Running with a GPS watch can improve your time and motivate you to run farther. If you have run any type of event, you will notice almost everyone else around you wearing one of these watches. There is a reason for this, as the watches provide you with all sorts of useful data so you can see where you started and how far you have come. They are a useful training tool as well, and can be just as important as the shoes or clothes you wear.
Since there are so many GPS watches out there, how are you supposed to choose one? Each watch has their own pros, cons, and different features, so it really depends on what you need. Sure a lot of them have flashy features, but if you aren’t going to use those features, then there is no sense in buying that watch, especially if you have to pay a lot more money. What you need is something that is going to be useful, has the features you need, and takes your training to the next level. This is why we have created a guide to the best GPS running watches available on the market. From Garmin to TomTom, we will take you through the list so you can find the one that suits your needs.
Our Top Pick
The Garmin Forerunner 630 is the top GPS running watch on the market, and for good reason. It features a high-resolution color display on its touchscreen face. The screen is easy to read while you are outdoors, and does not give off too much light when you are indoors. This makes it a nice watch that you can wear while running and during your everyday activities. Furthermore, the data syncs effortlessly to your phone, and will also track your steps and provide you with smartphone notifications.
The focus of the watch is training, racing, and recovery. Along with that, this watch will give you accurate data and a long battery life. The watch is simple to use as it is up in working just after hitting the top right button. If you are using the chest strap, it pairs in just a couple of seconds so you can get on your way to running. The GPS is responsive as well. It uses the GLONASS satellite support system, which gives you information within 30 seconds.
One extremely fine feature of this watch is it will warn you if you are overdoing things. Overtraining can put you at risk to injuries, such as sprains and strains. This watch protects you from that, which is a nice to be reminded about if you tend to overdo it from time to time. Another nice feature this GPS running watch offers is audio prompts and music control.
The downside to the Garmin Forerunner 630 is that it does not have a built-in heart rate monitor. However, it does have an optional chest strap you can purchase. If you are set on heart rate monitoring, a chest strap is a better choice anyway because they are more accurate than wrist heart rate monitors.
The Garmin Forerunner 630 is waterproof up to 50 meters, so you can take it swimming. The downside to this is it does not have the dedicated swimming mode like the Garmin Forerunner 920xt.
The Garmin Forerunner 630 is a dedicated GPS running watch. It is easy to use and read, and will give you loads of information to improve your performance. Besides keeping track of the basics, it also will give you predicted race times, a recovery advisor, stride length, vertical oscillation, elevation, timing, and the average ground contact time. It has everything you need located right on your wrist.
Why Should You Trust Me?
I have put countless hours of research into GPS running watches, the benefits of each one, and the features they all offer. Having years or running experience, I know what is important to runners and knowing it takes the right tools to make training that much easier and informative. The hours of research, experience, and others’ experience I have read gives me the confidence that I am providing you with the finest GPS running watches out there.
What are Running Watches?
Running watches are a useful tool that track calories, heart rate, pace, and the distance you have run. Not all watches have all of these features, and some have added features, it just depends on the brand and model of watch. The GPS helps factor in your pace, locations, and distance as you run.
If you are training for a big race, or are even a casual runner who runs on a regular basis, you will benefit from wearing a running watch. Watches can be customized to your individualized session, set goals, and track how far you have come. These watches are also helpful in determining if you are overtraining, your running form, or areas where you need to train more.
The nice thing about today’s GPS running watches are they are designed to be lightweight and analyze a good amount of data. Carrying a phone on your run can be cumbersome and difficult, even if you have a carrying case for it.
Why You Might Want One
Tracking is one of the main reasons you may be looking to purchase a running watch. The GPS aspect of the watch uses advanced sensors to keep a detailed track of your workout. They are good for interval training, guide you through routes, and give you information to enhance your training.
If you are into stats and data, you want the most reliable information possible. This is especially true if you are training for a race and really want to improve your time and speed. GPS running watches are more accurate than activity trackers or app on your smartphone. When compared to an app, there was about a mile difference between the watch and the app. Because of this, there was a slightly faster mile, which can ultimately put you off your target time. This is a good reason to go with a GPS watch, for the most accurate data.
Battery life is another huge plus to the GPS running watches. When you use the GPS on your phone, your battery will run down pretty fast. It can get frustrating, especially if you want to use the phone after your run. Running watches can go days and sometimes weeks without having to be recharged.
Who Needs a Running Watch?
So maybe you have a smartphone or an activity tracker and are wondering do you really need a running watch? If you are a serious runner, meaning you run for more than just fun, then yes, a running watch would benefit you. This is especially true if you want to track your time, distance, pace, and are looking to enhance your training. The watches can also help you cut down your marathon times and track your distance to the finish line during the race.
Another reason you need a running watch is to keep track of your goals and plot your path for the future. If you are looking to improve your run, go longer, and take on challenges, a running watch will help you do that. If this is your goal, choose a watch you can grow in to. You may not need all of the features at first, but as you advance in your training, you will use more and more of them. Basically the running watch will be an investment in your training program, similar to a good pair of running shoes.
How to Choose the Watch
There are many different things to think about when choosing a GPS running watch. Take into consideration your budget, your running goals, and the features the watch offers. Figure out how much you want to spend on a running watch and that will give you a good starting point. They range in price from $50 to $600, so you should be able to find something within your budget.
Training plans can be helpful when you are looking to run any length of marathon. These are especially helpful if you are just beginning to run marathons and need a little direction on how to train for one. Garmin is a GPS running watch that offers some of the most comprehensive training plans out there.
Another training feature you want to look into is interval training. Interval sessions are a good way to build up your speed and overall fitness level. The TomTom Spark and Garmin Forerunner are both good options when looking at interval training. Make sure they offer a combination of distance, pace, duration, and heart rate.
Heart Rate Monitoring
This will be a big one when determining what GPS running watch you choose. Not all of them have built-in heart rate monitoring options so you will have to use a chest strap. There are pros and cons to this. If you are not opposed to wearing a chest strap, your options are wide open. If you are completely against it, then you can narrow down your choices.
Another thing to think about with heart rate monitoring is if the watch offers heart rate zone training. The Polar V800 and TomTom Spark both offer this option. While you are exercising in different heart rate zones, you will be able to see your aerobic capacity and fat burning mode.
Improving your running form is a good idea, especially if you have poor form. There are watches available that will help you improve your form, which will allow you to be more comfortable on your run so you can run father. The downside to this is these watches usually cost more money. If you are a serious runner, then a GPS running watch that gives you feedback on your cadence or how often your feet hit the ground in a minute. This will also help cut down on injuries, which is a huge plus.
Recovery is an important part of any exercise and some running watches can help you with this. Some of the watches will give you advice on how long you should rest and other advice after your training session. This is more for serious runners but can also help those who tend to overdo their training sessions. Garmin is a big name when it comes to recovery information.
What are the Key Features?
GPS running watches have a few key features which include keeping time, heart rate tracking, speed, distance, and the altitude. Each feature will benefit you in a different way. Yet, not all running watches have all of these features. We will go through these key features you understand what they do and how they will benefit you and your training.
One of the most basic functions of GPS running watches is to keep track of your time. The watch will keep track of your elapsed time as well as your lap/split time. This allows you to do time trials, hill climbs, and speed efforts, which is helpful.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Some watches have heart rate monitors in them while others use chest straps to monitor your heart rate. Either way, this measurement can be used to track your performance and improvements. Many watches combine your heart rate measurement with how many calories you have burned during your workout and throughout the day. This can be very helpful if you are trying to lose weight and improve your overall health. For example, a lower heart rate for a certain speed means you are improving your fitness level. Keeping track of your heart rate information is helpful when you run an endurance event, let you know what pace to run at, and keep you from burning out at the beginning of the race.
The altitude feature will keep track of your total ascent and descent during the entire race. There are two ways that GPS running watches keep track of this, either GPS or barometric. The GPS version uses satellites to figure out your altitude. This is not the most accurate measurement between the two, but it will give you an idea of elevation change during your run. The barometric altimeter measures altitude by calculating the atmospheric pressure. This is an accurate measurement, so if you run through many mountainous or hilly regions, a running watch with a barometric altimeter is helpful.
Most GPS running watches will be waterproof, or at least water resistant. Even if you don’t plan on swimming with your watch, this is good information to have. If you get caught in a downpour while you are out running, the last thing you want to worry about is your running watch. However, most of the higher end watches are waterproof up to 50 meters. Double check the watch you choose to see if it is waterproof because you don’t want to ruin it by jumping in to the pool when you could have taken it off.
A GPS running watch does has GPS, which is one of its most important features. The GPS aspect will give you accurate information on how far you have run, where are you, and the pace you are running at. Some GPS watches have a pre-cache system, where the information is pre-downloaded and predicts the position of GPS satellites. The other type of GPS system uses data download from the internet. This works for a few days and the watch has to scan for satellites again to get the most up to date information.
How we Picked
There are many detailed reviews and information online about the various GPS running watches. Each device, feature, and overall information was compared against each other. This was across numerous websites and reader reviews. It took a lot of time and research for us to narrow down the best GPS running watches on the market.
We found the ones that have the finest reputation when it comes to data accuracy. This includes the GPS aspect as well as data and metrics. The two biggest brands in this area are Garmin and TomTom. They have a long history in GPS and are well versed in the technology.
We tended to stay away from first-generation products as they still have bugs and kinks to be worked out. We stuck to names that have been around for a while and have been trusted for years.
Can You Just Use Your Smartphone Instead?
Sure, a smartphone can do many of the things a GPS running watch can do, but the latter can do it better. A smartphone can function, it gives you music, a speaker, and a bigger screen. Yet, this is not exactly what you need when you are looking to improve your running. There are many reasons you should choose a running watch rather than just relying on your smartphone to collect the data.
The biggest reason to choose a GPS running watch is accuracy. If you want accurate data, metrics, and information then a GPS running watch is the best choice. Smartphones are designed to function in many different ways, meaning they are pretty good at doing a large amount of things. GPS running watches are designed specifically for the runner, meaning they are very good at one thing, giving you information on your runs.
Smartphones are also not designed to be taken on the trails or to be exposed for long periods of time to the elements. In fact, many of them do not do too well in these rugged conditions. Even if you do have insurance on your phone, it can cost upwards of $100 to replace your phone if it gets broken or damaged during a race or training. Running watches are designed to be rugged, durable, and worn through all types of weather conditions. Check the manufacturers’ warranty to see what it covers just in case anything happens to it. Furthermore, most watches are designed to be sweat proof and water-resistant since they are made to be worn on the wrist during exercise.
Another benefit to using a GPS running watch is the battery life. Smartphones have a limited battery life as most have to be plugged in at least once a day, or once every two days. Watches last for days and sometimes weeks at a time, depending how often the GPS is in use.
Running Watch vs Fitness Tracker vs Heart Rate Monitor vs Smartwatch
Running watch vs fitness tracker
Fitness trackers, also known as activity trackers, are best for general fitness activities. These are fine for counting your steps, how long you were active that day, how many flights of stairs you climbed, and how well you slept at night. The data is transferred to your smartphone where you can look at it more in-depth. Most of them are thin, and do not look like a traditional watch. The fitness trackers do not provide specific data for each activity you do, however; so if you are looking for something more accurate you will want a running watch. Basically, they are good for an overall idea of how much you move during the day if you do not need any advanced data.
Running watch vs heart rate monitor
Heart rate monitors do just what they say, monitor your heart rate. They do this in real time and come in a watch model or a chest strap model. Some heart rate monitors do have advanced features, but are not always as accurate as GPS running watches. If you are looking to just monitor your heart rate, these will give you the most accurate reading. Furthermore, the chest strap monitors will give you the low, average, and high heart rate information through the day.
Running watch vs smartwatch
A smartwatch is similar to a smartphone where it has a bunch of different features but it isn’t so great at keeping track of fitness data. Smartwatches are good for giving you notifications, checking email, keeping up with text messages, and answering phone calls on the go. They can be used as running watches, but they may not be as accurate since their first job is to act as a smartphone on your wrist. On the flip side, some of the running watches will give you notifications like smartwatches. These can be text notifications, emails, and call notifications. This may not work as seamlessly as a smartwatch, but if you are looking for something that will track your running first and is a smartwatch second, then this is a good choice.
Our Top Pick
The Garmin Forerunner 630 is the top pick for any different reasons. It gives advanced analytics, access to the Connect IQ app, and some features that a smartwatch offers. While it does not come with a built-in heart rate monitor, it does come with an optional chest strap that will monitor your heart rate. The 630 is designed specifically for runners, so it has everything you need including information to improve your form, interval training, and much more. The following is why the Garmin Forerunner 630 is our top pick and we will go through everything it has to offer.
The face of the watch is a 1.23 inch color touchscreen display with 215 x 180 pixel resolution. The colors are not glaring bright, yet they are bright enough for you to see at dusk or night and just right for seeing during the day. The watch does have a sporty look to it that makes it durable and is matte plastic with a blue finish. The straps are ventilated enough that if you get sweaty, it will evaporate pretty quickly as opposed to a solid strap with no openings.
The Garmin Forerunner 630 is touchscreen, but it also has four buttons with two on each side of the face. Each button has an engraved detail as to what function they do. In addition to this, there is a small button below the screen so you can scroll through notifications and menus.
The touchscreen is responsive, but not as much as a smartwatch like Apple or Android offer. However, it works fine when using it, even while you are running. You can read and swipe through notifications during your runs, just to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Features for Running
Since the Forerunner 630 is designed for running, we will cover the features it has for you. Whether you are a beginning, intermediate, or advanced runner you will find this watch extremely helpful. Before you start your run, just hit the top right button to select running mode and ready to go. There is an indoor and outdoor mode, which is nice if you like to vary your running surfaces.
The data on the screen can be viewed simply by swiping across the screen. If you hit a mile or have another important notification for running, you will feel a good vibration to indicate that you have hit this. These can be convenient if you don’t want to look down at your watch.
Some of the features the watch offers include a training effect number, heart rate (optional), elevation, timing, speed, and your standard pace. In addition, there is also threshold measurements, which gives you your estimated level of effort. If you go over this measurement, it means you are over training. This is important information so you don’t tire yourself out or overdo it because this can put you more prone to injury.
Other nice features this watch offers is a recovery advisor, stress scores, and race times based on your previous training. The recovery advisor is extremely nice to have because it will tell you the optimal time to go for an intense running session. The watch signals this by a +5 reading.
Since the watch has Wi-Fi, as soon as you are connect all of your information will be uploaded to Garmin Connect. This app will show you more detailed data about your run such as vertical oscillation, stride length, ground contact time, and cadence. A lot of this extra data is not available on other GPS running watches, which is why the Garmin Forerunner 630 is our top choice.
Although running is the primary usage for this watch, it does track other activities as well. One of these is step tracking. If you have been hitting your step goal regularly, the watch will adjust your goal. The watch will also alert you to move if you have been immobile for too long. It does this by sending a vibration through the watch. Sleep tracking is another area this device excels at so you can know how much REM sleep you are getting.
If you can believe it, the Garmin watch has even more features to talk about. The smartphone notifications will alert you about updates, texts, and emails. During a run, these notifications will be in the data field so you can still see your running progress. When the watch is in regular mode, the notifications will be full screen.
Besides notifications, you can control music, check your calendar, and take a look at the weather. The watch pairs with the Garmin VIRB action camera if you happen to have one of those, and control it from your watch. Another cool feature is it will help you find your phone. We all need this once in a while.
Battery life is important when it comes to GPS running watches because you are using them on the go. The Forerunner can last up to 16 hours when the GPS sensors are working. If you are just using it for notifications or tracking basic activities, then the watch can go up a month without having to be charged. This watch does offer a better battery life than TomTom Spark and the Fitbit Surge.
Some of the things we did not like about the Garmin Forerunner 630 is it can be overwhelming to some people. If you are just getting into running, you may not be ready to have information on your cadence or foot to ground contact. This could get confusing and there is a lot of data to sort through.
Another thing we didn’t love was the touchscreen. It is responsive but not like a smartwatch. If it could be just a little more responsive and it would be perfect. Other than these two things, this watch is pretty close to perfect when compared to the other running watches on the market.
If you aren’t completely convinced by the Garmin Forerunner 630, there are a few alternatives you can look at. The Garmin Forerunner 235, 230, and 620 are similar versions to the 630. They don’t have everything, but are alternatives if you decide the 630 has too many features for you.
Our Runner Up
The TomTom Spark is designed for runners, cyclists, and those who go to the gym. There is no need to take your smartphone along on your exercises anymore, because the TomTom Spark does everything without your phone needing to be nearby. The price is in the moderate range when it comes to GPS running watches, so that is a plus if you don’t want to splurge on a high end watch.
The Spark has a sleek design with an LCD monochrome screen. The strap is made of rubber and is connected by two poppers that go into place. There are four buttons on the watch that are used to control the screen, because it is not a touchscreen. The watch does have a somewhat sleek design, but not everyone will feel comfortable wearing it at work or out and about.
The Sparks tracks your activity throughout the day. This includes how many steps you have taken, how far you have walked, and how many calories you burned. To see how far you have come that day, just tap the left button or check the app on your smart phone.
The data is accurate, so you can be sure the number of steps it says is the number of steps you have taken. The data is presented in an easy to read manners as well. Along with the day, you will be able to see the weekly totals by pushing the left button. The watch will cycle through the metrics so you can have an overview of your activity.
Besides tracking your activity, the TomTom Spark will keep track of your running, cycling, treadmill, indoor cycling, swimming, gym workouts, and open training sessions. The cadence sensor is used to track your heart rate while the GPS tracks your time and distance. All you have to do to start a sports session is select your sport off the list and you are ready to go. The satellites connect fast so you don’t have to wait too long, only seconds.
When looking at GPS running watches you of course want to know how well they track your running. The watch has an interval training option and you can choose a pace as well as run in a heart rate zone. If you run outside these zones or paces, the watch will alert you.
If you like to challenge yourself, the TomTom Spark allows you to race against a previous run. If you do a regular route, you can choose that race from the watch and it will notify you how far ahead or behind you are.
The heart rate monitoring on the TomTom Spark is surprisingly accurate. Normally chest straps are more accurate, but when put up against a Garmin’s chest strap, the Spark kept pace with it. If you don’t like to depend on a chest strap, this is a huge plus for a GPS running watch.
Another one of the Sparks big features is playing music through headphones. There are no wires needed and it works by playing MP3s. The upload to the watch can be somewhat finicky, but most other GPS watches don’t offer this feature so there is some good with the bad.
Once you are done with your run, the watch does not give you a summary of your run. This can be kind of annoying. To find it, you have to start a new run and push the up button to find your recent activities. It should be in the list there. You can also access it from your smartphone, but if you want data right away, you will have to search a bit for it.
The battery life is not as long as the Garmin Forerunner 630. While using GPS, you will get five hours out of the watch. Without the GPS, the watch will last up for a week. So there is a downside to the battery life with the GPS.
A third flaw is the lack of training plans. Where the Garmin Connect you can download training plans, the TomTom Spark does not offer that. The app gives you information about your latest workout, but there is not much beyond that.
The Polar M400 is a combination between an activity tracker and a GPS running watch. It is on the lower end when it comes to GPS running watches, which is one reason it makes our top budget pick. It works with a chest strap, so if you already have one it knocks the price down even more. There are some good features when it comes to the Polar M400, but it is a budget pick so it doesn’t have everything the higher end devices have.
The Polar M400 is similar in size to other running watches on the market. The watch is easy to read in direct sunlight and enough backlight for you to see the numbers clearly during dusk or night runs. There are five buttons on this watch, an up, down, light, and back button.
Features for Activity
The Polar M400 is both an activity and fitness tracker. The fitness aspect will keep track of your steps and your sleeping habits. If you sit too long, the watch will alert you. Once it alerts you, you have a certain amount of time to move before you get a bad mark in your fitness diary.
The M400 has a heart rate monitor but you need a chest strap to use it. Any Bluetooth chest strap will work, which is nice if you already have one. The watch has the ability to track different sports, which is nice if you want to use it for more than just running. Some of these sports include yoga, swimming, and indoor rowing. While you are doing these sports, you can set your heart rate zone and stay within these targets for a certain distance or time.
If you like the social aspect of training, you will have to look elsewhere because this app doesn’t have it. However, there is a social aspect on the desktop site, which is where you can see other people’s map of activities and follow them. The app has a very basic design where your daily activities are logged and you can see your history. The app will also show you “training benefit” summaries, which depend on your age, weight, height, sport, and gender.
The M400 will not track your heart rate during swims, nor will it give you a cycling cadence. The Bluetooth chest strap does not always sync seamlessly with the watch. This can be a problem if you are ready to go and waiting for your heart rate to show up. It may take a couple minutes or some adjusting before your heart rate starts to be read.
If you are looking for something to monitor your heart rate (with a strap), give you GPS information, and track your steps, then this GPS running watch is a good option. It does not have a lot of the high end features, but it is a budget watch.
Best for 24/7 fitness
The Garmin Forerunner 235 comes with a built-in heart rate monitor, which is an upgrade for the watch. The watch is lightweight and comes with a color LCD screen. It does a good job of displaying the time and statistics without being too bright or too dim. It also displays notifications from your smartphone, which is a nice feature to have.
Run Tracking and Features
The watch has good run tracking features. It has time, distance, pace, calories, cadence, Training Effect, and heart rate statistics. The stats are not as detailed as the 630, but they are pretty comprehensive if you are a serious runner.
Another nice feature when it comes to runner this watch offers is to choose your own training plan. The watch will guide you through the plan you have chosen and make sure you meet your goals. This is definitely a nice feature if you want to improve your running and decrease your time.
Tracking Heart Rate
The heart rate sensor is built-in to the watch, so you don’t have to mess with a chest strap. When put up against a chest strap, the heart rate tracking was less accurate. If you rely on heart rate for your training, this is not a good model for you. However, if you want pretty close idea of what your heart rate is, then the Forerunner 235 will be enough.
Along with being a GPS running watch, the Forerunner 235 will keep track of your activity. The watch will keep track of your steps, calories burned, and the distance you have traveled. It also tells you how well you sleep at night. It has very good activity tracking for a GPS running watch.
The heart rate tracker is not accurate enough to depend on, but it will give you a close idea. The app can be somewhat confusing, but it does give you a lot of information. Once you figure out how to use it, it will be less overwhelming and make more sense.
Best for Multisport
The Garmin Vivioactive HR is a watch that is designed to be one ultimate fitness watch. It will monitor your heart rate, give you notifications, track your fitness, swimming, golf, cycling, and running. Besides these sports, the watch will also track indoor rowing, indoor cycling, cross country skiing, and many more. If you want one watch to cover most of the sports, this is the one for you.
The watch gives you a good amount of data in each sporting mode. For example, in the running mode you will get cadence, heart rate, pace, and distance. When it comes to skiing, you will get information on ascent.
Other features the watch has is an overview of your steps, the last sport you finished, resting heart rate, weather reports, notifications, and intensity minutes. For more data in any of these areas, simply tap on the screen and it will give you a detailed report.
The running mode will give you a decent amount of data. It gives the pace, distance, heart rate, cadence, and pace. It does not give you recovery details or VO2 Max. It is a good watch if you want some basic information on your running.
The heart rate monitoring does a good job during steady exercise. Yet, during bursts of activity it has a hard time keeping up. The watch lagged behind when compared to a chest strap. If you depend on heart rate monitoring for your trainings, then it is best to use a chest strap with this watch.
The Vivioactive HR does a well when it comes to giving you information on swimming. The watch is waterproof up to 50 meters and is made for using in your local pool. It will track calories, stroke count/rate, pace, distance, and track lengths. This is a good watch if you need something to take in the water.
The heart rate is not accurate with high intensity workouts. This is not good for those who do interval training or who depend on working in heart rate zones during certain workouts. A chest strap is the best option to combat this flaw. The sleep tracking is not the best either. The watch automatically starts tracking your sleep during your bedtime hours. Since we all don’t go to bed the same time every night, it can get pretty annoying.
Best for Trail Running
The Suunto Ambit3 Sapphire Peak is designed to be used outdoors and for trail running. It is a rugged and durable watch that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. The GPS is accurate and it finds the satellites fast. The battery life is long on this watch as well. When it is in GPS mode, updating once per second, the battery lasts up to 20 hours. When it is in 60 second mode, the watch will last 200 hours.
The Suunto Ambit3 Sapphire Peak has many different features that other GPS running watches don’t have. It measures barometric pressure, has a digital compass, and will give you the current temperature. The sports modes include triathlon, skiing, mountaineering, hiking, swimming, open water swimming, cycling, running, and indoor running. Along with being rugged and designed for outdoors, it has ample amount of sports tracking for the multisport athlete.
There are no vibration alerts on this watch, which can be annoying to some runners. It does have audio alerts, but those can be difficult to hear especially when you are listening to music and have headphone in. Another issues with the watch was the running cadence measurement. The watch would not consistently measure the cadence, sometimes for up to a minute. If this does happen with your watch, contact Suunto and they may issue a replacement. This seems to be a common issue with a few watches and possibly a manufacture defect.
Best for Triathlons
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT was designed specifically for serious triathletes. The main sports it tracks are swimming, cycling, and running. It also tracks other sports and has a heart rate sensor. Some of the other sports the watch tracks include indoor running, biking, open water swimming, and pool swimming. In addition, you will receive phone notifications so you can stay up to date while exercising.
The triathlon feature works seamlessly as you can switch between ports by just pressing a button. This allows you to keep going without having to stop and press a button. One downside is the heart rate sensor does not work while you are swimming.
The 735XT will give you basic data such as pace, time and distance. It also will give you a Training Effect score, which ranges from one to five. This score helps you improve your fitness. The watch will also tell you how long after a workout your body needs before starting another workout.
For the watch to accurately read your heart rate it has to be kind of high up on your wrist/arm and tight. You can loosen it once you are done with your training, but if you want to track your resting heart rate then it can be a bit difficult. The look of the watch is a sporty design, which makes sense because it is designed for triathlons. However, some people think it is too sporty.
Best for Outdoors
The Garmin Fenix 3 is a comprehensive watch that has loads of features. It tracks running, trails, cycling, swimming, and skiing. It gives you a detailed report underneath of these categories, which is nice for getting accurate information of your performance. It is one of the most expensive watches on the market, but it just might be worth it if you are going to use everything it has to offer.
The amount of data the Fenix 3 gives you from sports sets it apart from other watches. It does have GPS, multisport tracking, and smartwatch features, but once you start getting into the data, you will be impressed. It also has a built-in compass, which is nice if you are hiking in an area you’re not familiar with.
When it comes to running, the watch will give you information on vertical oscillation, cadence, recovery, VO2 Max, and heart rate. To monitor your heart rate, you do need a chest strap. The data on the watch is easy to read and you can use a button to cycle through the various information.
One of the biggest downside to this watch is the price. Since it is one of the most expensive GPS running watches on the market, you will be paying a pretty penny for it. If you are prepared to invest in it, then you will like the features it has to offer. The watch is somewhat masculine, which may put off female buyers. It also big and bulky, even for men.
Best for Tracking Your Recovery
The Garmin Forerunner 620 is a good watch if you are looking to focus in your recovery. It is a GPS running watch that will give you information on your mileage, heart rate, and running pace. The recovery advisor is a nice feature when you want to figure out when to work out next.
The recovery advisory takes the information from your run and tells you how long it will take you to fully recover. Wear the watch on a regular basis so it will analyze your recovery and heart rate, this way you will have a more accurate picture of your recovery. If your body is not ready to go for a run again, the watch will be red. Once you are ready, the watch will show green.
There are three different modes when it comes to tracking your information which are ride, run, and race. Run is for your basic training and running, ride is for cycling, and race is when you are running a race. The watch will give you different information that is more important during a race, which is why there are three different modes.
The satellite signal can take a little bit to connect. As you are getting to run and keep track of your data, make sure you are clear of trees and set it to connect a minute or two before you start your exercise.
Best Without Heart Rate Tracking
Not only is the Garmin Forerunner 235 the best 24/7 GPS running watch, but it is the best watch if you are looking to track your heart rate without a chest strap. The technology used for the heart rate sensor is Elevate, which is Garmin owns design.
The heart rate monitor runs continuously, so you will get information on your resting heart rate as well. The data is pretty accurate, even when compared to a chest strap. However, there will be a slight difference, yet it does give you a solid overview of your heart rate while resting and exercising. The watch is most accurate when it is worn about two finger lengths from the wrist bone, so that is something to keep in mind as well.
Sometimes there can be syncing problems between the watch and the app. The Connect app can also be slightly confusing to navigate when you first start. When doing interval training, the heart rate monitoring will be less accurate than a chest strap. However, if you are looking for a good overall GPS watch with a heart rate monitor, this is a good choice.
Best with Heart Rate Tracking
While the Garmin 620 is best for tracking your recovery, it is also best for tracking your heart rate with a chest strap. This GPS running watch is designed for marathoners and serious runners because it has everything you need to improve your time and performance.
Heart Rate Tracking
The chest strap is lighter in weight than previous versions and is not compatible with previous models of Garmin watches, so that is something to keep in mind. The heart rate tracking will monitor your vertical oscillation, ground contact time, and cadence. Once you are done with your workout, it will give you information on how long you should recover before attempting another workout. This ensures you will be at your optimum training performance at all times.
Another nice feature that comes with this watch is you can set up alerts when it comes to running. These alerts can be in the area of calories, cadence, heart rate, distance, pace, and time. Furthermore, you can create time-based interval sessions to do speed work as well.
The watch connects to a GPS satellite within 30 seconds no matter where you are. The data can be updated via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, depending on what is connected at the time. Furthermore, the watch is waterproof up to 50 meters, but it does not keep track of your activity in the pool.
When it comes to Garmin Connect, the app lacks detailed statistics. If you want more in-depth information, you will have to go to the website and look it up. All the information is there, it just takes and extra step, which can be annoying sometimes.
Some people did not like the fact there is a chest strap for heart rate tracking. This can be both a pro and con, depending how you look at it. If you are used to a chest strap, then this will be no problem. Those who are new to using chest straps may forget to put them on or it may take a little bit to get used to them. The heart rate tracking will be much more accurate, so keep that in mind.
Best for High Intensity Work
The Polar V800 GPS running watch is a must have for hardcore athletes, especially cyclists, runners, and triathletes. It was launched in 2014, but they have recently updated their software, fitness tracking, and the running program.
The running program is new and improved so it has personalized routines and coaching feature. You can choose different lengths you want to train for, such as 5k, 10k, or a marathon. The watch then creates a workout plan just for you. The runs are broken down into long runs, intervals, tempo runs, and easy jogs. The watch does not have a built-in heart rate monitor, so if you want that information you will need to purchase one separately.
There is not built-in heart rate monitor, which is a letdown. In addition, the watch itself can be pretty bulky when you wear it all day for tracking your activity. The running program is great, but it does have a few bugs. It does not let you customize a time, for example you cannot train for a full marathon within three months. Furthermore, the more detailed information for the running program and your activities are on the website, which can be a hassle if you want them on the app.
The Final Word
GPS running watches area available with many different specs and features, depending on what you need. Furthermore, these watches range from the budget end of the spectrum to the high end of the spectrum, including a few in between. Figure you what is important to you in a running watch and look for those features on this list. This will help you narrow it down much easier. In addition, keep in mind to look for features that need, not the ones that you want. Lots of features can be cool, but if you are not going to use them then there is no use paying extra money for them. This comprehensive list includes the best GPS running watches on the market, so you will find the one to suit your needs.