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April 28th 2014 5:04 pm

Which running watch should I buy?

Alright. So. It's been a long time since I purchased a running watch -- the Garmin Forerunner 110 I'm using came out four years ago. At this point, the battery life is dwindling, and the watch doesn't do timed intervals, which is becoming an increasingly big problem for me. I'm willing to shell out for a new watch with more bells and whistles. Just not sure yet which one. Hoping all the runners out there can give me some feedback. What watches work well for you guys? What brands have you had good luck with? (I've only tried Garmin.) Halp!

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22 replies

I've never used a running watch other than a couple runs with my wife's Garmin (Forerunner 205), I've always just used iSmoothRun on my iPhone since I like to have a phone with me anyway. But after literally the worst race performance of my life at the NJ Marathon yesterday, I'm thinking that maybe a watch might help me stay on track for speed work and get more marathon goal pace miles in during training. Though, I've always run based on feel and I'm afraid of becoming reliant on technology for running (which is why I've held off this long).

I've been looking at the Garmin Forerunner 220. I'd love to get the 620, but I don't think I can justify that much money on a running watch no matter how many miles I run. I also don't really know which features I'd actually use.

Also, please tweet more about running :-)
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Sorry about your race! The 220 does look really tempting -- price isn't *that* bad, but it still has the features (really, the feature) I want. I just wish I had a better take on whether to go with Garmin over, say, Timex, etc. (Maybe I'm just overthinking this :)
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I can't say I have experience with any other brands, but everyone seems to go Garmin so I figured I'd run with the pack.
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If you carry an iPhone on your runs, you might consider the Magellan Echo. It controls several apps, such as Wahoo Fitness and iSmoothRun. Does everything a GPS watch does, but a lot cheaper. Add the new Wahoo Tickr Run HRM and you have every feature of a $450 Garmin 620, including stride analysis.. I went this route when my Motoactv died. I wanted a GPS, but I also wanted music and to be able to connect with Bluetooth or ANT+.
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I really like my FR 220. It locks on to GPS satellites much faster than my friends 310's and 910's (seconds vs minutes) and uploading runs through the phone via bluetooth works great. It's also small enough to wear as an everyday watch and with GPS and bluetooth turned off the battery lasts for weeks.
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Get the 220 or 620. I've got a 620 and came from a 110 as well and skipped all of the watches in between as they never seemed that great. The 220/620s are huge improvements over the 110 era and are small and light to boot so it's a great semi minimalist (as small as you can get with a decent gps...) run watch and not much worse than running with an old school timex type run watch. The new screens are a bit harder to read without the backlight on than the older watches (but the new backlight is awesome) and the screen definitely feels cheap due to the flexible plastic screen but it performs well, navigation swipes work in the rain and sweat and the feature set is more than you'd need. The vibration alarm is really a nice as if you're doing a time based interval it'll vibrate at the end of it as well as beep so you don't have to keep checking the watch as it counts down as you did on the 1100. The GPS, while being night and day faster than the 110 (I used to chuck my 110 into the front yard, then go get ready to run and if I was lucky it would acquire a satellite by then) is decent although not perfect. Battery life is stellar and the charge cradle actually works unlike the horrible clip on the old watches.
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iPhone 5s, with a polar h7 heart rate strap, runkeeper app, lifeproof case and arm band, and a pebble watch (upgrade to iwatch in October) wow now I have written it all down that looks like a lot. But I can say in combination with my fitness pal app and the above list I have knocked minutes off my run times and lost 18kgs (thats about 35 pounds in USA TERMS)in last 4 months . The pebble is pretty good, but runkeeper, myfitnesspal app and the lifeproof combination really does work. I was all polar watches before now I'm all apps and pebble, and soon to be iwatch.
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I know that it wasn't designed specifically for exercise but I love my pebble. I use it with MapMyRun, or MapMyRide if I'm cycling. It displays on the watch face the total distance ran, calories burned, and current speed. I love that it is so simple and straight forward. Setup is super easy as long as your Pebble is connected to your phone as soon as you start the workout the app kicks the info over to your phone. Hope this helps!
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I must confess I don't own a running watch myself but my brother is very happy with his Suunto Ambit2. Not cheap, but quality
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Are you looking for specifically to track runs, or are you considering step-trackers as well like the Fitbit Flex or the Jawbone Up? I used the Fitbit Force for a while and liked it for step-counting, but for runs I prefer to just use RunKeeper (or iSmoothRun) on my phone.
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I'm pretty set on a GPS watch, one that will show me my pace, elapsed time and mileage. The watch I have now does that, except you can't do walk-run intervals with it; that wasn't a dealbreaker before, but it is now (I now do run-walk all the time).
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I had bought an ex-girlfriend the Garmin Forerunner 10, which she loved quite a bit. It may be a basic watch, but it might suit your needs.

It had all your requirements I believe. Pace, Mileage, Elapsed Time, and timed intervals

"It also has a run/walk feature thats helpful if youre just starting out or your running plan includes walk breaks."

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WAIT! if you can. TomTom is about to release their new Runner Cardio Watch: www.tomtom.com­/en­_us­/products­/your­-sports­/running­/... They'll also have a multisport version. The BEST qualities are FAST GPS and NOOOO CHESTSTRAP!!!! It may not sound like much, but after a few years of running with a chest strap (Garmin Forerunner 305), I can't wait for this guy to be released.
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I just found a cheaper option (at least for me). You can get any GPS watch that supports ANT+ and use this armband HRM in place of the chest strap: www.shopblt.com­/item­/scosche­-industries­-rthm1.9­-wi... . since I already have the watch, it's only a $60 investment.
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Get a Garmin 620 or 220. Or event one or two of the previous models would still suit your needs. Visit dcrainmaker.com blog for many more details and comparisons. Best sports gear blog by far. Optical HR sensors are useless when you sweat.
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I LOVE my garmin forerunner 220!
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If you want both GPS and heart rate monitor built into a watch - without having to wear a chest strap - you should check out the new Adidas Smart Run watch. Having the HRM on the underside of the watch is MUCH more convenient and comfortable than a chest strap. I've found the HRM works well in (very) rainy conditions. And training with heart rate zones (something else the Adidas watch does well) may help you reach your goals. Good luck!
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Suunto Ambit2 R or Suunto Ambit2 S

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I really like my Nike+ Sportswatch. I have no experience with any other GPS enabled watch but this gives me what I need.
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I've never been one to spend a lot on watches. For 50 you can get a Timex T5E231 Ironman watch shown here http://www.squidoo.com/top-menswatches . It's a great watch; I like its durable band. If ultimately you are looking for a more expensive one with all the "bells and whistles" you may consider the Garmin Forerunner. It tracks distance, pace, and heart rate and helps you keep personal records.
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If you want to stick with Garmin then try the Garmin 620 (wizitapp.com­/product­/garmin­-forerunner­-620­/120) it has anything you could ever dream though pretty expensive at $400.

A more reasonable option is Garmin 230 ( wizitapp.com­/product­/garmin­-forerunner­-220­/121 ) which costs $200.

But really depends on your goals and what you want to get out of the watch - try wizitapp.com­/question­/whats­-your­-goal­-runner­/132 it's a quiz by wizit.us that helps you find the best watch for you based on your exercise goals.
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I was completely on board with FitBit until the watch malfunctioned and gave me 120,000 steps as I slept. There is absolutely no way to erase the steps, and resetting the FitBit doesn't get rid of the faulty record. I would suggest if you are looking for a running watch, check to see whether people have problems with the associated app. There is no way to delete on the Fitbit app - which is a problem when bad data is recorded.
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