Pick the best wearables for running, cycling, swimming and more

Whatever you do, there's one for you

Seeing fitness trackers and smartwatches out in the real world is still a relatively rare occurrence, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers rushing to get products out on the shelves. A lot of these devices offer similar features and specifications, so for the newcomer it can be difficult to work out which trackers work best for which scenarios.

That's where we can help: we've picked out the best wearable for five key activities so you can make a more informed decision when you part with your hard-earned cash. Pick the one most appropriate for the use case you're most interested in, and be sure to check out the alternatives we've mentioned too - each wearable has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Best wearables for running

Running (and walking) is the bread and butter of most of the fitness trackers and smartwatches on the market, but there are some that pay more attention to this type of exercise than others. The Fitbit Surge (£199.99) is our pick of a strong field: it has the latest technology packed inside it, the price isn't completely crazy and on-board GPS means you can map your runs without your phone.

It is towards the pricier end of the market but you get heart rate tracking, wireless data syncing, phone notifications and a battery life of a week or more - and of course it tracks plenty of activities besides running. The sleep logging capabilities are impressive too.

Also consider TomTom Multi Sport Cardio, Apple Watch.

Best wearables for cycling

If you're heading out on the bike then the Moov (£79.99) has the advantage of being able to strap on to your ankle, and this enables it to measure how fast you're pedalling and how much power you're putting in. What's more, it can connect up to your smartphone to give you at-a-glance updates on your performance and even audio prompts if you need a push.

Even though the Moov is designed for all types of activities, the fact that it can track cadence, elevation and increases and decreases in speed make it perfect for the serious cyclist who wants to do more with the data amassed from every ride. You can revisit your routes on a map too, and compare one day's performance against the next for a more complete picture.

Also consider: Microsoft Band, FlyFit

Best wearables for swimming

Waterproofing is the obvious feature you need in a wearable that tracks your swimming prowess, but it also needs to be designed with swimming in mind - that means it's comfortable to wear in the water and offers the right kind of data collection and analysis that swimmers are going to need (tracking activity in a pool is a different challenge to tracking it on land).

For our money the Garmin Swim (£129.99) is probably the best option on the market at the moment, and it's able to track the number and type of your strokes, plus how much distance you've covered in the pool, as well as offering waterproofing up to 50 metres. The clean and tasteful design helps too, because you don't want something big and bulky dragging down your wrist during a session.

Also consider: Misfit Shine, Runtastic Orbit

Best wearables for trail running

If you're going to get a more serious, more varied and more adventurous with your running, then the new Garmin Fenix 3 (£369.99) is an excellent choice, albeit an expensive one. It exudes the confidence of a device that's up to its third version, and is packed with features that will prove invaluable while you're running up and down mountainsides.

The GPS is fast, responsive and powerful, as are the multiple modes that let you track different types of activities and metrics such as distance, speed, elevation and temperature. Operating the watch and glancing at its readouts is easy to do while you're on the move - you can set the statistics you want to see on screen at any particular time.

Also consider: Polar RC3 GPS, Basis Peak

Best wearables for sleeping

Most of the fitness trackers and smartwatches on the market are able to keep an eye on your sleep patterns - but which is the best tool for the job? If you're just as interested in the amount of shut-eye you get as the amount of activities you complete (it is important after all) then you want something that's as accurate and as comfortable as possible.

The Jawbone UP3 (£129.99) is one of the most ambitious wearables in terms of sleep tracking: it promises to track REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and deep sleep, giving you a more detailed breakdown of how much rest you're actually getting through the night (REM sleep is important for the mind, deep sleep is important for the body). Plus, the app can help coach you to work towards a better pattern of sleep.

Also consider: Fitbit Flex, Pebble Steel

Liked this? Why not read our best fitness tracker roundup?