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Best sports watch 2023: Track your training
When it comes to improving your sporting performance, knowledge is power. Elite athletes have teams of coaches and performance experts logging and analysing their every move; for the rest of us, a sports watch is the next best thing.
And you might be surprised by how much these little wrist-borne marvels can do. They use technology that even elites could only have dreamed of a few decades ago, and can track pretty much every popular sport. As well as basic information such as training time and distance covered, they can provide in-depth analysis of your technique, heart rate and training effect, and some will even coach you on the go.
Here’s our pick of the best sports watches for tracking a variety of different activities, along with our buyer’s guide to help you make the right choice.
Best sports watch: At a glance
- Best sports watch for running: Garmin Forerunner 255
- Best all-round sports watch: Garmin Epix (gen 2)
- Best-value sports watch: Coros Pace 2
- Best sports smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 8
- Best sports watch bar none: Garmin Fenix 7
How to choose the best sports watch for you
You’ll first have to decide which sporting activity you want to track, as this will determine the core features you want. If you’re a runner or a cyclist then GPS tracking is a must, while swimmers will be more concerned with waterproofing. Triathletes need a multi-sport mode to switch between their different disciplines seamlessly, and those who stick to the gym might well want to monitor different forms of indoor workout, such as weight training and HIIT. Whatever kind of sportsperson you are, your perfect watch is almost certainly out there – you just have to pick it.
What else should I look for?
App support is important: check out how user-friendly the watch’s partner app is, and whether it will sync your exercise record to third-party apps such as Strava. You might also want to look for a tracker with a built-in music player, so you can leave your phone behind while still enjoying some audio entertainment during your activity.
Remember, too, that not all important statistics can be tracked from the wrist. Cyclists and triathletes, for example, might want to measure their pedalling cadence and power; for this, you’ll need a watch that can use Bluetooth or ANT+ to communicate with other monitoring devices attached to your body or bike.
Finally, check battery life, especially if you’re planning to use GPS. Some devices need charging daily, but the majority will get through a few days of training, and the best will last you a week or two without needing to be plugged in.
Should I consider a smartwatch instead?
Almost all general-purpose “smartwatches” have some sort of fitness-tracking capabilities; indeed, some are just as good as dedicated sports wearables. If you want the ability to install apps on your watch and receive detail-rich notifications for text, email, WhatsApp and many other apps, all alongside sports tracking, there are several great options. They tend to cost more than “dumber” devices, however – and since they’re designed to be worn all the time, you might have to charge them more often than a sports watch that you only wear while working out.
How much should I spend?
A basic sports tracker, without fancy features such as location tracking, will set you back between £50 and £100. If you want a decent watch with GPS, expect to pay around £100 and up – and if you can stretch to £150 to £300, you’ll find a range of quality options for every kind of sport. You can, of course, spend even more than that: triathletes and runners, in particular, will find some great options in the £300 to £500 bracket. For comparison, sporty smartwatches cost around £250-£350.
READ NEXT: The best watches for running
The best sports watches to buy in 2023
1. Garmin Epix (gen 2): The best all-round sports watch
Price: £900 | Buy now from Goldsmiths
It’s certainly not cheap, but the second-generation Garmin Epix does everything you could possibly need from a sports watch – and more. It boasts a vivid, super-sharp 1.3in AMOLED touchscreen that’s a joy to use, although it does impact battery life. The Epix will last around six days if you always have the display on or 16 days if it only switches on when you lift your wrist.
As you’d expect for this price, the Epix is packed to the rafters with features: topographic maps from around the world, incredible GPS accuracy, a RealTime Stamina tool that estimates how much energy you have left, Wi-Fi connectivity, the ability to store music from the major streaming services and dedicated modes for pretty much every form of exercise, both on dry land and in the water. It even contains the details of 42,000 golf courses.
Its stratospheric price is always going to be a sticking point and there are much better-value options below, but there’s no denying that the Garmin Epix is simply the best sports watch you can buy.
Read our full Garmin Epix review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: 6 days (screen always on), 16 days (when you lift your wrist); GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth & ANT+
Buy now from Goldsmiths
2. Garmin Forerunner 255: The best sports watch for running
Price: From £300 | Buy now from Garmin
For a mid-priced sports watch, the Garmin Forerunner 255 has a lot to offer, seriously improving on its predecessor, the already impressive Garmin Forerunner 245. The 255 offers more sensitive heart-rate tracking tech, in the form of the Elevate V4 sensor also used in the high-end Fenix 7; more accurate multi-band GPS; a nicely readable MIP screen with customisable display and a barometric altimeter to help measure distance climbed as well as covered. Beyond that, the Forerunner 255 also has excellent battery life, lasting 14 days in watch mode in its 46mm size.
As you might’ve clocked from the above sentence, for the first time in its Forerunner line Garmin is offering two sizes, with the 255 available in 41mm and 46mm variations. If you’re picking one up, you’ll also have the choice of opting for the slightly pricier Forerunner 255 Music, which offers all the same perks as the regular 255, but with the addition of built-in storage for music downloads from Spotify, allowing you to operate your running playlist without needing to fiddle about with your phone.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 255 review for details
Key specs – Battery life: 30 hours (GPS), seven hours (GPS plus music), 14 days (smartwatch mode); GPS: Multi-band GPS; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Yes
Buy now from Garmin
3. Coros Pace 2: The best-value sports watch
Price: £179 | Buy now from Amazon
The Pace 2 packs an astonishing array of features into its small, lightweight case, offering all the essentials that runners and triathletes in particular need. It has built-in GPS, continuous heart-rate monitoring and a somewhat extraordinary 30 hours of GPS battery life.
It’s a full multisport watch with triathlon and open-water swimming modes, and it offers an impressive level of insight into your training, going well beyond what other watches in its price bracket provide. You get advice on recovery time after workouts, estimated race times and detail on the amount of load you’re placing on your body, combined with a rating of your fitness and how well you’re able to tolerate that load.
The feature list goes on and on, with perhaps the only really notable exception being the lack of breadcrumb navigation, but you can forgive that given the low price of the Pace 2. In terms of bang for your buck, the Pace 2 is the clear pick for keen sportspeople.
Key specs – Battery life: 30 hours (GPS), 20 days (watch mode); In-built GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth/ANT+
4. Garmin Venu 2 Plus: The best sports watch for everyday tracking
Price: £399 | Buy now from John Lewis
The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is the first watch from the company to include a microphone and speaker, which means you can use it to make phone calls and speak to your phone’s voice assistant. Combine those additions with an impressive selection of exercise-tracking tools and you’ve got the ideal sports watch for everyday use.
The Venu 2 Plus boasts the same 1.3in, 416 x 416 AMOLED display as the non-Plus model, despite being smaller at 43mm compared to 45mm. That results in a slight battery life hit, but the Plus still lasts 24 hours with GPS switched on or nine days in watch mode. Elsewhere, there’s a dedicated button to summon your voice assistant of choice, the watch is waterproof to 50m and you can store up to a whopping 650 songs on it.
The microphone and speaker worked brilliantly in our tests – as did the activity tracking. We tested the Venu 2 Plus alongside an ECG chest strap and the watch’s heart-rate tracking was only a few beats off, which is impressive. GPS tracking was similarly impeccable and perusing your statistics is a straightforward process. It also covers a massive range of activities, including walking, cycling, yoga, golf and pilates.
In short, the Garmin Venu 2 Plus is a versatile and stylish smartwatch that can moonlight as an equally capable sports watch.
Read our full Garmin Venu 2 Plus review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: 24 hours (GPS), up to 9 days (watch mode); GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth and ANT+
Buy now from John Lewis
5. Garmin Forerunner 945: The best sports watch for triathlon and cycling
Price: £396 | Buy now from Amazon
The Forerunner 945 is an outstanding all-round watch. It offers reliable and detailed tracking across a range of sports, as well as in-depth training and recovery analysis, plus smart features like music playback and onboard maps to help you navigate on the go.
What makes it so good for cyclists and triathletes starts with its slim, lightweight design, which is comfortable to wear through long activities, plus the open-water swimming and multisport sports mode it offers. The latter can be customised to include the activities you’re undertaking that day, whether it’s a full triathlon, a swimrun, or a brick training session with cycling and running.
Perhaps more important is the fact that the 945 is compatible with any sensor you’d like to pair with it, including cycling power meters and running footpods, and you can use either ANT+ and Bluetooth to link them with the watch.
Key specs – Battery life: 36 hours (GPS), 10 hours (GPS plus music), 14 days (watch mode); GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth & ANT+
6. Coros Vertix 2: The best-value premium sports watch
Price: £588 | Buy now from Amazon
Garmin has ruled the roost at the high end of the sports watch market for some time now, but Coros is beginning to make in-roads and its second-generation Vertix offers a keenly priced alternative to Garmin’s Fenix series.
For £600 you get a watch with a big, 1.4in sapphire crystal display and a tough, titanium body, something you’d have to pay at least £100 more for in a Fenix.
Aside from its design, though, the Vertix 2 holds several other key attractions, its biggest strength being its superb battery life – we found it lasted a month at a time, training for around five to six hours a week. It has a dual channel, all-systems GPS radio, which means supreme accuracy, even in tricky conditions. It also comes with offline maps and good optical heart-rate monitor accuracy, and the Coros app and new web training platform are superb.
All in all, it’s a great-value package and a strong alternative to a Garmin Fenix.
Read our full Coros Vertix 2 review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: 25 days; GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth
7.Garmin Venu Sq 2: Best mid-priced Garmin sports watch
Price: £230 | Buy now from Amazon
A notable update to the original, the Garmin Venu Sq 2 is one of Garmin’s best value watches, packing in loads of quality and features for a surprisingly reasonable price. Its 1.41″ AMOLED touchscreen is bright and easy to read, it’s light and comfortable to wear and its battery life is superb, lasting up to 11 days between charges.
It also comes with all the essential tracking tech you could want in a sports watch: well-presented sleep tracking features, surprisingly solid single-band GPS tracking and the same Elevate v4 heart-rate sensor found in Garmin’s top-end watches.
If you like the look of this line but want to plump for some extras, you can also pick up the Venu Sq 2 Music Edition, which has 3GB of local storage for music and support for offline Spotify playlist play back, or the circular-faced Venu 2. One key feature present in the Venu 2 that is oddly missing from the Venu Sq 2 is a barometric altimeter, which means it can’t keep track of stairs you’ve climbed
Read our full Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
Key specs – Battery life: Up to 11 days; GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth & ANT+
8.Coros Apex 2 / Apex 2 Pro: A cheaper Vertix 2 alternative
Price: £419 (Apex 2); £499 (Apex 2 Pro) | Buy now from Amazon
Coming in at under £500, Coros’s latest sports watches pack in a huge amount of features and hardware for the price. The Apex 2 watches have larger displays than the previous generation (1.2in on the Apex 2 and 1.3in on the Apex 2 Pro) with a sharp 260 x 260 resolution, scratch-resistant sapphire-crystal glass and newly added touchscreen support.
Whether we were using the Apex 2’s all systems GPS tracking or the even more advanced dual-frequency system in the Apex 2 Pro, we found both watches superbly accurate. The upgraded heart rate sensor on each worked perfectly as well and battery life was incredible, with the Apex 2 Pro particularly good. It lasted weeks between charges and delivers up to 75 hours of continuous use with GPS enabled.
In all, this is a superb pair of sports watches that rival the very best Garmin has to offer, if not in terms of pure features, then certainly for hardware, accuracy and value for money.
Read our full Coros Apex 2 / Apex 2 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: 75 hours (GPS); GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth
9. Withings Steel HR: The most discreet sports watch
Price: £170 | Buy now from Withings
Not everyone likes the overtly sporty look. If you prefer to keep your fitness functions low-key, the Withings Steel HR is a great option, as it looks just like an ordinary watch. Yet beneath the unassuming facade sits all the tech you need to track everyday activity and record basic info about your fitness.
The Withings Steel HR automatically tracks walks, runs, swims and sleep, and gives subtle insights into how you’re progressing via the sub-dial and small OLED display. There’s no GPS tracking or in-depth workout stats, but if you want a tasteful watch with fitness tracking thrown in, it’s the perfect choice.
Read our full Withings Steel HR review
Key specs – Battery life: 25 days; GPS: No; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: None
10. Apple Watch Series 8: The best sports smartwatch
Price: £419 (41mm) £449 (45mm) | Buy now from John Lewis
Following in the footsteps of the Series 6 and Series 7, the Apple Watch Series 8 has earned itself a spot on this list. Adding enough subtle improvements and general refinements, the latest Apple Watch is once again arguably the best smartwatch available.
On the hardware front, the Series 8 adds the new S8 chip, a second temperature sensor and an accelerometer used for car crash detection. As far as software goes, an updated watchOS 9 sees the addition of a number of exciting new fitness tracking features. The Series 8 adds the ability to display your heart-rate zones during exercise, create custom structured workouts and track new advanced metrics such as vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length and running power. Also new are a number of additional Workout Views, with those being centred around the new running power metric, as well as Elevation, Pacing and Splits. A new Multisport mode, useful for triathlons, can switch sports automatically between the different legs of a multi-stage workout.
While the Series 8 retains the same unimpressive 18-hour battery life of previous models, it’s still plenty long enough for tracking any workout, and a new low power mode does give you some flexibility in terms of eking some extra hours of use out of the device.
Read our full Apple Watch Series 8 review for details
Key specs – Battery life: 18 hours; GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth
Buy now from John Lewis
11. Apple Watch Ultra: Best high-end sports smartwatch
Price: £849 | Buy now from John Lewis
For Apple fans whose budgets can stretch a little further than the Series 8, the Apple Watch Ultra is a tempting choice. While it operates off the same internal hardware and offers much the same onboard software as the Series 8, the Ultra does have a few key features and quirks that may be enough to turn your head.
Firstly, the Ultra is bigger than the Series 8 at 49mm, with a larger, brighter OLED display, as well as a much sturdier titanium frame. It also offers an eye-catching 36 hrs of battery life (60 hrs on low power settings), double that of the Series 8. Important for sports users is the more accurate dual-frequency GPS offered by the Ultra; its increased water resistance, extra depth gauge and dive computer app, all useful for recreational scuba fans; and its handily customisable action button.
In terms of the watch’s band, you need simply choose from either the versatile Alpine Loop, the light, easily adjusted Trail Loop (aimed at distance runners) or the rubber, diver-focused Ocean Band, and you’re good to go.
Read our full Apple Watch Ultra review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: 36 hrs; GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth
Buy now from John Lewis
12. Huawei GT 2e: The best budget sports smartwatch
Price: £106 | Buy now on Amazon
The Huawei GT 2e sits somewhere in between a smartwatch and a sports watch. It’s not a full smartwatch because it doesn’t run Wear OS and so has no app store, but it has a large, bright AMOLED touchscreen and you can put music on it (Android users only). By not using Google’s software, however, Huawei has been able to massively increase the battery life of the GT 2e compared to most Android smartwatches, with the GT 2e lasting around a week even if regularly using it to track outdoor exercise.
With 100 workout modes, it’s definitely fair to say the GT 2e shines on the sports front, and it offers runners, in particular, impressive insights into their training load and overall fitness, using the same Firstbeat technology that you find in Garmin devices. There are also some preset running workouts you can use, and training plans for events ranging from 5K to a marathon.
The GT 2e has built-in GPS, a hear- rate monitor and can also track your blood oxygen levels using a SpO2 sensor. Along with sports it does a solid job of tracking everyday activity and Huawei’s sleep tracking is right up there with Fitbit and Polar’s as among the best available on any watch. The only significant caveat is that sadly the Watch GT2e won’t interface with Strava. If Huawei fixes that, this is a truly formidable watch for the money.
Key specs – Battery life: Up to two weeks; GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth
13. Garmin Enduro: The best Garmin sports watch for battery life
Price: £629 | Buy now from Amazon
If you want the ultimate sports watch for features, choose a Garmin Fenix, but if battery life is the most important thing in the world, the Enduro is the watch you want. While training for a marathon, we found it would last a month between charges, but if you use one of Garmin’s battery-saving modes you can extend it out even longer. The watch is rated at up to 80 hours of continuous GPS and heart-rate use, and in max battery mode you can use the GPS for up to 300 hours continuously with the help of the solar glass on the front of the watch.
The watch has a large, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display, which means it’s readable even in bright sunlight. As you’d expect of a premium Garmin sports watch, the Enduro comes with a raft of fitness-related features and supports a huge array of external sensors, from chest belts to cycling power meters.
However, thanks to the focus on battery life, the Enduro does miss out on a couple of key features: onboard maps and music storage and playback from Spotify.
Key specs – Battery life: Up to 65 days; GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+; Bluetooth smart, ANT+
14. Garmin Vivomove Sport: The best hybrid sports watch
Price: £120 | Buy now from John Lewis
A lot of sports watches have just that look: digital clock, big bezels and sporty illustrations. That’s fine if all you’re using it for is fitness activities, but if you want to wear your watch throughout the working day alongside formal attire, it might look a little out of place. Step up the Garmin’s minimalist marvel, the Vivomove Sport.
Continual heart rate and sleep monitoring, step counting and other bodily sensors for a range of fitness activities, from yoga to swimming, form the basis of a comprehensive health and wellness watch – but you wouldn’t guess from appearances alone. In fact, turn off any smart features and you would never know the Vivomove Sport had those brainy capabilities.
That’s because of a watch face that features moving arms and really looks the part through its minimalist, all-black design (although, other sleek mint and ivory varieties are available). We found it to be lightweight and comfortable on-wrist too, making it ideal for any occasion including sleeping. In terms of value for a hybrid sports watch, or any smartwatch from Garmin, this is up there with the best we’ve seen.
Read our full Garmin Vivomove Sport review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: 5 days (smartwatch mode), 6 days (watch mode); GPS: No; Waterproof: Yes (5ATM); Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth & ANT+
Buy now from John Lewis
15. Garmin Fenix 7: The best sports watch bar none
Price: £559 | Buy now from Amazon
If you can afford it, you can’t do better than the Garmin Fenix 7. Absolutely packed with features, the Fenix 7 somehow improves upon the already outstanding Fenix 6 Pro, pulling streets ahead of the competition.
The design tweaks include the addition of the first touchscreen in the Fenix series, and the battery life has been extended – you’ll get roughly 10 hours with music playing, 57 hours with just the GPS activated and a whopping 18 days of activity in watch mode.
Unlike the 6 series, all models of the Fenix 7 now come equipped with onboard mapping and turn-by-turn navigation as standard, as well as supporting all-system, multi-band GNSS (global navigation satellite system). Garmin’s new Elevate optical sensor provides more accurate heart rate and blood oxygen saturation monitoring, and a host of new training features maximise your workouts.
Read our full Garmin Fenix 7 review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: Up to 18 days; GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth & ANT+
16. Garmin Forerunner 955: The best sports watch for training
Price: £430 | Buy now from Sportsshoes.com
The Garmin Forerunner 955 is a near-perfect, feature-packed fitness watch with a dedicated workout mode for every sport out there and the capacity to track a bevy of core and advanced metrics, including blood oxygen level, heart rate and sleep. The standout feature is Morning Report, which collates this data and uses it to recommend what level of intensity you should be training at each day and to offer a suitable workout.
Amongst the host of other training tools, our favourites are Garmin Coach, which develops a bespoke training plan for your upcoming running or cycling event, and Pace Pro Mode, which coaches you through a race. Factor in the highly accurate built-in GPS and heart-rate sensor, and the Forerunner 955 is an invaluable tool for helping you reach your fitness goals.
The Forerunner 955 has a 1.3in screen with a relatively high-resolution display (260 x 260) that is clearly readable in both bright and dim conditions. It comes loaded with maps, plus it can download Spotify playlists, meaning you can leave your phone at home if you don’t want the extra weight while you’re working out. The battery life is the only slight hiccup, but it’s still more than sufficient and shouldn’t deter you from purchasing this otherwise outstanding sports watch.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 955 review for more details
Key specs – Battery life: 42 hours (GPS mode), 15 days (smartwatch mode); GPS: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; Heart-rate tracking: Yes; Bluetooth/ANT+: Bluetooth, ANT+
Buy now from Sportshoes.com