Looking for a running smartwatch that’ll accurately track your runs, and help you get more from them? We hear you.
Whether you are looking for a smartwatch that’ll track basic data such as your step count and calories burned, or a more advanced smartwatch that’ll gather stride length and vertical ratio metrics, there’s a device out there for you.
Running GPS smartwatches come in all shapes and sizes, and some are more capable than others. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best.
Here’s our top 10 running GPS smartwatches in 2018:
New Balance RunIQ
The New Balance RunIQ is one of the most comfortable running smartwatches to wear, thanks to its perforated silicone band. It’s also got a great display - a 1.39-inch round OLED display with a 400 x 400 resolution which is pin-sharp.
That display works well outdoors and indoors, and really shows off all the features of Android Wear 2.0. Powered by an Intel Atom Z34XX processor with 512MB RAM, the RunIQ is a snappy smartwatch and packs an optical heart-rate sensor and GPS module into its case.
In terms of design, the New Balance RunIQ is somewhat mundane. It has an all-black colour scheme with a metal case and silicone strap. A strange design choice was made with the strap - the perforation points are heart-shaped. If you can look past that, the New Balance RunIQ is a solid running GPS smartwatch. The battery life is rated for 24-hours.
The Polar M600 is as much a fitness tracker as it is a smartwatch. It has the same shape as a fitness band with a square display, and boasts better tracking metrics than most of the other devices on this list. It really is a great running smartwatch.
With a heart rate sensor, activity tracking sensors, GPS and GLONASS (a global satellite system and positioning system), the Polar M600 is hugely capable. It also boasts dedicated swimming metrics, so it’s the perfect smartwatch for those of you who mix up your cardio.
The M600 runs Android Wear 2.0, but it has its own coaching and fitness software called Polar Smart Coaching. It is this that sets it apart from regular smartwatches. The software is intuitive and data-rich, letting you make the most of your workouts. The Polar M600 is also waterproof and boasts a 2-day battery life when paired with an Android smartphone.
LG Watch Sport
The LG Watch Sport is one of the best-known fitness smartwatches on the market, and it’s a popular choice with runners. It has GPS, LTE and a heart-rate sensor, so it ticks many of the boxes that runners look for in a smartwatch.
It also has the benefit of a stylish design and a great display. The display is a 1.38-inch round OLED unit with a stonking a 480 x 480 resolution. There’s 4GB of onboard storage, and in addition to LTE, there’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Thanks to on-board GPS, you can go for a run without your smartphone and the LG Watch Sport will track your runs. It will then calculate your calories burned, based on how fast you ran and for what distance. It’s an accurate and dependable smartwatch, although battery life is a sticking point. It should last for 24-hours, but 20-hours is more realistic with GPS on.
Apple Watch Nike+
The Apple Watch Nike+ is a special edition Apple Watch borne from Apple’s close relationship with Nike. It boasts built-in GPS and has careful Nike+ Run Club integration, which gives it a unique selling point over the standard Apple Watch.
Nike+ Run Club gives you a clear view of all your activity data, including detailed maps showing your runs. In addition to this app, the Apple Watch Nike+ stands out with its design thanks to a unique collection of watch bands which are perforated silicone.
If you are an iPhone user, you’ll probably find the functionality of the Apple Watch Nike+ better than an Android Wear smartwatch. It offers seamless compatibility, with notifications app data sent straight from your iPhone to the watch if you would like them. Overall, the Apple Watch Nike+ is a solid smartwatch best-suited to iPhone users.
Moto 360 Sport
The Moto 360 Sport has a unique feature called an AnyLight display, which is effectively an LCD with a transflective mode for outstanding visibility outdoors. It works great in practice, and sets it apart from the other smartwatches on our list.
The AnyLight display switches from LCD to transflective mode automatically, or you can switch it yourself. It works seamlessly and it’s a brilliant feature. It helps the Moto 360 Sport standout, and of course, it helps to preserve battery life too.
For runners, the 360 Sport is a solid option. It uses an accelerometer and other sensors to track your treadmill runs, and GPS to track your outdoor runs. Run data is sent to the Moto Body app, which is of Motorola’s own design. The app is intuitive and easy to use, and shows you exactly how many steps and calories you burn.
Garmin Vivoactive HR
The Garmin Vivoactive HR is a great smartwatch for all kinds of activity tracking. It automatically detects running, biking and swimming activity, and uses Elevate heart rate fitness tracking technology to more accurately track your calorie burn.
It runs Garmin’s own software, so if you’re looking for something more specialised than Android Wear, this is it. Garmin’s ConnectIQ app store offers plenty of app variety, allowing you to add functionality to your Vivoactive HR should you want it.
With an accelerometer and GPS, the Vivoactive HR tracks runs indoors and outdoors. Heart-rate monitoring lets you monitor your progress in real-time, and you can set up vibration alerts so that you can keep better track of your workouts. The Vivoactive HR has a relatively old-hat display, but it makes up for that with excellent fitness tracking capability.
Garmin Fenix 3
The Garmin Fenix 3 offers GPS and GLONASS support for unrivalled tracking outdoors. It has a unique 1.2-inch Chroma display, and automatically detects activity. It supports running and hiking, as well as skiing and swimming.
The best feature of the Garmin Fenix 3 is its connectivity. It has GPS and GLONASS support, so it will track you anywhere in the US. It runs Garmin’s own software, which is highly specialised for fitness and offers more data than Android Wear.
For instance, the Fenix 3 has VO2 Max and Recovery Advisor, and classic Garmin navigation features like TracBack. These software features transcend those offered by Android Wear. A downside to the Fenix 3, however, is the lack of an in-built heart-rate sensor. This is sold separately, or it comes with the Fenix 3 as part of the ‘Performer Bundle’.
Garmin Forerunner 630
The Garmin Forerunner 630 is a high-performance smartwatch that’s been designed specifically for runners. It offers advanced running metrics, just as ground contact time and stride length, to help you get more from your runs.
Ground contact time, balance, stride length and vertical ratio metrics are available with the Forerunner 630. These are not available with any Android Wear smartwatch. It also offers a stress core, performance condition and lactate threshold function.
As you run, the Forerunner 630 analyses your pace, heart rate and heart rate variability and presents that data as an assessment for your fitness. The software is intuitive and easy to use, with charts, graphs and maps. In addition to all these things, the Forerunner 630 offers email, call, test and calendar push notifications.
The Fitbit Surge is an extremely popular running smartwatch. It offers GPS tracking and has a heart-rate sensor. It’s also got a long battery life (up to 7 days), and offers push notifications and music syncing via Bluetooth.
Although it is a smartwatch - since it connects to your smartphone and sends push notifications, the Fitbit Surge is more of a fitness band. It has a small monochrome square display and a chunky silicone strap. You’ll either love the design or hate it.
Whatever the case, the Surge’s internals cannot be disputed. It has GPS and heart-rate monitoring, and it even has an altimeter to track elevation (a useful application of this being it tracks how many flights of stairs you climb a day). Because it has GPS, you can leave your smartphone at home when our running and the Surge will track your runs perfectly.
TomTom Spark 3
The TomTom Spark 3 bridges the gap between fitness tracker and smartwatch. It offers push notifications and Bluetooth music streaming like a smartwatch should, but transcends Android Wear’s fitness tracking capability with TomTom’s specialised OS.
With GPS and heart-rate monitoring, the Spark 3 will track all your runs perfectly. You can setup running goals, and you’ll be rewarded with a vibration and a badge should you hit any of your targets. It’s a simple but effective way to keep you motivated.
When you get running, the TomTom has a three-way split screen showing your calories burned, the time of your workout and the average pace. But distance, lap pace and heart rate can also be assigned to the split screen. The GPS tracking is reliable and consistent, and the TomTom Spark 3 has a 24-hour battery life.