Best GPS running watches: The ultimate guide to choosing the best one

A GPS running watch is there to help you keep track of your location and running distance. It also lets you know about your pace. If you are considering to buy a GPS running watch and don’t know which one, then don’t worry because we are here to help you. With so many models on the market, it can be a little intimidating finding the right GPS running watch. We have this comprehensive guide in which we have discussed every question you can have about the GPS running watches. We have also collected the best GPS running watches so you can pick out one that will match your requirements.

Best GPS running watches: The ultimate guide to choosing the best one
Best GPS running watches: The ultimate guide to choosing the best one

There are smart watches and fitness trackers that provide a lot more than just tracking the location, distance, and pace. However, some people want something that is basic. Moreover, a GPS running watch’s primary objective is to track your running and all of its detailed stats so undoubtedly it does a better job and is more accurate than most smart watcheThis article will provide answers to the following questions about GPS running watches:

  1. Understanding what a GPS running watch is
  2. Why should you buy a GPS running watch?
  3. Do GPS running watches actually work?
  4. How to choose the best GPS running watch that works best for you
  5. Best GPS running watches
  6. Using your watch efficiently
  7. Conclusion – what actually makes a difference

1. Understanding what a GPS running watch is:

Understanding what a GPS running watch is
Understanding what a GPS running watch is

A GPS running watch comes with an integrated GPS receiver that tracks down the location of a runner and works as a guide to help them reach a certain goal. The watch is often used by for fitness and sports purposes. However, they can have much more functions and capabilities depending on the developer. It can be integrated within a smart watch as well.The stats of these functions are displayed on a touchscreen integrated within the device. The screen could be OLED, LCD or something else, depending upon the model of watch. The key features usually integrated within the watch are:

Speed & pace tracking to let you know how fast you are:

The device shows current speed by calculating distance through its GPS and time. The results can be inaccurate if you use this function for basic exercises. It works well for running, walking and perhaps swimming as well. However, the best option to choose is “average speed” as current speed’s calculation can be shaky.

Heart rate monitoring for pulse control:

A heart rate monitor measures the heart rate through optics with the help of infrared light. There’s a sensor which measures the amount of light darkened by the blood. The darkness is proportional to pulse. Another way to measure heart rate is a smart fabric that works as a conductor with the assistance of built-in microprocessors which record the EKG signals and analyze them to calculate heart rate.

 

These systems are installed within GPS running devices so that along with speed and distance, heart rate would be displayed to the user, so they run at a healthy pace. It’s a great feature for people having heart diseases. They can monitor their heart rate while performing exercises and sports.

Time display:

At the end of the day, it is a “watch” after all. So, display of time is essential. Besides, while performing activities like sports, running and exercising, time’s the main key.

Route choice and tracking:

Route tracking tracks down your location during any activity that involves you being mobile. You can view various routes through the map and select your current and destination point and it provides you a highlighted route that leads you to your destination.

Map to display coordinates:

There’s a map always present in the software of a GPS running watch. It displays all elements of space including regions, themes, and objects. Routes and destinations are displayed through the Map.

Accelerometer to help you know your steps:

An accelerometer is very important both in GPS running watches as well as fitness trackers. It helps in tracking of steps as it measures how much you accelerate. The purpose of the accelerometer is to monitor the movement of your feet as it hits the ground and then how many steps it takes while running or walking through a sensor. The final tracking is the number of steps and a pace estimation which results in the distance covered and of speed.

Cycling Cadence sensor for cyclists:

Cycling Cadence means the revolution number made by the cranks arm and pedals in your bicycle per minute. It is an important count for professional and regular cyclists. A cadence sensor measures your cadence and rear wheel revolutions as well. The sensor works by having a magnet detector within which detects movements of two magnets that are relatively small in size, integrated into your bicycle.

 

One is attached to the crank arm and the other is on the spoke of the rear wheel. The former measures cadence and the later does the job of measuring the speed. However, a small sensor is attached to your chain stay which helps in detecting the magnets movement. Through a Bluetooth, the information is transmitted wirelessly to your GPS running watch.

Footpod compatibility for indoor treadmill workout:

This device is great in case you don’t go out for running/walking and prefer to do it indoor on your treadmill. Now, before the GPS was invented, Footpod was used to give an estimate of distance covered and speed as well. However, now this device has been modified to be very small and simple. It can be easily fitted within your shoe as its size is a quarter. The device then is able to broadcast ANT + protocol signals to various fitness devices and Smartphone as well. This device is great to tell accurate data of pace and distance while working on treadmills (since treadmills aren’t much reliable when it come to stats). The information can be stored and used later onwards to create good workout routines.

Interval Alarms to help you maintain your pace:

Now, this feature is amazing. It works in coordination with your heart rate monitor as well as GPS. It carefully analyzes your heart rate while your jogging or running and the pulse get’s high it notifies you to slow down and walk for a certain distance when the pulse is stabilized it notifies you again through vibration or sound to start running again. Indeed, a GPS watch is a runner’s best choice.

Goal set-up to help you attain the perfect fitness routine:

This feature allows you to set up daily fitness goals or receive them from the device i.e., the number of steps you walk, the distance you cover while running, etc. Usually, GPS running watches create goals on the basis of weight, heart rate and stamina of a person as well.

Coaching and training program:

This feature offers a program of weekly, monthly and yearly programs that enable people to attain the perfect fitness goals. The program gives a routine and helps the user to achieve it through reminders. Smart Coach an app that is often installed within smart watches and fitness trackers serving the same purpose.

 

There are some extra metrics that will help you improve your running form. To have such metrics you would need to expand your budget a little. The metrics include HR Max, lactate threshold, Orthostatic Test, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). However, the most important are Vertical oscillation, VO2 Max and heart rate zones.

1. HR max:

This is the highest number of times your heart is supposed to beat per minute when you’re going through the most intensive workout level.

2. Lactate threshold:

When maximum level of uric acid’s build up in the bloodstream during an intensive workout after which fatigue kicks in, the pace gets affected and the efficiency of workout gets affected.

3. Orthostatic Test:

An orthostatic test is supposed to measure your heart rate while you’re at rest and while you’re standing up before. This gives you a standing, rest and peak heart rate. This gives your device enough information to tell you when you’re physically ready to train again and go out.

4. Basal Metabolic Rate:

Now, instead of getting a highly expensive test, there are watches that will give you the rate at which you burn calories by just breathing and being alive with basic info such as age, height, and weight.

5. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC):

The boost received in metabolism right after your body is done with a workout. Also known as the “afterburn”.

6. Vertical oscillation:

While running, the bounce degree in your motion. It’s one of the optical running metric measurements.

7. VO2 Max:

This is the maximum oxygen volume (mm) you’re body can consume per minute per kilogram body weight during the highest point of workout/running. Running watches use a smart algorithm along with the heart rate monitor to give you an estimate of your VO2 max on the basis of your latest workout’s performance and vital stats.

8. Heart rate zones:

Different GPS running watches break down your heart rate tracking into segments based on your sports activity.  For example, for running:

  • Recovery (60% of MHR)
  • Maximum pace (78-95% of MHR)
  • Endurance building (60-80% of MHR)
  • Lactate threshold training of running ( 81-91% of MHR)
  • Fitness training for running (72-85% of MHR)

2. Why should you buy a GPS running watch:

 Understanding what a GPS running watch is

Understanding what a GPS running watch is

Well, it’s simply a great invention. It helps you in staying fit and be regular at daily walks and running. It also enables you to keep a history of your outdoor sessions.

There’s absolutely no denying the fact that there are many free or with a little subscription fee apps for Smartphone that offer about 90% of the features that are available on a smart watch. There’s Strava, Nike+, Runkeeper, Runtastic, and Edmundo. So, why buy a watch worth $300?

However, it should be kept in mind that these apps don’t provide up to date tracking of vitals on the screen while you’re mobile. They do provide information on distance, laps, and speed but it’s all the information is not available at your wrist’s glance. Rather, the pace get’s affected once you take out your phone from your pocket to check the running status.

So, now that you know why you need it, you must be thinking…

3. Do GPS running watches actually work, and are they accurate?

 Understanding what a GPS running watch is

Understanding what a GPS running watch is
Jonathan Rawstorn study:

Well, a GPS running watch has its setbacks and limitations. A study was carried out at the University of Aukland by Jonathan Rawstorn and some other researchers that proved how GPS technology doesn’t work well during short intervals.

The validity of GPS tracking was tested on soccer player’s movement. The players were asked to perform a jog/walk/sprint in a loop, drills of interval style and a two line based shuttle run. In this way, the movement of the players had intervals throughout the 8 miles they covered. Rawstorn wanted to see how well the watch would detect distance and pace during such intervals in a jog.

The loop repeats were carried out on 200m loop which resembles the tight turns and leaps made by runners while covering difficult trails or performing loops within a jog. The watches gave an overestimated result of the distance covered during the loops by almost 3%. This isn’t much relevant in case you’re on a run, but it’s important if you’re performing a race or workout in some competition. (Rawstorn, Maddison, Ali, Foskett, & Gant, 2014)

Another study carried out on Garmin, Polar and some other GPS running watches:

This person tested various GPS watches of famous brands like Garmin, Polar by covering 6,000 miles and taking a record of over 2,500 data points. His study was focused on finding out the best GPS running watches. However, it did give an overview regarding the true accuracy of a GPS watch.

The watches work well while covering smooth trails under favorable conditions. However, when the getting tough, the watches started giving shaky results. It was noted that the GPS accuracy of any watch wasn’t accurate enough to display current pace. The only option viable enough to display current pace accurately was by using a foot pod. It’s highly recommended to choose a GPS running watch that has compatibility with a foot pod.

Source

Thus, it’s proven that GPS running watches might lack in displaying 100% accuracy when it comes to pace especially during irregular intervals or unfavorable conditions. But they are currently the best solution for tracking your workouts.

4. How to choose the best GPS watch that works best for you? 

 Understanding what a GPS running watch is

Understanding what a GPS running watch is

When it comes to buying a GPS running watch, there are several questions that will come to your mind. It’s important to do your market research before investing this amount of money. Back in the day, there wasn’t much variety to select from when it came to fitness devices. There was the classical Casio, Polar or Garmin’s stopwatch. Now, there is a huge variety of products in various brands to choose from.

Whether you want to buy the watch for general fitness or you’re a member of the 100 Marathon Club, by tracking your stats you will be able to improve your performance and get your daily dose of motivation as well. However, just like picking out the best track suit or running shoes can be tricky, buying the perfect GPS running watch that fills in your requirements and expectations can be tricky too. Lucky for you, we have done the research for you so you can choose the best device that works well for you.

The four main questions to ask yourself before buying a GPS watch:

4 main quetion
4 main quetion

There are many factors to consider while buying a GPS running watch. But we believe all the focus should be narrowed down to these 4 basic questions before looking at other aspects. If the watch offers answers to these, it means it fills its purpose.

What’s my location?

One of the main purposes of a GPS watch is to tell you where you are located. The navigator guides can vary from a compass’s needle which displays directions to you so you can reach your destination or get back to your starting point or a highlighted track, preloaded on the map. Colored maps are displayed by Leikr and Epiz, while Finex 2 and Motoactv display maps containing names and roads.

What’s my pace?

The average pace and time can be calculated through time and distance. However, runners often want to know what’s their current pace. The GPS system is not that good at displaying current speed so, for the accuracy of speed, you need a Footpod. Racers need to know their accurate pace at various distant point and the feature is important for training programs that require you to run at a certain pace.

How much distance I covered?

This feature requires GPS accuracy and is one of the sole reasons why you buy a GPS watch. Runners want to know where they are as it helps them achieve certain goals. Most watches are good at displaying current location while the route is straight; however the results become shaky when the route gets twisted and complicated. You can prefer buying a GPS watch with a built-in accelerometer which fills in the gaps created by GPS.

 

What is my current cadence?

There are watches being invented which display the current cadence even without external devices. The watches have an internal accelerometer and sensors to detect the current cadence by which you are running or cycling. Most watches, however, need devices attached such as foot pod to your feet or crank arm sensors to your bicycle. Garmin watches use the technology of Dynamics heart rate strap. There’s a useful feature in watches these days called a “cadence” alert which will help you maintain your cadence range.

Price ranges and the features that they offer:

Well, GPS running watches start at $50 and reach $600 price tag. We don’t recommend extra high range watches as they contain some unnecessary features. Here’s what you get at different ranges:

Under $150: If we talk about GPS running watches, in this range there are very few running watches that come with GPS. There’s Garmin Forerunner 25 which gives you all the basics including pace, calories, distance, and GPS. Often watches under this range will need to be paired with your smartphone to display the stats.

$150 to $300: You’ll find nice watches like Fitbit Surge, Polar M400 and TomTom Spark in this range. They offer built-in accelerometers, heart rate tracking and advanced training features like interval session programs and heart rate zone training. You’ll be able to leave your smartphone at home.

$300 above: GPS running watches like Suunto Ambit3 Peak Sapphire HR which will cost you around $600 but will offer pretty much every sort of tracking regarding sports.

Key features to look out for:

Running dynamics, Footpod, and vertical oscillation:

A GPS running watch will give you current pace. However, our above section on accuracy has proved that no watch gives 100% accuracy of pace unless you use a Footpod. This device gives you exact cadence of running as in how often your feet strike the ground. Additionally, vertical oscillation provides you the degree of bounce in your motion while running. This and many other running dynamics offered by high range watches help you improve your running form.

Battery life depending on the distance you’ll cover:

If you’re planning on taking your GPS running watch to the marathon with you, make sure it has enough battery life. We recommend you get a watch that will last a bit longer than your longest run. However, if you do get a watch that offers less battery timing then you can carry backup battery packs along to charge on the go.

Coaching programs and interval sessions:

Interval sessions help you build up the right speed and pace during your run. Watches like TomTom Spark and Garmin Forerunner 235 offer customizable interval sessions you can create on the basis of heart rate, duration, pace, and distance. The numbers of sessions you can create is infinite.

 

Additionally, brands like Adidas, Polar, and Garmin offer comprehensive expert training programs and plans for covering half, full, 5k and 10k marathons. If you want training plans, make sure you check the Smartphone apps and web tools associated with your device before purchasing.

Efficiency of the GPS:

When it comes to GPS running watches, GPS is the main thing. It’s true that up till now no GPS provides 100% accuracy of the result but it’s about who’s nearest to it. Garmin Forerunner 235 has been claimed to have the best GPS system and provides amazing stats when it comes to running.

Heart rate tracking if you’re serious about training:

Well, if you’re buying the watch just to keep track of your speed and distance, you don’t need one with heart rate tracking. However, if you’re serious about training, a watch with heart rate sensor monitor is a must. There are two options within the device, chest strap or built-in optical heart rate (OHR).

Chest strap tends to be 100% accurate at giving results for HR but some people find it to be uncomfortable. For them, we recommend OHR but it won’t give 100% accuracy in the result. However, for steady runs, OHR gives accurate results but not for weight lifting or interval training.

Syncing with 3rd party apps and data upload:

If you want to analyze your data and want to make the best of it, it’s better if you download all the apps and web tools associated with the device. It’s important that the device has compatibility with third-party apps. Most brands offering GPS running watches support Strava – an excellent app designed for athletes. Strava connects millions of cyclists and runners across the globe.

Data uploading is another thing you must check before buying. This feature allows you to store and record your workout stats in apps like SportTracks and Dailymile. We recommend even new runners to use this feature. It allows them to take a look at their previous running stats that are months and years old to see their progress.

5. Best GPS running watches:

Best GPS running watches

Best GPS running watches

So, after knowing what a GPS watch is….you must be wondering, what’s the best watch that will fit all your needs? You know why you’re buying a GPS watch. Some of you are buying because you’re tech geeks and already have a GPS watch and want to buy a newer and better model, some of you want to train yourselves for races and marathons, some of you are buying it to improve your running or cycling pace, while some are you are buying just for the “try something new” sake. Well, for all of you, we have displayed the best

After doing lots of research, we’ve come up with the best GPS running watch of 2016. Following it, we also have listed the best watch selected by tech geeks. Furthermore, there are watches ranking best in various qualities including the price for readers with a limited budget.

best 2017 gps watches.jpg
best 2017 gps watches.jpg

TomTom Spark – Overall best GPS running watch:

TomTomSpark - Overall best GPS running watch
TomTom Spark – Overall best GPS running watch

Pros:

  1. Heart rate monitoring, GPS system built-in music playback in one device which is rare.
  2. Well designed menu – easy and logical browsing.
  3. Activity tracking plus sport training sessions.
  4. Tracks swimming, treadmill, indoor cycling and workout sessions as well.
  5. Comes with a satellite lock.
  6. 5 hours GPS tracking and weeklong and 7-day battery life for activity tracking.
  7. Heart rate zone tracking with a graph to tell you if you need to balance your pace.
  8. Accurate stats.

Cons:

  1. Outdated design-LCD monochrome screen and black plastic with a black colored rubber band. The design isn’t light weight and feels bulky to wear.
  2. TomTom MySports web app is limited and just provides you a clear display of your stats. Nothing motivational to get you back on track tomorrow.

“Never judge a book by its cover”, this saying perfectly fits Spark’s TomTom. The watch looks like an old fashioned chunky piece of plastic which isn’t light to wear, but what’s underneath that is what has amazed us. TomTom doesn’t have a touchscreen however, there’s heart rate monitoring, GPS and a built-in music all at the same time, which is rare.

The watch gives accurate activity and sports tracking. There’s running, swimming, cycling, treadmill, indoor cycling and workout tracking. The watch has an accurate cadence sensor and the GPS works amazingly as well. Under the display, there’s a four-way button system under the screen. When you’re running, your hands are very sweaty and the buttons are easy to control. By tapping up and down, you’re able to view all the metrics easily on the screen, thanks to the amazing UI the device has. Just by using back and forward buttons, you’ll be able to effortlessly slide through menus to listen to music or open a different tracking element.

The watch gives 5 hours of battery for GPS but you don’t need to switch it on all the time. TomTom was specially designed for runners in Marathon. With a weeklong battery life, the device will give them tracking throughout the run.

When it comes to heart rate tracking, OHR doesn’t give many accurate results as compared to the chest strap. However, TomTom’s OHR created by LifeQ has given the most accurate results of heart tracking as compared to the other watches we tested. In fact, TomTom’s OHR result resembles that given by Garmin’s chest strap.

When it comes to ecosystem, TomTom MySports Connect app is there to help you understand your post workout data. You get details on your distance, pace, duration, heart rate, cadence, and calories. There’s a graph on which you can plot all your elements. There’s a display of your route on a map as well. However, the app doesn’t inspire you to repeat your routine tomorrow like Garmin connect. However, you don’t really need to use the ecosystem of the app. The app can be connected to your android or iOS account and you can link it with excellent apps such as Strava and RunKeeper. You can even see the running segments on the device once it’s connected to Strava without taking your phone along the run.


Garmin Forerunner 235 – Best for fitness:

Garmin Forerunner 235 - Best for fitness
Garmin Forerunner 235 – Best for fitness

 

Pros:

  1. Lightweight design weighing just 42g.
  2. Good GPS system connects very fast.
  3. Sports tracking is very good.
  4. Easy to access the metrics through the screen.
  5. You can make customizable workout sessions.
  6. Offers extra metrics in the Garmin connect app.
  7. Works pretty good as an activity tracker.
  8. Built in OHR.

Cons:

  1. The design feels delicate and sticky due to the plastic.
  2. No VO2 metric present.
  3. Some metrics require web tools and apps to access.
  4. Inaccurate results of OHR.

The design includes a 1.23 inch LCD screen and 215 x 180-pixel resolutions. Garmin Forerunner displays time various stats such as pace, distance, heart rate Zones, heart rate, cadence, and calories as well. It’s easy to access the metrics as you can use buttons to tap up and down the screen even mid-run. By cycling around the screen, you get current heart rate zone.

Another feature that’s synced from Garmin’s web app is customizable workouts that you can plan according to your desired time, distance, workout intensity and even heart rate. The plan is then sent to the watch. The app is called “Garmin Connect mobile app” that is available on iOS and android. If you use the Express Software, you can even use the app on Mac/PC.

When it comes to high-intensity interval sessions (HIIS), the watch doesn’t show accurate results with OHR. So, you’ll need to attach a chest strap if you want good quality training. OHR is a benefit in activity tracking as the watch is able to provide the current heart rate throughout the day. Due to the watch’s lightweight design, it’s comfortable enough for you to wear while sleeping. You can’t do that with TomTom Spark. It’s just a single tap and you’re able to access your steps, pace, and calories. Garmin forerunner 235 displays calendar updates and notifications of calls, messages, and texts on the wrist, by pairing it with a Smartphone.


Garmin Forerunner 630 – Best for recovery tracking:

Garmin Forerunner 630 - Best for recovery tracking
Garmin Forerunner 630 – Best for recovery tracking

Pros:

  1. It has Smartwatch inspired features.
  2. Waterproof by 5ATM. So, you can take it to swimming up to 50 meters.
  3. Threshold limit and VO2 Max metric are available.
  4. Built-in Wifi so you can upload your sessions directly to Garmin connect.
  5. There’s the Auto Goal feature which alerts you when you reach it and also when you don’t.
  6. Connects to your phone and you can control your Garmin VIRB action camera with it.
  7. Battery lasts for a month if it’s used just for activity tracking and a watch.
  8. Matte plastic with a blue finish has a strong body against tough workout sessions.

Cons:

  1. The watch needs a chest strap, there’s no Optical heart Rate sensor.
  2. It is heavy on the pocket.
  3. The device has low resolution, less impressive screen. The design has dull colors.
  4. Doesn’t sync well and displays exact time when the activity tracker is switched on.
  5. Once the battery runs out, it takes a lot of hours to charge back to 100%.

Garmin’s Forerunner 630 offers features inspired by smart-watch, advanced running metrics and analytics to help you improve your running form; and access to Garmin’s connect IQ app store. However, is it really worth $499? Let’s see…

The watch has a round faced watch consisting of a colored 1.23-inch touch screen display. Screen size is nice with a black bezel surrounding. It’s a strong watch which you can take with you in rough weathers as well.

With the watch being waterproof by 5ATM, you can take it to swimming but the swimming modes and analytics it offers are way less than Garmin Forerunner 920xt. Keep in mind that there’s no optical heart rate sensor as we mentioned before so you need to connect the four charging pins to a proprietary charger. There’s also a 5ATM waterproof run chest strap bundle by Garmin HRM which you can wear.

It’s said to be one of the best watches for heart rate tracking and GPS. It picks up the signal quicker than TomTom Spark and drops out in between either. The watch also does a great job as an activity tracker. There’s a Move bar feature which displays your activity and alerts which send vibrations to your device to tell you to start moving when you’re inactive for too long. Indeed, Garmin’s products to a good job when it comes to being motivational.

The best thing about this watch is how it can be used as a smart watch as well. It displays texts, emails and even updates and alerts of other apps. The watch can also be connected to Garmin Connect and IQ apps. You can view all your stats, upload them and share them with friends and users online.


Fitbit Surge – Best Fitness App:

Fitbit Surge - Best Fitness App
Fitbit Surge – Best Fitness App

Pros:

  1. Comes with a Built-in GPS and optical heart rate sensor.
  2. It’s gives missed calls, text messages, and incoming call alerts.
  3. The watch comes with a 3-axes accelerometer, 3-axes gyroscope, and a digital compass as well.
  4. It’s easy to use.
  5. The updated Fitbit gives cadence, heart rate zones, and biking pace.

Cons:

  1. The device has a Battery life of just 3 days max.
  2. Charges through a USB cable attached to a proprietary connector.
  3. Has a very boring display which lacks aesthetics.
  4. GPS tends to give inaccurate results in the longer run.
  5. The Fitbit app doesn’t support more than one tracking devices you’ll have to delete your previous tracking device from the Fitbit app.

The people who love cycling, running and working out; all at the same time, Fitbit Surge is the right choice for you. The watch comes with a rubber strap with a choice of three colors; blue, black or tangerine. The grasp is secured and comfy but you can’t ignore the old fashioned, weird looking display which has an increased girth from the top end to modules bottom. The 1.2-inch LCD monochrome touch screen comes with a solitary button the left and two buttons on the right.

The watch can track calories burned, steps, duration, climbed floors and elevation thanks to the 3-axes gyroscope, digital compass and a 3-axes accelerometer it comes with. Using the Fitbit’s latest PurePulse technology, the device gives 24/7 heart rate monitoring. You’ll also be able to train efficiently through heart rate zone tracking and cardio workout tracking.

The device offers various tracking of runs including lap, free or treadmill as you navigate through the running menu on the main home screen. The treadmill tracking doesn’t use a GPS rather a step algorithm to track your jogs. Like most high-end GPS running watches, Fitbit offers cycling tracking. However, the recent update now consists of a Bike Mode as well. Just like running, the bike mode provides same level details of time, heart rate zones and pace. The device proves useful for cyclists. However, the level of detail and accuracy is nowhere near the sports tracking of Garmin.

The best thing about Surge is its app. The device syncs with your Android phone, iOS device or Windows phone by using Bluetooth. It can also be connected to your PC or MAC using a wireless dongle. The data is stored on cloud once synced with the mobile app. If you connect Fitbit Surge to your app, there’s a Fitbit Surge section which displays your current heart rate, covered distance, burned calories, step count, minutes you were active, floors climbed and details of workout sessions as well. There’s even a graph to help you understand your progress better.


Polar M400 – Best for price:

 

Polar M400
Polar M400

Pros:

  1. It is extremely wallet-friendly at just $169/$179.
  2. Tracks activity even when your stationery.
  3. The watch alerts you when you’ve been immobile for too long.
  4. It also guides you back to your home location through the nearest route through a GPS marker.
  5. It consists of an accurate calorie count.

Cons:

  1. It pairs up with fewer accessories.
  2. The device doesn’t give you over the edge metrics such as cycling cadence.
  3. No built-in OHR.
  4. Give less depth in activity and sleep tracking stats.

The best thing about this device is that it offers the basics of a running watch at a reasonable price. It’s a simple GPS running watch with some cool extra features. It has a better design then Polar V800, despite lacking extra metrics like cycling cadence and built-in OHR. The watch has a small face and a very comfortable strap for the wrist. You’ll be able to see your stats even in direct sunlight through the high contrast display.

You don’t need a unique charging cable to charge it; a simple USB cable does the job. It gives the basic pace, burned calorie, distance and altitude tracking. Through an internal accelerometer, the device will track your steps, sleep and activity even when your mobile.

The recent update of the device will give not only give iOS notifications, but it will also give notifications of other smartphone apps such as Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter as well.

When it comes to syncing and connectivity, the data on your Polar M400 can easily be transferred to your connected Smartphone with blue tooth technology. The watch also gives you 21 days of battery if used as a tracker or a general watch. With GPS, it will run out at 16 hours, which is even better than most watches at this range.


Garmin Vivosmart – More than just a GPS running watch:

Garmin Vivosmart - More than just a GPS running watch
Garmin Vivosmart – More than just a GPS running watch

 

Pros:

  1. The device is a smart watch which works amazingly as sports watch too.
  2. It is reasonable priced at $249.
  3. The extreme thinness of 8mm.
  4. Accurately tracks your runs, pace, and distances. Same goes for walking, swimming, and cycling.
  5. Syncs with Garmin connect Smartphone app.
  6. Fast Bluetooth syncing.
  7. 3 weeks of battery time with 10 hours of GPS tracking.

Cons:

  1. Poor design with an extremely low resolution.
  2. Looks like a typical square-faced watch with extremely dim light in the screen which barely shows the result in the dull condition.
  3. Poor settings of goals.

Garmin’s Vivosmart is not just a sports tracking watch but works great as one of the best Smart watches as well. The only setback with this device is its outdated square face watch design and its low-resolution screen. The resolution is only 205 x 148 pixels and the light is so less that it’s almost impossible to see the screen in dim light conditions. There’s a backlight which lasts hardly for 5 seconds.

When it comes to activity tracking, the watch does a fairly good job. There are steps and sleep tracking which works quite well. Though, the sleep tracking isn’t as good as Jawbone. It works well with Garmin’s HR chest straps to give you heart tracking along with the other metrics.

The best thing about this device as a GPS running watch is that it’s GPS is quite accurate. It gives you great stats for cycling, running, walking and swimming. There’s no guesswork of accelerometer, rather accurate detailed tracking. There’s also Golf tracking with back, front, and center of the green yardages. The ecosystem is incredible and the device pairs with your Smartphone to give you all the notifications on your wrist.


Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Best for athletes:

Garmin Forerunner 735XT - Best for athletes
Garmin Forerunner 735XT – Best for athletes

 

Pros:

  1. Gives advanced running, swimming and cycling dynamics including stride length, ground contact, time balance and vertical ratio.
  2. It has an 11 days battery as an activity tracker and a watch.
  3. The device is Waterproof at 5 ATM.
  4. It gives you 24 hours of GPS tracking.
  5. Also gives you a Bike sensor.

Cons:

  1. No Barometer and altimeter.
  2. Poor OHR. For accurate tracking, a chest strap is required.
  3. It has Poor tracking of swimming at times.

The watch comes with a sleek design with a large display so the users can view the stats by just a glance during their workout. The silicon bands are also soft and comfortable on the wrist. It’s available in frost blue and midnight blue or black gray colors. The battery lasts for 11 days in general watch and activity tracking mode, and 14 hours if all features are used. The watch offers heart rate monitoring and tracking of activities such as; cycling, swimming, cardio, paddle sports, XCskiing, hiking, multisport and strength training as well.

Garmin Forerunner 735XT offers advanced metrics for running, swimming and lots of other sports. The watch is waterproof up to 50m and is a great tool for tracking of swimming. You can take the watch during your swimming training and workouts in the water and it will guide you through. Though at times the tracking gives inaccurate results, but there are many options to choose from. The watch also offers GPS tracking of 24 hours.

The watch syncs automatically to Garmin connect and you can track your workouts, trends and join challenges with communities online to compete against friends, and earn badges for achieving fitness goals.


Polar V800 – Best statistics:

Polar V800 - Best statistics
Polar V800 – Best statistics

 

 Pros:

  1. Great for stats, provides various metrics and high-end data.
  2. Let’s you know when you’ll be ready to train again once you’re exhausted.
  3. Let’s you know how much you burn through general activity, workouts or just breathing.
  4. You can connect additional cycling accessories to get even more metrics on the sport.

Cons:

  1. ANT + power meter isn’t there.
  2. The data can’t be exported to 3rd party apps.

This is an excellent watch for metrics. If you’re a swimmer, biker or runner and looking for a running watch that gives you detailed metrics; Polar V800 is what you were looking for all this time. It tracks distance, pace, heart rate and calories burnt as well. The screen used to display the metrics is very clear and is customizable as well.

You can unlock Heart rate zonal training once you pair it with Polar H7 heart rate monitor. It makes sure that you’re sweating it enough to meet the perfect goal. It also gives you 100% accurate running cadence by using a shoe pod. To increase the stats of two-wheeled training, you can buy additional accessories in the big range for cyclists. The Recovery Status with Orthostatic Test features predicts when you’ll be ready to train again once you’ve completely lost every bit of energy left in you for a further workout. Indeed, it’s a marvelous GPS running watch when it comes to activity tracking and sports metrics.


6. Using your watch efficiently:

Using your watch efficiently
Using your watch efficiently

So, now that you know what to buy…are you aware of how to use it so it gives you maximum results? It’s important to know that these watches aren’t as simple as they often seem. I mean…we have already explained to you the key and some additional features they offer and what they mean, but how you use them is entirely up to you. However, we’ve come up with a guide to help you use these watches in the most efficient way possible.

Create a workout diary:

Create a workout diary
Create a workout diary

Well, yes the watches do come with their own web tools and apps for analysis, progress reports, and records but it’s very important for you to keep a separate record that helps you in a motivational way. You can use a google calendar and create a training calendar. You can note down the information that’s most relevant to you i.e. heart rate, goal achieved, what activity you performed and your feeling towards the experience.

Keep track of your heart rate and know your MHR:

It is important that you find your maximum heart rate (MHR). Your GPS running watch will use this information to divide your heart rate into segments called the “heart rate zones” according to the stages of your workout, depending upon your workout type.

In order to find your max heart rate, you need to warm up for 15 minutes. You can do sluggish jogging and maximum stretches during this period. Then, once you’re all baggy and set, find a slope that will at least take 2 minutes to reach the top. It can be a small hill or a steep road as well. Run with a hard but manageable pace towards the building. Once you’ve reached the top, run down with a simple pace and then repeat the first step. This activity will provide your watch with enough information it needs to set your heart rate zones. The advanced watches will then find your maximum heart rate by setting the zones in each run.

You can also use the BPM and heart rate zone feature to find out when you’re working out too much or when you’re being sluggish. You can also set automatic alerts for this purpose.

Use the VO2 max:

What the VO2 max does basically is that it tells you what your maximum rate is during exercise by which your heart, muscles, and lungs can use oxygen efficiently. It’s more like your individual aerobic and workout capacity after which you could faint.

VO2 max
VO2 max

If you want your accurate VO2 max, you’ll probably need to go to a lab and have a gas exchange mask attached to your face. The test is quite expensive. However, our Polar and Garmin has used incredibly clever algorithms to find a way to give an estimate of your VO2 max without the need of costly tests. There’s a test within Polar’s running watches that gives you a set workout which calculates your VO2 Max. Garmin Forerunner 620 will just use your stats during race times and run to give you an estimate of your VO2 Max.

 Keep track of your BPM:

As any part of a training plan, it’s important to know when to stop. This is where Heart rate tracking comes in handy. What you need to do is use either a chest strap or built-in OHR in your watch and lie down, stay still for at least 5 minutes. When you’re fully relaxed, your device will give a reading of your resting heart rate and you need to note it. Each morning for at least two weeks, repeat the same process. You’ll then have your average resting heart rate.

So, whenever you’re exercising the next time, in case your heart rate comes higher 10 beats per minute (BPM), it probably means you’re over training yourself and you need a break.

Conclusion:

GPS running watches are amazing fitness wearables. They can really help you keep better track of your fitness routine and help you excel at it. Hopefully, this ultimate guide on GPS running watches will help you pick one that will match your needs. However, if you want to get fit buying a fitness wearable is only the first step towards a long strenuous journey.

If you put in a lot of effort than these wearables will help you accomplish a healthy lifestyle.The key is to stay motivated and keep pushing forward. With the help of all the amazing features that these watches offer hopefully the path to a healthy life will get less complicated and your fitness wearable will by your side helping you achieve your health goals.

MobileSiri.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Read about our Affiliates Disclosure Policy here.