Best Running Watches
Running is a fairly simple and straightforward sport – basically, as long as you are moving in a forward direction, you are running – runners are known for loving all things gear. We want the latest and greatest in apparel, technology, shoes, and nutrition; basically, if we think it’ll make us a stronger and faster runner, we want it. A reliable running watch is practically a staple for every runner, and luckily, with the popularity boom that running has gotten in the past five years, the market for GPS-enabled running watches has consequently exploded, too.
We runners really like having the top-of-the-line gear out there, and it shows; some runners will have no problems at dropping several hundred dollars on a single watch. Many GPS watches these days offer runners a variety of datapoints to dissect after each run, which is no accident because for as much as we runners love our gear, we seem to love having data even more. Naturally, the breadth and depth of available data depends on the functionality of the watch, so runners who like less will gravitate toward more simplistic (and likely cheaper) running watch models, while those who like more will be attracted to watches that are more high-tech (and likely more expensive). Fortunately, there’s a model for everyone out there, so it’s just a matter of finding a good fit, a watch that will satisfy your needs and give you just what you need: no more, no less.
As I previously mentioned, the running watch market has greatly expanded in the past few years. Old reliable industry companies like Garmin and Timex are still producing popular watch models, but more players are on the market now, like Tomtom, Polar, Nike+, Jawbone, Fitbit, Suunto, and many runners even eschew wearing watches and instead opt to track their runs by using running-specific smartphone apps, like Strava or Endomondo or even choose to use their smart watches instead of one exclusively for running.
I’ve been running long-distance races like half marathons, marathons, and ultramarathons for nearly a decade now, and while I’m admittedly not the most gear-centric runner out there, I do have some devices that I’d wholeheartedly recommend. They are as follows:
Garmin Forerunner 220.
Many people equate the Garmin name with running, and there’s a reason. Garmin has created so many different models over the years, each becoming smaller in frame (usually) but deeper in offerings, and the price points are all over the place, with some being much more affordable than others. I’ve been happily using my Garmin Forerunner 220 (without a heart rate monitor) for a few years now and have been satisfied with it. While it’s not a touchscreen watch – good for me because I have small children at home who’d likely accidentally destroy it – it gives me many datapoints after each of my runs, such as my cadence (thanks to the built-in accelerometer), my splits, and my elevation, and it’s easy and intuitive to use right out of the box. Because it’s a few years old now, too, this originally middle-of-the-range watch will be even more affordable. Its Bluetooth capability lets you easily connect to Garmin Connect (to further dissect your run) and upload to Strava.
If you’re a “less is more” type of runner and don’t want or need splits and stats for all of your runs, an old-school Timex Ironman watch – which is essentially a stopwatch – can easily fit your bill.
It’s affordable as they come, and if you only want to know your elapsed time on your run, or maybe just want to track a few intervals, then the IM watch is the way to go. On race day, you can simply hit the “lap” button to stay ahead of your splits, and unlike other higher-end watch models, you won’t be paralyzed or frustrated by data overload simply because you will be getting only the bare-bones.
Strava. Finally, if you’re a runner who simply likes to run – but still wants to know how many miles you’ve posted and make your running more “social” – if you’re not into watches, then perhaps running with an app like Strava will suffice for you. The app is really popular right now with runners and cyclists, and the updates continue to enhance the app’s accuracy and functionality. If you’re a new runner and are hesitating to shell out much money for a running-specific watch, or even if you just don’t like to wear watches, save yourself some cash and use a free app like Strava to keep track of your runs and progress.
There are so many running watches on the market, and with the updates and new features that each company seems to be releasing on a near-monthly basis, it can be hard to stay ahead of the curve and find a watch that suits your needs. Definitely do your research and talk to other athletes to see what they’re using and what they’d recommend before shelling out a ton of money for a watch that has a ton of functions that you won’t need or don’t anticipate using. In running, fit matters – making sure you’re wearing shoes that are good for your feet, making sure you’re wearing clothes that won’t chafe you, and the like – and so, too, does a watch’s “fit” matter; you want to find a model that will suit your needs. A little research and asking around will go a long way and help you get out there in no time, new watch in hand (on wrist).
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