Home Guides Best GPS Running Watches
Updated: November 2nd, 2023
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For beginners

For beginners

For beginners

Garmin Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55
Entry-level in the Forerunner line, it will give you all the data you need. It also includes training programs!
Entry-level in the Forerunner line, it will give you all the data you need. It also includes training programs! Read full review
Olivia Yoder
Ultrarunner, personal trainer and soccer coach.

best for most

best for most

best for most
Louise Wilkes
Sports injury professional, coach and blind-guide runner

triathlon

triathlon

triathlon

Polar Vantage V2

Polar Vantage V2
Without many bells and whistles but with the ability to track multi-sport events. It also looks great.
Without many bells and whistles but with the ability to track multi-sport events. It also looks great. Read full review
Brandon Law
Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert

active lifestyle

active lifestyle

active lifestyle

Garmin VivoActive 4

Garmin VivoActive 4
With many of the features of the 245 but in a more stylish package with touchscreen - great companion for an active lifestyle (not only running)
With many of the features of the 245 but in a more stylish package with touchscreen - great companion for an active lifestyle (not only running) Read full review
Frank May
Fast Runner, Triathlete and Engineer

best of the best

best of the best

best of the best

Garmin Fenix 6

Garmin Fenix 6
For adventurers, ironmen (and women), hikers... this is the best Garmin has to offer.
For adventurers, ironmen (and women), hikers... this is the best Garmin has to offer. Read full review
Frank May
Fast Runner, Triathlete and Engineer

Whether you’re a trail runner or 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 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.

Top GPS Running Watches: an Overview

First choice
Battery life
20 hrs.
List price
199.99 US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to read and use stats
  • Suggests workouts and recovery time
“This watch is a fantastic choice for the new or intermediate runner. It's a GPS running watch. Not only does it track your mileage but it also becomes a personal trainer that helps you complete various workouts that Garmin provides. ”
Olivia Yoder
Ultrarunner, personal trainer and soccer coach.
Read the full review of Forerunner 55
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
17 hrs.
List price
US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Looks
  • Clarity of the screen
  • Optical wrist heart rate monitor
  • Good battery life
  • Info on quality of sleep
“The new sports watch from Polar is great looking and should be fine for every regular runner. It comes in at a decent price and includes a lot of options. Next to the general functions such as GPS, speed, pace and a wrist heart rate monitor it is an activity tracker, it calculates the VO2max, has a color screen and connected to your watch it shows notifications. Additionally, it is measuring your nightly recharge and recommends how to train based on these recovery results. However, it has a lot...”
Gerton Maurix
Running Expert
Read the full review of Ignite
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
24 hrs.
List price
US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Physical buttons
  • Battery life
  • Personalised training programs by Garmin
  • Music (streaming and on the watch itself)
  • WiFi
“The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a great watch for all runners. It has many options that are normally only available on the high-end devices, so it covers the need for a wide range of users at a decent price point. The general functions measure oxygen saturation, navigation, connect to your phone, incident detection, and shows messages coming in.”
Gerton Maurix
Running Expert
Read the full review of ForeRunner 245 Music
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
30 hrs.
List price
US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Great value for money
  • Reliable GPS and heart rate measurements
  • Battery life
“The Polar Vantage M is an absolute treasure at this price point - you won't find many options you find in other watches (personalisation, smart functions, music...) but if sports tracking is what you are after, it's a great buy.”
Ruggero Loda
Founder and Publisher, Running Shoes Guru
Read the full review of Vantage M
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
18 hrs.
List price
329.99 US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Sleek and subdued design
  • Garmin Pay and Music in the watch
  • Great sensor set (heart rate, pulse ox, etc.)
“Garmin is really making it hard to justify purchasing a new Forerunner of Fenix watch when you can get 90% of the functionality in something for hundreds of dollars less. Garmin is an industry leader in GPS wrist watches and packs this watch full of sensors (GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, Pulse Ox, temp, pressure, etc), yet prices it to compete other similar watches like the Apple Watch Series 5, and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. So why is this not on everyone’s wrists yet, and why am I not giving it...”
Frank May
Fast Runner, Triathlete and Engineer
Read the full review of VivoActive 4
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
10 hrs.
List price
610.98 US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Built in map navigation
  • Garmin Pay and Music in the watch
  • Great sensor set (heart rate, pulse ox, compass, air pressure, etc.)
  • Detailed control of battery life
“Garmin makes quality multisport watches. That’s been true for a while, and was a big reason for the need to spend so much to get the best of the best. But now that cheaper daily activity tracking watches are coming with GPS, heart rate tracking, and other workout monitoring metrics, it’s hard to justify the premium prices of a Garmin fenix. ”
Frank May
Fast Runner, Triathlete and Engineer
Read the full review of Fenix 6
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
22 hrs.
List price
US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Health alerts and goals in the app create strong healthy habits like drinking water.
  • The running data is on par with competitors.
  • AI technology training plans
“The Huawei GT 3 has everything to take a runner from couch to 5k and beyond with AI, it’s a very impressive watch for the small price tag. While I wouldn’t say it was a serious competitor to the high-end Garmin, Coros and Polar watches for example. ”
Louise Wilkes
Sports injury professional, coach and blind-guide runner
Read the full review of GT3
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
20 hrs.
List price
449.99 US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • body battery and stress monitoring with breathing exercises to intervene.
  • so much technology and healthy features in a tiny, light package that looks like a smartwatch – discreet enough to wear every day.
  • Heart rate variability to rein in someone overtraining.
“The Garmin Forerunner 265 packs a lot of features in a tiny package, although it looks cheap, you are paying over $500 for round the clock evaluation of your body. If it can read your heart rate then this watch will take all the guesswork out of training and recovery thanks to its heart rate variability and sleep data all wrapped up and presented to you in a brief morning report. It exceeded expectations with the number of functions it has, however it seems quantity over quality.”
Louise Wilkes
Sports injury professional, coach and blind-guide runner
Read the full review of Forerunner 265
or buy them here: Amazon
Also consider
Battery life
38 hrs.
List price
US$
Check on Amazon  
Reasons to buy
  • Ridiculously lightweight (30g) I have forgot I was wearing it at times.
  • Excellent navigation
  • Doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t.
  • Incredible battery life (24 days continuous daily use)
“The Coros Pace 3 is brilliant for serious runners, whether it be on the trails or road because the navigation is on point for both. It’s a simple watch there’s no bells and whistles, especially when it comes to the graphics, but the features are clearly quality over quantity – amazing battery life, fast drying straps, sensationally light weight and well designed, it’s a unique watch.”
Louise Wilkes
Sports injury professional, coach and blind-guide runner
Read the full review of Coros Pace 3
or buy them here: Amazon

GPS watches have come a long way since their inception. Forget heavy, brick-like, slow-to-find-satellite watches – today’s GPS watches are sleek, accurate, and come packed with features to enhance your training.

While Garmin has been the industry leader for over a decade, new GPS watches from established companies such as Magellan, TomTom, Timex, and Polar have entered the market. GPS watches made today come in a wide range of prices and styles, and are often designed for specific types of athletes.

With so many choices available, it’s important to consider certain factors when selecting a GPS watch. Intended use, the style of watch, and how much you are willing to spend should be determined prior to selecting a GPS watch. From this, you can choose the features that will be most beneficial to you.

Intended Use

Almost anything done outside can be monitored with a GPS watch. Running, cycling, skiing, hiking, even walking your dog, can be tracked.

While GPS watches are primarily made for runners, there are specific features found on some watches useful for cyclists, triathletes, and hikers. When shopping for a GPS watch, it’s important to determine what you plan to do with your watch to ensure it comes with features beneficial to that activity.

Additionally, you will want to consider your skill level. Higher-end GPS watches come with advanced features designed for experienced athletes. For example, Garmin’s new Forerunner 645 tracks heart rate and foot cadence; it can determine your VO2 Max; and can be programmed with interval or advanced workouts. If you are a beginner or intermediate runner, you may be better off with a more basic watch.

Watch Style

Just a few years ago, most GPS watches were big, bulky, and heavy. But current models, while still large, have shrunk considerably.

But on the other end of the spectrum, brick-style watches, reminiscent of early GPS watches, still exist. Their advantage is screen size. While you wouldn’t want to wear one to your best friend’s wedding, these watches can display lots of data (the Magellan Switch and Switch Up display 6 fields per screen), making it easy to view important training metrics.

Price

At their core, all GPS watches track time, distance, and pace. But as price rises, the number of features increases.

While it varies watch by watch, these are the main differences between budget, mid-range, and high-end GPS watches:

Budget (less than $100)

These track time, distance, and pace/speed. Most lack support for accessories like heart rate monitors and foot pods. Some – but not all – can sync with a computer to download workouts.

Mid-range ($100-$300)

These GPS watches support heart rate monitors as well as other accessories. They sync with a computer, generally have good battery life, and can be programmed with interval workouts or pace training aids (like Garmin’s virtual partner).

High-end ($300 and up)

GPS watches at this price point, support every GPS watch accessory made. They can be programmed with advanced workouts via computer and have highly customizable screens.

High-end GPS watches also tend to be split into specific activities. Triathlete watches track swimming distance and count strokes; running watches are thin and sleek and have advanced running features; mountaineering watches have barometric altimeters and compasses.

Features

While it would take too long to review every individual feature available today, generally, they fall into these categories:

Hardware

This includes things like battery-life and any additional sensors beyond GPS. While usually found on high-end watches, examples are: thermometers, accelerometers, compasses, and barometric altimeters.

Data Fields

This is the type of information a watch can track and record. Time, distance, and pace are standard. But it also includes: calories, elevation, heart rate, cadence, swim laps and strokes, and many more.

Maps and Memory

Maps are found on a few GPS watches, although they are typically simple lines displaying your route. Other watches store waypoints. These are navigational coordinates that mark important locations (like your house or a public bathroom).

How much information a GPS watch stores varies greatly. Some can hold just a few activities, others can store hours and hours of workouts.

Training Aids and Alerts

These are things like auto lap and auto pause. Alerts will flash on the screen, beep, or vibrate when you reach a lap or achieve some other goal. Some GPS watches also have tools to help you train. Examples include interval workouts and pacing aids programmed on the watch.

Syncing

Most GPS watches will download workouts – sometimes wirelessly – to a computer. Others can download to a smartphone. They often integrate with Twitter and Facebook to make sharing easy.

Accessories

Different accessories can be paired with GPS watches. These include heart rate monitors and foot pods — as well as bike speed and cadence sensors and power meters for cyclists.

One other factor should be considered when discussing features: simplicity. Like price, as the number features climbs, so does its complexity. If you’re easily intimidated by technology or just want to push a button and start running, it’s better to avoid feature-heavy watches.

Summary

A GPS watch is an incredibly powerful training tool. It has the potential to do much of the heavy lifting when training. And it makes your workouts more fun and varied. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with some insight when purchasing your next GPS watch.

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