Strava or it didn’t happen. That’s a basic rule of life for today’s social-media-connected runner. You don’t just want to go for a run–you want to track it, share it, and gather the data to measure your progress toward goals. In today’s GPS-connected running world, you need a fail-safe and fool-proof running watch to make sure your close friends and Strava mates across the globe know how much butt you’ve been kicking. Playing your favorite tunes and keeping you abreast of messages and updates is an added bonus.
There are many options out there, and the offerings from Polar are ones you need to seriously consider. Polar running watches provide the obvious litany of performance features, such as monitoring distance, time, and pace. Polar also tacks on enough extras to satisfy serious and professional runners, from extended battery life in some models to heart monitoring to a bevy of smartwatch features.
Every Polar watch is developed with the experience they’ve built upon since developing their first heart monitoring device in the 1970s. Where other running watches focus on your workout, Polar watches emphasized your total health.
You can easily become dehydrated, exhausted, or worse by working too hard for too long. But Polar watches compare your running rate and vitals, to let you plan the appropriate drills and training for your body.
Polar watches offer many features beyond timekeeping and monitoring your heart rate. Below you’ll find recommendations for the best Polar smartwatches, fitness tracking watches, and lightweight watches. The intent is to help you find the Polar watch that best fits your needs.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Best Polar GPS Watch
1. Vantage V
The Vantage V is one of the best Polar running watches if you want a watch with high analytical capabilities. The Vantage V can connect to services such as Strava or TrainingPeaks, and automatically syncs your workout data. This creates an online and app-based workout journal for you to analyze.
The Vantage V is built to support holistic training. It can be set to alert you when you might be overtraining, and suggest resting at certain intervals. The Vantage V doesn’t require additional sensors beyond the watch, yet it can track your average calorie and water usage.
This, paired with the GPS system, can help you avoid an accident while running. But it can also allow others to track your location–a great safety feature if you are worried about spraining an ankle or sustaining some other injury away from home. It also reacts to unexpected spikes in heart rate and blood pressure that you shouldn’t be experiencing during your daily routine.
The main screen of the Vantage V shows the duration and distance of your run, and compares them to formulate an average pace. The Vantage V measures all of this using GPS, and creates a running power statistic to help you know if you’re over- or under-performing compared to your peers. This feature is specifically designed to assist competitive runners.
- Heart rate, distance, and run duration info at a glance
- Weight, heart rate, and average physique comparisons against your workout
- Hydration and nutritional intake monitoring, to avoid overworking yourself
- Can interact with training apps to create an online workout journal for analysis
- It doesn’t play music or provide any stimulation to make running easier
- It is not a particularly light GPS running watch
Top Lightweight Polar GPS Watch
2. Vantage M
The best Polar running watches set themselves apart in one category; they are thoroughly functional in spite of their light weight. The wristband of the Vantage M is thin and adjustable, and the watch head is smaller, to decrease the overall weight. This makes it a good pick if you want a comfortable Polar GPS watch without feeling like Flavor Flav had a say in your timekeeping device.
The Vantage M has a 30-hour battery life in training mode. It also weighs an average of 25% less than the Vantage V, a relatively similar model. While the battery life is shorter, and the Vantage M can’t track your running power, it has nearly every other feature still in place.
The M can use these functions if paired with a third-party sensor though. It also measures your cardio load and muscle load, to inform you of which muscles are receiving the hardest workout. It also has different settings for different sports or running regimens.
The Vantage M offers feedback after running laps or splits. This feedback tells you about improvements, to try to motivate you in place of a coach. But the Vantage M also has access to Polar’s online features, Polar Flow. Online coaches and training buddies in the app can help you analyze workouts and motivate you toward your goals.
- Significantly lighter than most Polar watches
- Tracks running power if you pair it with a third party sensor
- Same technology to suggest rest and hydration breaks as other Polar watches
- Enough to use the Vantage M for a full day in GPS mode
- Pairing it with a third party sensor defeats the purpose of trying to buy a lighter watch
- Battery life is 10 hours lower than its cousin, the Vantage V
Top Budget Polar GPS Watch
The M200 has an impressive variety of features for not so much coin, making it our top budget pick. Its battery can function for six to seven hours with all sensors running, or several weeks without a recharge if you simply use it as a watch. The M200 can stay synced to GPS and the Polar Flow application for several hours without a recharge, as well.
The M200’s sensor can detect altitude changes and estimate how the change in air pressure affects your lungs while running. It also estimates the times you fall asleep and wake up by monitoring your heart, to gauge if you are rested enough for your next run. It also has a simple feature to warn you when you’ve been sitting for too long, to encourage active behavior.
The M200 is waterproof, so you can still use it if you get caught in the rain while running. While it may not display as much information all at once as other Polar watches, the screen on the M200 is still quite large. This makes it easy to check your distance, pace, and so on at a glance.
- Activity monitor vibrates when it detects too much sitting or dormant behavior
- Large, readable screen and lettering
- Detects elevation and distance via GPS, as well as environmental factors that can affect your run
- Doesn’t display as much information at-a-glance as other Polar watches
- It lacks several features of Polar watches, such as running power, without third-party sensors
Best Discontinued GPS Watch
Looking for a fully-loaded, top-tier GPS tracking device but not looking to shell out top-tier dollars? Consider buying a used, late-model unit. If that’s your strategy, you can get an awful lot of watch with the V800. This is the Polar watch the word “excess” best applies to. The V800 has smart calorie tracking, recovery planning, and can conduct an orthostatic test on your health. In short, it has nearly every function a Polar watch is known for, and a large screen to display it on.
The V800 does weigh more than other GPS watches. This weight is offset by significant battery life, and a menu with many programs to track your stats and health. You have to connect it to the internet to customize it, which is a drawback, but the level of customizability is impressive.
The V800 can create a Running Index. As you run, the watch catalogs your past performances and health. It can then help you by predicting how you will perform in 5K runs, triathlons, and other long-form events. While its ability to track and predict your performance is impressive, it is worse at detecting sleep and downtime than other Polar watches.
The V800 can also help you balance work, fun, and running. If you use its Smartwatch features, it can detect and accept calls and texts. It can also alert you to social media updates. Finally, the V800 can have set appointments and calendar dates, to help you follow your demanding schedule.
- Has all the features of a Smartwatch, to keep you connected while running
- Tracks past and present performances, and predicts future run times
- Highly customizable programming
- A hefty watch
- You have to connect it to other devices to program or customize the V800
Best Polar Smartwatch
Wondering what the best option for a Polar GPS watch is, hands-down? Cast aside considerations of weight, cost, and other tradeoffs and pick up the M600. This model, the best of the best, emphasizes its smartwatch label, and with good reason. The M600 is an Android device and can download thousands of apps from the Google Store. Its capabilities only expand when paired with an Android phone. As a result, its interconnectivity beats all other Polar watches.
The Google integration makes the M600 better as a whole. You can ask Google for help conducting searches, setting notifications, and receiving messages. You can use the voice recognition system to make navigating programs that help manage your running easier, too.
As can be expected, the M600 is more durable than most Polar watches. A thick resin casing promises complete waterproofing. You can get 48 hours of battery life out of it as well, even when connected to Android devices. And unlike most Polar watches, it can play music and provide entertainment while you train.
The main selling point of the M600 is its 4GB memory. Combined with its access to Android apps, the M600 can download any run-assisting programs you need. When you include its ability to send texts and calls, it’s clearly one of the best Polar running watches for people who want to stay connected while they run.
- Has access to other Android platforms and Google Store apps
- Has internal memory to spare and the ability to download apps to help runners
- Very durable
- Can provide entertainment while you run or train
- Has more entertainment features than runner-assisting features by default
- Staying connected can drain the battery quickly
- Relies on its connectivity for many of its features
Best Polar Fitness Tracker
Fitness trackers are pared-back versions of full running devices, but they still meet the fitness needs of all but the most demanding athletes. The A370 puts more emphasis on tracking your pulse than most Polar watches. It monitors your heart throughout the day and highlights your highest and lowest heart rates. You can use this feature to figure out what stresses you out the most (desk job, duh!), and when you’re the most relaxed (running trails in the mountains, duh!).
It also tracks your sleep patterns. You can tell it your intended sleep pattern and set the alarm. It then compares your heart rate against those times. This can give you insight if, say, you continuously wake up too early. It can highlight disturbances that wake you up, or recommend going to sleep earlier or later to help you adjust.
The A370 monitors the time you spend sitting or lying down, and informs you when you’re being too sedentary. Like other Polar watches, it also monitors calorie intake and hydration and recommends running routines based on past exercises. The A370 is designed to pair with your phone.
Using third-party sensors, it can run an aerobic fitness test to help you understand how healthy your heart and lungs are compared to the rest of your body. It can also use the GPS of your phone to track walking distance and pace. It may be the best Polar watch for monitoring your body’s health and planning a fitness routine, even if it lacks entertainment and analysis features.
- Several apps to analyze where your fitness level currently is
- Can pair with many third-party devices for increased functionality
- Monitors stress and other unhealthy lifestyle choices outside of running
- A running program can predict your improvement after each running session
- Lacks entertainment or connectivity features
- GPS must be connected to a phone to function
- Can be hard to read in bright environments due to glare