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Best Running Watches 2017

Best Running Watches 2017

Welcome to our Best Running Watches 2017 review where we try to find the best GPS running watch for you.

Best Running Watches 2017 at a glance

Editors Choice

TomTom Spark 3

  • Integrated Music
  • Route Tracking

Entry Level

garmin forerunner 25

Garmin Forerunner 25

  • Live Tracking
  • Phone Integration

Advanced

Garmin Forerunner630

Garmin Forerunner 630

  • Big on Metrics
  • Battery Life

Best Running Watches 2017 - The Review

1. TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music + GPS Review

The TomTom Spark 3 replaces the old TomTom Spark with the added bonus of the new route exploration feature and the ability to store music without requiring your phone. There are four models available in the Spark 3 range. The base level TomTom Spark 3 has the addition of route navigation over the original TomTom Spark. Next in the range is the TomTom Spark 3 Music + Headphones which has the rare addition in GPS watches of 3GB of storage for music, and comes with free Bluetooth headphones if bought through the US. Next the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio gains an optical heart-rate monitor however this is at the sacrifice of the music. The flagship model in the range the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music unsurprisingly contains all of the features listed previously.

Design

Like the majority of GPS watches for running the TomTom Spark 3 isn't going to win any design awards, however it maintains a fairly clutter free easy to navigate layout. The watch is quite slim and is fairly non-descript in comparison to say the Garmin Forerunner 920. Although optical heart-rate monitors can be unreliable the strap on the TomTom Spark 3 ensures the it can be snugly fit to your wrist ensuring a reliable reading of your pulse. The backlight on the TomTom Spark 3 is one of the minor negatives as it can be fairly heavy on battery and unfortunately is somewhat of a necessity in low light situations.

Features
  • Music storage
  • Route tracking
  • Optical heart rate reliability
  • GPS reliability
  • Back light heavy on battery
  • No smartphone notifications

The addition of a compass sensor to enable the route tracking means that you can easily find your way home on a new training route or running trail. The accelerometer means the treadmill training accuracy is improved and once calibrated to pool size the TomTom Spark 3 can also track swim training.

Verdict

​The TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music wins our Best Running Watches 2017 review based on simplicity of design, ease of use and the integration of music which is still a rarity in running GPS watches these days. These things combined mean that it is a running watch the would suit a very large portion of the running world.

2. Garmin Forerunner 235 Review

Garmin Forerunner 235

The Garmin Forerunner 235 packs a big punch in the features department. It makes our 2017 Best Running Watches list easily as it's jam packed with the latest features and in an impressive color range that is a nice change from most other GPS running watches boring mate black. The successor to the ever popular Garmin Forerunner 225 it replaces it's old stable mate after less than a year and is one of the companies newest GPS watches with a built in wrist positioned heart rate monitor.

Design

In design terms it stays faithful to the rest of the Garmin watch range and it's one of the least clunky running watches available. With an attractive range of colors to choose from we are sure there is one to suit everyone's taste. Weighing in at a measly 42g it's not something that is going to be a distraction or annoyance on those long runs. The screen at a resolution of 215 x 180 pixels is more than enough for the average runner's needs.

Features
  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • Garmin Connect
  • Activity tracker
  • VO2 Max estimator
  • Big battery life ~ 11 hours
  • Storage to hold 200 hours of acticvities
  • No storage for music
  • Clunky app

For the average running enthusiast the Garmin Forerunner has all the features you would realistically need and a few extra thanks in part to it's addition of some basic smart watch features.

Sport tracking is the Forerunner 235's main feature. With four modes to choose from: free tracking, running, bike and running indoor. Packed with lot's of the features found in most high end running GPS watch it not quite up to par with the Forerunner 630. Included are the basics: time, distance, pace and calories along with more specialized cadence Training Effect and heart rate/max heart rate.

Verdict

A great blend of metrics and activity tracking with a dash of built in smart phone notifications makes the Forerunner 235 a solid choice for the mid to advanced trainer. A great GPS watch for running and a worthy addition to our Best Running Watches 2017 review.

3. Polar V800 Review

Polar V800

Polar V800

Design

The build quality of the V800 is one of it's standout qualities. Scratch resistant Gorilla glass that's water proof to 30m makes the screen something to last and alloy buttons and beefy case give a very robust feel. The rubberised strap has a double buckle and is pretty wide helping the V800 to sit well on the wrist.

Features
  • Cadence
  • Long battery life
  • Build quality
  • Running program
  • Heart rate variability
  • Fiddly connector
  • Clunky size

The Polar V800 includes the Running Program that give users personalized routines depending on distance. This can be configured from the Polar Flow web app, however you must go through the phone app to access it. You also get recovery status and VO2 MAX.

Verdict

Boasting an impressive array of running metrics the V800 should cover all the bases of an advanced level runner.

4. Garmin Vivoactive HR Review

vivoactive hr

Nestled somewhere in between an activity tracker and a mid-range runners watch the Vivoactive HR has something to offer most sports watch enthusiasts not just runners.

Design

Both light at 38g and a slim 8mm the Vivoactive HR has a much smaller form factor than the average runner's watch. The screen is pretty low-res at 205 x 148 and is quite dull, this is apparently to boost it's battery performance, we're not convinced the gain in battery is offset by the lack of brightness.

Features
  • Tracks lots of sports
  • Long battery life
  • Smart phone integration
  • Bland design
  • Low resolution screen

​The best feature of the Garmin Vivoactive HR is the multi sport ability, each sport has more than just standard time recording. Almost every mode includes distance, pace and HR whilst each contains some sport specific information such as ascent for skiing.

Verdict

Fills a void in the fitness watches market quite well, however it does lack the depth that a more advanced runner may expect so for that reason it is probably best suites to beginner runners or general fitness enthusiasts, one of the best sports watches for men or women available. If you would like to review some other fitness trackers check out our fitness tracker reviews here.


5. Garmin Forerunner 630

forerunner 630
Design

The large screen on the Forerunner 630 makes swiping through notifications easy however the low resolution(2015 x 180) isn't something you would expect of a watch of this caliber. Battery life is big and you can easily get several long runs in before needing a re-charge. The matte strap is offset nicely by the blue case and is suitably ventilated.

Features
  • Great metrics
  • Smart phone integration
  • Connect IQ app
  • Long battery life
  • No optical heart rate monitor
  • Low resolution screen

Being the top of the range Garmin watch for running the Forerunner 630 has a plethora of metrics that you would expect at this level. Vertical oscillation, balance, stride length, ground contact time all add up to a lot of data to pour over and analyse. They have pretty much covered every base and there's not much more you could ask for in a running watch.

Verdict

Is this the best GPS watch ? Possibly one of the best GPS running watches out there, one for the serious runner. A well deserved place in our Best Running Watches 2017 review.

6. Fitbit Surge

Fitbit Surge

The Surge occupies a place in the market similar to the Garmin Vivoactive as somewhat high end fitness tracker and mid range running watch. It is Fitbit's attempt to corner the multi sport wearable crowds attention.

Aesthetically the Surge looks quite dated. The display is not going to win an innovation awards however the rubber strap although very wide is both comfortable and well fitting.

Design

Aesthetically the Surge looks quite dated. The display is not going to win an innovation awards however the rubber strap although very wide is both comfortable and well fitting.

Features
  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • Smart phone integration
  • Multi sport
  • Bulky case
  • Dated looking
  • Battery life

The Surge has the ability to track a lot of different movement types thanks to eight different built in sensors. The combination of GPS, altimeter and and calorie counting from the app means lots of data can be logged and pored over on any given day.

Verdict

Garmin Vivoactive vs Fitbit Surge as our crossover device in Best Running Watches 2017? Well the Vivoactive has slightly better battery life however if great sleep tracking and step counting is what you are after then the Surge is the choice. A great fitness watch .

7. Suunto Ambit3 Run GPS with HR

suunto ambit3 hr

If you are looking for a solidly built multi use watch the Ambit3 may just fit the bill.

Design

At 74g the Ambit3 is quite heavy and as a unit that sits on your wrist feels quite bulky. The dot matrix screen looks a little dated, however it easy fairly easy to use.

Features
  • Great navigation
  • GPS accuracy
  • Multi-sport support
  • Bulky
  • No vibration alert
Verdict

One of the best running watches 2017, one of the top running watches ever!

8. Garmin Forerunner 25

garmin forerunner 25
Design

The Garmin Forerunner 25 makes our Best Running Watches 2017 list as the best entry level GPS running watch. It replaces the older Forerunner 15 as the most suitable watch for the beginner level runner. It comes in a range of colors and two different sizes to suit just about anyone.

Features
  • Bluetooth Smartphone Integration
  • Live tracking
  • Incoming Call, Text and Calendar notifications
  • Upload workouts to Web via Garmin Connect Mobile app
  • Only two data fields per screen
  • No additional sport modes

For the average runner all the basic features are covered, including GPS for tracking pace/speed/distance, accelerometer for tracking treadmill work, daily activity tracker and 5 different run modes Calories-goal/Time-goal/Distance-goal/Run/Walk/Virtual-Pacer.

With a battery life of about 8 hours between charges you should have most long activities covered and the waterproofing to 50 meters means that rain is never going to be an issue​. Although still only a low end watch the Garmin 25 is heart rate strap compatible, the heart rate strap can be bought separately or as part of a bundle.

Verdict

The Garmin Forerunner 25 makes our Best Running Watches 2017 review as the best entry level watch on the market. It offers great value for money for the casual/beginner runner and yet still has enough features to cover most bases when tracking training progress. If you are looking for a basic watch GPS then the Forerunner 25 should suit your needs. A cheap GPS watch that is hard to fault.

Running watch buying guide

Here we present a very brief guide to running GPS watches for each level of runner.

After reading through our Best Running Watches 2017 review you now know what's available we thought a quick buying guide should help. You'll get the best out of GPS running watches reviews if you know what you want. Choosing the right watch can be tricky, the best way to choose is look at what your needs are and try to match a watch to them. Whether you are a total running noob or are endeavoring to break your marathon PB tracking your training can act as both a motivator and chance to analyze each training session and how your overall plan is progressing.

Battery life is another big consideration. If you plan on regular use of the GPS functionality then you battery usage becomes an even bigger factor.

Beginner

Looking to bridge the divide between expensive watch and low end an activity tracker? Then you would be best suited to an entry level running watch. Those that are casual runners or trying their first couch to 5k program need not be concerned with the complexities or amounts of data that a more expensive watch might offer. The most basic features such as time, distance, calories, pace and heart rate should be sufficient for your needs. The inclusion of smart phone notifications may also be an added bonus.

Garmin Forerunner 25

As an entry level watch the Forerunner 25 should cover all the bases. You can read are review above here. Probably the best cheap running watch.

Intermediate

The intermediate runner has progressed beyond the simple training run and may start to incorporate interval training and hill sprints into their training regime. Organizing your training into specific blocks can help greatly when introducing periodization into your plan based around speed, endurance and conditioning. Mid-level watches can be a useful aid in collecting and analyzing your training data. Therefore at this level a GPS watch with heart rate monitor is a must.

Heart rate tracking features are a must if you intend to use heart rate zone training for enhanced interval training, the majority of watches in this category however may need the addition of a heart rate strap. In-built accelerometers can greatly help in tracking training runs done on a treadmill as the cold winter weather forces some runners indoors. At this level you get quite a good return on investment versus some of the more advanced watches.

TomTom Spark 3

The Spark 3 should meet all of features that an intermediate should need combined with integrated music storage it's proven extremely popular and ranks in first place in our overall review here.

Fitbit Surge

The Surge has most features you would need for the intermediate runner you can review the Surge can here.

Advanced

For the advanced runner a watch that is both big on training metrics and smartphone/app integration is expected as standard along with accurate GPS readings and heart rate monitor integration. One would also expect stride analysis and VO2 calculation.

Garmin Forerunner 630

The flagship of Garmin's running offerings the Forerunner 630 is big on metrics such as stride length and vertical ratio, it's easily the best Garmin running watch. Review it here.

Polar V800

Big on running metrics the V800 is for any serious trainer. One of the best watches for running. Review it here