With so many options available, you might wonder if you need a high tech running watch to get you started on the right path with your training. The answer is really up to you. Having a high tech running watch with endless features doesn’t make you more serious about your training, the same way that having a basic watch doesn’t make you less serious. You can achieve the same goals in your running with either piece of equipment, but it’s first important to evaluate what information helps to motivate and encourage you and what information may become unhelpful along the way. If the data provided by a watch is at any point overwhelming, stick with a simple watch that’s limited to the features you find helpful. If you find the extra data helps you stay on track and handle training better, the information below will help you find the watch that works best for you. Listed below are some pros and cons of using a GPS running watch as well as potential considerations and brand recommendations:


  • Gain new insight and information into how mileage, workouts and effort are affecting you and your training.
  • Ability to reflect on weeks/months/years of very accurate data to see where improvements/adjustments can be made.
  • Ability to create workouts ahead of time so you only have to wait for the beep during training


  • Too much data or information can defeat the purpose of the run. If your watch becomes a distraction or a source of anxiousness, it may be a sign that a watch with more basic features might be the best option for you.    
  • Posting your data/training on social sites for a larger audience to view and analyze can lead to anxiety, comparison, overtraining and fear of judgement about your training style and/or race results. If you sense these emotions coming in to play, it’s ok to keep the data to yourself for a period of time to see how that helps you.
  • Technology always has its downfalls and while these watches do their best to take everything into consideration, they don’t always get the whole picture (sleep, recovery, added stress, nutrition, etc). Remember that your body will always be the smartest tool you have.


  • GPS
  • Heart Rate (wrist and/or HR Monitor)
  • Multi-Sport Capabilities
  • Smartphone App Compatible
  • Battery Life
  • Workout Programming
  • Screen/View Options
  • Price


Heart rate monitors are not essential pieces of equipment, but for certain athletes, they can be very useful in targeting appropriate training efforts. The most common running error is for “regular runs” to be at a too high effort level, which ends up under-cutting aerobic training and can lead to injury. To learn more about HR training you can check out this blog on the basics and then pursue more specific guidance. If you’re interested in tracking your heart rate, there are a few different options: built-in to watch, chest straps, and arm straps. Our team athletes report that watch HR monitors are typically not super accurate, chest straps are accurate but may be uncomfortable (especially where they interface with the bra chest band), and that forearm monitors are more comfortable and also very accurate. But you should experiment to find the best option for yourself. Ideally, you will get in tune enough with your body to predict your heart rate based on effort, and then the monitor becomes unnecessary!



There are lots of options available and chances are you will probably have a friend or family member who can provide a solid recommendation as well. Remember, first you need to evaluate what kind of use you will have for the watch and what kind of data you will find interesting/helpful. I have enjoyed reading the reviews of blogger and runner, DC Rainmaker (former Seattlite, now residing in Amsterdam!) to see what he has to say on the latest GPS Smartwatches. He also has a cool comparison tool that highlights all the latest watches that provide the features you’re looking for.. His site is a great resource that I hope you enjoy and find helpful.

Here is DC Rainmaker’s latest Sports Technology Buyers Guide for Winter 19/20

Here is DC Rainmaker’s Comparison Tool


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