Best Running Watch – AskMen
Best Running Watch AskMen
The AskMen editorial team thoroughly researches & reviews the best gear, services and staples for life. AskMen may get paid if you click a link in this article and buy a product or service.
At its core, running hasn’t changed much over the years, but the gear has definitely seen some dramatic improvements. Running shoes got lighter and lighter without sacrificing durability or support; running apparel got lighter, more wind- and cold-resistant, and far less liable to chafe your skin halfway through your run. But of all the changes, none has made as big of a difference to the amateur runner as the introduction of wearable technology.
The modern running watch is an absolute game-changer, offering GPS-based run tracking to help you map out your runs, log your miles, and monitor your progress in terms of distance, speed and pace. The right model will even allow you to leave your phone at home while still giving you access to Spotify, Apple Music, and other music streaming services, and if you happen to opt for a cellular-enabled model, you can even make or take phone calls (if you have the lung capacity to run and talk at the same time, that is).
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That having been said, though, you’re quickly going to realize that there are a whole lot of running watches available right now, ranging in price from under $100 to nearly $1,000. It isn’t always easy to separate the great from the overpriced, the mediocre from the overkill, so we’ve put together a list of our favorite running watches available in 2023. No matter your level, no matter your training goals, you’ll find a watch for you below.
Apple Watch Ultra
If you’ve got experience with an Apple Watch, then the Apple Watch Ultra won’t require much of an adjustment, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a total game-changer in terms of its complete suite of features. Let’s start with the construction: this watch is sturdy, boasting a 40mm titanium case with IPX6 dust resistance that you’ll be hard-pressed to dent, let alone damage. Next, the display: bigger and bolder than any previous Apple Watch, this display is “always on,” with Retina-level resolution and 2000 nits of peak brightness, making it much easier to read in broad daylight. The dedicated running features range from the useful (pin-point GPS tracking, built-in music streaming, and even running form analysis) to the downright lifesaving (fall detection and an alert siren, in case you need to alert people to your location or send out an SOS).
Garmin Forerunner 255 Music
If you prefer buttons to a touchscreen but still want all of the high-end features available on today’s top smartwatches, check out the Garmin Forerunner 255. You can save a few bucks by opting for the basic rather than the “Music” version, but we think spending a bit more to have access to your tunes without your cumbersome, bulky smartphone is a worthwhile investment for any runner. Add to that extremely accurate GPS tracking, excellent battery life, and heart rate / blood oxygen monitoring, and you’ve got an extremely competent running watch. If you wear it while you sleep, you’ll wake up to a Morning Report, which gives you a macroscopic glance at your overall health, sleep quality and training progress, plus a full weather report so you can plan your daily run.
Coros VERTIX 2
We love the rugged good looks and overbuilt design of the Coros VERTIX 2, and we’re happy to report its features match its high level of engineering. This new model boasts improved GPS tracking, choosing between one of the five major satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and BeiDou) for the best signal, and even landscape and topographic representation on the watch face itself, so you can see the hills ahead of time. Add to that an ECG, heart rate monitor and optical oxygen saturation sensor, plus built-in music and podcast support, and you have a rugged, capable smartwatch that runners of all levels will love.
Fitbit Sense 2
Fitbit’s flagship Sense 2 smartwatch finds the sweet spot for many fitness enthusiasts between the ultra-high-end, ultra-expensive models and the entry-level, underpowered models. If you’re not training for a competition but do want to reliably track your progress, the Sense 2 manages to include everything you need to monitor your runs, including excellent GPS tracking, an optical heart rate reader and blood oxygen monitor, and a clever stress tracker that monitors your sweat output, among other metrics, to determine how stressed you are. If you want to go all-in, you can opt to pay about $10 per month for Fitbit Premium, which unlocks guided workouts, meditations and nutrition advice.
Polar Vantage V2
Lightweight but full-featured, with a price that puts it firmly in the middle range, the Polar Vantage V2 checks a lot of boxes. It offers up to 40 hours of battery life off a single charge, excellent waterproofing (and the ability to track swimming workout), route mapping and built-in support for music streaming. Clocking it at just 52 grams, it’s extremely comfortable on the wrist, while the Gorilla Glass 3 screen protection offers superior durability, in case you take a fall or drop the watch. Unlike many other smartwatches, the Polar Vantage V2 makes generous use of physical buttons (five in all) to make navigating the menus faster and more efficient, which we especially appreciate during runs, when operating a touch screen gets tricky.
Garmin Fenix 7
If you have “Apple Watch budget” but want a smartwatch tailored specifically to runners, check out the Garmin Fenix 7. It has all the important basic features, from GPS-based run tracking to heart rate monitoring and workout logging, but it adds some features we have never seen before on a smartwatch, including a feature called Up Ahead that will flag aid stations for trail runners and a built-in LED flashlight that can sync to your stride, helping make you more visible during nighttime runs. Their Recovery Time Advisor will suggest how long you need to rest after each workout for ideal recovery, while their VO2 Max Estimate will give you an algorithmic-based estimate of your lung capacity.
Amazfit Bip 3
Who said you need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a quality running watch? The Amazfit Bip 3 clocks in well under $100 (and frequently goes on sale!), but still manages to offer every basic running feature, from GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, and a built-in music player. The large color display is vibrant and legible even at a distance or while you’re mid-run, and with more than 60 built-in working tracking modes, you can monitor your yoga, strength training or cycling workout as well.
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