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The best running watches you can buy in 2018

Whether you are a seasoned runner or just getting started on your sofa to 10k program, a smart running watch can be a great training tool. They are perfect for tracking your progress and planning your runs. We’ve put together a list of the best watches for runners for every budget for 2018.

A warning about non-GPS capable fitness trackers

Before we get stuck into the list, allow us an advisory word on popular fitness trackers that do not come with built-in GPS tracking. We cannot stress the importance of accurate GPS tracking for runners. As we’ve written about before on AndroidPIT, step counters are largely useless for runners. As a result, we have filtered any smartwatch or fitness tracker that does not feature accurate GPS tracking from this list.

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Best for big budgets: $400+

Garmin Forerunner 935

The Garmin Forerunner 935 is the daddy of running watches if budget is not really a concern. Garmin does make an even more expensive watch, the Fenix 5 Plus, but that is more suited to multisport endurance activity, and the does not really offer much more than the 935 if you just want to use it for running.

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus 03
The Garmin Fenix 5 is incredible but expensive! / © AndroidPIT

Aside from extremely accurate GPS tracking, the Forerunner 935 features plenty of advanced metrics such as cadence, ground contact time, vertical oscillation and VO2. It can even give you advice on how long it is going to take you to recover from the run you just did. It works for up to 50 hours on a full charge and connects to your smartphone using Garmin’s IQ Connect software.

Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart. Battery life: Up to 50 hours.

Polar Vantage V

Along with Garmin, Polar is a major player in the running watch business. The Polar Vantage, the company’s flagship running watch comes with a whole host of features such as a heart-rate monitor, recovery feedback and training program software. The Vantage V also features a unique Running Power which allows you to measure effort levels in any situation. Professional runners use this kind of tech in competitions to manage certain stages of the race and know exactly when to push harder.

polar tracker a360 m400 v800
The Polar running watches sell very well. / © Polar

Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart. Battery life: Up to 40 hours.

Apple Watch Series 4

Not strictly a runner’s watch, but the Apple Watch Series 4 still does a good job of tracking your runs thanks to its accurate GPS. It is one of the quickest connecting GPS’ on any smartwatch out there, and the new improved heart rate monitoring tech can only be a positive for those using the watch for exercise. There’s also lots of onboard storage for saving your running music and all the third-party app support you could need. The Apple Watch Series 4 may not be the choice of professional runners, but for casual athletes who don’t need a specialized device, it will do more than just fine.

Watch 4
The Apple Watch Series 4 is one of the most stylish smartwatches. / © AndroidPIT

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 4G/LTE, Wi-FI. Battery life: Up to 18 hours.

Best of the mid-range $200+

Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit fitness trackers, in general, are not ideal for runners. Apart from, that is, the Fitbit Ionic. Aside from a solid GPS tracking, the Fitbit Ionic features personalized voice coaching to motivate you as your trudge through another long training run. It also works with the Fitbit Coach App, which comes with a series of professionally made voice training sessions to aid your workouts. It’s got a Gorilla Glass screen and is waterproof up to 50m.

AndroidPIT fitbit ionic adidas edition training mode2
The Fitbit Ionic is the only Fitbit device for runners. / © AndroidPIT

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-FI, NFC. Battery life: Up to 10 hours.

Samsung Gear Sport

The Samsung Gear Sport is probably the most stylish runners watch you can buy today. The simple interface is a joy to use and the rotatable bezel around the watch face makes navigation a breeze. There’s also a great Spotify app that supports offline play, for those who like to listen to music when they run. NFC is in there, for when you need to pop into the supermarket and pick up a post-workout snack on your way home.

samsung gear sport app drawer
The Gear Sport by Samsung features a usable interface. / © AndroidPIT

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-FI, NFC. Battery life: Up to three days (based on average use).

Polar M430

The Polar M430 is the follow-up to the company’s best-selling running watch, the M400. The no-nonsense and reasonably price M400 has received a few upgrades, making the M430 one of the best purpose-built running watch available in 2018. The design is not the most striking, but the Polar M430 is easy-to-use and accurate. It lacks some of the advanced features of the top-end Garmin watches, but for a rock-solid runner’s watch that does the basic better than anything else, look no further than the Polar M430.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-FI, NFC. Battery life: Up to three days (based on average use).

Garmin Forerunner 235

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is one of the best value runner’s watches you can buy today. It comes with all the style and know-how of the best in the business but at an affordable price point. Featuring the company’s accurate GPS tracking tech and it syncs with some of the most popular running apps such as MapMyFitness and Strava. Pound for pound, the Forerunner 235 punches well above its price tag and, as a result, you will see it on almost any best running watches list online - and for good reason.

Garmin is the undisputed king of runner's watches. / © Amazon.de

Connectivity: Bluetooth. Battery life: Up to 16 hours.

Best budget running watches: Under $200

TomTom Spark 3

Best known for its satellite navigation devices for automobiles, TomTom has branched out into the world of running watches. With so much in the bank in terms of GPS tracking, you can rely on the TomTom Spark 3 to accurately track your running routes. There’s also a nice Route Exploration feature with allows you to upload GPX routes and follow along from the Spark 3 on your wrist - pretty cool!

Connectivity: Bluetooth. Battery life: Up to 11 hours.

Samsung Gear Fit2

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is one of is a lightweight, affordable running watch that does the basics rather well. It features a curved suer AMOLED display, a pulse sensor and a built-in MP3 player. It is also protected against water and dust. Coming in at just 50 grams, the Fit 2 is one of the sleekest and most stylish running watches you can buy today. It may be lacking in some of the more advanced features for serious training, but for casual runners, it is a simple and effective tracking tool.

AndroidPIT Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro 2
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 has an excellent display. / © AndroidPIT

Connectivity: Bluetooth. Battery life: Up to 3 days (based on average use).

What is your favorite watch for tracking your running? If you have a recommendation, let us know in the comments below.

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