Top Fitness Tracker Watches For Runners
Wearable tech (and the fitness tracker specifically), is pretty much taking over the fitness world these days.
In fact, the American Council of Sports Medicine’s annual worldwide survey of fitness trends saw the billion dollar fitness tracker industry take a strong hold on first place in 2016. And for good reason.
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Depending on the exact device you strap on, this oft-subtle addition to your training arsenal could give you a massive amount of information on your training. Some will even critique your form, which is nuts.
But, of the myriad available, which fitness tracker is the best for runners? That, friends, is nearly impossible to answer. A much better question is: Which one is best for you?
We can work with that. To help you decide, here are some of the top-rated, most feature packed fitness trackers for runners.
We have been testing out one of TomTom’s latest offerings, the Spark 3, and we’ve been thoroughly impressed.
Considering the success of previous Sparks, though, it’s not really surprising that TomTom has released such a solid device here and built on past iterations. They have clearly listened to the running community and refined the Spark once again.
What is impressive here, is just how detailed and adaptable the GPS is. For your runs, you have several options.
If you’re a planner, or have a very specific route in mind, you can actually upload a GPX file directly to the Spark 3 and it will guide you through that particular trail, not too different from in-car GPS on a wristwatch.
Or, when you’re feeling adventurous, you could just start running and let the built-in compass and tracking features stop you from getting lost. For hikers and trail runners, this could – quite literally – be a lifesaver.
Of course, the Spark 3 is fully equipped with as accurate tracking as you can realistically get using GPS satellite (which you would expect from the navigation giant TomTom). We found in our tests that it actually locates exceptionally quicker than Garmin options we have tried.
Then, you have optical heart rate measurements taken from the watch (no chest band) which can be seen in real-time, allowing you to use your pulse as an active gauge during your runs. It also supports a range of different activities.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Spark 3, though, is the optional built-in hard drive. Granted, that might sound like a pretty unnecessary inclusion but, think about this: You don’t have to carry your phone to have music. Which is a weight lifting, distraction freeing, simply wonderful feeling. Instead, just upload your iTunes playlist directly to the watch.
For actual listening, you will need to pair some Bluetooth headphones with your tracker – something that can be a little more challenging than it frankly should be, but the top package does come with TomTom’s own. Bonus, our set and forget sunglasses sit perfectly even with this over-ear style.
In conclusion, the Spark 3 is a reliable, well-designed tracker for both your runs and daily activity.
I know that we’re talking about the best fitness tracker for runners, but runners do more than run. Sometimes. And, on these rare occasions, it’s nice to know your wearable can keep up. And the ridiculously flexible Garmin Vivoactive HR can. All told, the Vivoactive HR can track:
- Standing paddle board
- Downhill skiing
- Cross-country skiing
Unfortunately it is not so good at tracking weightlifting. With that said, Garmin has been the company to beat in recent years, and this is an excellent product. Without requiring a HR band, it manages to track your heart rate 24/7, and gives you a whole range of stats.
Garmin and TomTom are the giants of the GPS world and moving into fitness trackers seems to have paid off, with a lot of individuals really loving the Vivoactive. In our view, the Garmin and TomTom premium offerings will go head to head this holiday season.
Ah, the latest offering of the Apple watch. It’s not that we dislike Apple or their extremely successful line of watches. But, we need to be clear about something: This is a smartwatch first. And, while it might seem like we’re being pedantic… we’re not.
While fitness trackers are devices that are built to specifically aid you in your athletic pursuits, smartwatches are much more general – offering notifications, the ability to send and receive messages and a host of other distinctly “phone” features. Granted, this could be a great thing. But, it could also be a clunky, irritating distraction. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
The Apple Watch Series 2 is the sportier take on the standard Apple Watch, with the primary difference being the built-in GPS – potentially freeing you from your cellphone. Although the watch is a little light on built-in data that serious runners will want, the fact that it is a smartwatch means that you can add third-party apps to get the information that you need.
Of course, you might actually dislike Apple but still want a runner-friendly smartwatch. If that’s the case, you’re going to want to take a look at the Moto 360 Sport. Since it’s release, the Moto 360 has been one of the most popular Android smartwatches out there and the Sport edition is, essentially the same device – with a few tweaks.
By far, the most notable change from the classic version to the Sport is the addition of a built-in GPS. As a smartwatch, you will also have the ability to load your already highly-customizable Sport with third-party apps to get exactly what you want out of it.
Again, though, it’s a smartwatch and will come with all of the potential annoyances that smartwatches include. Or, you could see these as “convenient features.” Totally up to you.
Since the very beginning of the whole ‘quantifiable self’ movement that has fueled the growth of the fitness tracker industry, Fitbit has been a powerful force. And the influential company offers a pretty impressive catalog of pedometers, trackers and smartwatches to fill just about any need that you might have.
Amongst their many successful products are the recently released Charge 2, and the older, best-selling Surge. Although they do offer some minimal notifications, these devices are decidedly not smartwatches. Still, the Charge 2 is an affordably priced fitness tracker that is designed to be worn all day every day, providing a variety of metrics in an easy-to-use companion app. A recent software update means the Charge HR and Surge can now automatically detect which activity you’re doing, which is very smart.
Now, as is often the case, this type of generalization means that the Charge 2 isn’t particularly amazing at any one thing. Runners, for example, are pretty likely to begrudge the lack of built-in GPS, keeping them tethered to their phone. But, let’s be honest: You’re already tethered to your phone. Don’t blame Fitbit.
So the main difference between the Charge 2 and the Surge is GPS. The Charge 2 doesn’t have it, and the Surge does. That will probably be a simple indicator which would be best for you between these two.
If you have any experience with a great fitness tracker not on this list, please let us know!