Brilliant multi-sport GPS watches for all budgets

Whether you’re a beginner or prepping for your first marathon, buying a top running watch will supercharge your training.

But new sports watches are more than just about running – with aspects of wellness, heart rate, swimming and cycling all catered for.

We’ve reviewed every running watch on the market – from cheap options to the detailed alternatives for budding athletes – and compiled a roundup of the best picks from our testing.

It really is the definitive list, and we’ve tried to make sense of the dizzying selection for you.

Update: We updated this article in May 2020 to include the latest running watches including the new Polar Grit X, which just aced our tests.

Best running watch 2020

You can find the individual summaries of our picks further below, but you can also check out the video we pulled together with our friends at The Running Channel.

Top pick: Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45

  • 39 and 42mm sizes
  • Pace, distance, time
  • Heart rate monitor
  • ANT+ support
  • VO2 Max
  • 50 ATM water resistance
  • Price when reviewed: £149.99

A fantastic all-rounder, the Forerunner 45 isn’t Garmin’s cheapest running watch (its predecessor the Forerunner 35 is still around for less) but it packs features at a great price.

However, it’s the build that we really love. It’s so slim and light – and with 39mm and 42mm sizes it’s brilliantly unisex. And while it’s certainly at the entry-level end of the huge array of Garmin devices on offer, it’s far from basic.

You get the normal running metrics, but also more advanced analytics with VO2 Max scores to help you monitor your improving fitness. They aren’t presented on the watch with all the recovery data found on the likes of the Forerunner 245, but VO2 Max will be shown at the end of a run, and tracked in Garmin Connect.

You’re getting the same display you get on all of Garmin’s watches, waterproofing up to 50 metres depth and an optical heart rate monitor. It will track running, cycling, treadmill running, indoor track, elliptical, cardio, yoga abut there’s no swim profile, despite the water resistance.

It’s also compatible with both Android and iOS-friendly, with the main tracking skills shaped running and cycling.

Smartwatch features on the Forerunner 45 include notification support, while Connect IQ compatibility lets you customize your watch face.

If you’re new to running and don’t want to spend much, the Forerunner 45 (and smaller 45S) should be a definite consideration.

In-depth: Read our full Garmin Forerunner 45 review

Polar Ignite

Polar Ignite

  • 43mm case
  • FitSpark workout analysis
  • Optical heart rate
  • 17 hours GPS tracking
  • Price when reviewed £174.50

Sitting well below the price of Polar’s Vantage series watches, the Ignite is a fitness watch with a slender frame that makes a great running companion.

It measures in with a 43mm case, weighs just 35g and measures in at 8mm thick, making a great fit for slimmer wrists and anyone that likes to keep their tracking discreet.

Despite its slender frame, the Ignite has pretty much everything you could want from a running watch. It has a solid color touchscreen display to view your metrics on, along with a solid performing heart rate monitor.

It’s a bit shy on smartwatch features, offering just notifications, though it does work with iPhone and Android devices. It also doubles as a decent fitness tracker, too.

The killer feature here? Something called FitSpark, which analyzes your workout data to offer recommendations and advice. So, if you’ve had a particularly intensive run, it can recommend a series or supportive exercises to help you recover.

Battery life is 17 hours based on tracked workouts with GPS and heart rate. In smartwatch mode, it’ll last you four or five days before you’re grabbing that charger.

It’s well priced, nice-looking and a good alternative to something like the Forerunner 45, if you want something a little smaller on the wrist.

In-depth: Polar Ignite review

Garmin Forerunner 245

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

  • Running, biking, swimming, gym workouts
  • Heart rate monitor
  • VO2 Max
  • Music playback, 500 songs storage
  • Spotify syncing
  • Price when reviewed: £299.99

One of the most popular Forerunner lines has been given a boost for the latest generation. It still has to be a top consideration for those on a budget, but music support also makes it a great option for those who prioritize playback from the likes of Spotify.

The built-in music player support works in the same way as other Garmin watches. You can transfer over your own music or playlists from streaming services, then you can pair some Bluetooth headphones and leave your phone at home. You’ve got enough storage on the 245 for 500 songs, too, which should be enough for most users.

Obviously, it’s not all about the music – the Forerunner 245 Music is also a formidable running watch. Unless you’re a marathon veteran, it has everything you’ll need, including GPS and a built-in heart rate monitor.

The Forerunner 245 enjoys many of the advanced running analytics found on much more expensive Garmins. It leverages the optical heart rate sensor to take VO2 Max readings – which is then turned into insights on your recovery, including Training Load, Training Effect and Training Status, which are all determined by analysing post exercise oxygen consumption and heart rate variability.

It’s also just been given the PacePro feature, which uses GPS data to pace races to your desired finishing times – even taking hills into account.

Battery life sits at around a week with standard use, though, naturally, taking advantage of the music features will reduce this. It does lack payment support and an altimeter, but, all in all, it’s a great running watch for anyone that has been looking for those music features too.

In-depth: Our full Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5

  • 42mm and 44mm sizes
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Swim-proof
  • Distance, time, pace and cadence
  • Third party apps from Strava, Runkeeper etc
  • Price when reviewed: £399

Back when the Apple Watch first arrived, we’d have never recommended it as a running watch. Fast forward to 2019, and, if you’re looking for a smartwatch for running, Apple’s option is firmly the best.

Built-in GPS is accurate and locks on instantly, so there’s no waiting around on cold days, and Apple has let third-party apps like Strava access sensor data. Yes, the data is limited to pace, time, distance and heart rate – but you’ll also get credit for sessions in the Apple Watch’s excellent fitness tracking features.

Apple Music playlist syncing is ridiculously easy, and you can pay for a drink with Apple Pay when you’re done. What’s more, the addition of LTE means streaming tunes on the go, and you can make calls on long runs, which adds that level of personal safety.

With the Watch Series 5, you’re not getting groundbreaking data on the running front, though Apple has now introduced an always-on display mode to make it easier to check in on your data. It does recommend disabling the feature when tracking a run, though, particularly if you’re going to eat up big miles.

Battery life will struggle for a full marathon with GPS and heart rate tracking on, so it’s not the right choice for runners that want to go long.

However, the heart rate sensor on the Series 5 stands up incredibly well to the rigours of testing, and we’ve seen it perform better than rivals in HIIT sessions. It’s not perfect, but still capable of returning useful data, training within zones.

In-depth: Apple Watch Series 5 review

Garmin Forerunner 945

Forerunner 945

  • Triathlon tracking
  • 47mm case size
  • Heart rate monitor
  • ANT+
  • Advanced analytics
  • Running Dynamics with Running Pod
  • Smartwatch notifications and Garmin Pay
  • Spotify syncing and offline music (1000 songs)
  • 36 hours GPS tracking, 17 hours with music
  • Price when reviewed: £519.99

This 945 sits at the top of the Forerunner line, and though the name suggests this is solely focused on tracking runs, it actually packs in support for a huge gamut of workouts, as well as Garmin Pay support, music playback, navigation features and color maps.

Obviously, it does track your runs, though, covering everything from treadmill to trail running, with plenty of metrics to dive into after your training session.

It’s also compatible with Garmin’s Running Pod, which adds additional data, such as vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length and lactate threshold.

It has top-tier battery life, too, as well as built-in heart rate monitoring (which has vastly improved from previous wrist HR tracking efforts from Garmin).

And it goes big on the detailed analysis of your workouts – with VO2 Max, heart rate variability and post-exercise oxygen consumption a huge part of the attraction. These features called Training Effect, Training Load and Training Status try to ensure sure you’re not overexerting yourself. It will advise you on your progress, predict your race times (hit and miss) and let you know how long to leave it before your next run.

This is the Forerunner for power users, and, because of that, most buyers will actually be better served going with something a little less feature-packed (and, as a bonus, less expensive).

In-depth: Read our full Garmin Forerunner 945 review

Garmin Fenix 6

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

  • Huge array of tracked sports
  • 47mm case
  • Optical HR + ANT+ support
  • Advanced running analytics
  • PacePro
  • TOPO mapping
  • Connect IQ apps
  • 2000 songs + Spotify syncing
  • Price when reviewed: £599

The Garmin Fenix 6 is the company’s ultimate running watch, make no bones about that. It caters for all types of outdoor sport, and there’s modes for normal and trail running (not to mention everything from hiking to SUP and even skydiving, as well).

There’s no Garmin watch that offers more in terms of running dynamics, and it matches the Forerunner 945 for data output. That naturally includes VO2 Max, recovery times, race prediction, Training Effect (aerobic and anaerobic from every session), Training Load (and when to take a break) all gleaned from the built-in optical sensor.

For those who love to explore on their runs, there’s full TOPO rich mapping, an upgrade over the standard Fenix 5, and you can also upload GPX routes to follow, as well.

On the music front, you’re getting similar features you’ll get on the likes of the 245 Music and 945, letting you drag and drop on your own music and podcasts to the watch.

You have enough room for 2,000 songs, and of course, can benefit from support for apps like Spotify and Deezer. That means you can listen to your playlists offline and leave your phone behind.

The smaller and lighter design means it’s a nicer watch to run with, and, while music streaming will impact on battery life, it should get you through a fair few sessions before it hits 0%.

In-depth: Garmin Fenix 6 review

Polar Grit X

Polar Grit X

  • 47mm case
  • 1.2-inch, 240 x 240 pixel
  • 22mm replaceable straps
  • MIL-STD-810G durability
  • 40 hours GPS battery life, 100 hours tracking in low GPS mode
  • Optical HR
  • GPS, Glonass, Galileo
  • Running power and cadence on the wrist
  • 130 sport modes
  • FuelWise fuelling recommendations
  • Hill Splitter segmented insights
  • Turn-by-turn navigation
  • FitSpark workout recommendations based on recovery
  • Nightly Recharge sleep and recovery insights
  • Price when reviewed: £379.99

The Grit X goes up hard against the Garmin Fenix 6 – and put its focus on endurance and ultrarunning, with a feature set that most will find a little too niche. It comes in one size – 47mm – although it’s impressively light at just 64g compared with the 84g of the Fenix 6.

Ultrarunners demand good battery life, and that’s here with 40 hours of full GPS tracking that can be extended to 100 hours. Runners are well catered for with a full range of stats – and there’s a focus here on running power, for those interested in pacing based on output.

Major features are things like FuelWise feature that enable you to plan your adventure’s food intake and remind you on the go. We found it worked really well, but the reminders were a little easy to miss.

The Hillsplitter feature tracks your ascends and descents and analyses your pace, and you can get navigation on the wrist if you use mapping from third party navigation company Komoot. It’s simple waypoint following, but an essential feature for outdoors watches.

The 10-LED array hearet rate monitor is the most advanced on a Polar watch to date, and it helps fuel a bunch of data points, from recovery and sleep tracking to running analytics derived from HRV and VO2 Max.

There’s sleep tracking with a focus on recovery, which we found outstripped Garmin in terms of accuracy – and running stats and VO2 Max are a big part of the feature set. Training Load and Benefit insights to give you a better sense of your workouts and make sure you’re not training too hard – and FitSpark workouts are tailored around your physical readiness.

The Grit X doesn’t quite match the Fenix 6 for depth of data and features – especially when you add in that Garmin packs on-wrist music playback from Spotify and Connect IQ apps.

However, it resoundingly beats Garmin on price, so unless you’re really testing the limits of endurance and sports science, the Polar Grit X comes highly recommended.

Read our full Polar Grit X review.

Garmin Fenix 6S

Garmin Fenix 6S

  • Huge array of tracked sports
  • 42mm case
  • Optical HR + ANT+ support
  • Advanced running analytics
  • PacePro
  • TOPO mapping
  • Connect IQ apps
  • 1000 songs + Spotify syncing
  • Price when reviewed: £529

For serious athletes with smaller wrists, the Fenix 6S should be top of the list.

Garmin introduced a smaller version of its outdoor watch with the Fenix 5 series, and, for the latest edition, it’s doing the same. In terms of running features, it’s on par with the Forerunner 945, but packs in more sport profiles, especially for the outdoors – so it’s certainly one for hikers, trail runners and ultra runners.

Like the Fenix 6 and the Fenix 6X, the 6S has all of the same features albeit packed into a 42mm-sized body. It comes in a standard and pro models with the latter giving you a built-in music player, mapping and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Across both models you’ll get a 1.3-inch display, which is bigger than the one included on the 6S. It’s also available in a sapphire edition to offer extra protection to that screen.

In terms of new features, you’re getting the latest version of Garmin’s OS, which makes improvements to the UI and how you can find your data. There’s an improved heart rate monitor, Garmin’s new PacePro feature for runners and new battery modes to help you get the most of out of the already impressive battery life.

Again, you get VO2 Max, Training Effect, Training Load and Training Status and all that good stuff as well.

You’re still getting plenty of sports tracking options, advanced metrics and smartwatch skills like payments and that built-in music player if you go for the Pro model.

It might not feel like a huge leap from the 5S, but Garmin has overall made its outdoor watch much nicer and more comfortable to wear all day.

We’ve spent most of our time with the 6 and the 6X, though you are essentially getting the same experience on the 6S. So if you like your running watches feature-packed, this is the one to go for.

In-depth: Garmin Fenix 6 review | Garmin Fenix 6X review

Amazfit T-Rex

Amazfit T-Rex

  • 14 tracked sports
  • 46mm case
  • Optical HR
  • 20 hours GPS tracking
  • 20 days as smartwatch
  • 5ATM water resistance
  • Price when reviewed: £130

If you’re looking for a GPS sports watch on a budget then the Amazfit T-Rex could be your first port of call. The main headline here is that the T-Rex aims to ape many of Garmin’s best features, but with a price tag of just $140.

So what do you get?

It’s a beast of a device, with the 48mm case right up there with the size of a Garmin Fenix 6. There are 14 sport modes and it is water resistant to 50 metres. If your purely a runner then its size might be off-putting, although few can match it for price.

In terms of sports tracking it’s no changing the world, or challenging Garmin in terms of data analytics. However, it’s a solid device with accurate GPS tracking and decent heart rate smarts, and the Amazfit app is a good place to review workouts. It will also chuck data out to Strava, which will satisfy a lot of people.

But while it lags Garmin in terms of insights, it aims to compete in terms of toughness and longevity.

It’s built to military grade MIL-STD-810G toughness, has a full 1.3-inch AMOLED display, with a 360×360 resolution and can still muster 20 hours of GPS and GLONASS tracking. That’s Fenix-esque, and while a Fenix 6 will get you up to 40 hours of GPS with UltraTrac turned on, the T-Rex will still meet most people’s needs at a fraction of the price.

We’re fond of the T-Rex, mostly because Amazfit has thoughtfully produced a quality app that makes its watch more than just a well-priced collection of sensors with no end product.

Coros Apex Pro

Coros Apex Pro

  • 1.2-inch
  • 240 x 240 pixel
  • Optical Pulse Oximeter
  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • Barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer
  • Waterproof Rating 10ATM
  • 40 hours in Full GPS mode
  • 100 hours in UltraMax mode
  • Price when reviewed: £449.99

US brand Coros is somewhat of a minnow in the GPS running watch world – but its Apex Pro goes toe-to-toe with the Garmin Fenix, but for a much lower price.

A multisport watch, it’s good for trekking and walking as well as running – boasts excellent battery life and some running specific features.

The Apex Pro adds a touch screen, modified design features, an additional button, an oximeter and an improved battery life.

And serious runners will love Track Mode, which uses GPS data to lock onto the specific lane that you’re running in to give ridiculously detailed data on your performance.

There’s a host of sensors on board, including heart rate, barometer and atmospheric sensors, too.

Using the built in HR sensor the Apex Pro can tap into its own recovery metrics in the shape of AI Trainer.

This shows you a ‘Stamina’ percentage and aerobic/anaerobic training effect numbers (0-6), to show how recovered you are.

Overall the Apex Pro does a nice job and tracking and displaying training data, but at £449.99 it doesn’t offer a seriously compelling reason to buy over a Garmin Fenix 6.

Full review:Coros Apex Pro review

Suunto 9

Suunto 9

  • 100m water resistance
  • Valancell optical HR
  • Recovery data
  • 50mm case
  • 25h / 50h / 120h GPS modes
  • Swimming, cycling, running, multisport open workouts
  • Price when reviewed: £499

Another sports watch with a clear USP, it’s purely ultrarunners who need apply for the membership of the Suunto 9 club. With a whopping 120 hours of GPS on offer (if you put the device into its strictest power saving mode), it’s all about longevity.

There’s a bunch of tracked sports in addition to running (cycling, hiking, and swimming to name but a few), but the focus is predominantly on battery life.

Before any workout you’ll get a predication of how much battery you have, and warnings will prompt you to charge before it’s too late. What’s more, you can switch up battery modes mid-run, so there’s no worries about the Suunto finishing before you do.

The Suunto also uses a nifty FusedSpeed feature, which estimates pace from arm movement when the GPS gets patchy. That’s great news for trail runners fed up with garbled GPS data when running in woods.

However, a lacklustre app and analysis, plus a pretty annoying interface on the watch means that unless you’re someone who tests the battery limits of their existing GPS watch – we’d recommend one of the Garmins above.

Wareable verdict: Suunto 9 review

Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit Ionic

  • 39mm case size
  • GPS built in
  • 10 hours GPS tracking
  • Basic pace, distance, calories data
  • Fitness tracking smarts
  • Price when reviewed: £299

When it comes to running the Ionic is the only Fitbit watch with GPS built in.

The experience matches the basic end of the Garmin line-up by measuring pace, distance and calories. There’s not a great many extra metrics like cadence – the Fitbit Ionic keeps things simple, and will suit weekend runners more than those who are getting really serious.

But like the Apple Watch it’s the fitness tracking elements that really excel. The app is excellent, and using it for running means you get more of a 360-degree picture of your health, with badges earned for running goals and a more detailed assessment of your weekly activity.

Battery life is decent, but won’t trouble high-end Garmins. You get around five days of use and 10 hours of GPS tracking. That’s much better than an Apple Watch Series 4, which is a much closer competitor.

If the look of the Ionic is not for you, but you do like the idea of owning a Fitbit smartwatch, you can always cast your eye on the Fitbit Versa. While it doesn’t possess the onboard GPS, those who still like running with their phones and can piggyback of your handset’s GPS to still map your running routes. And it’s cheaper than the Ionic.

Wareable verdict: Fitbit Ionic review

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