While pulse measurement was only considered reliable in conjunction with a chest strap for a long time, the hand sensors on running watches were surprisingly accurate in external practical tests. The GPS guidance, however, can be expanded. The wirecutter (New York Times) had marathon runners and running coaches test different watches for 360 kilometers. Garmin, of all people, believed it was partly in the wrong place here in New York City. Nevertheless, the Garmin Forerunner 645 was able to convince all testers so far. Our excellent consumer portal has also analyzed hundreds of buyer reviews to bring you the best running watches.
Questions to Consider Before Buying A Running Watch
What is a Running Watch?
The running watch generally belongs to the genre of sports watches. In contrast to a conventional watch, which mainly shows the current time and date, a running watch has additional functions specifically designed to support and control running training. With these, the wearer can efficiently control and optimize his training. Manufacturers have developed different types of running watches over the past few decades. They exist:
- as a running watch without heart rate measurement
- as a device with integrated heart rate measurement
- as a running watch without a GPS system
- as a clock with GPS system
In addition to these classic types of running watches, there are also step counters and activity trackers (also known as fitness wristbands). They all serve the general control of physical fitness or targeted training in the context of running.
How does a running watch work?
If you do regular running training, there are probably two aspects that you particularly value. First of all, it is important for every runner to know how what distance they covered during training. He also wants to work out efficiently, which works best when based on his pulse. In connection with the required time, the distance and the heart rate provide information about the training performance. Therefore, the following functions belong to a high quality running watch:
- Time measurement (in the form of a stopwatch)
- Speed display (to vary the pace)
- Distance measurement (using GPS system)
- Measurement of the heart rate (using optical sensors on the wrist or chest strap)
- Bluetooth function (for quick transfer of training results to the PC)
In addition to these basic functions, most running watches have other features such as an integrated altimeter, display for calorie consumption, setting of the maximum heart rate, calculation and display of the average heart rate and the resting heart rate. Most manufacturers of running watches offer their own app with which the data can also be received on the smartphone. In addition, there is almost always its own evaluation software.
In order to receive exact data on the training, you can create your own profile when you switch on the running watch for the first time and enter and save personal data such as age, gender, height and weight. This information is then used by the running clock as basic data to determine the calorie consumption or to display the user’s own fitness level. Then you put on the chest strap (if available), which normally connects automatically to the running watch and shows the heart rate on the display. If the running watch has an optical sensor for the wrist, the value is determined as soon as the watch is put on. In addition, the watch searches for the location within a few moments via the integrated GPS system. If the runner presses the start button, all data are calculated and transferred to the display. The user can jump back and forth between the different ads. The most important data appear on most running watches on the start display.
If the stop button is pressed, the training is finished and the running watch shows the distance covered, the time required, the average and maximum heart rate and also the calorie consumption. Good running watches also give brief feedback on training or fitness levels.
Running watch with GPS
The selection of fitness wristbands, activity trackers and running watches in stores allows very individual use and development options. There is a clear tendency for many people to want to increase, measure and evaluate their movement and performance.
This applies to calorie counting, pulse and step measurement, but also other options that help motivate you to lead a healthy and sporty life. For some, it is enough to be animated to exercise more by a running clock or to be able to stick to a diet better by looking at the values.
A running watch in the test is primarily of interest to fitness and sports enthusiasts.
These are more professional models that, in addition to many useful functions, also make simple applications possible, e.g. measuring your own heart rate or answering phone calls.
This makes the use practical, suitable for everyday use and adaptable to your own needs. Compared to normal running and heart rate monitors, there are professional models that offer many additional functions, a display and, above all, GPS in addition to the basic functions.
This allows extensive planning of your own fitness and exercise program, which can also be viewed directly on the display.
Modern running watches are now very user-friendly, compact and reliable. They also offer a selection of training suggestions or the storage of your own training programs.
While smartphones and activity trackers do not always provide correct data, the running watch with GPS allows very precise values thanks to the extended functions.
This makes the use of other aids and sensors unnecessary. The more elaborately manufactured sports watches act like a motivational boost and allow complete control of all training data and the associated daily challenge of increasing your own performance.
The running watch is primarily intended to precisely implement the training plan without any other aids and to steadily increase one’s own performance. Because the running watch continues to measure the heart rate with GPS, it can also calculate how fast one’s own movement is and how far the user is from their target points or what distance they have already covered, not only can it be seen exactly when the performance per short distance has improved, but also a targeted increase should be addressed.
The speed, calorie consumption, pulse rate and distance are calculated. The values can then be compared precisely without exceeding its force limits.
If the running watch is equipped with GPS, all navigation is possible using the watch on the wrist. There is no need to take your smartphone with you.
The running route can be precisely defined and tracked, so that the watch not only shows the route plan, but is even able to function as a complete navigation system in the test and comparison and to encourage an increase in performance.
Many running watches receive the GPS signal quickly and reliably. It is no longer necessary to delay the start of training.
Professional athletes always rely on their strength and body in the test, but not on their body feeling. The senses are inferior to delusions, especially when moving and exerting themselves.
Experience shows that a targeted and precise calculation makes more sense to ensure training recording. Therefore, the system of a good running watch warns if one of the measured values is too high or too low.
This enables the athlete to see exactly when he is exhausting his strength reserves too much or when he needs a break. This is done by means of optical and acoustic signals, including vibrations, which the person exercising is easiest to notice because the watch is placed directly on the wrist. This requirement also serves to precisely determine the pulse frequency.
Normal functions such as the use of a stopwatch, are expanded through a comprehensive training plan creation. Even sleep phases can be included and can be determined by a running clock and compared with the training. With a simple data transfer to the PC, the running clock enables all data and running values to be checked precisely.
In conjunction with integrated barometers and altimeters, the running watch can also be useful for hiking, cycling or climbing tours in the test. In addition, professional models with GPS have an integrated compass and can determine the exact position of the watch wearer.
GPS tracking takes place relatively quickly, although differences can also be seen in the speed at which the signal is sent. Deviations in the location are also possible due to the system, whereby the distance between two measuring points can result in a deviation of between 5 and 10 meters.
Professional watches are adjusted and corrected by algorithms so that an approximately accurate result is possible.
This affects the current running pace and the average speed.
Many running watches with GPS have an interval unit and a selection of training programs that are preset. You can save lap or split times.
For joggers in cities, some high-quality running watches have an auto-pause function, which is helpful at a red light.
The clock can also be programmed via the PC and has a slightly larger display.
On this a visual display of the route, the heart rate and the direct reading of all values is possible.
Colored highlights are also available, including z. For example, if the jogger is exhausted too quickly or has a pulse that is too high. The symbol of the runner on the watch then changes from the green display to the warning red display.
Areas of application for a running watch
As its name already suggests, a running watch can be used primarily for running training. However, various running watch tests have shown that almost all watches are also suitable for other sports that can be practiced in closed rooms (without GPS) or outdoors. This usually includes cycling, swimming, or walking. But the clocks are also suitable for mountain hikes or cross-country skiing. This flexibility can be explained with the basic functions of time measurement, heart rate and calorie consumption of a running watch, which are important in all of these sports in order to determine the efficiency of the training and the training status of the user. Close monitoring of running training is particularly important for the following groups of people:
- Beginners (as they still have little feeling for their own body and their personal limits)
- People who are very overweight (since their entire organism must first be brought up to the stresses)
- Runners with illnesses (e.g. people with heart problems, impairment of the locomotor system, in rehabilitation after accidents or injuries)
- Athletes with ambitions (e.g. as preparation for a marathon)
According to doctors, a running watch is especially important for people who are new to running or who are very overweight. In the vast majority of cases, they do not have a good feeling for their own body and their performance. The first goal for them must therefore be not to subject the cardiovascular system, joints, bones and muscles too much, as this usually has a negative impact on health.
The use of a running watch and the adherence to the training guidelines help to introduce the body, which is already stressed by illness or obesity, to exercise as gently as possible and thus to improve general fitness and to ensure a controlled and healthy weight reduction. If you are struggling with obesity and, contrary to medical advice, do not use a running watch to exercise, success is not guaranteed.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a running watch?
The main advantages of a running watch are that they can not only be used to control and track training, but also to control training efficiency and physical condition. For example, conclusions can be drawn about the condition of the entire cardiovascular system based on the heart rate during training. Another advantage of the running watch is that it can prevent permanent overload. All you have to do is set a maximum heart rate for training. If this is exceeded during the running unit, a warning signal sounds and asks you, the athlete, to reduce the intensity of the load and run more slowly. In this way, you will stay in the healthy pulse range that is acceptable for you. With this function of the running clock, training can take place either in the aerobic area (i.e. with the combustion of oxygen to generate energy) or in the anaerobic area (in which the stored energy reserves in the form of glucose are used).
One disadvantage of a running watch can be the fact that the data collected by the watch is not only accessible to you as the user of the watch, but can also be viewed by third parties via internet connections. Imagine what you could do with them if, as proven by a large German institute for consumer protection, they end up in the hands of health insurance companies via the manufacturer. Another disadvantage of running watches is their usually very bulky appearance. They often do not look very elegant and are therefore not suitable for every outfit. Many running watches, as a running watch test showed, also have the modern functions of a fitness tracker and thus become a constant companion and reminder when it comes to activity and health. However, not everyone likes this type of permanent, never-ending surveillance. What is perceived by many users as at least a small disadvantage is the relatively high price that has to be paid for a high-quality running watch.
Here it is important to compare carefully and to find the cheapest variant that still has all the desired functions.
What types of running watches are available?
In principle, the running watches differ in that they are offered either with or without GPS. You can also choose between watches with a chest strap or with optical sensors that measure the heart rate on the wrist. Other functions integrated into the running watch also serve the providers to differentiate the watches from one another. Which type of running watch suits you depends above all on what goals you as the user pursue with its help. For those who only want to go jogging every now and then and do not value training with heart rate or distance, a cheap running watch that has the aforementioned functions such as time and speed measurement as well as the indication of the calories consumed can be worthwhile.
However, if you are an ambitious athlete or if you have to pay attention to your heart rate and the length of the distance due to medical advice, you should use a running watch that has a heart rate measurement that is as accurate as possible and an integrated GPS system.
If you find it uncomfortable to put on a chest strap, you can choose a watch with an optical sensor. However, such a sensor does not always have the same accuracy as the chest strap.
Running watch with or without a chest strap?
Anyone who seriously wants to keep fit with a fitness and training plan also has higher demands on the running clock that is used during training.
There are models in the test that can be combined with a step counter or with a chest strap and thus allow even more precise measurement of all values. There are also reversed chest straps that are used attached to a wrist watch for direct reading of data.
Such aids are useful if the running watch is not a professional model and some of the specified values differ. Even if manufacturers try to correct this using algorithms in many high-quality running watches, the deviation is still a few percent. A chest enables even more precise measurement results thanks to an additional sensor on the heart.
With professional models, a chest is less necessary in the test and comparison, since such watches already work very precisely. Here the deviations are so small that they have no negative influence on the actual training process.
In contrast, a running watch combined with a chest can process and save the data measured in real time directly. In addition, the heart-related measurement method can be expanded by determining the heart rate variability.
This plays a role if the training is to take place more efficiently and intensively and a significant increase in performance is desired.
The values are passed on during the test and shown optically on the watch display. This enables constant control of whether the heart rate is in the optimal range or whether the pace needs to be adjusted.
The advantages of a running watch with a chest strap lie in the improvement of the accuracy and expansion of the functions and measured values. Since extensive and intensive training requires maximum performance and training in the correct heart rate zone at the same time, checking all values can be informative and optimize training.
In running training in particular, the pulse determines the rhythm and shows when the power reserves have been reached and when a workout also tips over into unhealthy areas.
In order to boost muscle growth and fat burning, it is important to know and maintain the maximum heart rate. If you train in the range of 50 to 60 percent, the cardiovascular system can be strengthened and fat can be broken down.
The increase when running then takes place in the range of 60 to 70 percent of the maximum heart rate for maintaining the dream figure, is increased again when it comes to the condition and endurance. The performance range requires precise control and high lactate levels, sometimes above the anaerobic threshold.
Skin electrodes built into the belt determine the heartbeat and the R-pulses with sufficient accuracy.
The transmission is improved by a thin film of moisture that forms automatically through sweat during physical activity.
A running watch with a chest strap has several heart rate and time functions, can be set in the training area, counts the calories and shows the fat burning. It is also waterproof and can also be used as a stopwatch. The chest strap is part of the set and is combined with the watch.
It is of course less practical that a chest strap is used and that it has to be put on a little more laboriously before exercising. The models differ in quality, material properties and comfort.
Models that do not rub or slip are useful. The chest strap should not interfere with wearing and also allow a stable hold of the sensors. It is equally important that it is not too heavy or constricting the body.
Running watches and activity trackers that are used without a chest strap measure the heart rate via the wrist. The devices determine the pulse by emitting light, which usually takes place in the green wavelength range.
The fluctuations of the reflected light are measured accordingly in the test, as blood absorbs light strongly and emits a higher light intensity due to the pulse beat or the pulsating blood in the vessels.
This signal is used to represent the heart rate. It is foreseeable that these measurements will be less accurate than the actual body contact made by the chest strap sensor.
The running watch with chest strap is a good alternative for body-conscious people and is also more affordable compared to professional models. Many models also have extended functions and can initiate data transfer via Bluetooth.
Running watches with a chest strap should be waterproof and easy to use. Instinctive training is easier with the chest strap, as more precise values can also be used to determine your own load limits.
The running watch with chest strap allows optimal training units with direct transmission of all relevant data. A combination of a running watch and chest strap is also worthwhile for losing weight and building muscle. The specific measurement can be used to define the load areas in which calories and fat can be best consumed.
Running watch for women - differences and further information
Many running watches are practical as unisex models and suitable for both genders. However, since these are watches that are also suitable for everyday use, allow continuous wear and are even used to measure sleep at night, size, weight, appearance and design play a decisive role in comfort and the variety of uses.
Therefore, there are also running watches for men and women that have a different design. A running watch for women is smaller, narrower in the bracelet and can be elegant or sporty.
There are also differences in terms of color and display. The models for women offer data and measurements tailored to the needs of women, which motivate fitness training or jogging and improve performance.
A running watch for women can be used to create your own training plans, to compare the values and to save the existing data. For women, this primarily includes determining energy and fat consumption, counting calories and steps.
Most women are not looking to build muscle, but rather want to stay fit and healthy. Training can also serve to lose weight or improve your own performance. For many women, exercise is combined with a healthy diet.
The running watch should provide an overview of the desired data, sit comfortably on the wrist and also look good. Many unisex models or running watches for men are rather chunky and too big for women’s smaller wrists.
The masculine touch of running watches for women is balanced by a feminine elegance and varied colors. There are running watches for women in the test, which therefore also have a narrower angular display with digital display, as well as models that have a round display that is coordinated in terms of data transmission.
In addition to step and calorie counting, GPS is also useful for many women, since the signal can be used to determine the running route and the distance covered. Many models for women are also compatible with WiFi or Bluetooth.
Women train differently than men. Even with normal strength training, the clear differences become apparent, as very different body areas are trained and the focus is on burning fat and strengthening muscles. The female body also reacts differently to an extensive fitness program than a male body when building muscle.
The female body is about shaping the curves and a naturally slim and well-trained figure. Muscle parts should not protrude too much, nor should the chest and bottom be lost. Similar to competitive sports and running training, training takes place in different heart rate zones.
This means that cardio machines tend to be used to burn fat. The treadmill is more appealing than a weight bench in the fitness center for women. Yoga, Pilates or gymnastics are also more of an option for women than pure strength training. Well-developed muscles help to increase the basic energy expenditure. Intensive training is less about building muscle mass than about not gaining weight.
Nevertheless, sporting activity is no less sweaty for women than for men, so the running watch should above all be waterproof and have a supple, comfortable bracelet.
The running watch for women is similar to a normal classic watch from many manufacturers and is also lighter in weight than the masculine versions. Differences can then be seen in the optics and the range of functions, although not all features are necessary. In terms of performance, the models are in no way inferior to the watches for men.
The running watch can be sensibly selected in the test according to your own requirements. Training is about combining the training phases with the rest phases in a meaningful way. Mixing intensity and endurance training does not always achieve the desired effect.
The sport must be tailored to the female body, regardless of whether you train on the treadmill, stepper or ergometer.
Long-term cardio in good, moderate-effort workouts will help improve endurance and shed fat.
The maximum heart rate required for this is matched to the fat burning zone and can be adequately achieved by measuring with a running watch for women if the workout takes longer than half an hour.
Intensive training with shorter phases and more strength also increases the heartbeat, with the aim of developing muscles and burning energy. The pulse should be monitored by the running clock and its frequency phases adjusted.
How are running watches tested?
There is now an almost unmanageable number of running watches that are very similar in many areas. The functions are often the same and the small but subtle differences are of course hardly noticeable for you as a customer. However, so that you can still make a good purchase decision regarding a running watch, you must be informed about the capabilities of the watches. For this reason, a running watch test is repeatedly carried out by consumer portals or comparison websites. Only with the help of running watch tests can you find out what such a watch can do and where it has its strengths and weaknesses. For such a test with running clocks, certain criteria are defined in advance, which are then checked by testers or test persons during the test. These criteria usually include:
- Battery life
- Price-performance ratio
With all these criteria, you as a customer usually focus on the greatest possible user-friendliness and ease of use. After all, the running watch must be used during physical activity and the data and numbers shown on the display must be easy to read when the athlete is moving.
In the following sections we will deal more intensively with the criteria just mentioned and explain to you what is particularly worthwhile when buying a running watch.
The rule here is that the more functions a running watch offers the athlete, the more useful it is. The testers in a running watch test therefore mainly check which capabilities the watch has. In doing so, they usually differentiate between the essential basic functions, which we already mentioned earlier, and additional features, which they then classify in the comfort category. If such additional functions may not be so important for the recreational athlete, they are of great importance for an ambitious athlete or for someone who moves in the field of competitive or high-performance sports.
Functions such as an integrated altimeter, adjustable training processes or intervals and self-programmable routes can make training even more effective and athletes more successful. The running watch is an indispensable piece of equipment, especially for competitive athletes in the field of running. Every training run, no matter how small, is recorded with the devices.
For a runner who only jogs now and then, the readings displayed may not be quite so existential because they may just want to move. In the case of a top athlete, however, incorrect or inaccurate readings can mean the difference between a victorious competition and a bitter defeat. Inaccuracies in the measured values often result in incorrect training with too high or too low loads, even with amateur athletes.
This definitely has a negative effect on the training effect. Excessive stress can lead to injuries; if the stress is too low, the desired training effect is not achieved. Therefore, the testers attach great importance to a running watch test that the displayed values are as accurate as possible. A good running watch has to work precisely, otherwise it is simply not worth the money.
If you’ve ever owned and exercised a bad running watch, you know how annoying it can be if you can’t read the display well while you’re exercising because it’s too small or too poorly lit. Nothing is worse for an athlete than having to grapple with the buttons and buttons that are too small or too stiff during running training. In the running watch test, the testers therefore pay attention to whether the watch can be operated easily and with little effort (i.e. also intuitively) or whether it can only be operated with the help of an operating manual.
The training alone is already a challenge for the organism, so the runner should at least have his head free and not have to think about how he finds which function on his running clock and activates or terminates it. That would not only be annoying, but also dangerous, because running training usually takes place outdoors and sometimes on public roads where cyclists or even cars can be on the move. The less work you have as a runner while running with the watch, the more attention you can pay to your surroundings and the more enjoyment you will have from using a running watch.
An extremely important part of the running watch is its display. With its help, the runner can read the data determined by the watch during training. Therefore, the display of the running watch should be large enough, reflect as little light as possible and have easy-to-read letters or numbers.
So that it can also be read in the dark, it should also have sufficient lighting.
The networking of our world does not stop at sport either. Many athletes would like to be able to view and analyze the data they have collected with the running watch on a PC, tablet PC or smartphone after training. In order for this to work, the running watch must be compatible with the other end devices. For this reason, a running watch test also checks which apps or operating systems the running watch can be connected to. As a rule, this depends on the operating system of the end devices, which now work with either iOS or Android. Good running clocks can now connect to both systems and thus ensure that they can transfer their data to all conventional end devices. Many running watches transmit their training results via Bluetooth or a USB cable.
Some runners have already had the experience of wearing a watch on their wrist in the middle of running training, the battery of which was empty, meaning that they no longer received any training data. In the running watch test, the testers therefore pay special attention to the battery and its runtime.
The charging time of the battery should be relatively short. High-quality running watches usually have rechargeable batteries that have a runtime of between 6 and 10 hours with the GPS system activated.
This function in particular consumes the most energy in these watches. In the case of running watches that do not mention battery life, you should definitely inquire before buying so as not to experience any nasty surprises later. Basically, the longer a running watch is in use, the higher its quality.
Anyone who runs sports always makes sure that not only their running clothes and running shoes fit well, but also that the running watch sits well and securely on the wrist and also the chest strap (if the watch uses one to measure the heart rate) when running does not squeeze or slip. The secure hold of the belt is usually achieved with an adjustable, elastic band. In the running watch test, the material of the bracelet is also examined carefully and checked whether it is elastic but still does not slip, which would be very disadvantageous for a running watch with an optical heart rate sensor, as it would then no longer be able to take accurate or uninterrupted measurements .
The well-known running watch manufacturers make their bracelets and chest straps from environmentally friendly and skin-friendly materials and do not use harmful substances. This prevents allergic reactions. Any metal parts of the running watch (e.g. the clasp of the bracelet) are also made of rust-free metal. This is important because you will sweat most of the time during exercise, especially in the warm months of the year.
The design of a running watch is not one of the most important criteria in a running watch test, but it does play a role for the testers. The reason for this is, on the one hand, the demands of runners, who would like to wear their running watch in everyday life and on various occasions. On the other hand, more and more running watches are also equipped with the functions of a fitness tracker, with the help of which the wearer is “monitored” in terms of fitness, so to speak, 24 hours a day.
To do this, however, he has to wear the running watch around the clock, otherwise he would receive inaccurate and falsified results about his condition. The running watch test showed that most of the watches have a sporty design that goes well with running clothes, but not always with the wardrobe for elegant occasions such as going to the opera with your partner.
An important criterion for many customers when buying a running watch is the price. This is why testers also rate the price-performance ratio in the running watch test. This gives you an important indication of what technology and functionality you get for your money as a customer. A running watch is now available from just over 50 euros. The prices for very powerful running watches with numerous functions can also be up to just under 450 euros. Here it depends very much on the manufacturer and the model offered.
The individual manufacturers, of which the most famous ones will be briefly presented, have developed a whole range of running watches that are suitable for very different requirements. All in all, buying a really good running watch comes at a certain cost. A comparison is definitely worthwhile for you.
The practical test shows strengths and weaknesses
Every manufacturer is inclined to present its products as particularly high quality and, above all, to advertise their strengths. The minor or major shortcomings are often played down or completely concealed. This is the same with running watches as with any other product. Whether a running watch is really good and has the properties promised by the manufacturer can ultimately only be shown by a practical running watch test in which the watch is tested in the context of a real application.
The running watch test and its implementation
Before such a test, which is usually also a comparison of different products, the testers determine certain aspects that they want to examine carefully. In addition to the points already mentioned, with running watches this can also be things like software, environmental friendliness of the materials, special features and comfort or even areas that seem rather succinct, such as packaging. It’s always about making an objective judgment.
After the testers have received the running watches, they will first test whether no damage has occurred during transport due to the hopefully good and safe packaging. An expensive running watch with cheap packaging can easily lead to unsightly and very annoying scratches on the display or the case. It is then checked whether all components are present and whether they are also functional and have remained undamaged. Some testers use the operating instructions to test user-friendliness. With a well-designed watch and easy-to-read instructions, it shouldn’t be a problem to start the running watch and make the basic settings.
This procedure quickly shows whether the tested running watch is actually as easy to use as the manufacturer promises. The more functions a running watch has, the easier it should be to operate. Here the tester will also make sure that the buttons and buttons are arranged sensibly and, for example, are easy to use for larger fingers. The more uncomplicated the handling, the better ratings the watch will get in the running watch test. As a customer, you don’t want to have to complete a scientific career in order to operate your new running watch. Therefore, the greatest possible user-friendliness plays a central role in the running watch test.
In order to find out how exactly the running watch measures the heart rate and how precisely the location is determined with the aid of the GPS system, it is necessary to test the running watch while running. Here the testers will pay attention to how quickly the location can be displayed and whether the running clock has a constant connection to the satellites during the running unit. The more frequently this connection is broken, the more inaccurate the indication of the distance covered will be after the end of the training. The same goes for heart rate. In the running watch test, this can only be found out through a real-time comparison. The tester therefore probably wears a second, tried and tested measuring device in addition to the running watch with a chest strap or optical sensor, for example when he is on a treadmill in the test laboratory. The comparison of the two devices then shows how precisely the running watch measures the heart rate. As a side result, the tester can also get an idea of how comfortable the chest strap is.
All other functions of a running watch such as pulse alarms, training programs or smart functions are also checked for their accuracy and usefulness during practical test units. Athletes are often used for this in the context of running watch tests. There are test institutes that are constantly looking for test subjects. They then receive a running watch, test it in their everyday life and send a test report to the commissioning institute after the test phase has been completed.
An overall picture of the functionality can then be created from the collected reports and the running clock assessed.
What do I have to look out for when buying a running watch?
If you want to purchase a running watch and train with it, you should first consider which functions you absolutely need and which you can easily do without. This enables you to make an initial preselection and to exclude all running watches that have more than the functions you want.
You should also ensure that the watch is as easy to use as possible and see whether the display and the numbers and data displayed on it are large enough.
How easy is it to use the buttons? You should definitely test this yourself, because ultimately you have to operate the watch. It is also in your interest to pay attention to the wearing comfort and the processing of the running watch. What is the use of a running watch that falls apart after a few training sessions or whose display becomes illegible or fails completely due to the lack of water resistance? What you also have to pay attention to is a powerful GPS system that needs as little time as possible to determine your location, that does not keep losing contact with the satellites during the running unit and thus falsify the distance.
Quality and style - these are the characteristics of a good running watch:
Since a running watch is not primarily used as a classic watch, what counts above all is the look, the display, the possible uses and the range of functions in order to distinguish and highlight the special features of a good running watch from simple heart rate monitors and activity trackers.
Nevertheless, everyday suitability and wearing comfort are also an option, as such a model is used around the clock. Not all functions are always necessary for intensive training.
However, the running watch should have a good display so that the data can be read at any time. High-resolution color displays that do not reflect too much in the sun are practical. How big the display is then depends on the user’s taste.
Today, modern running watches almost all allow precise pulse measurement directly on the wrist, so that additional aids, including a chest strap or pedometer, are unnecessary. Extended functions include a. the GPS signal or compatibility with WiFi and Bluetooth.
This in turn allows a detailed recording of all training successes and progress, which can then be evaluated with the transfer of all data at home on the PC. Many training programs require the values to be compared and measured over a longer period of time.
The professional running watch allows a complete overview of performance and fat burning. Many models are also suitable for multi-sport functions, e.g. for use while jogging, hiking, swimming, cycling, climbing, strength or cardio training.
A running watch is specially developed for athletes and offers a very precise measurement of one’s own performance, exertion and fat burning. A high-quality model has a comfortable, flexible and finely adjustable bracelet with a small hole spacing, a tear-resistant material and a non-annoying buckle.
The accuracy of the measurement is more important than a multitude of functions. This affects the steps, the distance and the pulse.
However, running watches also offer extended functions in the test and comparison in 2020, are equipped with a thermometer, altimeter, barometer and compass, have a GPS and activity tracker, an accelerometer and predetermined training units.
In addition, a long-running battery is crucial for a good running watch. This should run for at least 24 hours in GPS mode and up to 60 hours in normal mode.
A running watch can also enable the connection to the smartphone or the complete music control. Since it is used in sports, the weight should not be high, around 50 grams.
Other functions are an acoustic alarm and vibration, e.g. reminding to increase or slow down movement, and measuring time, speed and distance.
Some models offer interval training so that you can compete against yourself, or integrated sensors that can be combined with a treadmill or fitness machine.
With good running watches, one-hand operation via a main button or the easily accessible distribution of several buttons is always beneficial. Models with a touch screen also achieve good test results.
This means that you can track your own performance during training and operate the running clock directly during the test.
An auto-pause function rounds off the whole thing when jogging or cycling in the city with heavy traffic and various traffic lights must be taken into account.
We also recommend a waterproof and very robust watch that allows precise pulse measurement. Deviations are then only 1 to 2 percent. The running watches have one or more LED elements that measure the pulse using the light beam on the wrist.
This should not protrude too far and should also be able to compensate for rapid movements. Measurements show a daily minimum value, which is compared with a maximum value and ensures a detailed daily summary of the training in the test.
Various parameters can then be shown on a display, whereby even the balance of the ground contact time or the running efficiency can be calculated. In addition to the functions, however, the simple handling and intuitive operation count. In comparison, many models offer clear menu navigation and synchronization with other mobile devices.
Special GPS running watches, on the other hand, are characterized by the fact that the signal is located within a few seconds, so that the start of training is not delayed in the test.
In addition, a good running watch provides stable GPS values, the exact route planning and the recording of the total distance and distance covered. For runners, it is interesting to determine the lap time, which can then be measured manually or automatically. Running clocks that announce data, GPS or other functions through acoustic signals are advantageous.
In the 2020 test, the actual hardware for a high-quality running watch is usually located directly in the bracelet. This can mean that it is a bit heavier and stiff, e.g. if the running watch is provided with a silicone bracelet.
The case thickness of the running watch is then sensibly adapted to the bracelet. Many models can also be combined with a heart rate or chest strap via their own functions and are accordingly compatible.
Leading running watch brands
In the extremely competitive sports watch market, there are now a number of well-known manufacturers who focus on running watches. In the following sections, we will briefly introduce you to the brands best known in runners’ circles.
Garmin is an American company founded in 1989 that specializes in GPS receivers. In addition to GPS devices for vehicles, Garmin also offers miniature versions of such receivers for outdoor sports, fitness, and air and water navigation. In the running watch segment, the company is particularly successful around the world with its Forerunner series watches.
The idea for a cable-independent measurement of the heart rate arose in 1975 as part of a ski tour. In the following year, Polar was founded, in 1979 those responsible were the first to file a patent for wireless heart rate measurement and since then it has developed into one of the world market leaders for running watches with integrated heart rate measurement. The well-known series include the Polar A300, M400 and V800. There are also other versions that are available either with or without GPS.
The company based in the Netherlands was founded in 1991 and focuses primarily on so-called fleet and telemetry solutions. Navigation systems are also being developed and geodata are offered in the form of digital information. In the field of running watches, TomTom offers devices that are equipped with optical sensors for heart rate measurement. The models TomTom Runner 3 Cardio and TomTom Runner 3 Cardio + Music should be mentioned here. The running watches with the designation TomTom Runner 3 and TomTom Runner 3 Music * headphones have GPS, but are not equipped with heart rate measurement.
Fitbit is a relatively young American company that focuses on so-called fitness or activity trackers, but also has one or two running watches in its range. Fitbit was founded in 2007 and had sales of more than 2 billion US dollars in 2016. Fitbit’s models Fitbit Blase, Fitbit Sonic and Fitbit Surge are classified as running watches. However, the activity trackers can also be used as running companions.
Sigma Sport was founded in 1981 and today has a whole range of high-quality sports watches in its portfolio. The models with the designations ID.SERIES, PC-SERIE and (to a limited extent) the stopwatches are to be rated as running watches. The same applies to Sigma Sport that you can also use the brand’s activity trackers, although they do not have GPS or heart rate measurement.
One of the oldest companies in the field of running watches is probably the Finnish company Suunto, founded in 1936. After initially mainly producing compasses, Suunto quickly entered the sports watch market. A large part of the watches developed by Suunto are running watches with GPS and heart rate measurement, which is usually made using an optical sensor on the wrist. Outstanding watches are the models from the Spartan, Traverse and Ambit series.
Beurer is the oldest company. It was founded in 1919 and initially earned its money with the production of electric blankets. Other product areas were added later, including running watches, which Beurer carries under the name pulse watches and the series designation PM. They can be purchased with or without a heart rate monitor.
Where is the best place to buy my running watch?
There are basically two ways to buy a running watch. Either you go to a specialist store or you use the computer and look around for the right running watch using a search engine such as Google. Both variants have their advantages and disadvantages.
What are the advantages of buying a running watch from a specialist retailer?
One of the main advantages of visiting a specialist retailer is that you can be advised by a competent sales force. She is able to answer every question you have about the running watch. You can also take a close look at the running watch, put it on, test how it works and decide whether it suits you.
Disadvantages in the specialist trade
Many customers cite a shortcoming that they first have to go to the store to purchase a running watch. It is also possible that the store does not have all running watches in stock or in its range at all. So it may well be that you cannot buy the running watch that you discovered on the Internet in a specialist shop.
Advantages of buying a running watch on the Internet
Shopping on the Internet is associated with much less effort, because you don’t have to leave the apartment, look for a parking space or drive through the city on overcrowded trains or buses, but can go shopping from the comfort of your couch. Another advantage is that, in contrast to specialist retailers, you can find almost every running watch produced on the Internet and order it without any problems. Usually there are detailed descriptions of the running watches on the respective product pages.
You can study these at your leisure and find out about the functions. So you have no time pressure. Another advantage is that you can pay for the running watch very easily. Sometimes there are coupons that you can use to get a discount. After ordering and payment, the running watch will be delivered to your door by a shipping service provider and you can also send it back if it does not meet your requirements.
Shortcomings in internet purchases
A small disadvantage of buying on the Internet is that you have to forego intensive, personal advice, which is offset by the information provided. Most online shops also have so-called customer support that can answer your questions. Depending on the invoice amount, shipping costs are occasionally incurred when purchasing on the Internet, but these are not very high.
Conclusion: Internet is the model of the future
All in all, buying on the Internet is much easier and more convenient than looking in specialist shops. You can make a preselection in specialist shops and still purchase the running watch on the Internet.
This is a method that many customers use.
Useful accessories for the running watch
In principle, everything you need to use the running watch is included in the scope of delivery. As a rule, you will receive the running watch itself, the chest strap including the transmitter unit (it is not required if the running watch has an optical sensor for the wrist), a USB cable, possibly a power supply unit for charging the watch and a user manual.
Since the chest strap is the part that is used the most, it can make sense to get a replacement strap. You can usually purchase it from the manufacturer’s website. When buying a new one, always make sure that it is the right brand, the straps of different brands are usually not compatible.
Although you’ve purchased a running watch, bike mounts can be useful accessories. The reason for this is that almost all running watches can also be used for other sports such as cycling or swimming. With a suitable holder, you can turn the running watch into a training computer for the next bike tour in just a few simple steps.
With some running watches you can choose bracelets with different designs and colors. They are also often available in different materials such as rubber, silicone, plastic, synthetic leather or even leather, although Echterer is not suitable for running training.
If you value a changing design or a variety of colors, you can get bracelets in different designs and in many colors.
If the running watch is equipped with so-called smart functions, has access to your smartphone and can, for example, play pieces of music, then appropriate in-ear headphones may be a sensible investment. With these you can spice up your running training musically.
If the running watch is not used, it must be kept safely. Protective covers or cases can be used for this. In them, the expensive running watch is protected from damage and in this way remains functional for longer and also has an attractive design.
Running Watch Alternatives
Ultimately, the use of a running watch is not only used to monitor and analyze your running training, but also to monitor your own fitness and the progress you have made in this area through running. However, where it is primarily about knowing your own fitness, a so-called activity tracker or a fitness bracelet can be an alternative to the running watch. These trackers are equipped with different sensors and are able to count the steps and to determine the calorie consumption. Depending on the model, the activity trackers have a heart rate measurement and a GPS system. As a result, they can actually be counted among the devices that can be used as alternatives to the running clock.
Another alternative is a step counter, also known as a pedometer. It can easily be carried in your pocket and provides information about the steps taken during the day.
Most devices can even indicate the total distance traveled in kilometers. This can also be used to determine whether you have exercised enough in everyday life or whether you could do more.
If you have one eye on your heart rate, you can get a heart rate monitor. These devices concentrate primarily on pulse measurement, but are also suitable for displaying the distance and calorie consumption. The term heart rate monitor is mostly used as a synonym for the term running watch.
Frequently Asked Questions: Running Watches
Why should I use a running watch while running?
Everyone who does sport should strive to make the training as effective as possible and to ensure that he does not expose himself to more stress than his organism can handle. For these reasons in particular, it makes sense to use a running watch to monitor training. In addition, such a watch can be used to determine what progress you are making or whether you should stop running because of an illness. Progress is often shown by a falling heart rate. For example, if you consistently run the same route at the same pace, after a while you will no longer have to exert yourself to the same extent as before. The body has got used to the load and is ready for a small increase in the load. On the other hand, a constantly high pulse despite low stress can at least be an indication that you have health problems. The running clock can therefore ensure that a disease is recognized early and counteracted.
What basic functions should a running watch have?
Many running experts recommend training that is based on your heart rate. Therefore, an exact heart rate measurement is essential for a good running watch. There are two versions with the chest strap and the optical sensor on the wrist. Running watch tests have shown that the optical sensor may not always work exactly. Another important function is the GPS system. It calculates the distance covered, information that should not be missing in a training run. Of course, timing is also very important. You can use them to find out how long you ran in total, how much time you needed for a certain route and how long you needed for a lap on a circuit. Calorie consumption is an important value for many runners. A good running watch therefore shows you how many calories you have consumed during the run. A running watch should have Bluetooth or a USB cable so that you can do something with the collected data after running. In this way, the training results can be transferred to other devices.
What to watch out for when training with a running watch?
If you train with a running watch, make sure that the watch or the chest strap is put on correctly. You can only take a correct measurement if the belt or optical sensor is in the correct position. You usually have to moisten the chest strap a little before putting it on, which improves the transmission. A running watch is intended as an aid to help you train properly. For this reason, you should absolutely observe the previously saved specifications such as maximum heart rate, speed or planned lap times. Above all, running according to your heart rate protects you from injuries as well as overloading and the resulting overtraining. With all the technology that you wear on your body with a running watch, you should still pay particular attention to your own body awareness. Above all, you should feel comfortable while running and if your organism says something other than your running watch, you should always listen to your body.
Are there any other useful functions on the running watch?
A high-quality running watch always has more to offer than the basic functions already mentioned. Many watches also have a fitness test, preprogrammed training plans, a compass, an altimeter, a step frequency control to optimize running efficiency, a display of the recovery status and a so-called activity guide with advice on possible activities in everyday life. You can also save and retrieve routes on the watches. Some models also have a guide for recovery phases and optimized regeneration as well as a function that can analyze your sleep. A good running watch today is like a mini-computer for your wrist.
Can you use a running watch on the treadmill?
If you prefer to train in the gym when the weather is bad and use a treadmill, you can still use your running watch. You can switch off the GPS system and only use the timing, speed and calorie consumption. The treadmill will then show you the distance covered. Many treadmills now have interfaces through which they can receive the data from your chest belt. Then you can also train without a running watch. However, the treadmill must be compatible with your device.