​Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

Top sports watches for triathlons, swimming, cycling and more
​Best running watch 2019
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Whether you're a beginner or prepping for your first marathon, buying a top running running watch will supercharge your training.

But new sports watches are more than just about running – with aspects of wellness, heart rate, swimming and cycling all catered for.

We've reviewed every running watch on the market – from cheap options to the detailed alternatives for budding athletes – and compiled a roundup of the best picks from our testing.

It really is the definitive list, and we've tried to make sense of the dizzying selection for you.

Best running watch

You can find the individual summaries of our picks further below, but you can also check out the video we pulled together with our friends at The Running Channel.

Best running watch: Garmin Forerunner 945

Buy now: Amazon | £519.99

Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

At Wareable, we ranked the predecessor, the Forerunner 935, as the top running watch since it launched in 2017. It's no surprise, then, that the new Forerunner 945 immediately takes over on the throne.

This watch sits at the top of the Forerunner line - and though the name suggests this is solely focused on tracking runs, it actually packs in everything you get from the Fenix multi-sport watches, as well as Garmin Pay support, music playback, navigation features and color maps.

Obviously, it does track your runs, though, covering everything from treadmill to trail running, with plenty of metrics to dive into after your training session. It's also compatible with Garmin's Running Pod, which adds additional data, such as vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length and lactate threshold.

It has top-tier battery life, too, as well as built-in heart rate monitoring (which has vastly improved from previous wrist HR tracking efforts from Garmin), Training Effect, Training Load and focus features to make sure you're not overexerting yourself.

This is the Forerunner for power users, and, because of that, most buyers will actually be better served going with something a little less feature-packed (and, as a bonus, less expensive).

In-depth: Read our full Garmin Forerunner 945 review

Best cheap running watch:
Garmin Forerunner 45

Buy now: Amazon | $199.99

Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

Ditching the rectangular bezel of the predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 45 offers a more traditional Forerunner design, builds on features and maintains the budget price.

It's now available in a round design that comes in 39mm and 42mm sizes. You're getting the same display you get on all of Garmin's watches, waterproofing up to 50 metres depth, and an optical heart rate monitor.

It's also compatible with both Android and iOS-friendly, with the main tracking skills shaped running and cycling. There's full satellite mapping support, when tracking, which is joined by a mix of core metrics and some advanced ones, like VO2 Max.

Smartwatch features on the Forerunner 45 include notification support, while Connect IQ compatibility lets you customize your watch face. So, if you're new to running and don't want to spend much, the Forerunner 45 (and smaller 45S) should be a definite consideration.

In-depth: Read our full Garmin Forerunner 45 review

Best cheap running watch #2:
Garmin Forerunner 245

Buy now: Amazon | £299.99

Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

One of the most popular Forerunner lines has been given a boost for the latest generation. It still has to be a top consideration for those on a budget, but music support also makes it a great option for those who prioritize playback from the likes of Spotify.

The built-in music player support works in the same way as other Garmin watches. You can transfer over your own music or playlists from streaming services, then you can pair some Bluetooth headphones and leave your phone at home. You've got enough storage on the 245 for 500 songs, too, which should be enough for most users.

Obviously, it's not all about the music - the Forerunner 245 Music is also a formidable running watch. Unless you're a marathon veteran, it has everything you'll need, including GPS and a built-in heart rate monitor.

Battery life sits at around a week with standard use, though, naturally, taking advantage of the music features will reduce this. It does lack payment support and an altimeter, but, all in all, it's a great running watch for anyone that has been looking for those music features too.

In-depth: Our full Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review

Best running watch for women:
Garmin Fenix 6S

Buy now:Amazon | Garmin Fenix 6S: £529

Buy now: Amazon | Garmin Fenix 6S Pro: £599

Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

For serious athletes with smaller wrists, the Fenix 6S should be top of the list.

Garmin introduced a smaller version of its outdoor watch with the Fenix 5 series, and, for the latest edition, it's doing the same.

Like the Fenix 6 and the Fenix 6X, the 6S has all of the same features albeit packed into a 42mm-sized body. It comes in a standard and pro models with the latter giving you a built-in music player, mapping and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Across both models you'll get a 1.3-inch display, which is bigger than the one included on the 6S. It's also available in a sapphire edition to offer extra protection to that screen.

In terms of new features, you're getting the latest version of Garmin's OS, which makes improvements to the UI and how you can find your data. There's an improved heart rate monitor, Garmin's new PacePro feature for runners and new battery modes to help you get the most of out of the already impressive battery life.

You're still getting plenty of sports tracking options, advanced metrics and smartwatch skills like payments and that built-in music player if you go for the Pro model.

It might not feel like a huge leap from the 5S, but Garmin has overall made its outdoor watch much nicer and more comfortable to wear all day.

We've spent most of our time with the 6 and the 6X, though you are essentially getting the same experience on the 6S. So if you like your running watches feature-packed, this is the one to go for.

In-depth: Garmin Fenix 6 review | Garmin Fenix 6X review

Running watch for women #2:
Polar Ignite

Buy now: Amazon| £174.50

Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

Sitting well below the price of Polar's Vantage series watches, the Ignite is a fitness watch with a slender frame that makes a great running companion.

It measures in with a 43mm case, weighs just 35g and measures in at 8mm thick, making a great fit for slimmer wrists and anyone that likes to keep their tracking discreet.

Despite its slender frame, the Ignite has pretty much everything you could want from a running watch. It has a solid color touchscreen display to view your metrics on, along with a solid performing heart rate monitor.

It's a bit shy on smartwatch features, offering just notifications, though it does work with iPhone and Android devices. It also doubles as a decent fitness tracker, too.

The killer feature here? Something called FitSpark, which analyzes your workout data to offer recommendations and advice. So, if you've had a particularly intensive run, it can recommend a series or supportive exercises to help you recover.

Battery life is 17 hours based on tracked workouts with GPS and heart rate. In smartwatch mode, it'll last you four or five days before you're grabbing that charger.

It's well priced, nice-looking and a good alternative to something like the Forerunner 45, if you want something a little smaller on the wrist.

In-depth: Polar Ignite review

Best for interval training:
Polar Vantage V

Buy now: Amazon | £319.99

Best running watches 2018

Replacing the mighty (but ancient) Polar V800 in our running watch list, the Polar Vantage V adds new metrics into the mix, making it a different proposition to any sports device out there.

Aside from great heart rate tracking and pace/distance data, the Vantage V aims to track running power – without the use of a footpod. Why you ask? Running power is becoming the metric de jour, helping runners to hit pace targets via the physiological effort rather than heart rate or pure pace. Intelligently used, this will help you to conserve energy in long runs or races, and use your reserves intelligently.

And there’s more. A focus on recovery means this is a watch for those who are interested in training to the max, and certainly a strong choice for goal-chasing PB hunters.

Polar has recently rolled out a big software update, which brings improved sleep tracking features from the Ignite, better satellite support and it'll also be getting that great FitSpark feature before the end of the year.

It's got a big 40 hours of battery life, it's better looking than the V800 and it has all the metrics a serious runner could dream of.

In-depth: Polar Vantage V review

Best running watch for music:
Garmin Fenix 6

Buy now: Amazon | £599

Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

The Garmin Fenix 6 is the company’s ultimate running watch, make no bones about that. It caters for all types of outdoor sport, and there’s modes for normal and trail running (not to mention everything from hiking to SUP and even skydiving, as well).

There’s no Garmin watch that offers more in terms of running dynamics, and it matches the Forerunner 945 for data output. That naturally includes VO2 Max, recovery times, race prediction, Training Effect (aerobic and anaerobic from every session), Training Load (and when to take a break) all gleaned from the built-in optical sensor.


For those who love to explore on their runs, there’s full TOPO rich mapping, an upgrade over the standard Fenix 5, and you can also upload GPX routes to follow, as well.

On the music front, you're getting similar features you'll get on the likes of the 245 Music and 945, letting you drag and drop on your own music and podcasts to the watch.

You have enough room for 2,000 songs, and of course, can benefit from support for apps like Spotify and Deezer. That means you can listen to your playlists offline and leave your phone behind.

The smaller and lighter design means it's a nicer watch to run with, and, while music streaming will impact on battery life, it should get you through a fair few sessions before it hits 0%.

In-depth: Garmin Fenix 6 review

Best running watch for battery life:
Suunto 9

Buy now: Amazon | £453

Best running watches 2018

Another sports watch with a clear USP, it’s purely ultrarunners who need apply for the membership of the Suunto 9 club. With a whopping 120 hours of GPS on offer (if you put the device into its strictest power saving mode), it’s all about longevity.

There’s a bunch of tracked sports in addition to running (cycling, hiking, and swimming to name but a few), but the focus is predominantly on battery life.

Before any workout you’ll get a predication of how much battery you have, and warnings will prompt you to charge before it’s too late. What’s more, you can switch up battery modes mid-run, so there’s no worries about the Suunto finishing before you do.

The Suunto also uses a nifty FusedSpeed feature, which estimates pace from arm movement when the GPS gets patchy. That’s great news for trail runners fed up with garbled GPS data when running in woods.

However, a lacklustre app and analysis, plus a pretty annoying interface on the watch means that unless you’re someone who tests the battery limits of their existing GPS watch – we’d recommend one of the Garmins above.

Wareable verdict: Suunto 9 review

Best smartwatch for running:
Apple Watch Series 5

Buy now:Amazon | £389

Best running watch 2019: Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

Back when the Apple Watch first arrived, we’d have never recommended it as a running watch. Fast forward to 2019, and, if you’re looking for a smartwatch for running, Apple's option is firmly the best.

Built-in GPS is accurate and locks on instantly, so there’s no waiting around on cold days, and Apple has let third-party apps like Strava access sensor data. Yes, the data is limited to pace, time, distance and heart rate – but you’ll also get credit for sessions in the Apple Watch’s excellent fitness tracking features.

Read this: I ran a marathon with the Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Music playlist syncing is ridiculously easy, and you can pay for a drink with Apple Pay when you're done. What's more, the addition of LTE means streaming tunes on the go, and you can make calls on long runs, which adds that level of personal safety.

With the Watch Series 5, you're not getting anything all that groundbreaking on the running front, though Apple has now introduced an always-on display mode to make it easier to check in on your data. It does recommend disabling the feature when tracking a run, though, particularly if you're going to eat up big miles.

That heart rate sensor on the Series 5 stood up incredibly well to the rigours of testing. It's not perfect, but still capable of returning useful data, training within zones, and getting feedback on HIIT sessions, too.

In-depth: Apple Watch Series 5 review

Best Fitbit for runners:
Fitbit Ionic

Buy now: Amazon | £199

Best running watches

When it comes to running the Ionic is the only Fitbit watch with GPS built in.

The experience matches the basic end of the Garmin line-up by measuring pace, distance and calories. There’s not a great many extra metrics like cadence – the Fitbit Ionic keeps things simple, and will suit weekend runners more than those who are getting really serious.

But like the Apple Watch it’s the fitness tracking elements that really excel. The app is excellent, and using it for running means you get more of a 360-degree picture of your health, with badges earned for running goals and a more detailed assessment of your weekly activity.

Battery life is decent, but won’t trouble high-end Garmins. You get around five days of use and 10 hours of GPS tracking. That’s much better than an Apple Watch Series 4, which is a much closer competitor.

If the look of the Ionic is not for you, but you do like the idea of owning a Fitbit smartwatch, you can always cast your eye on the Fitbit Versa. While it doesn't possess the onboard GPS, those who still like running with their phones and can piggyback of your handset's GPS to still map your running routes. And it's cheaper than the Ionic.

Wareable verdict: Fitbit Ionic review

Great for value:
Coros Apex

Buy now: Amazon | £269.99

Best running watches 2019: Affordable options for every runner

You might not have heard of Coros, but after the Apex we think you might hear a lot more from the company, which is better known for its smart cycling helmets.

After releasing its Pace watch in early 2018, the Apex joined it landing in 42mm and 46mm sizes. Both watches offer the same features including GPS+GLONASS support, a heart rate monitor (with external HR monitor support too), an AI Trainer to offer training and recovery insights and 25 hours (42mm) or 35 hours (46mm) of battery in full GPS mode.

The companion app is surprisingly sleek and data-packed with Strava and TrainingPeaks integration also on board. If you fancy something that's not a Garmin or a Polar, the Apex is well worth your time and money.

Coros has also announced the Apex Pro, which introduces a touchscreen display and a much nicer design. We are currently putting it to the test to find out how it compares to the standard Apex.

Wareable verdict: Coros Apex review

Great for value #2:
Amazfit Stratos

Buy now: Amazon | $179.80

Best running watches

Not one of the traditional running watch names, the Amazfit from Chinese company Huami is a bit of a Garmin copycat – but the results actually pay off.

The Stratos tracks walking, running, cycling, triathlon, swimming, elliptical, mountaineering, trail running, tennis, soccer and skiing. It comes with built-in GPS and GLONASS (Russian satellites which should offer a faster lock-on) support to boot.

Amazfit has signed up FirstBeat, who does all of Garmin’s advanced metrics. That means VO2 Max data a big part of the package , for substantially less than you’ll find elsewhere. While there’s optical heart rate on board which struggles compared to Garmin, Apple and co, the Stratos will hook up to chest straps for properly locked on data.

And the features keep on coming. You can add GPX files which will suit trail runners, and it kicks out to Strava too, which is great because the app experience is sometimes crummy compared to the likes of Polar Flow or Garmin Connect.

We should mention that the new Amazfit Stratos 3 is on the way, which many of the same features including a GPS battery life ranging from 35 to 70 hours.

Wareable verdict: Amazfit Stratos review




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4 comments

  • Tom-Bailey·

    I’ve been using this app called Hoops Connect recently and it’s been great for finding fitness classes or sports sessions. I’m a runner myself and so it’s nice to be able to do it with other people rather than run on my own. I’ve even organised a few events myself and it went great! Here’s their website: http://hoopsapp.co My name on the app is Jordan Cambern if anyone wants to go for a run or try some other sport :)

  • j.stables·

    Most third party running apps access the GPS chip (Strava for example) – and the best part of the Apple Watch is how it locks onto GPS without having to stand around in the street for a lock. That's why we ranked it.

  • j.stables·
  • booon·

    Where the Samaung Gear S3 FRONTIER ???