How To Choose The Best Running Watch? [Updated as of December 2019]

Date Posted:13 December 2019 

Buying Guide for Runners: How To Choose The Best Running Watch?

 

Running has grown popularity in the past few years. There are now more people who understand that having an active lifestyle has a huge impact on our health. Although, there are plenty of exercises and sports to choose from, running is simply the simplest and still the most popular way to get fit.

Why do you need a running watch?

While smartphones nowadays have apps you can use when running, a running watch displays real-time tracking information right on your wrist. Using a running watch not only takes out the hassle of running with a phone in your pocket but also provides you with longer battery life and more accurate running data. 

Running watches basic features include tracking your distance, speed/pace, and calories. Advanced features can be anything from heart rate monitoring and interval session programming, to running dynamics and full-route navigation. Latest models also let you choose from wide range of watch faces and allow you to control music from your phone.

For people who are just starting to run or those who already incorporated running into their lifestyle, a running watch can provide some source of motivation to stay on track by giving you goals to achieve and alert you when you hit a milestone. For runners who have taken this activity seriously to a professional level, like triathletes and marathoners, a running watch will be the best tool to record and analyse running performance. Data gathered during a run can then be used for find ways on how to improve your running form.

Obviously, the more features you get, the pricier the watch gets. But not all of those extra features might be necessary for your running needs. To help you find the best running watch suited for you, here are the top 4 factors you need to consider.

 

  1. How would you use it?
  2. Would you use it for sports other than running?
  3. Would you like to have a heart rate monitor feature?
  4. Would you like to pair it with your smartphone to receive notifications or alerts?
  5. Would you like to play music on your watch?
  6. Would you like to pair it with Garmin Running Dynamics Pod?

Check out: Product Specifications | Feature Comparison

 

1.) How would you use it?

Choosing a good running watch will depend basically on how you would use it. There are watches for all kinds of runners, from beginners to running enthusiasts, to professional runners who compete in marathons and multisport events.

 

For running and daily use (Connected GPS only)

The Withings Steel HR Sport and Suunto Fitness 3 are hybrid smartwatch with a classic timepiece look. Connected GPS features lets you the watch with your smartphone and use your phone's GPS to track your location, distance, pace and elevation. It features daily activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, and multi-sport tracking. It has water resistance up to 50m and a long-life battery of up to 25 days.
 

https://www.activestride.com.au/withings-steel-hr-sport-smart-watchSuunto Fitness 3

 

For regular runners (Built-in GPS)

If you’re looking for a smartwatch with built-in GPS and you would use it mainly for running, the watches below would be most suited for you. Aside from all-day activity tracking, these running watches accurately track how far and how fast you are on each run and provides a good idea about your progress. It also lets you upload your data online to see your run on a map, get more detail on each mile and share it to your friends.
 

Garmin Forerunner 35Garmin Forerunner 45Garmin Forerunner 245 Garmin vivoactive 4Garmin Venu

 

For running enthusiasts, professional runners, and marathon athletes

If you would use a watch for serious training, running competitions or marathons, the following GPS watches can do more than just track your distance, speed/pace, and calories. These have running features such as interval training, V02 max estimate, and recovery advisor to help you train smarter and achieve new race goals. They also include an internal accelerometer which calculates distance for indoor workouts.
 
Garmin Forerunner 735XTGarmin Forerunner 945Garmin Fenix 6 Coros PaceCoros ApexSuunto 5


The Forerunner 735XT can monitor your running dynamics including cadence, ground contact time, vertical oscillation, and lactate threshold without a separate accessory. Other multisport watches like Forerunner 245, Forerunner 945, and the Fenix 6 series will need a separate accessory like the Garmin HRM-Tri, HRM-Run, or Garmin Running Dynamics Pod to track running dynamics statistics.

 

2.) Would you use it for sports other than running?

 

Many people prefer to have one watch that can be used for a variety of fitness activities. Sometimes, runners who want to get fit, want to a watch that can also be used for training in other sports.

 

For Running, Cycling, and Swimming

If you want to have a running watch you can use for other sports such as cycling, and swimming, you can choose from the multisport GPS watches below. These watches can track the performance data that most people would need for running and other sport activities.
 

Withings Steel HR Sport with swimmingSuunto Fitness 3 with swimming Garmin Forerunner 245 with swimmingGarmin Vivoactive 4 with swimmingGarmin Venu with swimming

 

For Triathlon and Multisport Competitions

The following multisport GPS watches have multiport mode which allows you to easily change from one sport to another with one click. These watches also make an excellent job in measuring advanced performance data and offer breadcrumb and back-to-start navigation.
 

Garmin Forerunner 735XT with multisport modeSuunto 5 with multisport mode
Coros Pace with multisport modeCoros Apex with multisport mode

 

For Triathlons & Outdoor Adventures

If you mostly run on mountains, hills, or forests, you would prefer a watch with altimeter, barometer, compass, routable visual maps, and other naviation features. These outdoor GPS watches listed below are not only excellent multisport watches but they’re also great GPS navigation watches for mountain running, hiking, and climbing. They are designed to withstand the rugged conditions of the outdoor terrains and offer longer battery life in GPS mode.

 

Garmin Fenix 6 with visual mapsGarmin Forerunner 945 with visual maps

 

3.) Would you like to have a heart rate monitor feature?

All of the running watches mentioned above have built-in optical heart rate monitor and be paired with a separate heart rate monitor (HRM) strap via Bluetooth Smart Connectivity or ANT+ connectivity. Monitoring your heart rate in beats per minute (BPM) during workout session helps you determine if you're exercising at the right intensity to achieve your fitness goals.

 

4.) Would you like to pair it with your smartphone to receive notifications or alerts?

All the running watches mentioned on this article can be paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth Smart Connectivity. This allows you to get alerts on your watch when you receive incoming calls, text, emails, and other notifications. This feature comes in handy during your run since you no longer have to pick out your phone from your pocket to view the information. You just have to view it from your watch.
 

5.) Would you like to play music on your watch?

It's great to listen to your favourite songs while you run or work out. The following Garmin watches have music storage that lets you save songs on your watch and download songs and playlists from your Spotify®, Deezer or Amazon Music accounts (subscription may be required). You can then use wireless headphones (sold separately) for phone-free listening.
 
 

6.) Would you like to pair it with Garmin Running Dynamics Pod?

Garmin Running DynamicsThe Garmin Running Dynamics Pod easily clips onto your waistband to measure the running dynamics. Its internal accelerometer measures torso movement to calculate these 6 running metrics:
 
Cadence is the number of steps per minute. It displays the total steps (right and left combined).
 
Ground contact time balance displays the left/right balance of your ground contact time while running. It displays a percentage. For example, 53.2 with an arrow pointing left or right.
 
Stride length is the length of your stride from 1 footfall to the next. It is measured in meters.
 
Vertical oscillation is your bounce while running. It displays the vertical motion of your torso, measured in centimeters for each step.
 
Vertical ratio is the ratio of vertical oscillation to stride length. It displays a percentage. A lower number typically indicates better running form.
 
Ground contact time is the amount of time in each step that you spend on the ground while running. It is measured in milliseconds.
 
The following GPS running watches are compatible with the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod:
 

 

Product Specifications

Here’s the table on how the running watches mentioned above compare to each other.

 

Watch

Physical size

Weight

Water Rating

Battery Life

Withings Steel HR Sport

39.5mm x 39.5mm x 13mm 49 g 5 ATM Up to 25 days in normal use
Up to 5 days in workout mode
+20 additional days in power reserve mode (time and activity tracking only)

Garmin Forerunner 35

35.5 x 40.7 x 13.3 mm

37.3 g

5 ATM

Smartwatch Mode: Up to 9 days
GPS mode: Up to 13 hours

Garmin Forerunner  45/45S 42 x 42 x 11.4 mm Small: 32 g
Large: 36 g
5 ATM

Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days
GPS mode: Up to 13 hours

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music 42.3 x 42.3 x 12.2 mm 38.5 g 5 ATM Smartwatch Mode: Up to 7 days
GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 24 hours
Garmin Forerunner 735XT 44.5 x 44.5 x 11.9 mm 40.2 g 5 ATM Smartwatch Mode: Up to 11 days
GPS mode: Up to 14 hours
UltraTrac™ mode: Up to 24 hours without wrist heart rate
Garmin Forerunner 945 47 x 47 x 13.7 mm 50 g 5 ATM Smartwatch Mode: Up to 2 weeks
GPS mode with music: Up to 10 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 36 hours

Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S

45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm

50.5 g

5 ATM

Smartwatch mode: Up to 8 days
GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 18 hours

Garmin Venu 43.2 x 43.2 x 12.4 mm 46.3 g 5 ATM Smartwatch mode: Up to 5 days
GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours
GPS mode without music: Up to 20 hours
Garmin Fenix 6/6 Pro 47 x 47 x 14.7 mm

Steel: 83 g
(case only: 60 g)

Titanium: 72 g
(case only: 49 g)

10 ATM Smartwatch: Up to 14 days
GPS: Up to 36 hours
GPS and Music: Up to 10 hours
Max Battery GPS Mode: 72 hours
Expedition GPS Activity: 28 days
Battery Saver Watch Mode: 48 days
Garmin Fenix 6S/6S Pro 42 x 42 x 13.8 mm Steel: 61 g
(case only: 44 g)
10 ATM Smartwatch: Up to 9 days
GPS: Up to 25 hours
GPS and Music: Up to 6 hours
Max Battery GPS Mode: 50 hours
Expedition GPS Activity: 20 days
Battery Saver Watch Mode: 34 days
Garmin Fenix 6X/6X Pro 51 x 51 x 14.9 mm Steel: 93 g
(case only: 66 g)
10 ATM Smartwatch: Up to 21 days
GPS: Up to 60 hours
GPS and Music: Up to 15 hours
Max Battery GPS Mode: 120 hours
Expedition GPS Activity: 46 days
Battery Saver Watch Mode: 80 days
Suunto Fitness 3 43 x 43 x 14.3 mm 36 g 3 ATM Training mode without GPS: Up to 40 hours
With 24/7 tracking and mobile notifications: Up to 5 days
In time mode: Up to 10 days
Training mode with GPS: Up to 30h with connected GPS
Suunto 5 46 x 46 x 14.6 mm 66 g 5 ATM In time mode: 14 days
With 24/7 tracking and mobile notifications: 7 days
Training mode with GPS: 20 hours / 40 hours
Coros Pace 47.20 x 47.20 x 11.8 mm 49 g 5 ATM Up to 50 Hours in UltraMax GPS Mode
Up to 25 Hours in Full GPS Mode
Up to 30 Days for Regular Use
Coros Apex

46mm: 47 x 47 x 11.9 mm

42mm: 43.00 x 43.00 x 11.75 mm

46mm: 55.3 g
42mm: 50.8 g
10 ATM Up to 100/80 Hours in UltraMax GPS Mode
Up to 35/25 Hours in Full GPS Mode
Up to 30/24 Days for Regular Use
 
 

Feature Comparison

Here’s a feature comparison table of the running watches.
 

Watch

Built-in GPS

Multisport Profiles

Multisport Mode for Triathlon

Swim Mode

Point to Point Navigation / Follow GPS Track

Barometric Altimeter

Compass

Daily Activity Tracking

LiveTrack

Music Storage

Contactless Payment

Withings Steel HR Sport
Garmin Forerunner 35
Garmin Forerunner  45/45S
Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music ✔ (Music version)

Garmin Forerunner 735XT

Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S
Garmin Venu
Garmin Fenix 6/6S
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro & Sapphire
Suunto Fitness 3
Suunto 5
Coros Pace
Coros Apex
 
Which running watch do you think is perfect for you? Comment below.
 
Feel free to check out the buying guides below:

 


Comments (2)

GPS

By: on 25 February 2019
A GPS watch can become your best training partner if you pick a model that matches your needs. Learn how to choose the right one.

nice

20 July 2018
thanks for sharing

Active Stride Response
No worries!!

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