Running watches have come a long way since they first came to market. They’ve evolved to become even more intuitive, closely monitoring your activity to create a digital profile of your fitness.
Newer running watches can sync seamlessly to your phone, giving you access to calls, notifications and music on your wrist. Most models are designed to be worn all-day, with long battery lives and screens that are visible in direct sunlight.
So, for casual runners and serious athletes alike, read on for our picks of the best smartwatches and fitness watches for running.
If you’re a Garmin fan, we’ve already listed our favourite Garmin watches for runners.
Best running watches to buy in 2022
Garmin Fenix 7S
The Fenix 7S is one of the most advanced fitness watches in Garmin’s popular range of wearable sports tech. The watch has 24/7 health monitoring, covering all bases from heart rate to blood oxygen saturation and sleep.
There’s an impressive amount of tech in the Fenix 7S. The multisport watch, with a battery life of up to 11 days in smartwatch mode and up to 37 hours in GPS mode, has GPS tracking, training features and sports apps. There are preloaded activities for a number of different sports, and runners will love the advanced performance and training metrics that can track even your trail running adjustment and exertion levels.
Read our full review of the Garmin Fenix 7 Solar to discover more about its features and performance.
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar
The Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar uses solar charging to deliver a massive battery life of up to 20 days in smartwatch mode. The watch has a well-lit touchscreen that promises to be highly responsive, as well as traditional on-the-side buttons for those who prefer them.
The multisport watch includes advanced health monitoring (including VO2 max, heart rate variability, sleep, recovery), smart features and activity tracking.
Additional features that are perfect for runners include running power (when using a compatible device), Training Readiness, suggested workouts, PacePro (which helps you stay at your desired pace) and full-colour built-in mapping.
Up to 2,000 songs can also be downloaded onto the watch, which can be connected to your headphones for phone-free listening.
Coros Pace 2
This lightweight (29g!!) running watch from Coros delivers all the basic essentials to track and monitor your running progress, but also includes more advanced features such as run power and training plans.
Health monitoring is a key feature here, but the Pace 2 also has training analysis and track run mode to make sure it’s delivering accurate details of your runs and workouts. Battery life comes in at 30 hours in GPS mode.
Read our full Coros Pace 2 review here.
Polar Vantage V2
Polar has been producing multisport watches since the early days and the latest ranges are loaded with useful fitness features. The Polar Vantage V2 packs all of these features into one premium smartwatch that’s aimed towards athletes and tailored for high-performance and endurance sports.
Running performance tests and and leg recovery tests are two features we love, along with Polar’s Hill Splitter that detects uphills and downhills using GPS tracking. The Vantage V2 also helps you to maintain the balance between training and recovery, giving you guidance to avoid overtraining.
Garmin Vivoactive 4
The Vivoactive 4 sits at the more affordable end of Garmin’s fitness watches. With over 20 preloaded GPS and sports apps, the smartwatch can find loads of ways to track your movements and better tailor its training.
Using the Garmin Coach, the Vivoactive 4 can give you the advice and tips to help you train for your goals, whether that’s a 5k or a marathon.
Apple Watch Nike SE
Smooth compatibility and seamless data transfers make this a decent option for iPhone users. Your health data syncs up with the iPhone’s built-in Health app, and all of your calls, notifications and music can be accessed via the watch.
The Nike band has been designed for exercise, with holes in the wrist strap to provide more breathability. Built into the smartwatch is the Nike Run Club app, along with a compass and a load of safety features.
Garmin Forerunner 945
The Garmin Forerunner 945 can closely track your activity and performance, being able to detect when you’re training productively, peaking or overtraining.
The smartwatch’s navigation is tailored for runners. It’s designed to be seen at a glance, and the map can provide navigation when you’re road running and when you’re off the path.
See our full review of the Garmin Forerunner 945 here.
Polar Grit X Pro
The Grit X Pro is a great choice if you’re looking for durability, as Polar promises that the fitness watch is built for adventurers. Precise heart rate monitoring, activity tracking, 100m water resistance and a training guide make this a stand-out watch for runners.
Battery life is around 40 hours in GPS-mode and there are a range of physical fitness tests. These include a VO2 max test, a leg-recovery test and an orthostatic test based on heart rate and heart rate variability data. There’s also turn-by-turn directions with a basic breadcrumb-style map
Read our full Polar Grit X Pro review here.
Garmin Forerunner 55
To put you in tune with your body and track your fitness, the Forerunner 55 has a variety of wellness trackers, such as intensity minutes and all-day respiration and heart monitoring. There’s also a GPS-based guidance feature that can help determine your ideal pace and estimate your finish time.
This is one of the cheapest running watches you can get from Garmin, and as such it doesn’t have the multisport functionality of other options. But for a running watch, it has all the essentials.