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 best running watches for beginners, so you don’t end up getting more than you need and spending extra!
This side-by-side comparison should help you better understand the different features and narrow down your choices.
Not interested in all the research and just want to know what I’d pick?
It has more than enough features to last you through that first 5K all the way through many marathons and is more cost effective than other options.
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.
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 Pacer ($199)
This is now what’s considered an entry level running watch and it has EVERYTHING including smart watch features. I’ve recently been testing the Polar Pacer Pro which is just slightly leveled up and I’m going to give Polar some major props for creating an entry level running watch that has everything you need.
- wrist based HR that’s pretty darn accurate
- sleep tracking, great battery life for a fitness tracker
- GPS features
- Super clear, easy to read screen in any light
- Smart phone notifications and music control
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! Very much built for the runner, not overall tracking tons of different types of workouts.
✅ Fitbit Charge 5 ($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 (may not be as accurate as other GPS watches)
- sleep tracking
- Smart phone notifications
- Fitbit pay
- water resistant for swimming
- Going to track more types of workouts than the Polar Pacer
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
- Longer battery life
- Multisport, waterproof to swim
- Training Load, altitude, ascent and descent tracking
- Smart phone notifications
✅Fitbit Versa 4 ($229)
This model is an upgrade if you like tools like Alexa and weather apps, Google maps 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. (note since the 4 is just rolling out you can get the Versa 3 marked way down!)
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.
- Increases number of sport profiles to 40
- Alexa built in, Google Wallet
- On wrist bluetooth calls
- Sleep tracking and optimal wake times
- Smart phone notifications
It also has smart exercise recognition, so it will start tracking that you’re running or biking. Overall I’d really look at this as a great smartwatch.
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.
One of the features I love most is the truly accurate HR readings. But this watch also has a to of other features I find useful.
- 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
- See the incline you’re running up or down
- Set different data on screens for different kinds of workouts
Basically we’re now looking at top of the line. I’ve happily been using this watch for a few years and the battery life remains fantastic, the touch screen easy to use and my data always accurate.
Fitbit Sense ($299)
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. They call this their most advanced health and fitness watch.
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.
The Sense 2 is on the way making the original much cheaper right now! Based on the small upgrades, I’d take that big savings.
- all the features of the Versa
- additional tools for stress management
- more features around HR tracking and notifications
The big drawback to FitBit is going to be around GPS. While most running watches use multiple satellites to ensure truly accurate data, FitBit never tells us what they use at all. This means you could be off by quite a bit on your mileage which is tricky when training for a race.
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:
- Apple vs Garmin for Running
- Coros GPS Watch Review
- How to use all your run data
- Best running heart rate monitors (from watches to straps)
- Best running headphones
Other watches you want to know about? Let me know!
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