Whether you are beginning on the running excursion or you are on your way to join the elite marathon club, keeping track of your runs and location provides great inspiration and can enhance your performance too. A GPS running watch is the device you need to monitor every aspect of your run including pace, distance, time and even heart rate.
Yet, picking the best GPS running watch can be similarly tricky like choosing your best running shoes. If you are a bit familiar with these devices, the likes of Garmin and Polar will cross your mind at a glance, but these days there are several brands and hundreds of models to choose from.
If you are thinking of buying a GPS running watch but you are not sure which one, then we are here to help you find one. We have put together a comprehensive guide that will help you find your ideal running partner and further provided great examples in our GPS running watch reviews section.
Below is the winner of our 'Best Pick', the Garmin Forerunner 35 which, after comparing over 20 different models and narrowing our top recommended models down to just 8 GPS running watches we think is the best GPS Running watch for both amateur and professional runners alike.
Our buyers guide is divided into three sections: why buy a running watch, understanding a GPS running watch and the features to look out for.
This is a good question to ask yourself. Obviously, there are many free apps that you can download to your smartphone and enjoy over 90% of the features of a running watch for free or at a small subscription fee. Other Apps like Nike+, Strava and Runkeeper offer advanced community features that might not be present in a running watch. So it’s worth thinking if you need a gadget that will cost you over £200 or not.
However, these apps are not great at putting your essential real-time tracking stats where you can view them. They can offer over-the-earphone notifications on distance, laps, pace and the likes but that’s not as convenient as having the information at a glance on your wrist. A GPS running watch puts those features on your fingertips, it is more accurate and more reliable than pulling your phone out of your pocket now and then to check your stats.
A GPS running watch comes with a built-in GPS receiver which tracks down your location and guides you towards your goal. It is often used for sports and training purposes. The device can have many functions depending on the manufacturer and some can even be integrated with a smartphone. The stats captured with the integrated functions are shown on the screen of the watch. The display can be LCD, OLED or any other depending on the brand.
The vital features usually integrated in a GPS watch include:
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The Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS Running Watch with Wrist-based Heart Rate is an advanced watch that will help you keep fit, stay connected at the same time and allow you to share your progress. It is not only lightweight and comfortable but also looks stylish and easy to use.
The outstanding feature of this GPS running watch is the wrist-based Elevate Heart Rate, which allows you to know your beats per minute. This technology gives you the option to run without a chest strap. It also tracks your steps throughout the day and calories burned and shows them on a high-resolution sunlight readable display.
Another great feature is the built-in GPS which tracks how fast, how far and where you run. Integrated activity profiles which include running, indoor running and cardio will help you accomplish your fitness goals quicker. To supplement the profiles are features such as interval training, run/walk mode, AutoPause and AutoLap. There are vibration alerts and audio prompts to help you to stay motivated in your training.
BY pairing the Forerunner 35 with your smartphone, you can stay connected and receive call and text alerts. It even allows you to control your music when you have your earphones on. It also features Garmin Connect which allows you to automatically upload your favourite training sessions to online fitness communities. The integrated LiveTrack software allows you to track your runs. Its battery lasts up to 9 days with smartwatch and up to 13 hours of training.
This is a great little watch for running and it’s so light to notice you are wearing it. It keeps track of your pace, distance and heart rate plus your activities all day long. We love its compatibility with a smartphone which will ensure you receive text and call alerts on your Forerunner 35 watch. Features such as run/walk mode, vibration alerts, interval training, activity profiles, and music control takes the convenience of this watch to another level.
However, the wrist-based heart rate is less accurate. The idea itself is great but it can do better with some improvement. With that said, the Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS Running Watch with Wrist-based Heart Rate provides is good for both beginners and experienced runners because of its wide range of features.
The TomTom Sports GPS Runner GPS Watch is one of the cheapest options available and it’s brilliant for runs and walks. Lightweight and ultra-slim, this watch comfortably fits all wrist sizes.
The watch has an extra-large display so you can see your running stats at a glance. You can view your pace, distance and runtime on a high-contrast and high-resolution display. Navigating through the menus is even easy with its intuitive one-button control. You simply have to up, down, left or right to move through the menus. This allows you to get started quickly and also easily access watch functions while on the move.
While you want to keep running on a regular basis, knowing where to run is important. Your watch needs to know where the satellites are so that you don’t have to search them when you want to get out on your run. So, the manufacturer recommends that you dock your watch after every 3 days using the latest GPS and GLONASS satellite receiver technology.
There are three distinct training modes to help you view your training performance. Race mode lets you compare your current performance with past runs. Comparing your last run or best run gives you the motivation to improve in your next run.
Goal mode allows you to challenge yourself and ensure that you are on the right path to achieve your goals. You can set a time, distance or calories goal and view your progress in an easy full screen graphic. To make it more interesting, the watch gives alerts when you are halfway to your goal, almost there and when you have attained your goal.
Pace mode lets you set your pace or heart rate and you can as well see your training zone in a simple full screen graphic. There’s additionally the Interval Training for speed and cardio fitness. Simply start with a warm up, then alternate low and high intensity exercises as many times as you like, and complete with a cool down. You can set your intervals in either a fixed time or distance.
Another thing that makes the watch very convenient is its waterproofness, of which is up to 50 metres. This means you can run in all kinds of weather, any day. The TomTom Sports GPS Runner battery life is up to 10 hours on GPS mode and even up to 30 days with normal watch use, from a single charge.
The watch is compatible with many platforms, allowing you to sync, analyse and share your stats on major running sites and apps. Use the TomTom MySports app to easily upload and access your major activity information.
The TomTom Sports GPS Runner GPS Watch is good for telling you pace, distance, runtime and performing as stopwatch. Its downloadable app gives a deep insight to your runs, allowing you to upload your stats to popular running sites. The modes are great in letting you monitor your performance in a large graphic display. Its battery life is good and the display is quite tough.
It doesn’t escape without flaws and there are quite a number of them. The lack of a map navigation especially is a major downside for professional runners. Then there are all sorts of complaints about the GPS effectiveness.
In short, the TomTom Sports GPS Runner GPS Watch is a basic watch with simple features, designed for running. We find it ideal for hobby runners and trainers. It is a cheap watch and you don’t have to expect a lot from it but it works perfect.
The Garmin Forerunner 920XT GPS Multisport Watch is an impressive multisport watch that includes all of Garmin’s most high-end metrics. It is Garmin’s most advanced GPS watch designed for triathletes and multisport athletes.
First of all, it has a more sleek appearance and it’s lighter and smaller than its predecessor, the 910XT model. With a tagline that says “Failure is not an option”, the watch works perfect in the water, on the bike and on the run.
When swimming in the pool or running in open water, the watch counts every stroke and metre of your workout and provides enhanced training abilities. It further captures detailed swimming metrics such as pace, distance, stroke rate and SWOLF score. It then includes a drill logging feature which allows you to log swim drills and kick sets at the pool while its 2 types of rest timers ensures you keep pushing off the wall on time. It also includes time alerts which helps you to hold your pace and distance alerts to inform you when a set is over. It even gives alerts for stroke rate and calories.
For cycling, the watch is compatible speed sensors, cadence (not included) and heart rate (not included) to offer enhanced training capabilities for your cycling. When paired with ANT+ power meters, including Garmin’s Vector line of single and dual-sensing options, the Forerunner 920XT can even display power metrics. Garmin connect segments and the colour gauge shows how you rank compared to other athletes in your age group.
It also has some great features for running. When used with the HRM-Run monitor, it reports your running dynamics data in real-time. A metronome with vibe and audible alerts is available to guide your cadence training. It additionally provides an UltraTrac mode which turns off GPS at particular intervals and this extends battery life up to 40 hours. Speaking of the battery, the Forerunner 920XT can last up to 5 weeks of smartwatch and up to 24 hours of training.
Another running tool is the Virtual Racer which lets you challenge your previous bests or any activities uploaded to the Garmin Connect site. You can as well use the Virtual Partner feature and see how you compare to a static pace you set. Featuring vibration alerts, the Forerunner 920XT allows you to customize your distance, time and other metrics and receive gentle vibrations upon achieving your goals.
To help you plan, save and share your efforts is the Garmin Connect which easily pairs with your smartphone. You can now stay connected during your runs, cycles or swims and receive smart notifications including emails, texts and call alerts. It also includes a live tracking feature which lets you invite followers via social media or email so they can see you on the map and view your stats.
One interesting feature of this GPS multisport watch is the Garmin Face-It watch face app, which allows you to customise your watch face with any photo from your smartphone. Simply download the app, select a picture from your gallery, add the time and set it as in simple terms your “profile” photo.
The Garmin Forerunner 920XT Multisport Watch is a high-end watch with advanced features that you don’t find on ordinary running watches. Of course, you can expect that considering it’s designed for cycling, running and swimming activities. You will love its sleek, lightweight design that makes it very friendly with wet suits. It does upload via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to the phone without any problem and displays everything you would expect. It also links well with a smartphone to receive notifications.
Yes there are quite a lot of good features of this watch but Garmin didn’t include a heart rate monitor for reasons we do not know. This is something you would expect once the figures that make its price hits your eyes or ears.
Overall, the Forerunner 920XT is a top recommendation for multi-trainers and those who fancy sophisticated gadgets, even without the heart rate monitor.
The Polar M400 GPS Watch is combination of style, performance and comfort. The watch has a lightweight and design for wearing all day. Powered by GPS, it gives guidance throughout your training, allowing you to explore new routes and find your way back home. You can track your pace, distance and altitude and keep tabs on your personal bests. Furthermore, the Polar M400 alerts you every time you set a new record.
In addition to your runs, getting enough daily activity is an essential part of keeping fit. So this watch counts your steps, calories and sleep time to ensure that you keep in track with your activities 24/7. It also alerts you when you are inactive for long periods of time thus motivating you to move. In addition, it provides you a daily activity goal and tips to accomplish it. You can clearly see your running metrics on a high-resolution and high-contrast display.
It comes with the H7 sensor which adds heart rate to your training. You can pair the H7 heart rate sensor with the M400 to know when you are training at the right intensity and when you are within your target heart rate zone. The GPS watch additionally provides your running index score automatically after every run based on the pace data collected and your heart rate.
The M400 also features the Polar Flow mobile app and web service which provides all the essential tools, stats and the support you need to up your game. You can set new goals, review your training sessions and learn a lot about your active lifestyle. The web service lets you share your favourite sessions and view maps of your training routes. It also allows you to create sport profiles and detailed training targets and synchronise them to your device. The M400 is water-resistant to 100ft so it can survive adverse weather conditions.
The Polar M400 GPS Watch keeps track of your training activities plus you active yourself. You get to know the steps you make every day, distance covered and the amount of calories you burn. All the information is displayed on its large display. You will love its mobile app and web service which even provides extra support to your training and overview of your activities including your set goals. The inclusion of a heart rate sensor is a big plus so at least you’ll know your training intensity, while inactivity alert reminds you to step up to your goals.
However, there are some negatives. Our research found that many people have a problem syncing the GPS watch with other devices. Its low battery life is also a major blow.
Overall, the Polar M400 GPS Watch is a great watch for outdoor training thanks to a large, high-resolution and high-contrast display, and training features.
The Garmin Forerunner 25 GPS Running Watch could be the perfect running watch with most of the features you might possibly want, including GPS, activity tracking and heart rate monitor. This easy to use watch tracks distance, pace, personal records and heart rate.
Featuring a Virtual Pacer, you can watch yourself improve run after run as this feature compares your current pace to your target. It also tells you when you set your longest run or fastest mile to date. Activity Tracking feature counts your steps, records the distance and calories burned all day whether you are indoors or outside. When you sit down too long, the inactivity indicator motivates you to get up and running so you can stay on top of your fitness goals.
The Forerunner 25 connects with your compatible smartphone for call and text alerts plus automatic uploads to Garmin Connect which means you can stay connected throughout your training. The Garmin Connect allows you to view your run on a map, get detailed activity on each mile, and view a daily summary of your activities. You can also share your activities with online fitness communities and join online challenges where you get to earn virtual badges for further motivation. In addition it has Live Tracking feature which allows your family and friends to follow your run in real-time.
This GPS watch can be used Garmin heart rate monitor strap (not included) to track your heart rate. Training with heart rate zones lets you know when to push yourself harder on that last mile or when to slow down a little. The heart rate additionally gives accurate information on the calories burned.
The Forerunner 25 provides your stats in a large display area. It makes it easy to track your pace, distance and places that you run. When running on a Treadmill and want to track your pace and distance, you can pair the GPS watch with Garmin’s foot pod (sold separately) which attaches to the laces of your running shoe. This watch uses a rechargeable battery which lasts up to a max of 10 hours in training mode or 10 weeks in normal watch mode.
The Garmin Forerunner 25 GPS Running Watch is an affordable GPS watch ideal for both indoor and outdoor running. It does give accurate stats on pace, distance and calories burned on a large display area. Activity Tracking keeps you focused on your goals while smart notifications ensures you stay connected while you’re running. Its compatibility with Garmin’s heart rate monitor is a plus, however, it’s sold separately. We also like its long battery life.
On the downside, it has issues with receiving satellite signals which can be very disappointing most of the times. It also does not connect to every mobile’s Bluetooth so might have to test it with your smartphone before you buy. If everything is good, the Garmin Forerunner 25 GPS Running Watch can be a great training companion.
The Tom Tom Runner 3 GPS Running Watch ticks all the boxes and comes with brilliant features that you need in your runs. It has a pretty nice design plus it gives you the freedom to choose the strap that you like and you can change it anytime. The strap has three connection points which makes it very easy to close and secure. Of course, you will have to undo the strap off the watch when you need to change it but again it’s a simple process.
You don’t have to run with your phone, the Runner 3 is enabled to play music on your wrist. You can play over 500 songs from your watch. Simply stream your music wirelessly to your Bluetooth headphones and listen to them while running. The pairing can be tricky at first but once it’s paired, it gets recognized in a matter of seconds. Make sure that there are no other Bluetooth devices in the surrounding except your headset.
While some watches lack a map display, the Runner 3 comes out on top by giving you the freedom to explore new areas and find your way back home with your trail map shown on your wrist. It even allows you to upload new trails and then follow them to discover new locations with confidence.
This watch is just not limited to running. You can track your other sport activities using the integrated different sports modes. They include Run, Bike, Swim, Treadmill, Gym and Freestyle. No matter the workout you are doing, simply look at your watch for live stats on the go. You can see your distance, time, pace, speed, routes, calories burned and more. Knowing when to push it or when to slow down will help you achieve your running goals.
With 24/7 Activity Tracking, the TomTom Runner 3 captures your heart rate, counts your steps, active minutes, calories burned all day and your sleep. You can download the TomTom Sports App and jump into your stats, see your progress and share your accomplishments with your friends. The simple stats and data will help analyse yourself and know where you are in your fitness mission.
The Runner 3 is powered by 1 Lithium Polymer battery which comes included. The battery life is fairly good since it lasts over a week with daily use. It also comes with Bluetooth headphones, charging cable and a quick start guide.
From the look of things, the Tom Tom Runner 3 GPS Running Watch is packed with great features yet some of its brilliant ideas were not executed correctly. It does captures all the stats you want while running and even your daily activities. The idea of viewing your trail on the watch and the ability to upload new trails is great. Additionally, we like the multisport modes which allow you monitor yourself in other sports too. Furthermore, you can use their app to upload, view and analyse your progress and even share your stats with friends.
Like we said, some other features of the Runner 3 are quite awful. For instance, the customising the straps is a great idea yet the straps have been found to be very weak. So, it’s not much useful in the long run. Syncing the watch with your smartphone might need several attempts which can also be very disappointing. Such issues and some others may make you think otherwise if you were to buy the TomTom Runner 3.
For now, the Tom Tom Runner 3 GPS Running Watch is a full-featured watch that needs some improvement to become a blockbuster.
The Polar V800 Unisex GPS Multi-Sports Watch with HR tracks a wide range of sports from running and swimming to cycling, dance, yoga, and CrossFit. It also tracks daily activities including step counts and calories burned. The Polar V800 is among the high-end GPS multisport watches which is a bit expensive than the Garmin Forerunner 920XT. Included in the price is a Polar H7 heart rate sensor which will help you get the most out of your training.
With built-in GPS sensor, the V800 tracks your run, ride or hike and measures your pace, distance and route. You can discover new routes with the touch of a button and even find your way back home easily. It also includes a running index which informs you about your performance level in terms of running economy and aerobic fitness. In addition, it features an atmospheric air pressure sensor which measures your altitude, displaying metres or feet ascended/descended and uphill or downhill steepness in percentages and grades.
Being a multisport watch, the V800 allows you to create sport profiles and customised views for every sport you do. You can easily switch from one sport to another without interfering with the data recording and even see the transition times between training activities. By the way, the Polar V800 is the only multisport watch that can capture your heart rate underwater. The watch is water-resistant up to 50m. With an orthostatic test, this watch even shows how your heart rate responds to your training and factors such as stress and illness.
Speaking of connectivity, this multisport watch features full Bluetooth sensor support to enhance your training experience. Pair the GPS watch with Polar Stride sensor Bluetooth Smart to improve your running. Cycling devotees can utilise the Polar Speed and Cadence Bluetooth Smart sensors and Polar Keo Power Bluetooth Smart sensor to improve their performance. You can also get smart notifications on your wrist such as incoming call alerts, texts and social media messages, no matter where you are.
Like all good multisport watches, the V800 features a web service and app, the Polar Flow, which helps you keep on track with your sports and daily activity. On top of that, the watch provides great coaching assistance. It helps you compare your training load of various workouts and helps you identify the perfect balance between training and rest. With continuous monitoring, you eventually know your personal limits and position your training to according to your targets. It also helps you to plan your training and avoid excessive or low training.
The display is encased in enclosed in stainless steel and the watch face is made of hardy, scratch-resistant material which gives it a high-quality look. It is bright and easy to read both indoors and outdoors. The battery life is up to 13 hours in normal GPS mode but you can switch to Power-Save mode if you want it to last longer.
The Polar V800 is clearly aimed at guys who take exercises seriously. This is evident with the wide range of functions it provides designed for different sports activities. Perhaps the outstanding feature of this watch is the heart rate monitor which functions even underwater. The watch lets you create sports profiles for different sports and even transitions easily between sports. For all the sophisticated things it offers, it is highly priced and we can only recommend that you break the bank if you are sure to use it most often.
Still, the V800 has some few flaws and we found out that users have mixed feelings about it. What is clearly evident is that the battery life is a bit short compared to its multisport competitor, the Forerunner 920XT. Syncing the gadget to other devices is also a bit challenging but then once it’s done, you will find it very convenient.
If you like to keep track of your fitness levels in all of your training activities, the Polar V800 Unisex GPS Multi-sports watch with HR is the best thing available.
The Garmin Forerunner 630 GPS Running Watch is an advanced running watch that best suits experienced runners. The watch stands out because of its colour touchscreen display and it’s the only one of the kind in our lineup. You don’t have to struggle with pushing tiny buttons to see the stats you want, simply scroll through the intuitive screen to read you pace, distance, time and other metrics.
When paired with the HRM-Run monitor (sold separately), the Forerunner 630 allows you to measure cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. You can also see extra running dynamics such as stride length, ground contact time balance and vertical ratio. These measures provide insight on how efficient and balanced your running form is. So whether you want to break a personal record or you are training for your first marathon, this watch goes a long way to provide you with all the extensive stats you need for training and racing.
The Forerunner 630 gives you a stress score based on your heart rate and this gives you an idea of what days you should push yourself to the limits and when to shift the gear down. On top of that is a performance condition feature which gives you an idea of how you will fare in your training. While you run, the feature analyses your speed, hear rate and its variability to give a real-time assessment of your capability to perform.
You no longer have to worry about planning your next race. The Forerunner 630 features VO2 max which predicts your race times for multiple distances thus giving you a time target. It also informs you when to withdraw from your training after a strenuous workout with its integrated recovery advisor.
Staying connected while you train is a top priority of the Forerunner 630. You can pair your watch with your mobile device to receive smart notifications while you train including texts, calls, email, social media messages and even weather updates. Personalise your watch with apps, widgets and data fields from the Garmin Connect IQ store. Along the same lines, Garmin Face-It app allows you to customise your watch face with any image from your smartphone photo library.
Another useful feature of this watch is the Garmin Connect downloadable app. It includes straightforward, easy-to-understand graphs, charts and maps that let you anaylse your performance, check your progress towards set targets and share your stats with the online Garmin Connect community. A LiveTrack feature allows you to compete with friends on running challenges and compare your performance in real time.
The Forerunner 630 has quite a long battery life of up to 4 weeks with normal watch use and up to 16 hours of training. Perhaps the only thing that beats its battery life is its brother, Forerunner 920XT.
This watch comes with running dynamics that will help you improve your running. It is basically designed for serious runners with top of the range features such as VO2 max, heart rate monitor, Garmin Connect IQ, built-in recovery advisor, activity tracking, live tracking, performance condition, smart notifications and social media sharing. As you would expect, these awesome features come at a price which is why the watch goes for over £300.
The major complain we found with this watch is that the display can be hard to read in dim light. Yet, we don’t think it’s a substantial deal breaker. If you really want to monitor and analyse all your running factors, the Garmin Forerunner 630 GPS Running Watch is worth every penny.
A GPS running watch can be really useful in keeping track of your fitness routine and helping you achieve your fitness goals. They come with amazing features designed to lead your path to a healthy lifestyle.
We hope that our guide will help you find the best GPS running watch for your fitness routine and that you have learned a lot from our GPS running watch reviews. If you are serious about running and training in other sports, and analysing your performance each and every day, then a GPS watch is a must-have gadget in your running gear.
The Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS Running Watch with Wrist-based Heart Rate is our best GPS running watch. It is purposely designed for running with a built-in GPS that tracks distance, pace and places that you run. You’ll find it very lightweight and easy to use thanks to its intuitive buttons and high-resolution display.
The best feature is its wrist-based heart rate monitor which captures your heart rate day and night. It also lets you know the calories burned throughout the day. Its connected features include smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, music control and LiveTrack software. The watch tracks your all-day activity too in terms of steps plus alerts you of inactivity and when to move. Integrated run/walk modes, activity profiles, intervals and vibration alerts will keep you motivated towards achieving your fitness goals.
We reviewed two multisport watches, the Garmin Forerunner 920XT and the Polar V800, and to be honest they are both of top quality. Another thing is that by a close comparison, they edge out each other one thing after the other.
In our opinion, the Polar V800 gets the upper hand in terms of overall features for multisport training but the Forerunner 920XT comes out on top since it has been tested and recommended by many athletes. Maybe most people buy Garmin because it’s a respected brand in this field. While the Polar V800 measures heart rate even under water, the Forerunner 920XT lacks hear rate monitoring. The good thing is you can opt for the 920XT model with heart rate monitor or the 920XT HR bundle though at an extra cost. The Forerunner 920XT also beats the Polar V800 on battery life.
The Garmin Forerunner 920XT is our best multisport running watch but the comparison is still open for debate.
In those times when you need a simple watch for running, a cheaper model is always a great option. On this regard, we picked the Polar M400 GPS Watch as our best affordable GPS running watch. Included in this watch is a heart rate monitor which is very rare to find in most other cheap models.
In addition to that, it tracks pace, distance and altitude thanks to its built-in GPS. It also follows your activity 24/7 and counts your steps and calories burned. It comes with an app that allows you sync and share your training with your friends online. It is an easy to use watch that comes at a great price.
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