The Best Smartwatches for Running in 2018

There are a ton of smartwatches coming on the market for anyone who likes tracking their fitness progress. So how do you choose which one is best for you? There are a number of features that are pretty universal, from custom watch faces to tracking calories, steps, and even guided breathing sessions for cooling down and for stressful days!

But there are some significant differences as well, from functioning as their own phone, to having a built-in GPS, the types of exercises tracked and to what extent. Here are six of the best smartwatches for running for you to compare to decide which will live up to your individual needs the best.


Top 3 Best and Favorites

Best Overall

Apple Watch Series 3

Best Android

Samsung Gear Sport

Top Garmin

Vivoactive 3


1. Fitbit Versa

One of the newer watches on the market, Fitbit Versa brought its “A” game to the market with a battery that can last about four days, charge time from zero to 100% in a short two hours. The watch also provides features such as a 27/7 heart rate monitor, music storage up to 300 songs without a phone nearby, a great variety of apps, coaching, and more.

For an affordable $199 (and a $229 edition that supports mobile payments), this is one of the best watches out there for tracking your running and fitness progress.

It’s much slimmer than some of the older models, and square like the Apple watch, making it more attractive for women – offering pink, gray, and black models, plus a range of different wristbands. You may also customize the three buttons to easily jump to the programs you use most.

With Bluetooth connectivity, receive smartphone notifications and “quick reply” if you have an Android phone. It supports 15+ exercise modes so no matter what you’re doing, you can accurately track your progress and your cardio fitness level.

·       Run

·       Bike

·       Swim

·       Treadmill

·       Weights

·       Interval timer

·       General workout

A newer feature notes female health, such as to see how the period cycle affects sleep and physical activity. Sleep tracking can also be very useful if you know you don’t sleep enough and want to improve! The Versa is also waterproof down to 50m, so you can track your swimming without even noticing this lightweight watch.


PROS:

  • Take it swimming to 50m
  • Long battery life (3-4 days)
  • Receives phone notifications (plus a “quick reply” with Android phones)

CONS:

  • No GPS of its own (can connect to phone GPS however)
  • No microphone to use voice commands

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2. Apple Watch Series 3

 

The Apple Watch Series 3 is a top-pick with a sleek design, which is no surprise coming from Apple. Series 3 allows you to do just about anything with two available models:

·       LTE built-in: $399, becomes its own phone while you leave yours at home, but it can’t be used without owning an iPhone. You can answer calls and some notifications though while on the move. Additional monthly fees apply to have your data fed to the watch.

·       GPS only: $329 and very similar to Series 2, but with a lower price point and a slightly better battery life.

Check your phone notifications and more to enjoy your best active life without missing a beat! The watch tracks various indoor and outdoor sports such as running, biking, swimming, and high-intensity interval training.

Plus, for any gym equipment that is compatible, you can sync right up with it to ensure accurate records of your speed, calories, and heart rate. With the ability to download many popular apps, you can use your favorites for working out.

This is not your classic dedicated work-out device, but it does a great job at monitoring the progress of any running or fitness enthusiast who isn’t a professional. The heart rate tracker is pretty good, but perhaps not quite as accurate as dedicated Garmin devices.

With the added convenience of great voice recognition, a high-res screen that turns on without delay when checking for the time, plus loads of other apps available, this is a solid choice for any runner wanting an attractive yet fitness-ready smartwatch.


PROS:

  • Built-in GPS and altimeter
  • Waterproof to 50m

CONS:

  • Short battery life (a little more than one day)

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3. Samsung Gear Sport

At $299.99, the Gear Sport is lighter and nicer looking than its older models, though heavier than many models on the market today. But it looks like a traditional watch which is appealing to many people.

Choose between the black or the blue model, with a variety of interchangeable straps. It can run with both Android and iOS to check notifications but is better suited for Samsung Android phones to utilize Samsung Pay and to reply to texts when connected via Bluetooth (or Wi-Fi.)

With an additional rotating wheel around the watch face, it is very easy to navigate menus. It does boast over three days of battery life, but the voice recognition is currently sub-par and there aren’t many apps to choose from.

Using the training guide app, there are more than 60 workouts to choose from and the watch will guide you through each. It will continuously monitor your heart rate, and like Fitbit will suggest various stretches if you’ve been sitting for a while. It is also waterproof to 50m, with a separate swim tracking app for more advanced stats.

It can automatically detect workouts, and your fitness data syncs with the Samsung S Health app. MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal and a few other, lesser-known apps may be used as well. While it has a GPS, some features may not be as accurate as some individuals would like, so this watch is probably better suited for casual exercise.


PROS:

  • Built-in GPS, altimeter and barometer
  • Attractive watch-like design
  • Waterproof to 50m
  • Easy interface
  • Track calories right from the watch without an extra app

CONS:

  • Few apps
  • Voice command capability is not reliable
  • Some issues when pairing with a non-Samsung phone
  • Occasionally may freeze during exercise

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4. LG Watch Sport

Working as its own phone with an extra fee, you can make calls and workout without taking your phone along. Plus, there is now a keyboard that allows full texting.

The battery life isn’t one of the best, and the watch is rather large (not great for small wrists), but it still has a nice design and is comfortable. Verizon is no longer selling this one, but it can be found elsewhere!

Waterproof up to 1.5m for 30 minutes, this one is not advised for swimming. Choose between a titanium or blue color, but there aren’t replacement wrist bands, since there are antennas built in. With the large size of this one (partially due to the built-in SIM card tray and 4GB of storage for music) it’s generally thought to be more for fitness than style.

There aren’t too many apps available, but what is available can be installed from the watch in the mini app store. For most functionality, having an android phone will get you farther – to use Google Assistant and Android Pay. One nice feature besides the other fitness abilities, is its strength training mode. Accuracy with location, pace and heart rate while running are decent based on user reports.


PROS:

  • Built-in GPS for runs, hikes and walks
  • Large display
  • Rotating dial to more easily navigate menus

CONS:

  • Short battery life (little more than one day)
  • Large and heavy, better for fitness than style

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5. Garmin Vivoactive 3

Ranging in price from $299 to $330, this watch is one of Garmin’s first to bring a more attractive, round and lightweight design to the table – so comfortable you can forget you’re wearing it, even while running. Battery life in smartwatch mode runs over five days, and the GPS mode lasts up to 13 hours, plus water resistance up to 50m.

This watch come with one of the most accurate heart rate monitors next to a chest strap and measures stress and recovery. Plus, it will give you motivational messages and remind you when you’re not being very active.

While this is simpler for style, it comes with many more built-in workout features such as preloaded running and swimming profiles (including stroke type detection and swim efficiency) and various GPS based workouts, though it is limited when it comes to strength training.

It features 15 sport profiles for a very wide variety of exercises, from running, golfing, snowboarding, paddle boarding, rowing, yoga, stairs-stepping, and more.

For runners, this one tracks your cardio fitness level to give you an idea of how physically fit you are, plus you can compare to others in your age group with the app. It also features all-day stress tracking, which is something other watches are working on incorporating.

Other nice features include an upgraded processor for faster response time, find-my-phone, and music control for your phone. You can also use mobile pay and receive your smartphone notifications while on the go – calls, texts, calendar reminders and other apps as you set them – plus send basic responses to texts on android phones.

There aren’t too many advanced performance metrics, but the price point is fair in comparison and if you’re looking for a fitness-focused watch to get into better shape, this is a solid option.


PROS:

  • Built-in GPS, barometric altimeter, and thermometer for outdoor temperatures
  • Long battery life
  • Mobile pay

CONS:

  • Suited for fitness with fewer smartwatch “extras”
  • No built-in music storage

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6. Fitbit Ionic

At $299, the Fitbit Ionic is a bigger version of the Versa, with more features, a larger price tag to match, and a slightly bulkier, square, but still light and comfortable style made with aerospace-grade aluminum. The battery will last about four days, with the GPS battery life of 10 hours, and a short one-two hour charge time.

Also having a variety of colors to choose from and replaceable bands, this watch, like the Versa, will also track female health, has a high-res screen, stores 300 songs, accepts mobile payments, and gives access to Pandora.

The Ionic functions as a classic Fitbit and has many smartwatch features that make it stand out. You can now install apps with the Fitbit operating system. The method Fitbit used to create this watch, combining plastic and metal into one continuous piece, is supposed to improve accuracy of the Wi-Fi antenna, GPS and other sensors which is great news for runners.

The heart rate monitor is something Fitbit has big plans for – noticing irregular heartbeat for example. Data won’t be as accurate as a chest strap, but to gain a general understanding of your heart rate, this can be very useful. There is also an SpO2 sensor, which doesn’t function currently but could be used for spotting sleep apnea and monitoring blood oxygen levels in the future.

There’s now an automatic activity pause, so if you stop at a stop light, the watch pauses your exercise and resumes it when you do. If you’re working out at home, there are three built-in workouts just for that. If you’re running, Ionic automatically records all the stats you’d look for, and it’s pretty comparable to the Apple watch.

If you want to track sleep, it will tell you how much light, deep and REM sleep you had, as well as awake time.

The extra features have not turned out as well as some of the other smart watches, but Fitbit is still great as a fitness-tracking solution with a screen. Plus, it’s comfortable to wear all the time.


PROS:

  • Built-in GPS and altimeter
  • Water resistant to 50m
  • Long battery life for the smartwatch (GPS use drains it to 10 hours)

CONS:

  • Old design style
  • Few apps
  • Slower operating system
  • No speaker or microphone
  • Receive phone notification but you can’t reply

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