Top 5 Running Watches Comparison Review

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Nowadays, wrist worn fitness trackers have become essential tools in the runner’s arsenal because they do a lot more than just track your pace, distance, and route information via GPS. Some of the latest gadgets come with heart rate sensors, calorie counters, and smartphone integration features too, which means choosing the best fitness watch for your running style can be a quite daunting task. What’s more, many fitness trackers have overlapping features that make it difficult for runners to quickly decide which device would be best.

Of course, there’s no perfect running watch so this review post provides quick descriptions of five top running watches on the market. Read on to learn about the features of each model and some quick comparison points that will make your decision easier.

1) Garmin Vívoactive HR GPS Smart Watch

Garmin’s Vivoactive HR GPS smart watch is great for runners as well as fitness enthusiasts who are into other sports. In fact, the watch features several sports modes to fit your type of fitness activity. Runners will appreciate the tracker’s ability to monitor steps taken, floors climbed, distance covered, and elapsed time. As with all GPS running watches, the Garmin Vivoactive easily maps out your chosen running route.

Similar to the Garmin forerunner 235 sports watch, this particular model has a built-in heart rate sensor. Therefore, it will keep track of heart beasts from the wrist even as you sleep. The watch remains on for up to 8 days with only the heart rate monitor running. Turn on GPS and it will provide a decent 13hours run time during training.

All data from the watch can be synced easily to the Garmin Connect app that runs on both Android and iOS devices. The app serves up an impressive amount of information and even allows you to retrieve daily, weekly or monthly training graphs.


  • 5ATM waterproof rating lends this running watch water resistance capabilities up to depths of 164 feet (50m)
  • The watch can control music remotely from a Smartphone
  • Long battery life (lasting up to 13 hours on training mode)
  • You can receive vibration alerts for calls, text messages, emails and calendar events after syncing the Garmin’s Vivoactive HR GPS smart watch with your Smartphone


  • GPS functionality does not work under water

2) Polar M400 GPS Smart Sports Watch

Available in a variety of colors, the Polar M400 is a GPS fitness watch for runners who want to track their training performance and do it in style. It tracks all the crucial running metrics such as amount of calories burned, steps taken, workout time, travelled distance, running speed, altitude and even sleep quality. Unlike the Garmin Vivoactive Smart Watch, this fitness tracker does not have its own built-in heart rate monitor. You can, however, pair it with any other heart rate sensor that is compatible with Bluetooth LE (low energy)/Bluetooth Smart technology. Note that the Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch won’t work with Garmin heart rate sensors since they use ANT+ technology. GPS functionality on the watch will show you street images of locations along the chosen running route.

Polar’s M400 GPS Smart Sports watch measures 56g, slightly heavier than the Garmin forerunner 235. The watch though is incredibly slim with a thickness of only 11.5 mm. It feels comfortable on the wrist with the soft rubber strap. The black and white digital screen with backlighting offers good visibility when jogging at night and features several watch face customization options. A micro-USB cord is also included to help with charging. The battery holds up to 8 hours when training although it will not require charging for almost one week if you only use the watch to check time.

With its internal memory, the Polar M400 stores up to 30 hours of your running data. This information may be uploaded to Polar’s website and mobile app, allowing you to track, analyze and share your training progress.


  • Waterproof up to 30m under water
  • Tracker has alarm and keeps you moving by playing inactivity beeps when you stay idle for too long
    •Multiple color options to choose from
  • Integration with the Ploar Flow app and webservice allows runners to track training performance and share achievements with ease
  • The watch has smart running features. For instance, it will pause when you stop running or automatically record one lap after every mile or kilometer.


  • A chest strap HRM is required but must be bought separately

3) Garmin Forerunner 235

For those who don’t want the hustle of strapping on a heart rate monitor, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is the ideal fitness tracker. This running watch features a wrist-based heart rate sensor that monitors heart beats in real time. It tracks all day activities like time, pace, calories burned, steps taken and sleep. There is also a recovery advisor feature to help runners plan their rest periods before the next workout.

Like most Garmin running watches, you can wear the forerunner 235 in the shower or while swimming thanks to its water resistant construction. Weighing only 42g, this Garmin fitness tracker is lighter and thinner than its predecessor – the forerunner 225.

The Garmin forerunner 235 fitness tracker uses GLONASS technology, which performs well in locating places where GPS is limited. Furthermore, the watch can track oxygen intake (known as VO2 max estimate) and offers basic running functions like interval training, auto lap and pause.

Although there is no built in memory for storing music, users can receive text, email and call notifications from Garmin’s forerunner 235-fitness watch once it is paired with an iPhone or android device. While the backlit high-resolution color LCD screen is easy to read, this watch provides the added bonus of receiving audio prompts so you don’t have to constantly check the display for readings. As an added bonus, the forerunner 235 provides access to the Garmin Connect IQ app, where runners can track activity or download customizable widgets, app faces, data fields and other applications. The rechargeable lithium ion battery lasts up to 11 hours on training mode or 12 weeks when used as a simple timepiece.


  • No need to wear strap on HRM
  • Lightweight design with comfortable rubber strap
  • Water resistant up to 5 ATM
  • Fitness watch conveniently displays text, phone call and email notifications


  • Lacks virtual pacer feature, which is common with other Garmin fitness trackers

4) Garmin Forerunner 620

The forerunner 620 is one of Garmin’s flagship running watches that lacks a built-in heart rate monitor. Nonetheless, it punches well above its weight in the fitness watches ring. This GPS fitness tracker records performance metrics during exercise and rest periods, thus providing you with a recovery rating over training-time. The built in accelerometer will tell you distance covered and average pace after runs. Add a strap on heart rate monitor to this running watch, and it will provide feedback on running form such as your ground contact time, oscillation and cadence.

When it comes to build quality, Garmin’s forerunner 620 fitness watch does not disappoint. It is lightweight and has a comfortable ventilated strap that fastens like a standard watch buckle. The watch is water resistant as well, allowing runners to wear it even during wet weather.

Reading the 1-inch diameter round color screen is easy. The touch screen display has a resolution of 180×180 pixels and backlighting aids viewing in low light conditions.

Other notable features include the recovery advisor function, VO2 max estimator and pace predictor. Much like the Garmin 235, the forerunner 620 also lets you link the watch to Garmin Connect smart phone app to use tracking tools, transfer workouts, and share running stats via social media.


  • Battery life lasts up to 6 weeks in watch mode and 10hrs with the GPS and ANT+ for attaching pulse monitor turned on
  • Provided charging cradle features a magnetic function that pulls the watch into position to prevent mis-charging
  • The Garmin forerunner 620 tracks plenty of metrics
  • Waterproof body allows runners to wear the watch even when it rains


  • Since the Garmin 620 relies on older ANT+ standard to synchronize with heart rate devices, it may not be as reliable as similar running watches that use Bluetooth Smart connectivity. As such, set-up can sometimes take multiple attempts before successfully connecting.
  • Limited color choices (only available in blue/black or orange/white color schemes)

5) Nike+ SportWatch GPS

The Nike+ SportWatch is designed for runners who want to keep their motivation up when trying to reach their fitness goals. This fitness watch keeps track of your distance, pace and calories burned. It comes with a personal coach function that reminds you to go for runs and store performance history. The Nike+ Coach also lets the user set the desired program based on experience level and choose frequency of runs per week.

Equipped with TomTom GPS technology, the Nike+ SportWatch allows you to map out your route in advance. The running watch pairs up with a shoe sensor to track various fitness metrics. Included in the package is a USB cable that facilitates charging and data transfer.

This running watch also has a stopwatch function and alarm. In addition, runners can tweak various preference such as displaying speed or pace, showing lap time or any other favorite fitness statistic. Best of all, you can upload running stats to the Nikeplus.com website to share your progress with friends, receive coaching tips or track your goals using graphs.


  • Unlike the Garmin forerunner 620, the Nike+ SportWatch comes in a variety of eye-pleasing colors that are ideal for both men and women.
  • Up to 15 hours of run history data can be stored on the watch, allowing users to track progress with ease.
  • Users can upload runs via USB to the Nike Running community on the web to challenge friends, set goals, adjust training plans and discover popular running routes.


  • The battery life is relatively short as it only lasts 8 hours with GPS and sensor turned on. On the plus side, charging only takes about 1 hour.
  • It can take up to 10 minutes to connect to GPS.
  • The Nike+ SportWatch can track beats per minute, but you will have to purchase Polar’s HRM monitor separately.

It is no secret that running watches can help you monitor your progress when working towards certain fitness goals. These devices vary in functionality and price range. Therefore, ensure to make comparisons before settling on any of the models reviewed above. The right choice ultimately depends on your budget and the important features that you would want from a running watch.

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