GPS Watches: Are They Worth the Blow to Your Wallet?

If you want accurate information, spend the money.

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If you want accurate information, spend the money.

Written by: Linzay Logan

With a new GPS sport watch and other pace and timing devices coming out for runners seemingly every-other week, it got me wondering: Are any of these worth the investment?

After using the new Garmin Forerunner 110 I got for my birthday a few times I can definitely say, yes. As a runner with my number one priority being to improve my speed, I can already tell my GPS watch is going to be a key element in my training. Before getting my watch, doing tempo runs and speed drills were completely hit or miss. I was using a simple stopwatch to time myself, but didn’t know what pace I was actually running at—not ideal when that is my main concern. In the past I used to use a non-GPS speed and distance device for my iPod, but got so frustrated with the voiceovers, battery life and inconsistent distance calculations that my use of it was short-lived.

Some of these non-GPS units are great for runners looking to be held basically accountable to getting miles in and tracking progress. Many of them track workouts online and allow you to set a mileage or time goal before every run, which helps to keep you going when you feel like turning around. They’re also relatively inexpensive compared to their GPS counterparts. But for someone like myself who doesn’t need the push to hit mileage numbers, but does need the push to pick up the pace, a GPS watch is great. My GPS watch keeps track of pace, time, and laps all while I am out on the road. And it’s incredibly accurate. After a run, I can upload my workout online to check out my stats and find where I need to work harder in my training. Everything is graphed out, spelled out and in plain text. When looking at my stats from a 5K two weeks ago and a half-marathon this past weekend, the computer screen is basically screaming at me to do more hill training. When the elevation goes up, so does my pace. My old unit would never have told me that.

All GPS watches are equipped with technology to spit out information from max elevation to best pace. They all have something different about them such as waterproofing for triathletes, pink bands for girly-girls, bigger screens for those who want more info at their fingertips, heart rate monitors for those who need every stat in the book and on and on. If you have a goal to improve your speed or if you are all about numbers and stats or even if have a habit of getting lost, these little (and in some case cell-phone sized) watches are for you. Do your research and get the watch that fits you best—on your wrist and for the kind of technology you want.

Brands to check out: Garmin, Nike, Polar, Timex, Suunto, and Casio.


Linzay Logan is the copy editor for Competitor magazine and cares about punctuation probably a little too much. She particularly loves to avoid commas as well as add exclamation points whenever she can get away with it! She also loves to run marathons and half-marathons—probably a little too much. Don’t let her small size fool you; she’ll still try to outrun you anytime. Even though chances are she probably can’t.