12 Best GPS Running Watches Reviewed
Searching for GPS Running Watches? Take a look at the top rated GPS watches of 2017, Pros & Cons and what to be aware of before buying them in a store.
How To Find The Best GPS Watch For Running
It’s probably not a surprise that Garmin has a near-monopoly on the best GPS devices overall. If you hear “running watch” and think of “Fitbit,” you’re not wrong, but these watches have really grown into high-tech fashion statements and trainers. They’re waterproof, ultra-battery-packed with lives up to a month long, and most these days connect to smartphones and websites so you can text and call if need be or report to your laptop to review your progress.
They’ve got built-in workouts for multiple sports and fun features like interval training and the ability to race yourself. These are for more than just workouts, though – most also track your daily activity, keeping you on track of your fitness in and out of the gym. Being in shape has never been so easy or fun.
10 Best GPS Running Watches
1. Suunto Spartan Ultra
- Advanced Metrics
- 26h battery life
- Access to numerous training programs and data analysis on the Movescount App and Movescount.com
- Very expensive watch
2. Garmin ForeRunner 920XT
- Record speed, distance, grade, and many other important metrics
- VO2 Max, recovery time and race predictor estimations
- Smart notifications including email, text, and call alerts
- Activity tracker during, before, and after workouts
- Automatic uploads to Garmin Connect for workout reviewing and social sharing
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Not the most efficient for indoor training
3. Garmin Fenix 3
- Water-resistant construction
- 1.2" CHROMA display
- Tracks time, distance, pace, speed, BPM heart rate, calories burned, mapped routes, pace and even elevation changes
- Omni-directional EXO antenna
- Some users had problems with GPS accuracy in deeper forests
4. Suunto Ambit3 Sport
- GPS and multisport utilities
- User-friendly functions
- Personalized features and specific metrics for each sport and activity
- Smart notifications for e-mail, messages, etc.
- Not too good supporting third-party fitness apps
5. Garmin Forerunner 735XT
- Great for triathletes, with multisport tracking
- Insight on multiple important metrics
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring without any extra attachments
- Water resistant casing
- A bit expensive
6. Fitbit Surge
- Tracks workouts and daily exercise
- Sleep detection and alarm clock
- Music control, text and call notifications connected to Smartphone
- Weeklong battery life
- Touchscreen display
- The band fit strangely for some
7. Polar V800
- Tracks pace, distance, calories burned, and max heart rate.
- Works as an activity tracker after your workout, counting steps and general activity
- 14-hour battery life
- Barometric altimeter maps ascents and descents
- Syncs to Polar Flow App and web service for analyzing your numbers
- Some aren't crazy about the design of the charging port
8. Garmin Forerunner 630
- Tracks metrics such as stride length, ground contact time balance, cadence and even vertical oscillation
- Measures stress score, performance, recovery time and predicted race times
- Difficulties maintaining satellite tracking in some environments
9. TomTom Spark
- Wide variety of uses
- Step and calorie counters
- Records heart rate and running statistics
- Mp3 capability
- Available in multiple colors
- Some had issues with the bluetooth connection to headphones while running
10. Apple Watch Series 2
- Dual-core processor for optimal speed
- Inclusive training application
- High-end GPS tracking
- 50 meter deep water resistance
- Accesories and replacements are expensive
11. Nike+ SportWatch by TomTom
- Personal coach reminds you to run and tracks run history and PRs
- 8 hours of run time
- Nike+ integrated
- Nike+ Shoe Sensor for more accurate tracking
- Some runners had issues with battery life.
- Some runners had issues downloading the Nike+ software onto their computer.
12. Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2
- Perforations on band allow for good ventilation
- Built-in GPS
- Water resistant up to 50 meters
- Nike+ Run Club app
- Includes standard Apple Watch features such as Siri, texting and Apple Pay
- Some runners had issues with battery life.
Well, there you have it. Whether you’re a serious athlete training for a triathlon or Ironman competition, a long distance runner looking to perfect your time, pace, and distance, or you’re just a newbie looking to take better care of your body and increase your daily activity, these are the best picks out there.
Running watches come in different designs, sizes and serving many different functions. Deciding the best watch for your workout and running practices, one has to know what exactly he or she is looking for in features, functionality and purpose. This makes it easier in narrowing down to the type of watch one can use efficiently. Before you buy one, you need to know what functions and features are going to work best for you.
Whether you’re just starting out as part of a new year’s resolution or you’re well on your way to becoming a member of the 100 Marathon Club, tracking your runs is a brilliant motivator and can improve performance as well. But choosing the best running watch for you can be just as tricky as picking out the perfect pair of running shoes.
The best running watch or GPS sports watch is a personal choice, and increasingly depends on the amount of detail you want from your workouts.Beyond just simple pace and distance information, the latest watches will feed back everything from heart rate data to detailed observations of your running style. In short, GPS watches have become an essential tool in the runner’s arsenal.
GPS capabilities now assist runners and trainers with developing beneficial routes, showing where the athlete may be struggling so he/she can strategize and improve their weaknesses. Some watches may contain only a few of these features, while others will have nearly all of them. As you might expect, the more programs a watch has the more likely it is to come with a higher price tag.
They might as well be personal trainers, and with the ability to track your progress online and share routes and success with friends, they’ll give you that boost of motivation so many of us need as goals become harder and harder to reach. It’s exciting to see such advanced technologies, that somehow manage to stay charged for longer and ar even fashionable for when you’re off the track or trails.
It might seem like an odd question to ask in a running watch buying guide but this is actually really important. It’s a decision that’s not getting any easier, either. In the market, there are now countless brands and hundreds of products to choose from which makes it even harder to decide which one is the best brand for your work out and running.
The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation Of GPS Watches
What Features Do They Offer?
The amount of features that one of these devices has to offer is the most clearly defining factor that sets each one of them apart from each other. In a market segment that is flooded with models that can provide a host of monitoring and tracking features, it’s important to cut through the clutter and select an option that gives our readers what they need most, and none of what is just superfluous inclusions for the sake of seeming hi-tech.
Outdoor And Indoor Performance.
It’s important that a GPS watches have the diversity that most runner require. When researching what they wanted most, runners consistently mentioned that being able to accurately measure distance on indoor and outdoor runs was frequently at the top of their list. There are times when it’s raining and their running sessions call for a treadmill workout. We made sure to include options that included built-in accelerometers for when you want to go for a run, but Mother Nature has different plans.
Ability To Integrate Into Your Training Regimen.
In order to truly get the most from this piece of gear, it’s important to take into account how it can become a personal trainer. Moving beyond the basics of measuring distance and giving you an enriched and informative experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned runner, or just starting out, it’s now possible to train for 5k, 10k, half and full marathons using nothing more than something that you can strap on your wrist. This type of comprehensive data tracking used to require a journal and tedious note taking. Now, you can simply throw it on and hit the road with all the focus on your run.
The Right Tech, At The Right Price.
It is extremely important to us that our readers are never priced out of the running accessories that can take their passion and joy running to the next level. Everyone, regardless of budget, should have the ability to access advanced gear that keeps track of valuable metrics. We made sure to include a choice that would fit every reader’s budget. We also made sure that all the watches were dependable and runner approved so that you can count on their utility for your runs.
Intuitive User Interface
Let’s face it; having valuable running data such as distance, pace, and heart rate is useless if you are unable to easily access it and track it. We looked at what runners had to say about ease of use both while on the run and when combining the data with apps after the run. The last thing a runner wants to do is slow down to fumble with their gear, interfaces should be intuitive to use and easy to read with large and legible font.
Both style and durability
Form and function can always be a little tricky in the runner’s world. Having a nice looking, functional device that works when you need it is crucial. Runner’s can’t afford to sacrifice function for form. This is why while we made sure to include options that come in a variety of looks and styles, we also made sure that durability and function were factors in all selections. The runner’s arm is no place for a fragile piece of equipment.
Other Important Factors To Consider When Choosing The Best GPS Watch
While we have researched through a wide range of feedback and data when compiling our list, we understand that in order to truly get the most out of your purchase, you must make a selection that makes sense for your purposes and how you plan to utilize their many features. A great option should have all the features you need in order to best suit you. Below you will find some personal factors to take into consideration when making your choice.
How Much Do You Plan On Incorporating It Into Your Run?
The first thing to consider is your preference when it comes to the level of incorporation that you are comfortable with. If you are the type of runner that does not like to keep track of advanced metrics such as elevation and “stress levels”, then chances are you don’t need a model with a barometric altimeter. Research shows that runners benefit the most from equipment that they are comfortable using, so focus on the tracking metrics that you need. Likewise, if you’re an ”information junky” then you’re going to appreciate a model with advanced data recording like ground contact time, cadence (number of steps per minute you take while running), and vertical oscillation.
How Connected Do You Want To Be During Your Runs?
Keep this preference in mind when making your decision to save yourself the hassle of checking your smartphone while you’re out on your run or in the middle of a workout. Today’s runners can receive notifications when they receive an email, text, or call. There are even models in our buying guide that connect to social media accounts and live streams your runs. If this is a little too much sharing for you, and you enjoy leaving the phone at home and disconnecting when you run, make sure to select an option that matches your level of need when it comes to peace and quiet.
How Important Is Music To Your Run?
Most runners reported that they are able to keep better focus and maintain a steady pace when they are running to their favorite playlist. Others prefer to leave the music behind when they hit the road. If you are the former, be sure to pick an option that allows you to download your favorite mp3’s. This can even help you leave your audio player at home when you run, giving you one less piece of equipment when you are out the door, thereby streamlining your training.
Think About How Much Battery Life You Really Need.
It’s a good idea to keep in mind how often you run and how long you run for. This is crucial when selecting the right amount of battery life for you. Important things to keep in mind according to runners just like you include taking into consideration in-active time. Batteries will still lose some charge when the device is not in use, so just because the manufacturer claims an 18 hour battery life, doesn’t mean that it’s exact, these are approximations. Runners also report that all models require regular recharging, so if you’re like most people and constantly forget to charge your phone, remember to keep that charger handy.
Size And Weight
All wrists are different, so it’s important to take size and weight into consideration. Comfort is key when you are adding new pieces of equipment to your running or workout gear, so choose an option that is not too large or bulky for your wrist. Runners found that weight is the “tie breaker” when making their decision. So after you take everything else into consideration (features, battery life, music) then go for the lightest option when you find two brands or types that have identical options.
Water resistance: Most outdoor watches are at least somewhat water resistant. Some are capable of diving much deeper than the human body. Many watches are rated to a depth of 100 meters, or about 300 feet. This is sufficient for pretty much anything short commercial diving or competitive free diving. Even recreational scuba divers will never go deeper than 130 feet.
Handling: Quick and easy access to programs without complicated directions eliminates frustration and wasted time. Expect some learning to be involved with new equipment, but simpler is usually better. Even powerful GPS watches can usually be navigated with just a few buttons if the interface is well engineered.
Time Features: Aside from just displaying the time, watches provide a number of other features that orientate you during your day-to-day pursuits. Most watches, both digital and analog, supply users with dates and calendars, alarms and stopwatches. Some have chronographs, multiple time zone settings and other advanced time-telling features.
Display: The watch’s display is a vital aspect of determining the device’s usefulness. Although it may seem like a superfluous and cosmetic detail, the watch’s display shows all the necessary information such as time, date, altitude and heart rate an owner wants to know. Consider the size of numbers, contrast, and night illumination.
Here are some frequently asked questions that most runners encounter when making their decision. Hopefully, they will help you along your way when you are making your decision.
Q: I’m looking to train for my first 5k; what should I be looking for in an ideal model?
A: The number one thing to consider in your circumstance is interval training. Look for a watch that has the capacity to set an interval training program to help you gradually improve your speed and fitness levels to meet specific goals. This will give you the highest chances for success and make sure you don’t suffer from unnecessary injury.
Q: I’ve heard that they often tend to “lag”, what’s this about?
A: There is a moment that all watches take when locking into your location on the map. While the first generations of GPS watches took longer to fix in on your location, there have been great strides in GPS technology and you will not experience significant lag time with newer models found in our buying guide.
Q: I’m an old-school runner; what are the benefits of using one of these?
A: Being old-school doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider using this kind of gear. It’s a great tool that seasoned runners everywhere rely on to improve their workouts. In fact, getting too comfortable and set in your ways can have detrimental effects and allow you to plateau. Think you run fast? How do you know? Think you still feel fresh when you hit the midway point of your run? The only real way to know is by using a GPS watch that ensures accuracy to that you can set realistic goals and have fun reaching them.
Q: Can’t I just use my smartphone to track my runs?
A: We found that runners that use their smartphone to track their runs, do so for less than a year before they buy a GPS watch or quit tracking all together. They report a number of reasons for this including accuracy, ease of use, and types of trackable metrics. Make no mistake, these are specialized pieces of equipment and a smart phone will never match their ability to keep very accurate data that you can conveniently access when you run.
If you want to continue keeping track of your runs, but are tired of dragging your smartphone along, then you’ve already made the decision to get one of these. Next time you observe runners at the starting line of a marathon, notice how many have them on and how many are fumbling around on their smart phones.
Q. what weather features should running Watches have?
A. These watches include barometers, altimeters, digital compasses and thermometers. They can posses all four of these features or just one along with some of the attributes mentioned previously.
Barometer: Curious to know what weather shifts are coming your way? The barometer feature can warn you about everything from approaching showers to devastating snowstorms while you explore backcountry hillsides. This tool measures the rises and falls of atmospheric pressure. This is a great method for predicting weather changes to the trained user. Some of these watches even come with alarms that alert you of pressure drops.
Altimeter: The altimeter works by measuring changes in barometric pressure, which drops as one climbs. Many also use GPS to gauge altitude. This tool is especially useful to back country hikers, mountaineers, skiers and anyone else that ascends or descends hillsides and mountains. Recognizing your altitude can locate you in regard to how much height you have gained or lost, and subsequently, how much further you need to go.
When considering buying a watch with altimeter capabilities, review the accuracy of the device. Many styles require frequent re-calibration as weather changes result in changes of baseline barometric pressures. Also know that having a slow digital countdown to the summit on your wrist can make a slow, challenging ascent feel that much more demoralizing. Pro Tip: Keep your eyes on the trail, not the altimeter.
Digital Compass: This fundamental tool is a must-have in the back country. A digital compass on a watch is an excellent backup to a handheld compass. However, since these electronic compasses require calibration for accuracy, and batteries for life, you should always pack an analog compass when venturing through unfamiliar forests and trails.
Q. Are GPS Training and running Watches compatible with external devices?
A. The latest generation of training watches has opened up a world of online applications to outdoor athletes. These watches allow data to be charted and graphed by simply plugging the watch into a computer. Most high-end training watches feature modes for running, cycling, swimming, hiking, navigation, and more.
These watches will display useful information, such as minutes per mile, total miles covered, GPS location and altitude while still on the wrist. Once home, the data can be transferred to a computer for much more in-depth analysis.
Some training watches are also compatible with external devices, like heart rate monitors and watt monitors for cycling.
Route Maps: Watches designed for training or navigation use simple route maps that help guide the user when off trail.
Heart Rate Monitors: Another feature to consider when shopping for a watch is if it has a heart rate monitor. Knowing your heart rate at different parts of a run is critical for athletes training at a high level of performance.
There are two primary types of monitoring watches: chest strap models and finger sensor models. The first comes with a strap containing a transmitter which is buckled around the chest. The second type gathers your pulse once you have placed a finger on the sensor of the watch. Typically, the chest strap model is recommended for those desiring highly accurate measurements of their pulses while the finger sensor offers a more affordable and comfortable option for those just beginning.
Calorie Burning Monitor: Watches that contain heart rate monitors often have calorie burning monitors too that provide information regarding the effectiveness of workouts as well as diets. Keeping track of all those calories consumed throughout the day and how many were lost while exercising can be difficult. The calorie burning function records how long you have exercised and compares it to your pulse and personal stats including age, height and weight, resulting in a calculation geared specifically to the user. Like the heart rate monitors, this feature uses chest strap watch combinations or finger sensors to collect the necessary information.
By incorporating the technologies of today, watches have replaced pack-loads of navigation and monitoring equipment and opened up new landscapes to intrepid outdoors folk. Be sure to read reviews, ask questions and always follow the instructions that accompany new watch purchases.
Q. How should i take care of my GPS running watch, to make sure its durable and functions well at all times?
A. In order to make sure that your GPS watch is maintained well and kept from early wear and tear its important that you follow the below special care tips:
Protecting your watch from any shock should be first priority. In order to make sure that your running watch lasts for long it’s important that you keep away from any external shocks that may arise from impacts on concrete areas like dropping it on the floor, accidentally banging it on a wall. The GPS running watches are very sensitive devices that such impacts will definitely interfere with their functionality.
So how do you take care of a running watch that is resistant to water? Each time the crown of the device is removed, do not immerse the watch in water. If your watch is still wet, please keep the crown intact, don’t turn it or pull it out. Even if the watch happens to be resistant to water, putting it in places where water is under high pressure will definitely damage it. The pressure might end up causing some moisture to penetrate into the running watch, also its important to always note that its not of certain that the water resistant feature of your watch will be permanent. And can be affected by wear and tear. in order to make sure this feature lasts longer, always keep your watch clean and dry.
If you are swimming or having your exercise in the ocean or sea, its important to note that the water in the sea is different from the water in the swimming pool. Clean your watch with fresh tap water then dry the running GPS watch off the. Remember to keep the crown intact and not to expose the watch to high pressure running water, i.e do not wash the watch directly from the tap.
Its not advisable to take a bath with the running watch on or if you are in a sauna. The watch will wear out faster due to the high temperatures and the soap. This also applies to hot springs.
Keep off the watch from any temperatures extremes, i.e very low temperatures and very high temperatures. This will totally kill your watch and damage its functionality. Its important to read the instruction manual from the manufacturer with regards to the temperature extremes.
While cleaning the watch its important not to use any chemical or cleaning solvents. Using these chemicals can cause a reaction and hence damage your running GPS watch. Also the chemicals can damage the strap of the GPS running watch, the casing or the band by weakening it or shading off its color.
The crown is a very important part of the watch that needs to taken care of. The crown of your running GPS watch should be kept away from corrosion and always be flexible. Make sure the crown is turned frequently so that it doesn’t get stiff and also its kept from getting corroded. Also make sure that no moisture is able to penetrate the crown at all times, keep the watch always dry after being exposed to water.
When cleaning the watch make sure you sue fresh water, do not expose the watch to high pressure water from the tap and always use a sift cloth. This will enhance the device’s durability and long time good functioning of the GPS running watch in general.
Q. I have an allergic reaction each time i put on my GPS running watch, what should i do?
A. Any accessories that ones wear can have an allergic reaction to ones skin. Especially if the accessory has any metal parts which when exposed to sweat during an exercise causes a reaction on the skin that is allergic and known as skin dermatitis. The metals that have such a reaction with sweat include chrome, nickel and cobalt, which are mostly used in making parts of running watches. These types of metals are also in watches that have leather straps since chrome is normally used in leather straps of watches for tanning.
Should you experience any case of skin dermatitis then its highly recommended that you stop wearing the running watch immediately then seek medical attention from a dermatologist. After consultation the doctor will be able to effectively guide you on what to do with regards to medication to take, what type of metals to keep off if you happen to be sensitive to metals. the best option for people who are likely to suffer from skin dermatitis is to buy titanium running GPS watches.
This was our approach when selecting the right GPS running watch. Remember that this type of technology is not just for triathlon runners or hardcore athletes. It can bring great advantages to a wide range of training levels. We hope this guide provided you with all the information you need when making you choice between form and function. Thanks for following along with us. Now you can start keeping track of your runs to improve your gains and keep on running!
Here are some sources we used while conducting our research
It’s important to use a plethora of sources to ensure quality information. We like to utilize trusted clinical partners and manufactures when providing our readers with the most up-to-date statistics found in all our buying guides. We are also very interested in taking what everyday users have to say about specific products, and we perform our due diligence to make sure that quality research goes into every guide. Here are some sources which helped us with this guide: