Every GPS running watch can track pace, distance, calories burned, and routes.
However, the price can range from $200 up to $1000 depending on the features and technologies used for accurate measurements. So how do you pick the best one for you?
When choosing a GPS running watch, it’s important to consider many factors, such as your running style, budget, comfort, and other specific needs for your sport and style.
The best way to choose your running watch is by first understanding what you want or need to be tracked and then looking for features to improve your performance
What to Consider Before You Buy
There are 5 major considerations when buying a running watch to fit your needs:
- Sport-specific data
There is a wide range of GPS watches that can cover every need. However, the budget is what ties everything together. So you might have to consider dropping a feature, like longer batteries, to fit a watch into your wallet.
But before you decide which to pick or drop, you first have to know the most important features a GPS running watch has to offer and understand what they do. So let’s dive into the most important features to consider before you decide to purchase a GPS running watch.
GPS sensors are at the heart of almost every feature that running watches offer.
The sensors track the distance traveled from one point to another. Then, the watch converts this data into detailed information like laps run, elevation, trajectory, and more. Additionally, the more expensive a model is, the more GPS-related features it’ll have.
Some high-end models offer watches with improved accuracy for tracking your movement with SatIQ technology and multi-band GNSS.
They combine various GPS technologies to give you the most accurate position.
A great mid-range running watch like the Polar Pacer Pro offers turn-by-turn navigation and an accurate GPS system using GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS.
It’s a great pick for runners doing mountain routes or climbing hills because it records elevation and uses GPS to calculate all inclines and declines.
One of the top priorities for GPS running watches is battery life. Since running is mostly done outdoors, and you’re in constant motion, you won’t be able to easily stop and wait for your GPS watch to recharge.
For marathon runners and especially triathletes, battery life might as well be the most important feature due to the sport’s long duration.
Apart from simply using bigger batteries, some brands that offer extended battery life features employ several tricks to make them last longer.
For example, reducing screen brightness, disabling battery-intensive features, or reducing the amount of display information can improve the battery’s life considerably.
A few brands, like Garmin, can even go beyond using a bigger battery or reducing battery consumption. They provide extra battery charge by using solar power to recharge the GPS watch on the go.
If you want the most out of your battery, we recommend the Fenix 7 – solar edition. It offers an impressive 57 hours of battery life in GPS mode, with 16 additional hours through solar power.
Since you’ll be in constant motion while running with your GPS watch, friction will degrade the watch’s material. So it’s important to understand material resilience for durability, particularly if you’re constantly facing bad weather.
The most resilient GPS running watches use silicone, leather, metal, fabric bands, or a combination of all of these. The most durable and flexible GPS watches for regular use are made from high-quality silicone and fabric bands.
High-end models offer additional features to improve durability, like water resistance up to 10 ATM or a sturdy bezel made out of reinforced polymer and stainless steel.
If durability is your main concern, we recommend checking out the Coros Vertix 2. It’s one of the most durable GPS watches on the market.
It has a titanium bezel, a sapphire touchscreen, water-resistant construction (10 ATM), thermal protection, and resistance to impact.
Heart Rate Monitor
Most modern GPS running watch models offer built-in HRM to help you keep track of your pulse in real time. For most intents and purposes, a rough approximation of this value is enough, but it’s worth mentioning that this measurement is not 100% accurate.
If you require accurate tracking, a model with chest strap compatibility is a better option. Tracking accuracy scales with price, however.
Heart rate monitors are often coupled with a training readiness indicator. It gathers data from previous data sessions, your sleep quality, and recovery time to determine your current stamina.
High-end watches can support testing your VO2 max, an indicator that accounts for changes in performance and provides an updated fitness level score.
The best watches also offer respiration tracking to help you understand if you’re running out of breath and how to improve your cardio.
The Garmin Epix (Gen 2) is an excellent example of a watch that includes all these advanced tracking features for runners who want more control over their bodies.
Most entry-level watches offer measurements that can be essential to base runners, like:
- Lap times
- Running length
- Hydration tracking
- Calories burned
The idea of these entry-level watches is to provide clear data to help you optimize your fitness goals through improved planning.
If you need a simple and cheap GPS running watch that covers most daily running needs, try the Garmin Forerunner 55.
Advanced Running Metrics
Marathon runners require many advanced GPS features that go beyond regular daily usage due to the constant exposure to bad weather and long running times.
A great GPS watch for marathon runners must have trackers for:
- Stride length
This particular combination of features helps improve performance by tracking the most efficient routes while avoiding stamina burnout.
Other features that can further improve a marathon runner’s performance are ground contact time and balance, running motion cadence, and running power calculation. These help runners keep the perfect pacing to avoid exhaustion during long runs.
A watch that covers all marathon-aid bases for runners looking to improve their training plan is the Garmin Forerunner 955.
There are many brand-exclusive technologies to help reduce how much you need to think about running and help you focus.
Garmin Coach: Builds personalized coaching plans based on your fitness level and goals.
PacePro: Analyzes pace cadence and consistency.
Trendline: Finds the most popular routes in an area.
Garmin Health Snapshot: Provides detailed fitness and well-being feedback.
The best bang for the buck for exclusive features goes to the Garmin Forerunner 255.
Every watch offers quality-of-life features, but each brand will offer different ones for different price tiers. Some of the best quality-of-life features are:
- Phone notifications
- Music functionality
- Contactless payment
- Screen customization
- Downloadable training plans
These features provide convenience for tasks you will likely perform many times during your day.
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is the perfect example of an affordable GPS watch that offers many of these functions.
There are many features to enhance your workout sessions to maximize gains while lowering the time and energy spent.
Workout stop function: Automatically detects when you stop exercising to avoid inaccurate data for your other trackers.
Workout tracker: Tracks workout sessions in real-time by gathering data like the number of laps or reps.
Load previous routes: Loads a saved route so you don’t have to memorize all of them.
GPS running watches are a must-have for anyone looking to improve their performance, track progress, or care for their health.
By understanding which features are important, you can ensure you make a cost-efficient and informed purchase when looking for your next GPS running watch.
If you want to learn more, visit Running Shoes Guru selection of the best gps running watches today for more tips to improve your training.