GPS watches are a type of fitness tracker designed specifically for runners (and sometimes triathletes). These high-tech devices measure your pace, distance and time, and some watches are also capable of recording additional workout details, including elevation changes and strides per minute. Whether you're a beginner or experienced runner, GPS watches can help you set fitness goals, keep up with your training or motivate you to beat your personal best.
Live Science reporters tested these GPS watches for several weeks and evaluated their performance in four categories: Design/Comfort, User-Friendliness, Value of Information and Enjoyment/Inspiration. We also compared each device to other similar ones on the market, to give you an idea of how these watches measure up with the competition.
Below are summaries of our reviews, and the total star rating for each device, to help you pick the GPS watch that fits best with your lifestyle.
TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch (Full Review): 15 of 20 stars
The TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch is a sports watch billed as a device that makes it easy for active people to track their exercise goals, progress and training. Runners, cyclists and swimmers can use this GPS-enabled device to log workouts and measure their time, distance, pace, calories burned and other useful stats. Unlike other GPS watches that only track running or walking, the Multi-Sport watch broadens your workout options. Although we encountered some issues syncing data online and to TomTom's MySports app, we enjoyed using the Multi-Sport watch, and found it to be a well-designed and very functional device.
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Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0 (Full Review): 15 of 20 stars
The Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0 is a GPS-enabled watch that runners of all levels can use to log their workouts and measure their time, distance, heart rate and other useful training-related data. At $180 (or $220, if you get a heart-rate monitor, too), the Run Trainer 2.0 is cheaper than similar devices, such as the TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch or the Garmin Forerunner 220. If you are a triathlete, or if swimming is a regular part of your workout, a multisport watch may be a better option. For casual runners, the Run Trainer can be motivating, but a simple and cheaper device, such as a fitness tracker, might be just as good.
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Garmin Forerunner 220 (Full Review): 14 of 20 stars
The Garmin Forerunner 220 helps runners track their training, fitness goals and running performance. This device is one of the only GPS watches with a color screen, which sets it apart from other similar devices on the market. The watch is comfortable to wear, and is capable of picking up a satellite signal very quickly. In one case, it took mere seconds for the watch to acquire a satellite lock. Experienced runners will likely appreciate the sheer amount of data the Forerunner 220 collects from each workout. We did encounter some problems syncing the device to a computer and phone, but when runs were properly uploaded, the watch recorded very detailed information about route, elevation changes and cadence.
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Nike+ Sportswatch GPS (Full Review): 14 of 20 stars
The Nike+ Sportswatch GPS is one of the more affordable (and stylish!) GPS watches on the market, and the device has more than enough features to satisfy both beginner and more experienced runners. Although we occasionally encountered problems acquiring a satellite signal, the shoe sensor (included in the more expensive bundles) ensured that the watch could continue collecting data even if the GPS failed. Nike's experience with developing running apps and online software meant we had very few problems uploading data from the watch, and the device's built-in run reminders made this watch a helpful personal coach.
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