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GPS Watches for Runners: Features to Look For and Top Picks

Discover the essential features to consider when selecting a GPS watch for runners. Explore top picks like Garmin Forerunner 955, Coros Vertix 2, Suunto 9 Peak Pro, Polar Vantage V2, and Apple Watch Ultra, and find the perfect watch to enhance your training and performance.

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GPS Watches for Runners: Features to Look For and Top Picks

As a running coach, I’ve seen firsthand how a good GPS watch can transform an athlete’s training and performance. These wearable devices have become essential tools for runners of all levels, providing valuable data and insights to help them optimize their workouts, track progress, and achieve their goals.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key features to look for in a GPS watch for runners, and highlight some of the top models on the market that can take your running game to the next level.

Features to Look For

GPS Accuracy and Tracking

One of the most crucial aspects of a GPS watch for runners is the accuracy and reliability of its GPS tracking. The ability to precisely measure distance, pace, and other metrics is essential for effective training and performance analysis. Look for watches with advanced GPS technology that can provide consistent and reliable data, even in challenging environments like urban areas or dense foliage.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Monitoring your heart rate during runs can provide valuable insights into your training intensity and overall fitness. Many GPS watches now come equipped with built-in heart rate sensors, either optical or chest strap-based. Consider the accuracy and reliability of the heart rate data, as well as the variety of heart rate-based metrics the watch can provide, such as heart rate zones, recovery time, and more.

Performance Metrics

Beyond basic distance and pace tracking, the best GPS watches for runners offer a wealth of advanced performance metrics. These can include cadence, stride length, vertical oscillation, and even more sophisticated measures like lactate threshold and VO2 max. These metrics can help you better understand your running mechanics and identify areas for improvement.

Battery Life

As a runner, you need a watch that can keep up with your training schedule. Look for GPS watches with long-lasting battery life, especially if you’re an endurance athlete or plan to use the watch for extended outdoor activities. Some models offer battery-saving modes that can extend the runtime, allowing you to track your runs without worrying about the battery dying mid-workout.

Connectivity and Smart Features

Many modern GPS watches for runners offer seamless connectivity to smartphones and other devices, allowing for features like smartphone notifications, music control, and even live tracking for your loved ones. Consider the level of connectivity and smart features that align with your needs and preferences.

Design and Comfort

The design and comfort of your GPS watch can have a significant impact on your overall running experience. Look for a watch that is lightweight, well-fitted, and comfortable to wear for extended periods. Water resistance and durability are also important factors, especially if you plan to use the watch in various weather conditions or during outdoor adventures.

Additional Features

Depending on your specific needs, you may also want to consider GPS watches with additional features like navigation maps, a built-in compass, altimeter, and even safety features like emergency assistance. These can be particularly useful for trail runners or those who engage in outdoor activities beyond just road running.

Top Picks for GPS Watches for Runners

Now that you know what to look for, let’s dive into some of the top GPS watches for runners on the market:

Garmin Forerunner 955

The Garmin Forerunner 955 is a powerhouse in the world of GPS watches for runners. With advanced performance metrics, long-lasting battery life, and seamless connectivity, this watch is a favorite among serious athletes. Its accurate GPS tracking, comprehensive training features, and user-friendly interface make it a top choice for runners who want to take their training to the next level.

Coros Vertix 2

For the adventurous runner, the Coros Vertix 2 is a rugged and versatile GPS watch that can handle the toughest outdoor conditions. With its ultra-durable construction, extended battery life, and specialized features for activities like hiking, climbing, and skiing, the Vertix 2 is a great option for those who love to explore the great outdoors.

Suunto 9 Peak Pro

The Suunto 9 Peak Pro is a sleek and lightweight GPS watch that delivers impressive performance and battery life. Its accurate GPS tracking, advanced training metrics, and outdoor-specific features make it a popular choice among trail runners and endurance athletes. The Suunto 9 Peak Pro’s compact design and premium materials also make it a stylish option for everyday wear.

Polar Vantage V2

The Polar Vantage V2 is a comprehensive GPS watch that excels in its training and recovery tracking capabilities. With advanced metrics like running power, leg recovery, and sleep tracking, this watch provides runners with a deeper understanding of their bodies and how to optimize their training for optimal performance and recovery.

Apple Watch Ultra

For runners who are also Apple enthusiasts, the Apple Watch Ultra offers a rugged and feature-packed GPS watch experience. With its durable design, comprehensive health and fitness tracking, and integration with the Apple ecosystem, the Apple Watch Ultra is a compelling choice for those who want a versatile wearable that can handle their active lifestyle.


Choosing the right GPS watch for your running needs can be a game-changer in your training and performance. By considering the key features we’ve discussed, such as GPS accuracy, heart rate monitoring, performance metrics, battery life, and design, you can find the perfect GPS watch to elevate your running journey.

Remember, the best GPS watch for you is the one that aligns with your specific needs and preferences as a runner. Take the time to research, compare, and test different models to find the one that will help you reach your goals and take your running to new heights.

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