Put a coach on your wrist with these high-quality, high-tech run trackers.
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.
But the functionality doesn’t stop when the run ends: Most modern running watches can be used to track sleep, heart rate changes, and other health metrics. Of course, some runners might prefer 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 smart watches—from simple GPS trackers to the higher-end models that put a virtual computer on your wrist—or scroll deeper for more helpful buying info and full reviews of those models plus other high-ranking options.
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 4 has a new 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 evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and designers, and use our own experience 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.
Garmin Forerunner 45
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.
Garmin Forerunner 945
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 (color!) 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
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, including impressive GPS accuracy, a built-in heart rate monitor, an altimeter, compass, and even a “Stride” function that calculates all your running metrics when you’re indoors or can’t get a GPS signal. The screen customization 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 off your effort.
Apple Watch Series 4
There’s no need to lug your phone on the run—the Apple Watch lets you stay connected and make or receive calls through its own GPS+Cellular interface. While the Series 4’s six-hour GPS battery life might limit its value as a dedicated running watch for some athletes, it does have a larger screen this go-round that packs more data metrics and health features. Runners at risk for heart disease will especially appreciate the new electrocardiogram function, which allows you to run your own ECG test to detect any possible heart irregularities.
Polar Vantage V Titan
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 load 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-hour period.
Garmin Forerunner 35
Multi-sport athletes looking for a lightweight, dependable watch that can track running and cycling metrics—as well as sleep, heart rate, steps, social notifications, and other health indicators—won’t find a better value than the Forerunner 35, which retails for just under $100. The watch has a straightforward, easy-to-use interface; clean, no-frills design; and solid GPS reception. In GPS mode, it can track your workouts for 13 hours.
The 9 is a hit with the ultrarunners on our team for its “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 ultra-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.