The choices for runners looking for a wearable were very limited not too long ago. There were only a few brands with just a few models. You could expect poor accuracy, very limited battery life, and little comfort from any of these brands.
The wearable industry has come a long way in the past decade. This is a good thing. It means that you can shop with more options, greater accuracy, and better durability. A pair of trainers may be a good fit for one person, but not for another.
These are seven questions you should ask before making a purchase of your next running gear:
1. What is the purpose of this purchase?
What are the first things you should consider when hunting for a wearable? It is important to know what you intend to do with it and what you are looking for. Are you an athlete who only runs, or are there multi-sport athletes who run but also cycle, swim, hike, and/or cycle? Some prefer a smartwatch, while others prefer a fitness watch. Do you want to be a beginner looking for consistency, or are you an elite athlete seeking marginal performance gains. Are you a road-smart person who trains mostly on pavements or a mountaineer who loves trails and mountains? You’ll feel happier with your purchase experience and your wearables if you narrow down their purpose.
2. Is it an accessory for all-day use or is it a specific accessory for your activity?
It is a smart idea to decide if you want a watch that you can wear all day, or just for active times. You may need a watch that is sleek, sporty and complements your everyday clothing. Apple Watch has interchangeable bands. If you only plan to use the watch for running, it may not matter as much how it looks, or whether it can be worn with a button-down shirt, or even a pair of heels.
3. What price range are you comfortable with?
There are few things more frustrating than finding the perfect purchase only to discover it is beyond your budget. You can avoid this disappointment by knowing how much money you can afford before you shop. The cheapest models, such as the Polar model, start at $150. While the more expensive models can go up to four figures. There are many high-quality watches in that price range, and some of the favorite models, such as the Garmin Vivoactive 4 are at the lower end. However, the features will increase as the price goes up. You don’t have to rush to buy a model if you aren’t in a hurry. There’s a good possibility that it will be on sale, either as a newer release or during a sale.
4. What is the size of your wrists?
Poor fitting is the biggest problem with running wearables. Some wrists are small, so watches made for men don’t fit as well as models that are designed for women. There are many options available for female wrists, but not as many as the ones meant for men. Garmin Forerunner 45, Fitbit Versa lines are perfect for smaller wrists. This discontinued Garmin Forerunner 10 watch is still the favorite, because it fits snugly and isn’t too noticeable. A smaller watch will likely have a smaller screen.
5. What do you care about metrics?
A top-end wearable watches can do almost anything these days. You can track 80+ sport modes and measure blood oxygen saturation with your watch. Or navigate in uncharted territories using only your watch. However, it will probably cost you quite a bit. In pursuit of excellence in athletics, some people are obsessed with metrics. They meticulously track, record, and compare them. Some people care only about the most important metrics, while others can live without them.
6. Do you care about battery life?
The battery life of a watch will vary depending on its model. It may only last a few times or it might be able to charge through many. You’ll be fine with any option if you only use GPS mode once a week. If you are a frequent GPS user (as runners who run a lot), stream music constantly, or have trouble remembering to charge your battery, you might be a good candidate to get a wearable that has a long battery life, a built-in solar charger, or a battery-saving mode. You can expect to pay more to get a better battery and a larger watch to fit it.
7. How important is it to get accurate heart-rate readings?
Heart-rate training is popular among runners. This allows them to let their heart rate dictate how hard they push during a session. This is a great idea, but it’s not worth the effort if your heart rate is incorrect. The wrist-based heart rate monitors found in most watches don’t work well. This is especially true if the watch is too loose, if you have a thick sweater or if your skin color is not detectable.
There is a simple solution offered by most brands: A separate chest strap, typically in the $50-$100 price range. This allows you to pair your watch with a more reliable and trustworthy accessory. If accurate heart rate data is important to your training, make sure the watch you choose is compatible with your chest strap. You can also bundle your watch with it at the time of purchase.
To ensure a pleasant shopping experience and a satisfied result, take some time to think through before your purchase. Consider why you are buying a wearable and what you value most. Do you prefer to be a minimalist or a metric fiend? Are you a novice runner or an experienced veteran? You are a one-sport athlete, or an avid dabbler. Are you looking for an all-purpose accessory or a sports watch? Answering these questions will help you narrow down your options and bring focus to the right running watch for you.