Which running watch should I buy?

Exercising may feel like a chore for some people, but for others, it’s a way to challenge themselves. If you enjoy working out and pushing yourself to be better every day, a running watch can go a long way in helping you track your progress.

Fitbit and Polar are two top fitness tracker brands, but which one has the best running watch? Both brands offer high-quality watches for tracking various health and fitness metrics using advanced technology, but there are notable differences in design and performance.

Fitbit

Fitbit has been around since 2009 and is a pioneer in the wearable technology game. If you’ve ever noticed someone wearing a bracelet-style electronic band, there’s a good chance it’s a Fitbit. It’s a company known for manufacturing high-end products such as health and fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, pedometers and smartwatches.

Fitbit bands cost $50-$150, while smartwatches optimized for tracking fitness metrics usually go for $150-$300.

Fitbit pros

Fitbit tracking bands and smartwatches have a more stripped-down appearance than other running watches. They have a sleek design that makes them comfortable enough to wear 24/7 and appealing to those who want something lightweight for workouts.

If you’re looking for a watch that can track several metrics during your runs, Fitbits can track pace, time, distance traveled, calories burned and heart rate. Some high-end Fitbit watches even have GPS capabilities that map your running route and track your location. Battery life depends on usage, but a Fitbit running watch should last you four to seven days.

Fitbits are easily managed through a smartphone app where you can track your progress and, depending on the model, view sleep-quality reports, heart rate, oxygen levels and more. Fitbit also has a subscription-based service that offers premium features, such as workout videos and meditation guides.

Fitbit cons

Fitbits don’t track advanced fitness and health metrics such as cadence and stride, and their lightweight design might feel too fragile for those used to wearing larger smartwatches. They’re also not as customizable as other running watches, and there are some concerns over the accuracy of readings. Also, although some Fitbits have GPS capabilities, some users find the map application clunky.

Best Fitbits

Fitbit Sense

Fitbit Sense

The Fitbit Sense has a steep price for a running watch, but it’s the best one Fitbit offers. It provides fitness and health tracking metrics such as heart rate, calories burned, skin temperature, oxygen levels and sleep patterns. It also has an intuitive scanner for detecting stress and an electrocardiogram app for evaluating heart health.

Sold by Amazon

Fitbit Versa 3

Fitbit Versa 3

The Fitbit Versa 3 is similar to the Sense, but it lacks premium features. Still, it’s a more affordable running watch and retains the essential functions of the Fitbit Sense, doing away with only the stress reader and ECG app.

Sold by Amazon

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Charge 5

The Fitbit Charge 5 is a wristband-style tracker, and although it doesn’t have as many features as the Versa 3 or Sense, it’s more lightweight and comfortable. You can track essential fitness metrics during your runs and check other health reports such as heart rate variability and skin temperature.

Sold by Amazon

Polar

Polar was founded way back in 1977 but has only recently begun manufacturing wearable technology, releasing its first smartwatch in 2020. Polar prides itself on using science and technology to make high-end sports watches capable of tracking advanced health and fitness metrics.

Polar watches vary in design and price depending on their features. Those with basic tracking features cost $100-$300, but if you’re looking for something more advanced, you can expect to spend $300-$600.

Polar pros

Polar smartwatches are optimized for sports and physical activity. They can track basic metrics such as heart rate, calories burned, distance traveled, and more advanced metrics such as pace, stride count, cadence and elevation. The high-end watches also feature a VO2 max reader that determines your peak oxygen uptake during workouts.

Polar trackers are more robust and have a design that more closely resembles a watch, so they’re sturdier and more fashionable than any Fitbit smartwatch. They’re also highly accurate and have a more reliable GPS, with a more user-friendly and customizable interface.

Polar cons

There are affordable Polar watches, but they can be much more expensive than the best Fitbit watch, the Sense, if you want premium features. Their sturdy build makes them more durable than Fitbit watches, but they can be uncomfortable to wear 24/7 or when sleeping.

Best Polar watches

Polar Grit X

Polar Grit X

This smartwatch is lightweight and offers up to 40 hours of battery life with heart rate tracking, and it is GPS enabled. It has a durable build with up to 100 meters of water resistance and boasts an intuitive feature that detects your uphill and downhill performance.

Sold by Amazon

Polar Ignite

Polar Ignite

This affordable smartwatch has a slim, lightweight design and is excellent for running and other activities such as swimming and cycling. It has plenty of great features, such as sleep tracking and an overnight body recovery sensor that works to determine how well your body recovered from the previous day’s stress.

Sold by Amazon

Polar Vantage V2

Polar Vantage V2

This running watch is pricey, but it offers elite performance and precise tracking. It has optical heart rate monitoring and provides comprehensive data reports about your workouts and daily routine, letting you track your progress with ease. 

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a Fitbit or Polar running watch?

Polar watches are focused on providing elite performance and precise readings for sports, GPS and tracking activities, so they’re better if you want something accurate for your running sessions.

Fitbit watches have fewer functions and features than most Polar watches, but they’re more affordable and are a fine choice if you want something more lightweight and fundamental for your workouts.

 

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Kevin Luna writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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