The Best GPS Running Watches Tested & Reviewed

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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.

Our Top Picks
Suunto Spartan Ultra
  • Suunto Spartan Ultra
  • 5 out of 5
  • Built-in altimeter & barometer
  • Price: See Here
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Garmin 920XT
  • Garmin 920XT
  • 4.8 out of 5
  • Race predictor and recovery advisor
  • Price: See Here
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TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio
  • TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio
  • 4.8 out of 5
  • Omni-directional EXO antenna
  • Price: See Here
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1. Suunto Spartan Ultra

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Despite its initial lack of features, the Suunton Spartan Ultra is now one of the most advanced GPS running watches out there. New updates now cover over 75 sports options to customize your training, as well as the ultimate GPS technology to provide high precision. The Spartan Ultra offers personalized insights on your performance, including rest times and exercise charts to maximize metric. Connect the watch to the Movescount app for even more metrics about your workouts.
Pros
  • Advanced Metrics
  • 26h battery life
  • Water-resistant
  • Access to numerous training programs and data analysis on the Movescount App and Movescount.com
Cons
  • Very expensive watch


2. Garmin ForeRunner 920XT

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The Garmin ForeRunner 920XT is the ideal watch for multisport tracking. Get access to your e-mail and other smart notifications while on the run, and receive superior metrics about your swimming distances, speed, gait form, steps taken and rest periods. The Forerunner 920XT is an excellent coach; giving you insight in over 6 running metrics and other sports measurements.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Not the most efficient for indoor training


3. Garmin Fenix 3

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Garmin offers the most exclusive GPS tracking with the Fenix 3 model. Coming with an all-directional antenna along with ultra accurate satellite reception, the Fenix 3 is ready to provide accurate tracking wherever you go. This multisports watch can keep up to any activity you use it for thanks to the advanced fitness metrics applied; the Fenix 3 will tell you everything you need to know about your training routines and heart rate. You can adjust the watch to the activity being performed; which includes water sports such as swimming or diving.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Some users had problems with GPS accuracy in deeper forests

4. Suunto Ambit3 Sport

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The Ambit3 Sport is a great multi-sport GPS watch. Covering you during your runs, bike trails, swims and keeping track of your whole performance, this watch is ready to provide you professional-level assistance anywhere, any time. Able to connect with the Suunto Movescount App, you can now organize your routines through the app connection. Its high-end performance analysis covers every single calorie you’ve burnt and miles you’ve exercised, including sleep time recovery. The flawless GPS system with precision tracking is the cherry on the cake.

Pros
  • GPS and multisport utilities
  • User-friendly functions
  • Personalized features and specific metrics for each sport and activity
  • Smart notifications for e-mail, messages, etc.
Cons
  • Not too good supporting third-party fitness apps

5. Garmin Forerunner 735XT

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This multisport capable witch is a great choice for triathletes, Accurately tracking their performance and statistics when running, biking, swimming and more. The Forerunner 735XT features high-accuracy GPS tracking. There is also an improved heart rate sensor which utilizes Garmin's Elevate wrist heart technology, which is able to track your heart rate all day without an additional strap or attachment. The user-friendly interface runs consistent with other models in the Forerunner series, offering superior comfort to navigate through the many features. The watch is built with a waterproof casing for extreme use. Other features include live tracking with audio alerts, ability to easily controls music, smart notification and you'll even be able to share your stats on social media.
Pros
  • Great for triathletes, with multisport tracking
  • Insight on multiple important metrics
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring without any extra attachments
  • Water resistant casing
Cons
  • A bit expensive

6. Fitbit Surge

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The Fitbit surge is one of the best GPS running watches because of its minimal, stylish make of durable rubber and its multi-use functionality. Compared to a lot of multifunctional models, this one is affordable as well. The Fitbit Surge tracks everyday movements as well as workouts with daily steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, and active minutes, as well as workout stats like heart rate and heart rate zones, distance, pace, elevation covered, and routes and split times. There are Smartphone extras, too.
Pros
  • Tracks workouts and daily exercise
  • Sleep detection and alarm clock
  • Music control, text and call notifications connected to Smartphone
  • Weeklong battery life
  • Touchscreen display
Cons
  • The band fit strangely for some

7. Polar V800

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You’re not just a runner – you’re a swimmer, a biker, a walker, a hiker! What you need is one of the best GPS running watches designed specifically for your love of more than one sport or exercise routine.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Some aren't crazy about the design of the charging port

8. Garmin Forerunner 630

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So, the first question we’re going to ask you is: How serious about running are you? If you like jogging around the neighborhood sometimes or spending a little time on the treadmill when you visit the gym, you may be better off with a different model. On the other hand, if you’re looking to train hard and massively up your performance level, splurge on the Garmin Forerunner 630, a watch that is certainly one of the best GPS running watches out there. Really, if you’re looking for the most advanced and multifaceted GPS running watch out there right now, you’ve found it.
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Difficulties maintaining satellite tracking in some environments

9. TomTom Spark

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The TomTom is cool because it’s much more than the utilitarian GPS running watches you typically stumble upon. It has oh-so-many extras along with the usual features like running metrics (distance, speed, time) like a built-in optical heart rate monitor and storage for mp3s which will play with wireless headphones. What’s more, the TomTom doesn’t stop when the workout ends – it continues to track your daily activity Fitbit-style, tallying up calories burned. The TomTom Spark proves to be fun – you can play energetic pop, hardcore metal, or whatever you enjoy working out to, and you can even race yourself on routes you’ve covered before.
Pros
  • Wide variety of uses
  • Step and calorie counters
  • Records heart rate and running statistics
  • Mp3 capability
  • Available in multiple colors
Cons
  • Some had issues with the bluetooth connection to headphones while running

10. Apple Watch Series 2

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The Apple Watch Series 2 is a unique tool for runners. It counts with an advanced adhered GPS system that provides high quality tracking, along with water resistance up to 50 meters deep. The remarkable dual-core processor added by Apple to this device makes it go as fast as you can need it to be. This watch offers an accurate heart rate sensor to keep track of your heartbeats and an inclusive training application to improve your routines. Count every step with the Apple Watch Series 2 and manage your own achievements within the application.
Pros
  • Dual-core processor for optimal speed
  • Inclusive training application
  • High-end GPS tracking
  • 50 meter deep water resistance
Cons
  • Accesories and replacements are expensive

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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FAQ

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.

 

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:

Sources

  1. Amazon, Amazon, Amazon Reviews,
  2. Outdoor Gear Lab, Out Door Gear Lab, Outdoor Wear Information,
  3. Runners World, Runner’s World, Running Information Website,
  4. Geek Fitness, Geek Fitness, Fitness and Technology Website,

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