Running

Polar vs FitBit Watches for Workouts

If you’ve been wondering about which watch is going to serve you best in running, the Polar Vs FitBit breakdown might be exactly what you need.

FitBit is often the first workout watch many pick up because they are a great price with a lot of features, but how do they compare to a GPS running watch?

A few key differences in Polar Vs FitBit:

  • Polar wants to enhance your training in every way
  • FitBit wants to help you generally stay active, but may not be focused on performance

If you’re looking to purchase your first GPS watch for running, check out my post on GPS watch mistakes not to make, so you don’t end up getting more than what you need and spending more money than necessary.

This side-by-side comparison should help you better understand the different features and narrow down your choices.

Polar Vs Fitbit Feature Comparison

Even the most basic of GPS watches today include the same features such as heart rate monitor, pace, distance, calorie tracking, and lap function.

Where the two brands differ is in the hardware, training tools, alerts, and additional data recording features.Polar Vs FitBit

Display and Tracking – Winner Polar

Both Polar and Fitbit watches display customizable real-time data, such as pace, time, distance run, calories burned, and heart rate, plus more if you desire. But Polar is able to show you a lot of other data like average pace, stride count, cadence and elevation gain.

The biggest difference between the two brands in this arena comes in display customization. The screens on the Polar can be modified via the Polar Flow app, which includes a ton of other add-ons as well.

  • For me the screen customization is huge.
  • I need to easily see my HR, my current pace, etc.
  • Maybe all you really want to know right now is how far and how fast, which the Fitbit will show.

In terms of which watchmaker reigns in tracking, the Polar is going to win based on the intense focus they’ve had on GPS for years. They also use multiple different satellites for increased accuracy.

It’s continued to improve and if you’re going to be doing trails or running around a lot of buildings (i.e. downtown Chicago) then a better GPS really matters for accuracy.

GPS Watch Battery Life – Winner Polar

While few runners need running watch to last them 24 hours with all features turned on, you’re more likely to have that happen with the Polar. The Fitbit Charge can run with you up to 5 hours….so if you’re pushing for that first 5 plus hour marathon it won’t cut it.

In daily usage mode, most Fitbits and Polar watches last about 7 days.

Mapping and Navigation – Winner Polar

For those running new routes or who have a tendency to get turned around during a run, the navigational features on Polar watches will make sure you stay on course and return home safely.

Multiple Polar watches allow you to download a map, which will then help guide you whether on the trails or running in a new area.

Heart Rate Monitoring – Polar

These days, most GPS watches come with either strap-based or wrist-based optical heart rate monitors. Optical heart rate monitors are known to provide inaccurate results due to recording random movements.

However, I have been head over heels for the Polar Vantage V and V2 because of their improved heart rate. Both have more sensors than other watches, which has elminated random spikes in readings and provided to be very accurate over my many months of running with them.

I haven’t seen enough data on the Fitbit technology, but it’s been a mainstay of the product so it should be decent. However, there is a big difference in tracking your HR while sitting or sleeping and while running where we tend to see spikes when it can’t read correctly.

Data Management and Apps – Tie

Polar uses a program called Polar Flow, and users seem to love the additional capabilities like the ability to create workouts (yup including full on strength with demos), build courses, and see overall workout data.

The Fitbit app also allows you to set goals, track your progress on workouts and in general look at your whole health picture.

If you’re switching between brands, then an app like Strava is probably the best place to keep all of your data safely in one place.

Watch Style – FitBit for Apple Lovers

I wouldn’t usually include this as an option, but I think the two are different enough that it may very well matter.

A lot of the Fitbit watches now look similar to an Apple Watch, which might make some more comfortable wearing it 24/7.

GPS watches are often a little bit larger and can indeed overwhelm a small wrist.

Polar VS Fitibt For Running

Ok we’re finishing up the Polar vs Fitbit comparison.

You’ll quickly see that Fitbit prices are lower as soon as we move out of the budget category, likely due to the less technology needed in the watches since they aren’t providing metrics like VO2 Max, cadence, stride, etc.

Click any link below to see the watch and additional function details (and please note I almost ALWAYS see Fitbit on sale, so don’t buy one full price).

Budget Running Watches

Polar Unite ($150)

This is now what’s considered an entry level running watch and it has EVERYTHING including smart watch features.

  • wrist based HR, sleep tracking
  • GPS features
  • Safety features, smart phone notifications
  • VO2Max

It’s a great value when I think I paid more than this for my first Garmin that could only track how far I ran!

✅ Fitbit Charge ($145)

Only their second watch with built-in GPS, it has the same long rectangular style we’re used to seeing from Fitbit watches. The small screen could make it harder to see your data while running and the touch screen can be finicky once you’re sweaty.

It does include:

  • GPS
  • sleep tracking
  • Spotify controls (not storage)
  • Fitbit pay
  • water resistant for swimming

Midrange Running Watches

Polar Vantage M ($290)

For about $100 more, you can get the Polar Vantage M…but I’m gonna say hold out and go for the Vantage V! It definitely has more bells and whistles, but I’m telling you the V is worth it if you’re upgrading.

This watch will track running, swimming, and cycling and tell you your ground contact time balance, stride length, and more.

  • HR Tracking
  • GPS
  • Longer battery life
  • Multisport, waterproof to swim
  • Training Load, altitude, ascent and descent tracking
  • Smart phone notifications

✅Fitbit Versa 3 ($229)

While this model is an upgrade if you like tools like Alexa and weather apps and storing up to 200 songs, and UNLIKE previous models it now has built in GPS!!!

This one may be a big winner for many in terms of features and price.

FitBit Versa for runners

You can connect via the app on your phone to have the data, which for a running watch I find a major drawback. Though I know that many runners carry a phone, so for the price savings, could be worth it.

  • HR Tracking
  • Alexa built in
  • Sleep tracking
  • Smart phone notifications

It also has smart exercise recognition, so it will start tracking that you’re running or biking.

High End Running Watches

✅Polar Vantage V2 ($499)

As noted above this is the watch that I personally am running in daily and loving wholeheartedly. I previously loved the Vantage V, but it’s been improved upon with the screens and data that’s readily available.Polar wrist based hr

  • Wrist based HR monitor – most accurate I’ve tested in a long time
  • Training load, HRV, sleep tracking
  • Smartphone notifications, weather and music on watch
  • GPS, power meter, fueling reminders, route guidance

Basically we’re now looking at top of the line.

Fitbit Iconic ($200)

Even at their high end Fitbit is still in line with the budget version of most GPS watches and thus why so many are probably a little nervous to make the upgrade.

We’re back to a built-in GPS, the sleek colorful display, music storage, HR tracking and sleep data.

This is definitely considered their watch for the person wanting to track more fitness data. And you have the option to switch out bands, pay for guided workouts and add more apps as well.

All right now, we’ve done a Polar watch comparison so you can see what makes the different prices, but how does it stack up against other brands?

Looking for more reviews to find the best things for you run?

Checkout our full page of my must have running gear reviews and guides to save you time searching and money! I share what’s worked for me and fellow runners, along with what wasn’t worth the price tag.

A few common requests:

Other watches you want to know about? Let me know!

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