The Best Running Watches in 2024

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The best running watch should feel as though you have a professional running coach at the ready whenever you need it. They should track your pace and how far you’ve run while providing a detailed route map and other data to improve, tweak, or alter your run style.

Our top pick is the Garmin Forerunner 745. It’s a highly accurate wearable that offers unique workout recommendations for all skill levels and quickly syncs GPS before starting a run. For a budget-friendly option, we recommend the Fitbit Inspire 3. This basic, entry-level fitness tracker costs less than $100 and accurately tracks workouts.

Unlike shopping for the best fitness tracker, or even the best Apple Watch or best Android smartwatch, the challenge of finding the best running watch is unique. It’s important that it suits your specific running needs and offers features that benefit your training.

Top picks for the best running watch

Best overall: Garmin Forerunner 745 – See at Amazon
Garmin’s Forerunner 745 is the best running watch overall, offering accurate activity tracking, quick-syncing GPS, and unique workout recommendations for any runner.

Best budget: Garmin Forerunner 35 – See at Walmart
If you’re looking for an affordable GPS watch that doesn’t compromise on quality, you can’t go wrong with the Garmin Forerunner 35.

Best multisport: Coros Apex – See at Fleet Feet
The Coros Apex is an impressive jack-of-all-trades watch that should appeal to athletes while offering a refreshing touch of style. This is a watch you won’t want to take off.

Best all-around: Garmin Epix – See at Garmin
Garmin’s Epix is a full-featured, multi-sport watch that offers in-depth tracking for a wide range of activities, has a durable, rugged design, and has a battery that lasts multiple days.

Best battery life: Fitbit Sense 2 – See at Amazon
The Fitbit Sense 2 is a great all-around fitness tracker but the fact its battery lasts close to a week on a single charge makes it an appealing watch for long-distance runners.

Best basic: Fitbit Inspire 3 – See at Amazon
The Inspire 3 is Fitbit’s best budget watch that offers a no-frills experience perfect for those who need a basic activity tracker.

Best training feedback: Polar Vantage – See at Walmart
The Polar Vantage is like having a running coach on your wrist at all times who provides insightful feedback on your progress and cardio levels and how much rest you need between workouts.

Best for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro – See at Amazon
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is the best activity tracker for Android users, offering advanced fitness features, accurate GPS, and multi-day battery life.

Best for iPhone users: Apple Watch Ultra 2 – See at Amazon
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is Apple’s best fitness wearable, offering up to 36 hours of battery life, a highly useful Action Button, and a larger design perfect for trail runners or triathletes.

Best overall

Garmin Forerunner 745

The Forerunner 745 is the perfect representation of the power of Garmin’s ecosystem, offering wearers fine-tuned workout recommendations and valuable fitness insight in an easy-to-use package.

Garmin makes several quality fitness trackers but none are as perfect a fit for all types of runners as the Forerunner 745. It offers a wide variety of trackable running activities, has accurate GPS, and uses a unique workout recommendation system that does a good job supplementing anyone’s training program.

The workout recommendation feature is where the watch truly shines. You do need to wear it for an initial 10-day monitoring period where it can fully assess your output levels but once that’s finished, it doles out daily recommendations that are often quite useful. We didn’t always do the suggested routines but it was a nice feature to have on days when we didn’t want to develop a routine ourselves. 

Garmin Forerunner 745

With a comfortable design, unique workout recommendations, and Garmin’s deep fitness tracking ecosystem, the Forerunner 745 is the best running watch you can buy.

Adam Molina/Insider

The flip side to the workout recommendations is the 745’s approach to rest and recovery. While it does a good job of suggesting certain running workouts, it’s also a great tool for understanding how much rest you should aim to get each week. This is especially useful for those training for an event. It’s better to prioritize rest than it is to just run yourself ragged each day.

Other highlights include a wide variety of trackable activities, including different running options like trail running, indoor running on treadmills, and the standard outdoor run. We found the GPS to sync quickly on any outdoor runs we did, and it was also quite accurate in terms of distance and pacing. 

From a design standpoint, the 745 is a lightweight and comfortable wearable with a large watch face that’s perfect for quickly viewing any tracked stats. The screen may look big on folks with smaller wrists but it isn’t so much so that it’s a dealbreaker.

The Garmin Forerunner 745 is as impressive a running watch as it gets, and it offers something useful for just about every type of runner (plus, it’s compatible with both iOS and Android). If you’re in the market for the best, the 745 is it. 

Read our full review of the Garmin Forerunner 745.

Best budget

Garmin Forerunner 35

If you’re looking for an affordable GPS watch that doesn’t compromise on quality, you really can’t go wrong with the Garmin Forerunner 35.

This watch offers most of the key fitness features runners look for, including an optical heart rate monitor and an accelerometer, in a lightweight, waterproof package. Perhaps best of all, we’ve seen the Forerunner 35 selling for as low as $99, which is a steal considering what you’re getting.

The watch’s wrist-based heart rate monitor tracks your pulse 24/7 (not just during exercise), so you get accurate readings of your resting heart rate. GPS tracking was also quite reliable for distance, pace, and mapping any of our runs.

A person wearing a Garmin Forerunner 35 running watch -- best running watches 2022

The Forerunner 35 from Garmin may look a little dated (and is) but it still offers a quality running watch experience at a fraction of the cost of others in this guide.


The Forerunner 35, however, took the longest of all the watches to lock in on a GPS signal. This is likely because its small size means it has a tiny internal antenna. Also, the watch only has a GPS sensor, while most others include GLONASS, Galileo, and/or BDS. If you want faster and more accurate tracking, you’ll need to spend a few extra bucks for those options.

In addition to GPS and heart rate, the Forerunner 35 measures your running cadence, which we found to be an essential feature for any runner trying to improve their biomechanics. We also liked that there’s an option for interval training if you’re looking to increase your speed.

Outside of the watch, Garmin’s Connect app is one of the best companion apps there is. We appreciate returning from a run and seeing all our data quickly displayed on our smartphones.

In addition to basic data such as running pace, mile splits, and heart rate, the 35 offers more advanced metrics including VO2 Max, which serious athletes use to determine their aerobic capacity. Though the ability of any watch to precisely evaluate VO2 Max is debatable, it was still nice to have this data available.

Ultimately, the Forerunner 35 was the easiest watch of the testing bunch to use. Four small but responsive buttons handle the watch’s functionality and menus aren’t particularly deep, so you’re in and out of the settings quickly. The black-and-white, 128×128-pixel always-on display isn’t fancy but it’s easy to read both in bright and dim conditions. Battery life was great, too. We could do a week or two of daily training runs before needing to recharge it.

Best multisport

Coros Apex

The Apex from Coros is a multisport athlete’s dream: It offers in-depth support for a range of activities, it has excellent battery life and a comfortable fit that almost makes you forget you’re wearing it.

If you’re looking for a GPS watch that does it all, the Coros Apex fits the bill. Initially designed with three main focuses – running, biking, and swimming – that aimed it squarely at triathletes, Coros has since added a variety of new modes to the Apex since launch that make it suited for a wider range of sports. 

In particular, the watch is a great tool for winter sports, offering alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and ski touring modes that track a wealth of data for those who like to stay active during the colder months. In total, the Apex offers nearly two dozen training modes including gym cardio, mountain climbing, hiking, and customizable strength and training modes that let you build your workouts. 

A person wearing a Coros Apex running watch -- best running watches 2022

The Coros Apex offers tracking for a variety of activities and is especially well suited for ultrarunners.


Where the Apex shines though is for ultrarunning thanks to its excellent battery life and dedicated trail run mode. We also found it to be one of the best-designed GPS watches we’ve tested. It’s surprisingly stylish, too.

The Apex comes in two options: a 46mm version and a 42mm version. The 46mm is $50 more than the smaller watch but the added price is worth it since it gives you better battery life, a larger 1.2-inch color LCD screen, and comes with a snazzy titanium alloy bezel versus the stainless-steel bezel native to the 42mm watch.

The watch’s black silicone band is basic but fits snugly and comfortably on the wrist thanks to stretchy elastic. However, those with small wrists will need to choke up considerably on the band.

The Apex offers GPS, GLONASS, or BDS to lock in your location and track distance. We often achieved a location sync in roughly one minute. During test runs on a four-mile course, the Apex said we ran around 10 seconds per mile slower than the other watches tested, though the measured distance was fairly accurate even during runs on a track.

The watch has a wrist-based heart rate monitor along with an accelerometer, barometer, altimeter, and compass. Heart rate readings were fairly consistent when tested against a finger-based pulse monitor. The Apex is also water-resistant to 100 meters/328 feet and offers both Pool Swim and Open Water mode making it suited to swimmers. 

It has impressive battery life, too, which means it’s safe to use on ultra runs (i.e. anything longer than 26.2 miles). Battery life for the 46mm version is up to 100 hours in UltraMax GPS mode, up to 35 hours in full GPS mode, and up to 30 days for regular use. 

Best all-around

Garmin Epix Pro

The Epix Pro from Garmin does it all: it tracks a variety of activities, has a week-long battery life, and offers highly accurate GPS. It’s not discounted often, so being able to save $200 during is an excellent deal.

Garmin’s Epix may not look like a running watch in the traditional sense but what it offers is a more durable design than many others on this list. Because of that, it’s best used for runners who dabble in a little bit of everything like outdoor runs, trail runs, triathlon training, whatever. The Epix is intended for all of it. 

Despite its ruggedness, the Epix still has a lightweight overall feel. The rubber watch band is comfortable against the skin and the large watch face is perfect for quickly skimming your tracked data during a workout. It does feature a heavier overall weight, so may not be the best option for marathon runners, but for those training for shorter distances (or needing something to hold up during a triathlon), it’s perfect. 

Person at the beach wearing a Garmin Epix smartwatch -- best fitness trackers 2022

The Epix Pro is our favorite all-around running watch, and it’s the best wearable Garmin makes. It has accurate GPS, a variety of trackable activities, and is robust yet lightweight enough for any type of runner.

Rick Stella/Insider

Garmin’s ecosystem is also one of the most advanced on the market. Between the number of trackable activities it offers to its unique workout recommendations, the watch can be a useful training companion to just about anyone. It even has helpful rest and recovery insights that teach you how to properly take time off each week, which is a vital part of your overall fitness. 

The watch also has accurate GPS that we found to sync quickly and easily, an always-on heart rate monitor, and tracking capability for sleep, stress, hydration, and respiration levels. There’s even a Body Battery monitor and VO2 max readings which can help give you a better picture of your overall training capacity. 

The trail-running crowd will like the trackback feature which essentially lays digital breadcrumbs to ensure you don’t get lost while on a run. Though we never intentionally got lost deep in the backcountry to truly test this out, we did use it on several trail runs and the accuracy was impressive.

One feature we were especially fond of is the Epix’s long battery life, which would consistently last roughly five days on a single charge. This is ideal for people who train for hours at a time and need constant GPS synced to their watch. They can rest assured that even a long training session won’t completely drain the battery. 

Garmin’s Epix isn’t for every type of runner but it is one of the most full-featured, advanced outdoor watches on the market.

Best battery life

Fitbit Sense 2

Fitbit’s Sense 2 combines the brand’s advanced health and fitness features with decent smartwatch capability, unique sleep tracking, and a clean design reminiscent of the Apple Watch.

The title of “best battery life” could’ve gone to either Fitbit mentioned in this guide, but we went with the Sense 2 because of how much more you get out of it than the Inspire 3 below (which is our “best basic” for a reason). With nearly six days of battery life, the Sense 2 is one of the few fitness trackers you can put on at the beginning of the week and not have to worry about charging until the weekend. 

Granted, if you tend to use the GPS often (which most runners do, of course), that six-day battery life may be a bit shorter. But fret not, even with GPS active for multiple hours at a time, you won’t be breezing through the battery — we still got several days of battery life on a single charge, even when we kicked up our workout frequency a bit. 

The Fitbit Sense 2 sitting on a wood desk.

The Fitbit Sense 2 is a great all-around activity tracker, and although it does lack some standard smartwatch features, it’s still an impressive wearable.

Rick Stella/Insider

In addition to its excellent battery life, the Sense 2 is also an impressive overall fitness tracker. It offers a variety of trackable activities, is accurate in terms of GPS syncing and the data it collects, and is lightweight enough that it’s never bothersome during long runs. It even features a similar square face design to the Apple Watch, so it looks good, too.

It also comes standard with a suite of advanced health features like a skin temperature sensor, heart rhythm readings (ECG), and a useful stress tracker that monitors stress levels in real-time. This feature was especially interesting as it provided insight into how to lower stress levels, as well as how to manage it better over time.  

Perhaps the only downside of Fitbit’s Sense 2 is that it’s not that impressive of a smartwatch. It gets notifications like calls, texts, and emails but there’s no third-party app support, so the only accessible apps are the native ones. Plus, it doesn’t allow the ability to store or play music. For runners who like to work out to their favorite tunes, this is a bit of a drag. 

Despite those drawbacks, the Sense 2 still impresses, especially as a dedicated running watch. The Fitbit ecosystem is intuitive to use, even for first-time wearers, and it provides tons of actionable data that can benefit any runner. 

Read our full review of the Fitbit Sense 2.

Best basic

Fitbit Inspire 3

The Inspire 3 may be one of Fitbit’s most basic watches but it still packs a powerful fitness-tracking punch with tons of trackable activities, advanced health features like skin temperature sensing, and a comfortable, lightweight design.

For those looking for a basic, no-frills running watch, Fitbit’s Inspire 3 is exactly that. It’s reminiscent of Fitbit’s early wearable lines in that it features a slim design and a lightweight, rubber watch band. The screen is also a bit small, but still easy enough to navigate, even while on a run.

The Inspire 3 packs a punch, too. Despite its small size, it offers several of Fitbit’s advanced health and fitness features, such as skin temperature sensing, a wide variety of trackable activities, and in-depth sleep tracking. Though there are plenty of wearables that offer sleep tracking, the Inspire 3’s lightweight design gives it an edge as it never feels all that heavy to wear at night.

A person wearing a Fitbit Inspire 3 on their wrist.

The Inspire 3 is Fitbit’s no-frills activity tracker which is perfect for the runner who doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of something more expensive. It accurately tracks running workouts, has reliable GPS, and won’t break the bank.

Shannon Ullman/Insider

It offers the same trackable activities as the Sense 2, though you can only access six at a time in the fitness app, which can be frustrating to those who do more than just run. It’s not too difficult to swap exercises but it would be ideal to have access to everything. To its credit, the interface is intuitive to navigate, so it’s simple and quick to get an exercise started. 

One drawback is its lack of built-in GPS. It does sync with GPS when paired with a phone but that means you’d have to bring your phone along during a run. Without GPS synced, the accuracy takes a hit and we found it to produce differing results. This may not appeal to those training for a specific event since even the slightest inaccuracy can have a big impact on progress. 

The Inspire 3 is still a worthwhile activity tracker despite its lack of GPS. It’s an excellent budget option for those new to fitness trackers and it still offers a wide variety of health and fitness features useful to anyone. 

Read our full review of the Fitbit Inspire 3.

Best training feedback

Polar Vantage

The Polar Vantage is like having a running coach on your wrist at all times that provides insightful feedback on your progress and cardio levels, as well as how much rest you need between workouts.

Having access to a dedicated personal trainer isn’t cheap — but the benefit of their feedback is invaluable, especially for anyone looking to improve their fitness. With the Polar Vantage, that kind of in-depth analysis is available right on your wrist, with everything from adaptive performance charts and weekly productivity to how you’re progressing and where you can get better. 

The execution of this is where Polar’s Vantage shines. It’s highly motivating to have easy access to data that not only shows your weekly metrics like miles ran, calories burned, or your typical power zones but also your cardio load status and what your week-over-week improvement looks like. 

Person wearing a Polar Vantage running watch -- best running watches 2022

The Polar Vantage is the perfect watch for those who want insightful feedback to improve their running performance.

Rick Stella/Insider

Even having something like the Vantage’s Recovery Pro which gives you feedback on how well you’re resting and how hard you should push it is a worthwhile feature. Rest and recovery don’t get near the attention they should, yet it’s such a huge part of one’s weekly fitness.

The Vantage leans on that in a way that’s highly beneficial (and informative, too). There’s even a Leg Recovery Test built into the watch that can inform you of how ready your legs are for rigorous exercise — for runners, this is incredibly useful.

The Vantage doesn’t just deeply track running but offers similar advanced insight into cycling, as well, displaying a dynamic performance test based on each ride. Both its cycling and running features greatly benefit from an accurate GPS (it also features support for GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS) that displays a detailed map of your route when you finish. 

Even as detailed as this watch gets into training feedback and rest and recovery, that only scratches the surface in terms of what else it offers. There’s live Strava support, individual sport profiles, personalized training guides with FitSpark, swimming metrics, breathing exercises, and in-depth running programs, to name only a few.

Best for Android users

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is the best fitness tracker for Android users thanks to its multi-day battery life, an intuitive operating system in WearOS, and a wide variety of advanced health and fitness tracking.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro isn’t just the best running watch for Android users, it’s the best Android smartwatch. Period. It’s intuitive and easy to use as a smartwatch, has a deep offering of fitness tracking capabilities, and lasts multiple days on a single charge. Few other Android smartwatches come close in terms of this kind of performance. 

Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartwatches has long been at the top Android market but the fifth generation release is the first time the brand has released a Pro version of the watch. Though there is also a standard Galaxy Watch 5, it’s the performance of the Watch 5 Pro that makes it a “must-buy” for Android users. 

A Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro smartwatch.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a robust outdoor watch that offers tons of trackable activities, unique fitness insights, and the latest Wear OS operating system.

Rick Stella/Insider

For starters, it offers highly accurate activity tracking. Between quick-syncing GPS, tons of useful tracked data, and an easy-to-navigate interface, you won’t be fumbling with this watch before, during, or after a run. Plus, you can customize the kind of data that displays on the watch face which is great for those training for a specific event or run time. 

It also tracks a wide variety of activities outside of running, walking, and cycling. You can log hikes and trail runs, as well as other sports like snowboarding or skiing. We found the watch to be lightweight enough that it never got in the way of any activity. It does have a decent-sized watch face, but the band is made of a soft rubber that sits comfortably against your wrist and it never felt too heavy while working out. 

The watch also features a unique trackback function that acts as a digital breadcrumb feature, though it’s only compatible with hikes and cycling rides. This would be a perfect feature for trail runners, though hopefully, it’s something Samsung adds in an update or on the next-generation version. 

We were also impressed with how well the Watch 5 Pro worked as a smartwatch during our tests, as it functioned like a natural extension of our smartphone. It gets calls, texts, emails, and app notifications, each of which is easy to interact with via the watch’s interface. Samsung opted to use the WearOS operating system again, and the watch benefits greatly from it. It’s highly intuitive to use and simple and straightforward to navigate. 

Android users looking for an Android-dedicated running watch should strongly consider Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. It’s a quality smartwatch offering plenty of advanced health and fitness tracking capabilities, including several features for dedicated runners. 

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

Best for iPhone users

Apple Watch Ultra 2

The Ultra 2 is Apple’s biggest smartwatch that features the highly useful Action Button, has multi-day battery life, and has a rugged design that’s perfect for athletes.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 isn’t all that different from the original Ultra, but it’s still the best overall running watch in Apple’s lineup. This is thanks to several features, including the return of the unique Action Button, a brighter screen that works well in high-lighting conditions, and its 36-hour battery life.

What makes the Action Button such a useful addition is how it’s used to start or stop a workout. Instead of immediately starting a three-second countdown when you select an activity, as it does on the Series 9, the Action Button on the Ultra 2 allows you to start a workout exactly when you want. This is also helpful for those who want to make sure the watch’s GPS signal is synced before they hit the pavement. 

Someone wearing an Apple Watch Ultra 2.

The Apple Watch UItra 2 is the best running watch for iPhone users as it has multi-day battery life, a robust, durable design, and a large watch face.

Rick Stella/Business Insider

The brighter screen is also a welcome feature as it makes it far easier to see all your workout data, even while in the middle of a run. This is especially true at night, but the brighter screen makes a huge difference in high-lighting conditions like bright sunny days. 

Finally, the Ultra 2’s multi-day battery life may be its best individual feature, and it’s something that gives it a leg up when compared to the Series 9. Not needing to charge the watch every single night is a major benefit, and it allows the watch to be used for those who prefer long-distance running. 

It is important to note, however, that the Ultra 2 does have a bit of weight to it. It’s not overwhelmingly heavy but it is heavier than others in this guide. Marathon runners may want to think twice before throwing on an Ultra ahead of a 26.2-mile race. 

Beyond that downside, the Ultra 2 is by far the best running watch for iOS users. It offers a high-quality activity tracker experience, useful running metrics, and workout tracking, and seamlessly integrates into the Apple ecosystem. 

Read our full review of the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

How we test running watches

Each running watch featured in this guide went through a series of tests to determine how well it fared across these four categories: GPS capability, comfort, features, and value

Here’s how we judged each category specifically:

GPS capability: This guide hinges entirely on whether the watches featured deliver on not only offering GPS capability but how well that GPS works, so this was the most heavily weighted category of the bunch. To test this, we looked at how quickly the GPS connection was established when we wanted to use it, its accuracy based on the field of watches tested, and whether the function included extras like a map of your running route. 

Comfort: If a running watch isn’t comfortable, no matter how full-featured it is, you won’t want to keep wearing it. This doesn’t just mean comfort when you immediately put it on, either, as we also judged how well they felt during and after we ran. 

Features: Though GPS functionality is vital, a good running watch should also offer a suite of additional features. This could include in-depth training analysis, customized workout plans, or rest schedules. We looked at how beneficial the watch could be for runners of various skill levels and whether it truly helped improve or maintain their desired fitness level.

Value: While it’s easy to think that spending more on a running watch means you’re getting a better product, that’s not always the case. Value among running watches is more about the quality of what’s offered, how intuitive it is to use, and how effective it is at allowing you to reach your fitness goals.


Are running watches durable?

Yes — or at least, they should be. Of course, you don’t need to treat a running watch like it’s indestructible but it should hold up to the kind of natural wear and tear you’d expect.

Trail runners could opt for a more rugged option since they’ll be in areas where a watch could sustain more damage, but it isn’t always necessary. As long as you care for your watch and avoid hitting the screen on anything that may shatter it, most running watches should be perfectly durable.

Are running watches waterproof?

Some are, yes. While most offer some level of weather resistance, it varies depending on model and make.

However, If you plan on using your watch for swimming, check that it’s fully waterproof. At the same time, the size and weight of a watch can affect your comfort and your training. So, while a military-grade tactical watch may look impressively tough, it could also weigh a ton and slow you down.

How long does the battery last on a running watch?

It depends on the watch. The GPS tracking function alone is a serious drain on a rechargeable battery but add in things like high-resolution color touchscreens, music streaming, and other battery-sucking features, and it can’t be overstated that you’ll want a watch with enough juice for the long haul.

Good battery life is important for all your gadgets but it’s crucial for running watches. If you’re running a marathon or logging a long training session, the last thing you want to worry about is your watch dying on you.

Do running watches have smart features?

Yes, most high-end running watches come standard with smart features as the line between traditional fitness trackers and multi-functional smartwatches is a little blurry. The question is, do you need all the features of a smartwatch if you’re just using it for working out?

On the other hand, if you’re going to be wearing something on your wrist all day, why not let it help you answer emails and texts or surf the web and visit social media? The choice is yours but remember that all those smart features hike up the cost and drain the battery like crazy.