The 10 Best GPS Running Watches to Buy in 2018

Track miles and more with these pieces of wearable technology

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Yes, it's true that running is a low-maintenance sport, for the most part, and all you really need is a good pair of running shoes. But a running watch can definitely come in handy. For beginners, running watches can be helpful to keep track of how long you're running or to measure your run/walk intervals. More experienced runners like to use advanced features such as heart rate monitoring and GPS to help improve the quality of their training and their performance.

If you're thinking about buying a running watch, here are several good options. Whether you're looking for a powerful GPS watch to track all your stats or just a basic running watch, we've got a watch for you.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Fitbit Charge 3

Whether you’re gearing up for a 5K, training for a marathon, or you’re just looking to make running more of a habit, the Fitbit Charge 3 boasts plenty of smart features to help you optimize your runs—and win your next race. This top-rated running watch has multi-sport tracking that you can record to your dashboard (so you can track your post-run yoga session, too!), wrist-based heart rate monitoring, and top-of-the-line GPS capability so that you’re able to map your routes. For an extra price, you can get a premium leather wrist band to make your watch office appropriate too.

Best Budget: Timex Ironman Triathlon Watch

Timex Men
Image via Amazon

If you're looking for an inexpensive running watch without GPS technology, the Timex Ironman Triathlon Watch is simple and very easy to use, yet it's powerful enough to meet your training and race timing needs.

It features a 100-hour stopwatch with 1/100 second resolution; 50 lap memory, 50 split memory, 50 workout memory; a training log with best lap, average lap, and total segment time with date; indiglo backlight for easy viewing in low light conditions; 3 alarms; and 2 interval timers with 99 rep counter. In addition, it's very sleek, stylish, and available in several different colors.

Best Heart Rate Monitor: Apple Watch Series 4

You may consider Apple products a bit of a splurge, but the company's latest Apple Watch is worth it if you're a running pro or are training for a race. This do-it-all piece of gear has GPS and cellular functions so you can seamlessly track your routes and stay on top of incoming notifications if need be. The watch measures your cadence, heart rate, pace, and other important metrics, plus you can track hikes and yoga workouts during any cross-training days.

The watch is rechargeable using the included USB cable. If you really want to get into improving your sport, try the watch's personalized coaching and challenge features that will keep you motivated to reach the next level. No matter your fitness goals, the Apple Series 4 Watch has the features you need.

Best with GPS: Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch

Create a winning fitness plan with the Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch, whose superior features and customizable elements will undoubtedly help you dominate your next race. Thanks to this watch’s built-in GPS, you can easily record your location, pace, route, distance, and other important data.

In addition, the Garmin Vivoactive watch has over 15 preloaded sports apps, if you want to supplement your runs with other workouts. This popular watch is also perfectly safe in all types of weather. According to hundreds of Amazon reviewers, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch has seriously impressive functionality and is excellent for runners.

Best for Trail Runners: Garmin Forerunner Series

Garmin watch
Image via Amazon

Any runner who is into gadgets or tracking their distances will love one of these Garmin Forerunner wristwatch GPS systems. They track all kinds of information, including how far you ran, how to get back to your starting point, and lots of statistical data that can all be downloaded onto your computer. The Forerunner tracks the amount of calories burned and calculates them over the course of a workout. It also lets you know when you achieve a personal record for a distance. Another feature that runners like is that it pauses and resumes based on speed, so you don't have to keep pressing the stop and start buttons. The latest models feature a wrist-based heart rate monitor and also allow you to get text, call, and email notifications from your smartphone.

Casio Women's STR300 Runner Eco Friendly Digital Watch

Casio Women's Watch
Image via Amazon

If you're just getting started with running and don't want to invest in an expensive watch, this basic running watch from Casio is perfect. Very inexpensive and lightweight, it also features an auto LED light, alarm, countdown capability, and stopwatch with 60 lap memory.

Best with Sleep Tracker: Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch & Activity Tracker

Polar M400
Image via Amazon

If you crave information about your runs and other activity, the Polar M400 may be the watch for you. It's a GPS running watch with built-in activity tracking features for runners of all levels. This water-resistant unit, available several different colors, combines the best features of a GPS watch with 24/7 fitness activity and sleep tracking, so runners can monitor and analyze the complete picture of their daily activity and exercises.

Best Smartwatch: Fitbit Ionic

When it comes to advanced sport watches, it doesn’t get much more high-tech than the Fitbit Ionic. This popular watch packs a mighty punch with its wide range of features that include a gyroscope, accelerometer, and NFC optical heart monitor, all housed in a wonderfully sleek device. Music fans will undoubtedly love that the Fitbit Ionic allows you to store and play over 300 songs, in addition to downloading Pandora playlists.

Plus, this top-selling watch comes with both large- and small-sized bands for the perfect fit. With over 2,000 rave five-star reviews on Amazon, it’s clear that the Fitbit Ionic has become one of the best sport tracking watches available today. 

Best for Training: Samsung Gear Sport

Trendy, functional, and ultra-luxe, the beloved Samsung Gear Sport can pretty much do it all: This well-designed sport watch provides passive activity tracking, personalized coaching and tips, and detailed analysis of your pace, heart rate, and other fitness facts.

Runners will especially love that the Gear Sport has an auto-pause feature—which is perfect for those pesky red lights—and access to Spotify, so you can blast Beyonce tunes during your next jog. The Gear Sport is also water-resistant (just in case you accidentally wear it in the shower or get caught in a rainstorm), and compatible with Android and iOS smartphones.

Best Design: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR

Lightweight, flashy, and built to last, the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR is both a fashion statement and a highly efficient running watch. Boasting a battery life of up to 12 hours (in training mode), this durable, practical watch is perfect for runners and any other experienced endurance athletes.

The Suunto’s features include an outdoor-grade color touch screen, mapping, training insights, and customized sport modes (80 in total!), in addition to 24/7 activity tracking and an optical heart rate monitor. Amazon users praise the chic Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist for its sturdiness, impressive array of features, and ultra-stylish design.

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