Global positioning system (GPS) devices that are designed for runners, cyclists, and other athletes need to perform certain unique functions, so there are some key items to look at when choosing the best device for tracking your runs. You will typically want to pay attention to factors such as battery life, accuracy, and whether the device works with various peripherals. Compatibility with a foot sensor can allow you to use your running GPS on indoor tracks even when the satellite system is out of reach. Most of these units are worn like watches, but there are other options if you prefer to not wear a bulky device on your wrist. If you already carry a smartphone with you when you run, then the best running GPS for your purposes might come in the form of a downloadable application.
Most GPS devices available to the general public are used for navigation, but they can also serve a variety of other purposes. The main purpose of a running GPS is to show how far a runner has traveled, and to store route data for later retrieval. Unlike navigation GPS systems, these devices construct a route as you run, and allow you to examine it on a computer when you get home. A good running GPS should provide accurate route info, since that can help you plan out future sessions.
In addition to route tracking and distance functionality, there are a number of other features you may want to look for in a running GPS. A heart rate monitor is one useful function, especially if that data is recorded along with your route. If you want to be able to determine which areas of your run put you through the hardest workout, you may want to focus on that feature.
Battery life is another important item to consider, since the GPS function can require a lot of power. These devices often have less than eight hours of battery life on a charge, though some can last for several weeks in a standby mode. The newest models will usually have the most advanced battery technology available, which may be significantly better than the above estimate. Likewise, if you want to continue using your device for many years, then you may want to seek out models that have replaceable batteries rather than having them built in.
Some GPS devices can be used for more than just running. If you also spend a lot of time riding a bike, you may want to look for a GPS device that has both running and cycling options. It is also possible to find units that have skiing, hiking, swimming and other options, so you may want to consider all of the different ways you might use the device before you choose one.
The most common design for running GPS devices is a wristwatch configuration, but there are other options available. One alternative you may want to consider is a smartphone application. These applications tap into the GPS functionality in your phone to provide many of the same features offered by dedicated running devices. They are typically much less expensive than GPS watches, and there are sometimes even free options available, though they may have fewer features.