Before the rapid growth of technology, runners used paper maps and charts to plan their route. If the trail was a relatively new one, they had no way of tracking their progress or pinpointing their location. But as technology progressed, gadgets like a GPS watch for runners quickly became available. These watches completely redefined the running experience and even encouraged more people to take up this healthy habit.
In this article, we have prepared a list of the finest GPS watches, and we’ve explained their main features, price range, advantages, and disadvantages. Look at the list to discover the best GPS watch for runners that your money can buy.
image source: Pixabay
Before we delve into the best GPS watch for runners, let us first look at the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about GPS watches.
A GPS watch is essentially a smartwatch that is equipped with several sport-specific features that track the progress of the user. Apart from having a GPS module to help pinpoint the location, a GPS watch also contains other sensors such as altimeters, barometers, and gyroscopes. These sensors work in tandem and provide the user with comprehensive data on their workout.
Apart from the obvious advantage of navigation, a GPS watch for runners also provides in-depth running metrics such as the time taken to complete a session, the number of strides, and the average speed, among others. Some GPS watches also come with the ability to stream music, make payments via NFC, and access and display smartphone notifications.
Some factors you should consider before picking up the best GPS watch for runners are the GPS and navigation capabilities, the purpose of the watch, the design and build quality, the level of waterproofing, the user experience, and the price. Besides the above, another factor you may consider is whether the watch has a heart rate sensor.
You can get the best GPS watch for runners from online marketplaces such as Amazon, Best Buy, Gear Best, and Walmart, among others. You could also visit the manufacturers’ websites and check out their entire range of GPS watches to identify the one that suits you best. Alternatively, you could visit your nearest consumer electronics store to get a completely hands-on experience of the watch before you purchase one.
image source: Pixabay
Besides conducting extensive research on the internet, we also got in touch with several athletes, fitness experts, and running enthusiasts to come up with a list of the best GPS watch for runners. Once the list was made, we reviewed each product based on its features, pros and cons, price, and warranty. Then, we compared each GPS watch with the others in the list to arrive at an unbiased and fair verdict on the best GPS watch for runners.
The typical price range of the best GPS watch for runners starts as low as around $80 and go to around $800. The price primarily depends on the features, display, build quality and brand. GPS watches on the lower end of the range typically lack many useful features such as a heart rate sensor, music streaming, and the ability to record advanced performance metrics. More expensive GPS watches usually come packed with these features as standard options and also include other more niche features like NFC payments and smart notifications.
- Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit
- TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch
- Apple Watch Nike+ Sportwatch
- Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Running Watch
- Timex Ironman GPS Silicone Strap Watch
- Polar M600 Sports Smart Watch
- Garmin Forerunner 735XT
- SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit
- Garmin fēnix 5 Plus Multisport GPS Smartwatch
Sale Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)
- Premium GPS running/triathlon watch with wrist based heart rate; Strap material: Silicone; Smartphone compatibility: iPhone, Android, Windows; Designed for sale and support in North America only
- Offers advanced running and multisport Features in a comfortable watch you can wear all day, and it only weighs 49 grams
- Provides elevation changes with a built in barometer; altimeter and electronic compass help you keep your bearings
Featuring a chronographic watch design with a round watch face, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is the ideal watch for runners and triathlon athletes. Weighing just 49 grams, the watch is lightweight and can be worn comfortably for extended periods. It’s also equipped with a wide range of built-in sensors like a barometer, an altimeter, and an electronic compass. It records and displays vital data regarding your run. Apart from monitoring your performance, the Forerunner 935 also analyzes your technique by using data like cadence, stride length, ground contact time, balance, and vertical oscillation.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 can be found on Amazon for around $$ to $$.
Garmin offers a one-year limited warranty on the Garmin Forerunner 935.
- Excellent battery life
- Records and displays a lot of information
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Great build quality and design
- Lacks music-playing capabilities
- Huge screen bezel
Equipped with a large, high-contrast display, the TomTom Multi-Sport GPS watch displays detailed metrics such as time, distance, and pace. Unlike other GPS watches for runners, the TomTom ditches the buttons on the side for a clean and minimalistic design. The watch uses just a single button positioned below the display for navigating through the user interface. The TomTom Multi-Sport also intuitively uses the large screen by incorporating full-screen graphics for tracking your performance. Equipped with both GPS and GLONASS technologies, the watch locks on to GPS satellites quickly and provides accurate location tracking.
The TomTom Multi-Sport GPS watch can be found on Amazon for around $ to $.
TomTom offers a one-year warranty on the TomTom Multi-Sport GPS watch.
- Simple and easy-to-understand interface
- 10-hour battery life on GPS mode
- Large display
- Very accurate
- Switching between activities is inconvenient
- Lacks a built-in heart rate monitor
Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom (Anthracite/Blue Glow)
- Water resistant Nike+ SportWatch features TomTom GPS for accurate speed and distance information, indoors or out–even if the GPS signal gets interrupted
- Track your time, distance, pace or speed, beats per minute (BPM) heart rate (with optional HRM sensor sold separately by Polar), and calories burned; view your mapped route with pace data/changes in elevation on Nikeplus.com
- Track NikeFuel on Nikeplus.com after every run; Time/Date set feature
Available in an attractive silver aluminum case, the Apple Watch Nike+ edition comes in both 40mm and 44mm case sizes. In addition to the standard GPS module, the watch also has optional cellular connectivity that lets you stream music and connect to the internet directly without the iPhone. The Nike+ edition also incorporates GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS satellite systems to provide highly accurate navigation. With a combination of both optical and electrical sensors, the watch delivers quick and precise heart rate measurements.
The Apple Watch Nike+ Sportwatch can be found online for around $$ to $$$ depending on the case size and connectivity options.
Apple offers a one-year limited warranty on the Apple Watch Nike+ Sportwatch.
- Exceptional build quality and design
- Highly accurate GPS data
- Tons of functions
- GPS drains the battery quickly
- Slightly more expensive
Garmin Forerunner 235, GPS Running Watch, Black/Gray
- GPS running watch with wrist based heart rate and display type is sunlight visible, transflective memory in pixel (MIP)
- Customize your watch and your training, larger screen a 44 percentage larger screen than the 225 but the same physical size
- Audio Prompts: Receive Audio Prompts from your connected smartphone that include laps and lap times. Smartwatch mode: Up to 9 days. Gps mode: Up to 11 hours
Similar to the Forerunner 935, the Garmin Forerunner 235 also features a round watch face design that resembles that of a traditional watch. Equipped with Elevate Wrist Heart Rate technology, the 235 measures your heart rate constantly, eliminating the need to pair the watch with a chest heart rate sensor. And apart from tracking running metrics, the watch also keeps track of the number of steps, distance walked, calories burnt, and hours of sleep. All the data recorded by the watch is automatically uploaded to the cloud via the Garmin Connect feature.
The Garmin Forerunner 235 can be found on Amazon for around $.
Garmin offers a one-year limited warranty on the Garmin Forerunner 235.
- Lightweight design
- Smart notifications and social media sharing
- Average build quality
- Suffers from occasional syncing issues
Featuring barebones-yet-rugged design, the Timex Ironman has one of the simplest interfaces among the best GPS watches for runners. The watch comes with a black and white high-contrast display that makes it easy to view irrespective of the ambient light. With up to 50 meters of water resistance, the watch can be worn even in the rain. A built-in vibration motor in the watch allows you to set customizable vibrating alarms besides hydration and pace alarms.
The Timex Ironman GPS watch can be found on Amazon for around $ to $.
Timex offers a one-year warranty on the Timex Ironman GPS watch.
- Very affordable
- Tracks and records important running statistics
- Can upload data to third-party apps
- Great battery life
- Lacks wireless capabilities
- Has comparatively fewer features
Polar M600 Sports Smart Watch
- Wrist heart rate monitor: accurate wrist-based heart rate monitor with personalized training guidance to reach your fitness goals
- GPS watch: built-in GPS Technology keeps track of your pace, distance and altitude
- Waterproof fitness tracker: customize your M600 activity tracker to fit your style with interchangeable, waterproof wristbands
Featuring a unique square-design watch face, the Polar M600 comes with interchangeable wristbands and water resistance. Equipped with a sharp 240×240 pixel resolution color display, the M600 offers full support to the Android Wear ecosystem. This lets you view notifications, social media, weather, calendar, and maps directly on the watch display. The device even supports compatible third-party apps via the Google Play Store. With up to 4 gigabytes of internal storage, you can also store music locally on the device without having to stream it.
The Polar M600 Sports smartwatch can be found on Amazon for around $ to $$ depending on the color scheme.
Polar offers a two-year warranty on the Polar M600 Sports smartwatch.
- IPX8 waterproof certification
- Supports third-party apps
- Accurate GPS and heart rate tracking
- Great smartwatch functionality
- Silicone strap gets dirty quickly
- Slightly heavier build
Sale Garmin Forerunner 735XT, Multisport GPS Running Watch With Heart Rate, Black/Gray
- GPS running watch with multisport features
- Estimates heart rate at the wrist so you can run freer on race day.Shock resistant. Battery life : Smartwatch Mode Up to 11 days. GPS mode Up to 14 hours. UltraTrac mode Up to 24 hours without wrist heart rate
- Provides advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming7, including ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more (when paired with a Running Dynamics Pod, HRM Run or HRM Tri Monitor, sold separately)
Sporting a design that’s like the Forerunner 235, the Garmin Forerunner 735XT comes with plenty of activity profiles to help you keep track of multiple sports and activities. The watch records and displays essential running information such as ground contact time, balance, stride length, cadence, and vertical ratio. This allows you to check and improve upon your running form. Similar to other Garmin GPS watches, the Forerunner 735XT also supports Garmin Connect for wirelessly uploading data and metrics to the cloud.
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT can be found on Amazon for around $$$.
Garmin offers a one-year limited warranty on the Garmin Forerunner 735XT.
- Strong battery life
- Supports Strava integration
- Lightweight design
- Supports multiple activities
- Lacks an altimeter
- Average build quality
Sale Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Monitor Running GPS Unit, Black
- SUUNTO Ambit3 peak delivers stable and accurate altitude and weather information with full navigation in a robust casting
- Includes built in altimeter, barometer, compass and GPS with 100 meter water resistance
- One of the most competitive battery hours in the market, 200 hours with 1 minute accuracy. Case material: Polyamide
Featuring a rugged chronographic watch design, the Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR is made for explorers and for people who like to traverse off-beat trails. Unlike other GPS watches, the Ambit3 comes with a host of sensors like an altimeter, barometer, compass, and GPS, along with up to 100 meters of water resistance. By pairing the watch with your smartphone, you can not only sync your data but also get notifications and calls right on your watch. The Ambit3 Peak HR is also equipped with a battery life of up to around 200 hours.
The Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR can be found on Amazon for around $$ to $$$ depending on the color scheme.
Suunto offers a two-year warranty on the Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR.
- Accurate GPS tracking
- Simple and easy to use
- Stylish design
- Ultra-long battery life
- Bulky and heavy
- Lacks a built-in heart rate sensor
Crafted from premium materials, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is a highly customizable GPS watch for runners that comes in multiple case sizes and color schemes. Equipped with Garmin Pay, the Garmin Fenix 5 plus uses NFC technology to enable you to make contactless payments. The watch also uses multiple sensors and satellites to provide accurate and precise location data and navigation. And with up to 16 gigabytes of internal storage, you can even store up to 500 songs and more, or stream your music straight from Spotify via the app.
The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus can be found on Amazon for around $$$ to $$$ depending on the color scheme.
Garmin offers a one-year limited warranty on the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus.
- Exceptional design and build quality
- Supports tons of multi-sport features
- Features full-color TOPO maps
- Accurate GPS
Based on our review, the Apple Watch Nike+ Sportwatch comes out as the best GPS watch for runners. Powered by Apple’s watch OS, there is little that this device cannot do. With a build quality that’s unparalleled, the watch sports a magnificent display that goes up to 1000 nits in brightness. The Apple Watch also features highly accurate GPS and navigational data and comes with the ability to both store music locally and stream from online music services. It also supports a wide range of third-party apps.
The only major drawback to this otherwise wonderful GPS watch is the inability to use it with Android smartphones. So, if you’re looking for the best GPS watch for runners that is also Android-compatible, then the Garmin Forerunner 935 and the Garmin Forerunner 235 are some of the finest options available.
Last update on 2021-03-19 at 09:56 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API