large image

Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Best Running Watch 2022: Apple, Garmin, Fitbit and more

Whether you’re a casual jogger or seasoned marathon racer, Trusted Reviews' rundown of every running watch worth its salt has something for you.

A running watch is one of the best ways to help improve your 5km times, or keep tabs on the progress you’re making while training for a marathon, based on our experience of reviewing such devices.

However, knowing which model to get can prove tricky for a couple of reasons. First, there’s the fact that not every running watch is created equal. Having reviewed the devices for more than 10 years now, our team of experts can confirm that some running watches, even expensive ones, aren’t fit for purpose. We’ve tested wearables worth hundreds of dollars/pounds that offer sub-par distance tracking, poor heart rate monitoring and come sporting uncomfortable, and often-times, ugly designs.

Then there’s the fact that even once you’ve discarded this pile of dud devices, there still remains a mountain of choices available, covering a different focus and coming in at various prices. These days you’ll find models encompassing everything from basic watches for newbies looking to partake in their first 5km run, to hardcore wearables bespoke designed for ultramarathon runners.

Picking the wrong device can be a costly mistake, both for your wallet and self-esteem. If you’re only after basic data, such as how far you went and your heart rate zones, there’s no point investing in a top-end wearable that delivers advanced analytics. You’ll just become confused and likely demotivated as a result. Equally, if you want to get serious, it’s worth splashing the cash on a more developed running watch that can track VO2 max, for example, alongside other more advanced performance metrics.

Here to help you overcome both these hurdles, we’ve created this guide detailing the top-scoring running watches we’ve tested that are still available to buy. Every watch on this list has been thoroughly tested by one of the wearable experts at Trusted Reviews to gauge key features such as battery life, the accuracy of distance and fitness tracking, as well as the fit, to ensure it is genuinely worth your hard-earned cash.

How we test

Find out more about how we test running watches

Every running watch we test is used by the reviewer for at least a week – or longer, if the battery life lasts beyond that point or we need more time to trial its features. During testing, we evaluate key metrics including app support, usability, battery life, and the accuracy of fitness and distance tracking.
 
For distance tracking, we assess how accurately the device records runs on tracks we know the length of. We also evaluate the level of battery life lost per hour using features such as built-in or connected GPS. To check heart rate accuracy, we compare the results from the wearable to a dedicated HRM strap.

Next we combine the data recorded with our general experience of using the wearable day-to-day, revealing whether the device proved comfortable to wear, alongside any issues we may have encountered with unexpected bugs over the review period.

Garmin Fenix 7

Most flexible running watch
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Strong outdoor tracking accuracy
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Improved battery life

Cons

  • It’s not cheap
  • Not the full smartwatch experience
  • Core experience similar to Fenix 6

The Garmin Fenix 7 is the best all-round fitness tracker we’ve reviewed. It’s one of the top-line wearables in the company’s current lineup, setting the gold standard against which we gauge the majority of other trackers.

During our time with the device, we didn’t find it to be the most attractive – it has a chunky metal chassis and a utilitarian rubber strap – but it ticks all the boxes you’d expect of a running watch. The device is wonderfully rugged and comfortable to wear, with our reviewer having no complaints about any rubbing or discomfort with it on his wrist, even through longer runs.

Featuring support for GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite networks, the Fenix 7 also offered wonderfully accurate and snappy distance tracking during our tests. Coupled with Garmin’s stellar mapping service, which lets you plot running routes and receive turn-by-turn navigation on the watch, it’s a fantastic option for people who enjoy both countryside and city runs. In addition, activity tracking supports multiple types of run including everything from treadmill to trail and Ultra running options, each tailored to the specific activity.

Add to this the Fenix 7’s 1-2 week battery life and advanced post-workout analytics and guidance, which include key metrics such as VO2 Max estimates, heart rate zones and rest-time recommendations, and this is a super-flexible running watch and an easy recommendation.

Reviewer: Michael Sawh
Full review: Garmin Fenix 7 Review

Apple Watch Series 7

Best-looking running watch
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Much faster charging
  • BIgger screen is great
  • Wide range of easy-to-use fitness features

Cons

  • Battery life remains a day
  • No neutral black or silver aluminium colour options

Not every runner will be happy to wear a watch that’s very clearly designed for sports. Some will prefer a smart-looking timepiece that can be worn at all times, proving useful for activities outside of running, too. If that sounds like you then the Apple Watch 7 is the best option at the moment.

Featuring a robust application library that comprises all the fitness apps you’d expect, including Strava and Runkeeper, the Watch 7 is the most attractive option on this list. Sporting a pebble-shaped design, the device is controlled using touch inputs and a physical watch crown. 

Apple’s wearable is easy to use and surprisingly well stacked for tracking runs. It features optional LTE connectivity, full GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite support and, thanks to the included SpO2 and ECG sensors, it backs up its accurate distance and run tracking with a host of general wellness features. These include fall detection and the ability to warn you of potential heart problems. 

We found that GPS wasn’t quite as quick to connect as it was on the Fenix 7 in our tests, but distance tracking – for the most part – proved accurate, even when outdoors. The post-workout analytics offer all the detail and information entry to mid-level runners will need, and include heart rate zones, cadence as well as distance. 

The only real drawback is the device’s battery life. Although the variable refresh rate, always-on screen is a great addition to such a smartwatch, it clearly puts a significant drain on the device’s battery. In our tests, we never got beyond a full day of use before the Apple Watch 7 required charging. On top of that, using it for local music playback during a 25-minute 5km run with distance tracking on, we regularly saw the device shed 10-15% of its battery life – which makes it ill-suited for tracking longer, more serious runs such as marathons.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Apple Watch 7 Review

Coros Vertix 2

The best for battery life
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Reliable sports tracking
  • Added map support

Cons

  • Music player doesn’t work with third-party apps
  • Heavier than original Vertix
  • Missing ANT+ support

If battery life is a key concern and you need a watch that can survive extended GPS tracking, or multiple-day races, without requiring a top-up charge then – based on our testing – the Coros Vertix 2 is the running watch to buy.

Using the watch for more than a month, the wearable easily lasted over a month off a single charge. The watch saw incredibly heavy use over this time period, tracking multiple GPS-enabled runs each week.

Distance and fitness tracking also proved top-notch. The GPS connected in seconds and provided accurate distance tracking, with our reviewer never experiencing any dropouts or strange results using it. 

The post-workout analytics on offer are excellent, too, covering those you’ll find on the Fenix 7, albeit in a slightly less intuitive to read app. Items on offer include pace, cadence, stride, running power, elevation and even training load in relation to your fitness level. 

As an added bonus it also comes with a music player, so you can have a soundtrack on your run without having to lug your phone with you. 

Reviewer: Michael Sawh
Full review: Coros Vertix 2 Review

Polar Pacer Pro

Best mid-level running watch
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Slim, lightweight design
  • Snappier performance than other Polar watches
  • Lots of useful training tools and insights

Cons

  • Battery life drain outside of tracking
  • Unattractive black bezel
  • Smartwatch features aren’t fantastic

Something that we’ve discovered through reviewing so many running watches is that most of the top performers are prohibitively expensive, carrying price tags of $500/£500 and beyond.

If this far exceeds your budget, but you’re still looking for robust tracking and post-run analytics, then we suggest you consider the Polar Pacer Pro, which retails for a more modest $300/£300.

Despite costing a few hundred less, in our tests we were surprised by how competitive its feature set was against more premium running watches. 

The Pacer Pro supports GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and QZSS satellite systems, with assisted-GPS tech to speed up getting a signal fix. Although the device wasn’t quite as quick to connect as the Garmin Epix, the model our reviewer tested it against, the Pacer Pro delivered far more reliable distance and heart rate tracking than many rival running watches at this price.

Again, its on-board navigation features didn’t feel quite as snappy and reactive as those of the Fenix 7, but they were good enough to use by our tester to stick to a new run route with which they weren’t familiar. 

In general, post-workout analytics match those offered by Garmin, covering all the basics of pace and cadence, plus some custom metrics such as FuelWise, too. This is a measurement that uses data captured on the watch to gauge when and by how much you need to refuel your body at the end of a run. We found it a welcome addition, similar to Garmin’s body battery metric.

Reviewer: Michael Sawh
Full review: Polar Pacer Pro

Fitbit Versa 3

Best entry-level running watch
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Pros

  • Feature-packed for the price
  • GPS is finally here
  • Six-day battery with intensive use

Cons

  • Fitbit’s apps and app store still need work
  • The step count is just too eager
  • Still no support for offline Spotify
  • Fitbit Premium is essential for getting your money’s worth

If you’re a newbie runner who’s just starting out then the Fitbit Versa 3 is currently our recommended affordable running watch. For less than $200 we found it offers a wonderfully competitive feature set that includes all the bells and whistles any new runner will need to reduce their 5km times.

On test we found the device atypical to most of the sub-$200 running watches we’ve reviewed in a couple of ways. For starters, it looks very like an Apple Watch, featuring a pebble-shaped square screen. Second, it actually comes with built-in GPS. Both are rare features on a watch at this price, putting the Fitbit Versa 3 above competing band-design trackers. Most affordable trackers – such as the Vivosmart 5 that we reviewed recently – rely on connected GPS.

While the Versa 3’s GPS connection speeds don’t match those of any other wearables on this list, the fact that the device lets you track distance without you having to take your phone with you is a definite bonus. Tracking itself was also pretty uniform, with the device throwing up anomalies only in city areas, where tall buildings interrupted the GPS connection. Heart rate tracking proved solid, too, with issues thrown up only with rapid spikes – during a particularly nasty test route, for example, that featured a very tall hill. 

The only serious drawback is that, unlike the Polar and pretty much every other wearable on this list, the Fitbit locks some of the more advanced post-run analytics behind a paywall. Thankfully, this isn’t a deal-breaker; the free data on offer is robust and sufficiently detailed for newbies and more casual runners. However, it’s a reason we recommend more serious athletes invest a little more and pick up the Polar instead.

Reviewer: Thomas Deehan
Full review: Fitbit Versa 3 Review

FAQs

Do you need GPS for a running watch?

GPS lets your watch track the distance you run as well as location. If you plan to use the watch to run outdoors then we’d recommend investing in a tracker with the technology.

Are running watches all full waterproofed?

Not all running watches are fully waterproofed. If you need one that can survive under water you should invest in one with an ATM or IP rating. These are certifications that what depths and lengths of time a device can survive underwater.

We also considered…

We’ve reviewed

2,222

Wearable & Fitness

See all reviews

Comparison specs

You can see detailed breakdown of the core specs of all the running watches included in this list. The main thing to look out for is their GPS support, if they have local music playback and key extras, such as an SpO2 sensor.

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
IP rating
Waterproof
Battery
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Colours
GPS

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.