The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

From step counting to marathon training, here are the best options for gurls
The best fitness wearables for women

We still get asked a lot which GPS sports watches for women are out there. Partly that's because nobody has built the ultimate, compact, comfortable, female-friendly sports watch yet.

So you're going to have to compromise on something.

Let's get something else straight: Women can buy, use and love any of our recommendations for the best GPS running watches, the best fitness trackers and the best running watches and smartwatches with music playback.

But there's also nothing wrong with wearable tech companies targeting health and fitness conscious women as long as it's done in the right way. In fact we want more of it. Those lists mostly contain wearables designed by men, for men.

For now, here's the trackers and watches that we think will appeal to female fitness freaks whether that's down to smaller sizes, stylish form factors or customisation and flexibility. The most important thing - there's no slacking on features or performance.

Sports watches

This is the tricky category when it comes to size, design and fit but there's a few options to add to your shortlist depending on your budget.

TomTom Spark 3

The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

If it's a sports watch you want, the Spark 3 would be our first recommendation to take a look at for women who run. It comes with two sizes of straps - small and large - weighs 47-50g depending on your choice and in either black or aqua colours with a bunch of different strap colours. That said, it is 13.7mm so this one will sit up on your wrist. The price is that sweet spot, though, way below most of the female-friendly but feature-packed Garmins on offer.

You get GPS and music storage on board (which you can listen to via Bluetooth headphones) alongside a new, nifty Route Exploration feature and a great heart rate sensor. It works with a whole bunch of running apps, there's bike/gym/swim and treadmill modes and earlier this year TomTom's own software had a very welcome overhaul.

In depth: TomTom Spark 3 review

From $129.99, tomtom.com | Amazon

Apple Watch Series 3

The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

You're not going to find a smaller, lighter, more comfortable smartwatch-that-does-running than the Apple Watch which comes in 38mm and 42mm sizes. Now, the new Series 3 is 1.25mm thicker than the original and the Series 2 no longer exists but these are minor points compared to the competition.

It's not a sports watch, it's an all day smartwatch that has considerably beefed up its usefulness for runners, cyclists and swimmers. With built-in GPS you can track distance and pace for running and cycling plus it's now water resistant to 50m so you can wear it in the pool.

The Series 3 - which we're in the process of reviewing - has an eSIM for LTE connectivity (if you want it) plus a new faster W2 processor, an altimeter for stairs climbed and new resting heart rate data via watchOS 4. The Series 1 is still available.

Apple's own Workout app is still data light for runners and we're still now bowled over by Strava's standalone app but we're hoping this will continue to improve. The optical HR monitor can be used for heart rate training zones and there's both Apple Pay and music storage (via Apple Music) on your wrist even when you leave your phone at home.

Read this: Apple Watch Series 3 first impressions

From $329, apple.com | Amazon

Garmin Forerunner 630

Garmin unveils new Forerunner family

If you're a running enthusiast and you want the best (at a price), look no further than Garmin. A bit of an old recommendation but still the one we'd choose, the Forerunner 630 isn't as chunky or heavy as most specialised running watches and has a uncluttered, simple design that makes it easy to read and not so hideous if you want to turn the GPS off and wear it as a regular watch.

Wareable verdict: Garmin Forerunner 630 review

The feature packed 630 is one of the best watches you can lay your hands on if you're serious about running and the matte plastic, 5 ATM waterproof watch is the kind you can wear comfortably. It's only 11.7mm thick and 44g too, which is pretty good for a GPS watch. The Garmin Connect app and particularly the website are also fantastic running tools to check your progress and the watch can even offer advice on recovery time after each workout.

It's a very similar package to its predecessor, the Forerunner 620, but it now records stride length and vertical ratio which can be used to make runners more efficient.

It's also worth checking out the (bigger) Forerunner 235, which adds heart rate tracking from Mio. Not so ladylike but a great all-rounder for runners who want to be a bit more scientific in their training. Garmin's latest sports watch aimed at women is the 42mm Fenix 5S.

$269, garmin.com | Amazon

Moov Now

This might not be the running wearable that you set out to buy but stay with us. Moov Now is a virtual coach in an inoffensive, little wearable that you wear on your ankle when jogging or on your wrists for other activities, like boxing. It's also worth considering for cyclists and swimmers.

Wareable verdict: Moov Now review

You do need to carry your smartphone with you, which could be a dealbreaker for some, but you get audio coaching, for a whole range of abilities, and a nice six months battery life. It focuses on your personal achievement, most importantly, and doesn't just spit out data though if you want GPS on the device, look elsewhere.

$59.95, moov.cc | Amazon

Garmin Vivosmart HR+

The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

A supreme GPS running watch in all but design, you might get on better with the Vivosmart HR+'s hybrid form factor than a regular watch. It's thinner than a bulky watch but still houses built-in GPS, optical heart rate monitoring and a six day battery even with workout sessions and onscreen smartphone alerts turned on.

It works with both Android and iPhones, syncs up to Garmin Connect and activity tracking is really impressive with a moveable goal. In terms of looks, in the flesh the blue, two-tone texture finish is a big upgrade from previous models and looks really smart. It is chunkier than a basic Fitbit without the sensors, though, so try it on first.

It's also worth mentioning that the Garmin Vivosport is incoming and is the updated version of the Vivosmart HR+ bringing new features like rep counting and stress monitoring along with the onboard GPS.

In-depth: Our full Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review

$219.99, garmin.com | Amazon

Fitness trackers

Here's our pick of fitness trackers that cater to women slightly better than most. Let us know in the comments which ones you prefer.

Fitbit Alta HR

The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

If you like the idea of a Fitbit but you're serious about running, the recently retired Fitbit Surge and the new Ionic smartwatch are still the only options to offer built-in GPS. The Blaze and Charge 2 use your phone's GPS.

The Fitbit Alta HR is a good choice if you want a stylish looking, affordable fitness tracker that still has a small screen. The big new feature is heart rate tracking - plus reminding you to move around every hour - and otherwise it repackages Fitbit's step, distance and calorie tracking into a slim, customisable band. Plus, Fitbit's app is great for motivation and designer collaborations from Public School and Tory Burch are available.

Read this: Our Fitbit Alta HR review

$129.95, fitbit.com | Amazon

Garmin Vivomove HR

The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

We're very excited about this one so stay tuned for a full review of the Garmin Vivomove HR hybrid fitness watch. We had a quick play at the IFA tech expo.

It has a smart analogue design with a discreet, disappearing OLED display built into it - just tap to access alerts and fitness info like steps, sleep, calories burned, heart rate and stress info. Then when you're not using it the watch face looks blank. The watch hands even move out of the way of the screen while you read it - clever.

Being from Garmin, we expect nothing less than stellar accuracy and performance from the dedicated sports modes and Garmin IQ auto-tracking. The watch comes in black, gold, silver and rose gold finishes with Sport and Premium models - Premium is more expensive and gets you a nice, leather strap.

At just 11.6mm thick and weighing just 40.8g for the Sport - 56.5g for Premium - this could be a real winner. Battery life is five days in 'smart mode', two weeks otherwise. Up for pre-order now with an October/November window for shipping.

From $199.99, garmin.com | Amazon

Nokia Steel HR

The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

It's small, it's light, it's geek chic. The Nokia Steel HR makes a great everyday fitness companion. More for increasing how long you're active each day, steps taken, calories burned or the distance you've walked than hardcore workouts or running - there's no GPS for instance. But the Steel HR can also track your sleep if you don't mind wearing it in bed.

We're big fans of the small, discreet screen (which also does some notifications and calendar alerts) and the activity dial on the analogue watch face plus the heart rate tracking on a watch that doesn't look super sporty. You can pick one up at 36mm or 40mm, both waterproof to 5 ATM and with a battery life of 20 to 25 days. The Health Mate app has had a revamp since Nokia took over Withings too.

For anyone outside the US, the Steel HR will be available later in autumn 2017.

Nokia edition coming soon: Withings Steel HR review

From $179.95, nokia.com | Amazon

Bellabeat Leaf

fitness trackers for women

This smart jewellery lifestyle tracker can be worn as a necklace or a brooch and tracks everything from steps and sleep to breathing patterns and menstrual cycles. You can also let the Leaf know how stressed you're feeling in relation to your breathing so it can track stress levels with its clever algorithms.

With a six month battery life and a range of boho-friendly accessories including leather and vegan fiber straps and a dark marshwood with gold leaf limited edition, Bellabeat is right on the money.

Read this: Bellabeat Leaf Urban review

From $119, bellabeat.com


Shop for recommended running watches on Amazon

Garmin Forerunner 35
Garmin Forerunner 35
$169.99
TomTom Spark 3
TomTom Spark 3
$149.99
Polar V800
Polar V800
$403.95
Garmin Fenix 5
Garmin Fenix 5
$599.95

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10 Comments

  • PDL says:

    "The most important thing - there's no slacking on features or performance."

    Bellabeat have a beautiful looking product but it's only just been released & there are many bugs in the app. They are marketing it as a finished product when they are still working through loads of hiccups as a start up company. Reviews from owners from the first batch have been equally mixed. At this stage, I don't think it belongs on this list with limited capabilities (certainly less than was originally advertised) & inconsistent performance. 

  • PDL says:

    That being said, I really hope they work it out because it's the only fitness/wellness tracker that appeals to me. 

    • PDL says:

      It wiped my first comment!

      It was something similar to this: 

      "The most important thing - there's no slacking on features or performance."

      Bellabeat has a beautiful looking product but it has only just been released & is very buggy so far. There have been equally mixed reviews from first batch owners. If you're prepared to be along for the ride as they iron out kinks then it's fine for you. If you want to use it straight away & you're used to other fitness trackers then I'd wait for later releases.

      • s.charara says:

        We'll update the Bellabeat Leaf copy once we've tested it. We haven't had a review sample yet but thanks for the heads up. 

  • Rookie580 says:

    I was really hoping you'd have more info on the gps/running watches that are possible to be worn by a woman (smaller frame). I recently had to return a Polar m400 that was awesome simply because it was so big it actually hurt my wrist bone and my sleeves couldn't be pulled past it. Seeing as how sleeves are scaled by size this was a surprising problem I hadn't thought of but if you hope to wear it daily, it's an important consideration. 

    Anyway I'd love to see a piece about smaller to medium size but good function sport watches. In the meantime I'm off to convince a salesman to let me try on a bunch of watches.

    • aueloxs says:

      I second this. The article transitions directly from two clunky gps units to pedometers. The real truth: manufacturers still do not produce gps watches for women. Pink is not a size.

  • buysellazhome says:

    I am looking for a wearable that is waterproof and can track - kayaking, walking, not much of runner - stairs - etc

    Any recommendations

  • Noogans says:

    I totally agree - I want a sports watch that will give more details that your run of the mill activity tracker - that is reliable with the data it gives you - and doesn't take up your whole wrist - oh, and is nice on the eye! The closest thing I've tried on that fits this description is Garmin Forerunner 25 - you have to wear a heart rate monitor, however which I'd rather not! Any other ideas of a good GPS/fitness watch would be warmly welcomed!

  • aclarke says:

    You keep calling the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ a Vivoactive.  It's going to confuse people who don't know the difference.

  • anjb says:

    I have the Withings Steel HR (small) and I love it in terms of design and function but I have tiny wrists (I wear the silicone wristband on the smallest setting). I've tried third party Milanese loop wristbands and can't find one small enough (they tend only to go to 150mm; I need one that goes to 130 - 140mm). Even the Fitbit Alta HR would look bulky on my wrist! I used to have a Misfit Shine 2, which was great as I could use the activity clip instead of the wristband but there just isn't a HR tracker around for petite ladies yet :( 

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