Aleksey Smirnov’s choice: The best smart watches for sports

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Aleksey Smirnov's choice

The best smartwatches for running, sports, and training are high-performance and have lots of features; we’ve researched all the available models on the market, so you don’t have to do that. However, if you’re a beginner runner, the large number of features can seem daunting when you’re trying to make a choice, from GPS to support for various sports, solar charging, and even a flashlight.

Aleksey Smirnov did a thorough search to select all the best smartwatches for running according to the needs you need – tracking your route, calories burned, heart rate zone measurements, and, of course, how they track your heart rate by link.

Other important features of a smartwatch for running and sports should include detailed information about your progress, including pace, cadence, and speed. Knowing this information can help you set yourself up for longer runs or speed up to break any personal records. While features like GPS and biometric data, including calories burned and maximum VO2, can help your overall health.

Top 5 Best Smartwatches for Running and Sports

1. Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar

Aleksey Smirnov's choice

The best watch to take running to the next level

  • OS compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Features: Audio playback
  • Additional features: barometer, alarm clock, gyroscope, compass, stopwatch, timer, pedometer
  • Heart rate monitor: Built-in
  • Monitoring functions: accelerometer, blood oxygen level measurement, calorie monitoring, sleep monitoring, continuous heart rate measurement, thermometer
  • Water resistance class: WR50 (5 atm)
  • Phone calls: incoming call notification

The Forerunner 955 Solar is the best Forerunner and smart running watch available today. They look good, work brilliantly, track your vitals accurately and display information in the right way with which to improve health and fitness.

Their GPS tools are excellent, with a particular focus on cycling and running, alerting users to upcoming climbs and helping them navigate adventures. This is supported by Garmin’s multi-band GPS capabilities, which Forerunner can access for high accuracy.

New features like Training Ready and Body Battery effectively help and support recovery, which is important for everyone from casual parkrunners to high-performance triathletes and ultramarathoners. All of this is supported by a battery that lasts a long time, supported by solar-powered Power Glass technology, and plenty of storage for all your favorite music and routes.

Pros

  • Lots of features
  • Battery life
  • Classic Garmin design

Cons

  • Some functions will require additional devices

2. Garmin Vivoactive 4

Aleksey Smirnov's choice

The best running watches that look good

  • OS compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Features: USB, Audio playback
  • Additional features: vibration, gyroscope, compass, stopwatch, timer
  • Heart rate monitor: Built-in
  • Monitoring functions: accelerometer, calorie monitoring, sleep monitoring, physical activity monitoring, continuous heart rate measurement, thermometer
  • Glass type: scratch-resistant

Is it a smartwatch, a running watch with GPS, or a fashion watch? The answer is three in one. This is the first Garmin watch that really doesn’t look quite right for runners, it competes with devices like the Apple Watch and Android Wear. Sure, they’re not technically as powerful as some of the competitors in this ranking, but in terms of offering the best value for money – attractive looks and features – they’re hard to beat.

As you can probably imagine, like all the best running watches, it has all the smart features of Garmin, which means full GPS and heart rate tracking, support for multiple sports, and even streaming music to the watch for Deezer and Spotify (though the interface here could stand some improvement).

All of this, plus battery life, is four or five days of normal use or 18 hours of GPS use (six if you also listen to music). In terms of design, this running watch has a stainless steel bezel and a comfortable rubberized strap that can be changed to suit the occasion.

A huge selection of watch faces and app options are available on Garmin Connect, which is open to developers, which means exciting new additions are always emerging.

Pros

  • Workout tracking with full GPS
  • Streaming music on the watch
  • Nice design

Cons

  • No training load control

3. Garmin Fenix ​​7

Aleksey Smirnov's choice

The best premium running watches

  • OS compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Additional functions: gyroscope, compass, stopwatch, timer
  • Heart rate monitor: Built in
  • Monitoring functions: accelerometer, blood oxygen level measurement, calorie monitoring, sleep monitoring, physical activity monitoring, continuous measurement of heart rate, thermometer
  • Water resistance class: WR100 (10 atm)

The Garmin Fenix 7 is a smart running watch with advanced training tools to help you optimize your weekly workouts and refine your strategy during competitions. They retain all the best features of the Fenix 6, but add some great new tools, such as a real-time endurance meter that shows how your energy level drops during your run so you can adapt your efforts accordingly.

There’s also a new graph that shows how your training effort affects your predicted race time – a great motivator to push yourself a little harder.

While they still have the traditional Garmin five-button layout, this is the first Fenix watch with a touchscreen, an addition that has made panning maps easier. GPS accuracy has been exceptional, and Garmin has made a whole set of map packs available for download through the new Fenix 7 manager.

However, it’s not just a watch for runners – in addition to a full set of profiles for road, trail, and indoor running, there’s also a huge set of training tools for cycling, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, and dozens of other activities. It’s even a tournament-authorized golf watch, with thousands of preset course maps.

The Fenix 7’s color display isn’t as bright as the Venu 2 Plus and Epix (Gen 2) OLED screens, but it’s easy to read in most lighting conditions and contributes to its impressive battery life performance. The solar versions last even longer without recharging, and the optional sapphire crystal protects against scratches when you’re running off the beaten path.

Pros

  • New learning tools available
  • Superior navigation
  • Heavy-duty design

Cons

  • Low-contrast screen
  • No microphone for speakerphone

4. Apple Watch Series 8

Aleksey Smirnov's choice

The best everyday running watch

  • OS compatibility: iOS
  • Additional functions: microphone, speaker, compass, gyroscope, stopwatch, barometer, pedometer, alarm clock
  • Heart rate monitor: Built-in
  • Monitoring functions: blood oxygen level measurement, ECG, continuous heart rate measurement, body temperature measurement, sleep monitoring, physical activity monitoring, accelerometer, calorie monitoring
  • Water resistance class: WR50 (5 atm)

While the Apple Watch Series 8 is not specifically designed for use as a running watch, the features have improved in recent years, making it a pretty decent gadget to wear on a run, especially after the WatchOS 9 update.

The feature that tells you your pace is great, and you can set alerts to remind you if you push too hard or run too slow. There are also many new features that make the Apple Watch a valuable workout tool, including heart rate zones, stride length, ground contact time, and vertical swings.

The downside of the Apple Watch in terms of running is the battery life – it’s only 18 hours, a fraction of what most other watches in this ranking offer, but the Apple Watch 8 has Apple’s new power-saving mode, giving you 36 hours of battery life.

While the Apple Watch 8 is very similar to the Apple Watch 7, it adds a skin temperature sensor that allows runners to get more accurate sleep data and track their menstrual cycle. They may not be as high-tech as the Apple Watch Ultra, but they’re still a great choice.

Pros

  • Same great design and display
  • Crash detection
  • New watchOS 9 training interface

Cons

  • Not really designed for running

5. Coros Apex

Aleksey Smirnov's choice

A super smart workout partner filled with useful ideas

  • OS compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Additional features: gyroscope, compass
  • Heart rate monitor: built-in
  • Monitoring functions: accelerometer, calorie monitoring, physical activity monitoring
  • Screen technology: Memory LCD
  • Glass type: sapphire crystal

If you’re serious about running but the Garmin Forerunner 955 and Fenix 7 are too big for your budget, the Coros Apex is a great alternative, giving you a wide range of workout data you can use.

This is a serious smart running watch built for statistical data enthusiasts. Working on increasing your cadence? Want to check your training load for the week? It’s all in your hand. Accurate GPS tracking (with impressively detailed maps), and an intelligent stride algorithm track frequency and stride length over time, so the watch can keep an accurate record even if you go through a tunnel and out of satellite range during your workout run.

We were also impressed with the Apex’s navigation tools, which make it a great running watch if you’re interested in changing up your workouts and exploring new routes.

Like the Coros Pace 2, we found the display to be a bit darker in daylight conditions, but turning on the gesture-activated backlight neatly solves this problem, providing a clear view of your pace, distance and heart rate as you run without excessive battery consumption.

Pros

  • Intuitive interface
  • Smart, concise design
  • Great app

Cons

  • Relatively dim screen

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