Best Running Watch 2018 | Top 10 | Guide Review, Recommendations & Comparisons

Best Running Watch – Guide For the Top GPS Sports Watches

The Best Running Watch for 2018 (updated 20 Apr 2018) is covered here for each category of running and is supported by links to detailed, hands-on reviews. This guide will be updated periodically as new running watches are announced throughout the year.

best running watch 2017 gps

L-to-R Suunto Spartan, 935, 5s, Epson 810

If you are treating yourself or a loved one to a new GPS running watch then you’ve come to the right place for comprehensive recommendations. Luckily for you, it’s a great time to buy a great running watch – prices are competitive and GOOD technology is packed into many devices. For some of the slightly older models that I will cover, you might get a very good deal as replacement models are released.


best running watch 2017 gps

Polar M600, M430, SPARTAN TRAINER, Garmin 235

A watch for what kind of runner?

I’m going to cover watches from about $100/£100 upwards to the high-end sport watches at over £/Eu/$500. You are lucky in that this year there are many well-featured watches with all the key bits of functionality even at the very lower end of that price range.

A watch or an app?

These recommendations only look at running watches not smartphone apps. The Runtastic, STRAVA or Nike apps are as good as any if you want to go down that route.

Fitbit Ionic Garmin Vivoactive 3 Apple Watch

Garmin Vivoactive 3, Fitbit Ionic, Apple Watch

Other Stuff

I’ll be looking at running watches for running! You can use many running watches for other sports too but I ‘ll assume that you want something ‘at least’ vaguely competent to run with. I only say this as I will exclude some of the ‘fitness watches’ which typically are inaccurate in how they present GPS and/or heart rate. I will also mostly exclude triathlon watches as they have too much other stuff in them for pure runners.

TOP TIP: You can tell by the ‘stock’ photos that the ‘reviewer’ would likely not even own running shoes let alone a running watch. If you value a recommendation, please reward authentic sites like this whose owners are not salaried and who rely on your generosity in buying from one of the included Amazon links or partner links – thank you!

ESSENTIAL READING: Best Triathlon Watches. Running watches there too!

▷ Best Triathlon Watch 2018 | Top 10 in Detail – Tri Comparison Recommendation

ESSENTIAL READING: Best Cycling Watch & Best Cycling Computer

Best Cycling Computer | Recommendations |Top 10 Bike Reviews & Cycle Comparisons



To train well you will probably consider distance, time speed/pace and heart rate and “effort”. The 2 key features you should look for are:

  • GPS
  • Heart Rate
Best running watch with music

Polar M600, Mobvoi Ticwatch S, Garmin 645M, TomTom Runner 3 Music

Watches with those 2 features will most likely have most of the regular bells and whistle that you might also want such as ‘laps’ or alerts.

Other key features include

  • Footpod support (MILESTONE-POD or STRYD) or internal accelerometer based speed (think: indoor winter running in cold places) eg for cadence or more accurate pace info
  • Durability for running in more extreme environments eg fells or getting wet
  • Optical heart rate for those unable or unwilling to wear a chest strap
  • Workouts and Intervals – ability to follow a structured workout plan of some sort
  • Aesthetics
  • Connectivity to apps, sensors and wifi
  • Running Power – probably for more serious runners. See STRYD and RunScribe PLUS

This list of recommendations links to individual watch reviews – there you will find these detailed features that I have taken into account when making the recommendation.


It’s an interesting time. Running is growing globally as an activity. Sport watches are becoming part of super-complex apps & online sport-data ecosystems. The traditional distinction between a ‘watch’, a ‘sports/fitness watch’ and a ‘smartphone’ is becoming somewhat blurred. For example, where does the Apple Watch 2/3 fit into those categories? It’s, sort of, all of them. Android Wear watches are the Google equivalent and, in my opinion, represent the longer term future of the technology.

Garmin 935 Amazfit STRATOS Suunto SPARTAN Trainer

Garmin 935 Amazfit STRATOS Suunto SPARTAN Trainer

The main tech future of the watches will see optical HR everywhere. GPS accuracy will increase through Galileo support. Running by POWER through STRYD will grow exponentially. Web+app ecosystems will provide a complete solution: Garmin, Polar and Suunto.

Short-term new features will also include adaptive training plans becoming more widespread on watches and on the ecosystems that support them.

We will also see even more widespread use of MUSIC capabilities on running watches. Eventually many will support multiple over-the-air streaming services (eventually!!).


I used to run with an old wrist watch with a ‘second-hand’ to manually time various activities. I got reasonably good. The point of saying that is not to brag but rather just to remind you that the technology per se isn’t going to make you any faster. It’s the hours, miles, speed and recovery that will. Indeed if you are well-trained you will be quite able to run well by feel alone. It may not have escaped your notice that Mo Farah seemed to be able to manage to win 4 Olympic golds without wearing a running watch. Just a thought…:-)

Categories and Special Categories

  1. The Run Scientist – you know you want all the bells, whistles and fog horns
  2. The Adventure Runner – you know what a hill is. It’s rocky and steep enough to fall down
  3. The Entertained Runner – You run to a beat
  4. Aspirational Runner – You’ve just got the bug
  5. Student Runner – Hey you’re fast but you’ve no money (we were all like that once)
  6. Cool Runner – you probably own an iphone and want some matching high-tech running gear
  7. The Runners’ Runner – This has to be a bit ‘old style’ yet fully supportive of the requirements of your efforts
  8. The Accurate Runner – Old tech, new tech. Who cares? The Accurate Runner doesn’t. S/he just wants accuracy.
  9. Those Who Are Simply, Stylishly Connected – You want a stylish band that links and syncs to your phone, something relatively thin would help.
  10. SPECIAL CATEGORY: The Power Runner – A relative of the Run-Scientist, this runner just wants to run with Power.
  12. SPECIAL CATEGORY: Navigation 
  13. SPECIAL CATEGORY: Fitness/Sports Running Watch
  15. SPECIAL CATEGORY: With Music

RUN SCIENTIST – Garmin Forerunner 935

The Garmin Forerunner 935 (Review) can do pretty much everything a running watch needs to do. It works well and still looks cool.  But it’s really a lightweight tri-watch.

It will give you all the racing, pacing and run training features you will likely ever need. You can use it to follow a certain pace or follow a previous race performance. No other running watch has as many features.

Milestone Pod Review Garmin 935


Obviously all the ‘old hat’ stuff like advanced running dynamics are included as well as new Firstbeat physiological metrics.

It’s got acceptable GPS and you can run with it on a treadmill without the need for an external footpod although you are advised to get one.

It has clever physiological metric estimates like VO2max, performance condition and stress score.

It will link and sync to your phone, it has an awesome battery life to take you right through even the slowest Ironman.

Garmin’s app and online ecosystem (Garmin Connect) are good.

Comments: The Forerunner 35 contains pretty much every Garmin running feature. It is expensive and has a few extra features over the Garmin 630 but very few additional features over and above those on the Garmin Forerunner 645. The 645 has: questionable looks; questionable GPS; and a battery life that’s not as good as the 935. On the other hand the smaller format of the 645 is IDEAL for thinner wrists and the optional MUSIC variant super cool if you also want music or Payments on a high spec watch.

ESSENTIAL READING FULL REVIEW: Garmin Forerunner 645 Review
ESSENTIAL READING FULL REVIEW: Garmin Forerunner 935 Review

Garmin Forerunner 935

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices are about Eur450/$420/£430 and will stay around that level until Summer 2019. Buying from Amazon supports this site.

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx $400-$450 or £480-£520 and UNlikely for non-Music to fall below $400 in 2019. Buying from Amazon supports this site

ADVENTURE RUNNER – Garmin Fenix 3 (three)


Garmin’s Fenix 5X (Review here – FIVE not THREE) should be the clear winner in this category. It does have some issues with sensors and the EYE-WATERING price tag. It has the inbuilt maps that no other device has for this category but that’s it really.

You will likely get better altimetry functionality and performance and better GPS functionality and performance in CHEAPER, more established watches that also have weather alerts. It has oodles of extra functions but, as an adventurer, you will need very, very few of those features.

Suunto’s SPARTAN Ultra (Review here) is pretty good now and so is the adventure/ski variant The Suunto Spartan Sport BARO. It’s GPS has now been shown by other reviewers as ‘class-leading’ (I only get that ‘class-leading’ performance for the SPARTAN SPORT version and I have tested two separate ULTRA devices).

I have a SPARTAN. I use it regularly. I like it. The performance HAS not been sorted out and its functionality is ALMOST there for me – you should certainly CONSIDER it. Once it gets just a few bits of extra navigational functionality it will be a very serious contender in this space. The SPARTAN SPORT BARO‘s GPS performance and altimetry performance already are ahead of Garmin’s Fenix. Like the Fenix 5X, however, there is a keen price tag with the SPARTAN. The Suunto Spartan is certainly prettier than the Fenix though…

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices vary greatly on this model $420/£360/Eur390 and will generally fall. Buying from Amazon supports this site

So if you are in a situation where your adventure might have life-threatening or ‘highly inconvenient’ consequences if you are let down by an adventure watch then you might want to improve your chances of getting home in time for dinner with the safer bets from 2015/2016 ie the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Suunto AMBIT 3 PEAK. The former has more functions and the latter generally has more accuracy. Otherwise consider: Fenix 5X, Fenix 3, Spartan Ultra, Spartan Sport BARO.

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx $330/Eu310/£329 and UNlikely to fall below 300 in 2018. Buying from Amazon supports this site

The main problem with the Fenix 3, 5, 5s (not 5X) and the Suuntos for the adventure runner is that they don’t contain a ‘proper’ map. For a ‘proper’, map-based solution you might instead consider the paper version, your mobile phone or a specialist outdoor navigational unit … or the Fenix 5X (the only one with true onboard maps!)

If your adventures have you exploring a new park whilst on holiday or following a trail or following a different, pre-determined route to work with little chance of imminent death in either case, then the new TomTom Adventurer is a cheaper option. It lacks some navigational features and lacks maps BUT it has some nice hiking features and some innovation around following pre-determined routes that you download relatively easily from their online software. Navigational apps on your Apple Watch or WearOS watch could also be an option.


For various reasons (stability/features/price), the Fenix 3 would be the only one I feel comfortable recommending in this category now (January 2018).


Suunto Spartan Ultra vs Garmin Fenix3

Fenix 3 – Suunto SPARTAN


The Fenix 3 is very much as feature-full as the Garmin 935 from the previous section – essentially because it’s nearly the same watch inside. It has almost every feature you can think of. As well as that, and just like the 935, it can also morph into a multisport & triathlon watch. Oh and it works.

Comments: The Fenix 3 already comes in an optical HR version for those of you looking for that.


Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx $330/Eu310/£329 and UNlikely to fall below 300 in 2018. Buying from Amazon supports this site



Fitbit Versa

Fitbit Versa

This category looks at the ability to either play music ON the watch *or* play music that is streamed live an online service via an inbuilt cellular connection. There are more contenders than you might think including WearOS watches, Garmin 645, Apple Watch 3, Samsung, Amazfit and TomTom’s Runner 3. If you want to play your own MP3 tracks then all the watches that support music will work fine BUT if you want to conenct to your existing online music service such as SPOTIFY then your choices become VERY limited VERY quickly.


It’s a complex subject so there is a long and separate link below on the topic Running with Music. The Apple Watch 3 LTE is probably the ‘best’ overall option but there are many caveats that might instead prompt you to get the TomTom (cheap!), the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music (better running features) or, indeed, the LG Watch (WearOS)

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx $400-$450 or £480-£520 and UNlikely for non-Music to fall below $400 in 2019. Buying from Amazon supports this site

▷ Best Running Watch with Music 2018 | Top 10 Guide | Review



WARNING: TomTom’s commitment to sports devices as of October 2017 is uncertain.

The TomTom wins here, this time for you wanna-be runners. The TomTom Runner 3 has enough bells and whistles to support you as you get faster. But not so many that you will be distracted by them away from your training. It is a great-performer in my GPS accuracy tests…often better than more expensive Garmins.

TomTom Runner 3 / Spark 3

Pretty Colours – Adventurer & Runner 3 / Spark 3

Running very close behind is Polar with the old M400 and new M600 & M430. I know all those devices well. The M400 has some GPS issues (still under investigation for the M600) and the M400 has a charger that should have been improved and, in the M430 HAS been improved.

As of June 2017 I am considering bumping the Runner 3 from this category if the Polar M430 lives up to the marketing promise.

The polar app, Polar hardware and online platform are superior to TomTom’s equivalent features. If the Polar app is not for you then you can easily use STRAVA app or another on your M600. It’s just the value-for-money of the TomTom that gives it the edge. Garmin’s 230 and 235 are, of course, also worth a look but I think a little over-priced although perfectly competent.

What to watch out for: A new Garmin Forerunner 245 for 2017 could also oust the TomTom later this year. A 245 would undoubtedly have more functionality but it would be more expensive and probably NOT have as good GPS accuracy as the TomTom. There will also be several new WearOS devices vying for space here as well as the Polar M430. Unfortunately all the ones I’ve seen that are coming to market will not be as good as the existing Polar M600. So unless the new entrants will be priced at £130/$140/Eur140 they still won’t oust the TomTom – and that pricing level is PROBABLY NOT going to happen


HEADS UP: I can no longer recommend TomTom consumer sports products as there are uncertainties with the companies committment to the sector however that means there are some GREAT deals to be had. (link to:

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx $/Eu115 £95 and likely to fall further in 2018. Buying from Amazon supports this site. NB RUNNER 3 = SPARK 3

COOL RUNNER – Polar M600

Despite saying, above, that you’ll probably own a iPhone; to be THIS PARTICULAR cool runner you probably won’t own an iPhone. YOU will have the Polar M600 and an Android phone. I’m not sure how having the exact same phone/watch (Apple) as half the population is cool…but that’s another matter entirely.

Polar M600 Fitbit Surge HR

Polar’s M600 is the world’s first ‘proper’ running watch based on Android Wear. Android Wear is stable so there is little risk going with Polar’s technology built on that. There is also a great, free upgrade path with the impending upgrade to WearOS 2.0 (WOS2.0). WOS2.0 also has improvements so that it will work much better with an iPhone as well as Android phones (I’ve not tested that but it is supposed to be much better in 2017-8 than 2016).

Being built on Google’s WearOS, you’ll get notification, maps, music AND the kitchen sink. Unlike most other sports watches there is a REALLY good chance this baby will actually work with your Android Smartphone in the real world – NB all Android phone/version combinations are subtly different. In my tests the M600 performed very well with oHR for running but less so when swimming. Similarly the GPS accuracy was fine for normal usage but in demanding environments it struggled a little, as do many sports watches.

BTW: The Apple Watch 2/3 is more of a fitness watch than a ‘proper’ runners’ watch IMO. Although it is still a close contender to the M600 for pure running acumen. I’m sure you’ll buy one regardless of what I say 😉

IMO the M600 bridges the gap and should be considered a running watch rather than a fitness watch

What to watch out for: Other Android watches will abound in 2017-9. Most/all will be of the circular face type. Most/all will not be as good a bit of hardware as the Polar M600. ‘Looks’ will be the only reason here to stray away from the M600. Now, personally I like the M600 but others amongst you will prefer or insist on a round face – probably the LG Watch will be the best of the ’round’ bunch of WearOS devices. We’ll see.



Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx $250 Eu215 £195 and likely to fall slightly from 2018 onwards. Buying from Amazon supports this site.


This is supposed to be an award for more of an old school watch. However it’s really an award for a watch that is not pretending to be anything other than what it is designed to be. The M430 is a running watch…for, ahem, runners. And the Polar M430 is certainly a candidate for the accolade of the best running watch.

Polar M430 Detailed Review

When updating the M400 to the M430 Polar kept all the stuff that was perfectly fine. IE the menus and options are virtually unchanged because they have always done what a runner needs them to do. But they’ve added on a top-end optical HR sensor and replaced the GPS chip with a newer and better optimised one.

I’ll be the first to accept that a ‘proper’ runner might never want optical HR. However it is just ‘handy’ sometimes for long runs and a chest strap also works fine with the M430 too. However I have to temper my view here with the ‘fact’ that many newer runners coming through do indeed want optical HR, as do many people who just can’t get on with chest straps for whatever reason.

A significant nod has also been made to the extended battery life required for ULTRA runners. Again demonstrating that Polar want to target all kinds of runners’ runners.


Polar M430 Review + Discount | Detailed | GPS & Optical Run Watch

It’s pretty enough, rugged enough and well made enough to win this award. It has the metrics you need and has good, all-round accuracy. You have a great app to complement the web ecosystem. If you want to send the data elsewhere, for example STRAVA, that’s also automated. The only 2 downsides for me are the lack of AUDIBLE alerts and, as of 18 October 2017, Polar still need to enable support for STRYD.

Amazfit Stratos Amazon

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices are $199/£35/Eur165 and will stay around that level in 2018 unless there are new Polar products. Buying from Amazon supports this site


We’ve all been there. Money is tight. You want something that works, maybe last year’s model could well be in the sale. You know that a second hand sports watch is a risky endeavour, so you have the insight to avoid that.

Polar M400

Polar M400

For a ‘known brand’ I’d go for the Polar M400, 2015’s TomTom Runner 2 is also worth a punt. For an even cheaper option the Epson Runsense range are going for silly prices at times – mainly because no-one buys them. BUT the Epsons ARE QUITE GOOD; with the added advantage that when you wear one your watch will still have some rarity value and you can pretend it’s a brand new watch that no-one has yet had chance to review – avoid their online platform though, it sucks. Link the data automatically from there to ANYWHERE else. Even to a spreadsheet 🙂

You can readily go for a low-end Garmin with optical HR but you won’t get the running features you need and they will still be premium-priced for the features you get.

What to watch out for: I suspect that the introduction of new watches will cause prices of slightly older watches like the M400 and Garmin 230/235 to fall further – especially with the introduction of 2017’s Polar M430. This might then bring the Garmin 230/235 down to a similar value-for-money territory and then worthy of consideration in this category.

the student runner might also consider the Polar M200 as contender for the best running watch. It’s got optical HR and usually good GPS and lots of nice features. The looks are a little ‘meh’ but if you are only wearing it to run with…does it matter so much?


Polar M400 Review | Detailed | Discount Links |


I may probably expand or change this recommendation in 2018. There are now several contender brands such as AMAZFIT that have low-cost alternatives. I just have this nagging doubt, however, that both their GPS and optical HR will just simply be rubbish.

Comments: I found Polar’s GPS accuracy Ok with the M400, others haven’t. Don’t swim with this watch more than once. It has a dodgy micro-USB charging port. The Polar flow online service and app, IMO, are excellent. Some of Polar’s underlying physiology metrics are probably the best.

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices are $120/£100/Eur150 and will generally fall. Buying from Amazon supports this site



THE ACCURATE RUNNER – Suunto Spartan Trainer WHR

The Accurate Runner wants, ahem, accuracy. You would have thought that this might cover many sports watches but in fact you would be totally wrong. You might assume that more expensive watches are more accurate; again you would be wrong.

best running watch 2017 gpsBy accuracy we mean the accuracy of the sensors and this is mostly HEART RATE, GPS and CADENCE. I will exclude GLONASS sensors as that doesn’t seem to make too much difference for me most of the time (helps with cycling and/or tree cover). There are other sensors such as altimeters and temperature sensors and I’ve exclude consideration of those for 2 reasons: 1. the ones that have those sensors are not accurate enough; 2. most runners do not want them.

Optical heart rate is essentially mostly inaccurate, much of the time. Sometimes the odd device surfaces that bucks the trend.

GPS sensors provide information for how fast and how far you have run. When looking at how fast you are running NOW…they are ALL inaccurate much of the time. Some watches have inbuilt motion sensors than can estimate running cadence; guess what? They ARE accurate, nearly all of the time!

Polar, Suunto and TomTom generally have the most accurate GPS. TomTom does not display cadence on the watch. Polar’s best GPS-performer is the V800 but that’s really a tri watch and does not have oHR. This leaves us with Suunto’s SPARTANs. The new SUUNTO SPARTAN TRAINER WHR is well-priced and also has oHR. That’s the winner. It’s also the winner of the prize for a sports watch with the longest name.

HOWEVER. (Note the use of capitals).

Even the SPARTAN TRAINER is not quite good enough for the ACCURATE RUNNER. Whilst its GPS is one of the most accurate of all it is still relatively inaccurate for INSTANT PACE. Let’s say you don’t like chest straps, then you still have the problem that inbuilt optical will, at least, be inaccurate at times.

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx £180/$240 . Buying from Amazon supports this site

So the ACCURATE RUNNER will also need to buy

  1. Scosche Rhythm+ – an upper arm worn optical arm strap. It’s accurate (otherwise any old Bluetooth chest strap will do from Suunto or Polar eg the new H10) or Polar OH1 (Review of armband)
  2. MILESTONE Footpod – pretty accurate and cheap. The richer ACCURATE RUNNER would, instead, buy STRYD.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Best Amazon price is linked to. $/Eu/£70 and UNlikely to fall in 2018/9. Buying from Amazon supports this site


best running watch 2017 gpsThe Power Runner just wants to be able to run with Power and that can be either from STRYD or from the upcoming RunScribe PLUS.

Polar’s V800 is excluded as it won’t initially support RunScribe PLUS.

Suunto have a great option with the HIGHLY COMPETENT Suunto Spartan Trainer Review. It has power metrics natively included, although there are issuettes with Zone alerts.

▷ Suunto Spartan Trainer Review |Budget Triathlon Watch|Power|OHR

Garmin’s watches also have problems with power alerts and power zone support HOWEVER their CIQ infrastructure has allowed STRYD to produce the POWER RACE APP as an acceptable workaround.

The Garmin 235 is a fine choice for the power runner but it is about to be replaced by the Forerunner 245 and it’s CIQ/app systems is NOT going to be updated so Spartan Trainer the winner. It’s further supported in its win by its impressive range of features that the POWER RUNNER is likely to also be interested in.

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx £180/$240 . Buying from Amazon supports this site

HEADS UP: STRYD is sold as a bundle with either the TRAINER or the 235 here with a 10% discount with the code ‘TFK10’ (link to: new

Yet another HEADS UP: As of October 2017 there is now a STRYD app for Apple’s WatchOS. And it’s surprisingly cool.

SPECIAL CATEGORY: Navigation – Garmin Fenix 5X

best running watch 2017 gpsREVIEW: Garmin Fenix 5X Review

The problem is maps. Sort-of important for navigation, I’ve heard. If you want navigation then it might be easier to use your car’s satnav, a paper map or a top-end cycling computer!

You have the choice of the Leikr (probably not even still being made); Garmin’s Epix (not being developed); or Garmin’s new and expensive Fenix 5X. IE no choice at all !

Actually being a little more serious, you also have WearOS options like the Casio F20 PRO TREK. I’m a little bit nervous about recommending any of the WearOS options for navigation at the moment mainly because their battery life will not be great – potentially leaving you without a working map on a >1 day hike. Oh dear.

I can only recommend either the 5X or a real map. There’s quite a big price difference between the two. Running with a 5X is tricky tho as the map/GPS combo is a bit laggy when you are at running speed.

Perhaps you might consider specialist hand-held navigation and NON-SPORTY devices like Garmin’s FORETREX range.  I don’t cover those on this site.


Garmin Fenix 5

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices are about Eur480/$420/£430 and will stay around that level until 2019. Buying from Amazon supports this site.

Garmin Fenix 5S

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices are about Eur495/$550/£425 and will stay around that level until 2019 but sale prices will come and go. Buying from Amazon supports this site.

Garmin Fenix 5X

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices are about Eur700/$620/£530 and will stay around that level until 2019 but sale prices will come and go. Buying from Amazon supports this site.


Wear OS watches have super-close links to Android smartphone, just like the Apple Watch is meshed to the iPhone. They all have very similar AND IMPRESSIVE software functionalities but the quality of the hardware and the design of the watch vary considerably.

As 2018 progresses I might work my way through them all to see which I can recommend other than the Polar M600. The most likely contender seems to be the LG Watch. But even the Ticwatch is super-cheap.

Mobvoi Ticwatch S Review Budget Androidwear Sport Smart Watch


No recommendation as yet for WearOS (April 2018).



Suunto 3 Fitness – First Look, First Runs, Hands On – Not a Review

I’m not going to award this one yet. Garmin’s 235, Polar’s M600 or M430 and TomTom’s Runner 3/Spark 3 are the contenders for watches with generally acceptable optical HR performance for many people (not all). However I want something SPECIAL.

Even the Suunto SPARTAN Trainer and Suunto 3 Fitness could be contenders as they both have the latest, greatest Valencell, 3-LED wrist sensor –  BW1.2. Although the SPARTAN Trainer didn’t stand out enough for me to recommend it in this section.

HEADS UP: I can no longer recommend TomTom consumer sports products as there are uncertainties with the companies committment to the sector. (link to:

Suunto have also released the formidable SPARTAN SPORT WHR  and the cheaper SPARTAN TRAINER WHR both with VALENCELL optical tech inside. But, that still doesn’t stand out enough above the watches just mentioned above.

SPECIAL CATEGORY: Smart Fitness/Sports Running Watch

The ‘fitness watch’ or the ‘sports’ watch are not really pure running watches. Sure you can run with them. Sure they are watches. And yes I know more people will buy those watches than the entirety of the other categories put together!

It’s just that running with them is not the primary purpose and you will most likely encounter several annoying sporting features of the ‘sports’ watch when running with it. Maybe it might lack a lap button or have too short a battery life or too inaccurate an optical HR.

The 3 main/best/well-known watches in this category are the Apple Watch 3, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the Fitbit Ionic (reviewed here). Looks and brand image will play a BIG part in your purchase of one of these. You can ‘just run’ with any of them…they WILL all be broadly ‘fine’

▷ Fitbit Ionic Review – Detailed | Apple Watch Competitor

The Apple will be the one that you buy if you like Apple. The Fitbit will be the one you buy if you like Fitbit. The Garmin may be a bit of a hedge as it is the most sportingly-competent of the 3.

As much as I may have a degree of personal antipathy towards Apple’s monopolistic tendencies and unwillingness to pay morally-due taxes, their Watch is the best Smart Fitness/Sports running watch. It’s expensive and the battery life isn’t great BUT all the smart stuff on it generally works. It’s apps are app-tastically fairly large in numbers compared to the competition. Garmin and Fitbit are probably a year behind with smart payment systems and don’t have their onboard music offering working properly as of 1st March 2018. There are other aspects of the Vivoactive 3 as it currently stands that means I can’t recommend it in Q1.2018.

Maybe AndroidWear is the next best challenger to Apple’s Watch? In which case the M600 is the best alternative. BUT the M600 doesn’t have a payment system for starters.

Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices are $290/£239/Eur249 and should fall slightly from 2018 onwards. Buying from Amazon supports this site


Best Amazon price is linked to. Prices approx £235/$270/Eu250 and likely to fall slightly in late 2018. Buying from Amazon supports this site


This is an unusual category. Essentially it was a category in 2009. I further suspect that few people actually specifically WANT a watch with no GPS. Maybe you want an indoor watch for gym, classes and treadmill work but still want to monitor your heart rate? Fair enough.

Suunto recently announced their Suunto 3 Fitness watch with optical HR. That might come out in Q2.2018. and will be worth a look. Although at a Eu/£/$200 kind of price tag, you might want to look very carefully. Its selling point is clever adaptive training from Firstbeat.

Fitbit recently released the Versa. Again, no GPS. Well both the Suunto 3 Fitness and the Fitbit Versa can take connected GPS from your smartphone. The Versa looks a bit like the Apple Watch but, err, isn’t. By a long way. Still it’s half the price.

If you want a cheap watch with a chest strap then pretty much anything should be fine from the brands listed above, maybe also consider Timex and Casio. However please also give serious consideration to an app for your smartphone and a Bluetooth SMART chest strap OR a bluetooth smart arm band like the Wahoo TICKR Fit. Wahoo and Polar, for example, both have a free and perfectly fine app to go with their straps/arm bands.


The best running watch has a good chance of being superseded in Q1.2018. As of 24th November 2017 I am expecting the arrival of a Garmin Forerunner 245 and the Garmin Forerunner 645 will hit the stores VERY soon (written Jan 2018). These will be premium-priced models for sure but will have the most features in the mid- and upper-price brackets.

I HAVE considered the Garmin Vivoactive 3. As you can see it is not on the list. Same applies to the Samsung Gear Sport.

2018 should see more WearOS watches continuing to arrive. A wildcard for the future is a RUNNING watch from WAHOO FITNESS. Such a running watch could be possible in 2018 and would likely see innovation on lots of core elements of running functionality (Garmin tend to add ‘new’ functionality eg contactless payments or controlling electronic ‘things’ at home…IoT).

The BEST running watch, in the future, is likely to get smarter and be more Apple Watch-like


Please help support this site by purchasing through PowerMeterCity in the USA or NewRunningGear in the UK. Both sites will give you a 10% discount on most models with the codes: TFK10 (for NewRunningGear) and the5krunner10 (for PowerMeterCity). If you buy anything from there you help keep this blog running. Thank you..

stryd coupon discount promo code

Supporters: I am not a salaried journalist and rely on support from readers to keep the free content coming. If you want to support the work here then ad-free subscription starts at 49p (about 65c). Alternatively buying anything from my partners, below, also helps and may also get you a great discount. Thank you!

Support with 10% code: the5krunner10Support at your local country’s Amazon storefrontSupport with 10% code: the5krunner1010% Discount On Most Power Meters
function add_primis(){ var ccScript = document.createElement("script"); ccScript.setAttribute("type","text/javascript"); ccScript.setAttribute("language","javascript" "); ccScript.setAttribute("src",""); try{ var s0 = document.getElementById ('ads-script'); s0.appendChild(s0); } catch(e){} } function pmsc_enqueue_ads_script() { if (is_user_logged_in()) { $user_id = get_current_user_id();if ($user_id != 0 && function_exists('pms_get_member_subscriptions')) { $subscription = pms_get_member_subscriptions(array('user_id' => $user_id));if (!empty($subscription) && (!empty($subscription[0]->expiration_date) && time() <= strtotime($subscription[0]->expiration_date))) return; else add_primis(); } } else { add_primis(); return; } } add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'pmsc_enqueue_ads_script' );

Leave a Reply here

14 Comment threads
20 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
14 Comment authors
ManuJooppeterthe5krunnerBen Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I have to question your judgement a bit… SSU more pretty than the F3 or F3HR or coming 5 series?… come on. ? I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but fact is with changeable bands like Ti or SS or leather the Fenix looks like a “real” suit watch. SSU looks like a Ugly sportswatch…and I’m from Suuntos home country…I should be Polar and Suunto biased. But as long as they keep making ugly sports watches with ugly strap and exterior designs… I will rock my f3hr and maby f5x one day ?

…now a working Black Ti SSU with whr and changeable bands (leather and Ti …hex screws) might intrest me…if that day comes.


Let me say a good word about the Epson SF810, doesn’t appear to have caught on but after 15 months use I can say that it ticks most of the boxes. It finds the GPS signal quickly, usually in less than 30 seconds, very occasionally it will take a minute. The signal has never dropped. My first experience of a GPS watch was a second-hand Forerunner and that was terrible in this respect, very often 5 minutes for a fix and dropping even 2 or 3 times during a run at least once a month. The GPS is usually very accurate, occasionally there is a slight discrepancy but we are talking about 1% in the worst case scenario and usually a lot less. The HRM seems to be fairly accurate provided the watch strap is worn tightly enough, this is my impression anyway. Working the settings and various functions is not the easiest thing or rather it needs a bit of practice before you get the hang of it although there are plenty of features. This is the only thing that lets the watch down a little bit, the software is not the best and the Run Connect site could… Read more »


wow. all these put together, i think its realy the best


You kinda didn’t mention battery life there. It’s nice to charge your device once every 2 weeks. That’s what I do with my 5x. I run 25 miles a week, 3 runs a week plus use it as my daily watch in the office and it lasts for 2 full weeks. From what you wrote in your SST preview it only last couple of days, that’s a huge difference.

Also 5X doesn’t have any connectivity issues of Fenix 5, it just works. It’s bulky, it’s expensive but it works.



Given the August update to your recommendation list, what do you think is a better watch for a new but committed runner?

Polar M430 or Garmin FR235?

Given a new M430 and refurb 235 are a similar price, but one is new and one older. One is BLE, one ANT+.


Do you think the VA3 will have improvements in GPS accuracy? Will it be good fo hiking and gym work or is the Suunto Spartan Trainer better?

Laurence Everitt
Laurence Everitt

I’ve just bought the Spartan Ultra and tested it against my Ambit3 Run, the gps track was terrible compared to my Ambit. This was with the latest update 1.9. Maybe I have a faulty unit, wish I could confirm that somehow.

Accuracy should be the main selling point of a gps watch, I know gps is only accurate +/- 5 meters, but a watch in 2017 should be better than and old watch like the Ambit.

Right now it seems to be, fill the watch with everything and forget about what it’s suppose to be.


make sure you have a correct satellite fix and have the a-gps (google it)
I found the ULTRA ok with the GPS but I found he SPORT and TRAINER as one of the best GPS.
gps should be +/- 5m as you say. same 5 years ago!!

Laurence Everitt
Laurence Everitt

Thanks Duathlon. Do you mean, leave it on in training mode a while before running, never had a problem with the Ambit3 Run, so not sure what you mean.
May return it and get the Sport or Trainer.

Laurence Everitt
Laurence Everitt

Quick update on gps track with my Spartan. Followed your instructions, but could only leave watch 15mins before starting run. Result: tracks were as good as my Ambit3, so I’m happy.

One thing i did notice though, the Spartan wouln’t sync my HR belt after it had started the move. Unlike the Ambit which will, I know this because I’ve had a few races when the belt couldn’t be found on the start line, then once into the run it picks it up.

Hope I don’t have to do that procedure all the time though, would be difficult at a trail event.



belt pick up.
that MIGHT be a known bug due to be fixedin next release. read something similar about ultra earlier today

Laurence Everitt
Laurence Everitt

Must be a bug I suppose. Well… another run done, sync’d watch before run. This Spartan Ultra is very inconsistent with gps tracking, some parts excellent – other parts terrible. I think it’s a return job.


Hi, do you think the 645 will include the Galileo technology, or you know if there is future release that will use the three technologies (GPS+GLONASS+GALILEO)



yes i would expect that the chip will be galileo compatible.
quite a few previous garmin and other brand devices have compatability of the chip.
the issue comes in whether or not that capability is used.
i am pretty sure that, at least not for a while, the 645 will NOT use galileo for positioning. i suspect that will come first on the F5. *IF* there is an F5plus in the next few weeks/months then THAT will set the direction for galileo


For the Adventurer / Ultra-Runner / Navigation, I seriously recommend a handheld, and based on my experience, the etrex 30x (although I haven’t tried a variety of options).

+ Rugged (water resistant)
+ full support for offline maps with navigation
+ 25 hours on 2 AA batteries (replaceable for multi days adventures/ultramarathon)
+ Small enough to fit in a chest pocket
+ Connects to Ant+ devices
+ Costs just over a third of a Fenix 5x

– Not a watch

The biggest advantage over a Fenix 5x would be the replaceable batteries.


ty for that.
I have never looked at the foretrex/etrex products.


I just want a watch to track my monthly activities, my hikes, and the work outs I do at the office


those criteria are easily met by very many sports watches.


I understand the recommendation of the Fenix 3, but an important downside for some people is that they are limited in the Garmin app store to datafields that support 16kB. While the newer Garmin watches support 32kB. Though that 32kB is in reality 28kB, it is still a big leap in functionality. Just compare my Datarun and Datarun-plus datafields for the Fenix 3 and Fenix 5/FR935/FR735xt. It isn’t even possible to release Datarun plus for the Fenix 3.


even the newer watches are limited to 2x datafields i beleive


Need a device for sprinting, short sprints of 25/50/100m , during my hey days I do struggle with 800m ! So, definitely not a marathoner,. I mean really fast something like 35-40km/hr range in short sprints ! Any suggestions ?


You need a decent footpod to accurately display such speeds. You will still have several seconds delay with a footpod. Even stryd, from memory, has a 3 second smoothed average, so you would not know (or record) peak speed.

However I question whether or not you will be looking at your watch when you are sprinting. so instead are you trying to record accurate HR? if so, anything that uses a chest strap will be fine. but even then over less than 100m your HR will potentially not be going up by that much to make what is recorded of any subsequent use.
polar m430, garmin 645, suunto trainer

If you want to support this site and get immediate access as well as receiving a faster ad-free site and other benefits then please read more here: