This month, Another Mother Runner Gears Up, is featuring sports watches. We had a team of #motherrunners hit the roads and the trails, asking the following watches to pace, track, record, and inform. Read on to find the best companion for your training 

By Rachel Walker 

Time—we could all use more of it, and, sadly, we can’t stop it. But at least we can track it, along with heart rate, elevation, steps per minute, effort, and so much more, thanks to these innovative GPS watches. All of the watches here measure a range of metrics, and sync and work in concert with a smart phone app. They can also be customized to help navigate routes and training plans. With prices starting around $200, they’re expensive, but the lower-priced watches we tested lacked features and didn’t garner enough praise for us to include them. What distinguishes these selections from one another are the specifics: the lighting, ease of use, including navigating all the features within the display, battery life, learning curve, and other finer points. Read on to determine the right choice for your athletic life (and wallet!).

Note that for these reviews, we only showcase gear that scores 3.0 or higher with our testers.

Coros Apex

Tester Rating: 4.6

Review: We partnered with Coros this year, and four of our ambassadors got to test one of two models, including the Apex. This high-end watch is renowned for extended battery life, quickly finding a GPS signal, and a stylish design that transitions effortlessly from workout to work (and other parts of life). It comes in two sizes—46 mm and 42 mm—which translates into a slight variation in the battery life; the larger watch has a battery life of 35 hours in full GPS mode and 70 hours in “ultramax” or “reduced power” mode. The 42 mm watch a 25-hour battery life in full power and 60 hours in ultramax. Testers raved about the intuitive and easy learning curve for the Apex, with one saying that because the watch has only the features it needs and nothing extra, it was “probably the easiest watch I have ever had to set up and use.” The Coros app is simple and easy to read. It allows users to customize the data field on their watch, has a range of workouts and access to Coros’s EvoLab, the brand’s platform that crunches the data from your workouts and gives personalized feedback on training and fitness. The app also allows users to preprogram workouts, load routes, customize the watch face, and share workouts and routes with others and on social media, an option offered by all of the GPS watches, but the Apex made these efforts extremely easy, according to our testers. “I have a terrible sense of direction, and the Apex helps me find my way when running in new areas,” said one tester. “Recently, on a run around the Gulf of Morbihan in France, I planned a route using a third-party website (Gaia GPS), exported it to the Coros app and then synched my watch. The next morning on my run, it notified me when I deviated from the planned route, and allowed me to find the correct trail. I could enjoy my run in this beautiful spot because I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. Fantastique!

Price: $299 (42 mm); $349 (46 mm)

Coros Pace 2

Tester Rating: 5

Review: At 29 grams, the Pace 2 is one of the lightest GPS watch available, has a clear and easy-to-read screen display, and, like the Apex is controlled with one digital dial and a button on the side. This all-plastic watch is among the least expensive/entry level GPS watches, but that “budget” price delivers a lot. Rich with many of the same features as the Apex, the Pace also delivers a long battery life—30 hours in full GPS mode and 60 hours in power saving/ultramax mode, and provides a range of running-specific training modes. This includes indoor and outdoor running (though it lacks a specific trail running activity), treadmill, swimming, cycling, triathlon, and strength training. Our tester would have appreciated more activities and also a menstrual period tracker. “Though not a deal breaker, I like seeing data from every workout. I would also like to see a period tracker because I had one on my previous watch, and it’s interesting to see how my body responds to different points in my cycle.” The Pace 2 doesn’t have navigation capabilities, but that didn’t bother our tester. She raved about the watch’s data tracking—it comes with a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, 3D compass, and thermometer. It also easily integrates with third party apps like Strava or Apple health. The watch looks great and features an elegant, simple design. Although it is all plastic (with a glass screen), it looks sleek and is extremely durable. The watch has a large display and is brightly lit. Note, though, that the backlight cannot be adjusted; what you get out of the box is what you’ll have for the life of the watch. “It’s a very lightweight watch, which means it’s not suddenly going to feel heavy during a long or hot run. I love the white color and somehow it never looks dirty. I wear a running watch as my everyday watch and this one feels stylish enough to wear with my casual wardrobe. It’s a very straightforward watch without a ton of unnecessary bells and whistles, which seem to be added to other fitness watches I’ve used.” 

Price: $199

Garmin Forerunner 55

Tester Rating: 5

Review: Garmin’s relatively inexpensive, entry-level GPS watch, the Forerunner 55 is packed with tracking features. It integrates with the brand’s online Connect IQ store where users can personalize their device with a vast range of apps, widgets, watch faces, data fields, music streaming services, and more. The watch’s display has a “widget glance” mode that gives snapshots of all the elements of the watch without the user having to scroll through each individual feature. In addition to tracking workouts, the watch has an estimated VO2 Max, race predictor, recovery advisor, history from past runs, and an estimated “body battery,” which indicates how much energy you have left in your body for the day. The Forerunner 55 also has a safety feature so you can send texts from your watch—“emergency,” “not an emergency but send help,” and “follow my location,” to name a few—which lets you communicate without using your phone. The display is easy to read even though the screen’s 1.04-inch diameter display was smaller than our tester’s Fenix, another Garmin watch that she already owned. “The Forerunner 55 feels lighter and has a smaller display, but is easier to read, thanks to the larger numbers.” She loved the watch’s notifications when she fell behind her workout pace as well as the faces it provided to rate her workouts’ effort levels. A fully charged battery lasts about 20 hours on full GPS mode, and the Forerunner 55 tracks more activities than the Coros Pace 2, its closest competitor on price. A packed smart watch with easy phone and app interface, the Forerunner 55 had a friendly learning curve, looked good, and has the tools and capability to help athletes customize their training and track their progress. “I really appreciated that the watch offered workout suggestions about my base mileage and suggested pace after some use,” our tester said.

Price: $199.99

Fitbit Luxe

Tester Rating: 4

Review: Not quite a smart watch, the Fitbit Luxe is a fitness tracker that measures steps, a range of activities, heart rate, oxygen saturation, sleep, and more. Fitbit claims the Luxe is like jewelry, and it’s true that this device is compact and sleek. Water-resistant, it can track swim workouts, and on the Fitbit website, it says the battery will last for five days. Compared to the other watches here, the Fitbit lacks GPS, doesn’t provide as comprehensive a picture of your overall fitness, doesn’t integrate with third-party apps, and is essentially limited to what it claims to be: an easy-to-use fitness tracker. “I primarily use this Fitbit to track my daily non-exercise movement and sleep,” said our tester, who relies on her Garmin to track her training. The Fitbit’s heart rate sensor is highly accurate, and the device looks good with its low-profile design. But don’t count on its calorie counter to help with any food tracking; it’s notoriously inaccurate, according to our tester.

Price: $99.95

Apple Watch Series 6*

Tester Rating: 5+++++

*Ed. Note: Apple did not provide a watch to test, and our tester reviewed her longtime, beloved Apple Watch. The Series 6 is only available at third party sellers; Apple currently sells the following watches: Series 7, SE, and Series 3.

Review: This smart watch offers almost all of the features its companion iphone does, including cellular calls and texting, blood oxygen measurement, music streaming, email, and so much more. But it’s the exercise features that make it our tester’s favorite running accessory. The watch provides basics like time, distance, splits, etc. for all of her activities including running, hiking, indoor cycling, barre, walking, and yoga. The display tracks different metrics in the form of color-coded rings and each color corresponds to a different measurement like calories burned, time exercising and time standing. “The rings really keep me motivated and encourage me to get moving if I feel a little sluggish that day,” said our tester. The watch also has built in challenges that change monthly, and she uses them with her 12-year-old daughter. “This keeps us both engaged, and we send funny and snarky preloaded messages back and forth to each other after a workout.” Apple’s fitness app has an extensive range of workouts to choose from, and users may add their own like downhill skiing. Bluetooth-enabled, the watch easily pairs with cordless headphones which makes listening to music during a workout easy. Compared to other watches reviewed here, the battery life is shorter and the duration of a fully charged battery depends on what other apps and features being used on the watch at any given time. “If you are a die-hard about going over your stats and slicing and dicing your runs, this may not be the watch for you,” according to our tester. “But if you want something that is easy and motivating, I highly recommend it.”

Price: Varies; Apple Watch Series 6 is available at different prices from third-party sellers. Apple Watch Series 7, an upgraded, newer model starts at $499 on

Suunto 9 Peak

Tester Rating: 3.5

Review: A beautiful watch with a sleek, award-winning design, this is a top-of-the-line device that is ideal for those who love to collect and crunch data. Like the other watches reviewed, the 9 Peak interfaces with the brand’s app, where users can customize routes, view training, activity, and sleep summaries, customize watch display, and connect with third-party tracking apps like TrainingPeaks and Strava. As for tracking your workout, the 9 Peak has more than 80 sport modes and also lets users create their own. The watch can also stream music, access online coaching, and more. Made of stainless steel and a sapphire crystal screen, the watch is extremely durable. At 62 grams, its heavier than other watches here but never felt weighty on a run or bike ride. Suunto has a reputation for highly accurate elevation readings, and this watch didn’t disappoint in that regard. With its compass and barometer, it gave accurate altitude readings, which was important for our tester who used it primarily on longer mountain trail runs. The battery lasted for days without a charge (the manufacturer says the 9 Peak’s battery life is 25 hours with GPS and 170 hours in power-saving mode). However, she faulted the watch for having a steep learning curve. Controlled by three side buttons and with a confusing navigation system on the display and slow reaction times for some of the features like navigating back to the home screen or getting the heart rate to load or GPS to lock on before starting a workout, the watch wasn’t intuitive to this non-Nordic user. (Suunto is based in Finland.) Likewise, the app interface was cluttered with information and challenging to figure out. “I absolutely love how this watch looks and feels, but for a smart watch, it makes me feel rather stupid,” our tester said. “I need to spend more time watching video tutorials and going back over the online manual to better understand exactly what this watch can do for me and how I can use it to optimize my running and strength training.” The problem with that, of course, is that it’s time consuming. But the silver lining is that straight out of the box, the watch’s basic tracking is easy to find and use, and with more use, our tester said she has a much better understanding of what information the watch tracks and has that will help her. “I know it’s all there—it better be for the price!—I just need to learn more.”

Price:  $569

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