We’re often asked what the best running watches and sports watches for women are. Now, if you’d asked us that question a couple of years ago, we’d have pointed to a meagre pool of options. You had to make compromises.
Thankfully, things are changing and now the likes of Apple, Samsung, Garmin and Fitbit are making watches and fitness trackers that are a better fit for women. We’re not just talking about embracing stylish form factors and offering slimmer, smaller designs here either. We’re now getting dedicated features built by women for women.
Read this: Best smartwatches for women
We’ve picked out the watches and fitness trackers that scored well in our reviews and that we feel fit the bill whether you’re a runner, gym lover or love getting into the pool.
Got any questions about our recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.
If you’re all about running on the treadmill or out on those trails, these watches have our seal of approval.
Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music
The Forerunner 245 is the successor to the Forerunner 235, one of the most popular running watches Garmin has had over the last few years.
While you can still pick up that older model for cheap in some retailers, its successor builds on it with extra smarts and an improved design.
Available in five different looks with interchangeable 20mm watch bands, the 245 comes in a version with or without music. The 245 Music offers support for 500 songs on the watch and the ability to sync playlists from Spotify, Deezer or a computer.
However the headline features here are GPS-based sports tracking, advanced training status metrics, support for Garmin Coach, and the watch’s Pulse Ox sensor, helping the user gauge how oxygen is being absorbed. That’s useful particularly for training at high altitudes. It’s also compatible with Garmin’s Connect IQ store so you can add on apps, watch faces, widgets and extra data fields.
Support for Garmin’s new Menstrual Cycle Tracking feature means Garmin users can track their cycle, log symptoms, receive predictions for period and fertile windows and get educational insights from their Garmin Connect app.
Apple Watch Series 4
You’re not going to find a smaller, lighter, more comfortable smartwatch for running than the Apple Watch, which now comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes.
It’s not a sports watch, it’s an all day smartwatch that has considerably beefed up its utility for runners, cyclists and swimmers. With built-in GPS you can track distance and pace for running and cycling, plus it’s water resistant with swim tracking to 50m metres so you can wear it in the pool.
The Series 4, like the Series 3, has an eSIM for LTE connectivity (if you want it) plus a new ECG monitor for serious heart health monitoring. Apple’s own Workout app is still data-light for runners and we’re not bowled over by Strava’s standalone app, but we’re hoping this will continue to improve. The optical HR monitor has come on leaps and bounds since the last Watch and can be used for heart rate training zones.
Wareable verdict: Apple Watch Series 4 review
We ummed and ahhhed over whether to classify the Fitbit Versa as a fitness tracker or a sports watch, given it lacks built-in GPS – but here it is.
Fitbit’s second smartwatch is an everyday wearable that improves on the design of the Ionic, comes at a nice price and is packed with features. It’s 11.2mm thick, with softer edges than we’ve seen on the Blaze and Ionic and it’s really comfortable and light to wear. Battery-wise, it’ll last for four to five days and it’s waterproof to 50m.
When it comes to sports, you can pair the Versa to your phone for GPS tracked runs, but as we say, it’s not built in like it with other top-rated sports watches. What you do get is comprehensive, though, as you can track running, cycling, swimming, yoga and gym workouts on the watch.
Heart rate tracking is accurate for moderate runs and workouts; it falls down in high intensity training. There’s also step tracking (of course), sleep tracking, distance/calories burned and female health tracking if you want to track your period on your watch.
On top of all that there’s the usual smartwatch features like alerts. In Europe, there’s NFC and Fitbit Pay but in the US, it’s the Versa Special Editions only. There’s also the Versa Lite Edition, which comes in cheaper but loses the swim tracking and music player storage.
Garmin Fenix 5S Plus
The smallest of Garmin’s latest trio of high end Fenix watches, the Fenix 5S Plus adds Google Pay, onboard music and hiker-friendly, full colour topographical maps to the already feature stuffed Fenix 5S.
It’s a 42mm watch weighing 69g and offering a 20% bigger display than its predecessor in the same sized body. Overall, it’s better for smaller wrists than the rest of the Fenix Plus range, and there’s a choice of glass or pricier sapphire. It looks slightly more compact too, more like a regular smartwatch.
For sports, you get modes for running, cycling, swimming, golf, kayaking, paddleboarding and more with GPS, GLONASS and Galileo for GPS and optical HR tracking. Missing is the pulse oximeter you’ll find on the Fenix 5X Plus. Battery life gets a boost too though – it’s now 11 hours with GPS turned on and seven days in ‘watch mode’.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Fenix 5S Plus review
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is now the Korean tech giant’s smallest smartwatch and it’s cheapest, but don’t let that price put you off. This is a great smartwatch.
It features a 40mm watch round watch design that’s significantly smaller than the 42mm and 46mm Samsung Galaxy Watches. Samsung has ditched the rotating bezel that we’ve enjoyed on its other smartwatches, but still retains one of the best smartwatch displays in the business.
It rams in most of the sports tracking features you’ll find inside the Galaxy Watch including built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor and swim tracking. It’s got some of the best fitness tracker features we’ve found on a smartwatch and staples like notifications, music playback (there’s Spotify support) and Samsung Pay work great too.
On the health tracking front, Samsung introduced blood pressure monitoring with this watch, but in our experience it doesn’t quite work as advertised – and it’s certainly not going to be any use to your doctor. Battery life is closer to two days, which means it has less stamina than the price of the Galaxy Watches.
If you can live with Apple Watch-like levels of battery and like the idea of a form factor that’s small, light and comfortable, the Galaxy Watch Active is worth considering.
Wareable verdict: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review
Suunto 3 Fitness
This is a sports watch from Suunto that’s designed to appeal to casual fitness fans and beginners. The Suunto 3 Fitness is small and light to wear with solid sports tracking and offers heart rate data driven guidance and easy to follow adaptive training plans.
It works with a new Suunto app, rather than the MovesCount app Suunto watch wearers will be used to. It tracks running, cycling, swimming (pool and open water), a multi-sport mode for triathletes and a standard sport mode for, well, everything else. Heart rate tracking is good but not stellar here and there’s also regular activity and sleep tracking on board – both of which feed, together with stress via HRV, into Suunto’s recovery and resources features.
The one big omission is built-in GPS, so like the Fitbit Versa you’ll be running with your phone. Battery life is five days or 30 hours of connected GPS. We also had a few syncing issues in our testing and we’d like the ability to build our own plans. Still, for the price you get a hell of a lot.
Wareable verdict: Suunto 3 Fitness review
Garmin Vivomove HR
A wearable that is better designed for both sexes, the Vivomove HR is a hybrid smartwatch with some impressive connected skills.
It has a smart analogue design with a discreet, disappearing OLED display built into it – just tap to access alerts and fitness info like steps, sleep, calories burned, notifications, heart rate and stress info. Then when you’re not using it the watch face looks blank. The watch hands even move out of the way of the screen while you read it – clever.
Being from Garmin, we expect nothing less than stellar accuracy and performance from the dedicated sports modes and Garmin IQ auto-tracking. The watch comes in black, gold, silver and rose gold finishes with Sport and Premium models – Premium is more expensive and gets you a nicer, leather strap.
At just 11.6mm thick and weighing just 40.8g for the Sport – 56.5g for Premium – it’s a real winner. Battery life is five days in ‘smart mode’, two weeks otherwise.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivomove HR
Here’s our pick of fitness trackers that cater to women better than most. Let us know in the comments which ones you prefer.
Fitbit Charge 3
The Charge has always been Fitbit’s flagship fitness tracker, and with the Charge 3 you’re getting the best-looking instalment that still packs in a whole lot of features.
On the design front, it’s waterproof up to 50 metres depth and comes with small and large size bands so it should fit most wrist sizes. Fitbit offers it in black or rose gold looks but then you have your pick of optional leather, sport, woven and classic bands with the latter a better fit for getting sweaty.
In the features department it offers the best of Fitbit’s activity tracking features including its insightful sleep monitoring and continuous heart rate tracking. The waterproof design also brings automatic swim tracking along with dedicated modes for activities including running, cycling and yoga. The type of data offered through those tracking modes can vary, while GPS tracking requires your phone nearby.
On the health front, you’ll get guided breathing exercises to help you de-stress and there’s support for Fitbit’s new women’s health tracking features, which enable you to track your periods and menstrual cycle, which then provides predictions for when you’re likely to be ovulating and having your next period.
There’s smartwatch-esque features on board here letting you read notifications on the tracker and there’s also Pay support if you opt for the pricier Charge 3 Special Edition. If battery life is a big deal for you, you’ll get up to seven days here, which is a pretty good showing considering how many features are crammed on here.
If you don’t want a smartwatch but want something with a screen and does more than just the basics, this is a great tracker to consider.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Charge 3 review
Garmin Vivosmart 4
If you’re after an activity band that’s super slim, but doesn’t scrimp on specs, the Vivosmart 4 is definitely one to take a look at.
This Vivosmart 4 comes in small/medium and large band sizes and is waterproof up to 50 metres with support for swim tracking also included. It’s packing Garmin’s Elevate heart rate sensor in the back that unlocks the ability to train in heart rate zones and get a hit of more advanced sleep monitoring data.
24/7 activity tracking monitoring with Garmin’s motivational Auto Goal and Move Bar features in tow to help you make small steps to becoming more active day-by-day. There’s automatic rep counting for when delving into some strength training and dedicated running profile although tracking is not done using GPS, so there maybe some accuracy issues there.
Garmin’s new ‘body battery’ feature will analyse sleep along with heart rate variability measurements to offer better understanding how much recovery time you need in between your workouts. The last big headline feature is a pulse oximeter sensor that future proofs the device to offer serious health tracking insights.
It’s a slim, comfortable band to wear, offers strong fitness tracking features and some new ideas that help separate it from its closest rivals.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivosmart 4 review
Fitbit Inspire HR
Fitbit doesn’t officially sell the Alta HR anymore because it’s now been replaced by the Inspire HR, which brings many of the same features in a design inspired by the Fitbit Charge 3 and the Vera smartwatch.
It packs in pretty much all of the features you’ll find inside of the Charge 3, you’ll get 24/7 activity tracking including sleep monitoring, the ability to read your notifications and it’ll automatically track a range of exercises and workouts too.
The heart rate monitor means you can record richer sleep data and access guided breathing exercises. It also means you can track workout intensity while you’re in the gym and offers the goal-based exercise modes first introduced on the Charge 3.
There’s also the Inspire, which comes without the heart rate monitor features but can also be worn inside of an optional clip accessory that means you can wear it on your clothes instead of your wrist.
It’ll give you up to 5 days of battery life and there’s the option to switch out the bands if you prefer wearing something that’s a little less sporty and a bit more dressy. This is the one you want if the Charge 3 is still a bit too pricey for you.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Inspire HR review
A supreme GPS running watch in all but design, you might get on better with the Vivosport’s hybrid form factor than a regular watch. It’s thinner than a bulky watch but still houses built-in GPS, optical heart rate monitoring and a week’s worth of battery even with workout sessions and onscreen smartphone alerts turned on.
It works with both Android and iPhones, syncs up to Garmin Connect and activity tracking is really impressive with a moveable goal. In terms of looks, in the flesh the two-tone texture finish is a big upgrade from previous models and looks really smart.
It also brings new features like rep counting and stress monitoring along with the onboard GPS to make this one of the slimmest, yet most feature-packed trackers you’ll get your hands on.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivosport review
Now for something completely different. Smart rings have been around for a couple of years now, but the Motiv is the first that we actually feel is built for wearing 24/7.
Measuring in at just 8mm wide and available in rose gold or slate grey finishes of titanium, the smart ring comes in seven sizes and is waterproof up to 50 metres so you can go swimming with it on too.
On the fitness tracking front, it can monitor steps, distance, active minutes and there’s even a heart rate monitor to collect BPM data throughout the day to provide resting heart rate insights.
While fitness tracking skills might seem a little on the basic side compared to the devices mentioned up top, it’s still a stylish alternative offered in a form factor that does that tracking in more discreet fashion.
Wareable verdict: Motiv Ring review