Best GPS Running Watches & Trackers

Last updated: November 23, 2021

GPS Running Watch / Best GPS Running Watches & Trackers

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The GPS Watches of today have improved to stellar levels where you can not only track your favorite sport activities and get meaningful metrics to better yourself but they can also analyze your heart rate, sleep patterns and much more.

Finding the best GPS Watch for running comes down to what additional features you will need because the majority of them will be able to track the basics such as pace, cadence and so on. Most of them are already water-resistant watches as well.

Ideal For Runners
Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin Forerunner 945
Best Overall
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
Most Durable
Polar Grit X
Polar Grit X
Most Popular
Apple Watch Series 6
Apple Watch Series 6
Most Affordable
Garmin Forerunner 245
Garmin Forerunner 245

Reviews of the Best GPS Watches for Running

From Garmin, to Apple, Polar, Coros and Fitbit, each GPS running watch has its own unique sets of features, applications and tools to aid you in getting the most out of your runs and becoming a better runner.

Check out our quick summaries of the best GPS running watches of today below and read the in-depth the individual reviews we have available to find out the nitty gritty details of each of them.

1. Garmin Forerunner 945

Key Features

  • Bluetooth, WiFi, and ANT+ Connectivity
  • 36-Hour Battery Life in GPS mode (10 with Music)
  • Stores up to 1,000 Songs

Reasons to buy

  • Virtual Pay Option
  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Triathlon Sport Modes

Reasons to avoid

  • Only Comes in One Color
  • Higher Price Point

For any runner who’s looking for a great GPS running watch they feel comfortable relying on, the Forerunner 945 is among the better choices. It has all the tools runners and triathletes would want, and a lot more. Serious athletes who are focused on their times and other stats will really appreciate the additional features that Garmin has packed into the particular offering.

Tracking steps is just a small part of what this watch does. It also tracks sleep at night, and keeps an eye on stats to show whether there’s improvement in distance, times, and more.

For runners who are trying to train harder, people trying to stay healthier, and athletes dedicated to improving their efforts, this is one of the best GPS running watch options. The battery life is strong, too, which means athletes don’t have to worry about this watch letting them down as they track their training over time.

The Garmin Forerunner 945 also supports playback of music, storing up to 1,000 songs synced from a music service like Spotify or as MP3s. Maps are another strong feature, which came over from the Fenix series. Having maps in color makes finding their way around a new place easier for most runners, and also gives them ideas for where and how to expand their runs and workouts the next time.

Displaying maps on the watch is easy, and runners will be able to navigate new terrain without fears of getting lost. It’s also very easy to generate round-trip courses, and runners don’t have to use a computer. They can just create them from the watch itself, so they can try out a new route as soon as they want to.

Tracking bike rides and swims is easy for this watch, too, if a runner wants to add to their workout options. Because it’s comfortable, lightweight, and offers Garmin Pay, there’s no need for a wallet.

Read our full review on the Garmin Forerunner 945

2. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

Key Features

  • Points-of-Interest Navigation
  • Pace-Pro Feature
  • Battery Life up to 46 Days (in Expedition Mode)

Reasons to buy

  • Large Display
  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Plenty of Durability
  • On-Screen Maps

Reasons to avoid

  • Less Affordable
  • Large Size May Not be Right for Smaller Users

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is a rugged watch, so runners can use it on all types of adventures and not worry about it getting damaged from exploring their world or running on trails, instead of city streets. Providing runners with all that a quality running watch has to offer is one of the most significant things about the Garmin brand.

The offline maps and POV navigation are great options, and the watch can be taken just about anywhere without a problem. Runners know they can rely on this Garmin running watch.

There have been some important improvements to this watch, including the screen, menu, and battery life. The biggest potential downside to this running watch is that runners won’t be using all the features offered. There are so many, and a lot of them won’t be used by anyone other than serious athletes. But it’s also usually better to have more options instead of fewer, so this is still one of the best GPS running watches available.

The watch is fairly large, too, and smaller runners may not like that as much because the watch can feel bulky to them. With so many great features, though, it’s easy to overlook some of these minor concerns in favor of all the watch has to offer. The bit of extra size and weight isn’t really a negative, but it’s worth being aware of it in case there’s a specific reason why that might not work for a particular runner.

For anyone who’s a true athlete or adventurer, there’s a lot to enjoy about this watch. The ability to analyze and collect so much data makes it great for long-distance runners, people training for marathons, and those who go to the gym frequently. It’s also good for hikers and people who like to spend time in the outdoors. Runners who like the Garmin name, and who are comfortable with a higher price point, can find plenty to enjoy with this watch.

Read our full review on the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

3. Polar Grit X

Key Features

  • 40 Hour Battery Life in GPS Mode
  • FuelWise Reminders
  • Komoot Route Guidance

Reasons to buy

  • Understated But Sturdy
  • Recovery Insights are In-Depth
  • Quality Polar Flow App
  • Responsive Suggestions for Training

Reasons to avoid

  • Battery Life is Only Average
  • No Offline Maps
  • No Support for Spotify
  • Unreliable Hill Splitter Mode

The Polar Grit X offers a lot of quality and some great features, for runners looking for a good watch. It has the look and feel of a sports watch, but it’s designed for more hardcore pursuits, as well. There are training aids tailored to what runners are looking for, and a strong suite of tracking options, as well. The battery life is just average, though, so highly seasoned endurance athletes may find that it’s not quite long enough for what they need.

For most runners, though, it’s long enough to be effective.

There aren’t any offline map options, so having a signal and access to coverage is required. But getting out in the world and being adventurous is still easy and convenient with this watch. It can be a great option for all types of athletes, and is worth checking out for runners who are looking for a running watch option. The Polar Grit X has a great balance between a streamlined design and a sturdy build that feels solid and secure.

This isn’t a delicate watch that runners will be worried about breaking. It’s strong, and rugged for everything from workouts in the gym to runs on trails in the back country. Rural and urban explorers can both enjoy all this watch has to offer. There are 22 different adjustment options on this watch’s strap, so every runner can find a setting that keeps the watch in place and comfortably snug.

The optical heart-rate sensor and built-in GPS help ensure that every runner can focus on peak performance and not worry about getting lost along the way. Workout recommendations are tailored, and the recovery insights offered are highly responsive.

Overall, this watch offers a great value. It’s very similar to some high-end Garmin offerings, but at a price point that more runners may be considering. That makes it a good choice for nearly any runner who wants a quality watch but may be looking for plenty of affordable value.

The color touchscreen is easy to use, and the display provides good quality in both indoor and outdoor settings. Contrast is strong, and there’s a backlight for nighttime usage, as well.

There are more than 130 activities that can be tracked through the Polar Grit X, so runners who are training for triathlons or who also branch out into other sports can keep tracking what they’re doing with the same great watch. The layout and operating system are both logical and intuitive, allowing the watch to easily be used during exercise.

The touchscreen can sometimes lag or be a bit imprecise, but the sleek, tailored buttons and their ease of use make up for any of that concern. Analysis of measured activities is in-depth, and goes far beyond basic step counts. This is a true runner’s watch.

4. Apple Watch Series 6

Key Features

  • Fitness Plus Service
  • 18-Hour Battery Life
  • 5ATM Certified
  • Blood Oxygen Monitor

Reasons to buy

  • Can be Worn Everywhere
  • Sleep Tracking
  • Always-On Display
  • Support for Third-Party Apps

Reasons to avoid

  • Lack of Workout App Detail
  • Not as Many Functions as Other Watches
  • Shorter Battery Life

The Apple watch is certainly one of the more well-known options for a smartwatch, but people may not realize just how much it can actually do. For runners looking to use their watch for activities, and also for regular, everyday wear, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a great choice.

There are a lot of third-party running apps that can be linked to it, and it also offers all the important features that runners looking for in a watch they can rely on. 

Because it’s not truly a GPS watch for runners, though, runners aren’t going to get the depth of options that they’d see with a watch that’s specific to running.

However, unless there are competitions they’re training for, it’s not really much of an issue. The Apple Watch provides enough features for any runner who runs for fun or for basic fitness. The sports tracking tools will provide plenty of insight, and that’s what most runners are looking for as they strive to run faster or longer over time.

The SpO2 feature offer a good metric for gauging cardiovascular fitness, and may also signal potential breathing issues during sleep. The display is always on, so there’s no need to fiddle with anything during a run when a runner wants to see where they are or how they’re doing.

Apple Fitness Plus can be used with this watch, so runners can also get the benefits of instructor-led workouts and other types of training, along with their running programs.

Having a full-featured smartwatch to wear every day is convenient, and it’s even better when it can move seamlessly into a watch for running. With all the quality and value that comes from Apple, and everything it can offer to runners who use it, this is a great option for a watch that can easily be worn for other things, but that will provide the depth of information a runner is looking for as they continue to increase their fitness.

For most runners and athletes, this watch will do everything they really need it to do, and more.

5. Garmin Forerunner 245

Key Features

  • Bluetooth, ANT+, and WiFi Connectivity
  • 7-Day Smartwatch Battery Life
  • 6-Hour GPS Battery Life (With Music) 24-Hours with only GPS mode

Reasons to buy

  • Performance Monitoring
  • Adaptive Training
  • Syncs with Spotify

Reasons to avoid

  • Many Screens to Scroll Through

The Garmin Forerunner series has been popular with runners and athletes ever since it came out. In fact, it’s been so well liked that many people still have the 235, which is the predecessor to the current 245. Now that the 245 is available, it’s quite possible that dedicated Garmin users will want to consider upgrading.

Among the biggest benefits for this particular watch is allowing a runner to leave their phone at home and still listen to music. That’s a feature not found with other running watches.

Runners who leave their phones at home don’t need to worry about the extra bulk and weight of a phone in their pocket, and they can still enjoy their music, straight from their watch. There are two ways to do that, and they both work well depending on what a particular runner is looking for.

By using Garmin Express, it’s possible to add podcasts and music straight onto the watch. It can also be synced with Spotify or another streaming service. But there’s more than just music to this great Garmin watch.

Adaptive training plans are another big benefit, so a runner can get what they need and make changes that are really going to work for them. Whether they want to run longer distances, get faster, or do something else that advances their training plans, this watch can help. Available performance monitoring lets runners keep track of how well they’re doing, so they can meet their fitness goals, and safety features help protect runners who have a collision or other problem during training.

It’s also possible to track menstrual cycle and sleep, so runners can see how other aspects of their life are affecting their fitness goals and run times.

With upgraded health features, runners can keep moving and developing their fitness routines. The battery life is possibly the biggest downside to this watch, since it’s only six hours if runners are using the GPS feature and also streaming music. But charging it doesn’t take long, and it’s a solid option for a running watch that will provide a lot of value.

Read our full review on the Garmin Forerunner 245

6. Coros Pace 2

Key Features

  • 240×240 Pixel Resolution
  • Optional Backlight
  • Easy to Unlock
  • Sleep Tracking

Reasons to buy

  • Lightweight But Durable Design
  • High-Resolution Display
  • Excellent GPS Tracking
  • Affordable Quality

Reasons to avoid

  • Screen Could be Brighter
  • App Needs More Features

When choosing a GPS watch for runners, the Coros Pace 2 is well worth considering. It’s extremely lightweight but very durable, and at a great price point for all the features it offers. It’s a mid-range watch, so it’s not going to provide the level of options that some of the higher-end trackers offer.

But unless a runner is focused on endurance, marathons, or other competitions, it really isn’t going to be a problem. There are plenty of features to keep most athletes happy with the data they’re getting.

The Coros is also stylish, and provides a good option to many of the Garmin GPS watches for running, that might be bigger or bulkier. With a lower price point, the Pace 2 offers strong affordability for anyone who wants to get into running or wants to start improving their running game.

The GPS accuracy is truly impressive, as well, which reduces the chance that a runner will get lost on a new route. Calculating a runner’s stride length is another thing the Pace 2 does very well, so it’s easy to keep a cadence while running through tunnels.

Managing a training load is important for serious runners, and the AI trainer option on the Coros allows for that, as well. The biggest downside is likely the screen, which isn’t as bright as it could be.

That makes it potentially hard to read in bright sunlight, and can result in having to fiddle with it during exercise to see the information a runner is looking for. But that’s a small price to pay for everything else the Pace 2 has to offer. It’s a quality watch with good value and great features all runners can enjoy.

7. Garmin Forerunner 45

Key Features

  • 13-Hour Battery Life in GPS Mode
  • Bluetooth, ANT+, and USB Connectivity

Reasons to buy

  • Smartwatch Functionality
  • Affordability
  • Good Battery Life

Reasons to avoid

  • Very Limited Advanced Training Options

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is often thought of as a watch for beginners, but that’s really only the case if a runner wants many different or more advanced options for training. For everyone else, it’s highly affordable and provide a good quality smartwatch to help runners meet their goals and track their progress.

A lot of runners don’t use the advanced features of other watches, so having one that offers fewer options isn’t a problem.

This watch can be a great choice for them, and still provides all the basic fitness level, distance, and time information they’re looking for. It’s a little smaller of a watch than many of the other options, but that can be a good thing for smaller and lighter runners, along with those who are just getting started.

The battery life is decent, and the quality is high. There’s a wrist-based monitor for heart rat which works well, as does the smartwatch ability.

If a runner is looking for a lot of information and metrics, though, they might want to look to a different running watch. There’s no pulse oximeter or barometer, and runners won’t hae advanced training analytics, either.

Without virtual partner opportunities, live segments, and the length of their stride, it’s possible some runners won’t feel like they’re getting enough information. It’s worth noting that these aren’t available on this watch, but that it likely won’t matter to a lot of runners, either.

Read our full review on the Garmin Forerunner 45

8. Suunto 9

Key Features

  • Optical Heart Rate Monitor
  • 120-Hour Battery Life with GPS in use
  • 320×300 Matrix Screen

Reasons to buy

  • Strong Battery Life
  • Decent Heart Rate Accuracy
  • Integration With Strava
  • Good Run Feedback

Reasons to avoid

  • App Could Use Improvement
  • Doesn’t Always Sync Properly
  • Locking Feature Can be Frustrating
  • HR Feature Fails at High Intensity

One of the biggest reasons runners like this watch is the battery life. The Suunto 9 boasts a full 120 hours on a charge, and that’s with the GPS in use. Alerts and power management work together to help ensure that runners won’t run out of battery in the middle of their workout or endurance event. With full GPS navigation and 80 sports modes, there’s a lot to love about the convenience and abilities this watch has to offer.

Activity tracking and standard smartwatch features are all available, along with an optical heart rate monitor. This watch is large, though, and smaller runners may not like the big, beefy feel of it on their wrist.

The edges may feel sharp, and the plastic can dig into the skin if it’s worn snugly or there’s movement from running or other exercise tasks. The resolution of the touchscreen is higher than what’s seen on the Garmin watches, but the readability and visibility of the Suunto 9’s screen isn’t as strong.

The watch locks when not in use, so runners can’t just start swiping away to get to the screen they need. They’ll have to press a button first. While that can be inconvenient, it also helps ensure that the watch isn’t activated by accident. That prevents changing modes or doing anything else unless it’s deliberate, which is a problem with some other brands of touchscreen running watches.

Cycling through screens is needed to get information, but there’s good detail and the layout is intuitive. All in all, this is a solid offering into the GPS running watch market.

9. Fitbit Sense

Key Features

  • Provides a huge range of health statistics such as body response to stress and heart rythm irregularity
  • On-wrist temperature sensor
  • 12 Hours Battery Life in GPS Mode

Reasons to buy

  • Sleep Analysis is Detailed
  • GPS is Built In
  • Versatile Google Assistant
  • Screen is Bright and Always On

Reasons to avoid

  • No Onboard Music Storage
  • Stress Tracking is Confusing
  • Other Smartwatches are Faster

The Fitbit Sense is becoming one of the better GPS watches for runners, as it continues to get better with time. It was overly ambitious when it first appeared on the scene, and couldn’t quite deliver on some of its promises or expectations.

But as Fitbit continues to improve, it now offers tracking for temperature, stress, sleep, and blood oxygen levels. While the data can be a little confusing to process at times, runners can get a lot of information from this offering into the smartwatch category.

There’s a lot to love about the Fitbit Sense, especially for runners who want to track more of their health metrics along with their run times, step count, and other information. The focus of the Sense is bridging the gap between wellness and fitness, and right now it’s trying to get a foothold into both of those areas in one device.

Runners will appreciate all the information they’re getting from their exercise, but also the knowledge that there may be other areas of their life they should address to improve their health.

The ECG and stress sensing may be a bit much for a lot of people, though. Runners don’t usually have need for these options, and there are other watches that also offer them. The stress measurements can be confusing, as well, and it’s not always easy to be sure exactly what the Sense is reading, or how it’s making the measurement.

The other sensors, such as heart rate and oxygen, are good for runners to have, and provide plenty of knowledge. The Sense is a great idea, but may be trying a little too hard.

10. Fitbit Versa 3

Key Features

  • Significant Level of Health Data
  • Strong Battery Life (12 hours in GPS Mode)
  • Larger Screen Than Previous Models

Reasons to buy

  • Works With iOS and Android
  • 12 Hour GPS Tracking
  • Built-In GPS
  • Always-On Display

Reasons to avoid

  • Not Enough Features
  • Some Performance Lag
  • Buttons Can be Frustrating

For runners who aren’t looking for a lot of detailed metrics, and who typically do short runs for fitness or fun, the Fitbit Versa 3 can be a great option. The tracking features of this watch aren’t going to be as significant or accurate as some of the serious watches for running, but all the basic stats are available.

Pace, calories, distance, and steps are there, along with a sharp display that’s easy to read even while exercising. Fitbit’s app and third-party apps can both be used, so runners get a choice. Being able to easily store data in a third-party app like Strava is a great way for runners to get the support they need and the interaction in the running community, along with focusing on community sharing through Fitbit, as well.

The fitness tracking is the biggest benefit of this watch. Runners who are also focused on keeping an eye on other aspects of their fitness can get a lot of information from the Versa 3.

An overall picture of a runner’s health is what can be expected from this smartwatch, and runners can also expect around 5 to 6 days of usage as a standard smartwatch when GPS tracking isn’t being used.

The Versa is a little bulky for what it offers, and is one of the bigger Fitbit designs. While not for everyone, most runners won’t mind the larger size, and may really like the opportunity to have more information about other fitness metrics, as well.

How to Choose the Best GPS Running Watch

Choosing the best GPS running watch comes down to two things: a watch that offers affordable quality, and one that works for the needs of the specific runner.

Both of those can be found in most of the running watches offered today, although some are more focused on affordability while others are more concerned with the level of features offered. Finding the balance between those two areas is what most runners prefer to do, while some runners choose one option over the other because it’s most important to them.

Before choosing from the best GPS running watches available today, it’s vital that a runner carefully considers all of their options, and narrows the field to a few that they like the best. Then they can do more intensive research to find the best option, and will provably be more satisfied with their purchase that way.

There’s no reason to settle for less than a watch that truly meets their needs, which will give a runner the chance to track time, distance, and other metrics that are important to them on their journey.

Frequently Asked Questions on GPS Running Watches

Does the Brand of Running Watch Matter?

Technically, no. The brand of running watch a runner chooses doesn’t matter. Of course, it’s important to choose something that offers quality, and name brands are often more consistent in doing that. But beyond a focus on quality, the biggest issue is to get a watch that fits the budget and has the features needed to work toward goals. There are many good running watch brands, and all runners have different needs and ideas about what works for them on their journeys. There are some people that like simple watches such as Timex.

How Many Runners Use All These Features?

A lot of runners use a majority of the features of their watches, but there are some running watches so packed with features that it’s unlikely that too many runners would use all of them. Still, it’s enjoyable to have so many options for features that might be fun to use, or that could add new insight for a runner who’s trying to do their best, get stronger, or extend their times or abilities. With all the options available, there are plenty of features for runners to choose from when it comes to the best GPS running watches.

Is It Better to Get More Features Than Needed?

When choosing from all the GPS watches for runners, one of the things to consider is whether to only get the features the runner is thinking about using now, or getting more features that might come in handy in the future. Because more established runners probably already know what they want to track, they may just choose what works for them in the present. But runners who are looking for something new might want to select a GPS watch for runners that offers them more features. Then they can use those features later, and work at building their athletic abilities.

How Long Does a Running Watch Last?

Even the best GPS running watch will have to be replaced eventually. Sometimes that’s because the watch is failing, and other times it’s because the runner simply wanted to upgrade to something else that they like better. With proper care, though, watches in this category can be used for years. The battery life may lessen over time, and the watch won’t necessarily have as many features as the newer models. When a runner is looking for more value or increased abilities, they may need to upgrade even if their current watch is still working.

Conclusion

Take the time to find the right GPS running watch for you, whether you need that extended battery life as an ultra runner, or you want the most out of the features. You are the only one that can make that decision.

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