The best GPS running watches in 2015: Polar, Garmin, TomTom, and more
Written By Allie Quill
Whether you’re a marathon athlete or a once-a-month jogger, it’s a tricky task to find a running watch perfectly suited for your needs. We’ve whittled down the sea of options and compiled a list of the best GPS running watches that can track everything from your heart rate to the route you take home. Take a look and find the watch that works for you.
The best GPS watch for quality over quantity
Critics’ rating*: 4.1 out of 5
(*Wearables.com compiles the top critic ratings online for an aggregate score)
The Fitbit Surge is by far one of the best simply activity trackers on the market, especially with Fitbit’s updates to the tracker’s software and built-in GPS. The GPS watch also boasts some hot features, like smartphone notifications, a touchscreen, monochrome LCD, with a display size of 20.88 x 24.36 mm. However, with all of this technology packed in, the Fitbit Surge is a bit bulkier than many might like. But with a battery that lasts nearly a week on a single charge, the smartwatch packs a serious punch in the fitness department. Compatible with iOS, Windows, and Android smartphones.
Garmin Forerunner 220
The best GPS running watch for data on the go
Critics’ rating: 4.0 out of 5
The Forerunner 220 is the newest edition to Garmin’s suite of Forerunner fitness watches. Sleeker, quicker, and better equipped, the 220 combines a GPS tracker, a heart rate monitor, and a built-in accelerometer to track every aspect of your run. Both ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible, the fitness watch is able to wirelessly pair and upload data to your smartphone. The 220 is also compatible with Garmin Connect, Garmin’s online running community, where users can compare data with other athletes. Be sure to utilize the tracker’s heart rate zone to reach that perfect run. Something else we really love about this GPS watch? How it knows to pause tracking whenever you pause on your run. Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones.
Garmin Forerunner 15
The best GPS watch for getting started
Critics’ rating: 3.8 out of 5
A high-tech running watch can be seriously intimidating thing (but one that’s perfectly suited for the fitness technofile), so the Garmin Forerunner 15 is stripped down to the bare essentials. For those who are just beginning a running regimen — or for those who don’t want to spend too much money on a device — this Garmin GPS watch covers your pace, location, distance, heart rate, and calories burned, while also being waterproof up to 50m. Even when you’re not running, the 15 acts as a pedometer and calorie counter. Like the 220, this watch also works with Garmin Connect. What doesn’t rule, however, is the lack of wireless syncing. Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones.
The best GPS watch for basically everything
Critics’ rating: 3.2 out of 5
Though affordable and pared down than its predecessor, the v800 (better for multisports), the m400 is a GPS running watch that’s still chock full of well-considered features. At its core, this Polar watch performs basic activity tracking (steps, distance, and sleep). The built-in GPS records pace, distance, and altitude; the watch can estimate when you will finish your run based on your pace and, if you ever get lost, the watch can direct you back to where you started. Finally, like other Polar watches, the m400 features the Running Index uses heart rate and speed data measured during runs to and can calculate the effect of each session. Simply adjust your training accordingly. Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones.
Garmin Fenix 3
The best GPS watch for running off the beaten path
Critics’ rating: 4 out of 5.
All Garmin watches are seriously impressive, but this GPS watch is the way to go for runners who dabble in other sports. Whether you run, cycle, swim, or cross-country ski, the Fenix 3 tracks it all. The large watch body holds a battery that lasts up to 5 weeks on a single charge, or up to 20 hours when using the GPS. The screen (a 1.2-inch sunlight readable color Chroma™ display) is incredibly interactive with the ability to display directions as well as smartphone notifications. The Fenix 3 tracks distance, pace, vertical oscillation, heart rate, and Vo2 max. The impressive built-in sensors also provide information on heading, elevation, and weather changes. As one would expect, the Fenix 3 connects wirelessly to Android or Apple operating system and the Garmin Connect community. Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones.
The best GPS watch for those swimming in money
Critics’ rating: 3.8 out of 5
If you have the money, the v800 is a choice pick tracking intense activity in water or on land. This Polar fitness watch in particular measures distance, Time, Sleep, Calories burned, GPS, Speed/Pace, Air Pressure, Run Cadence (with additional sensor), Heart rate (with additional sensor), Swim metrics (style, distance, pace, strokes, and rest times), and training load. Even after you finish your workout, you can look forward to recovery stats and the Orthostatic Test which will advise you when you’ll be ready to work again. By pairing the watch with additional devices like the Stride Sensor, users can unlock programs to improve running form, collect additional biking stats, and implement zonal training guaranteed to make you sweat. Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones.
The best GPS watch for beating personal records
The TomTom Runner Cardio is TomTom’s very own running watch, created after splitting from Nike where the company produced the Nike+ SportWatch GPS. It’s a GPS running watch with built in heart rate monitor. Unlike other fitness watches, the Runner features a “Race” function that allows users to compete against their own personal bests in real time. The watch is navigated by way of a single, large button. The design is a little loud, but functions like interval training and QuickFixGPS motivate users to hit the road (or treadmill). Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones.
The best GPS watch for those on a tight budget
Critics’ rating: 3.7 out of 5
This is one of the less serious running watches as actually it veers more toward the side of traditional activity tracker. The Runtastic Orbit’s 24-hour fitness tracking allows users to monitor sleep cycles in addition to daily activity. When paired with the Runtastic Me app, the Orbit syncs daily data through Bluetooth. You’ll see all of the basic metrics like distances and calories, but there is a small catch. In order to go for a run and see your metrics in all their glory, you’ll have to run with both the band and your connected smartphone. Compatible with iOS, Windows, and Android smartphones.
The best GPS watch for triathletes
Critics’ rating: 3.7 out of 5.
This Suunto tracker takes care of distance, pace, altitude, and speed. With the help of a built-in GPS, the watch gives route guidance and serves as a compass. Not only does the watch have a heart monitor, but the monitor also works during a swim. It’s one of the only GPS watches on the market to do so, making it a great choice for triathletes. Data is transferred to the Suunto Ambit3 mobile app via Bluetooth or to the web-based software via USB. And for the braggarts out there, workouts can be turned into a movie that shows a 3D map of the hard work you put in. Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones.
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