After a pair of running shoes, a smart watch for tracking distance and pace is one of the biggest training purchases you can make. But today’s watches don’t just tally your miles and remind you that yesterday’s run was a half-minute faster—they can also build customized workouts, create on-the-go color maps, bump your favorite Spotify workout playlists, and more.
The functionality doesn’t stop when the run ends, either: Most modern running watches can be used to track sleep, heart rate changes, and other health metrics. Of course, some runners might desire a more minimalist timepiece if they prefer a basic interface and don’t need their data served with the works.
Check out the quick reviews below of five of our top smartwatches—from simple GPS trackers to the higher-end models that put a virtual computer on your wrist—then scroll deeper for helpful buying info and full reviews of those models plus other high-ranking options.
Garmin Forerunner 945
Best Endless Battery
Polar Grit X
Best power on your wrist
Polar Vantage V
Best for Apple users
Apple Watch Series 5
What Makes These “Good for Men?”
The best smart watches for men share the same class-leading features as the best smart watches overall: They’re accurate, durable, reliable, intuitive to use, and packed with bonus features at a great value. Once you’ve ticked all those boxes, what makes a smart watch ideal for male runners usually comes down to size and style, with a whole lot of individual preference thrown in. Some do have features that play to men’s health tendencies: The Apple Watch Series 5 has an electrocardiogram function that can detect possible heart irregularities, which can pose a dangerous threat to men in particular, who are more at risk for heart disease. We’ve gathered reviews and feedback from the men on our team to bring you this roundup of the smart watches we love best for their ultra-functionality and steady battery life.
How We Tested
Every watch on this list has been tested by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and designers, and use our own experience with these watches, tracking and obsessing over runs as short as 100m or as long as 100 miles. We evaluated smart watches from all available brands on accuracy, reliability, durability, features, style, and value to come up with this list.
Apple Watch Series 5
- Screen stays on without gestures
- Battery drains quickly when using GPS, data, and Bluetooth
The latest Apple Watch hasn’t gotten any bigger than the Series 4, but a few minor tweaks improve performance. The “always on” screen allows you to see the time or your run metrics with just a quick glance, rather than the raise of an arm or a flick of the wrist. To prevent the display from chewing through your battery life, the screen refreshes only once per second when it’s inactive. In testing, we found the GPS to be as accurate as other running watches from Garmin and Suunto, though battery life suffers when you have all sensors fired up—you’ll get only three hours of full GPS, Bluetooth, and cellular data. The best feature, still, is that cellular connectivity, which lets you take phone calls or stream music while leaving your iPhone at home.
Polar Grit X
- Intuitive maps
- Hill detection
- No street names on maps
If you want an outdoor watch with excellent navigation, Polar’s Grit X is a compact alternative to smaller competitors such as the Garmin Fenix and Suunto 9. The battery will last 40 hours in standard GPS mode but, like the Fenix and 9, you can boost that lifespan by reducing the frequency of its tracking—up to 100 hours if it pings your location every two minutes and all other sensors are disabled. That’s not terribly useful for runners in most cases, but for extreme ultras and multi-day hikes, it’ll get you to the end without an external battery pack. Another handy feature for runners covering extreme terrain is Hill Splitter. This feature automatically detects when you start climbing or descending, and will display how long you’ve been running the incline or decline and how steep it is.
Garmin Forerunner 945
- Heart rate monitoring
- Long battery
- Virtual pay
- One colour
For runners who want nearly every feature a smartwatch can provide, it’s hard to go wrong with Garmin’s Lexus option. The 945’s light weight (50 grams) belies its long list of features, including storage space for 1,000 songs, virtual payment, a barometric altimeter, long-lasting battery life (two weeks in smartwatch mode and 36 hours in GPS mode)—and all major data features including heart rate, recovery time, and more. You can even use it to make new (colour!) maps of your routes to explore cities without getting lost. If you can manage the price, this watch is a great option for putting a veritable training coach on your wrist.
Coros Apex Multisport Watch
- Impressive battery life
- “Stamina” metric estimates energy left
With a 35-hour battery life that can handle even the toughest ultras (and one that rivals the more expensive Forerunner 945), the Coros Apex has all the metrics you need in a clean-looking package. Features include impressive GPS accuracy, a built-in heart rate monitor, an altimeter, a compass, and even a “Stride” function that calculates all your running metrics when you’re indoors or can’t get a GPS signal. The customisation is unparalleled, with five in-workout screens from which to choose to display any combination of metrics. We especially appreciate the stamina and threshold metrics, which estimate how much energy you have left and whether your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds are improving, based on your effort.
- Extreme GPS battery life
- Weather data
The 9 is a hit with the ultrarunners on our team for its aptly named “Ultra” battery setting, which allows for a staggering 120 hours of active GPS battery life. But that’s not all that makes it so great: It’s also customizable, with sport profiles that showcase every run metric you could possibly imagine, and it grabs a satellite signal almost immediately, so you don’t have to waste time before every run with your wrist in the air, waiting to connect. Add to that all the usual Bluetooth notifications and functionality, plus a giant watch face that’s easy to read on the fly.
Garmin Forerunner 245
- Syncs with Spotify to store and play music from watch
- Performance monitoring and adaptive training
For those who like to run with music or podcasts—and prefer not to drag their phone along—the Forerunner 245 is a big level up from its 230 and 235 predecessors due to its incorporation of Bluetooth streaming functionality from Spotify and similar apps. The watch also improves on the 230/235 with a new heart rate monitor and upgraded map features, like the ability to follow a pre-loaded map or just return to your starting point. In addition, all the features that made the 230 and 235 great are still here, including smartphone notifications, sleep and step tracking, customisable workouts and alerts, accurate GPS, and much more. The only downside to the updated model is a shorter battery life of only six hours when you’re using GPS with music streaming.
Garmin Forerunner 45
- Water-resistant down to 50 meters
- Smart notifications for calls and texts
- Heart rate monitor and cadence sensor
Want most of the data features of the 945, minus the hefty price tag? The slim, streamlined 45 has the stuff runners look for—run tracking, heart rate graphs, training zone metrics, and more—at a fraction of the cost. The biggest comparative downsides are that it has a relatively short battery life of 13 hours in GPS mode, no music streaming, and no on-the-go mapping. But for what it does offer, including smartphone notifications and GPS accuracy, it’s a great value.
Polar Vantage V
- Estimates running power
- Tracks training load
Prior to the Vantage V, “power” was a metric primarily tracked by cyclists—at least by that specific name. The watch calculates that measure of maximum effort via a separate sensor from the wrist-based heart rate, also taking into account your muscular load, perceived load, and cardiovascular load to determine overall training from your runs. It’s just one more data point you can use to motivate yourself to drop the hammer mid-run. The Vantage V also boasts a killer battery life: The watch tracks GPS for a staggering 40 hours.
Amazfit Bip S
- Solid battery life
- Heart rate and sleep monitoring
- Touchscreen can be tricky
For the money, the slim, lightweight Bip S brings a lot to the table, including a battery that goes on seemingly forever (approximately a month after being fully charged). The watch also tracks your sleep, steps, and heart rate, records multi-sport data, and sends call and email notifications from your phone. It’s easy and intuitive to use straight out of the box—and style-wise, it’s likely to be mistaken for an Apple Watch around the office, despite retailing for a fraction of the price.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
- Map routes on the watch
- Music integration
- Pricier than similar Forerunner 945
The outdoor enthusiast-targeted Fenix line is known for its durable builds and epic battery life, in addition to supporting all the data metrics you know and love from a high-end Garmin watch. This latest version, the 5 Plus, gets two major upgrades from its predecessor in the form of music—you can now stream MP3s, Spotify, and other music apps—and routes—you can look at Google maps and create round-trip courses on the fly. The battery life on the X model goes long, up to 32 hours with GPS running or 13 hours with GPS tracking and music streaming via Bluetooth, while the 5 Plus drops to a (still respectable) 18 and 8 hours.
Garmin Forerunner 235
- Excellent value
- 11-hour GPS battery life
The 245 above replaces the 235 and adds music streaming, breadcrumb maps so you can find your way back home, and a new heart rate monitor. If you care less about those updates than you do about cost, the 235 should be your pick now that it’s widely on sale for under $250. Packed with training features like heart rate readings, 11-hour GPS battery life, a built-in accelerometer for indoor workouts, sleep and step tracking, customizable workouts, smartphone notifications, and Vo2 Max estimates, the watch is an incredible training tool for the price. Getting an accurate GPS signal immediately for running, cycling, and swim workouts (the watch is water-resistant) is easy, as is setting up auto laps and pace or heart rate alerts during speed workouts. After a year with the 235, the only potential downside of the watch we’ve found is that sometimes syncing runs to Garmin’s app can be glitchy—but that has more to do with the brand’s app than the specific training watch.
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
- 80+ sport-specific training modes
- 24/7 activity tracking
If you like Suunto’s big, durable watch faces but don’t need the longest GPS battery life or the heftier price tag that comes with it, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is for you. The watch has a respectable 12 hours of GPS battery life (compared to the 9’s 26 hours) and a laundry list of features that includes mapping, training insights, an optical heart rate monitor, and 24/7 activity tracking. It even has a staggering 80+ customized sport modes, so you can display whatever combination of data fields you choose. Equally importantly, we found in our testing that the GPS signal is easy to grab with complete accuracy.