Running has evolved beyond just a recreational activity; it has become a way of life for many fitness enthusiasts and athletes. Whether you’re training for a 5K race or aiming to conquer your fastest marathon, a reliable running watch can be your ultimate companion on this journey. The best running watches offer a range of features, from GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring to sleep tracking and workout recommendations. They have become more than just timekeepers; they are comprehensive fitness tools that provide valuable insights into your performance and recovery.
As experts in the field of fitness, our fitness team has rigorously reviewed numerous running watches, thoroughly testing their GPS accuracy, heart rate monitoring capabilities, and ease of use. In this comprehensive guide, we present the top running watches for 2023, each meticulously evaluated and compared to help you make an informed decision.
Garmin Forerunner 265 – The Best Running Watch Overall
The Garmin Forerunner 265 takes the spotlight as an all-round performer, serving as both a sports watch and a dedicated running companion. Its key features include accurate GPS tracking, music storage, heart rate monitoring, and workout recommendations. The Forerunner 265’s AMOLED display is a standout feature, providing a bright and clear view of your data even during intense outdoor activities. Navigating through the watch is effortless thanks to its touchscreen capabilities.
The device’s battery life is commendable, lasting through multiple workouts even when playing music. Its advanced health features, including Garmin’s latest Elevate V4 sensor, allow for tracking heart rate, blood oxygen levels, breathing rate, HRV, and stress. Additionally, the watch caters to multisport training sessions in the triathlon mode, making it an attractive option for triathletes.
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Fitbit Sense 2: The Premium Running Fitbit
When it comes to finding the best running Fitbit, not all smartwatches can meet the rigorous demands of runners. Touchscreens can be challenging to use with sweaty fingers or gloves, and many smartwatches struggle with short battery life. Additionally, not having an always-on display can be inconvenient, requiring wrist-shaking or button-pressing to check the screen.
For runners seeking a top-notch fitness and health-tracking experience, the Fitbit Sense 2 stands out as the ideal choice. While it may not offer untethered phone calls like some competitors, it compensates with an array of advanced health and fitness features.
As Fitbit’s premium smartwatch, the Sense 2 goes beyond the capabilities of the Versa line. Equipped with an FDA-approved ECG sensor and blood oxygen reading, it takes health monitoring to new heights. But that’s not all – the Sense 2 also features the ability to measure electrodermal activity (EDA) and skin temperature, adding comprehensive wellness tracking to its repertoire.
The comfortable design enhances the watch’s appeal, allowing users to wear it throughout the day and during workouts with ease. While lacking third-party apps, the Fitbit Sense 2 more than compensates with its robust fitness and health tracking capabilities. For runners prioritizing comprehensive health monitoring and fitness insights, this premium Fitbit smartwatch is a top contender that excels in every aspect.
Garmin Forerunner 55 – Garmin’s Best Entry-Level Running Watch
If you’re starting to get into running, chances are you want a device that’s a step up from a basic fitness tracker but also won’t overwhelm you with too many features. Among Garmin watches, the Forerunner 55 is a clear choice. At its core, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is an entry-level fitness watch, replacing the popular Forerunner 45 earlier this year. While it looks very similar to its predecessor, Garmin made some important changes, adding some of the more advanced training tools usually reserved for their more expensive watches.
The Forerunner 55 has Garmin’s new PacePro technology, which gives you gentle speed and cadence alerts on the run. There are also suggested recovery times and workouts, based on your training history, fitness levels, and recovery. This is a differentiator from similarly priced watches such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active or the Fitbit Charge 5 which track workouts but don’t offer custom coaching plans.
It’s worth noting that the Garmin Forerunner 55 doesn’t support music storage, mobile payments, or third-party apps. It also has a relatively small display, at just over 1 inch. If these are must-have features for your Garmin watch, you may want to consider a higher-end device. If you are looking for a cheaper watch, the Forerunner 45 is often on sale right now, following the release of the Forerunner 55, so it’s a good time to buy.
Garmin Forerunner 965 – The Ultimate Running Watch for Triathletes
Designed to meet the demands of triathletes, the Garmin Forerunner 965 stands as a premium running watch with a dazzling AMOLED touchscreen display. It encompasses Garmin’s advanced training metrics, including Training Readiness Score, Morning Report, and Chronic Training Load. With impressive battery life, this top-tier watch is a triathlete’s dream come true.
Compared to other watches on this list, despite the brighter screen, the Forerunner 965 still has the same impressive battery life we’ve come to expect from Garmin. The watch lasts 23 days in smartwatch mode, 31 hours in GPS mode without music, and 8.5 hours in GPS mode with music. There are a few caveats, however, one being the option for the always-on display on the Forerunner 965.
When this is turned on, Garmin reckons the battery life in smartwatch mode drops from 23 days to 7 days. During testing, we were impressed by the amazing screen on this watch but didn’t find it all that different from the Forerunner 955, which was only released nine months ago.
In the realm of fitness and running, finding the best running watch is an essential step toward optimizing your performance and tracking your progress. The Garmin Forerunner series, specifically the Forerunner 265, 55, and 965, showcases Garmin’s commitment to providing athletes with cutting-edge technology and comprehensive training tools.
As you embark on your running journey, consider the specific features you require and match them to the watch that best suits your needs. With one of these top running watches on your wrist, you’ll have a powerful ally in achieving your fitness goals, whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a budding enthusiast. Choose wisely, and let your running watch guide you toward new heights of performance and success.