The running tech you need to run faster than ever before

Tried and tested kit to take your running to the next level

No matter what level you run at, technology won’t magically make you faster. There are no quick fixes. No clever hacks. And there’s no go-faster gadget to replace good old-fashioned hard work and consistency.

But that doesn’t mean technology can’t give you a helping hand to build that consistent training habit. To train smarter rather than just harder and hopefully improve your chances of staying injury free. Not to mention enjoy the process while you’re at it.

A man looking at his watch while out for a run in the park.Credit: Shutterstock / – Yuri A

So if your goal is to raise your running a level or two – whether that’s going faster, longer, getting out more often, or just enjoying your running more – we’ve rounded up some tried-and-tested running tech to add to your training toolkit.

You don’t necessarily need everything on this list – and we’ve included two or three of the best options in each case for choice – but investing in some of these might give you the edge you’re looking for.


The watch

Garmin Forerunner 255 / Coros Pace 2 / Polar Ignite 3

This is likely to be the most expensive investment in your running kit. But before you shell out, consider if any of the free or cheap running apps (e.g. Strava, Nike+ running, MapMyRun) track enough stats for your needs. 

If you’ve reached a point where you want deeper training insights, a good GPS running watch puts your real-time stats like pace and distance on your wrist where you can see them mid-run. Plus it offers big benefits beyond those apps. 

When you’re buying a watch, reliable GPS, solid optical heart rate tracking (more on this later) and a week-long battery life should be top priority.

Garmin Forerunner 255 on a wrist, displaying a suggested runCredit: Garmin
The Garmin Forerunner 255 smartwatch

The Garmin Forerunner 255 (£249), Coros Pace 2 (£179) and Polar Ignite 3 (£289) all handle those basics well. Beyond that, they also offer a suite of training tools that can act like a virtual coach of sorts. 

First up, is heart rate zone training. Monitoring your real-time heart rate helps you run at the right intensity to hit your goals. Many runners work too hard on their easy runs, and not hard enough on the harder runs. Generally clocking too many hard miles and not enough easy.

Putting heart rate readouts on your wrist can help you avoid that. It’ll also help you understand how runs at different efforts should feel.

After your runs, these watches also spit out useful (but not bulletproof) training guidance. They estimate the impact of the miles on your fitness and whether you’ve worked your aerobic or anaerobic system. They also offer recommendations for the time you need to recover from your run before you go again. All useful for getting the right training mix. 

They’ll also serve up suggested daily workouts – often based on your recent training. These sometimes come with step-by-step coaching on the watch to guide you through the sessions, too.

A white Coros Pace 2 on a wristCredit: Coros
The Coros Pace 2 smartwatch

Plus Garmin Connect (iPhone / Android), Coros EvoLab (iPhone / Android) and the Polar Flow (iPhone / Android) phone apps and training tools provide free, targeted training plans that get you ready run-by-run for 5km, half and marathons. 

These aren’t the cheapest running watches. There are simpler, more budget-friendly alternatives that’ll track pace, distance and often heart rate. But all three of these recommended watches hit a sweet-spot between price, reliability, simplicity and range of training tools. 

They’ll see you from a first parkrun up to completing a marathon, without having to upgrade. So there’s plenty here to support your running as your passion grows.

The heart rate chest strap

Polar H10 / Garmin HRM Pro+ / Polar H9

A heart rate chest strap might seem like something only hardcore runners need, but accurate data during runs is a serious secret weapon. No matter what level you’re at. 

Why? Improving your running – and avoiding injury – is all about getting the right mix of runs at different efforts into your weekly training. The optical heart rate sensors on our recommended running watches will do a reasonable job, but if you want gold-standard accuracy, a chest strap is the way to go. 

The Polar H10 (£65.94) would be our top recommendation. The Garmin HRM Pro+ (£119.99) also offers the highest levels of accuracy. You pay extra for the ability to track a range of extra running form insights.

Polar H10 heart rate strap round the chest of a manCredit: Polar
The Polar H10 heart rate chest strap

But the cheaper Polar H9 (£52.50), Garmin HRM-Dual (£59.99) will also do a fantastic job.  

You don’t need to go down a sports science rabbit hole here either. Heart rate training can be quite simple.

Follow this easy rule of thumb: mostly run easy, sometimes run hard. Or put another way: do 80% of your weekly mileage easy and 20% hard. And make sure your easy is actually easy and your hard is hard. 

To work out what your easy and hard runs look like, you’ll need to know your Maximum Heart Rate (Max HR).

Calculate your maximum heart rate

The easiest one is to subtract your age from 220. So, if you’re sixty-three, you’ll do 220 – 63 = 157 beats per minute (BPM).

However, whilst this is the easiest calculation, it’s not the most exact, especially for older or younger athletes, as it doesn’t take the variables of age into account.

The second calculation choice is 207 – (0.7 x age), which is adjusted for people over forty.

In the case of our sixty-three-year-old exerciser, the calculation would be 207 – (0.7 x 63) = 162.9 BPM (or 163 for ease).

In the case of a seasoned runner, who is used to several sessions a week, another formula to use is 207 – (0.64 x age).

Using our example again: 207 – (0.64 x 63) = 166.68 BPM (167).

Armed with this info and your chest strap, you can hit the right intensity in each of your runs to deliver the training improvements you want. Here’s what to aim for:

  • Recovery (aerobic) – 50-60% of HR Max
  • Easy (aerobic & anaerobic)– 60-70% of HR Max
  • Hard (anaerobic) – 80–90% of HR Max
Black and yellow Garmin HRM Pro+ on a white backgroundCredit: Garmin
The Garmin HRM Pro+ heart rate chest strap

The ‘readiness’ app


We mentioned the importance of consistency and nothing stops you in your running tracks quite like injury and illness. But you can stack the odds of staying fit in your favour. 

The latest running watches try to help. They use a combination of sensors to track a series of metrics that wrap up into a daily ‘readiness’ score – a guide to the kind of running, training and stress load you might be able to handle that day. That includes things like 24-7 heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep, activity, stress and recovery. 

Unfortunately, most watches are actually pretty bad at tracking sleep, often not-so-good at measuring accurate HRV, and can base stress readings on oversimplified data. That means these ‘readiness’ scores can be misleading. 

HRV4Training app shown on a phone screen, being held in front of a laptopCredit: HRV4Training
Heart Rate Variability on the HRV4Training app

The HRV4Training app (£9.99 iPhone / £10.49 Android) works differently. It focuses on the most important metric – your heart rate variability. HRV is a good indicator of your body’s response to outside forces.

Slept terribly, your HRV score will show it. Trained too hard after a stressful day at work, your HRV score will show it. Drank one too many glasses of red last night. That’s right, your HRV score will show it. 

A stable HRV suggests you’re coping well with training and whatever everyday life throws at you. It’s much more useful for judging when you need to tweak your run plans in response. 

The app uses your phone’s camera to do a fuss-free – and crucially accurate – heart rate variability test. That’s followed by a simple set of subjective questions to add critical context to the heart rate data, like how much alcohol you had yesterday or if you’ve been ill.

The app then tells you in simple terms whether to carry on with the training you had planned or to consider taking it easy.

A series of screenshots from the HRV4Training appCredit: HRV4Training
Various screens from the HRV4Training app

It’s a great way to see the impact of other lifestyle choices on your body, too. For example, has that post-3pm cup of coffee or the late dinner wrecked your sleep?

A brilliant tool that makes it easier to understand what makes your body tick and what makes it tank.

The headphones

Shokz OpenRun and OpenRun Mini

Not everyone likes running with music and you can obviously run perfectly well without headphones. There are plenty of very good reasons to keep your ears open to the world around, too.

Particularly on those head-clearing runs in nature where escape from the constant input of modern life is the main goal. But, music is a powerful running tool, a proven performance enhancer and an excellent motivator. 

The right running soundtracks can fight fatigue, take your mind off the discomfort, boost your mood, reduce perceived effort and even help speed up recovery.

These benefits even led Costas Karageorghis, an expert on the psychology of exercise music, to describe it as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”

Shokz OpenRun on a green backgroundCredit: Shokz
The Shokz OpenRun running headphones

Some great ways to use music to run better include: running to the beat of a song to improve cadence; sticking on slower music to keep your running easier and calmer; or using certain songs that you’re emotionally invested in, to help drag you through those final difficult miles.

It’s not just music either. A set of good running headphones can open up a world of podcasts that help you learn (about running or other stuff) while you run. Plus there are plenty of audio-coached run sessions. More on that below. 

Luckily there are some really excellent headphones designed for running with great in-ear comfort, no wires, excellent sound and marathon-taming battery lives. 

Two great options are Shokz OpenRun (£129.95) and OpenRun Mini (£129.95). These lightweight (26g) bone conduction Bluetooth headphones sit on your cheekbones rather than in your ears, using vibrations to relay the sound directly into your inner ear, leaving your ears open. So you can listen to music while still being aware of your surroundings. 

The sound quality isn’t as good as regular headphones but they are race approved, waterproof, comfortable to wear and harder to lose than tiny buds. They also pack 8 hours’ runtime on a single charge. For those with smaller heads, the Mini edition features a shorter neckband.

The training app

Peloton / Apple Fitness+ / Nike+ / Runna

A live workout on Apple Fitness+ shown on the screen of an iPhoneCredit: Apple
Apple’s training service is known as Fitness+

If you’re not sure how to structure an interval session, what a good progression run looks like, or you just run better when a coach tells you what to do, a run coaching app might be the way to go.

There’s a decent selection of running apps on iOS and Android that provide on-demand audio and video-guided runs.

Like having a coach in your ear, these apps talk you through different running sessions, step-by-step. You’ll get commands on when to speed up and when to rest, along with motivation and encouragement.

The Nike+ Run Club app (iPhone / Android) is free to use and has sessions covering speed, long runs and distance-based runs. It’ll track your run, too and you can pair in a chest strap for added insights. 

Peloton (iPhone / Android) and Apple Fitness+ (iPhone) also offer video and audio-guided runs for the treadmill and outdoors runs. And you don’t need an expensive Peloton treadmill to access them. Any treadmill will do. 

Peloton offers a 3–day free trial (subs from £12.99 per month), Apple Watch owners and iOS users can dip into the Apple Fitness+ growing catalogue of coached runs. There’s a three-month free trial (subs from £9.99 per month).

5K improvement plan in the Runna appCredit: Runna
Runna is the most completing training app

Finally, if you want something more personalised and a little more serious, the Runna app (£15.99 per month, iPhone / Android) is your complete virtual coach with full programmes for a range of running goals from a faster 5km to the conquering your first half marathon.

Each session is laid out in an easy-to-understand format and can be sent to your running watch to follow, with real-time guidance on pacing and intensity.

It’s a bigger investment but you get your very own mission-focused training framework.

The shoes

Hoka Mach 5 / Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 / Puma Velocity Nitro 2

Ok, we might be stretching the ‘tech’ angle here but bear with us. Running shoes are becoming increasingly technical in terms of the foams, fabrics and computer-driven designs. And they’re probably the most essential item in your running kit. Happy feet = happy runner.

Now we’re not about to suggest that you need to invest in the most hi-tech, range-topping carbon-plate super shoes. But a good pair of running shoes makes a lot of difference. 

So what makes a good pair of shoes? Well the best shoes are the ones that feel good on your feet. Not the feet of your more experienced running friend. Your feet. Getting yourself into a running store to try before you buy is always smart. 

Person wearing Hoka Mach 5 trainers, standing on a tarmac road.Credit: Hoka
Hoka Mach 5 running trainers

What you’re looking for here is instant step-in comfort, a disappearing feel on the foot, a shoe that instinctively feels like it fits well, with room in the toe box and hugs all the right places without pinching, tightness and rubbing in the midfoot and heel.

You want a shoe that offers good cushioned protection and stability, to soak up the impact of all the slower miles you’ll do. But something with the versatility to cope when you start to push things up during your higher intensity runs. Luckily there’s a big trend towards this type of do-it-all daily trainers. 

Three shoes we’ve tried and tested over 100s of miles that tick all of those boxes are the Puma Velocity Nitro 2 (£105, Mens / Womens), Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 (£165, Mens / Womens) and the Hoka Mach 5 (£130, Mens / Womens).

They’re cushioned and protective but also light, nimble and agile enough to run well at a range of paces. Or more importantly when you’re running with good form or getting a bit ragged and tired. These shoes are all capable of carrying you round a fast 5km or giving you the support you need to conquer a marathon.  

The running belt

Naked Running Belt / Flipbelt Zipper / Nathan Fit Zipster

Our final recommendation is to invest in a good running belt. Good running storage is your ticket to being self-sufficient. Heading out for a run safe in the knowledge you have everything you need, can give you the confidence to run further, explore more and enjoy your running, 

The best running belts offer bounce-free, easy-access storage for all your run essentials. That includes your phone, water, gels/sweets/snacks for fuelling, keys, bank card and headphones case. Some will even swallow a rolled up jacket. 

Person sliding an iPhone into the Naked Running BeltCredit: Naked
The Naked Running Belt

Essentially you have everything you need to stay fuelled, hydrated, contact people in any emergency, and even pay to jump a bus or a taxi if you come a cropper miles from home.  

One of the best running belts we’ve used is the Naked Running Belt (£52.99). This pretty minimal belt has three large stretch mesh compartments so you can keep your keys away from your phone screen and potentially sticky gels far from your headphones case.

The back compartment is large enough to hold a 500ml soft flask. It sits snug against the body but doesn’t roll or cut in, dries quickly and offers good durability. 

Other options worth looking at include the Flipbelt Zipper (£39) which is made of slightly thicker fabric, but with one zippered compartment for extra security, and the Nathan Adjustable Fit Zipster (£29).

Kieran Alger

Written by Kieran Alger


Forty-three-time marathon finisher and cofounder of The Run Testers, a YouTube running gear reviews channel, Kieran Alger has been testing the latest running gear for more than a decade. A minor running tech obsessive, he is also “experienced” enough to remember life before Strava, Spotify, and smartphones.

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