The best smartwatches for running combine fitness tracking with notifications, music, texts, apps, and all the other great things you expect from a smartwatch.
How do you choose which one is best for you?
There are a number of features that are universal, from custom watch faces to step tracking to text, email, and other alerts.
But there are some significant differences as well. Some function on their own without a nearby phone, while others have built-in GPS.
Some are even more fitness watch than smartwatch.
The best options depend on your needs. Our top pick is the Apple Watch Series 7. It has tons of features, looks great, and works well for runners.
Here are the Apple Watch plus nine other of the best smartwatches for running. Decide on the best smartwatch for you, and start connecting your fitness routine to the rest of your life.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
1. Apple Watch Series 7
The Apple Watch Series 7 is Apple’s latest eye-catching wrist-based offering. It’s loaded with excellent features that will supercharge your running.
What We Like
This watch features Apple’s recognizable square face, albeit a larger one than ever before. The always-on OLED screen is bright and easy to see, while being very responsive to tapping, which is an improvement over some of the older watch’s lags.
For running, you can customize which metrics you see on your screen, including things like distance, duration, pace, average pace, elevation gain, heart rate, active calories, and total calories burned. The Workout app will also give you audio mile markers and pace.
A useful function is the heart rate sensor, which has a separate ECG app to monitor your heart rate. This is particularly useful for those who may suffer from heart problems but still want to stay active.
You can also choose to subscribe to Apple Fitness+, which offers a wide range of different workout types, new workouts each week, audio-guided workouts, and real-time data.
You’ll get 3 months free when you purchase this watch, and if you wish to continue service, you’ll need to subscribe for $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year.
Other things that are nice to have—and complement running—include a meditation app, the ring activity system, and activity sharing with friends and family who also have Apple watches.
With the new fast-charging pick, your battery will charge 33 percent faster, allowing you up to 18 hours of use per charge depending on your usage.
Of note, if you’re an Android user, you’re either going to have to turn to Apple or find a different smartwatch to buy.
Why We Like It
It’s classic Apple and does everything bigger and better than before. Apple Fitness+ is a handy addition and you can even reply to messages from your watch!
The 7 has a marginally larger screen, but it makes a surprisingly substantial difference. While the border on the 6 was 3 mm in size, the 7 features a screen border of just 1.7 mm, increasing the screen space by almost 20 percent.
With this comes larger menu icons and buttons, two optional larger font sizes, and even a full Qwerty keyboard.
The 7 model is slightly heavier than the 6 and sports a case that is 1 mm larger all around. They come in 41 mm and 45 mm sizes.
While the 6 was durable, the 7 has reinforced, more crack-resistant crystal that’s more than 50 percent thicker than the previous version. It’s also dust-resistant—IPX6.
- Larger OLED screen
- Faster-charging puck provides lightening-fast charging
- Heart rate sensor and separate ECG function for precise heart rate data
- Respond to messages directly from the watch
- This watch isn’t going to be suitable for Android users
2. Garmin Venu 2 Plus
Those who use Android instead of Apple may appreciate the Garmin Venu 2 Plus, which is fully-featured and has some functions that are actually above the Apple watch!
What We Like
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus features a striking AMOLED display screen and a modern stylish design that comes in a few different finishes. It’s easy to see when you’re on the move.
A heart rate sensor offers 24/7 tracking, blood oxygen levels, respiration rate, and other metrics, as well as a quick Health Check function.
You have both normal running and treadmill running profiles, and the watch supports external sensors like heart rate straps or power meters.
There are some preload interval run settings, or you can create your own in the Garmin Connect app. You can also choose a full training plan from the app for free if you’re working towards a goal.
You will need to wait a few seconds for the GPS to be ready before going for a run. However, the GPS tracking is excellent and highly accurate.
The HIIT and Strength training modes have been updated so you can monitor your cross-training easily as well.
The battery lasts up to 10 days per charge. It does have fast charging, so you can run for an hour in GPS mode on just 10 minutes of charging.
There’s also a Battery Saver mode if you need it, which has a vast list of functions you can turn off to save battery in an emergency situation.
Another good feature is that you can buy a nylon strap for this watch, which means those who have a sensitivity to silicone won’t need to worry. It also makes the watch a few grams lighter.
Then there’s the ability to make and answer calls while you’re running, listen to your music out loud from the watch, and pay through Garmin Pay. Convenient and easy!
Why We Like It
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is loaded with top-notch features and works with any Android smartphone. It has amazing GPS and its convenient features are second-to-none.
The updates are minor but significant from the previous version, the Venu 2/2S. The Plus features voice assistant—the first Garmin to do so—and supports Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby.
It also has a speaker and a microphone built-in for you to take calls through the watch instead of your phone without earphones and to listen to music.
Everything else is aesthetic, with a 3rd customizable button being added to the side, the size slightly changed—43.6 mm—and the weight slightly increased—51 grams.
- Great all-purpose smartwatch with bright AMOLED touchscreen display
- Make and receive calls from your wrist
- Power-efficient with a battery life of up to 10 days
- Excellent GPS tracking can accurately track your route to within 328 feet
- Doesn’t come with real-time turn-by-turn navigation
Best for Women
3. Garmin Lily
Ladies who would like a smartwatch that isn’t bulky or overly sporty will appreciate the fine lines and style of the Garmin Lily.
What We Like
The Garmin Lily looks just like a normal wristwatch and comes in a wide range of pretty colors, like rose gold and purple.
You can choose from the Classic design—which features a leather strap—or the Sport design, which has a silicone band.
But the watch isn’t just pretty. It also includes a number of female-specific functions, like menstrual tracking and pregnancy tracking.
It has a bright, responsive touchscreen that can easily be seen indoors and outdoors. It can display smartphone notifications so you can keep up with work and life on the go. But when you’re not actively busy with it, it shows a static, analog watch face that plays a large part in its classic watch design.
Helpful fitness and running features on the Garmin Lily include outdoor and treadmill running modes, a variety of cross-training modes, sleep and stress tracking, live tracking and incident detection, running shoe wear and tear tracking, and VO2 Max tracking.
You can find a huge range of free workouts built into the watch, with audio cues and video guidance. If you want to train for something specific, there are also running plans.
There’s no internal GPS, payment function, or storage on the watch. But it’s a superb choice for women who want running features, female health tracking, and a lovely classic watch design.
Why We Like It
The Garmin Lily is a pretty, comfortable, and nicely-sized smartwatch that offers a good range of functions—including woman-specific ones—in a sleek and pretty package. It comes in a range of stylish colors and finishes.
- Stylish watch design that’s light and comfortable on your wrist
- Bright and responsive display
- Designed to specifically track women’s day-to-day health
- Choose to follow a training plan or do select a guided workout
- Doesn’t connect to ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart HR straps
- The watch doesn’t have GPS tracking
Top Battery Life
4. Coros Pace 2
If you want a watch that will last you for ages no matter how much you do with it, then the COROS Pace 2 will be your new best friend.
What We Like
The battery life of the COROS Pace 2 blows all other watches out of the water. With full use of all the functions, you can get up to 20 days of battery before needing to charge it again.
It’s also one of the lightest watches on the market, especially if you choose to wear it with the nylon band instead of a silicone one.
For runners, the Pace 2 has exceptional GPS tracking abilities that are supported by 3 different satellite positioning systems.
This also works with an auto stride length detection, which means that the watch learns your stride length and if you lose GPS signal, it fills in the gaps for you.
Another excellent running feature is the built-in native running power and Stryd support. It automatically measures your running power and a variety of other metrics like cadence and ground contact time, eliminating the need for an external power meter.
If you already use a Stryd pod, COROS now has full Stryd support so you can get all your important metrics on your wrist.
Auto workout detection is handy, and when you do remember to start it you can choose from a wide variety of modes.
You also have a training plan and calendar feature, and the COROS EvoLab app allows you to plan and share your workouts with others.
This is more of a beginner runner watch though, and serious athletes may find that it doesn’t offer as much functionality as they’d like.
Why We Like It
Considering its excellent GPS and full exercise functionality, the COROS Pace 2 has an exceptional battery life that you don’t find on any other smartwatch.
- Excellent battery life with approximately 20 days use per charge
- Built-in native running power and Stryd support
- Auto-detects when you start a workout
- Provides impressive GPS accuracy
- May not be as functional as serious runners would like
Best Without Phone
5. Fitbit Versa 3
If you want to be able to use your smartwatch without having your phone nearby, we recommend the Fitbit Versa 3.
What We Like
The Fitbit Versa 3 is built for complete convenience. Leave your phone at home and go with just your watch, and you’ll be able to do everything you need.
When it comes to running, the built-in GPS will track your route and speed. You don’t need to manually start your run either, as the watch will detect it for you.
If you want to listen to music on the go, the Versa 3 has 2.5 GB of onboard storage.
If your phone is close but you want to do things hands-free, you can set up Alexa and Google Assistant. You can also answer calls on your watch if your phone is close.
You can also set up app notifications from a range of different apps and voice-dictate a reply to text messages. It also includes a Find My Phone feature in case you can’t remember where you put it.
With up to 6 days of battery life on normal usage, you won’t even need to carry a charging cable around with you when you’re out with this watch.
One thing that may be annoying for some users is the few-second introductory screen every time you open something new on the watch. For example, if you click on Exercises, it pulls up a screen with the word “Exercise” on it before entering.
You will also need to pay a subscription fee in order to be able to access premium features on the watch.
Why We Like It
Whether you’re going out for a run or to the gym, you can leave your smartphone at home and you have everything you need on the Fitbit Versa 3. It will sync again when you’re back in range of your phone.
The Versa 3 is slightly larger than the 2 and has a slightly higher resolution—336 x 336, as opposed to 330 x 330. It has a slightly more modern shape than the Versa 2 as well.
It also added onboard GPS and breathing exercises built in.
- Durable and versatile fitness tracker
- Built-in GPS function
- 2.5 GB of onboard storage for music
- Up to 6 days of battery life from a single charge
- You would need a Fitbit Premium subscription to unlock advanced features
- The pop-up screen every time you go into a feature can be annoying
Top for Athletes
6. Garmin Forerunner 745
Serious athletes who will be alternating between running and other forms of training – like swimming and cycling – will appreciate the Garmin Forerunner 745.
What We Like
Athletes who do more than just run will like the Forerunner 745. It has multiple sport profiles, so triathletes or those who enjoy many sports aren’t restricted in their choices.
It also has event tracking, making it ideal for those who are serious about training and competing.
The rugged, sporty design looks great and surprisingly, the watch is also incredibly light, at just under 2 oz. The bright screen is easy to read in all conditions.
It also automatically uploads your workouts to third party apps and Garmin Connect, so you can view them whenever you like. You can also view past workouts on the watch.
4 GB of onboard space allows you to store music if you want to listen while you’re training or doing an event. You can get up to 6 hours of battery life in GPS mode while playing music.
You can use the barometer to predict weather changes and change up your training plan in advance to make the most of your time and weather.
This is one of the more expensive watches you can buy, and it doesn’t offer much more than the COROS.
Why We Like It
The Forerunner 745 is a full-featured watch that’s ideal for athletes who do triathlon or other forms of cross-training outside of running.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is an update from the 735XT, although it doesn’t have huge differences. Some new features include:
- Running Track Mode
- Daily Workout suggestion
- PacePro and ClimbPro features
- Music storage/playback via Bluetooth headphones
- Contactless payments
- Pulse oximeter
- Stress tracking
- Incident Detection/Safety feature
- Increased battery life
- Rugged design with bright, easy-to-read screen
- Track Run automatically detects the track length
- Battery charges quickly
- Automatically uploads your workout to Garmin Connect and 3rd party apps
- This watch is one of the most expensive watches
7. Timex Ironman R300
This watch is very affordable, and it offers some handy features for runners that are perfect for beginners or casual runners.
What We Like
The Timex Ironman R300 is a simply designed but surprisingly feature-rich watch. It uses a touch screen that’s convenient and can be disable during workouts so you don’t accidentally swipe it.
There are also 4 buttons around the side of the watch for navigating everywhere you need within the menus. Considering its price, the watch is robust and durable, with a mineral glass screen.
It has excellent GPS, and you can get up to 20 hours of battery on GPS mode. It also has a built-in barometer, allowing you to keep an eye on the weather in advance and make changes to your training plan if necessary.
You can also access guided coaching sessions and activity tracking, and the watch is water-resistant to 50 meters if you want to swim with it.
They use technology from the Amazfit brand, which is how they manage to be feature-rich and still at a budget price!
It’s not compatible with external heart rate straps and the onboard HR monitoring is not the best. If heart rate monitoring is important to you, this is not a watch you should consider.
Why We Like It
This watch is fantastic value for your money. Runners who want a watch that can track their runs and offer guided coaching will like the features and price of this watch.
- Touchscreen that can be disabled during workouts
- Great battery life with 20 hours of GPS usage and 25 days in smartwatch mode
- Fast on-board GPS and onboard barometric altimeter
- Customize a structured workout or choose and sync a coached workout from the app
- The onboard HRM is not the most accurate and it’s not compatible with external HRM straps
Top for Triathlons
8. Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL
Wahoo has made a name for themselves in the triathlon world, so if you’re looking for an exceptional triathlon watch, this is the one we suggest.
What We Like
The Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL is specifically marketed as a multisports watch, which makes it perfect for triathletes.
It has modes for swimming, running, and biking both indoors and outdoors, so no matter where you’re training or competing, you have a specific mode for it.
The optical HR monitor works even while in the water, so you don’t miss a moment of data. There’s also a barometric altimeter, which allows you to track elevation accurately.
It supports both Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors so you can get a well-rounded view of your data. It also supports most external pods and straps, and syncs with 3rd party applications.
Touchless Transition technology allows you to view your data for each leg of the triathlon. The entire watch is very easy to customize to suit you.
It is very user friendly as well! On the comprehensive mobile app, you can make changes to workouts while you’re actively exercising.
The watch can work for up to 24 hours in GPS mode, which is more than enough for even long triathlons.
The watch can take some time to acquire the GPS before you begin an activity, which may be annoying for some.
Why We Like It
This smartwatch is perfect for triathletes, with a multisport mode, waterproofing up to 50 meters, and compatibility with external monitors and 3rd party apps.
- Easy to navigate and customize
- Touchless Transition displays all your data for every leg of a triathlon
- Can change settings, watch screens, or the data viewed during an activity
- Optical HR sensor works for swimming
- It can take some time to acquire the GPS before an activity
9. Garmin Fenix 7 Solar
Solar-powered smartwatches can be a huge advantage if you do things like hiking or trekking outdoors and don’t have access to a charger. Even runners can benefit from this on long runs!
What We Like
The Garmin fenix 7 Solar uses Power Glass to convert sunlight into power that gets stored as battery power. The solar panel has been redesigned to offer the largest possible surface area for better charging.
This watch has been tested according to military standards, and it’s resistant to water, shock, and heat. It also uses both a touchscreen and buttons for the easiest navigation.
Multiple satellite systems offer excellent GPS capabilities, and you can download maps to the device for offline use.
You’ll be able to track almost every metric, including VO2 Max—heat and altitude-adjusted—stamina, and pace along with your regular data.
Race-specific features include a Race Predictor, PacePro to keep you on pace, and an Up Ahead feature to give you insight into what’s ahead on the route.
No matter where you are, you can always charge the watch for a short while in the sun to get more battery life out of it.
The Garmin fenix 7 Solar is an excellent watch. But the screen is not very bright and can be difficult to see in daylight.
Why We Like It
The Garmin fenix 7 Solar offers all the features you need in a smartwatch, including the ability to solar charge to extend your battery life on the go.
The fenix 7 series watches are thinner than the previous ones, for better comfort. There are now button guards so they can’t be accidentally pressed.
Some of the software upgrades include downloadable maps—worldwide—a GPS only mode, Map Manager feature, Up Ahead feature for marking distance, a race predictor, and improved solar capabilities.
- Power Glass lens and solar charging ring enhances solar capability
- 16 GB of storage for your favorite running songs
- Features PacePro, which helps you to maintain your pace
- Five-button system and touch screen interface
- The screen is not very bright and can be hard to see outdoors
Top Thin Design
10. Suunto 9 Peak
The Suunto 9 Peak has received a revamp and lost 5 mm of thickness since the last version! It’s a comfortably thin watch and unobtrusive to wear.
What We Like
This watch weighs just under 2 oz and is only 10.6 mm thick. You can wear it when exercising, working, or sleeping and it’s comfortable and unobtrusive.
As well as having a high level of comfort, the watch is practical as well. The screen is easy to see in all types of light and the watch has multiple intelligent battery modes—Performance, Endurance, Ultra, and Tour—so you can get the most out of a charge.
Snap to Route is a handy feature that lets you load your route ahead of time so that if you lose GPS signal, it can snap back on to it easily when it comes back.
It includes over 80 different sports modes, weather alerts so you can maximize your training time, and metric tracking so you can keep track of progress.
The biggest con is that there’s a large black bezel around the screen that wastes a lot of space, making the screen much smaller than it could be.
Why We Like It
This watch is thin, comfortable, and stylish. It also has great basic features for runners who don’t need too many fancy features.
The biggest change is that the watch has lost around 5 mm in thickness, which is significant and makes it more comfortable.
The sensors have been updated for better performance. Also, it now charges much faster—full in an hour—and uses a magnetic charging cable. A barometric altimeter is also new.
- Sleek design that’s light and comfortable to wear
- Watch face is easy to read in sunlight
- Feature “Snap to Route” which lets you load your route ahead of time
- Intelligent battery modes to help preserve battery life
- The black bezel around the screen makes it much smaller than it could be
Buyers Guide – Smartwatches for Running
Make sure that the smartwatch you like is compatible with your phone and the fitness apps you use before buying it.
For example, Apple watches only work with Apple phones. If you have an Android, you will need to choose a different watch.
You should also make sure that items like heart rate monitors and workout tracking apps on your phone will work with the smartwatch.
The smartwatch you choose should have good GPS to track your runs. Depending on how much data you like to know, you can also look at getting a watch that tracks your recovery time, VO2 max, cadence, and so on.
The battery life of your smartwatch will depend on how much you use it, the settings you set it to, and the general battery life of the watch.
Watches with touch screens often have a shorter battery life than hybrid watches with an analog watch face.
Find out how often you need to charge your watch and how long the charge time is, especially if you plan to use it for heart rate data. The more time your watch is off your wrist, the more heart-rate data you lose.
OLED vs. LCD Display
LCD displays are colorful and easy to read, but OLED—or AMOLED—displays offer the best quality.
OLED watch displays are more crisp, brighter in color and light, and are often also slimmer in design than LCD screens.
Touchscreen vs. Touchless
Most watches offer a combination of touch screen and button or crown usage. Touch screens may cause the battery to run flat faster, but they are often easier to use.
Make sure that touch screen watches have a screen lock function so that you don’t accidentally swipe it while you’re working out or when you’re wearing a jacket.
Swappable Watch Bands
You should also make sure that you can replace the watch band easily in case it gets broken or wears out. Also double check where you can find the replacement bands.
Check which apps are available on the smartwatch before buying it. Some watches offer a large variety of apps you can download, while others have just a few or none at all.
Calling and Mobile Payments
Some smartwatches come with built-in LTE so you can receive messages and calls even when your phone is not with you. However, not all of them have a reply function or a call answering function.
Some also have mobile payment options, which means you can make purchases without having to carry cash.
Smartwatches with these functions will most likely be more expensive, so consider if they are functions that you need or want before buying.
What Is the Biggest Benefit of a Smartwatch?
The best smartwatches for running offer convenience. You can track everything you need for your training, while getting notifications directly from your smartphone to keep you up to date with messages, calls, and even emails.
What Are Other Benefits of Using a Smartwatch?
You don’t need to check your phone when you have a smartwatch. Every message, call, email, and other notifications can be seen on your wrist, so you don’t need to interrupt what you’re doing to check if it’s important.
Most smartwatches are affordable for what they offer. While you can get some very comprehensive smartwatches, you can also get some that aren’t as feature-heavy, which are quite affordable.
Depending on what you need, there’s a smartwatch that should offer what you need. Some of them come with storage options for music and other files, voice control, gesture control, activity trackers, and texting abilities—among other things.
One of the most convenient things about a smartwatch is that you can check messages discreetly if you’re in a meeting or a professional place that requires discretion.
Most smartwatches have their own firmware that comes on the watch that’s slightly different to others.
What Are the Differences Between a GPS Running Watch and Fitness Tracker?
GPS Running Watches
GPS running watches not only allow you to track metrics like time, calories burned, and activity, but they record your route so you can see your distance, pace, cadence, elevation, and a variety of other data.
They’re an excellent choice for runners who are more advanced and want to record and analyze data to help them improve.
Fitness trackers usually offer basic running data like steps taken, distance, time, and calories burned.
Some of them can also analyze sleep patterns and heart rate, but they’re usually much less comprehensive than GPS running watches.
Fitness trackers are a good choice for beginner runners who don’t need comprehensive data and want something more simple.