Buying Guide for Runners: How To Choose The Best Running Watch?

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Running has grown popularity in the past few years. There are now more people who understand that having an active lifestyle has a huge impact on our health. Although, there are plenty of exercises and sports to choose from, running is simply the simplest and still the most popular way to get fit.

Why do you need a running watch?

While smartphones nowadays have apps you can use when running, a running watch displays real-time tracking information right on your wrist. Using a running watch not only takes out the hassle of running with a phone in your pocket but also provides you with longer battery life and more accurate running data. 

Running watches basic features include tracking your distance, speed/pace, and calories. Advanced features can be anything from  heart rate monitoring and interval session programming, to running dynamics and full-route navigation. Latest models also let you choose from wide range of watch faces and allow you to control music from your phone.

For people who are just starting to run or those who already incorporated running into their lifestyle, a running watch can provide some source of motivation to stay on track by giving you goals to achieve and alert you when you hit a milestone. For runners who have taken this activity seriously to a professional level, like triathletes and marathoners, a running watch will be the best tool to record and analyse running performance. Data gathered during a run can then be used for find ways on how to improve your running form.

Obviously, the more features you get, the pricier the watch gets. But not all of those extra features might be necessary for your running needs. To help you find the best running watch suited for you, here are the top 4 factors you need to consider.
  1. How would you use it?
  2. Would you use it for sports other than running?
  3. Would you like to have a heart rate monitor feature?
  4. Would you like to pair it with your smartphone to receive notifications or alerts?

1.) How would you use it?

Choosing a good running watch will depend basically on how you would use it. There are watches for all kinds of runners, from beginners to running enthusiasts, to professional runners who compete in marathons and multisport events.

For Occasional Runners

The  activity tracker or fitness bands listed below can track your daily steps, distance, speed/pace and calories using an accelerometer instead of GPS. Watches with GPS provide a more accurate measurement for your speed and distance. If you’re more concerned with your overall daily activity rather than specific running data, a fitness band would do a good job.
Garmin vivofit 2 and Garmin vivosmart HR
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Garmin vivofit 2 and Garmin vivosmart HR
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Garmin vivofit 2 and Garmin vivosmart HR

For beginners and regular runners

If you’re looking for watch that you’d use mainly for running, the watches listed would be most suited for you. These running watches track how far and how fast you are on each run and provides a good idea about your progress. These also let you upload your data online to see your run on a map, get more detail on each mile and share it to your friends.
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For running enthusiasts, professional runners, and marathon athletes

If you want a watch that you would use to train for a running competition or marathon, the following watches can do more than just track your distance, speed/pace, and calories. These have running features such as interval training, V02 max estimate, and recovery advisor to help you train smarter and achieve new race goals. They also include an internal accelerometer which calculates distance for indoor workouts.
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The  Forerunner 620 and  Forerunner 630 also provides feedback on running form by showing your cadence, ground contact time and vertical oscillation.

2.) Would you use it for sports other than running?

Many people prefer to have one watch that can be used for a variety of fitness activities. Sometimes, runners who want to get fit, want to a watch that can also be used for training in other sports. 

For Running, Cycling, and Swimming

If you want to have a running watch you can use for other sports such as cycling, and swimming, you can choose from the watches below. These watches can track the performance data that most people would need for running and other sport activities. 
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For Marathon, Triathlon, and Multisport Competition

For triathletes, you’d prefer to have a watch that has a multisport functionality which lets you easily transition from one sport to another. Garmin Forerunner 920XT watches make an excellent job in measuring advanced performance data for runningcyclingswimming, and many others.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT Multisport GPS Watch
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Garmin Forerunner 920XT Multisport GPS Watch

For Outdoor Adventures

If you mostly run on mountains, hills, or forests, you’d prefer a watch with altimeter, barometer, compass, and route navigation features as well as weather alerts. The watches listed below are not only excellent multisport watches but they’re also great GPS navigation watches for mountain running, hiking, and skiing. Designed to withstand the rugged conditions of the outdoor terrains, they also have longer battery life in GPS mode.
Garmin fenix 3, Garmin fenix 3 HR with wrist-based HRM, and Garmin epix
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Garmin fenix 3, Garmin fenix 3 HR with wrist-based HRM, and Garmin epix
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Garmin fenix 3, Garmin fenix 3 HR with wrist-based HRM, and Garmin epix
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Garmin fenix 3, Garmin fenix 3 HR with wrist-based HRM, and Garmin epix

3.) Would you like to have a heart rate monitor feature?

Most of the running watches mentioned above can be paired with a separate  heart rate monitor (HRM) strap via Bluetooth Smart Connectivity or ANT+ connectivity. Monitoring your heart rate in beats per minute (BPM) during workout session helps you determine if you're exercising at the right intensity to achieve your fitness goals.

Compatible with ANT+ HRM Straps

4.) Would you like to pair it with your smartphone to receive notifications or alerts?

Many people now would like to pair their watches with their smartphones to receive email, text and other alerts. This feature comes in handy during your run since you no longer have to pick out your phone from your pocket to see the information. You just have to view it from your watch. Here are few of the running watches in the market that provides this smart notification or mobile notification feature.
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