Best Watches for Trail & Ultra Running: Top Choices for Your Money in 2020

When trail running, you want a watch that will help you monitor your performance.

It should display the time, pace, distance, location, and much more.

You also want a device that feels light on the hand, has a smooth texture and isn’t affected by sweat, dirt, moisture, light rain, movement, shaking and vibration.

The following reviews will show you how good these devices are for trail and ultra running.

Let’s started.

Top (10) Best Watches for Trail & Ultra Running Chosen by Customers

IMAGE PRODUCT
  • Well built and tough
  • Good size and weight
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  • High quality and easy to operate
  • Good water resistance
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  • Decent battery life
  • Effective GPS navigation
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  • Sleek design
  • Built-in GPS
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  • Simple design
  • PurePulse monitors and displays relevant stats
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  • Modern looking design
  • Large display
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  • Advanced cardio stats
  • Classic design
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  • Adaptable training programs
  • Lightweight
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  • Rugged design
  • Shock resistant
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  • Modern looking design
  • Built-in GPS
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Related: The best watches for biking, skiing & snowboarding, weightlifting you should know about

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Multisport GPS Smartwatch

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

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This watch comes in a rugged design.

It will prove useful in the outdoors and should handle the terrains and environments well.

It comprises diamond-like carbon titanium or stainless steel bezel.

It will, therefore, withstand scratches, dents, bangs, falls, impact and more.

We also love the clear display which gives you easy access to the many features and modes.

The GPS navigation and colorful TOPO maps help you to ascertain your way in the location.

It has smooth and flexible rubber straps which don’t dog into or scratch the skin.

They are also less prone to sweating, sticking to the skin, or leaving discoloration or marks.

Pros:

  • Well built and tough
  • Good size and weight
  • Easy to use

Con:

  • The rubber strap isn’t super strong

See more: best watches for basic army training

Suunto 9 GPS Trail Watch

Suunto 9 GPS Watch

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This trail running watch is lightweight and also very compact.

Wearing it for a long time is therefore not a challenge.

It also handles shocks, vibrations, and impacts fairly well.

The unit maintains its effectiveness even after frequent banging, falls, or knocks.

It comprises a tough sapphire glass that doesn’t get scratched, discolored, break, or shatter easily.

It also has clear glare-free views for easy viewing.

The large memory will track performance for as many as 120 hours while the battery should last for a long time.

And with a water resistance of 100 meters, you are assured of it still working even in heavy rain, drinks spilling on it, sweat dripping on it, or accidentally falling in the water.

Pros:

  • High quality and easy to operate
  • Good water resistance
  • Good battery life and large memory

Con:

  • The mapping isn’t very detailed

Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Garmin)

Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit

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Coming in a simple black color, this watch should look okay on both men and women.

It feels solid despite its lightweight (49 grams).

Wearing it for extended periods should be convenient.

It comes with several useful features (barometer, maps, altimeter, electronic compass….) to help you monitor your environment and prevent getting lost.

Many consumers give it the nod for being accurate, easy viewing, sturdy construction, and also simple to maintain.

Moreover, battery life and memory seem to outscore most of its rivals.

The advanced dynamics plus the versatile nature make it a suitable option for running, jogging, cycling, swimming and more.

Pros:

  • Decent battery life
  • Effective GPS navigation
  • Accurate and decent backlight

Con:

  • The display isn’t touch screen

Related: See the best swimming watches and the best watches for beginners

Forerunner 35 (Garmin)

Garmin Forerunner 35

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This Garmin model is one of the top-rated watches you can get if you’re a runner.

It comes in a sleek colorway that can easily work with casual outfits, so there would be no need to take it off after your runs.

It has a built-in GPS which helps it receive signals to track how far and how fast you go.

The running partner not only calculates speed and distance, but it also calibrates pace, calories burned and more, depending on how you set it.

It also has a wrist-based heart rate monitor to give you a better idea of your cardio abilities, which is very useful, especially for those who want to monitor aspects of their physical health.

It also connects to your phone for all kinds of notifications and other connectivity options.

The watch is also equipped with a pacer. Albeit, the pacer could have been made better.

However, aside from that, this is a great fitness partner for those long trail runs.

Pros:

  • Sleek design
  • Built-in GPS
  • Compatible with Garmin connect

Cons:

  • Pacer could be better

FitBit Charge 2

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband

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If you want a simpler and minimalist watch for your trail runs, the FitBit is the way to go.

It comes in a very simple rectangular case, but its simplicity only applies to the design because this watch is packed with features.

The PurePulse monitor tracks your HR all day, which allows the watch to give you an accurate estimate of the calories you’ve burned.

The watch already has a GPS system, to help you plan out your runs and view your routes.

Another cool feature is the guided breathing sessions.

If you need to take a break during a trail run the watch can guide your breathing based on your heart rate to help you recover quickly and safely.

Those who need a simple-looking feature-packed fitness tracker should definitely check this FitBit out.

Pros:

  • Simple design
  • PurePulse monitors and displays relevant stats
  • Built-in GPS
  • Easy to use interface and phone app

Cons:

  • Weak vibration for notifications

Versa Tracker from Fitbit

Fitbit Versa Smart Watch

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If you liked the FitBit Charge but want a larger display, then the Versa would be the way to go.

First of all, it can store up to 300 songs, so anyone who likes listening to music on their run will definitely enjoy this.

Controlling music from the watch is much easier than pulling a phone out of your pocket and scrolling.

It also has a heart rate tracker to track activities throughout the day and 15 sports modes, so for those who do extra exercises aside from trail running, this watch has got you covered.

It also syncs with your phone so you can even upload stats from other fitness apps such as Strava.

A great piece for those who like a modern design.

Pros:

  • Modern looking design
  • Large display
  • Compact size

Cons:

  • Step counter could be better

Forerunner 235 (Garmin)

Garmin Forerunner 235

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Those of you who are a bit more serious about your running stats may find this watch very enticing.

It is equipped with Elevate wrist heart rate which can track and display advanced stats so you can stay on pace on beating your personal record.

It also connects to the Connect app, an online community with other users where you can find a lot of useful tips and tricks, sometimes even challenges.

Aside from measuring pace, calories, speed, and distance, the watch can also calculate your Vo2 max, which is basically the maximum volume of oxygen one can use.

So those who really want to push their game to the next level should definitely check out this device.

Pros:

  • Advanced cardio stats
  • Classic design
  • Smart notifications

Cons:

  • Pace tracker could be a bit better

Polar M430

Polar M430 GPS Running Watch

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This is a watch designed to be a great running partner for anyone who enjoys fitness.

It has a special monitor that can track your sleep along with your heart rate throughout the whole day, making it a bit easier to manage stress levels.

This also helps you understand your physical self more, so you can plan your routes better.

It also has a 5-minute fitness test to fully understand your aerobic fitness levels.

Trail runners would really appreciate that feature as it doesn’t take too much time, but it gives a good idea of where one is at.

And if you have an event coming up, you can also make a training program and running plan that adapts to you.

Pros:

  • Adaptable training programs
  • Lightweight
  • Integrated GPS

Cons:

  • The interface isn’t the best

Garmin Instinct

Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch

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Going on a run with a tough and rugged looking watch gives off a unique feeling.

And if you enjoy that as well, then this is the fitness tracker for you.

It comes in a tough and rugged looking case, which has military-grade durability, so accidental bumps and dings on the trail won’t faze this watch at all.

Along with the tough exterior comes a plethora of features.

These include GPS, a heart rate tracker, a compass, and even activity profiles.

It also connects right to your phone.

That means you can expect notifications and uploads to its specialized Connect application, which surprisingly has a solid and very friendly online fitness community.

Pros:

  • Rugged design
  • Shock resistant
  • Great fitness features

Cons:

  • The watch might be too loud for some

YoYo Fit

YoYoFit Smart Fitness Watch

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If you’re on the lookout for a watch that you can wear both on a run and a night out, the YoYo Fit deserves some of your attention.

It has a very modern design that would easily complement a casual outfit while looking completely natural with athletic gear.

It can track your heart rate continuously, so you can have a better picture of your health and what you need to be doing on your runs.

You can also control your phone’s camera, control music, view the weather forecast, and see notifications from your phone.

All of these can be very useful on the trail, especially since it can be a hassle to be taking out your phone to view all these things.

This is a watch that doesn’t attract a lot of complaints, and with all its functionality, it’s easy to see why.

Pros:

  • Modern looking design
  • Built-in GPS
  • Customizable dial, watch face, and fitness functions

Cons:

  • Not water resistant

Other tough watches for you:

What to watch out for when buying watches for trail running

best watches for trail running

Comfort

A good watch will feel very comfortable on the wrist.

It will have a smooth surface/texture which doesn’t scratch the skin.

It also won’t make the section too sweaty, stuffy or sticky.

Moreover, it will be lightweight to prevent undue weight and stays in place without moving too much.

Battery Life

Imagine the watch dying out on you in the middle of nowhere?

First, you may be depending on GPS navigation.

Secondly, you may be monitoring your performance.

Such things are best avoided by picking a piece that has a long-lasting battery.

Reading reviews and going for reputable products comes in handy.

Accuracy

You like many other people want the exact results.

You don’t want to believe your performance is improving or declining on to discover later that your watch is giving you erratic figures.

The best type is very precise, delivers instant results, and also has a large memory for tracking performance.

Durability

The truth is that the watch will be put under severe stress over its lifespan.

You’ll bump, bang it against objects.

Scratch it, drop it, accidentally seat on it, pour liquids on it, expose it to dust, moisture, sweat and much more.

Wearing a durable and sturdily-built piece will help to combat such effects and extend its lifespan.

Weather and waterproof

When running on the trails, you’ll be exposed to the elements.

At one time it may be very sunny and dusty, in the next instant it’s humid and misty, and in other situations, you’ll be caught up in the rain.

A good product will handle the weather well and won’t be harmed by rain, strong winds, low or high temperatures.

Navigation

Trail running will take you to new environments.

This may happen especially if you have relocated or have decided to run while on vacation.

In such situations, you’ll rely on the navigation to know where you are and where you are going.

Poor GPS tracking may mean you getting lost in the mountains or wilderness.

Actionable features

You are advised to always go for a product with many useful features.

These allow you to monitor your performance, keep time, set targets, and also review your progress over time.

A barometer helps to measure the pressure, which is critical if you like running at high altitudes.

O2 sensors keep tabs on blood oxygen saturation while Heart Rate (HR) Monitor keeps track of the pulse or heartbeat.

FAQ’s

Is trail running harder than road running?

Yes, trail running is slightly more challenging than road running due to 2 reasons.

First of all, the roadrunner experience smoother and clear surface.

But it needs to be noted that trail runners can run slower and focus more on their techniques. 

Secondly, you have to invest more into trail running.

The investment includes not only money on better shoes and equipment but also time on training and learning the routes.

Some trails are more risky to take than others if you do not study them ahead.

In the end, many people still choose trail running because it worths hard work.

You will find the power inside your body and amazing views along the way.

They are the achievement that no one can take away from you.

How do you start trail running?

Starting trail running is easier than you think and you can do that on your own.

You can try 3 following steps and tailor them according to your situation.

First of all, you need to do some research.

There are 3 major things trail runners should focus on when they first start including necessary equipment, the chosen trail, and basic techniques. 

The second step is to put what you have learned into practice.

Start slowly and do not forget to look out for obstacles on the way.

Finally, you should spend time reflecting your trail running to better your planning and execution for the next time.

Does trail running make you slower?

Trail running will never make anyone slower.

Yes, while running on a trail, the average pace is slower than during road running.

Nevertheless, that is not because your body is getting slower but it is getting used to a harder environment.

Trail running trains human bodies to be stronger and more flexible.

Thus, it can even help you run faster once you change back to road running.

It is also essential to keep in mind that speed is not the only thing to determine if one is a good runner or not.

Is trail running hard on your knees?

This question is a huge myth that has been busted recently.

Every type of running puts some stress on your knees and trail running is not that much harder on your knee than any of them. 

Moreover, with the right techniques and cautions, it is not difficult to keep the knees healthy.

Some of the tips are wearing suitable shoes and knee bands, not trying too hard why going uphill and paying attention to your knees’ position while running.

How dangerous is trail running?

Trail running has its risks but it will only be dangerous if you are a bad planner.

It is true that you can get lost, encounter obstacles and lose something along the trails.

However, most incidents are predictable and can be prepared ahead.

For example, you can bring a small first-aid kit with you before heading out.

On the other hand, you can always minimize the risk by choosing easy, familiar trails, going trail running on good-weathered days, running in groups and so on.

What is ultra running?

Ultrarunning is also called an ultramarathon.

The name is to stress the extreme length of a run.

If anyone has a footrace longer than 26.2 miles or 42.4 kilometers, he or she finishes an ultra running. 

There are many common races at 50 kilometers or 30.1 miles but the number can reach up to 100 miles long.

The harshest ultramarathon took its participants through 151 miles of desert in Sahara.

One competition can last from a few hours to a week and take place in various locations from a coastal road to a mountain trail.

What happens to your body when you run an ultramarathon?

An ultramarathon is, for sure, very challenging.

It can boost your endurance but can also negatively affect your body.

The most important factor is the pre-race preparation. 

First of all, ultrarunners have to give it time.

The run’s length needs to be increased gradually so that the body can get used to it.

Nutrition and keeping good health is also very important.

It is essential to do stretching, warm-up, and cool down before and after the run.

With good preparation, the ultramarathon will still be tiring but rewarding.

On the contrary, if you jump straight into it, the consequence can be nausea feeling, vomiting, joint pain, and soreness.

Therefore, make sure you have enough determination before taking on an ultramarathon.

How fast do ultra marathoners run?

Since the ultramarathon is longer and needs better energy distribution compared to a traditional marathon, its runners usually have quite slow paces.

The world record for men 50K running is 2 hours and 43 minutes meaning 20.57 km per hour.

That number for women is 16.2 km per hour. 

The speed can get slower in longer runs and races on difficult trails.

The world record for men 100K running is 6 hours and 9 minutes translating into 16.4 km per hour.

The best pace of women 100k running is also lower than that of the 50K race at only 15.7 km per hour.

Can you run 100 miles without training?

You can do anything you wish but it will be foolish to join a 100 mile run without training.

As mentioned above, without proper preparation, an ultramarathon can adversely impact your body. 

You may have to quit the race early or even get some serious injuries.

Our bodies are amazing at adapting to new challenges.

However, it requires time to make changes.

Pushing it to the limit without any preparation is unsafe, even for the strongest people.