If there’s one thing runners love, it’s a good GPS watch. These handy devices track your location, data on your run, monitor your heart rate, and tell the time. GPS watches are a staple in runners’ arsenal.
Whether you’re a casual jogger, a seasoned runner, or even a professional athlete, having a GPS watch can be one of the wisest decisions you make. Not only do they accompany you on every run, they also provide quality functionality and track important data. After using a GPS watch for a few workouts, runners often wonder how they coped without one before.
There are lots of benefits to these handy watches. You don’t have to carry your phone, you can record lots of useful data, they look stylish, can be used for triathletes, and some even offer advice on recovery.
With so many watches out there, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you
GPS watches are a valuable tool, and thanks to technological innovation and advancement, have become incredibly sophisticated and useful. With so many fantastic watches out there, it can be difficult for runners to determine which watch to choose. It’s important to look around, so you can choose the watch that’s right for you.
I remember when I was looking for my first wrist companion. Being a novice runner with limited experience and no knowledge, I found myself pouring over pages and pages of internet research, YouTube videos, and speaking to runners, trying to make a choice.
In the process, I gained lots of knowledge about GPS running watches, which is why I wrote this article. Firstly, you’ve made a good decision, deciding to buy a GPS watch. They truly are one of the best tools modern day runners have. Hopefully this post helps you. That’s why we’ve put together this article.
Without further ado, here are the 13 Best GPS Running Watches
1. Garmin Forerunner 235
This is a fantastic watch which is reasonably affordable, smart, and highly effective. It has enough battery life for 11 hours of GPS tracking and tracks day to day activity (outside of running) for approximately 8-9 days on one charge. If that’s not efficient, I don’t know what is!
With a built-in optical heart rate sensor, super lightweight design, soft straps and a slick style, the Garmin Forerunner 235 features a high-resolution display and a large screen for better viewing experience. The watch is presentable and cool, and the perfect size for male and female wrists.
A cool aspect of this watch is the handy ‘back to start’ feature, which generously guides you back to your starting place should you get lost on your run. It sounds like an unlikely scenario, but it’s happened to me a few times. Embarrassing, I know! I had no running watch on for all the occasions I got lost. If I had the Garmin Forerunner 235, maybe I’d have found my way quicker.
If you’re interested in the Garmin Forerunner 235, check it out here
2. Garmin Vivoactive 3
One of Garmin’s finest watches, this innovative watch combines smart, fashionable and GPS features. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 truly is a watch that will up your running game from a variety of angles.
Fitted with GPS and heart rate tracking, waterproof to depths of 50 metres, and the use of Garmin pay (make card payments with your watch) the Vivoactive 3 is one to look out for.
The battery life lasts 13 hours for GPS and 7 days for normal everyday use, making it a durable option for runners everywhere.
Being 11.7mm in thickness, it comfortably fits around the wrist and doesn’t weigh you down. Lots of runners sporting a Vivoactive 3 often forget they’re even wearing one.
If you’re interested in the Garmin Vivoactive 3, check it out here
3. Samsung gear sport
The watch is incredibly impressive. It’s a super solid device with a stainless-steel body for durability and peace of mind on your runs.
Moreover, the watch mixes traditional design with modern function making for an interesting product. The Samsung Gear Sport is waterproof, and can be used in 50-metre depths, and is salt-water resistant.
A nice extra touch about this watch is the option of purchasing a wireless charging dock. Simply place your watch on the charging cradle and watch the watch face rotates after placing it in the charger.
The watch lasts 4 days in pure smart watch mode, and 3 to 4 hours in GPS mode on your runs, which makes it one of the shortest batteries lives on this list. However, as we’ve already seen, the watch makes up for shorter battery life with all its exceptional features.
The watch face display is particularly impressive with 360 by 360 pixels and offers high definition statistics and easy to read writing.
And of course, the Samsung Gear Sport features a built-in heart rate monitor for tracking your heart efficiency. Nice extras include Wi-Fi, speaker, microphone, and is compatible with virtually all smartphones and Android devices.
If you’re interested in the Samsung Gear Sport, check it out here
4. The Suunto Ambit 3
The Suunto Ambit 3 is a highly versatile running watch which has become a favourite within the running community.
Complete with GPS tracking and advanced outdoor and multisport functions, smart mobile connection capability, water resistance up to 100 metres, a battery life of up to 30 days (in casual non-running mode), and a smart design, this watch really does have it all.
Connect the watch wirelessly to your smartphone and use the free Suunto Movescount App to adjust the watch on the go and visually enrich, relive and share your adventure.
Though it comes with heart rate functionality, it is a good idea to get a heart belt to go with it for truly accurate readings.
One strength that runners often note is how effective the watch is at recording altitude, particularly useful on trail runs or courses with varying inclines.
If you’re interested in the Suunto Ambit 3, check it out here
5. Apple Watch 3
Ideal for the casual runners out there who love their style and want to invest in a watch with much more than running in mind, the Apple Watch 3 could be the answer.
The Apple accessory is a smartwatch and acts as a stylish GPS run tracker, and a day to day companion in everyday life, make it highly durable and multipurpose.
It features heart rate tracking whilst running and in everyday activity, giving you a more complete picture of your overall health. For music lovers, the watch has excellent on-board storage for approximately 250 songs.
Additionally, the watch can take texts and calls which allows you to stay connected whilst on the move. It’s a good companion for casual runners, with most of its focus being on an everyday companion.
Unfortunately, the watch isn’t waterproof, so you may wish to look elsewhere if you’re a triathlete or love a good swim.
Elite and serious runners might not feel content with the Apple Watch 3, because fitness isn’t its primary purpose. Before you make a purchase, make sure you work out what your needs are.
If you’re interested in the Apple Watch 3, check it out here
6. Garmin Forerunner 935
Often named as one of the best GPS watches for triathlons, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is lightweight slick watch is one of the most comprehensive GPS watches to date.
As well as featuring standard features like a heart rate monitor, all the standard GPS tracking functions and being waterproof to 50 metres, it comes with some advanced features too.
It is a multi-sport watch, with a series of advanced features like stride length and ground contact time.
The Forerunner 935 is also a smartwatch and will have every normal feature of such watches. You can access the weather, change the music playing on your phone, check notifications, track your day to day activity, and so on. The battery life on the 935 is particularly impressive, with Garmin reporting a maximum life of 24 hours.
This is a particularly pricey running GPS watch. Whilst this watch will be fantastic for serious and elite runners, it might not be as necessary or relevant for every day casual runners. The advanced features are incredibly useful if you’re competing, but if you’re just running as a hobby or a brilliant way to stay in shape then you might look out for cheaper models.
If you’re interested in the Garmin Forerunner 935, check it out here
7. Fitbit Ionic
A staple of the GPS watch world, the Fitbit Ionic is a fitness-focused smartwatch without the arguably ‘unnecessary’ features of other smart GPS watches. It’s simple and easy to use, looks stylish, and can be used for everyday activity tracking as well as one your runs.
It comes with a multi-day battery life, decent heart-rate tracking, the built-in GPS, a sleep tracker, and the impressive ability to store and listen to music via wireless Bluetooth headphones. The Fitbit Ionic is incredibly ideal.
Ideal for runners who just want a GPS watch purely for running statistics and tracking, this watch might just be the answer. It features a high-resolution screen, water resistance of up to 50 metres, and a lightweight feel, making it one of the best running GPS watches out there. See what you reckon, try out one out for yourself.
If you’re interested in the Fitbit Ionic, check it out here
8. Polar M430
This best-seller packs a powerful punch, at an affordable price. It features sleep tracking, smart notifications, and access to the innovative Polar Flow app, which allows you to access smart coaching whilst wearing the watch. Super effective for staying on track to reach your goals. The Polar M430 is all about simplicity. It comes in a simple, yet slick design, and is highly durable.
It features in-built heart rate monitoring and has a remarkable 30 hours of battery life when in use. If that wasn’t enough, it’s waterproof and can withstand a series of weather conditions and swim sessions. However, don’t expect the heart rate monitor to be accurate whilst you’re in the water.
As one of the cheapest watches on this list, it’s an accessible and popular watch amongst runners. It’s a watch lots of runners are talking about. Want to be one of them?
9. Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
Who doesn’t love a bit of music on the go? The Garmin 645 is the first watch from the brand with an in-built music player. The watch has enough space for up to 500 songs, can connect to Bluetooth headphones, making it a totally phone-free watch. An absolute game changer. Whether you like rock, pop, classical, jazz, rhythm and blues or punk, this watch will look after you.
Don’t let the impressive music player steal the show from the rest of the watch, though. It also contains an in-built heart monitor, has a whopping 14 hours of battery (without music, 5 hours with music), and is waterproof up to 50 metres. Not that you’ll be swimming down to 50 metres, but it’s handy to know.
At approximately 42 grams, it’s incredibly lightweight and feels effortless to wear. Lots of the time you’ll forget you even have it on.
The Garmin Forerunner 645 has a long list of coaching, performance, and fitness metrics for you to analyse after a run. It offers recommendations on recovery time, tracks your daily activity and sleep patterns, and can even connect to your smart phone.
The highlight with this watch is in the title. It’s a watch all about music, but it has an array of other impressive features.
10. Garmin Fenix 5
Though this watch is one of the most expensive on the list, it’s also one of the best. A friend of mine who used to compete in the triathlon for team GB has this watch, and always recommends it to me when we’re chatting or training together. For good reason. It’s a fantastic watch runners will love and get much use from.
It’s made of quality stainless steel which beautifully houses the built-in GPS. Featuring a high definition 240 x 240 visual display, it’s a watch with the runner’s experience in mind. You’ll easily be able to glance at the watch and see how you’re doing mid-run, or afterwards when analysing your data. It facilitates full Bluetooth connectivity, can connect to Wi-Fi, and gives the user smart notifications so they can stay up to date with their friends and family.
A highlight is the performance widget which shows your training status, training load, VO2 Max, recovery advisor, and much more. The battery life is rather impressive on the Phoenix 5, lasting up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode and up to 24 hours in GPS mode. This makes it one of the best watches out there for battery life. As a triathlete friend recommended this to me, it’s highly waterproof and can withstand water down to 50 metres.
Therefore, it’s perfect for swimming, or running in adverse weather conditions like heavy rain or snow. It’s a pricey bit of kit, but it looks good on your wrist and will track your activity. The Phoenix 5 is truly an excellent companion for runners, looking after them on route, before, and after a workout. Check it out.
11. Amazfit Bip
If you’re strapped for cash, the Amazfit Bip could be a cost-effective solution. It has a massive battery life, in-built GPS, heart rate monitor, and looks very stylish. Don’t be fooled by the low price, it packs a powerful punch as a running companion.
The battery lasts up to a month with regular activity tracking, records accurate data during your runs, and lets you pour over an array of stats post-run. It’s not the best running GPS watch in the world, but it’ll certainly get the job done.
12. Tom Tom 3
This slick and elegant GPS watch is a fine addition to the running watch market, from TomTom. It has trusted TomTom GPS tracking which monitors your speed, distance, location, elevation, and all the other stats a decent watch will keep an eye on. The watch monitors your heart rate, steps, calories burnt (after you enter your height and body weight), and sleep.
A highlight is the music feature, which lets you store up to 500 songs and listen to them via Bluetooth headphones. Great for audiobooks, podcasts or your favourite music. If you’re a swimmer, it’s waterproof up to 40 metres. You don’t have to worry about water damage, the TomTom 3 can handle it.
This watch has a unique training function which understands your personal fitness level and awards you fitness points every time you work out. The larger the effort, the more points you’ll get. It’s as simple as that. It might seem silly, but these fitness points are highly motivating and encourage runners to get their stride on at every given opportunity.
13. Timex Ironman
Another fantastic watch for runners on a budget, this is a situation where the price of an item doesn’t match the quality. The Timex Ironman is truly a steal, for what they are charging for it. It’s impressive design, advanced functionality, and durability, make it a good all-rounder.
Its GPS system is effective and accurate, helping you keep regular tabs on performance. It’s lightweight and water resistant up to 50 meters, which is good news for the swimmers and triathletes out there.
The soft silicone rubber strap feels nice on the wrist and leaves for an effortless wearing experience. The tap screen technology, hydration alerts, run pace alerts, and customizable vibrating alarm, are all highlights.
The Timex Ironman watch looks after its wearer very well. If that wearer could be you, check it out.
There you have it, 13 of the best running GPS watches on the market. I hope this article helped you and you now feel more confident about which watch is right for you.
If you’re interested in more clothing and accessory related articles, check out the following blog posts:
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