Music makes running easier, but for those looking to run to the beat and have their workouts tracked with a GPS running watch, it usually means strapping on a phone as well.
The good news is the latest running watches and smartwatches are coming equipped with on-board storage and even music streaming access, so you can leave your smartphone behind and run untethered.
Thanks to Rocky Balboa we all know that workouts are easier when we’re pumped up by our favourite power song playlists. Science has even gone and proved the positive effect a few killer tunes can have when you’re trying to kick your own ass on the pavements, in the gym or even doing laps down the pool.
While dedicated sports watches still offer the best way to train, GPS equipped smartwatches are quickly catching up.
Here’s our pick of the best running watches with music playback skills…
GPS running watches with music playback
TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music
The TomTom Spark 3 boasts all the normal running metrics (distance, speed, time), has a built-in optical heart rate monitor which aced our tests and plugs into nearly every running app.
But it’s the storage for 500 or so MP3s (3GB), which it’ll play via a pair of wireless headphones, that makes the latest Spark standout from the TomTom crowd. The feeling of running unencumbered by your phone isn’t to be underestimated. Make sure you get the ‘+Music’ version though… obviously.
$249.99, tomtom.com | Amazon
Adidas miCoach Smart Run
The miCoach Smart Run might be an ageing beast now, but if you want a built-in MP3 player on your running watch then this is still one of the best options. You can load up to 4GB from your iTunes and MP3 music by dragging them into a folder on your computer and syncing via USB.
You can then use the Smart Run’s Bluetooth 4.0 work to pair Bluetooth headphones giving you control of your running playlist from your wrist. There was talk of adding offline Spotify playlist support, but sadly that’s still not happened… MixRadio is on board though (yeah, we know).
Adidas has actually stopped selling the watch recently but you can pick it up on Amazon pretty cheaply.
Smartwatches with fitness & music
While running watches have long been the only choice for serious athletes, the smartwatch is fast catching up. The benefit is that smartwatches have the full power of apps at their disposal, while dedicated running trackers are one-trick ponies, albeit, with superior tracking chops.
Choosing a smartwatch currently means losing the in-depth stats such as cadence tracking, vertical oscillation monitoring and other pro-running feedback, but means you can get big beats straight to your headphones.
Moto 360 Sport
The Moto 360 Sport has lagged behind the second generation smartwatch, but it’s finally landed and we’ve had a good play with it.
It was only the second Android Wear smartwatch to feature GPS inside, the Moto 360 Sport plays nicely with your favourite running apps and can also play music from its built-in 4GB of storage.
$199.99, motorola.com | Amazon
Very much a Polar running watch first and Android Wear smartwatch second; it’s unashamedly a fitness device, so much so that it’s almost inaccurate to compare it to the current crop of smartwatches at all.
But a smartwatch it is and, as such, it comes with the same musical skills as the rest of the Wear-clan. GPS run tracking is on the money and the stats and metrics the excellent Flow app provides post-run make it the top smartwatch for runners.
$329.95, polar.com | Amazon
Apple Watch Nike+
With the Nike+ edition, Apple has teamed given its smartwatch more of a focus on running; tweaking the strap and software to make it easier for runners to strap it on and put the built-in GPS to the test. But, behind the Nike themed watch face it’s a regular Series 2 at heart – with all the musical abilities of its less sporty looking brethren.
You can play music by transferring playlists from your phone to the watch and pairing a set of Bluetooth headphones. Also, if you’re an Apple Music subscriber you can transfer playlists from the service, putting even more tracks at your fingertips.
From $369, apple.com | Amazon