Best Running Watches – Runner’s Guide to Finding the Optimal Watch

In-depth Review of the Best Watches for Running

When it comes to buying a new running watch, the more information you have about your new device, the better off you’ll be in being able to make a good decision. Start with what you know you need, and add in features based on what you imagine yourself doing with the running watch. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you buy the running watch that is right for your needs. In this review of the best running watches, you’ll see just how many options and add-ons there are, and the various types of running watches that are popular on the market today.

What to Look for In Your Next Running Watch

The problem with trying to choose the best running watch for you, or in general, is that most running watches are trying to be everything to everyone. They function more like a smartwatch than a running device. However, despite their best effort to the everything to everyone, some of the brands on the market today are still lacking some essential functions. Brands and manufacturers seem to be going for “over the top” extras and add-ons instead of giving people what they need. If you are a runner and want a watch that is for running, and maybe a few extras,  then this is what you should look out for when you are buying your next running watch or device.

Distance Tracker

Obviously, any runner wants to know about distance, but some running watches do a better job at tracking distance through GPS than some other watches. It’s important to look for a good GPS monitor in your running watch. Watch out for ones that track through your smartphone and record using information that isn’t received through satellite tracking. A good running watch will provide very specific distance information, and you should have the option to change between measurements; for example, switching between miles and kilometers depending on where you are in the world.

Wrist Heart Rate Monitor

It’s funny to think that there are running watches on the market today that don’t have standard heart rate monitoring already included. Some of the models in this review come with an option to add a heart rate monitor, while others come standard. But it’s not a standard option. If you want a heart rate monitor in your running watch, be prepared to pay a lot more money. In some cases, it’s double the cost to have a heart rate monitor added to your running watch. It’s important to a lot of runners though, and it’s so surprising that it isn’t standard.

Indoor or Outdoor Tracking Options

Some running watches are better suited for the outdoors. It’s important to get a waterproof or water resistant running watch if you plan to do more than just run with your watch; for example, if you are going to be doing long distance running outside, or if you are also a swimmer or kayaker, you might want to invest in a more expensive running watch that has a water-resistant feature. Most running watches are sweat proof. What’s more, if you are going to run on a treadmill indoors instead of running on the road, you’ll want a running watch that can tell the difference for tracking and monitoring purposes. This might not matter to the novice runner, but an experienced runner will want to track the difference between indoor and outdoor runs.

Training Programs

Some people want their watch to do everything. If you need some help or coaching to get you through your workout, you’ll want to get a running watch that features a training program or training coach app. These typically offer interval training options and provide feedback and analysis of results over time. This is great for the novice runner who wants more motivation to keep pushing themselves, or for the experienced runner who is looking to up their game.

Bluetooth Compatibility

Similar to the heart rate monitor, not all running watches have Bluetooth compatibility. Again, it’s kind of crazy to think that every new electronic device is not automatically fitted with these options, but that’s what makes them “options,” I suppose. If you want your running watch to be able to talk to your smartphone, iPad or other mobile device, especially if you want to track progress and analytics over time, then you will want to upgrade your running watch to a device that has Bluetooth compatibility. Sure, you can use wifi, but the internet isn’t everywhere, and if you are huffing it on some dirt road, and you want your stats immediately, invest in a Bluetooth option running watch.

Our Top Selections for Running Watches

Here are the 5 best running watches available in our opinion. Each one is considered against the criteria above, and additional information is provided for your review and to help you make your decision about which running watch is right for you.