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If you’re serious about maintaining an exercise regime, you need to turn to technology for a bit of help.
One of the best devices you can buy for yourself is a running watch. So, whether you’re a long-term fitness fanatic or someone who’s just turned over a new leaf, keep reading. We’re going to look at the best running watches of 2019.
Garmin is comfortably the leading brand in the world of fitness and running watches. And in our opinion, the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is the best Garmin running watch you can buy in 2019.
Despite the high price, the Fenix 5 Plus is not the most expensive watch in the Garmin collection. That title belongs to the Fenix Chronos range. However, the 5 Plus offers the right mix of luxury features and price.
The watch offers GPS tracking, a heart rate monitor, and colored topography maps. The maps link into Garmin’s Trendline Popularity Routing service; it plots the best route for you to run, cycle, or hike based on millions of data points from other Garmin owners.
There’s also a compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter. The battery lasts for seven days before requiring a recharge.
2. Fitbit Ionic
Smartwatches occupy a curious place in the world of fitness watches. Many of them offer similar features to dedicated running watches, but they come with a host of distractions that we could do without while exercising.
Perhaps, therefore, you should consider the Fitbit Ionic. Fitbit is a well-established brand in the fitness tracking sector, and the company’s Ionic model offers some smart features without being overawing. Those features include sleep tracking, offline music storage, and an (admittedly limited) app store.
From a fitness and running standpoint, the Fitbit Ionic supports GPS tracking, a heart rate monitor, and swim tracking capabilities. It is water resistant up to 50 meters.
Fitbit also makes the fitness-friendly Versa, but it does not have GPS.
Note: Make sure you ask yourself some honest questions before buying a Fitbit!
At the other end of the smartwatch scale is the Apple Watch 4. It is the king of smartwatches.
The built-in fitness features can measure your distance, speed, heart rate and average pace. It also offers an auto-detection feature; if you forget to tell the device that you started working out, it will recognize your motion and send you an alert.
Because it’s an Apple product, the watch also sports the best modern design out of all the watches on this list. However, if you prefer a more traditional watch face look, there are better options out there.
And remember, there are plenty of third-party fitness apps for Apple Watches that you can install. You can also change the Apple Watch’s wristbands.
And, of course, the Apple Watch has one massive downside: It is only compatible with iPhones. If you’re an Android owner, don’t even consider buying one.
Read our review of the Apple Watch 4 to learn more.
The Suunto 9 Baro is one of the best GPS running watches.
It doesn’t offer non-fitness smart features like the Apple Watch 4 and the Fitbit Ionic. Instead, it focuses on providing a great experience for people who want their watch for tracking exercise and little else.
Features on the Suunto 9 Baro include GPS navigation, water resistance to 100 meters, a barometer, and weather forecasting features.
Additionally, you get access to Suunto’s FusedTrack; it’s an algorithm which combines GPS and motion sensor data to provide wearers with more accurate readings.
The watch is also great for non-running fitness types. There are 80 pre-loaded sports that you can use.
If you want a GPS running watch that still offers a substantial number of features without breaking the bank, you should consider the Garmin Forerunner 25. It is the most budget-friendly Garmin running watch in the company’s collection.
It doesn’t have the same fancy functions as some of its competitors, but it can still track how far (and how fast) you ran, the number of calories you burned, and your heart rate.
The Garmin Forerunner 25 can also track your daily steps and issue reminders when you’ve been sedentary for too long. You can upload your data to the cloud via Garmin’s smartphone app.
Arguably the biggest drawback of the watch is its design. With a simple grey interface and cheap-looking straps, it resembles something straight out of the 1980s. Still, if you’re only wearing it to exercise then throwing it back in your bag, who cares?
The Polar Vantage M is one of the best sub-$300 running watches. It’s slightly less feature-rich than the more expensive Polar Vantage V, but we think the $200 saving is worth the marginal downgrade.
Despite the lower cost, you will still get a heart rate monitor, calorie counter, GPS tracker, and a pre-loaded library of 130 sports.
Other features include a sleep tracker and personalized running programs and indexes.
You’ll also have access to Polar Flow, the company’s cloud-based fitness tracking portal.
7. Coros Apex
As a company, Coros is better known for making cycling helmets. However, its recent foray into the world of GPS running watches has been a successful one.
The Coros Apex comes in two screen sizes, 42mm and 46mm. Aside from the size difference, the watches are identical. Features include a heart rate monitor (which, uniquely, can be hooked up to an external monitor), GPS tracking, and an AI trainer that will provide insights and recommendations on your training schedule.
This running watch specializes in tracking three sports—running, cycling, and swimming. Observant readers will notice they form the basis of triathlons, making the Coros Apex an excellent watch for anyone who wants to put themselves through a few hours of endurance-based torture.
Design-wise, the Apex looks more like a smartwatch than a running watch, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you want to wear it around the clock.
Which Is the Best GPS Watch?
The question is impossible to answer. Broadly speaking, the running watch industry follows a model of more expensive = better. It’s almost impossible to find a watch that combines low prices with a luxury feature list.
If you forced our hand, we’d say go for a Garmin model. There are a dozen or more GPS running watches in its product line-up; you should be able to find something that meets both your needs and your budget.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our article on the best fitness trackers with a heart monitor.