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Best running watches 2022

Garmin Forerunner 245 sitting on top of shoes
(Image credit: Android Central)

Whether you're a couch-to-5K runner, marathoner, or somewhere in the middle, you'll find plenty of watches and trackers to fit any workload or preference. Most of the best Android smartwatches have fitness functions along with lifestyle apps for a well-rounded experience. But the best running watches overall prioritize sensor accuracy, advanced fitness features, and durable battery life. Starting with the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, we've tested and chosen the best running tech that caters to your passion for running.

Keep the pace going with the best running watches

Garmin Forerunner 245

(Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

The best watch for most runners

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in GPS
+
Heart-rate monitoring
+
Multiple running profiles
+
Advanced training metrics
+
Seven days of battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks NFC for Garmin Pay
-
No altimeter for elevation tracking
-
Music version is more expensive

If you're a runner of any kind, chances are you've heard a thing or two about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music. It's been around for three years, but this is one of those running watches that ages gracefully. Newer models continue to come out — from Garmin and other top brands — but the Forerunner 245 Music continues to be a go-to choice for many running enthusiasts.

As the name suggests, one of the stand-out features of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is onboard storage for up to 500 songs. If you're a dedicated runner who enjoys listening to music while you exercise, this allows you to leave your phone behind while still having access to your favorite tunes. This is a wonderful bonus, but the real selling point here is the impressive running features you'll get.

This Garmin smartwatch offers multiple tools that help your train better, including Running Dynamics and Garmin Coach. Additionally, the training status feature lets you know whether you're overtraining or undertraining. You can use the training load feature to compare your most recent exercise volume to the optimal range for your current fitness level. You'll never be short on run profiles, either. The Forerunner 245 Music offers treadmill running, indoor and outdoor track running, trail running, and virtual running.

This running watch offers seven days of battery life in smartwatch mode, 24 hours in GPS mode, and 6 hours in GPS with music mode. If you're someone who likes extra features, you might be disappointed to learn that the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music does not offer NFC for Garmin Pay. The music model of the watch is more expensive, so that's something to keep in mind if you're on the fence about whether or not you need built-in storage.

Garmin Forerunner 55

(Image credit: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

Garmin Forerunner 55

Best bang for your buck

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in GPS
+
Heart-rate monitoring
+
Recovery advisor
+
Advanced training metrics
+
2 weeks of battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks NFC for Garmin Pay
-
No altimeter for elevation tracking
-
No music storage

Shopping for the best running watch doesn't automatically mean you need to spend a fortune. In fact, many numerous entry-level options still come loaded with features that are geared toward runners. One example is the new Garmin Forerunner 55. It's perfect for daily wear yet still a good option when you need a sport-ready watch that's lightweight and comfortable. You'll also be able to find plenty of third-party Garmin Forerunner 55 bands when you need to switch things up.

Perhaps one of the best things about the Garmin Forerunner 55 is the battery life. It offers a whopping two weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode or 20 hours in GPS mode. It comes with all the core features that Garmin usually offers, including GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, built-in sports apps, Body Battery energy monitoring, stress tracking, and more.

Runners will enjoy having everything they need at their fingertips, including several run profiles. These include running, treadmill running, indoor track running, outdoor track running, and virtual running. The recovery advisor helps you understand how much rest time you need between workouts. Another neat perk is the race predictor, which accounts for your fitness level and training history when helping you reach your race goal. You'll also be able to view the impact of training on your predicted finish time.

With such a budget-friendly price tag, it makes sense that some compromises must be made. The Garmin Forerunner 55 doesn't have NFC for Garmin Pay. You're also missing an altimeter, so you won't have any elevation data when recording your workouts. While the watch allows you to control the music playing on your phone, you won't have onboard storage available. These are small sacrifices in the grand scheme of things, especially when considering how affordable this running watch is compared to its competitors.

Fitbit Versa 3 Heart Rate

(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Fitbit Versa 3

For the casual runners

Reasons to buy

+
GPS, HRM, NFC
+
Activity/sleep tracking
+
Active Zone Minutes
+
Gorgeous AMOLED display
+
6 days of battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
App selection is limited
-
Always-on display kills the battery
-
Lacks more advanced features

If you consider yourself a casual runner, you may not need tons of high-end features. Not to mention that you'll save some money by going with a more basic option, like the Fitbit Versa 3, for example. In this case, basic isn't a bad thing. You get everything you need — nothing more, nothing less.

It offers a slim, lightweight design with a vibrant AMOLED touchscreen. It's compatible with interchangeable bands, so you always have the option to change up your look. Keep in mind that Versa 3 bands aren't compatible with previous Versa bands, though. Digging a little deeper, you'll get six days of battery life, depending on usage.

You get plenty of features for tracking your health and fitness. Examples include heart-rate monitoring, sleep tracking, automatic exercise recognition, on-screen workouts, and female health tracking. So whether you're going for a walk, outdoor run, or treadmill run, the Versa 3 can track it. Active Zone Minutes is another useful feature. You'll earn Active Zone Minutes for the time you spend in fat burn, cardio, or break heart-rate zones.

If you're big on third-party app selection, you'll want to manage your expectations when buying the Fitbit Versa 3. It has improved over time, but it's not as robust as some other Android smartwatches. If you opt for the always-on display feature, be prepared for your battery to train faster. As we mentioned, you don't get any super advanced features here as far as running is concerned. Casual runners and those just getting started with their fitness tracking journey will appreciate the efficient simplicity of the Versa 3.

An interval workout on the Coros Pace 2

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Coros Pace 2

Best for affordable battery life

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in GPS
+
Heart-rate monitoring
+
Competitive price
+
Ultra-lightweight design
+
Up to 20 days of battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks SPO2 tracking
-
No extra smartwatch perks
-
Nylon strap can be itchy

If you're looking for a straightforward running watch with stellar battery life, look no further than the Coros Pace 2. Most premium smartwatches aren't exactly cheap, but this one does a great job of providing key features at an affordable price point. Of course, you'll have all of the features you'd expect, including built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, multiple workout modes, and more.

Another reason the Coros Pace 2 is an excellent choice is that it offers a lightweight design. With the nylon strap, this watch weighs a mere 29g. If you prefer a silicone strap, the weight will be closer to 35g. You also get a 1.2-inch LCD with 64 colors. While many people are accustomed to AMOLED displays, the LCD allows for long-lasting battery life. Many users will prefer longer battery life over a fancier display.

As you might have guessed, the Coros Pace 2's battery life is the star of the show. This smartwatch can last for up to 20 days with regular use. That translates to 30 hours in continuous GPS mode. Other watches hit this figure, but usually for double or triple the price. For serious athletes recording daily workouts or more, 20 days probably isn't a realistic figure. On the other hand, casual users may only need to charge their watch a couple of times per month.

The Coros Pace 2 is a running watch to its core, but don't expect much else from it. While some other options on this list offer extra perks, like NFC payments and music storage, those features aren't available on this model. It also lacks an SPO2 sensor for blood oxygen tracking, which is rather disappointing. If comfort is a top priority for you, be sure to consider the silicone band. When running and sweating, the nylon strap has proven to be itchy and uncomfortable.

Polar Vantage V2 Lifestyle

(Image credit: Polar)

Polar Vantage V2

Best for training

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in GPS
+
Heart-rate monitoring
+
Multiple battery saving modes
+
Over 100 sport profiles
+
Training Load Pro & Recovery Pro

Reasons to avoid

-
Too large for some wrists
-
Battery life could be better
-
Doesn't offer mapping

While all runners train at some point, some do it much more than others. So whether you're a professional athlete or you've got a calendar full of races coming up, you'll appreciate how focused on training and recovery the Polar Vantage V2 is. It may not be quite as popular as some of the other brands on this list, but the Vantage V2 deserves recognition for being one of the best running watches on the market.

It's quite the upgrade from the previous model, for starters. You'll have access to several elite performance tests that are designed to help you measure, improve, and monitor key metrics. These tests include running performance, VO2 max estimate, a leg recovery test, Training Load Pro, and Recovery Pro. If you're interested, you can also enjoy access to personalized, pre-made workouts as well as daily guidance with the company's FitSpark program.

The running performance test will help you monitor your progress while personalizing your heart rate, speed, and power zones. The Recovery Pro feature can help you determine whether your body is prepared for training with helpful recovery feedback right on the screen. One unique feature is the leg recovery test, which tells you if your legs are ready for high-intensity training. You don't need any special equipment for this feature, either. Last but not least, the Running Index feature estimates your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) while running. This score indicates how efficient your running is and can be monitored over time so you can track your progress and performance.

Considering that many of the watches on this list offer between one to two weeks of battery life, the Polar Vantage V2 could use some improvement in that area. The watch claims to offer 40 hours of battery life for continuous training. There are some battery saver options, which are supposed to extend battery life up to 100 hours. There aren't any mapping options, which some runners can't live without. Finally, the 47mm case still might be too large for some wrists. For everything you get with this running watch, the price tag makes sense. That said, it's a stretch for beginners and budget shoppers.

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE

(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE

Best for LTE

Reasons to buy

+
GPS, HRM, NFC
+
LTE connectivity
+
2 weeks of battery life
+
Advanced training metrics
+
Full-color mapping

Reasons to avoid

-
LTE use requires a monthly subscription
-
Expensive for the limitations of LTE

If you're familiar with the Garmin Forerunner 945, you'll notice that the new Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE offers many of the same features, including two weeks of battery life. As the name indicates, the main difference is LTE connectivity. When it comes to LTE smartwatches, most people think of making calls and sending texts from their watch without their phones connected. The Forerunner 945 LTE takes a different approach.

The ability to use the LTE connectivity on this watch does not depend on your carrier. With other LTE smartwatches, you might only access the connectivity with a certain carrier(s). Instead, the connectivity is based on a subscription plan through Garmin for $5.99 per month if you choose an annual plan or $6.99 monthly without the annual plan. Don't expect to be shooting off texts or making calls, though. The Forerunner 945 LTE is intended to help runners remain connected on the go. You'll enjoy phone-free safety and tracking features, spectator messaging, and live event sharing.

Another feature that runners will appreciate is PacePro Technology, which offers grade-adjusted guidance when you're running a course. You also get many of the same key performance metrics that we've mentioned in some of the other Garmin running watches, such as VO2 max, training load, training status, performance condition, and training effect. This model also offers full-color maps to keep you on track. You can easily follow a specific route with turn-by-turn navigation.

If you loved the Forerunner 945 and like the idea of having LTE connectivity, this might be the running watch for you. However, it's important to understand just what this LTE connectivity offers. It's not like some of the other LTE models out there. The main purpose is to keep you safe and connected while you're running. If that makes the higher price tag worth it, the Forerunner 945 LTE could be a winner.

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar showing post-workout VO2 Max gains

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

Best for ultramarathoners and nature-lovers

Reasons to buy

+
Up to 48 hours of GPS tracking with solar
+
Comes in 40mm or 45mm sizes
+
10ATM and MIL-820 water/fall protection
+
Easily viewable memory-in-pixel display
+
All the usual advanced metrics and tracking

Reasons to avoid

-
Solar upgrade is expensive
-
A bit heavy for some
-
No music storage

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar's appeal is the claim that it has "unlimited" battery life thanks to its Solar Panel, though mileage will vary based on the weather and your activity. Sunlight will counterbalance everyday health tracking and your GPS tracking will be much more efficient than most Garmin watches — up to double the max GPS time of our top pick, the Forerunner 245. Runners will need to charge it, but much less often than any other watch if you get regular time outdoors.

One can still argue the Coros Pace 2 is a better battery option; it matches the Solar-less Instinct 2 at 30 GPS hours, costs less than half as much as the Solar version, and is much lighter on your wrist. But at 48 estimated GPS hours in 50,000 lux conditions (a cloudy day, so you don't even necessarily need direct sunlight), the Instinct 2 Solar is the marathoner of all running watches.

It's a good choice for trail runners, with MIL-820 shock resistance and a scratch-proof Gorilla Glass display that'll handle any fall or collision. Plus, it has an electronic compass and simple Tracback routing software for finding your way back in case you're lost. Plus, it's rated to work up to 100 meters below water, so triathletes can rest assured that it can handle anything. 

Otherwise, it gives you all the core Garmin metrics you need, from Body Battery to Pulse Ox, daily workout suggestions to recovery time. It supports Garmin Pay and connects with the Connect IQ app for different watch faces. The black-and-white memory-in-pixel display is lower resolution than most other Garmin watches at just 176 x 176 pixels, but it's fully visible in sunny conditions and contributed to the long battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 close-up

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Get your Wear OS on

Reasons to buy

+
GPS, HRM, NFC
+
Superior health/fitness tracking
+
Lightweight but durable design
+
Two size options
+
Speedy performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is mediocre
-
No iOS compatibility

If you keep up with the latest news in the wearable world, you know that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 just hit the market. This is the first device to run Wear OS 3, so it's an exciting time for fitness enthusiasts trying out a new platform. Considering this is the only smartwatch on the new platform, it's an attractive buy for the time being. Most importantly, this Wear OS watch offers speedy performance and easy navigation that's perfect for runners who are always on the go.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 comes in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm. The lightweight aluminum case will never get in the way of your intense runs and other workouts. It has a digital rotating bezel that's fun to use without the extra parts to worry about. You'll also appreciate having a large and vibrant AMOLED display that shows you your workout details clearly.

In addition to robust fitness tracking that's great for runners, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 also does an excellent job of keeping you informed of your overall health and well-being. For example, the new BioActive Sensor features a compact design without sacrificing measurement accuracy. This revolutionary 3-in-1 sensor uses a single chip to accurately run three necessary health sensors: optical heart rate, electrical heart (ECG), and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). The BIA sensor provides a deeper understanding of your general health and fitness by measuring your overall body composition.

The Galaxy Watch 4 tops out at about 40 hours of battery life, well short of most running-focused watches. But as the best Android smartwatch we've tested, it gives you plenty of perks outside of fitness to enjoy, while still giving plenty of perks for casual runners striving to achieve their goals.

Apple Watch Series 7

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS

Apple users rejoice

Reasons to buy

+
GPS, HRM, NFC
+
Activity/sleep tracking
+
Blood oxygen monitoring
+
Electrocardiogram
+
Two size options

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Not for Android users
-
Disappointing battery life

It may not be an Android smartwatch, but the Apple Watch Series 7 is an excellent choice for iPhone users. You'll appreciate the seamless experience that occurs when your phone and smartwatch run on the same operating system. This is one of the latest releases from the company and it offers some minor improvements over its predecessor like a larger screen. If you're a runner, you'll be able to take advantage of health and fitness tracking on the Apple Watch Series 7.

As always, this smartwatch maintains the design that most iOS users are familiar with by now. The color options within the Series 7 lineup include Starlight, Midnight, Blue, Green, and Red. You can choose between a 41mm and a 45mm case. You'll also have a few options when it comes to the case material, including aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium. Under the hood, you get an improved S7 processor.

Some of the basic health and fitness features include built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, an always-on altimeter, blood oxygen (SpO2) monitoring, electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, native sleep tracking, and much more. The existence of Apple Fitness+ shows the company has noted how competitive the fitness smartwatch industry is becoming. This subscription service offers a giant library of video-led workouts. Choose your activity, and the video will display on your preferred Apple device so you can follow along.

Not surprisingly, the Apple Watch Series 7 isn't the cheapest smartwatch out there. Runners with iPhones might not mind paying the extra money for this experience. With that in mind, nothing is stopping iPhone users from seeking out a more running-focused smartwatch that runs on a different operating system. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that these wearables still only offer a depressing 18 hours of battery life, so prepare for daily charging.

Best running watches: How to decide

When shopping for the best running watch, there are several factors to consider, including your battery life needs, feature preferences, and budget. Most dedicated runners will find the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music the best option. It's a mid-level running watch that covers all the essentials without breaking the bank. Of course, there are cheaper options out there, but you're going to receive a solid set of features for the price. It also offers a whole week of battery life, which will be more than enough for most runners.

If you feel like something's missing from the Forerunner 245 Music, you could always consider one of the more advanced options on this list. While you might spend more for a premium pick, keep in mind that these are some of the best running watches you can buy right now. With that said, if you're new to all this, you might want the bare minimum from your wearable. No matter what you're looking for, there's a running smartwatch out there for everyone.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.

Namerah Saud Fatmi is a freelance writer for Android Central. She has a passion for all things tech & gaming and has been an honorary Goodreads librarian since 2011. When she isn't writing, she can be found chasing stray cats and dogs in the streets of Dhaka or slaying dragons in the land of Skyrim. You can reach her on Twitter @NamerahS.