The best GPS running watches (August 2020)

There are lots of different wearables for all types of users. Just need to keep an eye on your daily activity levels? Maybe the Fitbit Versa 2 or Xiaomi Mi Band 4 will suit your needs. But if you’re a serious athlete that needs something more powerful — something that can track your long runs and not skimp on the handy watch features — what are your options? Today, we’re going to walk you through our list of the best GPS running watches on the market.

If you’re a runner and need something that will accurately track your routes, has an easy-to-read screen, a built-in heart rate monitor, and a GPS, this list is for you. Some of the options on here are pricey, but that’s par for the course in this segment of wearables.

Buying the right GPS running watch for your needs

Everybody needs something different out of their GPS running watches, so we listed each model in a different category to help you choose the right device for your needs. Here are some quick links if you’re in a hurry:

  • The Garmin Forerunner 945 is the best full-featured GPS running watch you can buy. If money is no option, buy the 945.
  • The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is the best mid-range GPS running watch thanks to its onboard music storage, accurate fitness tracking, and slim design.
  • The Garmin Forerunner 45 is the best cheap GPS running watch, coming in at around $200. It’s slim, has most of the features you’ll need, and can regularly be found on sale.
  • The Polar Ignite is another good GPS running watch that won’t break the bank.
  • The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker with GPS. It’s accurate, slim, customizable, and has an accurate GPS.
  • The Apple Watch Series 5 is the best GPS smartwatch you can buy. It has a fantastic display, support for lots of third-party apps, and tight integration with Apple’s ecosystem.

The best GPS running watches

Garmin Forerunner 945

garmin forerunner 945
If money is of no option and you want the best GPS running watch you can buy, we recommend the Garmin Forerunner 945. The 945 offers all of the new features Garmin has been promoting with its recent watches, including a pulse oximeter, music storage, Garmin Pay support, incident detection, VO2 max heat and altitude adjustment, and two-week battery life. It also has full-color, on-board maps support.

Also read: Which music services work with Garmin smartwatches?

This is the watch you buy if you’re training for a triathlon, or at least want the most data you can get out of a running watch. With the Forerunner 945, you’ll have access to training load focus — a feature that sorts your recent training history into different categories based on intensity and structure. You also get access to ski, hike, golf tracking, and more.

Looking for something a little cheaper? The Garmin Forerunner 935 is still a great option.

Want something that excels at running and more general outdoor features? Check out the Garmin Fenix 6 lineup.

Read more about the Forerunner 945 in our list of the best Garmin watches you can buy.

Garmin Forerunner 945 specs

  • Sensors: GPS, heart rate, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, pulse oximeter, barometric altimeter, thermometer
  • IP rating: 5ATM
  • Display: 1.2-inch transflective MIP
  • Battery life: Up to 2 weeks
  • Music storage: ~1,000 songs
  • Contactless payments: Yes

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

garmin forerunner 245 music running watch resting heart rate screen

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music heart rate sensor

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is our favorite GPS running watch right now, and it’s definitely the best option for the price. The Forerunner 245 Music comes with an accurate heart rate sensor and GPS tracking, as well as fantastic sleep insights, music storage, Garmin Coach training plans, a pulse oximeter, and week-long battery life.

If you’re looking for a GPS running watch that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is probably your best option.

Any downsides? A few. It doesn’t have Garmin Pay, and there’s no barometric altimeter on board, for some reason.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music specs

  • Sensors: GPS, heart rate, accelerometer, compass, pulse oximeter
  • IP rating: 5ATM
  • Display: 1.2-inch transflective MIP
  • Battery life: Up to 7 days
  • Music storage: ~500 songs
  • Contactless payments: No

Garmin Forerunner 45

garmin forerunner 45

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is the watch you buy if you’re looking to save some cash but still want a powerful GPS running watch.

The Forerunner 45 features built-in GPS and heart rate sensors, and can track your cycling, elliptical, cardio workouts, and more. Battery life should last up to seven days in smartwatch mode and roughly 13 hours in GPS mode.

These are the successors to the super popular Forerunner 35 from a few years back. The new Forerunner 45 and 45S add Garmin’s incident detection feature, as well as support for different watch faces and Garmin Coach workouts for running and cycling.

The 45 series doesn’t have music storage (we’d recommend the 245 Music for that), and it doesn’t support quick release straps. The color you buy is the color you stick with.

Read more about Garmin’s offerings in our Fitbit vs Garmin comparison.

Garmin Forerunner 45 specs

  • Sensors: GPS, heart rate, accelerometer
  • IP rating: 5ATM
  • Display: 1.04-inch transflective MIP
  • Battery life: Up to 7 days
  • Music storage: No
  • Contactless payments: No

Polar Ignite

Polar Ignite smart fitness watch being worn on a female's left wrist.

The Polar Ignite watch face doesn’t appear comically bulky on petite wrists.

The Polar Ignite strikes a good balance between high-end features and value. It’s a good alternative to the Forerunner 245 Music if you’re interested in trying something not made by Garmin.

It can track more than 100 activities and has built-in GPS, a heart rate sensor, and a 3ATM water resistance rating. It offers on-device breathing exercises, smartphone notification support (no music storage sadly), and 17 hours of battery in GPS mode. The real standout feature here is FitSpark, which is a training feature that adapts to your exercises. If you went particularly hard on a run on a certain day, FitSpark will give you tips on how to recover as well as recommended exercises.

Read more in our best Polar watches buyer’s guide.

Polar Ignite specs

  • Sensors: GPS, heart rate
  • IP rating: 3ATM
  • Display: 1.69-inch IPS TFT
  • Battery life: Up to 5 days
  • Music storage: No
  • Contactless payments: No

Fitbit Charge 4

fitbit charge 4 review watch face on wrist 2

The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker you can buy, period. Fitbit didn’t need to do much to achieve this title again, but it managed to fix all our gripes with the Charge 3 and keep it at the same price point. The built-in GPS is a welcome addition, as is Fitbit Pay being standard across all models.

It’s impressive how many sensors Fitbit was able to cram into the Charge 4, considering its small size. If you want a GPS-enabled fitness tracker, the only device you should consider is the Fitbit Charge 4.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Charge 4.

Fitbit Charge 4 specs

  • Sensors: GPS, heart rate, accelerometer, altimeter
  • IP rating: 5ATM
  • Display: 1.57-inch grayscale OLED
  • Battery life: 7 days
  • Music storage: No
  • Contactless payments: Yes

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5 vs Galaxy Watch Active 2

The Apple Watch Series 5 is a fantastic smartwatch (the best one, in fact). It also happens to be a great fitness wearable thanks to its plethora of sport modes and GPS.

Available in aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic, the Apple Watch Series 5 is the first Apple smartwatch to feature an always-on display. Couple in the small display bezels, fitness-friendly features like the ECG, and excellent performance, and you have a fantastic choice for iPhone owners.

Also read: The best Apple Watch bands

Unfortunately, the Series 5 only works with iPhones. That’s great for those in Apple’s ecosystem, but that leaves everyone else hanging out to dry.

Check out our full review to learn more about the Apple Watch Series 5.

Apple Watch Series 5 specs

  • Sensors: GPS, heart rate, ECG, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, compass
  • IP rating: 5ATM
  • Display: 1.78-inch LTPO OLED
  • Battery life: Up to 18 hours
  • Music storage: 2GB
  • Contactless payments: Yes

Why you should trust the editor

Not only does Jimmy Westenberg love wearables, he loves helping people find the right devices to suit their needs. He’s been our resident fitness reviewer at Android Authority since 2016, and in that time has reviewed dozens of fitness products and other wearables.

Through his rigorous testing of fitness products and deep knowledge of health devices and services, you can rest assured knowing Jimmy will give you honest recommendations.

Honorable mentions

There are hundreds of GPS running watches available today. The ones on this list are our favorites, but we’ll also list a handful of options down below to help you find what you’re looking for.

Next: AA essentials: The best running gear, running watches, and more

This entry was posted in Apple, Fitbit, fitness trackers, Garmin, Polar, smartwatches, Suunto, The Best, Wearables. Bookmark the permalink.