Whether you’re a trail runner & cyclist, plus an occasional triathlete, an outdoor enthusiast and avid swimmer, or an indoor runner wanting to more accurately track pace and calories burned, there’s something for you when it comes to GPS Watches.

Below you’ll find quick descriptions of five of the top watches on the market, along with some of the many features, and some at-a-glance comparison points to make your decision easier.

Check out the infographics (click for a larger version):

best running gps watches of 2016

With increased interest in wearable devices, 2016 sees more Running GPS watches than ever. We decided to split the recommendations between recommended usage: for running, outdoor/hiking, fitness tracking, multisport and triathlon. For each category we tried to find the best options at different price points: from the budget to the high-end.

Top GPS Running Watches for 2016

(Click on the name of a watch to read the overview)

Best GPS watches for Running

This is our selection of the best watches if your main goal is to track your running. All the other watches in this overview track running among other things. These 3 focus on doing one thing and doing it to excellence.

  • Budget: TomTom Runner
    For less than $100, a solid no-nonsense GPS watch made for running with great satellite locking capabilities.
    Overview / Price
  • Mid-Range: Garmin ForeRunner 230
    2016 successor of the incredibly popular FR 220, the Garmin FR 230 adds some activity tracking and smartwatch functions (ie notifications) to keep on track with times.
    Overview / Price
  • High-End: Garmin ForeRunner 630
    In our opinion, the absolute best running GPS watch you can buy in 2016 if running is your main use for it. Accurate and reliable, measures an incredible amount of data including cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time.
    Overview / Price

Best Activity Tracker for Running

An activity tracker is meant to be worn 24/7 (yes, even during sleep) to quantify all the aspects of your life. Including running.

  • FitBit Surge
    The FitBit Surge is an activity tracker with added GPS tracking. We believe the FitBit eco-system to be the best for activity tracking (including sleep, calorie intake and expenditure…).
    The running tracking is relatively accurate, but basic.
    Overview / Price

Best GPS Running Watches for MultiSport and Triathlon

These watches can be used to measure other activities such cycling and swimming, making them ideal for multisport athletes.

  • Budget: TomTom Multisport Cardio
    The multisport version of the TomTom Runner, adds (indoor) swimming and cycling tracking. This version includes wrist heart rate monitor.
    Overview / Price
  • Mid-Range: TomTom Spark
    This watch adds a few more “activity tracking” functions to the MultiSport watch. Notable feature: the possibility to store music directly on the watch to be able to run with music without having to carry your phone with you.
    Overview / Price
  • High-End: Suunto Ambit 3 Sport
    One of the absolute best multi-sport watches, with a nod to outdoor activities.
    Overview / Price
  • Absolute best for Triathletes: Garmin ForeRunner 920XT
    If you are a triathlete and want a watch designed specifically for both multisport training and to use on racing day – this is the best.
    Overview / Price

Best GPS Running Watches for Hiking and Outdoor

These watches can be used to measure other activities such cycling and swimming, making them ideal for multisport athletes.

  • Garmin Fenix 3
    Tracking everything from running, swimming (both indoor and open water), cycling, skiing, rock-climbing…
    Overview / Price

Here are more details about each of the GPS watches.

TomTom Runner

TomTom Runner Main
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TomTom Runner At a Glance

The TomTom Runner is our choice for best budget running GPS watch of 2016. Available for less than $100, it features a large and easy to read display in a form factor is suitable for daily use. GPS locking is quite fast, thanks to smart caching capabilities (QuickGPSFix).

Favorite TomTom Runner Features

TomTom Runner Small

The Graphical Training Partner option is quite interesting at this price point: race against yourself, a set goal or training zone.
The indoor tracker allows you to measure your indoor runs on a treadmill.
It is waterproof up to 50 meters.

How the TomTom Runner Compares

Color Options Available: YES, possibility to change straps.

Comes with HRM option: Yes heart rate strap available as separate purchase.

Smart Notification: No

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Garmin ForeRunner 230

Garmin FR230 Main
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Garmin ForeRunner 230 At a Glance

The ForeRunner 230 is the 2016 update to the incredibly popular FR220. Changes to this year’s version include the addition of Smart Notifications and more “activity tracking” abilities.
New addition aside, the 230 is a very good running GPS watch at a very competitive price.

Favorite Garmin ForeRunner 230 Features

Garmin FR230 Small

The display on the FR230 is big, bright and very readable. It is more than 40% larger than the 220, but still maintaining the same overall size. The watch looks nice for everyday wear too.
Improved battery life takes the GPS tracking watch on for more than 16 hours or up to 5 weeks in watch mode.

How the Garmin ForeRunner 230 Compares

Color Options Available: YES.

Comes with HRM option: Yes heart rate strap available as separate purchase OR included as optical wrist reader in the FR 235 version of this watch.

Smart Notification: Yes

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Garmin ForeRunner 630

Garmin FR630 Main
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Garmin ForeRunner 630 At a Glance

The Garmin 630 adds a series of “pro” measurements to your performance. On one side there are advanced dynamics metrics such as cadence, stride length, vertical obscillation etc. On the other side physiological metrics such as stress score and lactate threshold.

Favorite Garmin ForeRunner 630 Features

Garmin FR630 Small

We obviously like all the advanced metrics mentioned above. Knowing things like your stride length and cadence is invaluable for improving your efficiency.
We like the extended connectivity that allows this watch to communicate with a wide range of devices and apps.

How the Garmin ForeRunner 630 Compares

Color Options Available: YES.

Comes with HRM option: Yes heart rate strap available as separate purchase.

Smart Notification: Yes

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FitBit Surge

Fitbit surge Main
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FitBit Surge At a Glance

Activity tracking means keeping track of every single minute of your day. Rather than focusing on accurately measuring the specific activity you are performing, the FitBit Surge is supposed to be worn 24/7 and it will track everything: from your steps, floors, calories, heart rate… I have purchased mine last year and I never take it off aside for charging it.

Favorite FitBit Surge Features

Fitbit surge small

The FitBit is the watch in this list that is most comfortable to wear. It is supposed to be light and unobtrusive – for you to wear every moment of your day, even to bed.
We like the wrist-based heart rate monitor that measures you all day (a great way to keep and eye on your TDEE) and the incredible FitBit ecosystem.

How the FitBit Surge Compares

Color Options Available: YES.

Comes with HRM option: Yes heart rate monitor included at the wrist.

Smart Notification: Yes

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TomTom Multisport Cardio

TomTom Multisport Cardio - large

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TomTom Multisport Cardio at a glance

This versatile watch features an extra-large display, making the transition from running to biking or swimming super easy. Track distance, time, pace, speed, laps, and stroke count with the simple one-button feature, not to mention the built-in heart sensor that eliminates that cumbersome heart strap.

Runners: pace, distance, speed

Cyclists: speed, cadence

Swimmers: number of laps, stroke count, pace

Favorite TomTom Multisport features

TomTom Multisport Cardio - solo Extra-large, easy-to-read screen, with a unique, sporty design to enhance comfort while training.

The one button control makes navigation quick and simple – it’s a no fuss watch.

Heart rate sensing through built-in optical sensor, so there’s no heart strap required.

The TomTom’s cycling bundle is optional, so athletes who already own this type of equipment or don’t need it aren’t paying for unnecessary add-ons.

Interested? For just $100 more, you get a Desk Dock, Bike Mount, Cadence Sensor, and Altimeter.

How does the TomTom Multisport Cardio compares

Color Options Available: YES – Black/Red or White/Red. Switch band colors with TomTom Comfort Strap.

Number of Apps: N/A

Battery Life: up to 26 hours

Data Transfer: USB & Bluetooth (4.0+)

Comes with HRM option: ANT+ compatible, although an optional HRM is not needed with the TomTom Multisport Cardio; it uses a built-in optical sensor to assess heart rate. Note: HRM option not available in swim mode.

Smart Notification: No

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TomTom Spark

tomtom spark main

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TomTom Spark at a glance

An evolution of the TomTom Multisport, the Spark wants to be the only device you need while working out. With the capability of storing approximately 500 songs and sending them through to your bluetooth headphones – you can leave your phone at home. 24h Activity tracking, wrist based heart rate monitor and the option of tracking cycling and swimming too complete the picture for TomTom’s 2016 flagship GPS watch.

Runners: pace, distance, speed

Cyclists: speed, cadence

Swimmers: number of laps, stroke count, pace

Favorite TomTom Spark features

tomtom spark small
We like of course the music storing and playback.

The wrist based HRM seems to be quite accurate, even during running.

TomToms in general pick up GPS rapidly and their tracking is accurate. The Spark is no exception.

How does the TomTom Spark compares

Color Options Available: YES – plenty.

Battery Life: up to 11 hours while using GPS

Data Transfer: USB & Bluetooth (4.0+)

Comes with HRM option: It comes with heart rate already at the wrist, but it is bluetooth compatible so you can pair it with one of the latest straps.

Smart Notification: Yes

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Suunto Ambit 3 Sport

suunto ambit 3 sport main

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Suunto Ambit 3 Sport at a glance

Suunto presents the Ambit 3 in four different versions: the Run, Sports, Peak and the Vertical. The version we recommend for runners/multisport athletes is the Sport version.

The Ambit 3 Sport can definitely be the only sport watch you need – and it might be even too much for most people. It shines while paired with the Suunto Movescount app.

Favorite Suunto Ambit 3 features

suunto ambit 3 sport small

Extremely high battery life with GPS on: 25 hours.

Ability to measure HRM in water during swimming.

GPS navigation routes.

Extended possibilities through customization within the app.

How does the Suunto Ambit 3 Sport compares

Color Options Available: YES.

Battery Life: up to 25 hours while using GPS

Data Transfer: USB & Bluetooth (4.0+)

Comes with HRM option: Yes.

Smart Notification: Yes

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Garmin ForeRunner 920XT

garmin 920xt main

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Garmin ForeRunner 920XT At a Glance

The FR 920 XT is our choice for serious tri-athletes. It combines the best running/cycling/swimming measurements with a competition oriented way of tracking.

Running: includes all the advanced dynamics metrics such as VO2 max estimation, oscillation, cadence, stride lenght…

Swimming: stroke count, distance, pace, rest timers.

Cycling: compatible with speed and cadence sensors to really measure your cycling efforts and progresses.

Favorite Garmin 920 XT features

garmin 920xt small

Extreme connectivity options with a wealth of devices to measure your run/cycle/swimming performance

Advanced dynamics measurements

Possibility of tracking a triathlon race as a single, multi-sport event (as opposed to 3 separate activities).

How does the ForeRunner 920 XT compares

Color Options Available: YES.

Battery Life: up to 40 hours while using GPS, 4 months in watch mode

Data Transfer: USB & Bluetooth (4.0+)

Comes with HRM option: Yes.

Smart Notification: Yes

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Garmin Fenix 3

garmin fenix 3 main

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Garmin Fenix 3 At a Glance

The Fenix 3 is the king of multi-sport watches, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts that do every kind of activity and want to be able to track each properly. In addition to the classic run/swim/bike tracking, with all the functions of the 920Xt, the Fenix 3 allows you to track for example: XC Skiing, Ski/Snowboard, Climb, indoor run/bike/swim, open water swim and hiking.

Favorite Fenix 3 Features

garmin fenix 3 small

We like the classy look of the Fenix 3 (with custom watch faces downloadable from the Garmin app) and the extensive tracking capabilities. This is truly one watch to rule them all.

How does the Fenix 3 compares

Color Options Available: YES.

Battery Life: up to 20 hours while using GPS, 6 weeks in watch mode

Data Transfer: USB & Bluetooth (4.0+)

Comes with HRM option: Yes.

Smart Notification: Yes.

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Here below our list for 2015 - you should be able to snatch these at incredibly low prices, if still available. Check them out!

Top 5 GPS Running Watches 2015

(click on any of these names to jump to the details)

  • Suunto Ambit2
  • A multisport watch, it’s recommended to triathletes for its ability to track running, biking and swimming.

  • TomTom Multisport
  • Another multisport watch – at an affordable price includes a wrist based heart-rate monitor. That means you don’t have to wear a chest strap.

  • Garmin Fenix2 Multisport
  • The Fenix is the swiss-army knife of running watches. It includes navigation features (waypoints, plan your route, “take me back home” function) and has a very rugged construction to support any kind of abuse.

  • Garmin ForeRuner 15
  • A very basic GPS watch at a very interesting price. You can just use it as a daily watch with a 5 weeks battery when used for time keeping and 8 hours of GPS use.

  • Garmin ForeRunner 220
  • Considered by many the “Goldilocks” of running watches, it has a very accurate and fast-locking GPS – easy to use and compatible with many running apps (ie Strava)

Suunto Ambit2 S

Suunto Ambit2 S - group
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Suunto Ambit2 S At a Glance

The Ambit2S is a smart, easy-to-use multi-sport integrated GPS ANT+ compatible watch that transitions easily from swimming to biking to running, making it an awesome choice for triathletes or runners looking to branch into other sports.

Runners: Track distance, pace, and speed.

Cyclists: Track bike power, speed, cadence,

Swimmers: Track the number of laps (manual and auto), stroke count, and pace

Favorite Suunto Ambit2 S Features

Suunto Ambit2 S - soloJPG This watch has a large round display with a design that can pass as an everyday watch when you aren’t using it for training.
Ambit2S can be programmed to pause when you break, an invaluable feature for city athletes who run into a lot of red lights.

Ambit2S also connects to Movescount.com with awesome performance enhancing features such as post-workout analysis & comparison charts, bike power distribution and a table to track swim strokes, paces, and duration.

How the Suunto Ambit2 S Compares

Color Options Available: YES (Red, Lime, White, Graphite)

Number of Apps Included: currently up to 50 pre-configured apps come with this watch.

Comes with HRM option: Yes

Smart Notification: No

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TomTom Multisport Cardio

TomTom Multisport Cardio - large

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TomTom Multisport Cardio at a glance

This versatile watch features an extra-large display, making the transition from running to biking or swimming super easy. Track distance, time, pace, speed, laps, and stroke count with the simple one-button feature, not to mention the built-in heart sensor that eliminates that cumbersome heart strap.

Runners: pace, distance, speed

Cyclists: speed, cadence

Swimmers: number of laps, stroke count, pace

Favorite TomTom Multisport features

TomTom Multisport Cardio - solo Extra-large, easy-to-read screen, with a unique, sporty design to enhance comfort while training.

The one button control makes navigation quick and simple – it’s a no fuss watch.

Heart rate sensing through built-in optical sensor, so there’s no heart strap required.

The TomTom’s cycling bundle is optional, so athletes who already own this type of equipment or don’t need it aren’t paying for unnecessary add-ons.

Interested? For just $100 more, you get a Desk Dock, Bike Mount, Cadence Sensor, and Altimeter.

How does the TomTom Multisport Cardio compares

Color Options Available: YES – Black/Red or White/Red. Switch band colors with TomTom Comfort Strap.

Number of Apps: N/A

Battery Life: up to 26 hours

Data Transfer: USB & Bluetooth (4.0+)

Comes with HRM option: ANT+ compatible, although an optional HRM is not needed with the TomTom Multisport Cardio; it uses a built-in optical sensor to assess heart rate. Note: HRM option not available in swim mode.

Smart Notification: No

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Garmin Fenix2 MultiSport Watch

Garmin Fenix2 - large

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Garmin Fenix 2 at a Glance

With all the Fenix2’s features, it’s safe to say this GPS watch may just be the only watch you ever need.

Runners: pace, distance, cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time and recovery advisor.

Cyclists: speed, cadence, power meter support

Swimmers: Indoor and outdoor stroke count, indoor lap count, distance and time

Other Modes: Ski, Rock Climbing, Fitness, and Trail Running.

Favorite Garmin Fenix 2 features

Garmin Fenix2 - solo

If you’re okay with its edgier, more rugged design, the Fenix2 is designed to function as an everyday watch, displaying features such as the date, battery level, sunrise and sunset time, moon phases, and even a world clock. Also comes with alarms, tones, timers, and a stopwatch feature.

Awesome additional running dynamics include cadence, ground contact time and recovery advisor, plus the added benefit of a virtual running partner.

Built-in temperature sensor, altimeter, barometer and compass for outdoor enthusiasts.

How does the Fenix 2 compares

Color Options Available: Yes – Black and Special Edition Red (Red strap with Black Face)

Number of Apps: N/A

Battery Life: 16 hours

Data Transfer: Bluetooth & USB

Comes with HRM option: Yes

Smart Notification: Yes – receive email and text alerts.

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Garmin Forerunner 15

Garmin Forerunner 15 - large

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Garmin Forerunner 15 at a glance

If you’re an outdoor runner looking to track your distance, pace and even calories or just your daily activity when you aren’t running, this is a great GPS watch at a very affordable price.

Runners: outdoor distance, pace, calories and daily steps (activity tracking can be turned on or off)

Favorite Garmin FR15 features

Garmin Forerunner 15 - soloTrack how many steps you’re taking and calories you’re burning throughout the day, making the FR15 a GPS Watch as well as an activity monitor.

We love all the fun color choices – there’s something for everyone, including pastels.

The FR15 alerts you when you have achieved a personal record, just one more way to stay encouraged in your journey.

Access to Garmin Connect, plus compatible with third party apps like Strava.

How the Forerunner 15 compares

Color Options Available: Yes – Black/Blue, Black/Green, Black/Red, Teal/White, Violet/White
Number of Apps: Garmin Connect, plus compatible with third party apps like Strava.

Battery Life: 8 hours

Data Transfer: USB

Comes with HRM option: Yes

Smart Notification: No.

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Garmin Forerunner 220

Garmin Forerunner 220 - large

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Garmin Forerunner 220 at a glance

The Garmin Forerunner 220 is popular with runners for all the right reasons: it’s easy to use, incredibly lightweight, and like the FR15, there’s no complicated bells and whistles.

The FR220 features a built-in accelerometer, so you can take this watch indoors on those unexpected rainy days that have us tied to the treadmill.

Garmin Forerunner 220 favorite features

The crystal clear high res color display makes reading your metrics super easy.

Fully customizable display, so you can see features like lap pace, time, and distance, heart rate zone, calories burned, etc.

Great price for all the features you’re getting. Hey, why pay for extra features if you know you’ll most likely never going to use them?

Use Garmin Connect to create unique workouts or Garmin’s default training plans.

How the Garmin FR220 compares

Color Options Available: Yes – Red/Black & White/Violet

Number of Apps: Garmin Connect, plus compatible with third party apps like Strava.

Battery Life: 10 hours

Data Transfer: USB, Ant+, Bluetooth

Comes with HRM option: Yes

Smart Notification: No.

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