For those unfamiliar with ultra running, it’s a term for any race or runs which last longer than the standard marathon distance of 42.195 kilometres (26.2 miles). As you might expect, no ordinary watch is made with the needs of ultra runners in mind. The best watches for such an extreme activity have features includes and made for the best runners on the planet.
This includes advanced running metrics and stat tracking, heart rate monitoring and other health-related applications, durability and longevity indicative of only the best sports watches, and a host of other nuances and features which cater to those who take working out as a lifestyle.
In short, normal watches can’t hack it for runners who want to go above and beyond normal limitations. You need the best GPS watches money can buy to help with route tracking and keep you on the path to where you need to go. It’s easy to get lost on such extraordinarily long runs, so GPS watches are critical in that respect.
Rather than leaving you to sift through dozens of options in hopes of finding the best watch for such an adrenaline-packed pursuit, we’ve decided to curate a list of the best of the best GPS watches made for runners who take the sport more seriously than most.
Running isn’t a hobby for those who pursue ultra running. Running is a way of life and you’ll need a GPS watch which gets that. For those looking for a watch that will be an extension of everything you’re trying to accomplish while running past your own physical limitations, here’s a list of the best running watches out there for sale today.
Counting Down The 7 Best Watches For Ultra Running…
7) Coros APEX Premium Multisport GPS Watch
We lead off our list with the Coros Apex Premium Multisport GPS Watch — a mid-level running GPS watch which doesn’t offer all of the connectivity and features of the best in class, but does proffer fantastic battery life and a simple interface that’s consumer friendly. Also, the GPS tracking system is as good as any watch not released by Garmin (or Suunto).
3 Key Features: Wrist-based heart rate monitor, barometer, altimeter, and compass >> Easy-to-use digital knob for peak interface control >> Integrates with popular 3rd party platforms like TrainingPeaks and Strava
Battery Life: 35 hours of battery life in GPS mode >> 30 days for regular use >> 100 hours in UltraMax GPS mode
- We love how easy this watch is to use. It doesn’t vex you with complex interfacing.
- Extra points for its integration capabilities with several leading 3rd party training and fitness applications.
- The strong battery life means that you won’t be always waiting for this watch to charge before your next run.
- It won’t evaluate your fitness until you’ve completed three separate runs.
- The sleep monitoring system can be wildly inaccurate at times.
6) Garmin Instinct Watch
- Rugged GPS watch built to withstand the toughest environments.Supported Application:Phone. . Wireless comm standard:Bluetooth
- Constructed to U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 meters)
- Built in 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter, plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Glonass and Galileo) support helps track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
- Monitor your estimated heart rate, activity and stress; Train with preloaded activity profiles. Strap material: Silicone
- Stay connected with smart notifications (with a compatible smartphone) and automatic data uploads to the Garmin connect online fitness community
The first of four Garmin watches on our countdown, the Garmin Instinct is only ranked this low because of the sheer quality of the company’s offerings in the running watch game. There’s still so much to love about this cost-conscious Garmin offering including its U.S. Military standard construction and durability, trackback features, and smartphone-compatible smart notifications.
3 Key Features: 810G thermal and shock resistance >> 100 meters of water resistance >> 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter
Battery Life: 16 hours of battery life in GPS mode, 14 days in smartwatch mode, 40 days in Ultratrac battery saver mode
- This watch takes a beating! It’s not only water resistant up to 100 meters but also is protected by 810G thermal and shock resistance. You can try to break this watch and it won’t happen.
- The smartphone connectivity is super easy and reliable, making syncing a snap.
- The 3-axis compass is dependable and works like a charm when you’re a bit lost.
- The applications included in this particular Garmin watch leave something to be desired compared to other models.
- The battery life is solid but not up to the standard of some of the best running watches and GPS watches out there.
5) Coros Pace Multisport GPS Watch
- Features a wrist based heart rate monitor and performance metrics for running, swimming and cycling activities
- Engineered with a power efficient central core, allowing for battery life up to 30 days in standard mode and up to 25 hours in GPS mode
- Built-in Barometric Altimeter for more accurate elevation readings. Compatible with STRAVA.
- GPS, GLONASS and BDS work together to precisely locate your position, even through interference outdoors
- Receive and control notifications from your phone, including call, text, email and other social media applications
While it’s not the most impressive GPS watch when counting applications and functions, the Coros Pace Multisports GPS Watch is an unbeatable bargain in its price range. While you don’t get all of the added perks of some of Garmin’s best running watch models, you get a really awesome battery and super strong wireless phone connectivity.
Color: Black, Red
3 Key Features: 13 different workout modes for a variety of different sports >> Optical heart rate monitoring which supports HR broadcast with a Bluetooth/ANT+ connection >> built-in compass, altimeter, and barometer
Battery Life: 25 hours in full GPS mode >> 50 hours in UltraMax GPS mode >> 30 days in regular mode
- At this price point, there simply isn’t a watch that can do this much and last this long while doing it. If you’re running on a tight budget, this is the watch for you.
- The 13 different workout modes and heart rate monitoring feel are luxury features which are worth much more than the price of admission.
- The battery life of this watch is fantastic for one in this price range. You won’t have to worry about it shutting down on you in the middle of your next run.
- Compared to other watches on this list, you don’t get nearly as many applications and advanced metric capabilities to work with.
- The GPS accuracy can be a bit suspect in certain areas.
4) Garmin Forerunner 645 Watch
- Easily download up to 500 songs to your watch, and connect with Bluetooth headphones (sold separately) for phone free listening
- Syncs music from select streaming services for offline listening (May require premium subscription with a third party music provider)
- Garmin Pay contactless payment solution lets you make convenient payments with your watch (available for supported cards from participating banks), so you can leave your cash and cards at home
- Provides advanced running dynamics (when used with Running Dynamics Pod or HRM Run or HRM Tri monitor, sold separately), including ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more
- Uses estimated wrist based heart rate data to offer performance monitoring features, including evaluating your current training status.Battery life: Up to 7 days in smartwatch mode; 5 hours in GPS mode with music. Water rating: 5 ATM
While it’s not our pick for the best Forerunner model (more on that later), the Garmin Forerunner 645 Watch is still a fantastic running watch which will satisfy those who loves a good tune or two on the trail. You can sync music with select music streaming services for offline play with room for up to 500 different songs. This feels like a great bonus considering the advanced monitors and running metrics also included.
3 Key Features: Download 500 songs or sync offline with popular music streaming services >> Bluetooth headphone connectivity >> Includes Garmin Pay contactless pay solution for easy payment with your watch
Battery Life: 5 hours of battery life in GPS mode with music >> 7 days in smartwatch mode
- This is a great watch for those who need a bit of distraction while running. You can even download full podcasts if that’s more your speed.
- Monitoring and stat tracking is near the top of the class for running watches.
- Includes some great features for sports other than running. For example, the swim training mode is super useful and helps you pace in the middle of your swim.
- While this is a great entry in the Forerunner series, it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as the earlier edition we’ll cover in a moment.
- No touchscreen and the buttons can be a bit hard to adjust to.
3) Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Watch
- SUUNTO Ambit3 peak delivers stable and accurate altitude and weather information with full navigation in a robust casting
- Includes built in altimeter, barometer, compass and GPS with 100 meter water resistance
- One of the most competitive battery hours in the market, 200 hours with 1 minute accuracy. Case material: Polyamide
- Connect Ambit3 peak to your smartphone for syncing your activities, customizing on the go and seeing calls and notifications on the watch
- Add Photos in movement and create a SUUNTO Movie with the highlights of your adventure to share with your friends
While some prefer the Suunto 9 Baro GPS Sports Watch, we believe that the Sunnto Ambit 3 Peak Watch outstrips the 9 Baro as the best running watch under the Sunnto banner. In fact, it’s comparable to some of the best Garmin watches in terms of battery life, water resistance, and the amount of impressive tech included.
3 Key Features: Fantastic array of Sunnto Movescount routes, heat maps, and applications included >> Expert route navigation and track back features >> Monitors your heart rate while swimming
Battery Life: 30 hours of battery life with 5-second GPS accuracy >> 200 hours of battery life with 1-minute GPS accuracy
- The Suunto Movescount app is one of the best workout applications ever created for smartwatches and it’s included with your purchase. You can even add images from your run to denote key moments or share on social media.
- The wireless connectivity between this watch and your smartphone is reliable. If you’re done running and need to sync information between the two quickly and efficiently, you can.
- The heart rate monitoring function is very accurate for a smartwatch. Tracking your heart rate is both easy and effective at any point of your run.
- The calorie and step counter can be a bit buggy at times.
- The storm alert function also has been known to be a bit unreliable.
2) Garmin Forerunner 735XT Watch
- GPS running watch with multisport features.Special Feature:Bluetooth.Water Resistant: Yes.Forerunner Specifications - Operating temperature range : From -20º to 50ºC (from -4º to 122ºF)
- Estimates heart rate at the wrist so you can run freer on race day.Shock resistant. Battery life : Smartwatch Mode Up to 11 days. GPS mode Up to 14 hours. UltraTrac mode Up to 24 hours without wrist heart rate
- Provides advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming7, including ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more (when paired with a Running Dynamics Pod, HRM Run or HRM Tri Monitor, sold separately)
- Offers VO2 max estimate, lactate threshold (when used with a chest strap heart rate monitor), race predictor and recovery advisor
- Connected features4: smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, live tracking and more
While the aforementioned Garmin Forerunner 645 was released a couple years after this one, we still choose the Garmin Forerunner 735XT watch for its gorgeous and sleek design and the accuracy of its advanced dynamics and connected features. You can’t download music to this watch but you can control your smartphone’s music player while enjoying its slick aesthetic and intuitive design.
3 Key Features: Estimates heart rate with an easy-to-use heart monitor >> Top tier shock resistance >> Advanced dynamics and stat tracking for cycling, swimming, and running
Battery Life: 14 hours in GPS mode >> 24 hours in UltraTrac mode >> 11 days in smartwatch mode
- The shock resistance and rugged construction of the case are kinda shocking when you see just how beautiful this watch looks on your wrist.
- A trove of health-related features for you to use on long runs including an accurate VO2 max threshold and lactate threshold.
- The advanced dynamics and statistical readouts work for many different sports, not just running.
- The sync capabilities are a bit suspect compared to other Garmin watches.
- If you’re a music buff, the lack of music storage compared to the Forerunner 645 in disappointing.
And our pick for the best watch for running is…
1) Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Watch
- Fit for performance with rugged, sophisticated design that features an always-on 1.3” (18% larger than previous Fenix models) sunlight-readable display with bezels in stainless steel, titanium or diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating.Special Feature:Bluetooth.
- Enhanced estimated wrist heart rate and Pulse Ox to support advanced sleep monitoring and altitude acclimation at high elevations (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition)
- Advanced training features include PacePro for grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity plus environmentally adjusted VO2 max and training status estimates
- Navigate the outdoors with preloaded topo maps, ski maps for over 2,000 worldwide ski resorts, multiple global navigation satellite system (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) support and built-in sensors for 3-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter
- Support for Garmin Pay contactless payments (not all countries and payment networks are eligible), music storage with premium streaming service (may require subscription with third-party music provider) support, smart notifications and more
The true leader of the pack when it comes to running watches, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Watch is everything you want out of a GPS watch and so much more. It’s extraordinarily lightweight, boasts top-of-the-class battery life and durability, and comes complete with a treasure trove of applications and functions built for those who take their runs to places many can’t or won’t go.
Key Features: Enhanced estimated wrist heart rate and sleep monitoring >> a bevy of advanced training features and applications including PacePro >> Thousands of topo maps and ski resort maps for areas around the world
Battery Life: 10 hours in GPS & music mode >> 14 days in smartwatch mode >> 28 days in expedition GPS activity mode >> 48 days in battery saver watch mode
- The measuring tools for heart and oxygenation are the most accurate of any GPS watch or running watch that we’ve tested.
- Comes complete with brand new pacing technology which compares your pace to runs previously completed. When you’ve got your previous best performances pushing you forward, you can’t help but improve.
- This isn’t just a great, durable running watch. It’s also a fantastic smartwatch which has Bluetooth/WiFi connectivity, memory space for up to 2,000 songs, and a big and colorful display that wows on first glance.
- Switching screens with the analog buttons can be a bit tedious and not so intuitive.
- This is on the pricier side for GPS watches so it’s definitely an investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for in a good running watch?
GPS watches are a must in this day and age, especially for those who are ultra running for days at a time. GPS watches keep you abreast of various topographical and weather conditions while ensuring you don’t get lost on your expedition. You’ll also want good battery life and a strong case that can withstand potential falls and accidents.
In short, you want a connected watch similar to an Apple Watch but with a bevy of tracking and training features specific to working out. These can include VO2 Max testing, advanced heart rate monitoring, and a host of other workout-specific features. You’ll also just want to find a good watch for sports. If it has accessories such as a chest strap or other things specific to active lifestyles and it’s calibrated for your ultra runs ahead, you’ve got a good deal on your hands.
What Garmin watch is best for me?
It’s the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro and it’s not close. We see it as a major step up from the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus in a multitude of ways. From sheer durability to functionality and GPS precision, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro puts the 5 Plus to shame along with the rest of the running watches out there in the marketplace. It works around the way you work out and when it comes to GPS in watches, there’s none better.
If you want a watch that runs with you and adds to the experience of ultra running in ways you never thought possible, any of the seven standout GPS watches above are a perfect fit. Whether you’re trying to find a new way to a new route or you just want to monitor your vital signs for precautionary reasons, the watches on our countdown are investments your health and well being.
GPS watches have made huge technological strides over the past few years. If you’re looking for a GPS watch that’s at the pinnacle of precision and will aid you in countless ways during your next ultra running race or standard marathon, look no further.