Which of the watches for runners with a heart rate monitor, should you choose?

If you are looking for GPS watches for runners with a heart rate monitor, there are a number of things to consider.

Picking a watch is much like choosing a car: it’s worth putting in some time and effort.

After all if you are going to make, what can be a serious investment, you want to get the right GPS running watch for you.

Let’s face it, everyone has a different set of criteria when it comes to running and sports in general.

So in that sense, finding the watch that matches your set of needs and ambition in running is much like finding a car.

watches for runners with a heart rate monitor - marathon medal

Are you a beginner?

What’s your style?

Are you a social runner?

Are you a serious athlete?

Are you running to be slightly fitter?

Running to lose weight?

Each of these are equally valid, but it does mean your requirements are slightly different.

You will find at the end of this article a brief list of possible options for various needs.

However first a few more details about the general features of watches for runners with a heart rate monitor, and what they mean.

Glossary of GPS Running Watch Terms

GPS – Global Positioning System

This is where the watch uses satellites to determine exactly where you are and where you run.

This enables the watch to accurately record not only distance but also pace and speed etc.

VO2max – (or Volume Oxygen Maximum)

If a watch provides this information, you are getting the the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during exercise.

Yes, this all sounds a bit complicated, but in general terms the higher your VO2 max is the fitter you are.

Most watches that show this measurement, will also have a display, explaining what your measurement means in terms of your fitness.

Running Cadence

Cadence is how many strides you take in a minute.

This can be very useful to assess how efficient your running style is.

As a rule of thumb, it has been calculated the most efficient cadence for most runners is around 180 strides a minute.

Heart Rate Monitoring

As the name suggests, this is the measurement of how quickly your heart beats in a minute.

The key thing to take into consideration when looking at watches for runners with a heart rate monitor, is the type of sensor.

When it comes to heart rate sensors on a running watch, you get two types.

Firstly, there are watches with optical wrist based monitors, which use light shone through the skin.

And secondly there are the less common now, separate chest strap monitors.

These chest strap have sensors that pick up the electrical impulse from the heart.

Both of these methods have advantages and disadvantages based around convenience and accuracy.

The inbuilt optical HRM, has the advantage that it is very convenient.

Anyone who has worn a chest strap will know it can be a pain (quite literally if it rubs).

watches for runners with a heart rate monitor - funky chicken
The HR Chest Strap Monitor Funky Chicken

(It can also make you look as if you are doing the funky chicken if you have to readjust when running – as you can see from this picture from a half marathon I ran in 🙂 )

On the positive side, because it directly monitors the heart, it is very accurate.

With regards to the built in optical monitor, being built in, they are much more convenient.

On the downside, they tend to be slightly less accurate (although they are getting better).

A good example of this inaccuracy came comes from another personal experience.

When I first tried a running watch with a built in heart rate monitor I was getting a very high beats per minute recording.

As I had not long got over an illness I thought it was due to this.

As this continued, I got quite worried and even went to the doctor.

However after a little research online, I found that some people experience their watch picking up their cadence…

…and this is exactly what was happening with me!

It has to be said, the current Garmin watch I use seems to be extremely accurate with the heart rate it shows.

As to why you might want a running watch with heart rate monitor, it is very helpful when training.

watches for runners with a heart rate monitor - heart rate

For example I am a great fan of the 80/20 Running method of training.

This method uses your heart rate as one of the ways to make sure you are training at the required intensity.

(Most fun runners tend to do too much of their running at too high an intensity)

There are obviously other things that the watches record and display, but this is a good start.

OK, all that said, let’s have a look at some GPS watches to consider:

Some GPS Watches For Runners With a Heart Rate Monitor to Consider

Apple Watch Series 5: “The socialite”

Being an Apple product, this is the most expensive watch on the list.

However, it is also the stylish allrounder.

It is fair to say that some running watches are not the most attractive.

So if you want a GPS running watch that is also not going to look out of place in the workplace…

…this is a running watch to seriously consider.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is going to be most appealing for those who aren’t just focussed on their running.

Pros – Attractive design. Also you get the quality and customer support that Apple are famous for.

Cons – As a more ‘general purpose’ watch, this will, naturally, lack the extra features a specialised GPS running watch has.

Top Tip – It is worth noting that if you don’t want the most up to date model, you can save a bit of cash by getting one of the older models.

Garmin 2 GPS swimming smartwatch: “Track & pool”

If you enjoy your swimming as much as your running, you do have to be careful.

Often the fact you are underwater will impact the ability of some of the watches to track your heart rate.

And that is where the Garmin 2 GPS swimming smartwatch comes into its own.

Not only does it recode HR you also get distance, pace, stroke count, and stroke type.

It even gauges your swimming efficiency.

Pros – Heart rate monitoring even when submerged and records up to 50 hours of data.

Cons – some people consider the build to feel a bit ‘plasticy’.

It also has fewer features than Garmin Forerunner 735 for almost the same price

Garmin Forerunner 735XT GPS Multisport & Running watch: “Triath-able”

You will see a number of the selections here are Garmins.

Not only do I have a soft spot for Garmins (my current watch of choice is a Garmin), but they also have a good reputation.

The fact I have this down as what I have called ‘Triath-able’, you can see it is a series bit of kit.

You are getting all the usual running measurements spoken about earlier.

You also get the additional functionality of recording just about every stat you will ever need for both your cycling and your swimming.

For complete clarity, some measurements (especially for cycling) need additional accessories.

But suffice to say, this is going to be a watch for the series athlete.

It might not be the sexiest looking watch in the world, but it wouldn’t look too out of place if you wanted to wear it outside of exercise.

Pros – It has a lot of features, making it good enough for just about any level of training.

Great ‘future proofing for the time you want to progress on to swimming or cycling.

Cons – Some people have mentioned they think the display is a bit dim, but I have to say I have never found this the case.

Not really a con, but will you ever need ALL the functionality of this watch?

Garmin Forerunner 45 GPS Running watch with Garmin Coach: “The Pure Runner”

Hands up, as I mentioned earlier, this is my current watch of choice and I like it because of its focus on running.

(Having said that it does have a cycling option)

Again, it comes with all the measurements you would expect when it comes to running.

What it also does is integrate with the free Garmin Coach training plans.

This gives you the option of having a personalised wrist base coach.

It also includes connectivity to your phone so that you can get notifications for calls and texts.

If you like to listen to music when you are on your run, the watch will allow you to control what’s playing.

Pros – It a plethora of features that enables you to monitor the important elements of your runs.

Cons– It might not be as “rugged” as some of the other models, but it’s a good startup watch.

Garmin Vivosport Smart Activity Tracker with Wrist-Based Heart Rate & GPS: “Beginner”

Although this tracks most of the stuff you might need when out running, it is more of an activity tracker than a true running watch.

If you do not have the desire, or the need to have a lot of extra features, this could be for you.

A way of starting out with something simple, without breaking the bank.

You could see it as a ‘gateway’ running watch, leading you on to the more hardcore stuff later.

Pro – It’s a good starter watch for someone who might not want too many features all at once.

Con – Doesn’t include some of the measurements that committed runners find useful to help their training.


So, with the huge variety of watches for runners that come with heart rate monitors, there is bound to be one just right for you.

But first make sure you understand what your specific requirements are.
And make sure you not only think about these requirements now, but also what they might be in 12 months or so.

Do you want something that can do the job but is primarily a fashion statement (an Apple watch).

Or do you want something with all the bells and whistles to allow you to analyse your efforts for all angles.

And then there is your budget.

What can you afford?

Do you want to pay slightly more on a watch that is ok for general wear?

Whatever you decide there are going to be plenty of watches for runners with a heart rate monitor to choose from…you just need to decide what sort of runner you are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *