10 Best GPS Running Watches Tested for Performance

A watch with a Global Positioning System (GPS for short) is practical for just about anyone who holds that wanderlust. This is especially true for runners, who just go. Not only does a GPS system help track where you are, and where you need to be; the functionality can also be paired with apps such as Runkeeper, or Strava to track your runs, course and overall progress. In fact, this is why most runners obtain watches with GPS functionality, as most watches with do not display a map, but rather transport data to the apps that incorporate the rest of the functions such as maps, etc.

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-Trail-Runner-Looking-at-Watch

But, which GPS running watch is the best? It’s more of a question as to which will work best for you, as everyone will find pros and cons to each according to their style and preferences. For instance, some are more simple and lack advanced features, but are much easier to use than those with the extra features. We all know that old-school person who hates anything extra and keeps it simple. Then, there are those who like to dig deep and get the most out of their technology but don’t get frustrated when it comes to figuring out the functions. For these reasons, we have super high tech GPS watches for runners included, and the simple, easy to use watches. In essence, we’ve included something for all types of runners.

Featured Recommendations

Garmin Forerunner 630
  • Garmin Forerunner 630
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Smart Notifications + Email
  • Price: See Here
Suunto Spartan Ultra
  • Suunto Spartan Ultra
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 80 Preset Sport Modes
  • Price: See Here
TomTom Spark 3
  • TomTom Spark 3
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Music Playback Option
  • Price: See Here

Let’s see; what makes a great GPS watch for runners? We’ll get into that in extreme detail later but in short, it still remains to be the ease of use, balanced with practical functionality. As mentioned on Runnerclick, some are extremely easy to use, and some are on the other side of the spectrum, but one thing that remains the same is that someone, somewhere, will find it simplistic and practical. The fact is, if the gadget does not hold ease of use for absolutely anybody, it won’t be used by anybody.

In our reviews below, we’ve included the specific features that make each GPS watch special in its own right, and with which are tailored to the specific type of runner/person that would find it to be the perfect choice for them according to these features. To each their own. There isn’t just one type of Runner, there’s many, and there isn’t one perfect GPS watch for all, there are many for each runner’s preferences.

 

10 Best Rated GPS Running Watches

 

1. Garmin Forerunner 630

The Garmin Forerunner 630 touch screen watch connects directly to "Garmin Connect", which allows for downloading of training and workout plans. Not only that, you are able to re-work the displayed data fields as you wish. So, the display is customizable as you would like it, with its many available widgets, and applications downloadable right through ConnectIQ. Neat!
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Features
With its LiveTrack feature, you can compete and see results of other users instantly. It also features wireless connectivity so you're able to connect to other devices and check the weather, see forecasts and other notifications on that separate device. Now that's handy.

GPS
Not only can you track your progress, or activities live and transmit them instantly via Garmin Connect to other users, but you also have the ability to share these stats via social media.

Cost / Value
The Forerunner 630 is fairly costly, coming in with a price tag at the four hundred dollar range, but with all the best features, it's supreme durability and diversity, it lands as the most highly commended GPS watches for runners in 2017. Not only does it boast any and all useful functions runner's want, but it has one of the easiest to use displays, in one of the highest tech shells. Go ahead, indulge, you won't regret it.
Pros

Touch Screen

Customizable Display

Social Media Sharing

Live Tracking of Running statistics

Music Controls

Additional Widgets & Apps available

Easy to navigate menus & use functions

Connect to any devices compatible with Garmin

Cons

No built-in heart rate monitor

2. TomTom Spark 3

The Spark 3 comes in more than one version, the basic version, and the "Spark 3 Cardio" which comes with additional features such as a built-in heart rate monitor, music storage and playback. Both versions feature multisport capabilities, an all-day activity tracker, and one of the easiest to use menus. We love it!
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Features
The all-day tracking mode allows the watch to continuously monitor your steps, heart rate, the total minutes you are active, and the total amount of calories that you burned off throughout your day. Also featured is it's multi-sport functions which allow tracking through not only runs but biking, swimming, general gym workouts and more. Now that's handy

GPS
With it's GPS capabilities you can track or monitor your running tempo, distance, and your route. You can also see and transfer live stats while you're out. It's also handheld device compatible.

Cost / Value
The starting price comes in just over a hundred dollars, and that places it as one of the most affordable watches on this list. What a surprise considering it's extreme ease of use and highly practical funtionality. Runner's have spoken, and consensus shows this watch is loved! The advanced model comes in with a price tag in the range of two-hundred and fifty dollars. They are even significanly marked down in price. Get one while they last!
Pros

"Cardio" version comes with built-in heart rate monitor

Multi-Sport tracking & Funtionality

Route Tracking + Distance + Speed + Pace

"Cardio" version has Music Playback & Storage (3gb)

Straps Detach and can be customized

Can Sync wirelessly to handheld devices

Water-Resistant

Social Media Sharing

Cons

Battery life has caused a few complaints

3. Suunto Spartan Ultra

This multi-sport GPS watch is arguably one of the most high-tech pieces of gear on this list, and needless to say, is loved by runners for its diverse capabilities. However, it may be a bit more complex to use than others but still maintains user-friendliness. It's probably one of the most toughest, rugged watches around, and is also water- resistant. Trail runners, here's gold!
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Features
The watch features a high-resolution color touch screen and almost a hundred mode presets to train in a multitude of ways. What does that mean? You're not very limited, to say the least. There's also an HR (Heart-Rate monitor) version available.

GPS
With Suunto advanced GPS tech, you get a visual display of your route and in-depth navigation functions. When you pair it with a compatible device, you have the convenience of satellite maps that display terrain. You can also log all your activities and share them via social media. Get the Movescount app on your mobile device for syncing and added functionality.

Cost / Value
With a price tag in the range of eight hundred dollars to eight hundred and a half, this watch is significantly more expensive than any other watch on this list. thats for a good reason. It's a beast of a device. This watch can handle anything you throw at it, or put it through (reasonably), and holds the functionality of most of the best GPS smart watches. It also boasts Suunto's exclusive features and a live breadcrumb map. It's hard to top the technology here.
Pros

Water Resistant up to 300 feet

Outdoor Specific Touch Screen

Route Tracking + Live Breadcrumb Trail

Altitude Measuring (Ascent / Descent)

Heart Rate Monitoring

Eighty Sports Supported Default Modes (Inc. Cycling)

Real-time Pace + Heart Rate lap recording

All-Day Activity Monitoring

Cons

Heart rate sensor is not integrated into the watch itself; but rather and external strap.

4. Garmin VivoActive HR

The VivoActive HR; so much to say about it. Why do runners love it so much? Well, it's the VivoActive with a heart rate monitor. We could have just reviewed the VA in general, but this version has so much praise among runners we had to give it its own spot. Apps, customizable designs, mobile device connectivity, HR monitoring; you have everything you need in an easy to use package.
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Features
This smartwatch features a high res color touch screen display that is not only perfectly responsive but glare resistant as well. Link it to your phone with Garmin connect, and you can enjoy notifications and activity syncing, even through social media. Unlike other HR watches, the VivoActive has a monitor built into it so you can ditch the chest strap or wrist band.

GPS
Stay up to date on the weather and temperature of your present location. Not only that, but when paired with your phone, its GPS capabilities allow you to hone it on the exact location of it, inc case it's ever misplaced. Livetrack also gives the ability to track all activities live. Additionally, Garmin Connect also sends you reminders to get moving when your inactivity is trending. Wow, what a friend, right?

Cost / Value
Coming in at the halfway mark between two hundred and three hundred dollars, this watch hits the average range for quality GPS sports watches, but is one of the most user-friendly in its class. Not only is it super practical, perhaps one of the most, but its also marked down in price, significantly! Get yours while they last. You won't be sorry!
Pros

Integrated Heart Rate Monitor

Glare resistant touchscreen

Multi-Sport Capabilities

Free Apps,  digital designs, and widgets

Notifications and Coaching tips via Garmin Connect

Battery life up to eight days

Link via Iphone, Android device or Wndows Phone

Integrated "Find My Watch" Feature

Cons

Consistant complaints about  music not able to be stored on device

5. New Balance RunIQ

The NB RunIQ is a device more or less catered to runners. The watch includes a heart-rate monitor and includes a platform that allows syncing of data to compatible mobile devices. The watch has a perfect balance of simplicity and functionality. Coming in at 14mm thick, it's not the smallest of smart watches, but definitely packs a punch.
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Features
This watch has been compared to the Huawei Watch 2, and the LG Sport, but has features that allow it to excel in the multisport world, which appeal to runners. Not related to software, but the piece incorporates a 22-millimeter silicone flexible wrist strap that enables an extremely pleasant fit. The watch is waterproof, with a display resolution of 400 x 400, which is among the best

GPS
The NB RunIQ integrates with Strava, which is one of the most popular activity tracking apps available for free. Tracking allows wearers to monitor distance, endurance, cadence, and laps.

Cost / Value
The NB RunIQ lands at just above average for the price of a quality GPS running watch, and for that, it's amazing how much value it brings to the table. This is a watch that is based of the needs of a runner and offers everything runners will need, with a super simple interface!
Pros

Unisex Design

Sync with Strava App on smartphones

Monitor your distance, pace and your course

Heart Rate Monitor

Water Resistant

Customizable interface with app capabilities

Get notifications when synced to mobile devices

 

Cons

Bulky structure with lack of usage of the large middle button

6. Garmin Fenix 5S

For a watch that includes an incorporated heart rate monitor, multi-sport capabilities and navigational functions, the Fenix 5s is perhaps one of the fullest, yet most simple GPS watches available. Though, you may need to pair it with a chest strap for HRM functionality.
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Features
Smart notifications allowing syncing and keeping up to date with what's going on outside your workout. QuickFit bands allow for a customizable look for every style. Track metrics that include lactate threshold and pace. You basically have everything you need as a runner.

GPS
GPS capabilities include training statistics, a three-axis compass, a sophisticated feature to track altitude that allow training in even the roughest terrain and still be able to track course data.

Cost / Value
With a price tag in the six hundred dollar range you must expect the highest quality. The Fenix 5S is just that. It's above the average price range of the watches on this list and lands on the costly side of the spectrum, but boy does it deliver in quality and practical functionality.
Pros

Incorporated Heart Rate Monitor

Advanced Metrics tracking for runners

Built in compass and altimeter

Very durable and able to withstand rugged conditions

Easy to use interface with at a glance statistics & data

Customizable with interchangeable bands

Smart notifications and syncing capabilities

Handles Multiple sport modes

Cons

Said to be tailored to women, but men with small wrists find it to do well

7. Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical

The Ambit 3 excels in monitoring and keeping track of vertical ascents. This GPS watch is versatile in every sense and incorporates the multi-sport functionalities that every respectable activity watch should. It's best for trail runner's that love to test the altitude. You can track every mile of vertical gain, even on an annual basis! That's impressive.
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Features
Enjoy mobile notifications when synced, and relive your experience with Suunto's 3d map data recordings. Not only can you track all your data, but you can easily share everything to social media. The device is also Bluetooth compatible for simple syncing.

GPS
The watch comes equipped with route tracking, a route planner, and an integrated topographic map. You can also see a visual of your altitude gain and difference, as well as discover new routes with heat maps and incline percentages.

Cost / Value
The Ambit3 Vertical retails at just under four hundred dollars. It's a bit pricey but doesn't tip the scale too much as it offers quality that cannot be matched by lesser costing watches. We made sure you will get what you pay for, guaranteed!
Pros

Track your route

Digital compass

Track several sports in one log

Integrated topographic maps

Altitude tracking and profile

Mobile device notifications when synced

Easily upload and share data via social media

Cons

Syncing to Suunto's mobile device App has been reported problematic

8. Garmin Forerunner 230

Not only does this watch track metrics such as your pace and time, but it also includes a heart rate monitor. If that's not enough, it incorporates a function that most do not; the ability to monitor and track Vo2 Max. You're also allowed all the handy basic functions such as a daily step counter, distance tracker, and calorie counter.
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Features
Not only does it track the basics, but it also pays attention to when you are sleeping, but not in a bad way. You can use preset workout plans and training plans. Do this all from the handy Garmin Connect app downloader. Aside from these functionalities, the watch also allows customizing of its interface and fields of data for a personalized feel.

GPS
The incorporated accelerometer allows users to track their running distance and pace. To do this, you don't need any extra hardware or accessories. You can also track your burnt calories and steps throughout the day. If you find yourself sitting for too long, the watch will also remind y9ou to start moving. Nice enough, right!?

Cost / Value
Coming in at half way between the two hundred and three hundred dollar range, this feature packed watch is such a deal that even though there's a newer model out, it still made the list. It's just too practical, and also offers some functions that the newer model does not. Whether they are worth keeping around is up to the runner, but the price is right, for sure!
Pros

Monitor and track your time, pace & VO2

Incorporated Heart Rate Monitor

Track data & Statistics Live

Audio Controls for synced devices

Easily share data to social media

Apps, widgets and personalization options available via Connect IQ

Cons

Screen has been reported slightly dim by a couple wear-testers

9. Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

The Gear S3 frontier is a water resistant GPS watch that's not for the casual runner. This watch has advanced features and app integration that, although simple, may not be so much to those who don't know patience. It works together with several well known downloadable apps such as MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal, and Endomondo.
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Features
The watch features a super durable design that can stand up to most weather conditions. Not only that, but has software that allows connection to phone via Bluetooth. This gives the ability to receive emails, texts and misc alerts, all on the watches interface. If that's not enough, you can also call and answer incoming calls. The watch has an incorporated speaker and microphone. Wow!

GPS
Tracking your exact location is just one benefit of its capabilities. You can also share your location to friends and family, monitor altitude and elevation gain, plus a plethora of other functions at your fingertips.

Cost / Value
Retailing in the three hundred dollar range, this watch is tipping the scale at just above low-cost and average. It's certainly not the most affordable watch on the list, but most definitely not the most costly, and comes with a plethora of practiocal features for runner's to make it a satisfying choice for any budget.
Pros

Heart Rate Monitor

Step Tracker

Post Stats and keep up to date on others

Pay phone bill straight from the watch

Call, text, email and receive notifications from the watch

A plethora of practical apps available, such as Uber, music apps and more

Customizable watch face and band

Cons

due to its multitude of functions, it's known to have a lower than expected battery life

10. Epson Runsense SF 810

Known as the GPS watch that will assist runner's in maximizing their output, the SF-810 brings a lot to the table. Don't let the number ten spot fool you, this watch has it all. It includes a heart rate monitoring system, run-specific statistics, including pace, altitude gain, and distance. Also included is a colorie monitor.
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Features
Not only does the watch track basic metrics, but it measures stride length and cadence as well. It features an LCD screen and a software interface that is customizable. Data is displayed live, so you can see stats for yourself as you perform.

GPS
The watch is compatible with some of the most well-known running apps such as MapMyRun. Syncing capabilities aren't much without accuracy, and the SF-810 boasts one the most accurate systems. You can track your route and the distances of each. Additionally, users can enjoy a built-in lap timer. Are you a Strava user? The watch is compatible with the app as well!

Cost / Value
Coming in at around the two hundred dollar range, retail, the watch is certainly worth it's picking. At such an average price, with above average features, you won't be left wanting more. In fact, you will be left with hefty pockets and ample performance.
Pros

Heart Rate Monitor

Catered to runners

Cadence, Distance, Altitude gain & pace tracker

Track colories

Real time data

Compatible with Strava and MapMyRun

Long Battery Life

Cons

Website for data review isn't as impressive as Garmin's or Suunto's

There you have it, the best of the best of 2017 for any runners preferences. From altitude tracking, live data display, mobile device syncing, and much more, througout these highest rated GPS watches for runners, you’re gueranteed to find one that fits your needs. Still considering the details? Here’s more to think about, and everything you need to know about making the perfect choice.

 

How to Choose the Best GPS Running Watch

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-Couple-Checking-their-watches

The easy answer to choosing the best GPS running watch is to find the one that you would find most useful. This includes its features and its ease of use, as mentioned before, but even a watches fit will come into play. Yes, the fit is a factor. Just as you’re trying to stay fit, you want your watch to fit you so that it does not slide all over the place, find itself on the opposite end of your wrist, or worse, constrict your blood flow.

We’ve all had bad watches before, and there are several factors that make one. There are just as many factors that make a great one. Let’s get into those in detail.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best GPS Running Watches

 

Features / Functions

 

Effective/Reliable GPS signal

Some watches you will need to sync or calibrate its GPS function, some are just plain unreliable, and others are so-called “adventure proof”. It’s annoying, to say the least, when you track a workout only to lose signal and lose the data.

Best-Gps-Running-Watches-GPS-TRACKING

That’s why all our recommended watches are guaranteed to provide the highest rating in reliability according to wear-testers when it comes to connectivity. For what it’s worth, it’s been said that TomTom watches typically have better GPS than Garmin. To the testers, both brands did extremely well. Just give your watch about a minute to catch signal. Once it does, a great watch will keep the signal no problem.

 

Wireless Pairing with Mobile Devices & Phones

This feature will be needed in order to transfer data to your phone or mobile device.

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-phone-sync-smart-connect-bluetooth

Most if not all modern GPS and Smart Watches can be plugged into a computer via USB for data transferring, but mobile devices do not have a USB port. They require wireless connectivity. The fact is, most people operate solely off their phones, and don’t use computers for such tasks. Plus, utilizing a phone for data transfers is much more efficient for active runners on the go. Wireless connectivity is a big plus. Connecting wirelessly to mobile devices is sometimes done via wifi, but that’s not always the case, or even the most effective way, depending on who you ask of course.

 

Bluetooth Capabilities

Although some watches connect to mobile devices via WiFi, others use Bluetooth to do so. Fortunately, most respectable watches offer Bluetooth connection.

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-apps-and-bluetooth-connect-to-phone

The drawback is that the length of Bluetooth connectivity to other devices is approximately thirty feet, only. The benefit is that bluetooth, when active and connected to another device, consumes much less power from your devices than wifi. Bluetooth is also much more simple to set-up and link.

Additionally, Bluetooth signals are used to connect to external attachments such as foot sensors, heart rate sensors, etc.

 

Exporting/Sharing Tracked Workout Data to Social Media

Everyone likes to share their progress, and perhaps show off their workouts from time to time, right? Smart watches and GPS watches are now starting to incorporate sharing functionality directly into the interface.

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-share-to-social-media

Not all watches do, and some of the best still have not included this feature, but more and more are starting to see how practical it is to have this feature, and how much runners and athletes share to social media. The TomTom Spark 3 is one of the great GPS watches that allows for direct sharing to social media.

 

Compatible with Apps: Strava, MapMyRun, Runkeeper, Etc

This function is perfect if you have a favorite app for tracking your exercises and want to continue using it after you get a new watch. Say goodbye to lunking around your phone on your runs. Watches (or I should say “respectable” smart watches) are now able to transmit recorded data straight to these apps.

Best-Gps-Running-Watches-activity-tracking-app-strava

Some smart watches only sync to certain apps and are not universal across the board. But, most mobile activity tracking apps are great (Some better than others). My favorite being Strava. It just so happens some of the greatest GPS watches are compatible with Strava. After your activity or run, just connect to your device via Bluetooth and sync the data. It’s that easy.

Another benefit of being able to sync to activity tracker apps is that if your watch cannot sync directly to social media to share your workout, you can transmit the data to an app like Strava. Strava then allows sharing directly to Facebook or other popular social media sites directly from its interface.

 

Smart Notifications / General Notifications?

Well, we’ve found ourselves in the age of smart phones, smart cars, smart watches and now smart notifications. Whether any of these concepts is actually intelligent is another question. What we do know is that technology development has made way for them to communicate to each other.

Best-Gps-Running-Watches-Smart-Notifications

Don’t get too excited because we don’t have talking robots yet. Rather, you can link your watch to other Bluetooth enabled devices and get notified whenever those devices receive text messages, calls, emails, calendar events, or even notifications from activity on your social media. Some watches also allow responding to emails and texts straight from the watches interface. If anything, it’s extremely convenient. Just make sure to bring your phone along with you. Yeah, you must be in the thirty feet zone to lock with Bluetooth.

 

Ability to Download Additional Apps & Widgets onto the Watch

Apps are basically add-ons or extensions to the functionality of the watch (which tend to be gimmicky, but some are really useful). Widgets are more or less the apps you download, set up on your home screen for viewing things such as calendar data at a glance.

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-Sony-Smartwatch-Apps

If you have a smartphone, chances are you are familiar with these apps and widgets. Some practical apps include (not all watches have the same apps) activity tracker programs, messaging applications, email manager, watch face customization, music management and much, much more.

 

Built-In Heart Rate Sensor / Ability to Utilize External HR Sensor

Quite a few GPS watches incorporate heart rate monitors, while others just include the software, but not the hardware. Some GPS watches that don’t include HR monitors even have versions that do, such as the TomTom Spark 3 (which does not) and the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio version (Which does).

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-epson-runsense-gps-watch-with-hR-monitor

HR monitoring has nothing to do with the GPS functionality of a smartwatch, but it does have a lot to do with running watches in general. A lot of runners (if not most) like to track these types of things. It’s extremely convenient for runners or any athlete in general if the HR monitor is built into the watch. But, it’s not a slap on the wrist to the development team when they don’t build one into the watch. It’s not the most important factor, but it is handy.

Not every runner would use the function, especially those only looking for optimal GPS performance. For those who choose a watch that does not have an HR monitor built in, you’re not out of luck. Most smartwatches can link via Bluetooth to external hardware, including wrist-based HR monitors and chest strap HR monitors.

 

Customizable Interface/Display (personalization)

Best-Gps-Running-Watches-customization

Some displays are set in stone, while others allow you to chance the look or move things around to your liking. This means you can change the display on the front screen, move the most important widgets or apps to the front, or display one large widget, maybe even one of your favorite photos. Whatever your preferences are, a customizable screen will let you maximize your experience with the device. The good thing is, most if not all GPS smartwatches allow this.

 

Tracked Metrics & Analytics

Most GPS watches, if not all, don’t only track geographic data. This is especially true for those made for sports, activities, and workouts. GPS watches, of course, monitor your global position, and can send you data on it. Such data includes a breadcrumb display map of the route your traveled, the distance, speed at which you traveled and so forth.

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-data-tracking-and-analysis

But, alongside this, they are also able to accurately approximate the amount of calories burnt and such data according to these measurements. As also mentioned before, some watches include HR (Heart Rate) monitoring capabilities. Some have the hardware to pick up your heart rate built in, and some allow for linking to a chest strap, which then transmits to the watch and saves into a profile of your current activity.  Other metrics able to be tracked (depending on the watch) are elevation gain, steps taken

Other metrics able to be tracked (depending on the watch) are elevation gain, steps taken, total floors or stairs climbed, and how long you’re idle, or stationary during the workout. It’s crazy in a way that these watches (some) will even notify you haven’t moved in an hour or so. This means it’s time to get active again. The amount of technology being packed into these devices is insane, and they’re only getting more advanced.

Other metrics tracked can be:

  • Total minutes active in workout session
  • Time Elapsed for the workout session
  • Data revolving around your sleep pattern
  • Comparisons of active time vs non-active time during the day
  • and much more

 

Real-Time Tracking & Data Display

The more notable watches that offer Real Time tracking include models from Suunto and Garmin. There are many others that offer RT features, but these two brands have arguably the most pronounced system in this case. Suunto has what they dubbed “Adventure Proof” GPS watches. This can mean a lot of things, and it does. But, all other aspects aside, it includes real-time altitude tracking as seen on the Ambit 3 Peak. For runner’s participating in triathlons, they offer a cadence accessory to track the frequency of your pedaling in real-time. Heart rate monitoring and consumption of calories in real time, no problem.

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-suunto-traverse-breadcrumb-trail

Suunto

One of the greatest features of Suunto watches (the feature that makes them stand out) is their route nav breadcrumb system. This features displays a map directly on the interface of the watch, showing a breadcrumb trail of where you have come from to where you are. Some other watches have similar features, but Suunto seems to hit the nail on the head. Note: Not all Suunto watches include this feature.

Some great Suunto Models that offer effective RT capabilities for runners & athletes

  • Ambit Peak Series
  • Quest Series
  • M Series
  • Traverse Series (Most notable model for Breadcrumb Display)
  • and many more

Garmin

Garmin offers something very unique in their LiveTrack feature. With a mobile device that has the Garmin Connect app, anyone can follow along with your session, live! So, if a loved one is overly worried every time you go on your trail run through the woods, or just wants to follow along with you on race day, they have the ability to track you every step of the way. Do you have fans? They can too! LiveTrack is a subscription service but free if you pair the Garmin Connect app with Garmin’s Forerunner or Edge model’s. Aside from being able to track your location, fans and loved ones can also see real-time data such as your speed, distance ran, elapsed time and heart rate.

Notable Garmin GPS watch models that offer LiveTrack for runners

  • Forerunner Series
  • Edge Series devices (will need wrist strap attachment)

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-garmin-connect-LiveTrack

Now, as mentioned; quite a bit of other GPS watches include real-time data display (to one degree or another), and these watches can also be found on our list, but the above outline those we think performed best in this field. There are almost too many options out there that offer real-time analysis of overall performance. Technology is only becoming more advanced. It’s great.

 

Music Storage & Playback

Some watches such as the TomTom Spark Cardio offer music storage and playback. There are many other models that come with music playback features, and for runner’s that just can’t go without their music, this is a great inclusion. Sync your Bluetooth headphones, set the tunes and go!

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-music-playback-and-storage-on-the-TomTom-Runner-3-Watch

Some additional (great) GPS watch models with music playback and storage options

  • Spark Series from TomTom (2gb Device Storage)
  • 360 Sport Series by Motorola (4gb Device Storage)
  • Smartwatch Series by Sony (4gb Device Storage)
  • Ironman One Series by Timex (4gb Device Storage)
  • Gear Series by Samsung (4gb Device Storage)
  • Runner Series by TomTom (2gb Device Storage)

Note: Don’t expect a headphone jack on these GPS watches. You will need a set of “Bluetooth” headphones.

 

Water Resistant / Shock Resistant

Imagine being on a run and mother nature decides to rain on your parade. Not fun, right? Sometimes your race event may fall on a rainy day, but you still want to run it. Maybe you’re prone to spilling drinks and don’t want to risk your expensive gadget at the table with your post run meal. Whatever the instance, GPS watch companies have caught onto the important of protecting these costly little gadgets and accommodate for such situations. Triathletes?

Best-GPS-Running-Watches-waterproof-water-resistant

I know I’ve been caught out in the rain on my runs plenty of times. Waterproofing is an important aspect of a GPS watch made for running, and almost important is its durability. Most GPS watches are also shock resistant. Not that you will be dropping it if it’s strapped to your wrist. But, if you do happen to bump it into external objects (a couple thousand times), you can be sure it won’t fall apart on you. As a matter of fact, no GPS watch I’ve owned has ever been damaged due to impact. Yet I’ve damaged more than a few phones trying to carry them along with me on my runs (before investing in a good watch that is).

 

Battery Life

One hundred hours of battery life, how about that? Well, the best and most powerful watches may not boast this feat just yet, they still put an emphasis on battery life. Most of the best GPS watches (when tracking and GPS is active) last from 10 to 20 hours and that seems to be sufficient for runners. It’s very important to us that all watches last enough to satisfy any run session. As long as you don’t take the dive, and head out with one bar, any recommendations from us will hit the average mark for battery life.

Best-Gps-Running-Watches-dead-battery-smart-watch

It’s important to note that, when certain functions are turned off on the watch, or activity tracking isn’t being used, battery life can spike. Some watches will hit the 50-hour battery life mark when tracking or extra features aren’t enabled.

About that 100-hour battery life; well, it’s not unheard of. Suunto’s Traverse series offers just that (or claims to). Wow, right? Time to hit some ultra marathons now!

Note: Make sure you check the settings and modes on your watch to see how you can extend the battery life. Sometimes there will be functions enabled that you don’t use which will drain the batteries life unnecessarily.

 

 FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What’s the difference between GPS and Glonass?

A: The purpose is the same. In short, Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System) is Russia’s Global Positioning System. The biggest noted difference between the two (other than the countries that built the systems) is that Glonass is managed by approximately 25 satellites, and GPS by approx. 30. There have been no significant differences recorded in speed or connection to the devices they service. Go ahead with either, you won’t notice any difference. Usually, you can switch back and forth via the settings on the watch.

Most Significant Differences

  • Glonass – Operated by Russian satellite system
  • GPS – Operated by American satellite system

 

Q: Why use a GPS Watch over a phone with an armband to track runs?

A: With so many activity tracking apps available on phones, the question comes up regularly. The thing is, phones are just bulky. A phone’s weight (4 to 5oz more or less) will certainly be noticed hanging off your arm (on an armband), and bumping up and down is downright annoying. Then, with a phone on your arm strapped close to your shoulder, it’s extremely hard to reach and interact with. You will have to set it and not expect to interact with it until you can remove the band.  A phone’s battery drains much faster. The GPS sensors in phones are generally less powerful. Phones are typically not water-resistant. Phones are not shock resistant or durable.

To Sum it Up

  • A phone weighs much more than a GPS Watch
  • A GPS watch has dedicated (Stronger signal) connectivity
  • GPS watches are non-intrusive
  • Phone require an armband
  • Phones generally bounce up and down on runs
  • If carried, it’s very easy to drop a phone
  • A GPS watch has a much more efficient battery
  • It’s much easier to access the display of a GPS watch than a phone when on the move

 

Q: Why does data sometimes vary from different GPS watches?

A: Global Positioning is very complicated. Satellites determine your position by a method called “Triangulation”.  In this process, data is recorded according to when the GPS signal hits your device and when it was sent from the satellite. Even though this method is generally the same, or similar between different watches, some companies will use slightly variated methods to do this. Because of that, watches from different companies will typically record slightly different information.

Longer distances can also result in discrepancies as malfunctions throughout the time the tracking is enabled will add up, causing a significant change in the end-result. Some watches have more GPS micro malfunctions than others, resulting in a difference in data when compared. Additionally, if a battery saving mode is enabled, the GPS signals accuracy may be hindered. Pausing your device, stopping to take a bathroom break, and many other such distractions to the tracking process can also be a factor that can alter synchronization between two separate GPS watches. Or, maybe you paused your activity and did not start it back up at the same time you started up again.

 

Q: Which GPS Running Watch Should I buy?

A: The simple answer is, the one that has the features you need. In our guide, we listed the most significant features of GPS running watches. Just take a look and compare each to see which would be best for your runs. Our list outlines watches that, across the board, include every single feature listed. You’re sure to find what you need, we guarantee it. If you still need more insight, drop us a line. We will recommend a GPS running watch for you.

If you don’t mind spending some extra bucks and want the highest saturation of features, take a look at the Forerunner 935 by Garmin. It didn’t make ou list as we are still testing it, and there’s a lot for us to analyze with this model.

Another great option that didn’t make our list is ideal for triathletes. It’s the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. Although we haven’t had the chance to get our hands on one to test, this model has gained a ton of praise for its performance.

Honorable Mentions for Casual Runners (Entry Level)

  • Polar M200
  • Garmin Forerunner 35
  • TomTom Spark 2 (Earlier version)

 

 

Q: Are all GPS watches considered Smartwatches? What’s the difference?

A: This depends on who (or which company) you ask. That’s said because the line is fairly blurred. As in, there are “smartwatches” made for running (and similar activities) that use GPS to track progress. Bam, line blurred. This means, the watch is both, but primarily a smartwatch. Although most smartwatches “can” be considered a GPS watch (and most if not all can track workouts& activities), standard GPS watches are not smartwatches.

The thing with smartwatches is, they have a plethora of functionalities, and don’t excel in one. Whereas, a standard GPS sports watches excel in tracking sports and workout related data. Smartwatches are known to be okay for distance tracking and GPS functions (which is why we included them), but if you want an all around activity tracker for anything (everything) other than distance tracking, look into a dedicated GPS watch.

Notifications are a big reason why some prefer smartwatches. Some even allow for interacting and sending messages on the go. A standard GPS watch will not allow this and are typically much bulkier than Smartwatches.

Note: For running and sports-related activities, skip general smart watches like Apple watches, etc. Instead, go with a smartwatch made for sports and fitness.

GPS Smartwatch: Honorable Mentions

  • Fitbit Surge
  • Garmin VivoActive

GPS Watch: Honorable Mentions

  • Garmin Forerunner 230