Best Fitness Watches and Trackers for Women in 2018
We’ve reviewed over 50+ fitness watches and fitness trackers for women to find the best available right now.
In evaluating women’s fitness watches, we looked for watches that worked for a variety of activities and for different budgets.
Most importantly we wanted to find watches that provided the best fit for women. Many companies claim their watches are made for women when they are really just “gender-zied” with a pink band.
The problem – especially for a GPS watch – is that they are so big they don’t fit properly on a women’s wrist. Or they fit but are so out of proportion they don’t look good. Our favorite fitness watches fit well and look good.
We also feel that safety is a concern for many women. We placed an emphasis on watches that allow friends and family to see your precise location when exercising outdoors.
Given that criteria, here are the best fitness watches for women currently on the market….
Top 3 Best and Favorites
GARMIN VIVOACTIVE 3
APPLE WATCH SERIES 3
Best Sport Watches for Women
We broke these fitness watches into two categories: sport watches and fitness trackers.
These overlap in some ways. But sport watches are more versatile and can be used for a large range of activities. Because they have GPS tracking, they tend to be physically bigger and more expensive than fitness trackers.
Fitness trackers count steps, monitor sleep, and track basic exercise. They don’t have GPS for accurate exercise tracking.
You’ll notice many of these watches are Garmins. This is not an accident. Garmin is the industry-leader for GPS watches and have put years of research into building the smallest form GPS watches. There are less expensive GPS watches on the market, but they tend to be big and clunky.
1. Garmin vivoactive 3
The vivoactive 3 is one of our favorite fitness watches. It can track over a dozen activities including running, cycling, swimming, and golf. Heart rate is monitored on your wrist, eliminating the need for a chest strap.
There is room for lots of customization. Watch bands can be swapped out. The display can be changed – you can even use a personal photo to customize the face. And the side button can change position to wear on either left or right wrist. The vivoactive 3 comes in 4 color options: white with silver bezel, black with silver bezel, black with gray bezel, and a new white with rose gold bezel.
While the vivoactive 3 is not the smallest GPS watch we found, it balances its size well with the number of features. And it still fits a women’s wrist pretty well. We like how it can be worn on either wrist.
For safety, the vivoactive 3 has the ability to broadcast your activity. Using Garmin’s Livetrack, a link can be sent out to email contacts (or on Facebook and Twitter, if you want to share this with more people). The link lets anyone follow your location on a map in real time.
Just released is a new version called vivoactive 3 music. As its name suggests, you can download and play up to 500 songs directly from the watch or stream music from select apps. You’ll need wireless bluetooth headphones to listen (we like this pair that lets in ambient background noise). This version also has a bezel-less design for a sleek look.
The vivoactive 3 also has the most features to offer for the best price. Combined with its GPS capabilities and a stylish design, it’s our top choice.
2. Garmin Forerunner 25
For a simpler fitness watch, the Forerunner 25 is a great option. It’s primarily marketed as a running watch, but it can track distance and speed for almost any outdoor activities.
The built-in activity tracker means you can wear all day and it counts steps, creates daily step goals, and monitors sleep.
We like it for women because it’s one of the smallest GPS watches on the market. And like the vivoactive 3, it offers Livetrack so your family can monitor your location when exercising outside.
The Forerunner 25 also provides smart notifications. Every time your receive a text or other type of phone notification, it appears on the watch. And activities can be uploaded easily to a phone or computer.
Best of all, the Forerunner 25 has seen a recent price drop from its original $140 cost. Click on the link for the latest price.
3. Garmin Forerunner 35
The Forerunner 35 also has a sleeker design. It’s a bit thinner and has a bigger and sharper display. The color options feel more current.
Like the other Garmin watches we’ve looked at, the Forerunner 35 has Livetrack for real-time tracking.
It comes with more activity profiles including cardio and cycling modes. And like the Forerunner 25, it doubles as an activity tracker for monitoring steps and sleep.
Uploading everything to a phone is painless with wireless syncing. And phone notifications appear on the watch.
4. Garmin fenix 5S
The fenix has been one of Garmin’s most popular GPS watches for the past several years. It works equally well for running, cycling, hiking, triathlons, the gym, or just wearing casually. But has been a big, heavy watch. For years, a major complaint was its size and sheer bulk.
Garmin finally fixed that with the fenix 5, which comes in three versions: the 5S, 5, and 5X. The 5S is one of our top picks for best women’s fitness watch. It’s still not a small watch, but finally it’s not a huge watch that looked ridiculous on small wrists.
The key difference between the fenix 5S and the vivoactive 3 is the sheer amount of data it tracks. You can program customized workouts directly on the watch. It comes with a barometer to accurately track elevation while hiking and to monitor the weather. To navigate, the fenix 5S has great mapping features.
Like Garmin’s other watches, Livetrack projects your activity to friends and family. But the fenix 5S also works with Strava, including the Strava Beacon. This feature is similar to Livetrack; however, it allows you to send tracking information by text as well as email. It can be programmed to automatically send a text every time you start an activity.
The fenix 5S comes in a multiple color options. Different bands can be quickly swapped in and out using Garmin’s new quickfit band system.
5. Apple Watch Series 3
There is no denying the Apple Watch is a versatile and nice looking watch. And now the Series 3 is even more fitness oriented than the original version.
It’s hard to fully run-down everything the Apple Watch can do. Especially because 3rd party apps can further enhance everything it can do. But some key features include: GPS tracking along with the step monitoring of a fitness tracker. On the go music and phone notifications. Plus wrist heart rate.
And the big update to the Apple Watch… cellular service without a phone. This is a pretty awesome feature since it lets you text, make calls, play music and talk to Siri without carrying your phone.
Unlike Garmin watches, there is no way to broadcast your runs and rides to let friends know where you are. But it does have the SOS emergency feature. Basically, you can call 911 directly from the watch. That’s a pretty awesome safety feature.
The biggest downside to the watch is its poor battery life. You’ll be lucky to get 5 hours in GPS mode. This compares to 10-15 for every Garmin. You’ll probably need to charge it every couple of days.
But in the end, this might not matter. Our recommendation, if you are really serious about outdoor activities, is to go with a Garmin. But if you want a watch that’s capable of a lot more than just working out, go with the Apple Watch.
6. Fitbit Ionic
The Fitbit Ionic, like a lot of Fitbits out there, is more activity tracker than GPS sports watch. But it fits the bill for both even if the GPS functions are a bit weak.
The Ionic really shines as an all-purpose fitness watch. It’s great for people who do a variety of activities from running to strength training to hitting the gym. It can be worn all day where it tracks steps, heart rate, distance, floors climbed, and active vs stationary minutes.
And when you decide to head outside, use GPS to accurately track your runs including distance and pace. The Fitbit Ionic also tracks swim workouts. And it counts reps when doing strength work at the gym.
It’s a fairly small form watch, so it fits nicely on thinner wrists. But unlike Garmin’s watches, there is no way to send live updates of your run or bike to friends and family.
Similar to the Apple Watch, the Ionic has some nice features for everyday wear. This includes phone notifications and wireless payments made directly with the watch. It also stores up to 300 songs that can be played through a set of wireless headphones.
The biggest downside to the watch is its poor battery-life. You’ll get about 4 days when it’s used as an activity tracker. And only 10 hours in GPS mode.
Fitness Trackers are mainly used to count steps and monitor sleep. They can be used for running, cycling, or the gym, but don’t have the full set of features of a sports watch.
But they smaller and less expensive than GPS watches. The downside is they aren’t as accurate or have displays that are large and easy to read.
Most don’t have GPS, so they usually can’t beam out your location to family while you are running or cycling outside.
7. Garmin vivosport
The vivosport is one of the few activity trackers that has GPS. It’s the best option when you want a small, lightweight watch with the option to accurately track outdoor activities.
When not using GPS to track walks and other outdoor activities, the activity tracker counts steps and records indoor activities.
The vivosport comes pre-loaded with gym workout profile. It counts reps when lifting weights.
There’s an easy-to-read color display with a 7-day battery (although only 8 hours when using GPS). The wrist heart rate monitors heart rate all day. It even monitors stress levels allowing you to better understand the triggers that cause you to stress out.
And because there is GPS, the vivosport does have Livetrack allowing you to broadcast outdoor activities to friends and family.
When you feel like nerding out, the vivosport provides VO2 Max (an indicator of your overall fitness) and fitness age – an estimate of how old you are based on your fitness level.
To further customize the watch, the vivosport comes in two sizes with two different color options.
8. Fitbit Alta & Alta HR
On top of tracking total steps, calories, and active minutes, the Alta provides Move reminders when you’ve been stationary too long. Wear the Alta at night to monitor sleep.
They also sync wirelessly to your phone. Smartphone notifications appear on the Alta.
The slim design comes in three sizes to fit a variety of wrist sizes. Battery life is 5-7 days before recharging.
The Alta HR provides a cardio fitness level in addition to 24-7 wrist heart rate monitoring. The fitness level is a nice way to monitor your fitness over a long period of time.
9. Moov Now
This fitness watch is a bit different… and we’re not sure we can even classify it as a watch. But we like it and it stands out in this category, so we decided to include it.
The Moov Now is as much a personal coach as it is an activity tracker. Yes, it counts steps and tracks runs. But it also helps to improve running form, tracks strokes when swimming, tracks cadence and power while cycling – it even makes boxing fun with a built-in game (on the app).
What makes the Moov not quite a watch is that it doesn’t have an actual display. Instead, you need to download the Moov app to a phone. Not ideal for wearing it independently or receiving immediate feedback.
10. Fitbit Charge 3
The Fitbit Charge 3 straddles the line between the simpler Alta and the Ionic. It’s mainly an activity tracker, but provides GPS tracking outdoors when paired with a phone.
Wrist heart rate monitors heart rate all day and night. The Charge 3 uses this to determine your overall fitness level and even offers breathing tips when you are feeling stressed out.
The high resolution screen is easy to read. Smartphone notifications appear when the Charge 3 is near your phone.
Like the Fitbit Alta, there are size options to fit different types of wrists. It’s not as small as the Fitbit Alta, but it fits slender wrists pretty well. Bands can swapped out for a change of pace.
New to the Charge 3 is a touch-screen display (compared to push buttons on the Charge 2) that’s also about 40% bigger with a sharper resolution. The battery-life improves to 7 days. The Charge 3 can also make wireless payments.
What do fitness watches do?
Fitness watches have come a long way since the basic stop-watch. Today’s fitness watches track your every move, provide insight into your current fitness, and motivate you to keep exercising every day.
The most basic fitness watches count daily steps and monitor sleeping habits. They set daily step goals to provide a concrete number of steps you should walk everyday. As your fitness improves, the step goal gradually increases.
On top of counting steps, most fitness watches also track total distance walked and calories burned. Some even provide reminders to get up and move when you’ve been inactive for too long.
Many fitness watches also monitor heart rate – usually with a heart rate monitor built into the watch itself. This eliminates the need to wear a chest strap like older heart rate monitors.
Better fitness watches track running, swimming, cycling, and other outdoor activities. They record how far you went, how long it took you, and your speed. This data is usually tracked in real-time so you’ll know how far you’ve gone mid-run or ride.
Most of these types of fitness watches use GPS to accurately track outdoor activities. Like a GPS for your car, these watches record exactly where you’ve gone and use that information to determine speed and distance traveled.
Almost every fitness watch today syncs wirelessly with a phone. This allows you to see all the data it’s recorded in easy-to-read graphs and charts.
The phone-watch connection also means that phone notifications appear on the fitness watch.
Many of the latest fitness watches can also play and store music, make payments wirelessly directly from the watch, and have watch bands and watch displays that can be customized.
What’s the difference between a GPS watch, sport watch, fitness watch, and fitness tracker?
A GPS watch syncs with GPS satellites to accurately track data for outdoor activities like running and walking.
A fitness tracker uses an accelerometer to count the number of steps taken on a daily basis along with monitoring sleep patterns.
A fitness watch and sport watch are more or less the same thing. A more stylish design is usually common for a sport watch. Ideally, both types of watches can be worn all day while exercising and for casual wear.
A GPS watch and a fitness tracker can both be a fitness watch and a sports watch. But because a sports watch implies a classic or stylish look, usually a fitness tracker wouldn’t be thought of as a sports watch.
How do fitness watches calculate calories?
A fitness watch uses an algorithim that takes your age, weight, height, and combines that with how much you exercise (either steps taken or a more intense activity like running) to calculate the number of calories burned. More advanced watches will also incorporate heart rate into the calculation.
But you have to remember these calories are just estimates. They should be used as a general guideline and not a true number of calories burned.
How do I choose a fitness watch?
A simple way to choose a fitness watch is to decide what types of activities you like to do, then combine that with how much you are willing to spend.
The most expensive fitness watches count steps and monitor your sleep – just like a basic fitness tracker. But they also do a whole lot more.
So it’s really deciding if basic step tracking is good enough for you. Or do you want to use it for running or other outdoor exercises?
These are the main factors you should consider when choosing a watch:
A basic fitness watch that tracks steps costs about $75-$100. The cost rises as the number of the features increases. Fitness watches that track running, walking, and other outdoor activities using GPS cost between $100-$250+. Those types of watches do cost more, but you get a much more accurate speed and distance than less expensive watches.
Do you want to track how far you walk every day? Then a fitness tracker should be fine. Would the watch also be used regularly for running, cycling, or hiking? Then think about getting a watch with GPS. Just doing a little bit of outside activity? A higher end fitness tracker will count steps and have basic GPS for occasional outdoor use.
Weight and Watch Size
A basic fitness tracker is a fairly simple device and doesn’t weight much. Fitness watches that can do more and have long batteries are heavier and bigger.
In addition to counting steps and outdoor activities with GPS, some of these watches add on extra features. These are usually minor features like counting floors climbed, fitness scores, or tracking intensity exercise minutes. If these are important to you, check each watch for specific types of features.
Each brand of watch has it’s own software and app that goes with it. They are all unique and generally do the same sort of thing. We wouldn’t say that one is dramatically better than the other. But do note that if you ever switch watch brands in the future, it can be hard, or even impossible, to move your old data to the new software system. Just keep this in mind when choosing a watch.