Best Watch for Ultra Running

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Forget marathons. The biggest, toughest challenge out there for any running enthusiast is ultra running!

Ultra running is among the most difficult sports you can take up, and requires an extreme amount of endurance. It also takes a lot of training and absolute dedication to get you up to and past the 43km distance barrier.

Running twice the distance of a standard marathon (and oftentimes even further than that) is a real challenge, and it’s nearly impossible to do without some form of extra help. With that in mind, one of the best ways you can train effectively for ultra running, and have that extra bit of support, is with a smartwatch that has been designed with running in mind.

Smartwatches are packed full of features that will help you monitor your progress as you train, as well as keep you on track and safe when you’re out running for several hours at a time.

However, as with all fitness equipment and technology, everything claims to be the best or to do something different, and it can be easy to become confused by technical terms and jargon. 

So, to help make things a little bit clearer, we’ve put together a collection of five of the best watches for ultra running, along with a buying that’s full of tips on what to look for when you’re shopping around. So keep reading, and pretty soon you’ll be hitting those running routes with the extra bit of help you need.

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Our Pick

Best Watch for Ultra Running - Comparison Table

Best Watch for Ultra Running - Reviews

Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Activity Tracker, Graphite/Black, One Size (S and L Bands Included)

Our Top Pick

Our rating

Designed to be slim and lightweight, meaning you’ll be able to take on those tough trails without feeling weighed down, the Fitbit Charge 3 is equipped with a plethora of features that will help you take your ultra running game to the next level, as well as a variety of other amazing capabilities to help make day to day life easier.

Using automatic exercise recognition to detect when you’re running, this smartwatch records your progress and allows you to set a goal and get real-time statistics as you train. It also connects with your phone’s GPS so you can check your pace and see the distance you’ve travelled during your run. 

It also uses advanced heart rate sensors and algorithms to monitor your heart rate both as you run and when you're resting, plus heart rate zones that allow you to see when you’re in fat burning, cardio and peak zones so you can make the most of every workout. It also has a calorie burn indicator that accurately calculates your amount of calorie expenditure throughout the day.

Automatic sleep tracking shows you how long you’ve been in periods of deep and light sleep throughout the night, and gives you personalized guidance on how to improve the quality of your sleep, and guided breathing exercises allow you to find a moment of calm during busy days.

On top of all of these amazing features, this smartwatch also allows you to stay connected out on your run, and delivers all of your incoming notifications straight to your wrist. You can even add a credit card to it with Fitbit Pay, meaning you don’t have to worry about taking your wallet on your run if you want to stop for a healthy juice afterwards!

Pros

  • Has automatic exercise recognition that detects when you’re working out and records your progress, allows you to set a goal and get real-time stats

  • Connects with your phone’s GPS so you can check your pace and distance while you run

  • Advanced heart rate sensors monitor your heart rate 24/7, and heart rate zones allow you to see when you’re in fat burning, cardio and peak zones

  • Includes a calorie burn indicator that accurately records calorie expenditure throughout the day

  • Tracks your sleep and monitors your levels of deep sleep, light sleep and REM

  • Also delivers all of your messages and notifications from your phone, and uses Fitbit Pay to let you pay for items in stores without needing your wallet

Cons

  • Prebuilt messages are not compatible with iOS, and only work if you have an android phone

Packed full of features that any dedicated ultra runner looks for in a smartwatch, the M430 GPS running watch from Polar will help you reach new goals with ease!

The integrated GPS allows you to keep track of your pace, distance, altitude and route as you run, and it also has a running programme that allows you to personalize and adapt a training plan to fit your specific goals. 

Perfect for both outdoor and indoor running, this watch also tracks your pace and distance when running on a treadmill using a built-in accelerometer. Your heart rate is also constantly monitored as you train thanks to the wrist sensors, allowing you to hit the desired cardio zones for your workout.

Polar Sleep Plus™ automatically detects the length and quality of your sleep, and relays this information to you in the morning, so that you can make lifestyle changes in order to get the sleep you need to recover from intensive running. There’s even a calorie calculator that keeps track of the calories you’ve burned both during workouts and rest, giving you an accurate measure and further helping you achieve your goals.

Pros

  • Has integrated GPS that keeps track of your pace, distance, altitude and route as you run
  • Allows you to personalize a training plan to fit your needs

  • Also has a built-in accelerometer that tracks pace and distance when running on a treadmill or indoor track

  • Uses Polar Sleep Plus™ technology to monitor the quality and length of your sleep

  • Includes a calorie calculator that keeps track of calories burnt during exercise and at rest

Cons

  • Some customers found that syncing the watch with a phone was difficult upon initial set up

Designed with dedicated runners in mind, the Forerunner 945 from Garmin is packed full of features that will help you stay on track while you train, as well as a variety of other features that allow you to monitor your fitness levels.

The training status feature evaluates your recent exercise history and performance and lets you know if you’re training effectively, allowing you to maximize your training productivity and get the most out of each session. It even allows you to see how certain elements of your workout have improved over time, including endurance, speed, aerobic and anaerobic training feedback. 

This smartwatch also uses integrated mapping to help you stay on track wherever you run, and also features Trendline™ popularity routing that helps you find the best trails and routes for your run. Built-in crucial running metrics such as stride time, cadence, balance and ground contact time also help you get a better understanding of your form as you run, and gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes with your running posture. 

Other amazing features included with this watch are sleep monitoring, integrated training plans, message notification, and Garmin Pay. You can even download and stream music to your watch and connect to your Bluetooth headphones, giving you the opportunity to listen to the perfect playlist as you run.

Pros

  • Evaluates recent training history and performance and let’s you know if you’re training effectively
  • Also allows you to see how certain workout metrics (pace, endurance, speed, etc) have changed and improved over time

  • Features integrated mapping to help you stay on track as your run

  • Includes Trendline­™ popularity routing that gives you suggested running routes

  • Allows you to download music and connect to your Bluetooth headphones so you can listen to your favorite tracks as your run

Cons

  • Customers that purchased this watch noted that the battery life on this smartwatch isn’t as long as some others

Built for athletes that want to train harder, safe and with more efficiency, the premium multisport watch from Coros is the ideal choice for any enthusiastic and dedicated ultra runner.

The built-in trainer will tailor a complete workout that is designed for your fitness level and training needs, allowing you to get the most out of each run, and then feeds back invaluable advanced training analysis to help you improve and reach new goals. 

A preloaded breadcrumb trail feature automatically tracks your route while your run, removing the risk of getting lost on new ground, and a track navigation system lets you import routes into your watch which can then guide you throughout the run. There’s also an off-route alert, so you can be certain you’ll never get lost. 

Designed with longevity in mind, the UltraMax setting gives you 100 hours of battery life while using GPS, and the premium titanium digital knob allows you to scroll through the features with ease. 

Available in a 42mm or 46mm screen, and in a variety of colors, there’s something to suit every taste and keep you looking stylish while you’re out running.

Pros

  • A built-in trainer structures a personalized workout that is designed for your fitness level and training goals
  • Advanced training analysis feeds back your performance and allows you to reach new goals

  • Has a preloaded bread crumb feature that records your route and prevents you from getting lost when running on new territory

  • The track navigation system also allows you to upload routes to your watch and let it talk you through the trail as your run

  • Available in two sizes and in a selection of colors

Cons

  • Is not a touch screen watch, but is operated using a digital knob instead which arguably makes it more durable

With over 80 built-in sports modes, including running, cycling, swimming, gym and more, this smartwatch from SUUNTO is not only ideal for anybody that loves ultra running, but is perfect for any health and fitness enthusiast. 

The built-in heart rate monitor allows you to keep an eye on your heart rate zones while your train so you can ensure you’re hitting the optimum levels, and once you’ve finished your run or training session, the powerful training summary gives you a full report of your progress using a series of easy to read graphs and tables.

This sports watch also allows you to connect to your phone’s GPS, allowing you to track your route and monitor your pace and the distance you’ve covered, and with the adjustable battery feature you can switch to a power saving mode with just the touch of the button - ideal if your run is taking longer than you anticipated.

And, to make sure you’re always as safe as possible when you’re out running, this smartwatch includes a storm alarm that will alert you to changes in temperature, air pressure and barometer readings, so that you’re never caught in dangerous weather conditions. This watch also features sleep reporting, and monitors the duration of your sleep and your average heart rate throughout the night.

Pros

  • A built-in heart rate monitor allows you to ensure you’re hitting the optimum cardio and aerobic levels as you run
  • A post-workout training summary gives a detailed breakdown of your workout 

  • Connects to your phone’s GPS so you can track your route and monitor the distance you’ve run 

  • Has an adjustable battery that allows you to switch to a power saving mode on longer runs

  • Also has a storm alarm that alerts you to changes in temperature, air pressure and barometer readings so you’re never caught out in dangerous weather

Cons

  • Is designed for sports use rather than for connectivity, so doesn’t include music changing features or message response options. You can, however, still receive notifications from your phone

Best Watch for Ultra Running - Buyers Guide

If you’re serious about taking up ultra running, or are already working towards participating in your first ultramarathon, one thing is for certain - you’ll definitely need a watch that can help you finish the course.

But, no matter how eager you are to get out there and start running, there are a few things you need to consider before committing to your final decision. We’ve outlined some key points below that will help you find the perfect watch for ultra running, and make sure you get the right one for your specific needs.

Battery Life

Ultra running is something that takes several hours to complete and, depending on where you’re running, can occasionally take a few days to finish! With that in mind, the first thing you’ll want to give some thought to is the battery life of your watch.

A smartwatch or fitness tracker that has been designed with running or a triathlon in mind is going to be packed full of features that will help you stay motivated and on track while your running, as well as give you an insight into your current progress. If your battery dies on you then there’s a real chance that you may have to finish the run before you’re ready.

The battery life on most smartwatches is pretty good, and will give you several days of use from a single charge. However, if you can find a model that lets you switch into a battery saving mode as you’re running, this will prolong your battery’s life and ensure you’re not left stranded.

Actionable Features

One essential feature for any runner is a heart rate monitor. This will allow you to see how much effort you’re currently putting into your run, and will give you the opportunity to see if you can add a bit more! A heart rate monitor will also tell you whether you’re close to spiking dangerously, and provides you with the important information you need to run consistently and safely.

Another great feature to look out for in a watch for ultra running is an altitude monitor. Rarely are ultra runners faced with nice, flat ground to run on, and knowing how much of an incline you’ve covered and have still yet to face is invaluable when you’re trying to keep to a consistent, steady pace. 

Navigation Features

Ultra running covers a lot of ground, and doesn’t always necessarily take you on a set trail or route. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to look for a watch that has GPS or navigation features built into it. 

This means that you can stay on track of where you’re going and, more importantly, will help to prevent you from getting lost on the way back. Some smartwatches for ultra running come with a clever breadcrumb trail feature, which records your route as you run, meaning that you can go a little more ‘off road’ and not have to worry about remembering your way home. 

Another fantastic navigation feature is the option to source popular nearby running trails using your watch, which will then guide you through the trail via your Bluetooth headphones. This is particularly useful if you’re away from home and are unfamiliar with local running spots, or if you’re growing tired of your usual route and want to try somewhere new. 

Storm Alerts

Regardless of season, weather is unpredictable and it can shift from being a sunny day into torrential downpours within a matter of minutes. This is even truer when you’re faced with running long distances and at multiple altitudes, and with ultra running taking several hours or even days to complete a course, it’s really important to make sure you’re protected from the elements.

Some smartwatches for ultra running come with storm alerts, that will notify you to shifts in temperature, barometer readings and air pressure, meaning that you can get yourself to a safe space before a storm hits.

Music

Another thing you might want to consider when looking for a smartwatch for ultra running is its music playing features. When you’re out running for several hours at a time (or even hiking) it might get a bit boring just hearing the sound of your feet hit the ground repetitively, so listening to your favorite tracks or podcasts is a great way to keep yourself entertained and focused.

Some watches come with the ability to download or stream music from other music sharing platforms, and then connect to your headphones via Bluetooth, allowing you to create and play some killer playlists, so you can keep yourself motivated as you tackle each run.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ultra running?

Ultra running is an extreme sport that covers more than double the length of a standard marathon. The minimum distance for an ultramarathon is 43km, however there are some routes that take you past 100km in distance!

What watch is best for ultra running?

This will ultimately come down to personal preference, however a good watch for ultra running will have features that are specifically designed with running in mind. These include a heart rate sensor, altitude and weather monitoring, navigation or GPS features and Bluetooth connectivity. It should also have a long battery life as a single ultramarathon can take several hours, and sometimes even days, to complete.

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