just want a rough guide of how far you have run.

The American brand Garmin is best known for its GPS technology – primarily the satellite navigation market for marine, automotive and aviation fields.

However, since first introducing the Forerunner Series in 2003, Gamin has been a key player in the fitness tracker industry alongside the likes of Apple, Fitbit and Samsung.

While these are excellent smartwatches, Garmin devices always tend to have the focus primarily on the activity tracking side of things before secondary lifestyle features. This is why Garmin devices are so popular with serious athletes and casual runners alike.

The best Garmin watch for runners changes from year to year, as the brand introduces new models to the market and removes older devices.

At the time of writing (December 2020), the best Garmin watch for runners is undoubtedly the Forerunner 945 – a high-end triathlon-focused smartwatch. Released in spring 2019, the 945 is packed with run tracking, coaching and analysis features, including multinetwork satellite reception for precision run mapping.

In addition, it functions as an excellent smartwatch with music storage and streaming capabilities, interaction with smartphone notifications, and NFC contactless payments via Garmin Pay.

Having said all this, the Forerunner 945 can be seen as too high-end in both price and features for many runners. If you aren’t willing to spend such an amount on one device, the more affordable Forerunner 245 may appeal more.

The 245 – released around the same time – is around $200 cheaper, yet still sports incredibly strong run tracking and analysis features. Of course, the battery life is lower than the 945, while it lacks a few of the additional functions seen on its higher-end sibling, such as NFC payments and music (although the slightly more advanced Forerunner 245 Music takes care of that).

Since Apple first moved into the wearable device market back in 2014, the Apple Watch has had the reputation of being the smartwatch for others to beat. It sets the bar high with its impressive smartwatch features, activity tracking and overflowing app store… but is it any good for runners?

The most recent Apple Watch is the Series 5, which builds on models of the past and adds new features geared towards getting the best from your run.

Of course, the traditional functions are all there – multinetwork satellite reception for precision run mapping, continuous heart rate monitoring, as well as distance, pace and cadence tracking. This newest version also has automatic run tracking, in case you forget to start tracking manually.

Then comes the nifty features, such as Pace Alert, which will notify you if you drift too far from your target pace. This is particularly handy when training for an event. There’s also an Activity Competition feature, allowing you to challenge friends to break your weekly activity record – because a little light competition never hurt anybody!

In addition to the fitness tracking features, the Apple Watch remains one of the best all-round smartwatches for day-to-day use. You can make calls, send and receive messages, listen to music, make payments and use your favorite apps.

Finally, it’s worth reminding you that, as good as it is for runners, the Apple Watch is only compatible with Apple phones. So, if you have an Android device, it’s not suitable. Thankfully most of the other fitness trackers on the market will be worthwhile!

The Ver(ve)dict!

Whether you run to crush goals and win races, or simply do it for fitness, fat loss and fun, there’s a fitness tracker out there for you!

The top seven chart on this page offers you a good idea of what’s worth buying if your main activity is running. However, there are countless other fitness trackers on the market, all with excellent running tracking and analysis features.

We suggest you take the information in our guide and FAQ section (we hope you were paying attention!), then use it to be the wise buyer you’ve always wanted to be. Good luck!

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