The best running watches for women: Slim and powerful sports wearables

There’s absolutely no reason for women to be looking at different sports watches and running devices to men – but let’s face it, some of the huge, bulky watches out there aren’t exactly a joy to wear.

However, there are sports watches from the likes of Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, Suunto and Apple that cram top class fitness data into smaller, less offensively bulky packages. You can also check out our guides to the best Garmin devices and choosing the perfect Fitbit for more in-depth looks.

We’ve picked out the watches and fitness trackers that scored well in our reviews that keep things slimmer, and more compact.

Garmin Forerunner 45

Price when reviewed: $199.99

Garmin Forerunner 45

The Garmin Forerunner 45 isn’t the cheapest, nor the most advanced running watch, but it crams so much into such a well-designed package. It’s our overall best running watch regardless of gender, but those with smaller wrists will be especially interested.

The main Forerunner 45 comes in a 42mm case size, but there’s the Forerunner 45S which takes it down to a 39mm case – which makes it one of the smallest and lightest on the market.

As we mentioned, you’re not getting huge analytics or battery life – but it’s water resistant up to 50 metres depth and has an optical heart rate monitor, which also kicks out VO2 Max analytics.

It’s also compatible with both Android and iOS-friendly, with the main tracking skills shaped running and cycling.

If you’re new to running and don’t want to spend much, the Forerunner 45 (and smaller 45S) should be a definite consideration.

In-depth: Read our full Garmin Forerunner 45 review

Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music

Price when reviewed: $299.99

Foreruner 245 Music

Another great running watch the Forerunner 245 Music crams in some of Garmin’s top running analytics features, music storage into a 42mm case size that’s absolutely unisex.

Spotify offline syncing for 500 songs and the new PacePro feature for PB management are all on board, as are VO2 Max and tonnes of the nifty data points like Race Predictor and recovery times.

Available in five different looks with interchangeable 20mm watch bands, the 245 comes in a version with or without music.

It brings a great balance of design, features and price and doesn’t scrimp on features for serious runners that want a powerful companion.

Read more: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review

Garmin Fenix 6S

Price when reviewed: $599

Garmin Fenix 6S

The Garmin Fenix 6 is the pinnacle of the range, bringing in the biggest and best features from all its sports watches. However, it’s massive with a 47mm case size that’s oversized even for men.

Enter the Garmin Fenix 6S. It brings all that power and shrinks it down into a 42mm body, perfect for long distance runners, hikers, trail runners – and even skydivers. It comes in a standard and pro models with the latter giving you a built-in music player, mapping and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Battery life takes a small hit over the full-sized version but if you use the power management tools such as Ultratrac you can still get in excess of 30 hours GPS tracking, so it’s brilliant for ultrarunners and triathletes.

And Garmin’s new PacePro feature for runners and new battery modes to help you get the most of out of the already impressive battery life.

It might not feel like a huge leap from the 5S (see below), but Garmin has overall made its best sports watch much nicer and more comfortable to wear all day.

Polar Ignite

Price when reviewed $229.95

Polar Ignite

The Ignite is a fitness watch with a slender frame that makes a great running companion, with a 43mm case, weighs just 35g and measures in at 8mm thick, making a great fit for slimmer wrists.

Despite its slender frame, the Ignite has pretty much everything you could want from a running watch. It has a solid color touchscreen display to view your metrics on, along with a solid performing heart rate monitor.

The biggest draw is FitSpark, which analyzes your workout data to offer recommendations and advice. So, if you’ve had a particularly intensive run, it can recommend a series or supportive exercises to help you recover.

Battery life is 17 hours based on tracked workouts with GPS and heart rate. In smartwatch mode, it’ll last you four or five days before you’re grabbing that charger.

It’s well priced, nice-looking and a good alternative to something like the Forerunner 45, if you want something a little smaller on the wrist.

In-depth: Polar Ignite review

Garmin Fenix 5S Plus

Now available for: $399

Garmin Fenix 5S

We know that the price of the Garmin Fenix range can be off-putting, so while the older Fenix 5S is still being sold by mainstream outlets, we’re keeping it in the list. And opting for the older model can save you $300, and actually you sacrifice very little.

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

Fitbit Charge 4

Price when announced: $149.99

Fitbit Charge 4

The Charge has always been Fitbit’s flagship fitness tracker, and with the Charge 4 you’re getting the same great package but now with built-in GPS for the first time.

If you’re not loving the idea of wearing a full-factor running watch, the Fitbit Charge 4 band may be a worthwhile trade-off.

You’re not getting the same level of running analytics (although the Charge 4 does look closely at heart rate zones and gives you credit for workouts in particular zones), you’ll get guided breathing exercises to help you de-stress and there’s support for period tracking and menstrual cycle. It will then provide predictions for when you’re likely to be ovulating and having your next period.

Read this: Fitbit’s female health tracking features explained

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.

There are 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.

If you don’t want a smartwatch but want something with a screen that does more than just the basics, this is a great tracker to consider.

Apple Watch Series 5

<=”” a=””>Price when reviewed: $399 (GPS)

Apple Watch Series 5

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 available in gold, silver and rose gold – and the after market for Apple Watch straps is insanely large.

The Apple Watch has now added female health tracking, and expansive app store means you can easily plug into smartphone apps such as Clue.

Away from your cycle, the Apple Watch Series 5’s built-in GPS allows you to track distance and pace for running and cycling, plus it’s water resistant with swim tracking to 50 metres so you can wear it in the pool. It also tracks cadence, making it no slouch in the running department. We also love how it locks onto GPS instantly, so there’s no standing around in your running gear waiting for a lock.

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.

There’s both Apple Pay and music storage (via Apple Music) on your wrist, even when you leave your phone at home.

Fitbit Versa 2

Price when reviewed: $199.99

Fitbit Versa 2

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.

Again, female health tracking is done in the Fitbit app. Just as you’ll find on the fitness trackers listed above.

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 as it is 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.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Price when reviewed: $199

The best running watches and fitness trackers for women

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is now the Korean tech giant’s smallest smartwatch and its 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 models, but still retains one of the best smartwatch displays in the business.

It crams 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 also 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.

Fitbit Ionic

Price when reviewed: $299

Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit’s running watch was the only device from the company to have GPS built in, but now it shares that with the newly announced Fitbit Charge 4. However, the Ionic is a more natural running companion, which shows live stats on its large, colourful screen.

It has heart rate, will track heart rate zones as well as basic pace, distance and time information – and show summaries of your runs and workouts. What’s more, the Ionic is big enough to pack a good, clear display but thin enough that it doesn’t feel bulky on the wrist.

Being a Fitbit, it excels at fitness tracking when you’re not running and the Fitbit ecosystem and app is perfect for those who take as much interest in their steps, sleep and wellbeing as they do running data.

Fully trialled: Fitbit Ionic review

Suunto 3

Price when reviewed: $219.99

Suunto 3

This is a sports watch from Suunto that’s designed to appeal to casual fitness fans and beginners, with swanky looks and a killer price tag.

The newest version now has GPS, but we found it excels for runners who like to spend more time on the treadmill than outside. In fact, it aced our best running watch for treadmill sessions group test.

The Suunto 3 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.

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.

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