There’s no longer any reason to run, jog or walk while being utterly unaware of how well you’ve performed, how many calories you’ve burned, or the time it has taken you. There is a whole host of running watches available to you that can provide you with these analytics.
Not only running watches with built-in GPS but watches engineered to guide you through a myriad of sports and fitness regimes. Fitbit’s, for example, are always popular. We’ve written about the best Fitbit for men and the best Fitbit for women too.
Once you have had a go at exercising with a smartwatch supporting you, you’ll understand the many benefits or the popular devices.
But what is the best running watch out there? With so many different brands, there’s a varying range of quality and accuracy. What is the best GPS running watch on the market right now? Let’s take a look.
The Coros APEX has a beautiful, well-made design with a ceramic bezel ensuring style and wearability. Its month-long battery is the strongest on this list, and with an asking price that defeats other leading brands in terms of value, it had to top our selection.
The Coros Trainer feature tells you when to relax and when to push yourself. And with sizable battery life, there’s not much to fault it. A graphic analysis of the data the watch captures includes VO2 Max and threshold pace. It even has dedicated programmes engineered to refine your stride quality; this is the friend every runner needs.
Why we love it: a spectacular running watch that caters to every need and requirement.
Simplistic digital knob functionality
Detail graphical analysis
The innovative grid GPS mapping
Coros “Intelligent Stride Algorithm”
A clunky/heavy fit
Side button sensitive to clothing
Trouble integrating with some apps
Best for Marathon
Suunto 9 Baro
Display: Active Matrix LCD | Battery Life: up to 14 days | Charging method: Charging Cable | IP rating: Water-resistant to 100m | Colors: Titanium, Lime, Black, White, Copper | GPS: GPS/GLONASS/QZSS
Suunto, a Finnish company, provides a rugged, durable running watch in the 9 Baro. It boasts a real-time breadcrumb trail GPS that is perfect for training for or performing in marathons. Suunto is famed for the durability of their devices. Durability is present here, with a reinforced polyamide case and stainless steel bezel, this model is built for anything.
Equipped with a barometer, sunrise/set reminders, and even storm alarms, long-distance running is that much easier with this on your wrist.
Why we love it: this carefully constructed running and fitness watch is built to last.
Barometric pressure monitor
Sturdy ceramic bezel
Onboard music storage
Intelligent battery modes
Heart rate monitor requires HR belt
Non-customizable sports mode
The screen can be hard to read
Best for Data Analysis
Display: Active Matrix LCD | Battery Life: up to 14 days | Charging method: Charging Cable | IP rating: Water-resistant to 30m | Colors: Titanium, Lime, Black, White, Copper | GPS: GPS/GLONASS/QZSS
What the Polar M430 lacks in its screen resolution, it makes up for in data capture and analytics. It gives you access to Polar Flow, a fantastic fitness statistics analyzer that can help you to understand precisely where your workout is good and bad.
Its unique running programme offers the user a personalized and progressive journey towards their own goals. The data captured while exercising combines with the Polar Sleep Plus features to give the user a fantastic overview of their health and wellbeing.
The watch itself has a stylish design that sets it apart from your regular Apple Watch or Garmin device.
Why we love it: a sleek sports running watch that synchronizes to an amazingly informative fitness analysis program.
Amazing proprietary fitness platform
Progress shown in detailed tables and graphs
Breathable sports band
Sleep tracking included
Screen not the most aesthetically pleasing
A chunky and somewhat dated design
Sides of watch face crowded with buttons
Best for Multisport
Garmin Forerunner 945
Compatibility: iOS/Android | Display: Transflective MIP | Battery Life: up to 2 weeks | Charging method: Charging Cable | IP rating: Water-resistant to 50m | Colors: Black, Blue | GPS: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
The Garmin Forerunner 945 is the pinnacle of the company’s running watch offering. Built with accurate GPS sensors as well as readings on your vertical oscillation and stride length, the Forerunner is one of the best-running watches available. Its design is by no means stunning, but consider it incredibly durable and innovative in its features.
A watch for the lovers of all sports, it has a wealth of modes for other activities besides running. These modes include gym tracking, a dedicated golf mode with 41000 courses programmed into it from around the world, and swim tracking as well.
Why we love it: a rugged sports watch from Garmin with a range of activity modes built-in.
Modes for a range of sports
Breadcrumb trail features
Informative analytics on running
Garmin pay included
Not much choice on color
On the more expensive side
Not a watch for beginners
Best for GPS Tracking
Garmin Fenix 6
Compatibility: iOS/Android | Display: Transflective MIP | Battery Life: up to 9 days | Charging method: Charging Cable | IP rating: Water-resistant to 100m | Colors: Titanium, Black, Sapphire | GPS: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Garmin’s Fenix series work in a similar way to the Forerunner watches. The Fenix 6 has all of the features that the Forerunner 945 has, but with a distinct departure from the plastic casing, favoring a metal alternative. This makes the watch heavier, but it still retains all the fantastic features.
The Fenix 6 lasts up to 36 hours in GPS mode, and its advanced GPS can track at incredibly high altitudes as well. This watch is the perfect device for that adventurous hiker looking for a companion to chart their explorative achievements.
Why we love it: a similar offering in features to the Forerunner preceding, but the Fenix has an unforgettable style and design.
A range of color and design choices
Swappable strap choices
Accurate GPS at high altitudes
Sturdy build and materials
A weighty feel
On the pricey side
Little improvement Fenix 5
Best for Value
Garmin Forerunner 25
Compatibility: iOS/Android | Display: Transflective MIP | Battery Life: up to 10 hours | Charging method: Charging Cradle | IP rating: Water-resistant to 50m | Colors: Blue and Black, Black and Red, Pink and White, Purple and Black | GPS: GPS
Garmin has created the perfect simple running watch for somebody working to a tight budget. Marketed as a much-improved version of its predecessor, the Garmin Forerunner 15, the watch has a sporty look and feel, boasts GPS, and can be synced with Garmin Connect.
It counts your steps, the calories you’ve burned, and reminds when to move, all for a price below $100. And the low price does not mean they have left you with a defunct smartwatch. It has a bold design, a readable screen, and a fantastic battery life. In this device, we see Garmin’s dedication to providing inspired designs for every price bracket come to fruition.
Why we love it: simple watch with fitness tracking, it’s a bargain hunters dream.
Breathable sports strap
A wide choice of colors
Not a lot of features
Outdated tracking functionality
Screen is uninspired
Best for Design
Apple Watch 4
Compatibility: iOS | Display: OLED Retina | Battery Life: up to 18 hours | Charging method: Magnetic Charging Cable | IP rating: Water-resistant to 50m | Colors: Pink, Gold, White, Black | GPS: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS
Apple has created a ‘colored ring’ method that helps you to track your fitness analytics clearly and easily. This watch also lets you set a preferential pace for your runs, and will tap you using haptic feedback if you are over or undershooting that pace.
More amazing health features also include the ability to create electrocardiograms on the go, and the watch can warn you when you have experienced consecutive arrhythmia as well.
Why we love it: a beautifully crafted smartwatch from what many believe to be the best wearable maker out there.
Sleek and reliable design
Synchronises almost effortlessly
Easy-to-understand fitness analytics
Unable to sync Android devices
Not a long battery life
Best for Women
Fitbit Versa 2
Compatibility: Android/iOS | Display: Touchscreen AMOLED | Band sizes: 140 – 220mm | Battery Life: up to 7 days | Charging method: Magnetic charging cable | IP rating: Water resistant to 50m | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Colors: Stone, Black, Bordeaux, Petal, Navy & Pink Woven, Smoke Woven
We’ve spoken before about how fantastic the Fitbit Versa 2 is for sporty women before, but it also has to be celebrated for being an all-round capable running watch. It represents the latest in Fitbit’s smartwatch offering.
It boasts multisport features, including yoga tracking and controlled breathing exercises as well. The watch is a jack of all trades, integrating contactless payment and voice assistant Alexa as well.
The fantastic fitness capabilities of Fitbit devices that include automatic fitness and activity tracking, combined with its lightweight, attractive design, make it an excellent purchase.
Why we love it: a lightweight watch with fitness and exercise as its focal point.
Female health tracking
Not incredibly expensive
Up to a whole week of battery life
Alexa voice assistant included
No built-in GPS
Spotify playback only when paired with a phone
‘Always-on’ mode drains the battery quickly
Best for Heart Rate
Fitbit Inspire HR
Compatibility: Android/iOS | Display: Monochrome OLED | Band sizes: 140 – 180mm | Battery Life: 5 days | Charging method: Magnetic Cradle | IP rating: Water-resistant to 50m | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 | Colors: Black, Lilac, White
The Fitbit Inspire HR represents the pinnacle of fitness tracker technology when GPS features are extracted. Though some would argue GPS is integral to the running experience, the slender design, and advanced metrics offered by the Inspire HR warrant particular mention.
With its integrated heart rate monitoring and small but readable screen, this is the best running companion you’ll find without GPS. Furthermore, the Inspire HR has a great design that is compact but allows for readability. The dynamic build and features of the Inspire, even without a GPS is why you see it on this list.
Why we love it: an aesthetically pleasing fitness band with plenty of features to make up for lack of GPS.
Incredibly lightweight and discreet
Available under $100
Attractive Fitbit design
Large side button
The touchscreen isn’t the most reliable
Best for Heart Rate
Suunto Ambit3 Vertical
Compatibility: iOS/Android | Display: LED Matrix | Battery Life: up to 2 weeks | Charging method: Charging Cable | IP rating: Water-resistant to 100m | Colors: Black | GPS: GPS, GLONASS
Though the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical’s fantastic heart rate monitoring capabilities can only be used in conjunction with smart sensors and HR monitors, it is well worth the cost. With the smart sensor, your Suunto smartwatch can track your heart rate while swimming. It also includes an altimeter to help you ascertain the altitudes you’ve reached.
When running, your Suunto will track stride length, perform lap comparisons, and analyze your average pace in real-time. The ability to get these sorts of complex analytics as and when you are running, make this watch a fantastic running companion.
Why we love it: a rugged Suunto watch with intricate running features and heart rate tracking capabilities.
Durable, solid design
Vo2 Max tracking capabilities
Access to Suunto Movescount app
Not a lightweight watch
Heart rate only really works with additional sensors
The differences between basic and advanced running watches are substantial and need to be thought about when you are purchasing.
A basic running watch may not have a built-in GPS or training features. Usually, what a basic running watch will have is some capability to track activity. The most primary gauges that all fitness watches track are steps taken and calories burned.
Advanced running watches will actively help you refine a training plan using the data is captured from your exercises. It will often act as a multisport watch with capabilities beyond the basic tracking mechanisms. This can help you a great deal when training, whether you are training for fun or a triathlete preparing for a marathon or event. An advanced runner watch will enable you to delve into your fitness regime and running ability in a big way, whereas basic watches can give you limited readouts and analytics.
In many ways, advanced running watches are the best running watches you will find, but can cost a fair amount of money.
How do GPS watches work?
GPS watches use your global positioning system to track your location. Watches that solely utilize GPS will be able to tell you where you are. However, GPS running watches tell you critical statistics about your exercises and running using your location.
These watches can help you review the progress of a lengthy run using an image of your journey; they can help you when training to set a comfortable pace and stride length. Most importantly, they can help you stay on track and inform you of your precise location.
What to look for in a GPS Running Smartwatch?
A GPS running smartwatch should have a definitive focus on location accuracy. This will help you to get finitely reliable data on your exercising. Heart rate monitoring is also a hugely helpful analytic to have on your side, as this can help you to take part in the right form of training for you to help with improvement.
Fitness features also refer to wellbeing analytics and reminders to breathe correctly and not remain inactive as well. Automatic fitness tracking on watches can be a great help, especially when it comes to spontaneous bouts of running or exercise.
Music playback is integral to some and unnecessary for others, but not all running watches have it, so check a device’s music capabilities before purchasing. Smartphone notifications are a fantastic asset; they can allow you to perform a quick review of analytics while you are on the move.
Contactless payment methods are another great advantage that running watches can supply a user with. However, extras like this may cost extra and do not provide running-based benefits.
Being able to track, review, and analyze data captured by your smartwatch can make the difference between general exercise and precisely engineered fitness support.
As seen in the rundown of watches, the Polar M430 was chosen mostly because its companion app is such a detailed and incisive program. If a watch can allow you to view a comprehensive and accessible image of your fitness activity, it can help you to gain a real understanding of the exercises you are doing, and what you are achieving.
Proprietary fitness apps can be useful, but it is also advantageous for smartwatches to allow third-party app access like Strava and Movescount.
Making a watch wearable sounds like an easy task, but any smartwatch company will tell you that it takes intricate, tested designs. Exchangeable and interchangeable watchbands can help make watches wearable.
Modern materials can help a watch to achieve a lightweight feel. A heavy design can have an effect on your stride and running style. Wearability also includes design choice. Some watches on our list will suit a morning run but will not suit a ballroom gala (the Garmin Forerunner 25, for instance). But then again, watches like the Fitbit Versa 2 have a sleek design that is not quite a hybrid smartwatch design will suit several situations.
You want to be sure that the battery life of your smartwatch can match your running power. Watches may boast a long battery charge, but when shifted into GPS mode, this number can be halved or decreased significantly.
The battery life you need is entirely dependent on what you want from your watch. If you need a range of different analytics to be captured in real-time, then you need a watch that provides a substantial amount of battery life. If you are looking for a watch purely to strap on when going for a weekly run, battery life is not as important.
Listed above are ten of the most advanced running watches on the market at this current time. They are all available from popular sellers like Amazon. Some are suited to variables such as price and smart features. Still, all can provide a user with analytics, features, and design to significantly improve their running and exercising methodology.
Though a running watch isn’t integral to the act of exercising, it can certainly increase your knowledge of fitness and your overall capability. Some offer a strictly exercise focused watch with a durable design and multi-faceted usability, while others track your steps and distance. But, within the list, you are sure to find something that suits your needs and requirements.
Liam writes articles for a myriad of sites and publications. With a deep-set love for electronics and music, often finds himself drawn to writing about the latest bands and gadgets. He has a degree in Drama and English, enjoys acting, producing music and writing in a number of formats. He also works as a copywriter, providing content for clients around the world.