There are plenty of great fitness trackers on the market right now, each of which cater to different users with different needs. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe the Fitbit Alta HR or Garmin vívosport will suit your needs. Looking for something even cheaper than that? Garmin’s vívofit 4 or Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 might do the trick. But if you’re a more serious athlete that needs something a bit more powerful — something that can track your long runs and not skimp on the handy watch features — what are your options? Today, we’re going to walk you through our list of the best GPS running watches on the market.
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If you’re a serious runner and need something that will accurately track your routes, has a big, easy-to-read screen, a built-in heart rate monitor, and of course, a GPS, this list is for you. Some of the options on here are a bit pricey, but that’s par for the course in this segment of wearables.
Editor’s Note: We will update this list as more devices hit the market.
Best GPS running watch
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
If you’re looking for the best GPS running watch on the market, the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is it. Although it has a clunky name, there’s nothing clunky about this watch — it’s packed with features, comfortable to wear, and is actually Garmin’s first wearable that supports onboard music storage.
The big news here is the ability to story music directly on the watch, which means you don’t need to take your phone with you on a run if you want to listen to music. Garmin says the watch can hold approximately 500 songs at one time, and you can also download offline playlists from select music services like iHeart Radio. Once your watch is loaded up with music, just pair it with some Bluetooth earbuds and you’ll be on your way.
This is also a great option if you need a training watch. The Forerunner 645 Music comes with training features powered by Firstbeat, which will help you better prepare for a race by letting you know if you’re training productively, peaking, or overreaching.
Garmin Forerunner 935
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is another great option for hardcore runners, swimmers, bikers, and triathletes. It provides advanced dynamics to help you improve your runs, such as contact time balance, stride length, and more.
It also comes with a two-week battery life in smartwatch mode, up to a full day in GPS mode, and up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode. UltraTrac mode is a GPS setting that makes the watch track sensor data less frequently, allowing you to squeeze out some extra battery life if you don’t need all of your data recorded.
It’s a bit pricey, but we really think the high price tag is worth it.
Garmin fenix 5
Garmin’s fenix 5 lineup might be jack-of-all-trade devices, but they’re some of the best GPS running watches you can buy today.
All three fenix 5 models come with preloaded multisport functionality for running, hiking, swimming, biking, and more. They all feature Garmin’s impressive Elevate heart rate trackers, built-in GPS (of course), water resistance up to 100 meters, as well as navigation features with a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter.
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They all also feature a variety of connected features that make these devices true smartwatches. Users can get call, text and email smartphone notifications. All Sapphire models are also Wi-Fi enabled, so users will be able to connect with their home network and upload statistics even if their smartphones aren’t around.
Not crazy about the regular fenix 5? The smaller fenix 5S might be for you. It has all the same specs as the fenix 5, though it’s built for people with smaller wrists and has a slightly smaller battery. Looking for something even more beefy than the fenix 5? The fenix 5X is much larger and comes with preloaded with TOPO U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other navigation features like Round Trip Run and Round Trip Ride. The 5X will even display guidance cues for upcoming turns.
Also read: The dark side of fitness trackers: how to avoid common mistakes that could hurt your fitness goals
Best cheap GPS running watch
If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Polar M200.
This is a waterproof running watch with a built-in heart rate sensor and GPS that will track your speed, distance and route during a run, and will also keep tabs on your daily activity, steps, calories burned, sleep time and quality. This is also a sleek-looking device. In our opinion, it’s much better looking than its predecessor, the Polar M400.
Plus, this device also comes with Polar’s Running Index, which will show you how your running performance is improving overtime. In the Polar Flow app, you’ll get a Running Index score that’s automatically calculated after every run, based on your heart rate and speed data.
The Polar M430 is a relatively cheap GPS running watch that doesn’t skimp on the features.
It has a built-in GPS, 6-LED heart rate monitor, and a battery that will last up to 30 hours on a single charge. It’ll also display your smartphone notifications.
See also: Best Fitbit alternatives: Garmin, Misfit, Samsung, and more
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the watch is its compatibility with the Polar Running Program, which will help guide your daily training and help you achieve your performance goals. You can upload daily training programs to your M430, access strength and core training videos, and even monitor your running progress via the Running Index feature.
Best smartwatch for running
See more Polar M600 photos
Polar’s M600 sport watch is the best GPS running smartwatch on the market.
With a built-in GPS, IPX8 water resistance rating, optical heart rate monitor and 4GB of on-board storage, the M600 is quite the feature-packed watch. It also comes with support for Polar’s wonderful Flow app, allowing you to track just about any activity you can think of – rowing, skiing, hiking and much more. You’ll also be able to squeeze about two days of battery life out of this thing, which is impressive for an Android Wear watch.
You can certainly find Android Wear devices for less than the $300 asking price, but the M600 provides much more than other devices.
The Fitbit Ionic is the best Fitbit you can buy, period. It’s an incredible fitness and sleep tracker, comes with a built-in GPS, allows you to pay for things from your wrist, and it’s water resistant. If you don’t care about smartwatch features and are looking for a high-end Fitbit device, buy the Ionic.
The software is a bit laggy, but the introduction of Fitbit OS 2.0 brought some performance enhancements to the device. It’s also slated to get quick reply functionality and female health tracking in May 2018, which will make it a much better smartwatch and health tracker overall.
We wanted to include this on our list because it’s a stellar GPS running watch and fitness tracker, though you should know that it’s not the smartest smartwatch on the market.
So there you have it — our list of the best GPS running watches on the market! Did we miss anything? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Next: How to use your fitness tracker to actually get fit – a comprehensive guide
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