When it comes to running, everyone has different requirements. These Garmin running watches will meet your criteria if you run marathons, are on a budget, want a multisport watch, or a little bit of everything.
For years, Garmin has always been at the top of GPS watches. It’s no coincidence that they produce the ultimate devices watches available. Though Garmin watches are not cheap, you get a high-quality, long-lasting watch with excellent tech support and a one-year warranty.
We’ll look at some of the best Garmin running watches. We’ll also look at the target market for these watches and what their best features are.
New in 2022 – The Forerunner 955 and 255
After months of anticipation, Garmin has announced its Forerunner 955 and 255 series of watches. While there are just six watches in total, the company has released the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar and the Garmin Forerunner 955 non-solar variants.
Garmin Forerunner 955
The Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar is the first device we’ll examine in detail. For $599 in the US and £549.99 in the UK (no official pricing for Australia yet), Garmin’s Power Glass solar charging lens technology has been included into the 955 Solar to extend that 20-day battery life to its maximum. The non-solar version costs £479.99 in the United Kingdom and $499.99 in the United States, respectively.
While the watch has a familiar five-button layout, both solar and non-solar models include touchscreen displays. This is a polite way of expressing that you may use the buttons either independently, or in combination with the touchscreen, according to Garmin. It’s a wonderful option, but I’m left wondering what more could have been included in the watch if the touchscreen had been omitted altogether.
Otherwise, the timepieces are similar in every respect. With 49 hours of battery life in GPS mode and support for multi-band GPS, it should be able to handle even the toughest endurance events. Garmin’s PacePro and ClimbPro technologies from prior generations provide route assistance along with full-color maps (although they are not topographical).
An indicator of how well you’ve rested and recovered is shown via Garmin’s new training readiness indicator. Having a fully charged gauge suggests you’re ready for anything, while being in the red means you should postpone long-distance racing for another day. In order to gain a clearer picture of your overall health and recuperation, HRV status, or “heart rate variability,” continually monitors your heart rate as you sleep.
Current Garmin customers will be pleased to see both of these redesigned figures prominently displayed in Garmin’s menu of essential metrics. Additionally, a “Morning Report” function provides you with recommendations for workouts based on your training goals, as well as the weather forecast for the day.
A new race widget is also included, which Garmin claims allows you to “see race prep information—including a race day-specific performance forecast, race day weather, and a countdown clock—all in one widget.” When a race is scheduled, your Morning Report will contain “Daily Suggested Workouts” that will change based on your race plans. After we’ve had a chance to test it thoroughly, we expect it to make our list of the best running watches. However, you may read our early hands-on Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar review till then.
Garmin Forerunner 255
Each of the four versions in the Garmin Forerunner 255 series is made up of a common-and-garden model (the Forerunner 255) and a smaller variant (the Forerunner 255s and 255s Music). Both 255s versions are nearly identical in terms of features, save from their diminutive size. Both have a battery life of up to 14 days and 30 hours in GPS mode, however the Forerunner 955 does not have touchscreen technology.
In the UK, the Garmin Forerunner 255 and 255s cost £299.99 and $349.99, respectively. A 500 song storage capacity on the 255 Music and 255s Music, as well as the ability to connect to Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music via your phone, is available for £349.99 in the UK and $399.99 in the US. At this time, pricing in Australia are not accessible on the site.
Even though they don’t have a touchscreen, the 955’s additional functions, such as the Morning Report, the race widget, and HRV status, may still be found in these significantly more stripped-down variants. For triathletes and other multi-sport athletes, multi-band GPS provides the same better GPS tracking across several satellite bands while allowing you to switch between sports profiles with a single button push.
Pulse Oximeter, VO2 Max and training status are all included in the Garmin health metrics and features. Garmin Coach is also included. PacePro can be used by the 255 watches, however ClimbPro isn’t mentioned here, therefore it can’t provide hill information as the 955 running watch can. Planning routes on sites like Strava and syncing them with your watch will also be possible.
Garmin appears to have learned a lot from its three-year run with the identical Forerunner 945 and 245 watches and applied it to the redesigned range of running watches. Don’t try to mend something that isn’t broken. The five-button design, smaller’s’ model classification, and both music and non-music alternatives for the less pricey watches are all being retained by Garmin.
In order to keep the Forerunner at the top of its game, it has taken what it previously performed exceptionally well and made it even better. The resolution of the displays has been improved. Multi-band GPS, the backbone of Garmin’s historical dominance, is now even more precise than ever. Battery life is increased. Adding a Solar option to the Garmin Forerunner 955 is especially intriguing because we enjoyed the Garmin Enduro and its Power Glass lens.
To compete with Fitbit and Polar’s more accessible Morning Report, it adds a few new features, but the overall look remains mostly unchanged from what it was previously. This is only an extension of Garmin’s long history of producing top-notch running watches.
Garmin Forerunner 245
The Forerunner 245 didn’t come with too many changes from its predecessor. But, you get a lot of features that were exclusively available in more costly Garmin running watches. So, for $300 or $350 (for the version with music), you get some high-end features that aren’t available on the older Forerunner 235.
The watch’s weight and physical size shrank… However, for almost the same screen size, the resolution is greater. With a better battery (24 hours if using GPS compared to 11 hours on the Forerunner 235), you get a lighter, more compact watch that’s easier to read and has longer battery life.
The Forerunner 245 also has better accessory compatibility, like Garmin’s Running Pod.
This small device gives you more accurate and in-depth information about your running style. Cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact are all tracked. When you combine the two, you get a clearer understanding of your running style than if you didn’t use the pod.
In the case of cyclists, the Forerunner 245 is compatible with Garmin’s Varia cycling protection devices, which alert you to vehicles close by while enabling them to see you better.
This Garmin also has an Assistance button, which is a new feature on the safety front. If you need assistance, pressing the button notifies selected friends and family of your present location via text and email. If you crash on a bike ride, incident warning takes it a step further by immediately notifying friends and family.
A real-time breadcrumb type map and point-to-point navigation are now included in navigation and mapping. While not as good as the city and topo maps on the Fenix 5+, Breadcrumb maps do give you an idea of where you’ve come from and how far you need to go. TracBack, which returns you to your initial starting point if you go off-piste, is also included.
The 245 monitors pool and open water swimming. However, while it can track biking, it does not have a multisport feature that enables you to swap between sports during the same workout.
Activity monitoring and regular GPS run tracking are all carried over from the 235. (time, distance, pace, auto-pause, auto-lap, etc.).
Finally, the Forerunner 245, like the Vivoactive 3, is available in both music and non-music versions. The music edition is $50 extra and includes the capacity to store music on the watch. You can also use the watch to adjust the volume, pause, skip and play music (provided you have a smartphone with you).
- Decent display
- Good battery
- Safety features
- Optional music version
- Decent maps
- Does track swimming but no automatic switch between sports modes for triathletes
- Music version costs extra
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Garmin Forerunner 945
Garmin’s newest and leading multisport and triathlon GPS watch improves on the Forerunner 935’s already impressive battery life, music storage, and new functionality to make your training runs more reliable and safer.
The Forerunner 945 is a compact device with 35-hour battery life (if using GPS, but not music). It records runs, bike rides, and swimming (both pool and open water), as well as having a multisport feature that allows you to record each of these exercises in one file for brick sessions and triathlons. GPS monitoring and accuracy have improved thanks to a new Galileo sensor.
Complete city and trail maps are included on the full-colour screen to assist you in navigating wherever you go. Garmin Pay and music storage are also new features in the 945. Songs can be stored and regulated directly from the watch for on-the-go listening. You can also use Spotify to listen to music (you’ll need a tablet for this).
Although older Garmins could track training load (a measure of how hard you were working out) and training status (how successful your workouts were), the 945 takes things a step further by including the temperature and altitude in these metrics.
Safety features that enable selected friends and family to be notified of your position during a workout are also new. If you need assistance, you can share your position with selected contacts by pressing a button. Automatic incident monitoring may be disabled – this is mostly used for cycling in the event of a crash.
The 945 can be combined with the Running Dynamics Pod, which can be purchased separately. This aids in the monitoring of running form and the improvement of the cadence measurement that all Garmin running watches record.
- Excellent battery
- Decent sport modes
- Compact and light on the wrist
- Playback and storage of music
- Detailed maps and navigation
- Does it offer too much, to a fault?
Garmin Forerunner 745
This is a multisport watch designed as a sibling to the Forerunner 945. But it’s also a fantastic straight-up running watch – a welcome change from Garmin’s previous high-end running watch, the 645.
The Forerunner 745 has a slim design with an easy-to-read screen and is comfortable to wear. It has all of the features you need for running and music storage, and capabilities for swimming and cycling.
Black, white, frost blue and red are the four colours available for the 745. The straps are rubberized, but they’re easy to fasten and broad enough. The resolution is excellent, and the watch is lighter than previous models.
Running drills can be programmed into the Forerunner 745. With the Garmin Running Pod, it also monitors advanced running form metrics. It has a wrist-based heart rate monitor, but it can also be used with a chest strap.
Multi-sport athletes would appreciate swim monitoring in the pool and open water. Cycling monitoring is also excellent, and the 745 can be used with a variety of cycling accessories.
How does it differ from the 945?
You may be wondering what makes this timepiece distinct from the 945? For starters, the battery isn’t as efficient. In GPS mode, expect up to 16 hours versus 36 hours with the 945 (note, this is with GPS on but no music – battery life can vary considerably on how you use it).
It doesn’t have the same maps or navigation as the 945. Also, it has only half the 945’s music storage capacity. The 945 has golf-specific features, but we’re unsure how relevant that would be to many runners and triathletes.
However, at $100 less than the 945, it’s a great alternative for runners or triathletes looking for a less expensive timepiece.
- Big screen
- Training modes that can be customised
- Lightweight and comfortable
- In comparison to the 945, this model has a less powerful battery
Garmin Forerunner 45 And 45S
With their beginner-friendly, simple GPS watch, Garmin has raised the bar once more. The Forerunner 45 not only records runs using GPS, but it also serves as a fitness tracker and a heart rate monitor thanks to a wrist sensor.
The Forerunner 45 is an excellent, simple timepiece. In comparison to more expensive ones, we’d call it basic. However, it has a few extra features that make this a good choice at an affordable price.
The Forerunner 45 is available in two sizes: the 45 and the 45S, which is significantly smaller and lighter. The 45S is available in white or purple, whereas the 45 in red or black, indicating some unnecessary gendering.
However, both models now have a colour screen with a greater resolution than the Forerunner 35 and 25. With 13 hours of GPS mode, the battery life is about the same.
New safety features added
Safety features are new to the Forerunner 45. An assistance button can send a text and email to chosen contacts to alert them of your location if you need assistance during your training. If you fall while cycling, the incident detection will do the same.
Although these devices do not store or stream music, they will control the playback of music on an Android phone. This removes the need to take out your phone any time you want to adjust the volume.
Interval exercises were applied to Garmin’s simple watch with the Forerunner 35. The Forerunner 45 expands on that by allowing you to incorporate more advanced workouts. These are basically personalised workouts that you (or your trainer) can create in any way you want.
- Nice readability
- Two sizes for different wrists
- Compact and lightweight
- Superb at the basic measures
- Safety measures are a nice addition
- Gendered colours aren’t necessary
- Expensive for a more basic option
Garmin Fenix 7
The Garmin Fenix 7 is the company’s most powerful and feature-rich watch. It’s perfect for more traditional outdoor activities like cycling, swimming, hiking, and more adventurous sports like skiing and paddleboarding.
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Design and build
The very first thing that strikes you about this watch is its size. Garmin running watches are renowned for industrial designs, and this model is no exception. It comes with a widescreen with a resolution of 280 X 280 pixels.
Colour street and topo maps are included with the Fenix 7 and can be viewed directly on the watch. When it comes to navigating new locations or making your way through the trails, this is critical. It also has a barometer for tracking elevation. The watch has some good ascent, and altitude tracking features built-in.
The use of a wrist-based heart rate monitor is commonplace. The Fenix 7, like previous models, has Garmin Pay, which allows you to pay for items with your watch. It’s also one of the few devices that sync Spotify and can store music (up to 2000 songs).
The Fenix7 can be configured with workouts or used with Garmin’s virtual training features to track speed while running. Advanced measures such as cadence, fitness level, and fitness recovery time are tracked.
New Touch Screen with SolarBattery charging.
The battery life is very impressive. In standard watch mode, you’ll get 21 days. In GPS mode, it can last up to 60 hours, and with GPS and audio, it can last up to 15 hours. Power Manager, on the other hand, is new to the Fenix 7. This diagram illustrates how various features affect battery life. Using your favourite features, uninstall the ones you don’t, and save battery life by customising the watch. You can also make changes on the fly while running.
Watch bands and watch faces can be quickly and easily personalised.
- Music storage
- Garmin Pay
- Street and topo maps on-screen
- Huge screen
- Excellent battery life
- Quite bulky and so unsuitable for smaller wrists
- Might want to wait for the Fenix 7
Garmin Vivoactive 4 And 4s
But unlike Vivoactive 3, the new edition is available in two sizes: 4 and 4S. The Vivoactive 4 is slightly larger than the previous version, whereas the Vivoactive 4S is smaller, making it suitable for runners with slim wrists.
Like most Garmin running watches, both the Vivoactive 4 and 4S have a wrist-based heart rate monitor that acts as a fitness tracker and displays phone alerts on the watch face.
Also, you’ll notice some additional features for everyday use. For a more personalised display, you can download a variety of watch faces and games. Garmin Pay is available for on-the-go purchases. It also has a touch screen as well as a single button for controlling the watch. You should turn it upside down and switch the button to the other side if you’re a lefty.
The Vivoactive 4/4S has a modern appearance. It’s one of the few Garmin running watches that looks more like a regular watch, ditching the bulky, rugged style favouring a sleeker, more modern look. This model is less expensive than the Fenix 6, but it still has many valuable features for training.
The Vivoactive 4/4S has a 1.3-inch widescreen with a 260 X 260-pixel display and a secure strap wristband that is simple to put on. Wear it in the tub or the pool in confidence, as it’s water-resistant up to 50 metres. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protects the watch’s screen, making it highly durable.
Both include auto-pause, advanced exercises, and downloadable training plans in addition to monitoring time, speed, and distance. LiveTrack is available, allowing family and friends to monitor your current location in real-time, which is useful for locating you during major races.
The Vivoactive 4/4S has music storage and playback built-in. It can hold about 500 songs (including Spotify playlists that can be downloaded), or you can use it to access music from your computer.
Safety features have been applied to the Vivoactive 4/4S. An emergency button sends a message to family and friends with your current position via email or text. If you crash while riding your bike, auto-crash detection will do the same.
- Cost-effective options
- Doesn’t compromise on good features
- Different sizing options
- Music is built-in
- For the lower cost, you don’t get more advanced features typically seen on more expensive Garmins
Garmin Venu 2
A quick final entry…
The original Venu, which was released with the Vivoactive 4 and 4S, is almost identical to the Vivoactive 4/4S with three distinctions:
The AMOLED show, in particular, is simple, crisp, and colourful. It’s likely Garmin’s best and sharpest show on any watch. It is available in two different shapes: square and circular.
In 2022, a new Garmin Venu has surfaced and it is called the Garmin Venu 2 Plus. This recent addition enables receiving and making calls and connecting to your phone’s voice assistant which is a great plus!
In smartwatch mode, the original Venu can last up to five days, and in GPS mode with audio, it can last up to six hours. Again, in smartwatch mode, the Venu 2 can last up to 11 days, and in battery-saver mode, it can last up to 12 days. Finally, in GPS mode with music, it can last up to eight hours, and in GPS mode without music, it can last up to 22 hours.
Garmin Epix 2
To the recently introduced Fenix 7’s greatest features, Garmin has added an AMOLED touchscreen display to the Epix 2. An excellent sports watch has received a last layer of polish, with clear graphs and maps that are simple to see in any light.
It’s not only the price of the watch that’s prohibitive, but the battery life as well; this is Garmin’s most costly watch ever. During our testing, the Fenix 7 ran for two weeks without a charge, but the Epix (Gen 2) only lasted six days.
That’s not bad for an AMOLED watch (you’ll have to charge your Apple Watch every night if you choose that), but if you’re into off-grid excursions, keep that in mind. Garmin, on the other hand, claims that the Epix is best suited to folks who prefer working out in the gym with a few outdoor workouts thrown in.
There was an initial Garmin Epix that arrived in 2018, and although it had a touchscreen for navigating maps and a lot of capabilities, it was heavy and inconvenient to wear. Due to hardware limitations in a 45mm casing, the business concluded that the touchscreen wristwatch would have to wait until 2022 before it could be released to consumers.
In the end, the result is a very quality watch, and it’s worth checking out Garmin’s whole product line before making a purchase (you might be shocked at how many capabilities are crammed into a mid-range Garmin Instinct 2).
Price and availability
On the 18th of January, 2022, the Epix 2 was released (the same day as the Garmin Fenix 7). There are two versions available: one with a stainless steel bezel and Corning Gorilla Glass to protect the screen; the other is available for $999.99, £899.99, and AU$1,499, with a sapphire crystal lens and titanium bezel.
With a sapphire crystal and titanium bezel, as well as a chestnut leather strap instead of the basic silicone band, the £999.99 (AU$1,549) variant is available in the UK and Australia.
Garmin running watches – Conclusion
Whilst this list of the best Garmin running watches isn’t exhaustive, it should give you an idea of the choice on offer from this one brand alone. No matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re a seasoned triathlete, Garmin caters to all abilities. As such, also all budgets.
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Last Updated on December 17, 2022
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