Run­ning Watches

Which Is Right for You?

Canadian Running - - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2017 -

For the moun­tain-sum­mit­ing vet­eran Garmin Fenix 5 Se­ries $800 and up

The Fenix isn’t so much the Cadil­lac of run­ning watches as it is a Humvee. In fact, the only thing this beast can’t do is call in an airstrike. (Al­though, keep an eye out for fu­ture firmware up­dates?) Al­though the Fenix will prob­a­bly be more watch than the vast ma­jor­ity of run­ners will need, that also means that it does more than any other watch on the mar­ket. If you must have the very best, par­tic­u­larly if you plan on get­ting lost on a moun­tain, the Fenix 5 be­longs on your arm.

Key Fea­tures

» Al­time­ter » 24 bat­tery life with GPS

on (300 with­out) » Turn-by-turn map­ping

and di­rec­tions (5X only) » Coach­ing app » Ad­vanced met­rics (VO2 max, lac­tate thresh­old, rest­ing heart rate) » Saf­fire crystal watch­face

(op­tional up­grade) » Re­ceives mes­sages from

a phone » Op­ti­cal heart rate mon­i­tor



» Best bat­tery life of any

watch we’ve ever tested » Ex­tra­or­di­nary set of

op­tions » Fit and fin­ish of a high

end time­piece » Eas­ily de­tach­able strap » Firmware up­grades will only make it more pow­er­ful


» Ex­tremely ex­pen­sive » Bulky de­sign » Not ideal for road­run­ners

For the new­bie ul­tra­run­ner Su­unto Spar­tan Ul­tra HR $680

Last year, Su­unto re­freshed their line of pre­mium run­ning watches with the Spar­tan Ul­tra. The heart rate model is a wel­comed edi­tion to their flag­ship set, tak­ing over where the Am­bit se­ries left off, but now with a sharper colour screen, more ro­bust fea­ture set and, of course, an op­ti­cal heart rate mon­i­tor. The name­sake key fea­ture is the best we’ve tested on a run­ning watch so far, and this fully fea­tured unit is a great fit for ul­trarun­ners look­ing to nav­i­gate their way through the trails for day­long ad­ven­tures.

Key Fea­tures

» Op­ti­cal heart rate mon­i­tor built-in » Sup­ports dozens of dif­fer­ent sports » Long bat­tery life, even with GPS and HR en­gaged


» The most ac­cu­rate op­ti­cal heart rate we’ve tested » GPS is ex­tremely ac­cu­rate » Slick, min­i­mal styling and colour op­tions » Siz­ing for smaller wrists » In­cred­i­ble ar­ray of train­ing op­tions


» Ex­pen­sive op­tion for

many run­ners » Still lack­ing some lux­ury

op­tions for the price » Heav­ily re­liant on firm

ware up­dates to im­prove

For the techie road­run­ner New Bal­ance RunIQ $400

Af­ter rein­vent­ing them­selves with the highly suc­cess­ful Fresh Foam mid­sole and a cou­ple of other bril­liant fast road shoe op­tions, New Bal­ance sur­prised the run­ning world ear­lier this year with a run­ning watch. It’s a re­mark­ably evolved prod­uct, thanks in part to very wise part­ner­ships with Google (for the open-source and ever-evolv­ing An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem) and Strava (mak­ing it the first watch to truly have the pop­u­lar run track­ing com­mu­nity baked right into the de­vice).

Key Fea­tures

» An­droid OS » Sharp large screen » Strava app na­tive to the

de­sign » A fully thought out GPS run­ning watch in ver­sion one


» The Strava func­tion­al­ity

works per­fectly » Beau­ti­ful watch face and

over­all de­sign » Use­ful but­tons in­stead of re­liance on a touch screen » Be­cause it’s An­droid it will con­stantly be evolv­ing and im­prov­ing


» It’s rather large » The func­tion­al­ity can be a

bit con­fus­ing » If you’re not on Strava, the built-in func­tion­al­ity is an­noy­ing

For the Bos­tonQual­i­fy­ing marathoner Garmin Fore­run­ner 935 $680

Garmin has dom­i­nated the wrists of most se­ri­ous road­run­ners over the years be­cause the brand tends to nail that sweet spot of func­tion­al­ity, dura­bil­ity and price. With the ad­vent of smart­watches, the pres­sure was on for the king of the run­ning watch to come up with some­thing that would do a bit bet­ter than their pre­vi­ous model, the FR 635. The 935 wowed us. It’s like a baby Fenix 5 in many ways: an im­pres­sive fea­ture set (al­though not all the finer grain stuff like an al­time­ter), sturdy de­sign and smart­watch func­tion­al­ity. If you’ve got the dough, it’s maybe the per­fect run­ning watch for ex­pe­ri­enced run­ners.

Key Fea­tures

» Smart coach­ing

func­tion­al­ity » Rugged de­sign

(no plas­tic) » Smart­watch func­tion­al­ity (reads phone mes­sages, has apps) » Colour screen » Mul­ti­sport func­tion­al­ity » Long bat­tery life


» Lighter and smaller than a Fenix 5, but al­most as good » Great screen » 24-hour bat­tery life with

GPS » Re­lies on but­tons in place

of a sub­par touch­screen


» Ex­pen­sive » Still a touch on the thick

and large side » Mil­i­tary styling may not

suit some

For the all-day watch-wear­ing run­ner Ap­ple Watch Nike+ $359 and up

Ap­ple’s “Se­ries 2” Watch in­cor­po­rates GPS, show­ing that the tech gi­ant is se­ri­ous about run­ning. The Nike+ ver­sion does ev­ery­thing the nor­mal ver­sion does, but adds a cooked-in ver­sion of the run­ning brand’s pop­u­lar app/com­mu­nity, and a per­fo­rated rub­ber wrist band. Apart from ev­ery­thing else it does, Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 2 is a strong run­ning watch, with an ac­cu­rate GPS unit and the Work­oute app is won­der­fully de­signed and easy to use. If you like wear­ing a stylish watch all day and don’t love the con­ven­tional “run­ning watch” look, Ap­ple Watch is a well crafted and en­joy­able time­piece to wear all day long. And its fit­ness track­ing func­tion­al­ity is the most en­joy­able we’ve tested – you’ll be­come ob­sessed with “clos­ing your rings.”

Key Fea­tures

» Ro­bust app uni­verse » Scratch-proof face » Ce­ramic back » In­ter­change­able bands » Wa­ter­proof » Mul­ti­sport func­tion­al­ity » Mul­ti­ple cus­tom­iz­a­ble



» So much more than a run­ning watch (thou­sands of apps) » Ap­ple Pay » Beau­ti­fully de­signed » Best touch­screen we’ve

tested » WatchOS is con­stantly

im­prov­ing » A good value


» Must have an iPhone to

make it worth­while » No Strava sup­port » GPS is good, but

not great

For the new run­ner Po­lar M430 $330

The new­est mem­ber of the Po­lar fam­ily sports a solid GPS unit and built-in op­ti­cal heart rate, all for a price point that is new­bie friendly (or agree­able for the ex­pe­ri­enced run­ner who only re­ally wants to track ba­sic stats). The M430 is a solid up­grade on its pre­de­ces­sor, the M400 (most im­por­tantly adding op­ti­cal heart rate and im­proved bat­tery life. In a mar­ket that has few sub-$400 op­tions for a qual­ity GPS run­ning watch, the Po­lar M430 is a solid op­tion if you’re new to the tech­nol­ogy or are look­ing for good bang for your buck. Sure, it’s miss­ing some of the finer add-ons (apps, mu­sic stor­age, a ro­bust colour screen), but at this price point, the M430 is a strong op­tion.

Key Fea­tures

» Op­ti­cal heart rate sen­sor » In­creased bat­tery life » En­hanced GPS modes for

more ac­cu­racy » Sleep track­ing » Im­proved de­sign


» Su­per ac­cu­rate LED

op­ti­cal heart rate » One-sec­ond GPS track­ing » Low power mode for

30 hours of GPS use » Good price point


» Still over $300 » No third party app or

mu­sic sup­port » Screen isn’t su­per sharp » On the large side for a

small wrist

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