The best running watches 2024: tech to help you train smarter

Whether you're just starting to run or aiming to smash your best marathon time, the right running watch will help keep you on track. I test a lot of watches, and these are the ones that I recommend to my friends and family, wherever they are on their running journey.

Of course, running without any tech is perfectly fine, but if you've got a specific goal in mind then monitoring your pace and distance will make life much easier. The best running watches will also give you workout suggestions to help you achieve your aim, and keep tabs on your recovery to ensure you're getting the right balance of work and rest.

I've tested each of these watches for several weeks so that it could build up a good profile of my habits and fitness, and put them all to the test on pre-measured courses to determine the accuracy of their GPS tracking. I've pitted them against a chest strap heart rate monitor to see how they compare for accuracy and responsiveness.

This guide is updated regularly as new running watches are released, and I'm currently testing the new Polar Vantage V3 and Coros Vertix 2S to see how they perform compared to the others here. If you're more interested in climbing or hiking than running, our roundup of the best GPS watches offers suggestions for a wider range of sports. Otherwise, read on!

Meet the expert

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

Cat Ellis
Cat Ellis

Cat has spent years testing sports watches, first in her previous role as fitness editor on TechRadar, and now as editor of Advnture. An England Athletics qualified run leader, she knows what to look for in a wearable, whatever level you're at, and is here to help you make the right choice.

The quick list

This is our quick list, a brief overview of the best running watches available today. To delve deeper into each device, see the more detailed reviews further down the page in this guide.

The best running watches we recommend in 2024

The best running watch overall

Garmin Fenix 7 Pro GPS watch

The Fenix 7 Pro has a couple of smart updates that make a small but noticeable difference (Image credit: Future)
One of Garmin's best running watches with an extra lick of polish

Specifications

Case size: 42mm / 47mm / 51mm
Weight: 63g / 79g / 96g
Display type: Memory-in-pixel
Water rating: 10ATM

Reasons to buy

+
Available in three sizes
+
New, more sensitive heart rate sensor with ECG
+
Excellent GPS accuracy
+
Built-in flashlight

Reasons to avoid

-
No improvement in battery life compared to original Fenix 7

The Fenix 7 is the watch I use myself on a daily basis, and the Fenix 7 Pro is the same thing with an extra lick of polish. It has Garmin's most advanced fitness tracking tools, including live stamina tracking during runs, hill and endurance score metrics to reveal how well you're building specific types of fitness, daily workout suggestions, VO2 max estimate, and overall training status to let you know whether your workout plan is having the desired effect.

If you're preparing for a marathon, you'll be pleased to know that it works seamlessly with Training Peaks, syncing your training calendar and guiding you through your daily workout automatically.

The Fenix 7 Pro has an updated heart rate monitor, which uses sensors spread over a larger area to provide more accurate results, and in my treadmill interval tests it compared very favorable to readings from my chest strap heart rate monitor.

Battery life is strong, even if you don't opt for the solar model. The only real downside is that the memory-in-pixel (MiP) display isn't quite as good for maps as AMOLED, but it's still perfectly useable, particularly if you pick one of the two larger models.

Read more: Garmin Fenix 7 Pro review

The best running watch for beginners

Garmin Forerunner 55 watch on women's wrist

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is affordably priced, lightweight, and beginner-friendly (Image credit: Future)

2. Garmin Forerunner 55

The perfect first running watch for first-timers

Specifications

Case size: 42mm
Weight: 37g
Display type: Memory-in-pixel
Water rating: 5ATM

Reasons to buy

+
Affordably priced
+
Lightweight
+
Impressive GPS accuracy
+
Beginner-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Plastic case isn't too stylish
-
Doesn't support maps

The Garmin Forerunner 55 is an entry-level running watch, but that doesn't mean it's basic. It's an excellent and affordable device that'll suit everyone from complete beginners to those aiming to tackle their third half marathon. It's a great option if you want to move on from a dinky fitness tracker, with impressive GPS accuracy. When I tested it for Advnture's sister site TechRadar, it measured my pre-planned three-mile route to within a few yards.

Garmin's workout suggestions are great for runners building up their mileage, helping them train in a way that'll actually improve their performance rather than just running the same route in the same heart rate zone every time.

Wrist-based heart rate monitoring is also very respectable, and when you're not pounding the pavements, the Forerunner 55 will monitor stress levels and sleep to help you balance work and recovery. It's easy for new runners to build up the mileage too fast and get themselves injured, so this is particularly important.

The Forerunner 55's plastic case isn't the most stylish, but it's light and small, and you'll barely notice it when you're moving. There's no touchscreen, but that's not a major issue. The buttons around the bezel are easy to get used to, and most running watches turn touch controls off during workouts anyway.

The biggest downside is that you can't transfer maps to it, though the size of its screen means they'd be tough to read anyway.

The best running watch for value

Amazfit T-Rex 2 GPS watch on woman's wrist

The Amazfit T-Rex 2 is a beast of a running watch that has no right to be so inexpensive (Image credit: Future)
The cheap Garmin alternative you've been waiting for

Specifications

Case size: 47.1mm
Weight: 65.8g
Display type: AMOLED
Water rating: 10ATM

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent GPS accuracy
+
Tough build
+
Vivid AMOLED display
+
Extra-long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Shaky automatic workout tracking

The Amazfit T-Rex 2 is a super tough running watch that delivers fantastic value for money. Despite its modest list price of $229.99 / £219, it's packed with the sort of features you'd expect to find in a premium watch costing twice as much.

The first thing you'll notice is the display, which is a bright, crisp AMOLED unit that looks great, is excellent for maps and graphs, and uses surprisingly little power. Battery life has always been one of the biggest selling points for the T-Rex series, and this watch is no exception, lasting up to 45 days on a single charge with power-saving enabled. In regular use, I easily got two weeks out of it with a daily GPS-tracked workout.

Its dual-band GPS performs as well as much more expensive watches, and in my tests was always quick to establish a lock, even in built-up areas. Biometrics are great too, with heart rate data comparing favorably to that from by Garmin HRM-Pro.

During my testing I found the automatic workout detection a little finicky, so I recommend always starting it manually to ensure the watch doesn't miss logging any runs. In all other respects though, it's hard to fault.

Read more: Amazfit T-Rex 2 review

The best running watch for marathons

Coros Apex 2 watch on stone surface

The Coros Apex 2 is so light, you'll barely feel it on long training runs (Image credit: Future)
A super light running watch for serious training

Specifications

Case size: 43mm
Weight: 47g
Display type: Memory-in-pixel
Water rating: 5ATM

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed performance and recovery analysis in Coros EvoLab
+
Very light and comfortable
+
Marathon readiness predictor
+
Excellent route planning tool in the mobile app

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks dual-band GPS

The Coros Apex 2 is one of the lightest running watches around, which has a couple of benefits. First, it's more comfortable; although you might not notice the weight most of the time, when your arm is swinging mid-run, a chunky watch can feel like a lead weight. Second, it means the Apex 2 doesn't shift around so much on your wrist, which means more accurate heart rate readings.

Once you've used the Apex 2 for a few weeks and it's established a few baselines, you'll unlock the full features of Coros EvoLab, which helps you monitor the effects of your training, balance work and recovery, and track your progress. It's particularly good for helping you look at both long and short term performance, and its marathon indicator helps you judge when you're ready to tackle 26.2 miles.

The Apex 2 doesn't have multi-band GPS, but its route tracking nevertheless proved impressive in my tests, comparable with the Garmin Fenix 7. Coros has recently added an excellent course planner to its app as well, making it straightforward to plan new routes and transfer them to your watch. It's much better than Garmin's equivalent route planner, and gives the Apex 2 a real boost.

Read more: Coros Apex 2 review

The best running watch for ultras

Woman's wrist wearing Garmin Enduro 2 watch

If you're training for an ultra, the Garmin Enduro 2 is the perfect running watch for you (Image credit: Future)
A top-end running watch that goes the distance

Specifications

Case size: 51mm
Weight: 70g
Display size: Memory-in-pixel
Water rating: 10ATM

Reasons to buy

+
Battery life of up to 150 hours in GPS mode
+
Tough brushed titanium case
+
Bright LED flashlight
+
Great screen for maps

Reasons to avoid

-
One of Garmin's most expensive running watches

If you're racing more than 26.2 miles, the Garmin Enduro 2 is the obvious choice. It's very similar to the Fenix 7X in terms of specs, but with a super long battery life that'll see you through several days of GPS-tracked fun (and even longer with solar charging).

That battery life is partly achieved through the use of a memory-in-pixel screen rather than AMOLED, but the face is so large, with such a bright backlight, that it still works well for maps and is easily readable in direct sun. Load up a map from the Komoot app, and away you go.

It's very solidly built and looks great thanks to a brushed titanium bezel. It also has a bright LED flashlight built into the top of the case, which you can activate with a quick double-press of the backlight button. It helps make you more visible after dark and provides a handy extra source of illumination (I tested it in a dark mile-long tunnel and didn't run into the wall once).

The downside is the list price of $1,099.99 / £929.99, which is bound to elicit a sharp intake of breath. There's no more affordable stainless steel version either, unlike the original Enduro 2. 

Read more: Garmin Enduro 2 review

The best running watch for style

Man wearing Polar Ignite 3 Titanium GPS watch

The Polar Ignite 2 titanium has a minimalist design that stands out from most running watches (in a tasteful way) (Image credit: Michael Sawh)
A running watch with both style and substance

Specifications

Case size: 43mm
Weight: 37g
Display type: AMOLED
Water rating: WR30

Reasons to buy

+
Smart, minimalist design
+
Bright AMOLED display
+
Respectable battery life (30 hours in GPS mode)

Reasons to avoid

-
No maps or navigation
-
GPS tracking not quite as good as rivals

Most running watches look somewhat utilitarian, and for many of us that's perfectly OK, but if you're hankering for something more stylish then the slick Polar Ignite 3 Titanium might be the wearable for you.

It's super slim and light, controlled entirely via the bright AMOLED touchscreen and a single physical button, but this is still a serious running watch.  The Ignite 3 Titanium offers dual-frequency GPS for improve accuracy. In our tests it wasn't quite as spotless as data from the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin Instinct 2X, but was still perfectly acceptable for most purposes.

The mobile app puts a big focus on sleep and recovery, helping you balance your training load with rest to get the most out of your runs.

Battery life of 30 hours in GPS tracking mode is very respectable, though there's no mapping or navigation support, which is a shame considering how great the screen is

Read more: Polar Ignite 3 Titanium review

The best running watch for versatility

Woman's wrist wearing Apple Watch Ultra 2

(Image credit: Future)
A super tough watch for much more than just running

Specifications

Case size: 49mm
Weight: 61g
Display type: AMOLED
Water rating: 328ft/100m

Reasons to buy

+
Extra bright, crisp display
+
Huge array of third-party apps
+
Tough titanium case
+
Extra fast GPS lock

Reasons to avoid

-
Short battery life
-
More expensive than most

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a superb running watch, particularly if you're planning to head out onto the trails. Its GPS accuracy proved extremely impressive in our tests, establishing a lock in the blink of an eye even in tricky conditions, and built-in tools like audio and visual SOS alerts and a digital compass make it an excellent training tool in the wild.

Its screen (much brighter than that of the original Apple Watch Ultra) is crisp and vivid, which makes it excellent for maps and navigation. It really comes into its own when paired with an app like AllTrails or Komoot, which allow you to follow routes from other adventurers or create your own.

The App Store is what makes the Apple Watch Ultra 2 so incredibly versatile, and lets you turn it into the training tool you need. Strava, TrainingPeaks, Nike Run Club – they're all only a tap away.

The main downside of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is its battery life, which Apple quotes as 36 hours in typical use. Real world performance will vary depending on how you use your watch, but you'll almost certainly want to charge it every other day. If that's not a concern, then it comes highly recommended.

Read our full Apple Watch Ultra 2 review

Running watch comparison table

Swipe to scroll horizontally
WatchCase sizeWeightDisplay type
Garmin Fenix 7 Pro42mm / 47mm / 51mm63g / 79g / 96gMemory-in-pixel
Garmin Forerunner 5542mm37gMemory-in-pixel
Amazfit T-Rex 247.1mm65,8gAMOLED
Coros Apex 243mm47gMemory-in-pixel
Garmin Enduro 251mm70gMemory-in-pixel
Polar Ignite 3 Titanium43mm37gAMOLED
Apple Watch Ultra 249mm61gAMOLED

How we test running watches

We test running watch for at least three weeks so the watch and its companion app have time to build up a full picture of our health and fitness. We wear each watch day and night so we can assess its sleep and recovery tools, and compare its results against those from a Withings Sleep Analyzer sleep tracker.

To test each running watch's GPS, we take it for several runs and walks in a variety of locations, including built-up areas, open fields, and wooded areas that present a challenge of satellite navigation. We also take each watch on a pre-measured route to see how accurately it records distance.

To test the accuracy of each running watch's heart rate monitor, we put it to the test in a series of intense interval training sessions and compare its results to those from a chest strap heart rate monitor, which serves as a benchmark.

For more details see how Advnture tests products.

Cat Ellis
Editor

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.