One of the best things about being a runner is you don't need much to get your workout on. All you really need is to lace up your running shoes and you're off. There's no fancy equipment, no expensive coaching lessons, no complicated technique. It's just you and the road -- or trail or treadmill if the weather's bad. 

Whether you hate to run with a phone in hand or attached to you (raises hand), or you want to trade in your old Casio for a smartwatch that can do a little more than tell time. With the technology available today, runners can get smartwatches that do everything you could dream of and more. Map your runs, track your pace (and get alerted when you start to slow down or speed up too much), and even just play your favorite tempo playlist without needing to bring your phone with you. 

What every runner should look for in a smartwatch

Ask most runners what they like about running, aside from the 30-minutes-later endorphin rush, they'll often say they love the freedom of being unencumbered when they hit the ground running. If your main goal is to keep your running gear light, look for a smartwatch that can do what you need without your phone there, like the Apple Watch 8 with LTE which can connect to a cell signal on its own to let you call, text, listen to music, use Apple Pay and sync your latest run to your app all while you're phone's sitting safely at home. 

If you're a trail runner, look for one with robust GPS and mapping features, like the Coros Pace 2, so you can be free to follow your feet wherever they take you while your watch maps your route and helps you find your way back when it's time to head home. 

And for runners who are all about performance and setting their next PR, get a metric-heavy watch like the Garmin Forerunner 955 which tracks cadence, stride length, and ground contact time on top of the standard performance metrics like distance, time and pace. 

We like to think of a running smartwatch as a tiny on-arm track coach, that can give you interval feedback time, tell you if your heart rate is too high or too low and keep you connected so you don't have to miss a day of training when someone needs to get ahold of you.

Best overall smartwatch for runners: Garmin Forerunner 955


The Garmin Forerunner 955 tracks every metric a runner could possibly need including pace, time and distance, of course, but also cadence, ground contact time, stride length, vertical oscillation (the amount of bounce in your step) and vertical ratio. It also tracks key health metrics like heart rate, breathing and VO2 max to measure how much effort you're exerting to maintain your current pace. 

Your log of past runs will not only include those details metrics but also key data about the running conditions like the route, elevation, temperature, time of day and more. When it comes time for your next race, it can use all that data from your past runs to predict your finishing time based on your fitness level and past performance in similar weather conditions. 

If you're always chasing your next PR, this is the watch that's going to get you there. And if you're just starting out, the detailed insights help your watch give you personalized suggestions on how to adjust your pace during your run to challenge yourself without pushing past your current fitness level. 

Top features of Garmin 955:

  • The battery lasts up to 15 days so you don't have to worry about it dying on you in mid-run.
  • Rich data and insights help you improve your performance without pushing yourself past your limits.
  • The daily suggested workouts adapt after every run based on your fitness level and recovery needs.
  • A morning report gives you an overview of your sleep quality, recovery status and training readiness as you start your day.
  • Download up to 2,000 songs on your watch so you can listen to your music while leaving your phone at home.

$500 at Amazon

Best budget smartwatch for runners: Coros Pace 2


An ultra-lightweight smartwatch, the Coros Pace 2 is made specifically for runners. It packs tons of advanced running metrics but its standout feature is probably its navigation system. Not only can you map your run and get back-to-start navigation when you're ready to head home, but you'll also get deviation alerts when you stray from the route you're following. 

You can also get alerts when your pace, heart rate or other metrics go above or below your target during the run so you can adjust accordingly to get the best results.

Top features of Coros Pace 2:

  • The battery lasts up to 30 hours with activity tracking and full GPS or 20 days with normal daily use.
  • The watch can track heart rate, VO2 Max, training load, threshold zones, recovery, fatigue and more key performance and health metrics.
  • Get access to training plans and workouts you can follow from your watch.

$199 at Amazon

Best smartwatch for daily use: Apple Watch Series 8


The Apple Watch 8 features advanced health sensors and apps. You can take an ECG, measure heart rate and blood oxygen and track temperature changes for advanced insights into your menstrual cycle. This latest version of the Apple Watch also adds vertical oscillation, stride length and ground contact time for even more detailed insights into your running performance. 

You can also create custom workouts with intervals to get alerted when its time to speed up, slow down, take a rest or begin your cool down session. 

But what makes it especially useful for runners is the ability to leave everything at home when you take this watch. It can be your music player, fitness tracker, wallet and communication device all in one. And right now, you can get the 4.7-star rated Apple Watch 8 for just $310 on Amazon (reduced from $399).

Top features of Apple Watch Series 8:

  • Take an ECG anytime
  • Apple Fitness + app (three months free) offers new ways to train and gives deeper metrics into your body's performance
  • Use Apple Wallet on the go so you can step out for a run without anything more than your Apple Watch.
  • The Apple Watch 8 adds new performance metrics tailored specifically to runners, including cadence, vertical oscillation, stride length and ground contact time. 

$310 at Amazon

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