Best running watches 2024: Top picks for sprinters, marathon runners and triathletes

A male runner is checking his running watch while exercising
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best running watches not only can track your route, speed and distance, but they also provide in-depth insights into your cardiovascular health and exercise performance. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned marathon runner, these smart wearables can be invaluable to achieving your goals.

However, there are plenty of running watches on the market, and picking the right model is not an easy task. So to help you make the best choice possible, we have tried and tested some of the best running watches out there. We have looked at their design, battery life, tracking accuracy, and ease of use, as well as smart features and connectivity with third-party devices. Here is our roundup of the best running watches we have ever tested, including some of the best Garmin watches.

The quick list

The best running watches we recommend in 2024: Fully tested by the Live Science expert team with real-world experience

Why you can trust Live Science Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best ones for you. Find out more about how we test.

The best running watch overall

Best overall: This sleek running watch beats the competitors with its top-notch performance and long battery life.

Specifications

Screen size: 1.2 inch/1.3 inch/1.4 inch circular
Compatability: Android and iOS
Water resistance: 10ATM
GPS?: Yes
Battery life: Up to 57 days

Reasons to buy

+
Huge battery life
+
Bright display
+
Onboard map storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Premium price tag
-
Solar charging is an optional extra
Buy if

✅ You want to use it for swimming, too: It has 10ATM water resistance.

✅ You run in challenging outdoor locations: It features downloadable maps, reliable GPS and a durable design. 

✅ You want advanced health and fitness stats: The Fenix 7 is a treat for data-driven athletes.

Don't buy if

❌ You are on a budget: It can cost as much as $999.
❌ You want to track your sleep: The Fenix 7 may be too uncomfortable to wear overnight.

What the users say

The Garmin Fenix 7 scores an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 78% of buyers awarding it the highest rating. Positive reviews praise this running watch for its durability, battery life and accurate workout tracking features. Some users, however, complain about its poor solar charging.  

The Garmin Fenix 7 is our all-time favorite running watch — for many reasons. 

To start with, this rugged smartwatch is the easiest of the brand’s wearables to recommend thanks to its mix of a classy design with a wealth of fitness features. It has a metal chassis, so it is very durable, and the display is impressively bright at all times – ideal for running at night, or glancing at your wrist in bright daylight.

That display is “Always On” too, and still hits an impressive eighteen days of battery life (or up to 57 days with the battery saver switched on). Thanks to built-in GPS and onboard storage for music, you can also leave your phone at home. Even better, the Fenix 7 can download a chunk of map data to help with navigation when you are out and about.

During our Garmin Fenix 7 review, we were also impressed by the accuracy of its heart rate sensor. The pulse readings were free of overshooting spikes and other minor errors that blight fitness trackers. We also liked its extensive sleep tracking and 'body battery' score — features useful for tracking your recovery status.   

The only downside is that it is a pricey option, starting from $699 for the 42mm version. Still, it is an ideal choice for an intermediate runner looking to train harder and faster, and it works for cycling too.


Best budget running watch

Best on a budget: A beginner-friendly running watch that that punches way above its affordable price.

Specifications

Screen size: 1.2 inch circular
Compatibility: Android and iOS
Water resistance: 5ATM
GPS?: Yes
Battery life: 20 days

Reasons to buy

+
Lighter than the competition
+
Good battery life
+
Affordable price point

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks features like music playback
-
No fitness data sync
Buy if

You are a beginner: No extensive stats or confusing features. 

You want good battery life: It can last up to 20 days on a single charge. 

Don't buy if

You want a touchscreen: It is controlled with buttons.  

You want advanced features: Not as versatile as Garmin watches.

What the users say

The Coros Pace 2 scores an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 78% of users giving it a full five stars. Positive reviews praise this watch for its battery life, design and value for money. However, many buyers disagree on its performance. 

The Coros Pace 2 is a great running watch that focuses on a core set of features that will not trouble the most expensive players, but certainly offers plenty to consider.

For one, it is relatively affordable — it costs around $199. Secondly, the Coros Pace 2 offers 20 days of battery life, blowing the Apple Watch right out of the water. It still has a built-in GPS, which lasts up to 30 hours (making it suitable for marathon or ultra marathon runners) and it is lightweight too, with a comfortable nylon strap.

During our Coros Pace 2 review, we tested it alongside the Apple Watch Ultra we use daily, and found its heart rate and fitness data (including the likes of step count and calories burned) to be in line. That is impressive given it costs around a quarter of the price of Apple's premium watch.

Sadly, you can’t play audio directly from the device and information from the Coros app does not sync with health apps on Apple or Google. Still, it is a good-looking device, that's a great budget option for beginners.


Best value running watch

Best value: A wealth of features and exceptional accuracy at a reasonable price.

Specifications

Screen size: 47.1mm
Compatibility: iOS and Android
Water resistance: 5ATM
GPS?: Yes
Battery life: Up to 23 days

Reasons to buy

+
Bursting with features
+
Significantly cheaper than the Epix 2
+
Good stat accuracy

Reasons to avoid

-
5ATM water resistance doesn’t match Garmin’s best
-
The design is friendlier than the price
-
Still mostly a plastic resin watch
Buy if

✅ You want advanced workout tracking features: Great for data-driven runners and semi-professional athletes.
✅ You run outdoors: It comes with on-watch maps and reliable GPS navigation.

Don't buy if

❌ You are on a budget: It can cost as much as $700.
❌ You run in extreme outdoor conditions: It is not as durable as some of the more premium Garmin watches.

What the users say

The Garmin Forerunner 965 is rated a respectable 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 83% of users giving it a full five stars. Buyers praise this watch for its long battery life, crisp display and accurate tracking features. However, users have mixed opinions on its sturdiness, and some complain that the 965 does not feature a charger.  

If the Garmin Fenix 7 is (understandably) a little too pricey, the Forerunner 965 is an excellent alternative. You lose the metal back (the Forerunner 965 is mostly plastic), some water resistance and other features, but it is still a great running watch and arguably even better for newer runners.

The Garmin Forerunner 965 combines our favorite bits of traditional best Garmin watches, with the gloss of more smartwatch-style tech. It is a good combo. Our take on the design is that, despite the shift to a fancy bezel, this is pretty much classic Forerunner watch design. It is less rugged-feeling than either the Epix 2 or Fenix 7, with less of a built-up screen surround.  

It also lacks a couple of the most shiny, smartwatch-like bits of the Garmin Venu 2  Plus. There is no support for Alexa here, or a built-in speaker beyond a little beeper. We do not miss either, although some might like the idea of a Garmin announcing their performance at each kilometer of a run, through a built-in speaker, as some Huawei and Amazfit watches do. 

Still, it is well worth the investment — and we can vouch for it. During our Garmin Forerunner 965 review, we were impressed with the accuracy of its measurements and the sheer range of its available features.


Best budget Garmin running watch

Best budget Garmin running watch: All of the Garmin's high-end features at a fraction of the price.

Specifications

Screen size: 1.1in or 1.3in AMOLED screen ( 360 x 360, 416 x 416 resolution)
Comptability : iOS and Android
Water resistance: 5ATM
GPS?: Yes
Battery life: Up to 15 days

Reasons to buy

+
Good HR and tracking accuracy
+
Lots of higher-end exercise features
+
OLED screen is lovely

Reasons to avoid

-
Plastic build
-
No on-watch maps
Buy if

✅ You want a multisport watch: It tracks more than 100 activities.

✅ You are looking for a reliable mid-range running watch: It offers great performance at a reasonable price.

Don't buy if

❌ You run in challenging outdoor conditions: It may not be as durable as some of the more premium Garmin watches.  

❌ You want downloadable maps: It will not store the data.

What the users say

The Garmin Forerunner 265 scores an impressive 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 85% of users giving it the highest rating. Positive reviews praise this watch for its crisp display, long battery life, good connectivity and fitness tracking features. Negative reviews focus on issues with individual devices.  

The Forerunner 265 is a Forerunner 255 with OLED. It is a Garmin Epix alternative that puts much less of a dent in your savings. Or it is a Garmin Venu 2 that trades in a little design gloss for some more advanced fitness features. 

We think it is a killer combo. The model we tested in our Garmin Forerunner 265 was the smaller Forerunner 265S, but there were none of the usual battery life compromises common to smaller watches here — official figures suggest it actually lasts slightly longer than the larger Forerunner 265, making it one of the best fitness trackers on the market.

The screen is the main event here. It is a 1.1-inch 360 x 360 pixel OLED, or a 1.3-inch 416 x 416 pixel one in the Forerunner 265. While it does not fill out the front of the watch like the Apple Watch Series 8’s display, this little screen has everything we are looking for. 

It is very sharp, super-colorful, and easily bright enough to work for outdoor exercise sessions on sunny days. This screen’s job is to make an argument for itself over the Forerunner 255’s transflective screen, and it is pretty persuasive, particularly when it is a touch display too. The Forerunner 255’s is not.


Best Apple Watch

Best Apple watch: Top quality running watch for iPhone users who do not mind its poor battery life.

Specifications

Screen size: 1.6 inch/1.77 inch
Compatibility: iOS
Water resistance: 5ATM
GPS?: Yes
Battery life: 2-3 days

Reasons to buy

+
Good for general fitness
+
Third-party app integration
+
Most advanced smartwatch

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor battery life
-
You may not need all the extra features
Buy if

✅ You want comprehensive health tracking features: It tracks a range of stats, including your menstrual cycle.
✅ You need a great all-rounder: It comes with plenty of apps and handy features.

Don't buy if

❌ You want good battery life: This watch lasts around one day on a single charge.
❌ You do not have an iPhone: It is not compatible with Android devices.

What the users say

The Apple Watch Series 8 (renewed) scores 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 73% of users awarding it a full five stars. Buyers like this watch for its stylish design, tracking features, and good connectivity with other Apple devices. Negative reviews cite issues with poorly refurbished units. 

The Apple Watch Series 8 is not only a great all-rounder for iPhone users, but also a reliable running watch — as long as you do not plan to run multi-day ultra marathons. 

The Apple Watch Series 8 is not a huge upgrade on the Series 7, with temperature sensors to help with fertility tracking and crash detection functionality the only truly new features. Still, that is not necessarily a bad thing since the product line is far beyond the capabilities of its competitors.

With its own version of the App Store with hundreds of Apple Watch apps, and the option to use third-party running options like Strava, it is also got a large, bright display and an endless variety of strap options. During our Apple Watch Series 8 review, we were also impressed by its reliable GPS and accurate heart rate monitoring — and these two features can make or break a running watch.  

However, the biggest issue is its battery life. While Apple has added a new low-power mode, you will tend to get between two and three days if you are not using it often or switch the “always-on” display off. That is some way short of the competitors on this list.


Best premium running watch

Best premium: An advanced running watch for multi day ultra marathons.

Specifications

Screen size: 1.4 inch circular
Compatibility: iOS and Android
Water resistance: 10ATM
GPS?: Yes
Battery life: Up to 34-days

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable
+
Accurate statistics
+
Excellent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Similar to the Fenix 7 (which is cheaper)
Buy if

✅ You want to use it for swimming, too: It features 10ATM water resistance.
✅ You want a reliable outdoor watch: It offers accurate GPS and on-watch maps.

Don't buy if

❌ You are on a budget: The Enduro 2 can cost as much as $999.
❌ You want something small and discreet: This watch is on the chunky side.  

What the users say

The Garmin Enduro 2 is rated a massive 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 84% giving it a full five stars. Positive reviews praise this running watch for its design, accuracy, ease of use, battery life and durability. Negative reviews focus on issues with individual devices. 

The Garmin Enduro 2 is not for newcomers to running and is squarely focused on the most hardcore cardio enthusiasts, with a price tag that starts at $1099 – twice that of the Apple Watch Series 8.

For one, it can last for longer than a month, and more than 40 days with solar charging. Despite its slate of features, it is surprisingly compact and comfortable on the wrist – although those with smaller wrists may want to look elsewhere. During our Garmin Enduro 2 review, we were also impressed by its GPS tracking, reliable heart rate monitoring and detailed sleep tracking (it can, however, fail to detect wakeful moments at times). 

It offers both buttons and a touchscreen, excellent map support, and a “super bright” LED torch to help signal or keep an eye on what’s in front of you. If you are new to running, it is not for you, but if you are preparing for an ultra-marathon or something just as challenging, you will find a lot to love.


Our expert consultants

Kieran Alger
Kieran Alger

Kieran Alger is a fitness editor and writer on all things tech, running, health & fitness. He is an ultramarathon and marathon runner and cofounder of The Run Testers, who review the best and latest running products after putting them to the test in the field. We spoke to him about how to choose the best running watch.

How to choose the best running watch for you

The best running watches for some may not be the same for others, and there are a few things to consider when purchasing one.

Firstly, if you’re new to the hobby, you’re going to want to consider your budget. There are all-singing, all-dancing options that break the $1000 mark, but that doesn’t mean you should go all in. Naturally, if you’re a keen runner and want to get all of the features on offer, you may find a reason to go a little bigger.

Secondly, not all running watches are built equally, and while you’ll no doubt find an array of basic features across all of them (step and calorie tracking and heart rate monitoring), some add more data or more features than others. For example, if you’re planning to run a marathon, you may want something that offers a longer battery life, as well as built-in coaching to help you reach your distance or pace goal.

As Kieran Alger, an ultramarathon runner, told Live Science: "A good running watch not only lets you know how far, or how fast, you've been running, but it gives you a whole range of insights that you can use — along with your awareness of your body — to guide your training and monitor your fitness progress."

You may also want a watch that writes its data to third-party apps, like popular running app Strava, or that features a built-in GPS so you can leave your phone at home. Many even offer storage so you store music to play when you’re out and about.

If possible, it’s always helpful to try on a watch, too. Some are larger than others or come in multiple sizes, and users with smaller wrists may want to check strap sizes. This can often affect the display size, so be sure to pick one that’s easily readable in all conditions.

Finally, there are some watches that only work on Android or iOS, so your choice of phone could have a big bearing on the best running watch you can pick up.

How we tested these running watches

How we test the best running watches

Finding the right running watch isn’t an easy task, with these complex bits of fitness kit now packing more innovative features than ever before. So, we made it our mission to simplify the process for you.

To do this, we got our hands on some of the best running watches on the market and set about testing them. As you’d expect, we made sure each one had all the metrics you need to track your runs; from pace and cadence to continuous heart rate tracking and an in-built GPS. We also checked any other features on offer, with many modern running watches (like the Garmin 6X Pro Solar) offering multi-sport tracking and health monitoring alongside the usual sport-specific running feedback. 

After assessing everything each watch had to offer, as well as practical aspects such as their comfort and design, each one was awarded a score out of five stars.