The 5 Best Running Watches For Tracking Everything

Running watches have become an indispensable tool for athletes looking to track metrics and improve their performance. With so many options on the market, it can be tricky to determine which watch best fits your needs. In this guide, we break down the top 5 running watches of 2022 based on factors like GPS accuracy, battery life, special features and more.

Quick Comparison Table

Before diving into the details on each watch, here is an overview of how some of the key specs compare:

ModelPriceDisplay SizeWeightBattery LifeWaterproof
Coros Pace 2$1991.2"30g30-60 hours GPS50 meters
Garmin Forerunner 255 Music$3991.3”49g6.5 hours GPS + music50 meters
Polar Pacer$1991.2”40g35-100 hoursYes
Garmin Forerunner 45$1401.04”36g13 hours GPS50 meters
Apple Watch Series 7$3991.8”32-42g5 hours GPS50 meters

Coros Pace 2

Coros Pace 2 Running Watch

Best For: Triathletes, ultrarunners

The Coros Pace 2 shines thanks to its incredibly long battery life, lightweight build and included multisport modes. It can last 30-60 hours in full GPS mode, making it an excellent option for ultramarathoners, triathletes and other endurance athletes.

Despite packing great GPS accuracy and advanced metrics like training load and recovery time, the Pace 2 remains easy to use with just two physical buttons. It also tracks open water and pool swimming. Drawbacks are the monochrome display and lack of music storage or Garmin Pay contactless payments.

Key Features

  • 30-60 hour battery life with GPS
  • Under 30g lightweight build
  • Tracks pool and open water swimming
  • Training load and recovery time estimates
  • Easy two-button navigation

Overall, the Coros Pace 2 hits the sweet spot of long battery life, accurate tracking and cross-sport support at a very competitive sub-$200 price point.

Garmin Forerunner 255

Garmin Forerunner 255 Music

Best For: Runners desiring music and Garmin’s advanced training features

As Garmin‘s mid-range GPS watch offering, the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music brings premium running watch capability at a reasonable price. Offline music storage for 500 songs and support for advanced Garmin training plans and insights like V02 max distinguish it from more budget-friendly options.

On top of usual running metrics, you can view performance condition to see if you’re training productively or strained and use features like PacePro to optimize pacing for courses. The bright color screen is easy to view mid-run and it includes popular Garmin health and wellness tracking like sleep, stress, hydration and women‘s health. Battery life extends to 30 hours with GPS or 6.5 hours using the music functionality.

Key Features:

  • Stores up to 500 songs offline
  • Access Garmin Coach adaptive training plans
  • Training readiness and race predictors
  • 30 hour GPS battery or 6.5 with music
  • Women‘s health and wellness tracking

If you‘re a Garmin fan seeking their latest advanced running features with music in a smaller form factor, the 255 hits a nice balance without too many sacrifices.

Polar Pacer

Polar Pacer GPS Running Watch

Best For: Beginners seeking accurate and easy GPS tracking

The Polar Pacer sports an understated design focused on excellent GPS accuracy for tracking pace, distance routes. Unlike fancier watches, you won‘t find things like music controls or Garmin Pay. Instead, it nails the basics with 100 tracking with excellent GPS connectivity matched to a colorful display that’s readable in direct sunlight.

Despite the no-frills set of features, its price comes in low at around $200. On a single charge you can expect a hefty battery span ranging from 35 up to 100 hours depending on settings. It makes a great starter model for runners training for 5Ks through marathons. Easy one-button navigation contributes to the beginner friendly appeal.

Key Features:

  • Excellent GPS accuracy and connection
  • Long 35 to 100 hour battery life
  • Clear and colorful display
  • Beginner friendly simple operation
  • Affordable sub-$200 price

If you want a fuss free running watch with excellent GPS tracking capability, the Polar Pacer checks off all the key boxes at a budget-friendly price.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45 GPS Running Watch

Best For: Runners on a budget

The Garmin Forerunner 45 manages to pack continuous GPS tracking, wrist-based heart rate and multiple sport modes into a compact watch face for under $150. Compared to a basic fitness tracker, you get much richer data about pace, distance, intervals and more.

This lightweight watch can track runs, cardio, yoga, elliptical training and more. You‘ll get connected features like smartphone notifications, automatic syncs to the Garmin Connect portal to view your statistics over time and safety/tracking features too. Compared to more expensive Forerunners you miss out on advanced training features, music and Garmin Pay. But for the price it gets all of the essentials right if you‘re on a budget.

Key Features:

  • Continuous GPS tracking
  • Wrist-based heart rate monitoring
  • Syncs data to Garmin Connect portal
  • Under $150 price point
  • 13 hours GPS battery life

The Garmin Forerunner 45 brings great bang for your buck if you want rich running watch capability tracking without excess bells and whistles you may not use often.

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Series 7

Best For: Apple users desiring seamless iPhone integration

The latest Apple Watch Series 7 takes the Apple Watch to a whole new level with a nearly 20% larger screen that can fit 50% more text. It‘s great for viewing your real-time pace, distance and heart rate metrics mid run. And it works seamlessly with your iPhone notifications, music and connected apps.

You can play music and podcasts stored offline so you can run without your phone in reach. In addition to all-day activity tracking, it auto-detects popular workouts like running. Unique Apple features like fall detection and EKG monitoring for detecting irregular heart rhythms make it the model offering the most robust health insight. Expect around 5 hours of battery life using GPS. While not best-in-class, solid tracking and unbeatable iOS integration make it the top smartwatch choice for iPhone owners.

Key Features:

  • Larger, brighter display
  • Seamless iPhone connectivity
  • Music storage with offline playback
  • Auto-detects workouts like running and walking
  • Safety features like fall and EKG detection

For Apple devotees wanting a premium smartwatch perfect for iPhone pairing with excellent run tracking capability, the Series 7 hits the mark.

How to Choose the Best Running Watch

All of the watches above offer excellent run tracking, but everyone‘s needs and budgets differ. Here are some key factors to weigh as you shop for your perfect running watch fit:

GPS Accuracy – The most important feature of a running watch is consistent, precise GPS connectivity to accurately measure pace, distance traveled on your routes. Opt for watches using multiple satellite systems like GPS, GLONASS, Galileo to ensure tracking through urban canyons and tree cover.

Weight and Size – You‘ll be wearing this for hours during runs and all-day as a timepiece so it needs to have an ergonomic fit not causing any irritation over time. Go to a store to try on watches to test comfort.

Battery Life – Longer batter span means less time recharging. Look for at least 10+ hours of GPS use for marathon training with 30+ hours for ultra distances. Fast charging is also useful for quick top-ups while getting ready.

Special Features – Assess what’s most useful to you whether that‘s onboard music storage, Garmin Pay for payments, pool/open water lap counting, etc. Extra capability comes at a price so set priorities.

Budget – Entry-level models with essential tracking start under $150 with premium watches from Apple, Garmin hitting $400-500. Determine how much you can invest for the features you need.

What‘s the Experience Like Using a GPS Running Watch?

Once you strap on a GPS running watch and head out for a jog or race you‘ll quickly notice they provide much greater insight compared to estimating distance and pace. The seconds tick by as you watch your running pace, mile splits, heart rate zone and more in real-time.

Advanced watches provide alerts to speed up or slow down if you fall outside target pace bands. Their built-in accelerometers detect cadence so you can tweak your turnover.

After each activity you‘ll get a post-workout report showing your route map, elevation change, split paces, heart rate zones and recovery time estimate. Sync this data online to analyze performance over time spots trends.

Top watches use high precision GPS able to maintain signal lock even beside tall buildings typically causing interference. Stepping inside to grab a snack mid-run won‘t throw things off either thanks to accelerometer data fusion continuing tracking indoor for short stints.

Going for a run without any phone or music player is liberating too knowing your watch has the songs, podcasts and audiobooks you want to accompany those long miles. Voice prompts chime in when you hit each mile split or get an alert for an incoming call or text.

Privacy Considerations of Tracking Your Health

Sharing personal health, GPS routes and workout data with consumer tech product companies gives them incredible insight into your daily habits and bio-patterns. Make sure to carefully review privacy policies and opt-out of any data sharing not required for basic functionality. Consider periodically deleting older data logged if it’s archived online.

For most runners though, the huge performance and convenience gains of using a GPS watch will likely outweigh potential longer-term privacy implications. Just take reasonable precautions around the data.

Bottom Line

Investing in a running watch delivers a wealth of insight into your pacing, distance, heart patterns and overall fitness trajectory compared to estimation using a stopwatch and measuring routes by car. Their long battery life, durable build and waterproofing also makes them invaluable adventure companions well beyond just fitness usage too.

Hopefully the breakdown of the best running watches here assisted you in finding your perfect match based on your budget, training needs and desired extra capabilities. Let us know if you have any other questions as you start leveraging these devices to smash new PRs!

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