The good news is the latest running watches and smartwatches are coming equipped with onboard storage and even music streaming access, so you can leave your smartphone behind and run untethered.
Essential reading: Best heart rate monitors and watches
While dedicated sports watches still offer the best way to train, GPS-equipped smartwatches are quickly catching up. Here's our pick of the best running watches with music playback skills...
Best running watch with music playback
TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music
The TomTom Spark 3 boasts all the normal running metrics (distance, speed, time), has a built-in optical heart rate monitor which aced our tests and plugs into nearly every running app.
But it's the storage for 500 or so MP3s (3GB), which it'll play via a pair of wireless headphones, that makes the latest Spark standout from the TomTom crowd. The feeling of running unencumbered by your phone isn't to be underestimated. Make sure you get the '+Music' version though... obviously.
Take a look at our TomTom Spark 3 review. If you like trail running, you should check out our TomTom Adventurer review. It offers all the same music playback features along with some additional outdoor sports tracking modes.
Smartwatches with fitness & music
While running watches have long been the only choice for serious athletes, the smartwatch is fast catching up. The benefit is that smartwatches have the full power of apps at their disposal, while dedicated running trackers are one-trick ponies, albeit, with superior tracking chops.
Choosing a smartwatch currently means losing the in-depth stats such as cadence tracking, vertical oscillation monitoring and other pro-running feedback, but means you can get big beats straight to your headphones.
Apple Watch Nike+
With the Nike+ edition, Apple has given its smartwatch more of a focus on running, tweaking the strap and software to make it easier for runners to strap it on and put the built-in GPS to the test. But, behind the Nike-themed watch face it's a regular Watch Series 2 at heart - with all the musical abilities of its less sporty looking brethren.
You can play music by transferring playlists from your phone to the watch and pairing a set of Bluetooth headphones. Also, if you're an Apple Music subscriber you can transfer playlists from the service, putting even more tracks at your fingertips. If you want to save some money and don't necessarily care about the Nike tie-up, you can always opt for the Watch Series 1 as well.
Read our Apple Watch Nike+ review.
Samsung Gear S3
We weren't the biggest fans of the jump up in size from the Gear S2, but with the built-in GPS, a more rugged design and built-in music player you can go running with the Gear S3 sans smartphone.
The only drawback is that you have to transfer music through Samsung's own music player but thankfully it's really easy to do from the Gear Companion app. If you download the Spotify app and you are signed up to the music streaming service, you can also stream from the Gear S3 Frontier with LTE connectivity.
Give our Samsung Gear S3 review to see what we made of the run tracking skills of the Frontier.
Very much a Polar running watch first and Android Wear smartwatch second; the Polar M600 is unashamedly a fitness device, so much so that it's almost inaccurate to compare it to the current crop of smartwatches at all.
But a smartwatch it is and, as such, it comes with the same musical skills as the rest of the Wear-clan. GPS run tracking is on the money and the stats and metrics the excellent Flow app provides post-run make it the top smartwatch for runners.
Have a look at our Polar M600 review now.
New Balance RunIQ
The New Balance RunIQ is the sports apparel company's first Android Wear smartwatch that'll run on Wear 2.0 and has Strava integration to make it easier to track your running and cycling workouts.
Like the LG Watch Sport, Moto 360 Sport and the Polar M600 Wear watches, the GPS-packing RunIQ also packs in 4GB of onboard storage to let you transfer music from Google Play straight over to the watch. You can even pair some headphones to the Run IQ to listen sans phone.
We've found the GPS to be solid, and there's a really well designed music player widget for easily skipping tracks and adjusting volume.
Check out our full New Balance RunIQ review.
LG Watch Sport
The LG Watch Sport was one of the two debut Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches, the other being the LG Watch Style. It's a well-equipped fitness watch, with built-in GPS which we found to be spot-on.
As for music options, there's Google Play Music support straight from the watch, but if that's not your bag there's 2.35GB of storage to load your own music onto the device. Google also tells us it's working with other streaming services for support later this year.
Take a gander at our full LG Watch Sport review.
Moto 360 Sport
As you can probably guess, the Moto 360 Sport is a sportier version of Motorola's flagship smartwatch.
It was only the second Android Wear smartwatch to feature GPS inside, allowing the Moto 360 Sport to play nicely with your favourite running apps. And yes, it can also play music from its built-in 4GB of storage.
The 360 Sport is getting a little long in the tooth, and it appears that Motorola has stopped selling the device, but you can still pick it up on Amazon.
Read more in our Moto 360 Sport review.
Keep on running
- Essential heart rate zone training guideHow to use your heart rate monitor or running watch to supercharge your training
- How to use your running watch for interval trainingGetting the most from your GPS wearable for high intensity interval training
- Best Bluetooth headphones for runningRun with freedom by connecting your smartwatch to a pair of these
- Best running appsWhether it's for your smartwatch or smartphone, these are the best apps out there
- Using running watches to earn marathon PBHow your GPS running watch can help you cross the marathon line
Shop for recommended running watches on Amazon
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