The future of fitness has well and truly arrived. We’re not talking about the dangerous cult known as aerial yoga. This is old school pavement pounding with a dash of modern technology to help runners get the most out of their session.
Think running watches with heart rate monitoring, vital stats and GPS, altitude and distance and speed tracking to help any man push their body to the next level. Whether it be a short stint by the beach or a full blown enduro event against Mother Nature’s fury, these are the best running watches you’ll need on side to stay hungry for the win.
Garmin Fēnix 5
Make no mistake, the Garmin Fēnix 5 is one of most versatile running watches on the market today. Featuring a well thought out design which seamlessly straddles the line between form and function, the Fēnix 5 also packs some serious features such as smart notifications of emails, text and other alerts when paired to a compatible phone.
On the performance front the Garmin packs all of the goodies required for running. A Virtual Pacer, recovery advisor, race predictor, running dynamics, heart rate monitor and personal records can all be accessed via the watch’s vivid colour display. There’s also a choice of three different case sizes (42mm, 47mm and 51mm) to suit any man’s wrist.
Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, up to 24 hours in GPS mode & up to 75 hours in battery saver mode
Water Resistance: 100m
Suunto Spartan Ultra Black Titanium
Taking a proactive approach to good looking fitness devices is Suunto’s Spartan Ultra Black, a running piece decked out with a sleek titanium bezel that is sure to turn heads whilst remaining featherlight on the go. It’s only one of a few sports watches on this list to feature a full colour touchscreen, ensuring legibility in the most demanding physical environments.
The hardware itself is also pretty serious with a built-in barometric altitude tracker (for mountain running), GPS route navigation, settings and support for over 80 different sports and full access to Suunto’s training insights and community powered tools in Suunto Movescount.
Battery Life: Up to 26 Hours
Water Resistance: 100m
Apple Watch Nike+
When two giants of their respective industries team up to create a sports/smart watch, the Apple Watch Nike+ is the result. It’s a simple yet elegantly designed piece which follows the contemporary design language of both companies to ensure complete user-friendliness in an intuitive unit.
The watch features built-in GPS to help track your route, distance and pace without needing to connect to an iPhone. Legibility of vital stats is also a big winner here with Apple employing their brightest display to date to combat sun glare. Runners will appreciate Nike’s fluoroelastomer sports band which is soft on the skin yet super durable and light. The watch is also water resistant up to 50 metres meaning you can take it for a dip once your session is complete.
For added motivation, the watch also connects to your running colleagues with the built-in Nike+ Run Club app.
Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Water Resistance: 50m
New Balance RunIQ
Made by runners for runners. This is New Balance’s answer to Nike’s offering and it packs a seriously impressive spec list for avid runners who aren’t taking on Mt. Kilimajaro. Running on Android Wear and supported with both Intel processing power and Strava’s expansive running community, the RunIQ will ensure it not only aids the running fiend but also motivates them to push harder. All the essentials are there including workout mapping, HR monitoring, timed intervals and full connectivity to smartphone notifications. The RunIQ also slots in Google Play so that runners can import their playlist and enjoy them via Bluetooth headphones.
On the performance front the watch affords decent battery life along with water resistance so that your outdoor run is never interrupted by Mother Nature.
Battery Life: Up to 24 hours, up to 5 hours with HR monitoring & GPS
Water Resistance: 50m
Tomtom Spark Cardio + Music
You might recognise the name from your old school GPS unit which came and died. Well now Tomtom have taken their know how to sportswatches and are doing a pretty damn good job at it. Their winning model at the moment is the simple yet functional Spark Cardio which comes equipped with the all important music feature.
It comes in three colours – blue, black and orange – to suit any runner and features 24/7 activity tracking, GPS tracking, auto sleep tracking, heart rate monitor and a multisport mode for when running becomes mundane (blasphemy). There’s also enough memory for up to 500 songs in the aforementioned music feature.
Battery Life: Activity tracking up to 3 weeks, GPS up to 11 hours, GPS + Heart Rate + Music up to 5 hours
Water Resistance: 40m
When all you want to do is run, you don’t need a fancy watch in excess of a $100 to get the job done. What the bare as bones Casio running watch lacks in features it makes up for in price and ease of use. There’s no stated battery life simply because it’s solar powered meaning it may never die unless the sun decides to blow up. For the serious runners there’s an accurate 1/00th stopwatch with 120 lap memory ensuring that you’ll have all the data required to reach your goals. The Casio also packs dual countdown timers so that you can time interval training sessions for added motivation.
Cool little features which made Casio a household name like12/24 hour format and 48-city World Time also means you can run your little heart out wherever you are on the planet.
Battery Life: N/A
Water Resistance: 100m
Polar M400 GPS Running Watch
Polar’s lightweight offering in the sports watch segment is one to keep an eye on if you’re after an extensive list of features without the big price tag. The functions that will aid runners best is the GPS which tracks pace, distance and altitude.
The M400 itself can also monitor vitals such as steps, activity, sleep and calories over a 24/7 period so that runners can maintain their healthy schedule. There’s also a handy Running Index function which predicts your event finish time for 5km,10km, half marathon and full marathon runs based on longterm data.
Battery Life: Up to 8 hours of training time with GPS and Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensor
Water Resistance: Yes
One of the leading pioneers in the wearable fitness industry have finally crossed over into smart watch territory. Surge is Fitbit’s answer to pretty much everything else on the market whilst looking damn fine doing it. It comes in three very slick colours and an elegant yet striking design.
Notable features include GPS tracking, extensive battery life, comprehensive heart rate monitoring, full smartphone connectivity and notifications along with mobile music imported from your playlist. Being a Fitbit, the device also tracks steps, calories burnt, floors climbed, hourly activity and stationary time. So no cheating. The device employs simple connectivity with wireless syncing to both smartphones and computers.
Battery Life: Up to 7 days, GPS battery life up to 10 hours
Water Resistance: 50m
Sitting squarely in the affordable segment of best running watches, the Pebble 2 is a lightweight unit that packs a decent punch without going overboard. There’s no GPS but you won’t really need it when you know where you’re going on your regular route. Having said that, the Pebble 2 can connect to secondary running apps and use your phone’s location data if tracking is vital.
This makes it an affordable and customisable option for those who are more into casual running. The battery life is also pretty good since the screen is similar to that of a Kindle device (low power consumption). As a complete package it features customisable apps, Bluetooth connectivity, on-screen notifications, music controls and a voice command option for responding to texts.
Battery Life: Up to 7 days
Water Resistance: 30m
Running Watch FAQ
Fitness trackers offer the most basic running data, including step count, distance and calories. Running watches have GPS, built-in heat monitor and other special features in addition to all that fitness trackers have to offer. When looking for a running watch, consider the battery life, functionality and sync ability. Check also the heart rate and sleep data, as well as the lapping functions as they are important during speed workout. Yes. Running watches are designed to optimize and personalize your training, helping you improve your performance. Paired with your smartphone, they even allow easy access to your texts, calls or emails while you are out training.
What is the difference between a running watch and a fitness tracker?
What to look for in a running watch?
Is it worth buying a running watch?
Fitness trackers offer the most basic running data, including step count, distance and calories. Running watches have GPS, built-in heat monitor and other special features in addition to all that fitness trackers have to offer.
When looking for a running watch, consider the battery life, functionality and sync ability. Check also the heart rate and sleep data, as well as the lapping functions as they are important during speed workout.
Yes. Running watches are designed to optimize and personalize your training, helping you improve your performance. Paired with your smartphone, they even allow easy access to your texts, calls or emails while you are out training.
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