The 7 Best Running Watches of 2021, According to Pro Runners and Coaches

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Coros Apex Pro
Garmin Forerunner 235
Timex Full-Size Ironman Essential 10 Watch
Polar Vantage V2
Apple Watch Series 6
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar
Fitbit Sense
Suunto 7
When shopping the best running watches, consider what metrics you want to track, if you plan to do other activities like cycling or swimming and your budget.
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Looking to keep track of your monthly mileage? Want to know what kind of cadence you're hitting? Was last week's 5K run faster than today's?

Sounds like now is the time to fasten on a running watch. But the big question is: Which of the best running watches is right for you?

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Fortunately, leading runners and coaches are here to give you their top picks. Whether you're hunting something with stellar GPS or simply want something to keep track of time on your feet, there's a perfect watch for every runner.

1. Coros Apex Pro

  • Battery life​: 30 days of regular use, 40 hours full GPS mode
  • GPS​: yes
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ yes
  • Water Resistant:​ yes

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Of the professional runners we surveyed, multiple weighed in on their love for Coros.

One main benefit: a long, long battery life. In fact, Jes Woods, a Nike Running Coach and ultramarathoner, wore her Coros Apex Pro for a 340-mile solo desert run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. She never had to charge her watch.

"If you're the kind of runner who doesn't want to worry about picking up your watch and seeing it's dead, then a Coros is for you," she says. "It's reliable, and that makes it one less thing to worry about when the run in itself can be enough."

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Meanwhile, pro runner's Emily Infeld's favorite feature on the Coros is its "track mode," which allows you to specify which track lane you're running in (based on a 400-meter track). The GPS running watch then snaps to it, providing super accurate readouts on your times.

"I love that I can rely on what it's telling me," she says. "I've worn plenty of other watches before where there would be straight lines through the middle of the track or just all over the place, my distances wouldn't be accurate. Not ideal!"

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Buy:REI.com; ​Price:​ $500

2. Garmin Forerunner 235

  • Battery life:​ 9 days of regular use, 11 hours full GPS mode
  • GPS:​ yes
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ yes
  • Water Resistant:​ yes

This is the best running watch for beginners who want to get into tracking more detailed metrics like heart rate.

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is incredibly easy to use, says Ryo Yamamoto, co-founder of Old Man Run Club in New York. "I don't need an abundant amount of metrics for my runs, but I do like to see how I'm doing. The watch easily syncs up to the Garmin app on my phone, plus other favorites like Strava and the Nike Run Club app."

​Buy it:​​ Amazon.com; ​​Price:​ $165

3. Timex Full-Size Ironman Essential 10 Watch

  • Battery life:​ 10 years
  • GPS:​ no
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ no
  • Water Resistant:​ yes, up to 100m

If you're looking for the ultimate basics (as in, timed splits and distance) at the lowest price (under $50!), look no further than this Timex pick, a favorite of steeplechase pro Colleen Quigley.

"I have been feeling this option because it doesn't distract me and the buttons are super easy to push," she says. "It's kind of nice just to vibe it."​

Buy it:​Amazon.com; ​​Price:​ $32

4. Polar Vantage V2

  • Battery life:​ 7 days of regular use, 40 hours with continuous heart rate tracking
  • GPS:​ yes
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ yes
  • Water Resistant:​ yes

These days, high-tech GPS running watches can do a lot more than just give you splits.

Consider the Polar Vantage V2's "Recovery Pro" function. Through monitoring with an accompanying heart rate sensor, the watch can let you know if your body's ready for training and offer up recovery feedback right on your wrist.

Pro runner Aisha Praught-Leer also praises the model's battery life. "I can go for a run in Crested Butte then fly across the world and go for a run in St. Moritz and don't have to dig through my bag for a charging cord — it's the best."

Buy it:​Polar.com; ​​Price:​ $499.95

5. Apple Watch Series 6

  • Battery life:​ 18 hours regular use, 7 hours outdoor workout
  • GPS:​ yes
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ yes
  • Water Resistant:​ yes

Looking for a watch that's truly multi-purpose? Look no further than the Apple Watch series 6.

The Apple Watch is a more general fitness tracker you can wear all day long and for virtually any activity (running included), Woods says.

And with interchangeable fitness tracker wrist bands, you can easily bring the Apple Watch from your workout to your work day. Plus, it's got storage for your favorite workout music or podcasts, synching effortlessly for iPhone users via the Apple Watch app.

Buy it:Apple.com; ​Price:​ from $399

6. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar

  • Battery life:​ 16 days regular use, 40 hours GPS mode
  • GPS:​ yes
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ yes
  • Water Resistant:​ yes

Introducing the best GPS watch with the ​most​ advanced safety features: the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar.

"Some of the more high-tech watches can tell you where on a pre-loaded map you are," says Woods. "Uploading a course beforehand is a great safety feature."

Using Garmin Connect, wearers can also enable a safety and tracking feature that sends a message with your real-time location to your chosen contacts when it detects an incident during an outdoor walk, run, bike or hike activity.

Garmin's multi-sport modes, you can get accurate information when you're running, cycling, hiking, skiing, kayaking, surfing, paddleboarding (the list goes on). Plus, Garmin lets users pre-load routes and maps onto their device.

Buy it:Garmin.com; ​​Price:​ $799

7. Fitbit Sense

  • Battery life:​ 6 days regular use, 12 hours in GPS mode
  • GPS:​ yes
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ yes
  • Water Resistant:​ yes

Already named one of the best Fitbits, this is a great pick for a runner that really wants some insight into all aspects of their health and wellbeing.

The Fitbit Sense offers ECG and blood oxygen monitoring, and the wearer can even set up high and low heart rate notifications which provide an alert if theirs seem above or below average. This can also be used to better manage stress — which is a focus in the Sense and a big pro for Woods.

The Sense has multiple tools that can help wearers track their stress level over time as well as reflect on mood and make time for mindfulness.

Buy it:​Amazon.com; ​​Price:​ $220

8. Suunto 7

  • Battery life:​ 40 days regular use, 7 hours in GPS mode
  • GPS:​ yes
  • HR Monitor:​ yes
  • Sleep Tracking:​ yes
  • Water Resistant:​ yes

There's something to be said for not having to upgrade your running watch on the regular. And Lindsey Clayton, a certified running coach, instructor at Barry's Bootcamp and cofounder of Brave Body Project, has been running with her Suunto for years. It's still going strong.

Her favorite feature? The heat map. "The heat map shows popular run routes all over the world so it's cool if you're traveling and want to see where the popular run routes are," she says.

​Buy it:REI.com; ​​Price:​ $319.19

4 Things to Consider When Shopping the Best Running Watches

1. Activities

Are you hoping to wear this all of the time, or do you only want to slip it on when you're going to pick up the pace? Do you want to track more than just running (AKA, other sports or activities)? Is there any chance of you taking the watch swimming?

Figure out exactly what you see yourself doing with this wearable, and then you'll be able to make a smarter selection.

2. Metrics

If you've been at this running thing for a while, then a watch with bells and whistles could be up your alley. Consider heart rate monitoring, heat maps or track-lane specifications.

But if you're a newbie and just want to know how far and fast you're going — or just want to go out there and have fun — GPS will likely give you all of the metrics you need.

"You really want your wearable to help you rather than hurt you," says Woods. "If you're getting too wrapped up in numbers and stuff, that's no good for anyone. Sometimes, you have to let an easy run be an easy run and obsess less over the data. It's all about making the choices that are best for your mental health."

3. Battery Life

Different watches tote various amounts of battery life. While some people don't mind hooking it up to a charge every night, others may be a tad more forgetful. And if you're an ultramarathon runner, the more battery you can get, the better.

After all, there's nothing more frustrating than running out of juice during your workout or race. Pay attention to both regular battery life and GPS battery life (how long your charge lasts while using GPS).

4. Cost

Running watch costs can vary drastically. Ask yourself: What level of priority the piece of gear, and is this the type of investment in your fitness that's really going to help you?

Even if the most expensive option has super cool tech, that doesn't mean those features are really going to benefit you. Don't pay for bells and whistles you won't realistically use.

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