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Better battery life, more precision, and optimized design, these are just some of the things we have considered in order to find the best GPS running watch for you.
Of course, we also want a highly accurate GPS, a simple user interface for when our running brain gets tired and an excellent app to read and learn from our statistics and stay motivated.
Note: The models below are listed in ascending price order since everyone has different needs.
Garmin Forerunner 35
Not everyone needs a GPS running watch that offers advanced statistics. That’s why the first one we recommend is the Garmin Forerunner 35 (Check on Amazon.com).
Available in 4 colors (black, yellow, light blue and white), it is equipped with the same heart rate monitor technology (called Elevate) that goes in the most expensive models. There are also various activity-tracking features, such as a pedometer, a motion bar, sleep monitoring, burned calories, distance traveled, minutes of exercise, TrueUp and Move IQ. However, unlike the more expensive models, you can not integrate a chest strap.
The design is quite minimal, but the LCD screen is always visible, and it is water-resistant up to 5 ATM. In short, a cheap GPS running watch that we can recommend to everyone.
The M400 (Check on Amazon.com) was the best-selling GPS running watch in Europe, for 3 simple reasons: it was simple, functional and available at a good price.
Thankfully, the new Polar M430 (Check on Amazon.com) inherited all these and added some new and useful features.
It is still very easy to use and very durable, but the biggest update is that the M430 is now equipped with a very accurate built-in heart rate sensor.
There is also sleep tracking, smart notifications, and the Polar Flow app, which allows you to take advantage of wrist coaching capabilities for tailored training sessions.
Somehow Polar manages to offer these extraordinary features while providing a decent battery life (up to 30 hours of actual training). Although it lacks some of the most specific running regiments you will find on flagship models such as the Garmin Forerunner 935, this one remains the best GPS running watch for quality/price ratio.
Garmin Vivoactive 3
Is it a smartwatch, a sports watch, or a fashion accessory? It is all three wrapped up in one device. The Vivoactive 3 (Check on Amazon.com) is the first Garmin watch designed for runners but with an eye for fashion.
It has all the most common features, such as GPS and heart rate detection, multi-sport support and even Garmin Pay, which allows for contactless payments.
The autonomy is a whopping 7 days with standard use (notifications, training, heart rate monitoring 24/7) or 13 hours of continuous GPS training. This GPS running watch features a stainless steel bezel and a comfortable rubber strap that can be replaced to suit every occasion.
A wide selection of dials and apps is available on Garmin Connect.
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT (Check on Amazon.com) has a “low” price if you consider the many features that most professional athletes will like.
The GPS sensor is incredibly fast and very accurate. Even without the use of an HRM chest strap, heart rate readings were surprisingly precise (thanks to the Garmin Elevate technology).
It lends itself as a fitness tracker but it can double as a great sleep monitor. In short, a great all-rounder perfect for runners, triathletes, swimmers, cyclers and so on.
Garmin Forerunner 935
It’s like having a Fenix 5X (Check on Amazon.com) crammed into a thinner body. The Garmin Forerunner 935 (Check on Amazon.com) is the best GPS running watch in terms of design, precision, and functionality.
This is a professional tool for runners and triathletes.
In addition to the very precise GPS, there is a wide range of advanced metrics, including cadence, ground contact time and balance, oscillation and vertical ratio, step length, VO2 max, race previsions, recovery time and much more.
Also, you get up to 50 hours of autonomy with active GPS and the ability to customize the functions by adding many of the applications you can find on the Garmin Connect IQ app.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus (Check on Amazon.com) is one of the best multisport watches on the market. It is not cheap, but it is a complete 360° device.
Equipped with advanced tracking services, this watch can track your location, no matter where you are.
The 16GB of internal memory and the various built-in sensors offer you the possibility of offline display of topographic maps, adding an additional layer of security for trail runners.
How to choose the best GPS running watch for you
Should you buy a cheap model or one with advanced features? The most important thing to understand is what features you need and how you plan to use them. Are the GPS functionality and the integrated heart rate monitor a must? Are you going to use the watch just for running, or would you prefer a cross-training device?
If you are not sure about spending over $200, ask yourself how often you will use the watch and, most importantly, what metrics you will need the most. For example, are you going to use it twice a week, or will you wear it every day? Will you use it only during the day, or also monitor your night activity?
In addition, many modern sports smartwatches offer advanced services such as contactless payments, the ability to receive smartphone notifications or use smartphone apps (Spotify) without carrying the smartphone around.
Choose what is a must for you and then decide on a model that covers your needs.