The best GPS running watches

Whatever your needs, check out our selection of top running watches
The best GPS running watches

The best running watch or GPS sports watch is a personal choice and much depends on the amount of detail you want from your runs.

Beyond just simple tracking and pace information, the latest watches will feed back everything from heart rate information to detailed observations of your running style. In short, GPS watches are becoming essential tools in the runner's arsenal.

Essential reading: How to use your watch to be a better runner

Some are pricey, some more affordable. There's a handful with heart rate monitors built in and a clutch that'll even help out with your swimming and cycling needs too.

Of course, there's no one perfect watch, so we've highlighted our top pick below but followed up with other devices that have impressed during our tests and that might suit different budgets and preferences.

Wareable's top pick

TomTom Spark

For its list of extra features that go beyond simple run tracking, the TomTom Spark earns its place at the head of our best running watches list.

As well as the usual running metrics (distance, speed, time), it has a built-in optical heart rate monitor which aced our tests, it plugs into nearly every running app going and has storage for MP3s, which it'll play via a pair of wireless headphones. The feeling of running unencumbered by your phone isn't to be underestimated.

We also love the watch's option to race yourself on previous routes, adding a competitive edge to your training. In short, the Spark is a lot more fun to train with than any of its peers.

In depth: TomTom Spark review

$249.99, tomtom.com | Amazon

Best for tracking your recovery

Garmin Forerunner 630

Garmin's flagship watch now adds smartphone notifications on the wrist as well as a host of new metrics. You can view data on stride length and vertical ratio which can be used to boost running efficiency, and there's a renewed focus on recovery.

The Forerunner 630 rates lactate threshold and performance condition to try and prevent overtraining, and warns you when you're pushing things too far. It's strictly for the hardcore runner who also wants great smartwatch-inspired features. If you've got the money to spend, it's one of the best running watches available.

In depth: Garmin Forerunner 630 review

$399.99, garmin.com | Amazon

Best for high-end data

Polar V800

The perfect training timepiece for swim-bike-runners, the Polar V800 tracks everything you do on two wheels, two feet, in the water or on dry land. Pace, distance, fat burn calories and max heart rate are all covered on super clear screens that are brilliantly customisable.

Pair it up with a Polar H7 heart rate monitor and you can also unlock the V800's zonal training smarts, making sure you're sweating it out to achieve the right effect. Hook it up to a shoe pod and it'll also give you cadence, stride length and other insights to help hone your Mo Farah running form. Wannabe Wiggos can also opt for a range of cycle accessories to increase the stats haul from two-wheeled training.

What it reveals while you workout is one thing but this smartwatch keeps giving long after you've sunk your post-workout protein shake. The Recovery Status and Orthostatic Test features predict when you'll be ready to train again. The V800 also doubles as an activity tracker and lets you see whether your daily calorie burn comes from just being alive, workouts or general activity.

$338.99 polar.com | Amazon

Best for 24/7 fitness

Garmin Forerunner 235

The Garmin Forerunner 235's mix of features is perfect for intermediate runners looking to step up their training. The key feature here is the optical heart rate sensor on the back, which is capable of tracking steady runs, but you'll want to to don a chest strap for higher intensity workouts.

For those looking for a general picture of overall health, the daily activity stats and resting heart rate tracking is superb, as are the notifications and battery life.

In depth: Garmin Forerunner 235 review

$329.99, garmin.com | Amazon

Best companion app

Fitbit Surge

Fitbit's most powerful wearable to date is looking to take on the smartwatches by adding smartphone notifications, but it's still the Surge's fitness prowess that wins out here.

Onboard GPS makes for accurate route tracking, a week long battery keeps you going without the need for a charger and the rubber construction is durable, if a little on the itchy side. It's also the first Fitbit device to pack an actual display, even it is only a monochromatic touchscreen.

However, it's the app that really shines. Running data has never been so easy to digest, with graphs on your performance. What's more, the data will be seamlessly added to your daily goal, so you get the full benefit for your workout.

In depth: Fitbit Surge review

$249, fitbit.com | Amazon

Best on a budget

Polar M400

Best running watch

Basically a more affordable take on the Polar V800, the M400 is a brand new watch that tracks pace, distance and altitude via built-in GPS. But that's not all, as this beautiful looking running companion comes with some special skills too.

On top of 24/7 activity tracking that means you can ditch your fitness band, there's a whole host of running-specific innovations to keep you moving and motivated. There's an interval timer that can be tuned to time or distance for custom training session, plus it'll even give you an estimate of when you'll finish your run based on your current pace.

For those who get lost easily or often run on their travels, there's a cunning back-to-start option that'll directs you to your starting point in the shortest distance possible.

If you're looking for improved performance – and most of us are – the Polar Running Index calculates how you're (hopefully) improving over time based on heart rate and speed. It'll also tell you the training effect of every single run.

In depth: Polar M400 review

$183.73, polar.com | Amazon

Best for the trails

Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire Peak

For the serious athlete, Suunto's Ambit3 boasts accurate tracking capabilities thanks to GPS and some nifty connectivity tech. Pair the watch up with the Suunto Movescount app to alter settings and check progress on your phone. The watch itself is jammed full of sensors, from a compass to a heart rate monitor (that even works during swimming) and altitude checker plus of course it uses the GPS to give you route guidance.

$379.99, suunto.com | Amazon

Best for triathletes

Garmin Forerunner 735XT

The recently announced Garmin Forerunner 735XT features advanced metrics for running as well as the pool, and will keep tabs on your stroke type and efficiency in the water. It's waterproof to 50m, combines with the companies' high-end bike sensors and offers 24 hours of GPS tracking.

$449, garmin.com | Amazon

Best for adventurers

Garmin Fenix 3

The update to Garmin's previous all-action sports watch, the Garmin Fenix 3 is perfectly suited to runners that have broken beyond the confines of the pavements. Cycling, open water swimming and even cross-country skiing are all supported, but it's running where the Fenix really earns its stars. When paired with the heart rate strap accessory, the Fenix 3 tracks distance, elevation, cadence, vertical oscillation and V02 max, and the Garmin Connect software is simply brilliant.

In depth: Garmin Fenix 3 review

$549.99 (with heart rate strap), garmin.com | Amazon


Best smartwatch for running

Moto 360 Sport

If you don't fancy the SmartWatch 3, the Moto 360 Sport is well equipped for indoor and outdoor running sessions. It's robustly built with a silicon case and band and features an AnyLight LCD touchscreen to swipe through and easily view your stats in the bright outdoors or at night.

Motorola's Moto Body app is also surprisingly well designed, making your data easy to digest on the move.

In depth: Moto 360 Sport review

$299.99, motorola.com | Amazon

Best for runners who do more than run

Garmin Vivoactive

If you've had your eye caught by the Android Wear Sony SmartWatch 3, the Garmin Vivoactive is the company's response. Smartwatch style notifications and the ability to read emails and messages are the order of the day, along with built-in GPS for smartphone-free run tracking, plus cycling, swimming and golf. Yes, it's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, but the updated Garmin Vivoactive HR version even has built-in optical heart rate.

In depth: Garmin Vivoactive review

$249.99, garmin.com | Amazon

56 Comments

  • stpmcd says:

    How do you completely leave out the Fitbit Surge?

    • Danjames23 says:

      really? They did mention it

    • xcdcl says:

      You must have missed it. It's the sixth one listed from the top..

  • JDebo44 says:

    I prefer the Garmin Forerunner 620.  Check out www.gadgetrunners.com.

  • nope303030 says:

    There is a pretty inappropriate typo in the first line of the Garmen Forerunner 15 discription.  

    • SwimMomRuns says:

      Well, your description of the typo in the text about the Garmin 15 is far worse, as "discription" is not even a real word. In the context of things, I cannot believe that was worth a comment. "Inappropriate" isn't even the best word choice for the issue at hand. It was just a word-tense issue. I read the article for a review of running watches, not because I was concerned about writing style and grammar.  

      • Mark17 says:

        Not to mention misspelling "Garmin." :)

      • xcdcl says:

        Hahaha!!! Everything about this thread is funny ;-)

  • rsmith1987 says:

    Can anyone suggest a decent entry level or all rounder that works well with Strava?  Anything up to about £150 is OK.  

    • Dominick says:

      hi, tomtom works out of the box with strava and they are great watches but lack 'return to start', I do trail running myself and need that feature so i use a suunto r. Suunto usses movescount but in the web interface you can add a connection to strava. 

      In short: know how to get home: go with tomtom, if not Go with suunto

      • Nturner says:

        I'm looking for a watch for my husband and was wondering if any or all of these watches show you your exact route and pace? He runs trails and would like to see where he was. 

  • sneffels says:

    I've had a Garmin 620 for about a year now and it's very good. I was marathon training and it's perfect for that IMHO. I just treated myself to a Garmin VivoActive and am very impressed thus far. I bike, golf, swim, and run and this thing seems to do it all. Haven't tried it for swimming yet, but have the other 3 done this week with good results. Recommended. 

  • Philippe says:

    How is the SMARTWATCH 3 working with MAPMYRUN and other swimming app? I have a SONY XPERIA phone and would like to stay within the same platform but would also like to keep all my previous records with MAPMYRUN?

  • Francis says:

    Hi ,

    Very perplexe regarding running watches. Bought the Adidas and never again. Any suggestion ? Looking into forerunner 225 or vivoactive? Love my running and biking. 

  • Rocape says:

    I've had a Garmin610 since January 2013. It has been great. It is very accurate and the touch screen is easy to use on the run. On the down side it has a pretty short battery life and sometimes it takes up to 5min to get a GPS signal. Unfortunately it stopped working October 2015 which means I only had only 2,5 years use from it. Which at $300 is pretty pathetic. Took it to Garmin Repair service who said they can't fix it. Will I buy garmin again? No...it seems to be poorly manufactured and unreliable if it lasts for less than 3 years.

    • malcs says:

      What would you buy next? (ditto my Garmin Forerunner 10, strap came off after 2 years, and a replacement set is like 25% of the cost of the watch)

  • charlotte102 says:

    I'm not off the treadmill yet so I don't need GPS.  I am hoping to capture also the walking around and moving with a sit/stand workstation and a stationary bike  Monitoring sleeping (or lack thereof) would be nice also.  Suggestions?

    • j.stables says:

      Moov would suit you well.

  • Geooprit says:

    I'm looking to invest in a decent watch and I'm looking at buying the Garmin 620... I'd just like it to measure my speed and distance and anything else is just a bonus also I'd want to be able to wear it just as a standard watch too. Any feedback would be great thanks :D 

  • Tigs says:

    I wanted to make a correction about your comment regarding androidwear not having GPS.  I have the Samsung Gear S and not only has built-in GPS and heartrate monitor (from the wrist), but you can add a data plan and phone line to it so you can leave your phone at home.

  • kdthatsme says:

    Which is better for a runner... TomTom Cardio or Garmin 225? 

  • Wicax says:

    im using apple watch & tom2 cardio.. If marathon i just wear the tom2 coz apple watch gps need the phone its unlikely heavy.. 

    So frankly everyday i track my activity with apple watch, even for 10k practice running in the field or in the treadmill.. But when it comes to race on marathon i will use my tom2 cardio.. It's pretty good, now i can hold my run 11.5km/h from for 2 hours.. (2 months ago 10.5km/h)

    But i still want to know about vo2 max fitur? Do i need that? Do i need to buy the watch that have the vo2 fitur? Coz i still want to improve my marathon speed to 12-13km/h.. (I am 169cm & 83kg, really over heavy)

  • Espartak says:

    Hello people!

    Can you update this post? I think it is very useful, but it has to be updated often. The GPS running watches are changing like the speed of light! :)

    Thanks,

  • Swissy says:

    I'm looking at buying my husband a GPS runners watch for Christmas and wondered which was best? He often gets lost on his adventurous runs so was thinking this would be useful. Does the GPS say the route out loud like with a normal car navigation system? Thanks, I'm totally clueless here...

    • j.stables says:

      Most don't do routes. GPS refers to tracking rather than guidance. However, Garmin devices let you set routes and the top top end ones like the Fenix 3/Epix have a compass built in to offer SOME support. But it's not quite turn-by-turn. 

    • TimHarrod says:

      @j.stables - Suunto Ambit 3 both the Peak and Sport support tracks, the app is easy to use and you can map a route with way points or just steal someone else's. Once sync'd with the watch it's easy to bring up a route and watch the scaled route and indicator arrow on your wrist to know where your going, I have successfully many times.

      Suunto are not cheap, but good things, with the higher end build quality aren't, but so so worth it.

  • Running-Dad says:

    if you want music and don't want to run with a phone, seems your only choice is a Tom tom spark. Are there any other options. Is the spark worth the cost?

    • sanmd says:

      I believe you can do the same with Sony Smartwatch 3!

  • KerriM says:

    Can I use any of these watches to track my mother in law whom has dementia while she is out on a walk with my phone?  Can I locate her?  She is in denial so I want her to think it is for fitness (which it is) but also incase she loses her way we can also loacte her.

    • tiat says:

      I need to know too.. Did you have any luck figuring it out?

    • pond83 says:

      Hi KerriM,

      Don't know if you have had any luck with this yet, but an activity tracker like Endomondo allows you to see the location of someone while they are out on their run/walk.  The app can be used on iphone/android phone and the Sony Smartwatch 3.

  • Gtpet says:

    hi,

    I'm looking for the best gps watch that will also measure heart rate from the wrist and not require a strap. Any suggestions???

  • runner says:

    I bought the Garmin 620, thought it would be good. But I can't keep a signal. at first I thought it was where i lived, and just dealt with it. Till i did several races where there wasn't anything blocking the GPS. So i contacted Garmin.....support is horrible! No they will not replace the watch and that's $420 down the drain.

    • MarathonGirl says:

      Same issue for me. Can't get or keep a signal. What a huge waste of money. Don't feel confident to buy another watch now so will just run with my trusty stop watch.

  • Minotauro says:

    Hi,

    What is the best fitness tracker to use in the soccer? After the game I need to analyse the player position in the field during the game and the heart rate.

    Thanks.

  • fldude says:

    How does the Samsung Gear S2 stack up here?

  • Emansonator says:

    I'm looking for a watch that does GPS tracking, mapping, pace, elevation, HR and music. Suggestions?

  • Runner1967 says:

    4 years ago I got a Motorola; Motoactv, until today is still the most complete watch ever produced.  side by side there is no other watch that have all the functionalities:

    GPS, Radio FM, 8-16GB MP3 Player, Altimeter, bluetooth, Wifi, Cadence sensor, Power sensor (Via ANT+ Sensor) , calls alert, Texts alets, calendar Alerts. Heart rate monitor, pedometer, indoor tracking, touch screen, light sensor that adjust the screen. 

    Too bad Motorola never produced a second generation, After 4 years the battery last for a full marathon while is playing music. 

  • Biggie says:

    The Garmin Fenix 3 now has an option to include the same HR monitor as the 235, DCRainmaker seems to rate it.....bit on the pricey side mind and not much availability! 

  • LauraP1 says:

    I want a decent gps running watch with heart rate monitor. Training for marathon. But I also do indoor workout & cross training so want heart rate monitor to judge my efforts & calorie burn. Is there a watch which will be awesome for running tracking but also for just heart rate only monitoring?

  • Sseman says:

    is there any that doesn't count moving arms normally and not walking. Fitbit and garman both very inaccurate counts steps when not walking 

  • ranners79 says:

    hi everyone, At the moment im using a phone with a scosche rhythm hrm on the arm but I'm not very pleased with this setup. So im looking for a GPS watch with a built in mp3 player with a non chest strap hrm.  Any ideas

  • wokkawokka says:

    You would think for "running and active" watches they would include MP3 storage to hold songs to play music with bluetooth headphones. GET IT TOGETHER ALREADY!

  • caroline12 says:

    I'm a soccer and rugby referee and want to buy a watch that will track my milage and positioning on the field during games. Is there a watch that will accurately track this for me.

  • caroline12 says:

    Hi I'm a soccer and rugby referee and am looking for a watch that will track my milage and positioning on the field during the games. Is there a watch that can accurately do both for me.

  • juliafig says:

    Hello, considering I need a watch to record: distance and HR in Running and Cycling and HR in indoor sports, with HR on the wrist and sync with the Strava, witch is the best: FR225, TT Cardio or another?

  • Kayzee says:

    I want a running watch to replace my ancient Garmin 201. My ONLY complaint with it is that it loses the satellites too much. However, it has interval training capability (I can see work distance or time/rest distance or time, number of intervals and press GO.) I can drop "breadcrumbs" to get back to my start by reverse route or directional, I can see elevation of run. I can set pace alarms. Nothing I've sermon the market does this.  I don't give a (hoot) about heart rate, stride length, Bluetooth sync or shining my shoes.  Advice?? 

  • btr1976 says:

    I want a GPS fitness tracker that tracks steps, running stats, distance, pace, calories  and other activities. I don't care about heart rate or text, phone, email alerts.  If it plays music, all the better because I don't have to have my phone with me.  What's the best option under $200? 

  • mjc154 says:

    I'm looking for a GPS watch to help train for half marathons and marathons. I currently have the Magellan echo fit and like that I'm able to use it as a remote to my smartphone. Unfortunately, I have had this watch for just over 1-yr and the battery life is weak and it has recently froze becoming non operational.  I use map my run and would like a watch that's able to be used in this manner with map my run. Anyone know of a watch similar to the Magellan echo fit?

  • Olek says:

    I saw the comment that someone wanted to buy her husband a watch Which has a navigation system like in a car. The Garmin Epix is a good one because it is an all rounder and even has GPS and glonass. The poor thing is that it looks kind of bulky and can cost up to $600

  • kitkat says:

    Which one would be best for a high school cross country runner - looking for something more on the entry level for now as a gift for my son. Also, I saw something called an Adidas Fit Smart at Amazon:  specs....

    • New - all day activity: set goals and track steps, calories and distance all day.
    • Our adidas fit smart provides visual coached guidance for workout intensity to keep you on track, motivated and training smart and effectively
    • The Fit Smart watch has an integrated accelerometer tracking pace, distance and stride
    • This sports fitness watch syncs wirelessly with miCoach train & run app
    • Fit Smart with Mio wrist based continuous heart rate technology
  • fitnessmom says:

    I am looking for advice on which watch to get.  I run and i recently started training with a personal trainer at gym.  Which watch is best for this?  I really like the look of the Garmin Vivoactive as i can wear it throughout the day but not sure if this is the right watch to track my gym activities.  I also have been told that the Tomtom runner 2 and the Polar M400 is good.  What are your views?

  • thejone says:

    It's complete codswallop that the Fitbit surge's battery lasts a week. You;re lucky to get a day out of it, if you do any kind of GPS tracking. Their recommendations for extending battery performance means using nearly non of the features. 

    Credit to Fitbit's support staff they are amazing and are super helpful. but to advertise this tracker's battery life as 1 week is pure fantasy.

  • madsrg says:

    I just bought the new TomTom because I had the previous Nike+ watch that was made by TomTom, and was very pleased with the old one. Unfortunately I am really not happy with the new watch by TomTom :/ The button on the wrist is terrible to use. You have to push really hard for it to react, making it a pain when it is strapped on. And you have to push in the wrong direction (up to go down in menu and vice versa) and push left to go right. I wish I had started using it before my 30 day money back guarantee had expired :/ I used it today for the second time, and it froze when I switched menu while running. Main problem is the wrist button, what a terrible design.

    • iagommc says:

      Hey, i'am almost buying the Nike Sportwatch, why bought another, is the Nike Sportwatch not good anymore or something?

  • tonymahony says:

    does anyone know whether it is possible to use zombie run with any of these watches without having to cart round your phone? i know they provide phone free running. personally im really enjoying the app so would like to keep it going but im fed up of carting my phone round the arm strap annoys me immensely and im one of these runers who needs everything in place so i can concentrate on the run. 

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