Best GPS Running Watches Reviewed
Basic to mid-level GPS watches track a combination of metrics like: speed, pace, distance, heart rate, calories, sleep cycles, and may come with music, app and bluetooth features. Higher priced watches feature more advanced options with topographical maps, barometers, altimeters and electronic compasses. This can be particularly useful for rugged outdoor sports, or if you’re looking for accurate measurements to closely track your training data.
As you choose the right features for you, don’t forget to consider battery life, overall comfort, and compatibility to your existing devices, running apps or programs. With a variety of price points and styles, there really is a GPS watch for every type of athlete.
- Suunto Spartan Ultra
- Garmin Forerunner 735XT
- Suunto Ambit3 Sport
- Garmin Forerunner 935
- Garmin ForeRunner 920XT
- Polar V800
- Nike+ by TomTom
- Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2
- Samsung Gear Sport
- Apple Watch 3
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Suunto Spartan Ultra
26h battery life
Access to numerous training programs and data analysis on the Movescount App and Movescount.com
Very expensive watch
Despite its initial lack of features, the Suunto 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.Read more
There’s luxury and then there’s high-end, and the Suunto Spartan Ultra is a high-end activity tracker. WIth its full-color touchscreen display, incredibly durable construction, and incredible versatility, the Spartan Ultra is for the serious athletic enthusiast that may aim to run a triathlon but also takes in a mountain climb and some free swimming in between, and wants to measure and track their performance in all of these pursuits.
Although it comes with a high price, and its data fields are inflexible and preset, for the serious sports enthusiast that wants to invest in a heavy-duty piece of tech that will deliver on more than just measuring their pace and distance, the Suunto Spartan Ultra is a mighty piece of equipment to this end.
2. 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 little higher priced
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.Read more
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.
3. Suunto Ambit3 Sport
Quick GPS signal acquisition
Capable of tracking heart rate during a swim
Intuitive setup and use
Exceptional battery life
A bit pricey
The daily tracking could be better
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.Read more
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.
4. Garmin Forerunner 935
Ideal choice for triathlons
Garmin durability and quality
Not ideal for runners on a budget
The Garmin Forerunner 935 GPS Watch is a slim and lightweight watch, that wears easily and comfortably. This GPS watch comes with a plethora of customization and features, like it 24/7 heart monitor and its waterproof design. The Forerunner 935 compiles date efficiently for the runners consideration and use during training.Read more
The Foreunner 935 is also great for long training days with its extensive battery life. And of course this Garmin watch delivers on exactly what it promises with its accurate and helpful GPS function. Overall the Garmin Forerunner 935 is an excellent piece of gear that any runner could benefit and would be lucky to get their hands on.
5. 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
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.Read more
This watch is meant for those people who want to take their performance to the next level, who aren't happy with just staying on the same old plateau forever. The watch has great notification pushing technology to allow you to transfer your data to a more accessible platform, and it's priced reasonably enough to be accessible to the average athlete. The Garmin Forerunner 920 XT is truly a great choice.
6. Polar V800
Long battery life
Easy to use layout
A little on the heavier side
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.Read more
The watch also provides smart notifications that provide text and phone call alerts, social media updates and calendar appointments. The watch is also designed to be worn both during and outside of the gym for all occasions coming in several color options with a sleek design.
With a strong battery that can last between 14-50 hours depending on training and use of GPS, the watch is ideal for everyday use. While reviewers sometimes felt that the watch was a bit heavy, its durability and accuracy make it a choice for all athletes that want to take their performance to the next level.
7. Nike+ by TomTom
Personal coach reminds you to run and tracks run history and PRs
8 hours of run time
Nike+ Shoe Sensor for more accurate tracking
Some runners had issues with battery life.
Nike teamed up with GPS experts TomTom to create a watch perfect for runners. Not only does this watch track pace, speed, laps, heart rate and calories burned, runners can stay connected using Nike+, sharing your run info with friends as well as join Nike+ challenges to keep you motivated.Read more
The watch also features a “Personal Coach” that reminds you to run, keeps a run history and stores your personal records. The watch also includes a Nike+ shoe sensor for accurate step information.
8. Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2
Perforations on band allow for good ventilation
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.
Apple teamed up with Nike to make a watch that caters specifically to athletes. Like the Apple Watch Series 2, it has a built-in GPS to track your pace, route and distance. It has a bright display, making it easier for runners to read their stats while on the run.Read more
And if you want to take a dip in the pool, this watch is water resistant up to 50 meters. The band is lightweight with compression-molded perforations for ventilation. Also, the watch features the Nike+ Run Club app to track your runs and stay connected with friends to keep you motivated.
9. Samsung Gear Sport
Up to 3 days of battery life in use
Compatible with Samsung phones that run Android 4.3 or newer
Includes charging dock and an adaptor for travel
Great option on a budget
Lacks some features that are found on more expensive models
Samsung fans will be excited to see the stylish design of the Samsung Gear Sport. However, iOS users should not be deterred as this device is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems. The biggest feature of this build is the Spotify offline playback, allowing you to take your tunes on the go with Bluetooth headphones instead of your phone. With 4 GB of space, you shouldn’t run out of music even on a long run! The average battery life is 2 or 3 days depending on how much GPS you are using.Read more
Music is not the only feature. This well-built model has a variety of sensors including a heart rate monitor, barometer, altimeter and GPS. Automatic activity detection insures you don’t miss recording any of your workouts. You can also manually select the type of activity you will be doing like running, cycling, or swimming for more accurate tracking.
The weak point of this device has to be the variety of apps available in the Gear App Store. Samsung has partnerships with a few fitness applications including MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal and Speedo On. While Samsung’s OS, Tizen, has improved over time and is quite user-friendly, make sure your favorite fitness apps are compatible before purchasing so you won’t be disappointed.
Built for function with its comfortable fit and changeable wristband, the Samsung Gear Sport is a well-designed GPS watch for working out or hanging out.
10. Apple Watch 3
Many useful apps
Long battery life
Exercise program limited to 30 minutes
Apple is many peoples go to brand when it comes to easy personal electronics. The Apple Watch Series 3 follows within that trend, being a good piece of technology for general use but it is also extremely useful for runners as well. It has many helpful apps, a good number of which will help with athletics, training, and improving running times.Read more
The Apple Watch Series 3 are also comfortable and water resistance which makes them good for all sorts of running conditions, especially when paired with a sports band. Additionally, the Series 3 have a noteworthy battery life. Overall the Apple Watch Series 3 is a solid choice for a running watch, and an excellent choice if you are looking for a watch to fit a wide number of needs.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
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.
Many GPS watches can have difficulty differentiating between distances ran indoors and outdoors since some watches track how far you travel via the GPS and others use accelerometers and track how much you move. Knowing how well a watch deals with this change in setting is essential information when it comes to making an informed decision. We want our runners that do treadmill workouts just as often as they challenge Mother Nature to be informed about any issues they may have when using certain GPS watches.
The ability to maintain an accurate track of your training, without missing a beat, is the only way to ensure the data to get is true. The overall accuracy of the unit you go with with absolutely need to be the main focus of the device during its initial design phase. Even though the price typically does often play a role in the accuracy of a GPS watch, that is not necessarily the case with all products.
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 are even fashionable for when you’re off the track or trails.
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.
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. Many watches have wireless headphones so You can enjoy the music without limits.
Coonectivity and compatibility are two of the most important things for many buyers. Whether you will need the watch to help you track your running stats while training for 5k or you are planning on tackling something more rigorous marathons and need the GPS to keep you on course. Many GPS watches even have programs that will improve your pre-race training, tracking and compiling of data. So if your more of a novice still learning how to improve yourself or a veteran race runner; we want you to know which watches will serve your training needs best.
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.
Overall Durability is extremely important. Most runners subject themselves to intense environments and circumstances and they expect their equipment to endure everything they can. We don’t think that is an unfair expectation.
The old saying "you usually get what you pay for" is pretty much spot on in many cases. However, when it comes to tech products like this, you might get surprised sometimes. It is important to really do your research before making a choice. Perhaps the straight route of more expensive is always better might not work for everyone.
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.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
No matter how good your GPS device is, there are always going to be places where the signal isn't so great. That might be less a fault of the watch, but more of a signal issue with the satellite reaching the particular location where you are. Picking a watch that also uses GLONASS is your best bet.
You'll have to decide, based on your budget of course, what weighs heavier on your scale. Price or features?
If you want every possible training app or tool available from a brand, you can expect to pay for it. In many cases, if you go for the budget option, you might be sacrificing some of the features found on more expensive models. If you don't need the more advanced tools, then decide by cost. If you do need them, you probably have to put the money down for it.
You're probably going to throw down a few hundred dollars on a good watch, so it would be a shame to damage it or see it destroyed in conditions that are perhaps a little rougher than it was intended for.
If you're taking your runs off road, think about getting something meant for it. Go to a store and actually look at the watch. Sure, you can find a better deal online, but you can still get your hands on the model you like and take a closer look at a store before ordering online. Make sure the face is durable, check the band for strength, etc.
Other Factors to Consider
The battery life can help or hurt, not usually in between. 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.
It’s important to take 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.
Having tons of information about your run distances and heart rate is great, to an extent, but matters very little if you are unable to access it. A GPS watch is a useful tool, but it is also a modern piece of technology, and the ease of its user interface is an important consideration for this reason. A runner needs to know how easily they can sync the watch with their phone, how easily the data can be used with an app, and even how easy the watch’s physical interface is to use.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
New equipment is ideally best for the accuracy of information, tracking and measuring your vitals and distances. Access to this high detail info will help you figure out where your excelling and where you need improvement. You’d be surprised what you can learn with some careful and detailed monitoring, which is much easier with the right equipment.
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 altogether. 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 smartphone 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 smartphones.
A GPS watch may be built with several weather measuring devices that can be useful to runners wherever they happen to be. Thermometers are, of course, essential for keeping yourself warm or cool and planning properly. Altimeters and barometers are also tools commonly found in GPS watches, and knowing how to best utilize them is important.
To put it basically, barometers measure air pressure. Air pressure is used to understand not only wind and its movement but the movement of air fronts. Air fronts are heavily tied to the weather in an area, so when the measurements on your electronic barometer suddenly rise or fall, it means the current weather is about to change. You can use this to know when precipitation, rain or snow, is about to stop or start. You can plan your runs around this information without having to seek out another source, or just know when its best to take a break and avoid the rain.
Altimeters measure your current altitude or current height of where you are, a useful tool, when combined with a barometer, in predicting changes in weather. Essential to the runner who is inclined to trail running in mountains or hills because a changes in altitude go hand in hand with changes in air pressure. Temperature and precipitation are two factors heavily affected by altitude, which are the two things that runners should be most concerned about in terms of weather. A GPS watch with an altimeter can help you best know the nature of your route and plan ahead.
The most recent generation of running and exercising GPS watches has revolutionized the watch technology such that a platform to online transactions on running watches applications has been created. Modern running watches can now be interfaced with a computer by just simply plugging a running watch to computer. These GPS running watches plugged into the computer can later be used to trace the runner while he is on the trail. They can also show information that are useful to the runner such as altitude, atmospheric barometric pressure, the GPS current location of the runner. total distance covered by the athlete and minutes taken by the runner to complete each mile.
These are a feature in a modern running watch designed to give directions and map to the runner as he doing his trails. Unlike the Digital compass feature that only shows the runner whether he or she is on the east, west, south or north side of the location, Route maps show the exact places and paths to be followed by the runner as navigated by the computer.
Heart Rate Monitors:
The two basic kinds of monitoring watches are chest strap models and finger sensor models. The Chest strap model just like the name suggests, it is an adjustable strap tied on the chest of the runner. The transmitter measures the impulses of the heart and the heart rate can be analyzed after the runner plug the device to the computer. The finger sensor model on the other side, measures the heart rate by gathering the runner’s impulse whenever the runner places his or her finger on the watch’s sensor. The chest strap model is more accurate in measuring the heart rate while the finger sensor model is affordable as compared to the chest strap model.
Some fitness watches will have efficient capabilities of monitoring the heart rate, but also have features that are designed to monitor the calorie being burned by the body. This works effectively for those athletes who are also involved in watching their diets. The calorie burning feature helps in keeping tabs on all the above and relates this to the data collected from monitoring your heart and other physical determinants like height and weight. After collecting all these data and other important information, it will then begin calculating it, it will then give a clear detailed guide specifically customized for the user. This feature is usually won around the chest.
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 your 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. 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 it’s not of certain that the water resistant feature of your watch will be permanent. If you are swimming or having your exercise in the ocean or sea, it’s important to note that the water in the sea is different from the water in the swimming pool. Keep the watch off in any temperatures extremes, i.e very low temperatures and very high temperatures.
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.
The advantages of syncing to your smart phone, and in turn social media, are pretty extensive. Counting calories, adding your total distances, or figuring out if you met long term goals are all things than can be tracked for you automatically. Not to mention using popular apps like MyFitnessPal or Runtastic to share with and build your local running community. It never hurts to know that you have friends cheering you on or running along side you, even it is only in spirit.
If wearing a chest strap is a problem for You as You don’t feel comfortable, You must look for a watch with wrist-based heart rate sensors ( for example it’s Garmin Forerunner 630 in our review).However, wearing this has some disadvantages. You must really tighten wrist sensor because if You wear it loosely, Your readings may be inaccurate. The good news is that most people usually get used to it. When it comes to sprinting, chest strap is much better. Remember also that sometimes when You buy a watch, You get a chest strap with it but usually they are sold seperately.
A marathon runner is going to want to keep several factors in mind when looking into a watch. You want a watch with an extensive battery life, looking for a 10 hour minimum. You’ll want a handle on your route, so compatibility with either your computer or smart phone is something you want to look into. Their are also watches with electronic training aids, looking into one with a long-distance training program available is what we advise.