Since the original Nike Fuel Band, the best fitness watches for men have advanced a lot. These watches aren’t the same pedometers grandma used to power walk around the local mall with. Wearables and fitness trackers can now tell you how far you have walked each day, with a quantifiable number (or miles if you fled this poor country for our friendly north border). This is a lot more tangible than the 10,000 steps benchmark. Fitness trackers have become almost a glorified smartwatch. They can do everything, from GPS and wrist-based heart rate monitoring to stress tracking and sleep tracking to various exercise modes.
It’s easy to get lost in all that tech, especially when it’s only a few inches away. We’ve compiled the best wearables, no matter if you are a runner or simply looking for basic information about your sleep and activity. Before you start shopping for a watch, let’s talk to experts.
How to shop for your next watch
This should not be a surprise, but it is important to know what you are doing, your goals, and what your training schedule will look like. Your needs will vary depending on whether you are trying to win a triathlon or want a simple sleep and activity tracker that informs you about your hair appointments, incoming texts, and other information. While some watches have a wider range of sport modes than others, others are more limited. While most watches are waterproof against sweat and splashes, you will need a watch that is fully submersible in water if you plan to dive or swim.
Long battery life is a key feature that athletes recommend for all types of activities. You want your watch to keep up with you mile after mile, without stalling before you have even had the chance to log your last lap. It is important that your watch doesn’t get drained while you use GPS. Rebeccah Wassner, a professional triathlete and head coach at Team Wilpers, is a strong advocate for a watch with an easy-to read display, customizable screens, and buttons that can be pushed to set lap splits. This will allow you to track your time as you run, or if you are working towards a PR.
Kai Ng, otherwise known as Run Coach Kai, is a USATF- and RRCA-certified running coach. He recommends that athletes and runners invest in a watch with a heart rate sensor. He says that it can be difficult to get outside for a run, so you don’t want to wear a watch with a chest trap. If you’re a beginner runner, it is better to listen to your body and not focus on text notifications or apps.
You’ll need something to track your elevation, blood oxygen level, and give you feedback to improve your training. An Apple Watch, entry-level Garmin, or Fitbit should work for casual athletes. We break down the top models and ask athletes to share their top picks.
The Best Fitness Watch For Most Athletes
Garmin Forerunner 245 $300
Garmin’s top-of the-line GPS features make it a popular choice for serious athletes. However, watches can easily cost upwards of $500 if they have more range. Ng recommends the Garmin Forerunner245 or 245S for runners and athletes on a tight budget. He says that he currently wears the Garmin Forerunner 735XT his wife gave him because he is interested in triathlons. However, it does not have the 24-hour GPS battery life of 245 which is a crucial feature to consider when buying a watch, especially if you are a long-runner or a runner.
The wrist heart rate monitor and the fact that it can be used with training plans, if they are being worked with a coach, is also mentioned. He says, “I create custom training programs for my athletes. They love how their workouts sync directly with their watches. It tells them when they should warm up, for how long, or what pace to pick up. No more remembering your marathon or 5k times. It’s almost like I’m there with them coaching.”
Smartwatch Hybrid and Best All-Around Fitness Watch
Apple Watch Series 7 $390
Apple’s smartwatches bridge that gap between a fitness-oriented watch, and the type of wearable you would like to wear every day (to work, on dates, or even at the wedding). Although they may not offer the same advanced tracking features as Garmin’s top-of the-line model, they are stylish enough to keep up with your daily activities. The Apple Watch 7 has a lot of great features, including a stream of notifications from email to text that is synced to your wrist. To detect your current elevation, the watch has an integrated compass and altimeter. You can choose from a variety of customizable watches faces to match your mood. The Apple Watch can do almost anything a guy could need.
The Series 7 watch is also available in waterproof form, so you can go swimming or to the beach with it. It will last for 18 hours, but you should be ready to charge it at night. PJ Shirdan is a founder coach at FightCamp, and NASM-certified trainer. He says that the Apple Watch is often recommended to people because of its variety and accurate ECG heart rate monitoring. The Apple Watch currently has a variety of fitness modes you can sync with Apple Fitness, including tai chi and running, as well as yoga and dancing.
The Best Fitness Watch for Under $100
Fitbit Charge 5 Advanced Fitness and. Fitbit Charge 5 Advanced Fitness
Fitbit was one the first players in the wearables market. It’s still a leader in comprehensive and accessible fitness watches. You’re most likely to choose a Fitbit if your primary purpose is to be a recreational athlete, someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot on a watch or someone who really cares about having a watch that does not scream “SPORTS.” In particular, the Charge 5 is one of its slimmest and most elegant models.
Although it isn’t a fitness watch that’s heavy duty like a Garmin or smartwatch, this watch still packs a lot of technology, especially considering the price. The watch features an AMOLED display that can scan your health metrics, including heart rate, skin temperature, pace and time. The watch can also provide a daily stress management score, which can help you feel more chill. Recovery data and analysis are also a key focus, just like the Whoop below. The Charge 5 calculates a Daily Readiness score that is based on activity, sleep, heart rate variability, and other factors to help you decide if you are able to go to the gym hard or need to rest for a few days. The Charge 5 also comes with GPS navigation and a six month membership to the premium Fitbit App, which provides personalized training feedback and guided programs to help you make steady gains.
The best multisport fitness watch for athletes and triathletes in the mid-range
Garmin Forerunner $600
The Garmin Forerunner 945 is a great running tool for any level. It was recommended by two triathletes we spoke to. Priority Fitness founder Ben Kessel, a 20-year-old endurance and strength conditioning coach, says that the Garmin Forerunner945 watch is “anything and all a driven athlete could need,” but it’s also user-friendly enough to be used by beginners.
The many workout modes enable athletes to track data and metrics in a variety of sports, including swimming, cycling, triathlons and running. Wassner says that this is her top choice as a triathlete or aspiring triathlete because it provides real-time metrics such as running pace, cadence and bike power.
Kessel also likes the fact that the 945 can record data from external sensors such as a bike power meter, or chest-based heart rate monitor. He says that athletes can keep the display-face small while still keeping track of metrics that can later be reviewed. This is especially helpful if they are working with coaches. Both coaches and athletes can use the sleep tracking mode, which includes resting heart rate, stress, and resting heart beat, to help them recover.
The 945 watch has many great features, including music storage of up to 1000 songs, calling and texting options, as well as syncing to your phone. There’s also a “find my phone” feature for those who are forgetful, which both athletes found extremely useful. It also allows family and friends to track the athlete live, which is a safety feature. You can also count on a long battery life, up to 2 weeks in smartphone mode and 36 hours in GPS mode, to last you through the longest workouts and excursions.
For people who are serious about their sleep health and recovery, the best tracker is
Whoop 4.0 $324
Whoop is a name you may have heard about, even if it was because of the well-known athletes who wear it. It now has many professional athletes as its investors. The current version is on its fourth iteration. It’s smaller and more slimmer than the previous versions and has a Strain tab that helps athletes maximize training without getting too much done or injuring their bodies. Although it looks like a fancy sports watch, the device is actually more of a recovery tool. It tracks only cardiovascular strain, recovery and sleep. There are no step counts, notifications or reminders like a standard tracker. Shirdan describes it as a sleep monitor.
To help promote better sleep hygiene, and increase your readiness for high-intensity cardio training, the companion app calculates your daily recuper score and how much sleep you had the night before. The app can also show you how much sleep you got and how much your body actually needs. This is something that other smartwatches and trackers can do. Why all the fuss about what is essentially a glorified tracker for sleep? It’s the clever design that allows you *always* to charge it with a removable charging pod. This ensures you don’t lose any data. If you think that sounds excessive, then you are not the right target market. There are lots of data geeks out there. If you’re willing pay $30 per month for Whoop (the actual hardware is free), then the whoop provides the most complete look at your sleep and recovery habits.
For guys who want all the bells and whistles, this is the best fitness watch for them
Garmin Fenix 7 $700
The Garmin Fenix 7 is the grand daddy of all wearables. You want others to know that you are wearing this. The Fenix 7 is best for a man with wrist space. It’s large and in-charge. The Fenix 7 is built to withstand any kind of weather, including crashing waves and snow. Users can track anything from a triathlon to a day at the slopes. Although the price and metrics are not necessary for casual athletes, you can still enjoy a premium experience with top-of-the line features such as topo maps and enhanced GPS systems for plotting routes, call and SMS notifications, all kinds of sensors (e.g. pulse oximeters, altimeters, etc.) and unlimited customization. The battery life is much longer than your regular Apple Watch (up to 18 days in smartwatch and 57 hours GPS mode), which is a huge advantage if you don’t have the time to charge it every day.