Best Fitness Tracker for Running 2020

Best fitness tracker for running

Why do you need a fitness tracker?

Well, as a coach, who keeps track of the fitness of others, I can say I need a fitness tracker to keep an eye on mine. 

Finding time to look after yourself is getting harder as the years roll by, and I certainly appreciate the utility these products provide. And you don’t even have to be a competitive runner (or a coach) to try these! 

Whether you’re trying to get fitter by jogging, analyze your competitive running performance, or just keep a watch on your general health, these babies will come real handy. BUT what fitness tracker should you choose?

Well, having tried over a couple dozen products over the years, I can say that you must find something that’s built to last, tracks all your vital stats, and doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. And today, I’ve got just the right choices for you!

Here’s my guide to the best fitness tracker for running in 2019!

BEST OVERALL
Best Fitness Tracker for Running
Garmin Forerunner 235
BEST VALUE
Huawei Band 3 Pro
BEST BATTERY
Coros Pace: The Best for Battery Life
Coros Pace
BEST FOR TRAINING
Garmin Forerunner 35
BEST FOR ANALYSIS
Polar Ignite

Garmin Forerunner 235: The Best Fitness Tracker for Running

Best Fitness Tracker for Running

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is one of the most well-thought-out fitness trackers that is suitable for moderate to active runners. And what makes it stand out amongst other watches are the highly accurate fitness tracking sensors. 

You won’t face any trouble navigating through the features while keeping track of your training sessions and daily runs. The sleek design and user-friendly interface are a bonus. 

With the built-in GPS system, you can keep track of your runs. And it turned out to be quite accurate during my testing. 

On top of that, you can use the recorded stats to monitor your set intervals, pace, distance, and calories burned. And the other advanced feature that I found to be quite helpful was VO2 max, which is a useful gauge of how much oxygen you’ve got in your body. The higher the number, the better is your fitness level.

It’s also equipped with a recovery advisor that informs you about rest duration before you get started with your next strenuous activity session.

Similar to a few other models, you’ll be receiving your call and text notifications from your smartphone. But, you can’t reply to the notifications. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a reliable smartwatch for running, you will be pretty satisfied with the Garmin Forerunner 235. I know I am.

Pros

  • Suitable for beginners
  • An accurate GPS tracking system
  • Heart rate monitor is valid as per the technology used
  • Customizable interface
  • Easy to read even in bright settings

Cons

  • Does not have a built-in music storage

Huawei Band 3 Pro: Best Budget Running Watch

Huawei-Band-3-Pro

When you’re on a tight budget, finding a feature-rich fitness tracker might come like a pleasant surprise. And in my opinion, the Huawei Band 3 Pro is just that – a lovely surprise. 

In fact, it offers you a range of tracking options and also includes a reliable GPS that is real handy during your running sessions. And all this comes at a very reasonable price tag when compared to its competitors.

And if that wasn’t enough, one of the best features of this fitness tracker is the 5 ATM water resistance! That means, the Huawei Band 3 Pro lets you  track your swimming workouts with ease

Plus, you don’t have to deal with several buttons on the side as it features a functional touch panel with a single button at the bottom. 

It can also track your sleep patterns, which is yet another point in the Band 3 Pro’s favor. And in my opinion, the distance traveled, and BPM are on point, which is something you expect from more expensive trackers. 

This device also supports automatic detection of activity, that is usually not found in most budget trackers. But you can’t control the music using this band or remove the tracker from the belt to change the straps. 

Just like other fitness trackers, you need to download a few apps to adjust the settings and for controlling the notifications. And that is where this fitness tracker starts to lose its shine. The app doesn’t have backup any information to the cloud. In other words, if you switch smartphones, you will lose all your workout data. 

Despite its shortcomings, the Band 3 Pro is a fantastic fitness tracker for the price. And you just can’t go wrong with it.

Pros

  • Heart rate sensor is accurate
  • Comes with a sleep tracking feature
  • By clicking a single button, you can see the time along with the number of steps taken
  • Compatible with both Android and iOS

Cons

  • App functionality isn’t optimal
  • No music controls

Coros Pace: The Best for Battery Life

Coros Pace: The Best for Battery Life

The Coros Pace is surely one of the most accurate multisport fitness tracking devices with a long battery life. The watch mode will eliminate your stress of carrying the charger everytime. Sound perfect, right?

It makes for an ideal alternative to the more expensive options that are available. Plus, triathletes and runners who are more focused on workout accuracy than built-in training plans and navigation options will find almost everything they need in this tracker.  

You also get to select a maximum of five display screens that allow you to get the most out of the Pace. With a sufficiently bright screen, you won’t find it hard to glance down and read the metrics even in direct sunlight. 

However, it has a steep learning curve when it comes to performing day to day operations. For navigating through the watch, you have four buttons in total, with two on either side. And with regular usage, it gets easier to figure out the functions. 

When running outdoors, the watch connects to the GPS pretty quickly. The watch beeps in regular intervals to let you know that it’s keeping track of your location and heart rate. With easy customization and extended battery life, the Coros Pace is an excellent tool for tracking your running sessions with accuracy.

Pros

  • Accurate tracking of distance, heart rate, and elevation
  • Value-added product
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Strava integration

Cons

  • No sleep tracking
  • Cannot control or play music

Garmin Forerunner 35: The Best for Custom Training Features

Garmin-Forerunner-35

If you’re looking for a fitness tracker that is not bogged down by hundreds of features, instead sticks to the basics, then you should consider Garmin’s Forerunner 35

On testing this product, I found that even in brightly lit areas  the 128 x 128-pixel display is easy to read. And when it comes to the heart rate monitor, GPS, and all-day activity tracking system, it gives accurate measurements like the other Garmin tracking devices. 

However, the activities that can be tracked by the Forerunner 35 are limited to cardio, which includes – biking, walking, and indoor and outdoor run. And while you can’t customize the entire interface like the more expensive models, the Garmin Forerunner 35 allows you to receive notifications from your smartphone. 

One of the features which I quite like is the inactivity alert. It makes the smartwatch buzz if it detects no activity in an hour or so. In my opinion, it’s quite useful for people who spend most of their time sitting at a desk. 

When it comes to the battery life, I found it better than average for the price. It will last about 13 hours in training mode, and for approximately nine days in watch mode. 

The safe design, decent battery life, and quick connection to GPS satellites make it a suitable option for runners. Overall, the Forerunner 35 is a steal for its price tag and durability.

Pros

  • Bright display
  • Comes within an affordable price range
  • Features an all-day activity tracker
  • Heart rate and GPS systems are accurate
  • Smartphone notifications

Cons

  • Somewhat limited fitness tracking

Polar Ignite: The Best for Training Analysis

Polar-Ignite

Polar Ignite is a great fitness tracker that can give you valuable insights about a range of activities, especially geared towards cyclists and runners alike. It boasts advanced functionality that is not commonly found at this price. 

And since it’s an all-day activity tracker, you can keep track of different body mechanisms whether you’re sleeping or sweating it out on the treadmill. 

The Ignite features an accurate in-built GPS sensor, which keeps track of all your outdoor runs. And it is also equipped with the latest continuous heart-rate monitoring function, which is an added advantage. 

If you are skeptical about the accuracy, you can rest assured knowing that the Polar Ignite is designed for athletes with some brilliant tracking features. And in my testing, the results were surely among the best.  

It not only gives you the stats on the watch face after the workout session, but you also get to analyze your training in depth. However, you need to synchronize the watch with the polar flow app for those benefits.

Pros

  • Integrated GPS
  • Continuous heart rate tracking mechanism
  • Features only one button that gives a hassle-free experience
  • Comes with a set of suggested workout routines
  • Useful training and sleep insights

Cons

  • Does not have music storage or NFC

Other Useful Training Articles

The Best Fitness Tracker for Running: The Only Buying Guide You’ll Ever Need

1. Know Your Activity

First things first, you need to be sure of your activity type. Because fitness watches are designed for serving the requirements of different sets of activities. 

If you’re choosing running as your main exercise, then you should look out for fitness trackers that are focused on running/walking specific features like GPS, and continuous heart rate monitoring. Similarly, if you opt for swimming as your activity, you need to focus on selecting a waterproof fitness tracker. In the end, whatever activity you select should match the product features.

2. Required OS

Before purchasing a fitness watch, you must ensure that the device is compatible with the operating system in your smartphone. You’ll find that most fitness trackers are generally compatible with devices having iOS 8.0 and above or Android 4.0 and above. Even budget fitness trackers like Huawei Band 3 Pro are suitable for iOS and Android.

3. Price

Most activity trackers will cost you somewhere between $50 and $300. The devices that come with additional advanced features tend to be more expensive, obviously. So, it’s best to buy a fitness tracker with features that suit your requirements to justify the cost.

If you just want a device for measuring basic activities and step count, then a less expensive model like the Band 3 Pro is good enough to get the job done. But for improving the stride and pace of your run, you need to be looking at a high-end tracker that will help support your goals.

4. Sensors Available on Fitness Trackers

Some of the sensors that are commonly found in most fitness trackers include – heart rate monitor, barometer, accelerometer, GPS, and gyroscope.

A good fitness tracker which is focused on running, should include GPS, continuous heart rate monitoring and accelerometer.

Best Fitness Trackers for Running - Frequently Asked Questions

Do fitness watches work automatically as we start working out?

This is subjective to the type of fitness tracker that you’re opting for. The basic models do not work automatically. You need to manually select the workout app, which further triggers the tracker to monitor the movements. 

But in the case of advanced trackers, they are generally equipped with sensors that automatically sense your body movements, whether you’re walking, running, cycling, etc.

How to sync the fitness tracker?

Most fitness trackers these days connect to your smartwatch using Bluetooth. You will need to install a fitness app (or two in some cases) to start tracking your activities.

Are the readings accurate?

With technology taking over the medical field, you have health practitioners who have started to rely on the data collected from fitness trackers to prescribe exercise routines. 

In case of high end fitness trackers, heart rate, GPS data, number of steps, are usually quite accurate. And in my opinion, if you’re serious about running or fitness in general, budget trackers won’t be good enough. 

However, if you want the best of both worlds – a reliable fitness tracker, which is priced reasonably – the Huawei Band 3 Pro is a great choice.

What stats should you track on a fitness watch?

This mainly depends on your fitness objectives. A good fitness watch can monitor a range of different aspects during your fitness routine. But you do not need to follow every single one of them.

For instance, if you only run indoors, then the GPS functionality will be useless. During indoor running, tracking stats like VO2Max, heart rate, step count will be more important.

Are fitness trackers compulsory to maintain good health and fitness?

In truth, the answer is ‘NO.’ You can reach fitness goals through high intrinsic motivation. But a fitness tracker makes things a lot simpler.

You also get to set targets that you want to achieve daily. Moreover, many fitness trackers come with connected apps, which make tracking workouts more compelling. Imagine if you can ‘challenge’ your friend to a ‘Step Count’ or ‘Calories Burnt’ competition. Wouldn’t that be exciting? 

Features like those keep me even more motivated during my workouts. And I’m sure it’d be the same for you.

Final words

These devices are designed to help you remain mindful of what’s going on with your body daily. And keeping track of different health aspects can help improve the quality of your life in general. After all, the goal is to have a happier and healthier life, irrespective of the daily trials and tribulations to remain fit. 

Now that I’ve come to the end of this guide, I hope it has helped you find the best fitness tracker for running. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and strap it on your wrist before you set out for the next run.

Till next time!

Kyla Clark
Kyla Clark writes about healthy living and fitness. She holds a Master's Degree in Physical Activity for Health which she obtained at the University of Edinburgh. Kyla has been working as a freelance writer for three years.

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