GPS Smartwatches Good For Running

By Tirachard Kumtanom

GPS smartwatches are making big waves in the fitness markets for runners and other athletes. How do you know if you need one? We will walk you through the difference between GPS smartwatches and fitness trackers along with the benefits and downfalls of running with a GPS smartwatch. This way, you will know if it will be worth it to spend the hundreds of dollars on a GPS smartwatch.

GPS Smartwatches vs. Fitness Tracker

A GPS smartwatch and a fitness tracker will do three things of the same things for you:

  • Smartphone notifications
  • Distance in running, hiking, biking, or other activity
  • Track daily activity such as steps

That is where the similarity ends. Some runners like to track distance and pace. If this is the case for you, take into consideration a GPS smartwatch. It will show you how far you have gone and how far you have left to go by using satellites. The more advanced (and expensive) versions have graphs to show your progress. GPS smartwatches do not need your phone to work either, which is nice if you want to leave it in the car.

Another thing GPS smartwatches do is provide more detailed metrics than fitness trackers. If you are serious about your training, GPS watches will show your recovery time, cadence, and come in a variety of sports and activities to choose from.

Both a GPS smartwatch and fitness tracker may come with a heart rate sensor, it just depends on the brand and how much you are willing to pay. Fitness trackers will track the distance you have run, but they are less accurate because they use an accelerometer.

If what you want is a simple tracker to keep track of your daily steps, activities, stair climbs, and how many calories you have burned, a fitness tracker is a good option. If you want detailed data on pace, distance, cadence, and uploadable routes, then a GPS smartwatch is a better option.

Benefits of a GPS Smartwatch

Benefits of a GPS Smartwatch

By Simon Steinberger

One large benefit of having a GPS smartwatch is you will know exactly how your training is going. If you are a serious runner and training for a marathon, time and cadence counts, which is where a GPS smartwatch comes in. Most of these watches will also tailor workouts to match your fitness level and let you know how long you need to recover properly, which is also important when it comes to training.

Cons to a GPS Smartwatch

While there are many benefits to a GPS smartwatch, there are a few downsides as well. First of all, they are expensive. Depending on what type of features you want, a GPS watch can cost over $200 and up to $800. Unless you are seriously training, it is hard to invest this amount of money if you could purchase a $50 fitness tracker to watch your steps and calories.

Another downside to a GPS smartwatch is they can get bulky. Since they are designed for sports, the look is not something you would wear out to a fancy dinner.  Furthermore, the battery life goes fast when you have the GPS on all day. Some do have the option of turning it off, but if yours doesn’t you may be charging it often.

How to Know what is Right for You

So how do you know what is right for you? Set a budget, how much are you willing to invest? Are you a serious runner or more casual. If you are a casual runner, check into fitness trackers because you can always upgrade later. If you are serious, you will be happier with a GPS smartwatch from the beginning because it will provide you with the necessary data.

Here are a few things to think about when you look at purchasing watches:

  • Water resistance
  • Heart rate tracker
  • Uploadable routes
  • Size/weight of the watch
  • Battery life
  • Activities tracked
  • Metrics

Think about what you need in a watch and what you can live without. As you train more, you will find your needs change and you may need to upgrade as you go.

What about a Phone?

What about a Phone

By Asif Ikbal Bhuiya

Can you use a phone to track your run? There are many apps out there to track your run and can even use the GPS data to provide that information. While phones can handle this task, it is best left to GPS smartwatches or fitness trackers because they were designed to track activities. A phone can be cumbersome to look at while you are running and there is always the risk of dropping it while you are trying to look at your data.


A GPS smartwatch can be an excellent tool for running, especially when you are training for a race or trying to enhance your workout. Fitness trackers work well, but they do not have as many features for the serious runners as GPS smartwatches do. If you are curious where to start, check out the top GPS running watches of 2018.

About The Author:

Ruggero Loda is founder and editor at Running Shoes Guru – the only website that buys and tests more than 100 pairs of shoes each year to guarantee its independence and provide only expert, honest and unbiased running shoe reviews.

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