May 21, 2020

The 10 Best GPS Running Watches of 2020 Buyer's guide & review

Every runner needs the perfect running companion. And no, it’s not a good pair of shoes. To go the extra mile, what you need is the best GPS running watches

GPS running watches are one of the best investments a runner can make. With one strapped to your wrist, you’ll be able to track your distance and speed with reliable accuracy.

 More than just running, this watch helps you track other important metrics, including heart rate, intensity levels, exertion training and recovery speed.

The problem is: with so many GPS running watches out there, it’s difficult to know how to choose one.

So what should you wear on your wrist? To give you a head start, we’ve scoured the market to give you a list of the top 10 best GPS running watches.

1. Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS running watchs

With thousands of satisfied users across the globe, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is the optimal running companion.

 Its comprehensive tracking system is catered to both professional athletes and amateur runners with five workout modes: cardio, indoor running, outdoor running, walking, and cycling.

 With its advanced running metrics, the Garmin Forerunner 35 has a specialized virtual pacer that counts your number of steps per day and helps you measure calories burned, distance traveled, and intensity levels.

The Garmin Forerunner 35‘s best feature is its all-day tracking system – it allows you to monitor your heart rate and pulse 24/7, even when you’re sleeping. 

It is an all-around device that receives notifications directly from your smartphone, allowing you to receive text and calls while running or working out. And the best part? It automatically uploads your data to Garmin Connect – an online fitness community where you can share your progress and reach your goals.

In terms of design, the Garmin Forerunner 35 looks like an Apple watch with its square, flat face, and sleek style. Although it doesn’t have a swimming mode, this watch is water-resistant up to 5m – so you don’t have to worry about sweat or getting caught in the rain.

 Its impressive battery life lasts up to 9 days in watch mode and 13 hours in training mode.


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Features:

  • 24/7 heart rate monitor
  • Virtual pacer
  • Five comprehensive activity modes
  • 128 x 128 pixels digital display
  • Water-resistant up to 5m
  • Complete music controls
  • Receives smart phone notifications
  • Automatically uploads to Garmin Connect (online community)

Pros:

  • Budget friendly
  • Lightweight 
  • Easy to use
  • Long battery life (up to 13 hours)

Cons:

  • No swimming mode

2. Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS running watches

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is a game-changing tool that combines fitness and lifestyle. 

It features a daily fitness system that focuses on two particular aspects: V02 max and fitness age.

 More than just sports, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 also helps keep you emotionally stable through its stress tracker that uses heart rate variability to calculate stress levels. 

It features more than 15 built-in sports apps that include yoga, cycling, golfing, and swimming – so you can choose which activity best suits your lifestyle.

This versatile watch specially caters to the needs of modern-day runners.

 It allows you to multi-task while doing your workout by connecting to your smartphone – so you can text, call, email, check the weather, and even book an Uber using just your watch. 

It also automatically uploads your data to Garmin Connect, an online community where you can share your progress and fitness goals.

What sets the Garmin Vivoactive 3 apart from other Garmin watches is its contactless payment system.

 It allows you to pay for your purchases using just your watch. You won’t have to worry about dragging your bulky wallet on your morning run; just tap your watch in the same way that you would your card and you’re good to go.


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Features:

  • Garmin Pay: contactless payment system
  • More than 15 built-in sports apps
  • Stress tracker using heart rate viability
  • Side Swipe Interface
  • Chroma display with corning gorilla glass
  • Compatible with smartphone
  • Automatically uploads to Garmin Connect
  • Battery life: 7 days for smart watch mode, 13 hours for GPS mode

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Good display
  • Water-resistant, ideal for swimming
  • Sleek, round design

Cons:

  • No music playback
  • Not completely compatible with iOS (can’t respond to texts)

3. Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS running watches

When it comes to monitoring cardiovascular health over long distances, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is a step above the rest. 

Its main feature is the Elevate heart rate technology that allows you to keep track of your heart rate 24/7 – yes, even at night when you’re sleeping.

 This not only measures your progress, but it also spots potential problems like over-training and too much exertion. 

With the touch of a button, you can get a visual of your heart rate for the past 4 hours as well as a chart for the past 7 days.

To track your fitness goals, the Garmin Forerunner 235 focuses on reading VO2 max – the maximum volume of oxygen you use when you workout.

 You can customize your workout with four activity modes: run, run indoor, cycle, and other. 

It is a total package that comes with features for a complete workout, including a step counter, pace alert, sleep monitor, and recovery adviser.

As to design, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is a classic, round-faced sports watch. 

It comes with a 1.23-inch colored display screen that is easy to read even in direct sunlight – perfect for those sunny morning runs.

 It features a perforated soft silicon strap that is sweat-resistant and comfortable even for long distance running.


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Features:

  • Elevate Heart Rate Technology
  • A 1.23-inch display screen that is sunlight-visible
  • VO2 max estimate
  • Activity tracking
  • Sleep monitoring and recovery advisor
  • Weather widget
  • Smart phone compatibility
  • Automatically uploads to Garmin Connect
  • Batter life: 9 days in watch mode, 11 hours in GPS mode

Pros:

  • Comfortable to wear

  • GPS locks on quickly

Cons:

  • No Bluetooth
  • Syncing problems

4. Garmin 010-03717-49 Forerunner 235 GPS running watch

The best thing about the Garmin 010-03717-49 Forerunner 235? It uses both GPS and GLONASS connection. 

GPS connects to American satellites while GLONASS connects to Russian satellites. 

This feature allows you to get a connection anytime, anywhere – even in far-flung places and remote areas.

The Garmin 010-03717-49 Forerunner 235 caters to both outdoor and indoor workouts, and even has a mode for biking and weightlifting.

 It features an advanced accelerometer that calculates your speed and distance.

 It also has a built-in activity tracker that records your steps per minute, even when you’re not running at full pace.

With its trendy design and forest green/black color combination, the Garmin 010-03717-49 Forerunner 235 keeps you looking stylish even while working out. 

This GPS running watch helps also allows you to customize your watch and make it your own by connecting to Garmin IQ where you can download dozens of apps and widgets. It is compatible with both Android and Apple phones.


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Features:

  • GPS and GLONASS connection for better signal
  • Waterproof up to 50m
  • Larger screen with 215×180 pixel resolution
  • Advanced Accelerometer
  • Optimal heart rate monitor
  • Smartphone compatibility
  • Garmin IQ connection
  • Activity tracking
  • Sleep registration and music control
  • Battery life: 9 days in watch mode and 15 hours in GPS mode

Pros:

  • Good signal
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Water and sweat proof

Cons:

  • Not advisable for lifting weights
  • Less than average screen quality

5. Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle Stainless Steel Touchscreen Smartwatch GPS running watches

When talking about fashionable watches, the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle Stainless Steel Touchscreen Smartwatch takes the cake.

 It has a round-faced, classy design and allows you to express your own style by mixing and matching different cases and straps of either silicone, leather, or metal. 

Unlike other GPS running watches, this one uses a clasp lock so you can easily find the right fit for you. 

This model already comes with plenty of great pre-installed watch faces, so you can customize your watch and make it your own.

It has a crisp, bright 1.28-inch display with a pixel density of 328ppi. It’s also AMOLED so that the display is high-contrast and always stays on ambient mode. 

The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle Stainless Steel Touchscreen Smartwatch has both built-in GPS and heart rate sensors. It allows you to install apps like Strava and Google fit to track your speed and distance throughout your workout.

 It’s equipped with a speaker for taking phone calls, notification alerts, and google assistant.


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Features:

  • Built-in GPS and heart rate sensor
  • 1.28-inch display screen (AMOLED) with a pixel density of 328ppi
  • 8gb storage and 1gb ram memory capacity
  • Interchangeable watch faces and straps
  • Three custom battery modes
  • Smart phone compatible

Pros:

  • Trendy and stylish

  • Plenty of designs to choose from

  • Fast charging: up to 80% in less than an hour

Cons:

  • No swimming mode

6. Garmin 010-01863-20 Forerunner 645 Music GPS Running Watches

Dubbed as the number one choice for music lovers everywhere, the Garmin 010-01863-20 Forerunner 645 Music GPS Running Watch features on-device music storage so you can download and store up to 500 songs.

 It also syncs music from online streaming platforms so you can listen to your favorite songs while doing your daily run via compatible Bluetooth headphones.

Tired of running? You can mix up your routine by using its different built-in modes that include cycling, paddle boarding, swimming, and much more.

 Its advanced system allows you to track your biomechanical measurements like stride length, vertical ratio, cadence, and ground contact time to ensure optimal performance.

With Training Status, a performance monitoring tool, the Garmin 010-01863-20 Forerunner 645 Music will help you evaluate past performance so you can work out better and more productively.

 Much like the similar modern Garmin watches, this GPS running watch also utilizes Garmin Pay – a contactless payment system that allows you to pay for your purchases using just your watch.


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Features:

  • On-device music storage (500 songs)
  • Garmin Pay: contactless payment system
  • Advanced biochemical metric measurements
  • Training Status monitoring tool
  • Smartphone compatible
  • Multi-sport tracking
  • Battery life: 7 days in watch mode, 5 hours in GPS mode with music

Pros:

  • Good music player and storage
  • Comfortable fit

Cons:

  • Short battery life
  • Not compatible with some music streaming services

7. Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch GPS Running Watches

Designed to support your running even in the most difficult terrains, the Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch is heavy duty and durable.

 Its screen is made up of scratch-resistant gorilla glass with a high contrast display that helps you see even in dark environments. The Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch is also a good choice for swimmers, as it is waterproof up to 100ft.

 It uses the Polar H7 – an advanced sensor that tracks and monitors your heart rate 24/7.

The Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch caters to the most ambitious athletes. You can take your training to the next level with a built-in program that monitors cadence continuously.

 Using a preinstalled Orthostatic test, this GPS running watch will help track your performance and recovery rate.

 With its barometric altimeter, you can monitor your altitude, ascent, and descent, and upload your data to the Polar Flow App to better training analysis.


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Features:

  • Scratch-resistant Gorilla glass screen
  • High-contrast display for low light
  • Water-resistant up to 100ft
  • Customized training modes
  • Polar H7 heart rate sensor
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Smart phone compatibility

Pros:

  • Durable design
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Bulky and a bit heavy
  • Customization has to be done on another device, not on watch

8. Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit Running Watches

Weighing only 49 grams, the Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit is a lightweight running tool that you can wear all day.

 Its multi-sport feature allows you to choose from a range of different physical activities, including cross-country skiing, paddle sports, swimming, and even strength training. 

This GPS running watch provides you with extra support when training through its electronic compass and a barometric altimeter that helps you track your altitude, ascent, and descent when running.

Its heart rate monitor not only measures heart rate but also performance condition – this allows you to track your physical activity and correlate it with your heart rate variance to check if you’re staying within a healthy range.

 The Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit uses advanced running dynamics to track speed, distance, and pace and also measures VO2 max – the maximum volume of oxygen you use when you workout. 

It is specifically designed to evaluate your training status to check if you are either overtraining or undertraining.


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Features:

  • Premium GPS running dynamics
  • Multi-activity functionality
  • A barometric altimeter to track elevation change
  • Electronic compass
  • Advanced heart rate monitor
  • VO2 max measurement
  • Battery life: 2 weeks in watch mode, 5 hours in GPS mode

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Weak GPS signal
  • Not water resistant

9. Garmin Fenix 5 Premium and Rugged Multisport GPS running watches

While this watch may be one of the most expensive on this list, the Garmin Fenix 5 Premium and Rugged Multisport GPS Smartwatch gives you the best value for money. 

Being a multi-sport tool, it caters to different physical activities, including biking, skiing, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding.

 It features a rugged design with stainless steel bezel and case to prevent wear and tear. 

It is specially designed to withstand harsh outdoor environments with its combination of GPS and GLONASS satellite connection and 3-axis compass. 

It is also equipped with a gyroscope and barometric altimeter to track your ascent and descent.

But what makes the Garmin Fenix 5 Premium and Rugged Multisport GPS Smartwatch stand out?

 It has full-color maps. It is preinstalled with detailed topographical maps of the entire country so you can make automated routes for running and avoid getting lost when hiking up new trails.

 


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Features:

  • GPS and GLONASS satellite connection
  • 3-axis compass with full-color detailed topographical maps
  • Gyroscope and barometric altimeter
  • Elevate heart rate technology
  • Stainless steel bezel and case
  • Sunlight visible display with transflective memory
  • Automatic upload to Garmin Connect
  • Smart phone compatible

Pros:

  • Great for night time runs
  • Inclusion of maps so you don’t get lost
  • Heavy duty

Cons:

  • Too large for some people
  • No Garmin pay contactless system
  • Below-average battery life

10. Garmin Forerunner 945 Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Smartwatch with Music

Not only is the Garmin Forerunner 945 Premium packed with sophisticated training features to help monitor your form and performance, but it also does so without sacrificing battery life. 

It is designed to withstand long runs through further distances with its heavy-duty battery that lasts up to 36 hours on GPS mode.

 This GPS running watch is enhanced with specialized music features that allow you to download songs from your phone or even from streaming services like Spotify, so you can listen to your favorite tunes on the run.

For added safety, this watch includes an incident detection feature – it sends your exact location to your emergency contacts connected through your smartphone.

 It is equipped with full-color maps that help you find your way in unfamiliar routes. The Garmin Forerunner 945 Premium helps you maximize performance by tracking your VO2 max.

 It comes with advanced running settings, including aerobic and anaerobic training, heat adjustments, altitude status, and recovery time.

Like most modern Garmin watches, the Garmin Forerunner 945 Premium includes common features like the Garmin Pay that allows contactless payments and a combination of both GPS and GLONASS satellite connectivity for better reception.

 It also comes with a wrist-based Pulse Ox sensor that monitors blood oxygen saturation levels in the body.


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Features:

  • Advanced music storage (up to 1000 songs)
  • GPS and GLONASS satellite connection
  • Garmin Coach adaptive training plans
  • Full-color detailed topographical maps
  • Pulse Ox sensor
  • Incident detection feature (syncs emergency contacts)
  • VO2 max tracker
  • Garmin Pay: contactless payment system
  • Automatically uploads to Garmin Connect (online fitness community)

Pros:

  • Excellent music storage
  • Heavy-duty battery
  • Safety features to help avoid accidents

Cons:

  • Not budget-friendly
  • The strap is difficult to remove
  • Can be a bit bulky

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