I was looking for the best simple GPS running watch. Not the mega watch that measures everything about you and predicts the future. Just a basic running watch that would measure time, distance, and pace.
And that’s exactly what I got in the TomTom Spark 3. I bought it used on Amazon nearly two years go and I’m still thrilled. Because it does exactly what I want it to. And nothing else.
Looking for the best simple GPS running watch? Here’s why I think you can’t go wrong with the TomTom Spark 3. And since it’s not perfect either, I’ll throw in a few caveats about why you might not like this watch.
As you can see in this video, the GPS syncs up fast. As long as you keep it updated (more on that in the cons section), it takes just a few seconds for the TomTom Spark 3 to link up – and then you’re ready for a great run.
The best simple GPS running watch should commit to simplicity, including in the interface. Which is why this watch works for me. It’s got 4 buttons – up, down, left, and right. The text is large and easy to read. The menus are easy to navigate.
A small but notable feature that I love is how the long push required to pause tracking. You have to hold down to the left for just a second – long enough to prevent an accidental push. Very helpful.
Lightweight and Comfortable
I have small wrists, so I don’t want a big, heavy watch that’s going to make its presence known during a long run. Even a few extra ounces can begin to feel like a heavy weight after several miles. For me, the best simple GPS running watch has to be light – so much that you forget it’s even there. It’s one of the perks of simplicity.
The rubber band is comfortable too. It’s never chafed or bothered me – and I’m usually running in extremely sweaty conditions.
I’ve run a 4:25 marathon with this watch (slow but steady) and there was tons of battery life left when I crossed the finish line.
On a 46k mountain race that took 12 hours, I switched it to airplane mode and just used it to track the time. It was still incredibly useful since the race had two major checkpoints with strict cutoff times. But I never had to worry about the battery – it’ll last longer than you ever would in airplane mode.
Last but not least, this watch is cheap. I picked it up for $84 used on Amazon – still in the box, great condition, and working perfectly almost two years later.
If you’e buying your first GPs running watch, don’t blow a ton of cash on the fanciest model possible. A low price watch can do the basics well. You can always upgrade later if you decide you need more stats.
The only thing I don’t love about this watch is the TomTom app. It’s rather meh. You see a map of your run, splits, and other data – which is good. But the interface isn’t great.
Plus this one thing I really hate… shaming. The app makes of point of telling me every time my pace is slightly slower than my last run.
I know. It was an easy run. I am satisfied with that. No need to shame me into running faster every single time.
So while I’m still calling this the best simple GPS running watch, I could do without the shade being thrown my direction after every slow run, TomTom.
The GPS works fast – unless you forget to sync up with your phone’s TomTom app before your run. After just a couple days, the GPS can take a long time to sync.
This phone is extremely dependent on the app, so you’ll need to remember to sync them often. It’s not a hard process and it’s pretty quick, but it’s something that can get frustrating if you’re forgetful about doing it.
Simplicity for the Win
If you’re a new or recreational runner looking for the best simple GPS running watch, I recommend the TomTom Spark 3. It does the basics extremely well, fits comfortably, and won’t stress you out with a complicated interface.