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These are the best running watches available today. Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Best Running Watches of 2022

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These are the best running watches available today. Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

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Editor's Choice Product image of Garmin Forerunner 255
Best Overall

Garmin Forerunner 255

The Garmin Forerunner 255 and 255S are the best running watches for easily digestible data before, during, and after workouts. Read More

Pros

  • Intuitive to set up and use
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Packed with useful features

Cons

  • Sometimes finicky GPS
2
Editor's Choice Product image of Garmin Forerunner 55
Best Value

Garmin Forerunner 55

This running watch is intuitive, easy to navigate, and provides data for runners that is easily digestible and straightforward without any bells and whistles. Read More

Pros

  • Interface is intuitive and easy to navigate
  • Tracks workouts other than running
  • Display screen is easy to read during runs

Cons

  • GPS can be slow to acquire
3
Editor's Choice Product image of Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Though it doesn’t have as many premium features of the 255, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music allows you to stream music wirelessly from your favorite streaming services to wireless headphones. Read More

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Large display
  • On-board music option available

Cons

  • No barometric altimeter for elevation data
4
Product image of Suunto 9 Baro

Suunto 9 Baro

Designed for serious runners and triathletes, the Suunto 9 Baro offers solid tracking, but its massive size may be off-putting to some athletes. Read More

Pros

  • Large, easy to see touchscreen
  • Data at a glance while running
  • Built like a tank

Cons

  • Absolutely massive
  • Uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time
5
Product image of Polar Pacer

Polar Pacer

The Polar Pacer provides a wealth of data and tests that might help you achieve a personal best, but the awkward button placement and extra-long watch band might be a turnoff to some. Read More

Pros

  • Music streaming capability
  • Great app functionality
  • Tracks multiple workouts

Cons

  • Awkward button placement
  • Not ideal for runners with small wrists

Whether you’re an experienced runner or just starting out, all you need to conquer your next run is a pair of running shoes and some pavement, a nearby track, trail, or treadmill. And while other gear might be helpful, the only accessory that has the potential to really enhance your workouts is a running watch.

We’ve spent months testing the most popular GPS watches and determined that the Garmin Forerunner 255 (available at Amazon for $367.56) is the best running watch because of its compact, intuitive design, workout suggestions, and daily training reports, as well as the optional extra feature of music storage. If our top pick isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry. We’ve got plenty of other options.

These are the best running watches we tested ranked, in order:

  1. Garmin Forerunner 255
  2. Garmin Forerunner 55
  3. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
  4. Suunto 9 Baro
  5. Polar Pacer
  6. Coros Apex
  7. Polar Vantage
  8. Apple Watch Series 8
Close-up of woman's wrist wearing the Garmin Forerunner 255S.
Credit: Reviewed / Tim Renzi

We selected the Garmin Forerunner 255 as our best overall running watch.

Best Overall
Garmin Forerunner 255

After our extensive hands-on tests, we’re confident that the Garmin Forerunner 255 is the best running watch for most runners. Like all Garmin products, the 255 and the smaller-but-otherwise-identical 255S is hands-down the easiest setup: All that’s required is downloading the app to your phone and syncing directions appear directly on the watch face, thanks to Bluetooth connectivity.

Before and during workouts, the watch is easy to navigate. Each of the five buttons is clearly labeled, so you never have to second-guess during a run whether you’re pausing or stopping your workout. You also don’t have to dig through too many screens to find the stats you care about. While running, your time, distance, and pace are prominently displayed. Should you decide you want more granular feedback, it’s easy to toggle through additional screens to view your heart rate, lap information, and the time of day you completed each workout.

A standout feature on this watch: When you choose “run” as your activity, it also gives you a suggested workout, pace, and distance and explains why it is recommending that particular workout. More often than not, because our tester was only testing this watch for a few weeks, she didn’t do the workout. However, on the occasions she tried it, she found it refreshing to follow a prescribed workout, especially for a specific pace and distance. The watch also explains why it recommends each workout, which was interesting to see. Also helpful: the ability to preload running routes and be notified along the way that you’re on the right track. The Forerunner 255 offers the ability to track all manner of other workouts, too, including the ability to map open-water swims, a feature not available in its predecessor, the 245. (However, triathletes won’t find a triathlon mode here; they’ll have to look to the pricier Forerunner 955 for that.)

The 255S, the version we tested, has a compact design with a 41mm face (about 1 inch in diameter) and a slim 18mm (0.7-inch) band, so it can easily double as an everyday watch if the style suits you. The silicone band is comfortable, neither too long nor too short, and doesn’t irritate sensitive skin, even when it gets too sweaty. If you opt for the larger 255, you’ll get a face size of 46mm (about 2 inches) for the same price. The battery lasts up to 12 days in smartwatch mode, minimizing the amount of time you need to charge. You’ll get up to 26 hours of GPS workout tracking on a single charge, too.

One downside: The GPS can be finicky. It often took minutes (rather than seconds) to acquire a signal—not ideal, especially at the start of a race. This happened frequently enough where our tester didn’t have the patience to wait for it to sync properly, and just started her runs without the GPS acquiring. On the other hand, there were a few times when the watch acquired a GPS signal in a matter of seconds. This inconsistency was especially surprising as we did our test runs on the same routes. It’s worth noting that our tester never carried her phone with her: Garmins, and most GPS watches in general, find satellites faster after being recently synced to a phone with GPS.

Like most running watches, the 255 and 255S track steps, sleep, and data for other types of workouts, such as bike rides and swims. Each morning, the watch screen displays a “morning report,” which outlines your sleep data, recovery time, and training status, and provides a suggested workout based on what you could strive for with your current level of fitness. This was a treat our tester looked forward to and it inspired her to get moving, as the data is informative, but not overwhelming to digest before you’ve had your coffee.

The 255 comes in eight colors and with the option to pay $50 more for music storage for up to 500 songs that you can listen to over Bluetooth earbuds (not included). Music controls can be accessed by pressing the down arrow on any screen, and can play songs downloaded to your phone via your computer, Spotify, or Amazon Music, as well as any run-specific playlists from your computer or phone that you’d like to sync to your watch. If you plan to listen to tunes during your next marathon, you can expect up to 6 hours of battery life from a full charge.

Pros

  • Intuitive to set up and use

  • Comfortable to wear

  • Packed with useful features

Cons

  • Sometimes finicky GPS

Garmin Forerunner 55 watch draped over the toe of a Brooks running shoe
Credit: Reviewed / Kate McCarthy

The Forerunner 55 does a great job with the basics any runner might want at their wrist.

Best Value
Garmin Forerunner 55

Like most Garmin watches, using the Forerunner 55 is a straightforward process: The watch has clearly labeled buttons and a straightforward home screen, with all the vital information you might want at the touch of a button or two. This makes it a good option for runners who want a watch that provides easy-to-read basic data on their running and other workouts.

One of the best things about the Garmin Forerunner line, and this watch in particular, is how intuitive it is. You don’t have to dig through screens for any information. The most vital stats—mileage, pace, and heart rate—are easy to spot during your run, with a full recap that you can scroll through when you’re finished.

The Forerunner 55 provides up to two weeks on smartwatch mode and 20 hours of GPS tracking capabilities on a single charge, as compared to the 255’s 12 days and 26 hours. At 42mm (1.65 inches) in diameter, the watch is a hair larger than the 255S and half centimeter smaller than the 255, a good size to clearly display all the data without feeling bulky. The 20mm (0.8-inch) silicone wristband isn’t too wide to feel cuff-like, and most importantly, didn’t irritate our tester’s skin when sweat got under it during runs.

Some runners who prefer the 55’s simple interface and no-frills approach might be content to give up some higher-end features, most notably the barometric altimeter for more accurate measuring of elevation. But shelling out more for the 255, with or without music capability, gets you additional sensors designed to help you progress as a runner while avoiding overtraining, such as more advanced heart-rate and training effect metrics, and handy features like GPS turn-by-turn guidance for unfamiliar routes. You also don’t get the “morning report” capturing your holistic health or a detailed sleep report, like you would with the Forerunner 255.

Also, like other Garmins including our top pick, the GPS on the Forerunner 55 can be finicky. It often took minutes (rather than seconds) to acquire, though it’ll locate the satellites faster if you sync it to your location-enabled smartphone first.

That said, for an easy-to-use, wrist-worn way to track your runs, the 55 delivers a great value.

Pros

  • Interface is intuitive and easy to navigate

  • Tracks workouts other than running

  • Display screen is easy to read during runs

Cons

  • GPS can be slow to acquire

How We Tested Running Watches

These are the best running watches available today.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

During my runs, I looked at how easy it was to see my stats in the middle of a run, how quickly the watch acquired GPS signal, how accurate the GPS tracking was, and how easy it was to navigate the watch for data before, during and after my run.

The Testers

Reviewed’s casual and avid runners alike jumped at the chance to delve into what makes the latest batch of running watches worth your time. Our testers used the watches like any runner would, but went further. We filled out a detailed questionnaire about each watch, assessing features such as the accuracy of the GPS tracking, the detailedness of the post-run data collection and analysis, and the watches’ design and comfort. Our aim was to find the picks that can help you become a smarter, stronger, more confident runner.

The Tests

While researching watches to test, we looked at the most popular watches for sale in a variety of price ranges. We also consulted fitness publications to see what their editors considered the best of the best. We narrowed it down to a handful of watches that fit the lifestyles of everyone from run-walker to Boston Marathon qualifier.

When testing, we looked at basic setup factors at first. We examined how easy it was to sync each watch with a smartphone and any corresponding apps, and navigated through the various menus on the watches themselves to assess how easy it was to find settings and info.

We tested many of the watches on the same 5-mile loop and did a track workout with each one. We also used them during treadmill classes, during yoga and spin class, while swimming laps, and during at least four different races.

During our runs, we looked at how quickly the watch acquired a GPS signal, how easy it was to see stats while running, how accurate the GPS and heart rate tracking appeared to be, and how easy it was to navigate the watch for data before and during a run. After every workout, we checked the data on both the watch and the app to confirm accuracy and to see what it was like to navigate information on each of them.

Throughout, we considered factors like comfort, aesthetics, water resistance, and durability.

What You Should Know About Running Watches

What’s the Difference Between Running Watches and Fitness Trackers?

A GPS running watch is the next level up from a fitness tracker if you are—or decide you want to become—a more dedicated runner. While a fitness tracker tracks things like steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate, a GPS watch does all that and more—albeit typically in a larger package.

Both running watches and fitness trackers have increasingly similar features, in that you'll find GPS for mapping outdoor activities as well as sensors to track everyday activity and sleep within both. However, some differences exist with regard to how a runner might use a watch vis a vis how an everyday active person uses a fitness tracker.

Running watches usually have larger screens for faster at-a-glance data during a run, with LED or at least anti-reflective displays, so they're easier to read in direct sunlight. They also typically operate with buttons around the edges rather than touch screens, as runners don't trust themselves (or their sleeves) from accidentally stopping or pausing a run. In a practical sense, a button offers more precision for starting, stopping, or adding a lap when fractions of a second count.

Running watches often tend to look more "athletic" than fitness trackers, which people often want to be less conspicuous, both in looks and in comfort so they can be worn to collect sleep data.

Both may include smartwatch features, such as phone notifications, but if you want something that's basically like wearing your phone on your wrist, you'll want to consider a smartwatch. These have all the aforementioned features of a fitness tracker and possibly of a running watch, but their touchscreens—as well as lack of truly dedicated running features—make them less of an ideal choice for running.

Nearly all these wearables offer heart rate tracking, but with the same caveat across the board: Though it's great for an estimate, it's tough to get accurate realtime results from a wrist-worn monitor. If you want more exact numbers, you'll need a chest strap monitor.

Other Running Watches We Tested

Product image of Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

The previous iteration of our best overall, the Forerunner 245, offers many of the same features, including training load monitoring, an easy-to-read display, and heart rate and activity monitoring. If you can get it on sale, it's a solid pick that offers up to 24 hours of GPS tracking and 7 days in smartwatch mode on one charge. By forgoing the 255, you’ll miss out on high-end extras like the morning training report and the suggested workouts as well as elevation details, as the 245 lacks a barometric altimeter. That said, the 245 has a leg or two up on the Forerunner 55, our Best Value pick, including data related to your training status and the effectiveness of your runs.

The 245 only comes in one size—roughly the same as the 55 and halfway between the 255S and 255—and comes with optional music storage for an additional $50.

Pros

  • Comfortable

  • Large display

  • On-board music option available

Cons

  • No barometric altimeter for elevation data

Product image of Suunto 9 Baro
Suunto 9 Baro

Triathletes and serious runners who want an influx of data about all of their workouts will love the Suunto 9 Baro. It is very straightforward to set up, and the combination of buttons on the side of the watch and a touch screen allows you to easily scroll through data regardless of whether you’re sitting at home or out on a tough run. During a workout, the large numbers showing pace, time, and distance are easy to make out, no matter how quickly you’re running. It also has settings to track multiple workouts, so when you’re cross training, you can still get stats about your other workouts. Like many other watches we tested, you can individually track a swim, bike ride, or run. However, if you’re competing in a triathlon, you can also switch to the triathlon setting to track all three in one event.

That said, the Suunto 9 Baro is absolutely gigantic—its face measures 50mm across (nearly 2 inches), and feels significantly larger than our Best Overall Garmin. It’s built like a tank and feels indestructible, which is great for when you’re working out. However, this made it wildly uncomfortable when we tried to wear it everyday. We had a handful of people around the lab try on the Suunto 9 Baro during testing and all of them had the same shocked reaction over how large this watch truly is. If you’re looking for something sleek and discreet, this is not the watch for you.

Pros

  • Large, easy to see touchscreen

  • Data at a glance while running

  • Built like a tank

Cons

  • Absolutely massive

  • Uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time

Product image of Polar Pacer
Polar Pacer

Like other Polar watches we’ve tested in the past, setting up the Pacer was pretty intuitive, minus its slow syncing with the app. Though it’s not on par with Garmin in terms of easy setup, the Pacer itself offers one of the easiest watch interfaces to navigate. It offers a ton of data, which could be overwhelming, but it’s presented in a way that’s clear and easy to digest. It was easy to look at the stats you might care about the most (such as workout tracking, heart rate, and route navigation), and disregard those you might not care about (like performance tests and running power). The Polar app is one of the best apps out there, giving you plenty of information in a more navigable way than Garmin’s more cluttered app interface.

The watch face is on the slightly larger side—it has a 45mm diameter (about 1.75 inches), a touch smaller than the Garmin Forerunner 255 but nowhere near as massive as the Suunto 9. Bonus for those with larger wrists: The Polar Pacer comes with a 20mm wide silicone band that’s already plenty long but can be lengthened further with extensions. Runners with extra-small wrists will have an excessive amount of watch band to deal with, but despite that, wearing it throughout the day and into an evening run proved comfortable, easy, and irritation-free.

While this may seem like a minor inconvenience to some, the layout of the buttons on this watch was a major source of frustration for our tester. There are three buttons on the right side, and two on the left (as compared to two and two on many other watches)—and “pause” is a different button than “stop” and than “start/resume.” Most watches—including the Garmins—start, pause, and stop using the same button. Because the Polar’s aren’t clearly labeled and they are flush to the sides of the watch, she often pressed the wrong button during her runs, ending her workout instead of merely pausing it. That said, if the Polar were your only watch, you’d probably get used to it quickly enough.

Like many other running watches, the Pacer tracks multiple workouts and has music streaming capability. Avid runners will love the prompts for fitness tests that will help you earn a new PR or keep you race-ready, which include basic running or walking tests that measure your VO2max, the best way to illustrate your aerobic fitness.

Pros

  • Music streaming capability

  • Great app functionality

  • Tracks multiple workouts

Cons

  • Awkward button placement

  • Not ideal for runners with small wrists

Product image of Coros Apex (42mm)
Coros Apex (42mm)

The Coros Apex watch is by far one of the easiest watches to set up. All you have to do is download the app, scan the code that appears on the watch and, boom! Your watch and phone are synced. This was one of our testers’ favorite watches for track workouts during the testing process, as she could easily set intervals and rest time on the watch without having to design the workout in the app first.

Also great: When you hit pause at a crosswalk or on a break, you can easily scroll through your current in-activity stats to select what you want to see—as opposed to other watches that don’t allow you to control the watch when it’s paused.

Initially, the Apex had a tough time accessing GPS: During runs, it would often beep and say “GPS acquired,” making our tester wonder when the GPS had been lost, or if distance was tracked accurately. Another downside: The only way to scroll through the watch interface is via a digital knob and a button. While reminiscent of the Apple Watch, this knob is much more sensitive to the touch. It takes some getting used to before you can comfortably scroll through the menus. The default data screens present a lot of information that is difficult to absorb while running. This might be fine during a casual run, but could be a dealbreaker on race day for those looking to PR.

Like the Garmin Forerunner 255, it comes in two sizes, 42mm, which we tested, and 46mm (but the larger Coros costs more). Depending on bone structure and fashion preferences, most people could probably get away with wearing it as an everyday watch as well.

Pros

  • Easy to set up and use

  • Metrics can be viewed while watch is paused

Cons

  • Unreliable GPS

  • Default data screen is cluttered

Product image of Polar Vantage M
Polar Vantage M

Despite a bumpy setup process, the Polar Vantage M is a decent watch for the serious runner or triathlete who wants data presented in a clear but detailed way. The screen’s font is large and easy to read, so our tester could immediately see her heart rate, time, distance, and pace.

Although it has a sleek look, the fit of this watch is pretty bulky, especially underneath long sleeves and while wearing gloves. At 46mm across (1.8 inches), the watch face is just large enough that if you have a smaller bone structure, you probably wouldn’t want to wear it as an everyday watch. That said, the stopwatch and countdown setting makes it easy to use for a track workout, and the way the Vantage M buzzes on your wrist after your preferred distance means you’ll never miss your mile splits because you didn’t hear a beep.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the Polar Vantage M is that you have to hit two different buttons to start a workout and stop it: Our tester often found herself getting confused and hitting the wrong one. The buttons are also flush to the side of the watch, making them challenging to press. However, with a built-in triathlon setting and profiles for about 20 other sports, the Vantage M could be a boon for multisport athletes.

Pros

  • Data is easy to read

  • Great for multisport athletes

Cons

  • Bulky

  • Buttons can be awkward

Product image of Apple Watch Series 8
Apple Watch Series 8

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the latest version of the best smartwatch you can buy, according to our testers. In addition to all the apps that basically work as extensions to an iPhone, it offers a number of health tracking features, including the ability to record runs.

Like other running watches, it offers activity-specific data including segments, splits, and elevation, as well as heart rate and custom workouts. More advanced runners will love info that could help you become a more efficient runner, like stride length and ground contact time. While functionality for things like track workouts won’t be available until late this year, workouts can be paused by pressing the side button and the digital crown, or by swiping left or right on the touchscreen and pressing pause. That said, most runners chafe at using a touchscreen to control their watch, even one like Apple’s that promises good reactivity even from sweaty fingers.

For someone who runs occasionally or casually, the Apple Watch may do the trick for tracking the effort. However, the more dedicated runners who train for races and want features such as onboard workout plans may be happier with our top pick or any of the other watches on this list designed specifically for running.

Pros

  • Same outstanding quality

  • Potentially life-saving crash detection

  • QWERTY keyboard

Cons

  • Incremental upgrade

  • Temperature sensor underutilized

  • Ovulation predictions retrospective

Meet the testers

Courtney Campbell

Courtney Campbell

Contributing Writer

@courtcamps

Courtney is an editor and shopper with a passion for finding the best things on the internet. She's a foodie and will talk about the latest batch of kombucha she's brewing to anyone who will listen. She has previously worked for Country Living, Woman's Day, and Our State Magazine.

See all of Courtney Campbell's reviews
Kate Q. McCarthy

Kate Q. McCarthy

Head of Social Media

@kateqmccarth

Kate McCarthy is the Head of Social Media, who often writes about health and fitness.

See all of Kate Q. McCarthy's reviews
Alison Kotch

Alison Kotch

Health & Fitness Editor

Alison edits Reviewed’s health, fitness, sex, and wellness coverage, and occasionally writes about her favorite products. She’s also an avid runner and yoga enthusiast, and loves to cook and garden in her spare time.

See all of Alison Kotch's reviews

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