Best Running Watches For 2020 [Our Reviews and Comparisons]

best running watches

You have your high-performing running shoes and your comfortable exercise outfit. Now you need a running watch to complete the picture.

A running watch is important when you are looking for support to gauge your performance (speed, distance, route) and achieve your health goals (heart rate, blood pressure, weight and stress management).

We have put together for you a list of the best 10 running watches for you to consider and choose the one that most suits your fitness needs.

PRODUCT FEATURES LATEST PRICE
1. Garmin Forerunner 235
  • Fast GPS signal location
  • Reliable connection
  • Long battery life
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2. Garmin 010-01863-00 Forerunner 645
  • Accurate and reliable
  • Stress monitoring
  • Long battery life
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3. Garmin Forerunner 35
  • Easy to view display
  • Reliable and accurate
  • GarminExpress app
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4. Garmin Forerunner 45S
  • Easy to navigate
  • Accurate HR zone data
  • Long battery life
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5. Timex Ironman Classic 30
  • Indiglo Back Lighting
  • Lightweight
  • Battery life 5+ years
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6. Garmin Instinct
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Responsive Menus
  • Accurate ABC sensors
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7. Polar M430
  • Reliable and accurate
  • Syncs up with iPhone
  • Coaching programs
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8. Willful SW350
  • Accurate sensor
  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
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9. POLAR VANTAGE M
  • Easy to navigate
  • Attractive display
  • Good fit
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10. Polar M200
  • Free activity app
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate trackers
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Our Best Running Watches Reviews and Comparisons

1. Garmin Forerunner 235

Product Highlights

Stay the course with Forerunner 235’s activity tracking and Elevate wrist heart rate technology. This device live tracks steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep. For the multitasker, this device will keep you connected with smart notifications and social media as they are prompted on the screen of this Garmin device.

Features

  • GPS running watch includes Elevate, a wrist-based heart rate app
  • Transflective Memory In Pixel (MIP) makes the display easy to read in the sunlight
  • Customizable watch and training features
  • Receive audio prompts for laps and lap times (when synced with a compatible smartphone)
  • Smart notifications for incoming email, text messages, call alerts, calendar reminders and more (when synced with a compatible smartphone)
  • Battery life: Training mode – 11 hours, other features without training – 9 days
  • 44% larger screen than the 225 model

What We Like About Garmin Forerunner 235

A very comfortable sports band as well as a lightweight watch. The Connect app functions quite well while it tracks all of your activities. This device automatically links up with Strava. You can also shower with it. It makes for a tough watch!

What We Don’t Like About Garmin Forerunner 235

Users have found the extras that Garmin put into this device tend to compromise the basic critical functions (GPS, time, distance, pace, and laps) and impairs their accuracy as well as the ability to adjust quickly.

PROS

  • Fast GPS signal location
  • Accuracy mile reading is to the decimal point instead of rounding up or down
  • Reliable connection to the phone
  • Quick automatic upload of the data
  • Long battery life

CONS

  • Some watch faces cause the screen to freeze which interferes with using the device
  • The Bluetooth connection must be reset each time the device is turned back on

2. Garmin 010-01863-00 Forerunner 645

Product Highlights

Forerunner 645 features contactless payments allowing you to leave your wallet at home and still be able to buy what you need on the go (at vendors that accept NFC payments).

Advanced running dynamics and performance monitoring tools will give you what you need to refine your performance.

Features

  • Garmin Pay contactless payment option
  • Advanced running dynamics (ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more)
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi
  • Smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect and the ability for others to track your runs with the live track feature (when connected to a compatible phone)
  • Customizable free watch faces, apps and more available in the Connect IQ store
  • Battery life: Smartwatch mode – 7 days; GPS mode – 12 hours

What We Like About Garmin 010-01863-00 Forerunner 645

The watch is lightweight, with a large and easy-to-read screen. Set up is within 10-25 minutes and then it is ready for use. Garmin Connect is a timesaver.

No interruptions when playing music during a run and the GPS connects right away.
Access to four customizable data from the home screen (time, weekly mileage, date/time of sunset).

What We Don’t Like About Garmin 010-01863-00 Forerunner 645

The Asian version is not compatible with many headphones, music, and updates. No disclaimers included in the description of this version.

You want to do some research to know which earbuds are compatible before making the purchase.
GPS drains the battery down to 5 hours with the GPS in off mode.

PROS

  • Suitable for skinny wrists
  • Accurate and reliable heart rate monitoring
  • Stress monitoring works well
  • Customizable watch faces
  • Long battery life

CONS

  • Wristband stains easily
  • Cannot view real-time heart rate display with default watch face
  • Resting heart rate measurement does not meet expectations

3. Garmin Forerunner 35

Product Highlights

A slim and lightweight, easy-to-use GPS running watch that includes a wrist-based heart rate tracker that offers all the metrics a runner wants to view and adjust goals while training. No need to sync this device with a smartphone to view the stats since they are already accessible to view on this smartwatch.

Features

  • GPS running watch tracks run distance, pace, and location
  • Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology
  • 24/7 activity tracking (steps, calories, intensity minutes and movement reminder)
  • Garmin Connect automatically uploads the metrics, displays you smartphone notifications, live tracking,
  • and music controls
  • Garmin’s free online fitness community for getting support with other members in meeting your goals

What We Like About Garmin Forerunner 35

The wrist-based heart rate monitor is useful and the heart rate sensor does not dig into the wrist which makes it comfortable to wear.

Interchangeable wristbands allow you to change up your look with whatever you are wearing for most occasions. It is a tough watch that does not ding easily. Easy to clean with a cloth, does not stain. Great fit for smaller wrists.

A clear and easy to view display, even in sunlight as it adjusts to lighting changes. Backlight includes bluish light so it is easy on the eyes at night.

The battery charging cable is easy to attach and remove as it clips on the side. Reliable Bluetooth and GPS connectivity.

What We Don’t Like About Garmin Forerunner 35

The buttons are located on the side of the watch and are flush with the surface which makes it a little hard to push.

Inconsistent connectivity to Bluetooth and Garmin app.

PROS

  • Easy to view display, day or night
  • Reliable and accurate heart rate monitor
  • The battery lasts more than 5 days on a one hour charge
  • Reliable tracking for running
  • GarminExpress app quickly connect

CONS

  • Real-time readings are delayed by a few minutes
  • Changes in pace are not picked up accurately
  • Auto Pause has a 3-4 second delay which translates into large spikes in the data

4. Garmin Forerunner 45S

Product Highlights

Wellness tracking for 24/7 to monitor activities as well as supporting stress management by prompting you to access the guided breathing app and use the relaxation breathing timer to help you calm mind and body.

Features

  • Smaller easy-to-use GPS running Watch
  • Garmin Coach training plan support
  • Tracks heart rate, pace, distance, intervals and more
  • Smart notifications (when synced with a compatible smartphone) for incoming texts and calls
  • Automatic uploads to Garmin Connect online community
  • Safety and tracking includes incident detection (during select activities) sends your real-time location to emergency contacts (when paired with a compatible smartphone)
  • Sports app supports running, cycling, elliptical, cardio, yoga and more
  • Battery life: Smartwatch mode – 7 days; GPS mode – 14 hours

What We Like About Garmin Forerunner 45S

Accurate fitness tracking. Smaller and durable watch that is great for smaller wrists and lighter in feel for larger wrists. Excellent customer support service. Includes the “always-on” feature and remains muted.

Stress management feature is a great way to really have some downtime and feel truly relaxed during a busy day.
Syncs and is compatible with Strava. Simple and intuitive workout displays.

What We Don’t Like About Garmin Forerunner 45S

Connectivity issues with the phone, will not stay paired. Customers found the watchband to be too flexible and difficult to thread through the clasp.

PROS

  • Reliable for tracking runs (treadmill and outdoor), walks, and elliptical sessions
  • Easy to navigate buttons
  • Accurate HR zone data after each workout
  • Customizable and easy-to-read interface
  • Great for daily step tracking
  • Long battery life

CONS

  • Limited activity options
  • The battery indicator is inaccurate
  • Limited smart notifications – only able to view and dismiss messages and emails

5. Timex Ironman Classic 30

Product Highlights

The Timex Ironman Classic 30 offers a variety of fun colors and patterns with both full and mid-size case options. This watch includes all that you need to stay on top of your running progress and help you push past your limits.

Features

  • Adjustable black 16 mm resin strap (up to 8-inch wrist circumference)
  • 100-hour chronograph with 30-lap memory; 24-hour countdown timer.
  • On-screen prompts that ease the setting process
  • Alarms: choose daily, weekday or weekend; includes 24-hour military time; 3 time zones;
  • Gray/Black Resin case 38mm with acrylic lens; Display – Gray digital; Dial watch – Indiglo light-up
  • Water-resistant 100 ATM (330 feet) suited for swimming and snorkeling (not diving)

What We Like About Timex Ironman Classic 30

This watch keeps accurate time, it is easy to set up. Lightweight with its polymer band and casing. It won’t scratch or leave marks on the arm during your workout. Easy to view display. Watch is not too big or too small.

The backlight is just right for brightness and it lights up the numbers only, easier on the eyes.

What We Don’t Like About Timex Ironman Classic 30

Customers found the display to be difficult to read because it is dark and they needed to push the light button. The INDIGLO stopped working after approximately six months.

No manual included leaving users to fumble round to figure out how to set up the watch. The watch can be ruined when it is submerged in a few feet of water.

PROS

  • Multiple Alarms to use for workouts and for personal appointments and reminders.
  • Indiglo Back Lighting that works
  • Can easily toggle between 2 time zones (Daylight Savings)
  • Lightweight and does not scratch
  • Battery life 5+ years

CONS

  • Wristband breaks easily
  • Some faces are too dark to view the display

6. Garmin Instinct

Product Highlights

Instinct is an outdoor GPS watch, built to U.S. military standard which means it can handle the rugged outdoors. Its strength and durability are due to the fiber-reinforced polymer case. The display is chemically-strengthened and scratch-resistant. Its high-contrast allows you to read in bright sunlight. A great choice to take with you to face the extremes every day

Features

  • U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 meters), a rugged watch that can withstand tough environments
  • 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter and multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Glonass and Galileo)
  • Monitor your estimated heart rate, activity, and stress;
  • Train with preloaded activity profiles
  • Smart notifications (when paired with a compatible smartphone)
  • Automatically uploads data Garmin Connect
  • Tracback allows you to navigate the same route back to your starting point;
  • Battery life: Smartwatch mode – 14 days; GPS mode – 16 hours; Ultratrac (battery saver mode) – 40 hours

What We Like About Garmin Instinct

A rugged watch that is suited for hunting and camping trips. It is comfortable and lightweight. Accurate tracking, including the outdoor metrics like altitude. Reliable GPS.

What We Don’t Like About Garmin Instinct

Customers reported that after a month or two the battery life of the watch stopped lasting as long as advertised. The battery began to die within 2-3 days and they did not change their routine or settings. When charging the battery it impacted the data statistics creating gaps in the workout records.

PROS

  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Responsive Menus
  • Exceptional screen visibility
  • Accurate ABC sensors and tracking
  • Long Battery Life

CONS

  • Silicon bands gave users a skin rash
  • Inaccurate readings

7. Polar M430

Product Highlights

With Polar, you can track workouts, check your progress, and plan out new goals while viewing your data from your phone or PC.

Features

  • Tracks speed, distance, pace and routes
  • 24/7 activity tracking including steps, calories, and sleep
  • Continuous and accurate heart rate monitor via a 6 LED optical sensor
  • Polar Flow website offers training programs

What We Like About Polar M430

Polar has everything a runner needs. Quick GPS connectivity. An easy and straightforward interface that delivers a lot of information on the screen. Includes cadence measurements without requiring a food pod.

What We Don’t Like About Polar M430

Interval training does not factor in multiple intervals (hard, recovery, fast, slow). Does not track the cumulative training load. Automatic laps are not set to two-digit measurements (1km = 0.62 miles).

PROS

  • GPS is accurate within a 100th of a mile
  • Reliable and accurate wrist heart rate
  • Watch easily syncs up with iPhone
  • Coaching program’s from Polar Flow’s website

CONS

  • Unreliable stopwatch
  • Warranty does not cover shipping charges when repairs are needed

8. Willful SW350

Product Highlights

Not your average pedometer. A sleek fitness tracker offers the many desired features found on many smartwatches. A free tracker app to track all of your fitness and health metrics that can be viewed on the HD color screen accessing everything with the touch of a button.

Features

  • Access 14 exercise training modes
  • Rated IP68 waterproof allows you to swim or dive with this device
  • 0.96 inch LCD color screen means excellent HD image quality
  • Dual-color bands design
  • Fitness and health sensors
  • Analyze sleep quality
  • iew calls and messages plus social media notifications
  • Battery life: 2.5 hours of charge gives 7 functioning days. Comes with a built-in USB charge so no cable needed for charging.

What We Like About Willful SW350

Quality HD color screen for easy viewing. It is a lightweight modern design that can be worn at any time. Can take pictures with this device without the phone.

Reliable and accurate tracking (fitness, sleep, and heart rate). It is waterproof so no worries if you wear it in the shower.

What We Don’t Like About Willful SW350

Customers have reported that the charge did not last for more than one day. When using the sleep tracker no matter what time the user went to sleep the device began tracking at 11 pm or later.

Exercise mode is sensitive and can be interrupted by external factors (shower, accidentally touching the body). The device has lost workout data.

Advertises 14 exercise activities but only three can be chosen at a time. So if you do more than three activities you would need a second device.

The USB charger is specialized for this device, a regular USB charger will not do because the device needs 5 amps to charge and regular USB cables charge between 1-2 amps. The instructions caution about correct polarity when using the USB charger, however, there are no indicators to show which side goes into the device.

PROS

  • Accurate and effective heart rate sensor
  • Waterproof so you can swim with the device
  • Easy to view display screen
  • Lightweight

CONS

  • The USB charger is specialized for the device so a standard USB charger will not work
  • The battery does not last longer than a day

9. POLAR VANTAGE M

Product Highlights

Challenge yourself with the lightweight training companion, the Polar Vantage M. Track your advanced running workouts, assess your progress and step up your game with Polar’s complete training platform accessible both on desktop and phone.

Features

  • Battery life lasts for up to 30 hours of training time
  • Precision heart rate monitor using bio-impedance electrodes and optical sensors
  • Training load identifies cardio load, muscle load, and perceived load offering a distinct look into how your training affects your body.
  • Customizable fitness band options allow you to choose from several colors of wristbands to suit your taste

What We Like About POLAR VANTAGE M

Reliable and accurate tracking of all activities metrics. Easy to navigate through different screens. Custom tailor workouts with this device. The wristband is adjustable to most wrist sizes.

What We Don’t Like About POLAR VANTAGE M

The calorie counter was off by approximately 20%. Wristband size may be too large for a woman’s small wrist.
Syncing and customization are limited. The screen is not bright enough even with the light on. The magnetic charger connector and can easily detach from the watch if it is not sitting directly on the watch face.

PROS

  • Easy to navigate button layout.
  • Attractive display
  • An easy-to-use interface
  • An assortment of sports
  • Good fit on small wrists, no slack

CONS

  • A little big on someone with thin wrists
  • Inaccurate and erratic HR measurements

10. Polar M200

Product Highlights

This waterproof GPS running watch measures all the activities and health metrics 24/7 giving you all the information you want. Use Polar Smart Coaching from Polar Flow’s online coaching resource to personalize your exercises and keep you motivated to stay on track with your fitness and health goals.

Features

  • Continuous optical heart rate means no need for a chest strap.
  • GPS tracks Speed, distance and route tracking
  • 24/7 activity monitoring follows what you are doing day and night
  • Bluetooth connectivity offers seamless communication to access Polar Flow on your smartphone and
  • smartwatch
  • Polar’s running program (free) can be personalized for your needs.
  • Waterproof – suitable for swimming

What We Like About Polar M200

Accurate tracking for walking distances, step count, heart rate, swimming, etc. The Polar Flow app is very useful in recording all the metrics and location of walking routes.

Device measure via GPS distance time based instead of counting steps. GPS is accurate when running or walking.
Polar Flow is a web-based resource for coaching and viewing your progress which can also be viewed from any wireless device.

What We Don’t Like About Polar M200

Included instructions were not written clearly to figure out how to set up the watch. The setup procedure requires access to a PC or a smartphone app.

Battery life is not as long as advertised. Heart rate monitor has discrepancies in tracking and readings. GPS readings came out over by 20%

Customers have found it uncomfortable to wear this device while sleeping. Sleep tracking readings are affected when there is a lot of moving around.

The GPS signal does not come through right away, approximately 1- 15 minutes to connect. ]Sometimes no connection can be achieved. All of this affects the workout readings.

The GPS signal is also lost when swimming in the water, which also affects the distance and heart rate monitors.

PROS

  • Free activity app compatible with iOS and Android
  • Polar Flow website training/coaching resources
  • Easy to use
  • Auto syncs within range of the phone
  • Accurate trackers without the need for separate devices or calibration

CONS

  • Wristband sticks to the blanket while sleeping making it uncomfortable to sleep with and affects the sleep tracker
  • Delayed GPS connectivity

Final Verdict

We choose Polar Vantage M over the rest. This smartwatch addresses most needs for a runner. In addition to the usual features, this device is lightweight, tracks advanced training, and has the longest battery life when using the smartwatch for training.

This is our best pick. We would like to know your thoughts too.

INTERESTING HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT RUNNING

We have found some interesting history about running and running shoes – check it out!

History of Running

Humankind has been running long distances for a very, very long time – going back millions of years ago when running was had two very distinct purposes – hunting and getting away as fast as possible from the dangers in the world.

Ancient Greece

Running for sport and exercise is a relatively newer idea. Not 19th or 20th century new. We are talking about ancient Greece 776 BCE, in the town of Olympia were hailed the first recorded runner and in 724 BCE the Olympic games introduced the first race and running became the world’s first sport.

The legends of the first marathon allegedly occurred in 490 BCE and we have Pheiddepedes to thank for making it happen. Pheiddepedes was a Greek soldier who was given the task to reach Athens as soon as possible to deliver the news of their victory over Persia. He was located in the Greek town called Marathon with Athens about 25 miles away.

Legend describes that Pheiddepedes ran all the way to Athens, without taking a water or bathroom break, delivered the victory message and then he died on the spot.

True or not, many legends that have stuck around throughout time tend to have a bit of truth mixed in. It does make for a good story though.

19th Century Greece

Modern Olympics began in 1896, reintroduced by the Greeks to reclaim their old times of glory. The marathon was actually introduced by a French philologist, Michel Breal, as a male-only event. The first winner was a Greek Spyridon Louis (2h 58m 50s)

Boston USA

A year later, the first marathon in America was held in Boston, a tradition that continues to this day. Its popularity grew to what became known in 1909 as “marathon mania” introduced by New York hosting a marathon on New Year’s Day, Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

1970s

While the movie Forrest Gump shows how he began the running boom of the 70s, it is actually Frank Shorter, an American who won the marathon in 1972 Summer Olympics who inspired more than 20 million people to make running a part of their lifestyle.

1980s

The first official women’s marathon was included in the Olympics in 1984, with Joan Benoit from the US winning first place (2h 24m 52s). However, she was not the first woman to participate in or win a marathon race. In 1896 Stamata Revithi unofficially ran. In 1918 Marie-Louise Ledru is recorded as the first female marathon winner. There are a few more women who are on this list.

21st Century

By 2019, if you are an American marathon runner then you can choose from 715 marathons found across the country. It doesn’t look like this sport is going to disappear anytime in the near future.

History of Running Shoes

As running has become more popular over time, just like any sport, success in a sport does rely on having the right equipment. For running that would be the running shoe or sneakers which began perhaps thousands of years ago, but records only go back two centuries.

19th Century

The first sneakers were made of leather, hardly the best material for running. It does not absorb the impact of the sport; when leather gets wet it stretches and it will rapidly wear out from use. Wait Webster patented rubber soles for shoes in 1832.

Did you know that Reebok has been around since 1852? It was originally known as Boulton back then when the company founder Joseph William Foster introduced running spikes to improve grip? A spiked running shoe helped runners improve their times.

Goodyear and Dunlop were the manufacturers in the 19th century providing rubber-soled shoes. Until WWI sports footwear was not a common purchase for everyday people. Only the wealthy could afford both the time to do sports as well as purchase the necessary equipment.

Sneakers came on the scene in 1892 when for commercial use there was a need to attach canvas onto a rubber sole. Because these shoes were so quiet when walking you could sneak around, thus their name “sneakers.”

20th Century

Sneakers for long-distance runners came out in the 1920s with Adolf Dassler incorporating spikes and cushion soles. His design became popular thanks to well-known athletes like Jesse Owens and in the 1928 Summer Olympics, the first gold medal won by the marathon female runner (800m – 2h 16m 8s) Lina Radke was wearing Dassler’s shoes.

The Dassler brothers founded Adidas in 1948 which later split off into Adidas and Ruda (now Puma). The well known Adidas three-stripe logo started in 1949 when Dassler added three side stripes to the running shoe for added support.

The 1960s witnessed more sneaker companies come on the scene. New Balance incorporated features like a rippled outsole, enhanced traction, shock absorbers all to prevent unnecessary injuries while running. That meant bye-bye to the metal spiked sprint shoe predecessors.

The world was running in the 70s, it was in fashion for all no matter age, gender, economic status. This was THE opportunity that every sneaker manufacture would embrace. Nike came on the scene with one of its founders, Bill Bauermen, an athletics coach, who would be the trailblazer for introducing a lightweight running shoe in 1974 called Waffle Trainer.

The story behind the name of this running shoe is that Bauermen used his wife’s waffle iron to make the first waffle sole. You can find the waffle iron in the Nike museum for its part to this technical breakthrough.
When it comes to cushioning, isn’t air the ideal resource? Frank Rudy of NASA thought so. He collaborated with Nike to introduce air-cushioned soles to the market in 1976. A great advancement from metal spikes. Air-cushioned soles are still going strong 40 years later.

In the 1980s Nike, Reebok and Adidas were the main competitors in the area of running shoes. Introducing new innovations was necessary to stay on top of the intense market. New cushioned designs (GEL from silicone, visible air cushion) and new technologies were being incorporated to keep up.

The new focus was the midsole, new tread features, electronic pedometers stitched into the tongue to combine running with electronics. It would seem the list goes one.

21st Century

The running shoe technology continues to rapidly develop with a shift to what is called the minimalist approach. For example, Nike Free was introduced to athletes in 2004. The next year Vibram launch their Five Fingers shoe which permits a natural barefoot experience with a sneaker.

In 2006, Nike launched Air Zoom moire, a pre-cursor to fitness trackers, the shoes can be synced with an iPod to record time, distance and calories burned.

New Balanced incorporated 3D technology with their running sneakers in 2013, utilizing a laser scanner to highlight the foot’s characteristics to create the optimal sole suited for the individual foot.

By 2015, the manufactured super lightweight running shoes weighing under 3 ounces.

We hope you enjoyed learning about these fun facts about running and running shoes.

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