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.
We've picked out the watches and fitness trackers that scored well in our reviews, but keep things slimmer, and more compact.
- Check out the best smartwatches for women
- The most powerful Garmin metrics explained
- Run to the beat with the best running watch with music playback
Update: This article was originally published back in 2015 but we keep it updated with our latest reviews. It was last updated in October 2020 with the new Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Versa 3.
Garmin Forerunner 45
Price when reviewed: £149.99
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 phones and iPhones, with the main tracking skills shaped running and cycling. You also have access to Garmin's Connect IQ store, though only to access additional watch faces.
If you're new to running and don't want to spend much, the Forerunner 45 (and smaller 45S) should be a definite consideration.
Apple Watch SE
You're not going to find a smaller, lighter, more comfortable smartwatch for running than the Apple Watch and just like the Series 5, the new Apple Watch SE comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes.
The Apple Watch has 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 SE'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 and adds VO2 Max to give you an added metrics boost. 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 reliably 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.
If you want to pay a little more then the Apple Watch Series 6 boasts an always-on altimeter feature is a useful feature for trail runners who like hitting the mountains too to get an insight into elevation on your route.
Garmin Forerunner 245/245 Music
Price when reviewed: £249.99
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: £529
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 Fenix 6S, the version that Garmin openly states is the model aimed at women. 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 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 (featured below), but Garmin has overall made its best sports watch much nicer and more comfortable to wear all day.
Price when reviewed £174.50
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
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 reviewed: £129.99
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, though the Charge 4 does now look closely at heart rate zones and gives you credit for workouts in particular zones.
You'll also 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.
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.
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.
Read the full test: Fitbit Charge 4 review
Fitbit Versa 3
Price when reviewed: £199.99
With the Ionic being retired by Fitbit, it left its collection without a GPS-packing smartwatch. That's changed with the arrival of the Versa 3.
Now like the Charge 4, you can go running without piggybacking off your phone's GPS signal. You're also getting Fitbit's next generation PurePulse heart rate sensor, which promises more reliable data for your training.
It's available in soft gold and black looks with Fitbit also offering a rich array of bands to mix that look up.
Fitbit's fourth Versa smartwatch (don't forget the Versa Lite) is an everyday wearable that improves on the design of the Ionic, comes at a nice price and is packed with features.
Battery-wise, it'll last up to 6+ days with new fast charging tech getting you a day of battery from just over ten minutes of charging. It's waterproof to 50m with pool swim tracking also covered when you need a break from running.
It can track running, cycling, swimming, yoga and gym workouts on the watch. You can also send data to third party apps like Strava too.
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 notifications, Fitbit Pay sand offline music support for Deezer. It's offers a good mix of looks, features and performance to make it one worth considering.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Price when reviewed: £229.99
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is 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 smaller than the size options available for the Galaxy Watch 3.
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 proper Spotify support) and Samsung Pay work great too.
On the health tracking front, Samsung introduced blood pressure monitoring and is starting to wake up the ECG feature, though only in the US and Korea so far.
Battery life is closer to two days, which means it has less stamina than the pricier 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 2 is worth considering.
Coros Pace 2
Price when reviewed: £179.99
Coros is a newcomer to this space, but it's learning quickly how to make a good running watch and the Pace 2 is a perfect example of that.
It measures in with a 42mm case matching the Forerunner 45 and 245 for stature. It has everything a runner could want in terms of sensors and metrics including the ability to pair up heart rate monitors and footpod sensors like Stryd for an extra hit of metrics.
It's easy to set up interval running sessions and you can build cardio and strength-based workouts you can follow on the watch.
It's also equipped for swim tracking both in the pool and open water and has a dedicated triathlon mode you'd have to pay more for to get on a Garmin watch.
Smartwatch features are little more limited with just notifications covered off for Android phones and iPhones. You do have third party app support for the likes of Strava and TrainingPeaks.
There's big battery life too with the Pace 2 capable of going for 20 days in regular mode and offering 30 hours in GPS mode. You can also tap into an UltraMax mode that will give you 60 hours of GPS tracking.
Huawei Watch Fit
Price when reviewed: £129.99
Huawei's Watch Fit is a smartwatch and fitness tracker hybrid that brings in a lot of the good features included in its smartwatches into a slimmer frame for a really good price.
It's less of a running watch, but better suited to those who also do HIIT workouts at home, with nearly 100 sport profiles on board.
The 46mm case has the look of a squashed Apple Watch and packs a sharp, bright AMOLED touchscreen display that's a big step up from what you'll find on Fitbit's Charge 4.
Features-wise, you're getting built-in GPS and Huawei's running plans if you don't know where to start with your running sessions. It offers all those core running metrics and also covers performance metrics like aerobic training effect, VO2 Max and recovery time.
Away from running, you're getting 24/7 activity tracking including sleep monitoring. New animated workouts can be followed on the device while there's an SpO2 sensor to measure blood oxygen levels and you can continuously monitor your heart rate too.
Those core running features work well on the whole, and while Huawei's Health app is pretty decent, you can't share data to third party apps like most of the devices on this list. So that's something to keep in mind.
Key smartwatch features include notification support, music controls and the ability to change up watch faces. Add in the promise of up to 10 days battery life and what you've got here is a pretty solid entry level running companion.
Price when reviewed: £199.99
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 and is being killed off. 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. 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.